The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Detroit Gazette (Detroit, MI), 18 July 1826, page 2

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Green Bay, June 12, 1826

In my last, I promised to give you a description of the Flats, at the mouth of the River St. Clair. The channel through them is very intricate, and vessels which draw seven or eight feet of water are frequently obliged to lighten before they can pass them. The bottom being sandy, the channel frequently varies, and notwithstanding that it is marked by buoys and stakes, the most skilful mariners consider themselves fortunate if they make the passage without striking ground. It is never attempted except when the weather is favorable. We found eight feet of water, and considered ourselves very lucky in getting over without waiting for our tender to come up and lighten us.

The water this season is very high, and our good fortune may in a great degree be attributed to that circumstance, together with the skill of our pilots. I am informed by old seamen, that this channel has been for many years, gradually becoming more shallow. The depth of water may in time become so diminished, as to preclude all intercourse, in vessels of much tonnage, between the upper and lower Lakes; a misfortune that would greatly retard the now rapidly increasing business of this region. To erect a work at the mouth of the river, so as to throw the whole stream of St. Clair into one current as it strikes the lake, would no doubt prevent this. It would not only deepen the channel, but straiten and widen it also, and leave the navigation as safe, even by night, as that of the strait of Detroit. But such a work will never be erected, unless by the government of the United States. It would be very expensive, and individual enterprise, for many years, cannot be expected to undertake it. It comes, however, very appropriately within that system of internal improvements, which has lately become so popular in most of the states, and which the general government seems determined to pursue. The land in the vicinity is an extensive marsh, and the river St. Clair empties into the Lake by six or seven different mouths. These marshes produce [an] abundance of prairie hay, which is cut and cured, as far as their necessities require, by the inhabitants of the vicinity. They afford, also, fine ranges for cattle, and we saw large droves of them congregated in various spots, having been driven from the woods by the annoyance of the flies, which at this season of the year are excessively troublesome.

Whilst on Lake St. Clair, though a few hours before there was not a cloud to be seen, a thunder-storm for a while darkened the atmosphere, and wore quite a threatening appearance. The lightening flashing in all directions round us, and gleamed from the dark blue clouds with a fierceness that would have been alarming, in our crowded vessel, with "metal" so "attractive," and unprovided with a conductor, had we not been so near the shoal water. In some places, for several miles, the water is so shallow that the rushes appear several inches above it. The storm passed by us without coming near the vessel, apparently hanging about the shores of the Lake. It having excited no alarm, we only voted it a pleasant incident, and determined that steam-boats, navigating these Lakes, should be provided with lightning rods, inasmuch as the descent of fluid any where near a vessel having so much iron exposed to it, must almost inevitably cause her destruction, and the loss of every person on board, unless,by mere accident, it should take place in a river or bay.

...In passing up the river, the band of the second regiment were on duty, and no doubt treated the people on shore with as good music as they had ever heard before, and a great deal more of it, for several of the instruments are of recent invention, and the science of the performers, and the effect produced by it, were a novelty in this comparative wilderness. The Indians, dogs, and cattle, looked inquisitively at us, as we proceeded up against the wind and stream, and without any propelling power which they could comprehend.

When bed-time arrived, the first night, every one looked about him for the means of taking a comfortable sleep, which had been rendered quite desirable by a sultry day, and the anxiety and fatigue incident to the commencement of a voyage. The spirit of accommodation which generally prevailed, tended to render our situation as agreeable as could be expected, in quarters where it was nearly impossible for all even to lie down at the same time. A few "difficult bodies," were found amongst us, and they succeeded in putting themselves in a very bad temper, and in exciting mirth and pleasant remarks among the rest of the company--the usual and just punishment of a querulous and waspish disposition. Every part of the ship was soon strewed with the bodies of nearly 500 men, and even some of them found quarters in the rigging. The cool northern breeze was rising very fast, and we went to sleep as comfortably as our situation would permit. About two o'clock in the morning we heard the rattling of the chain cable, and were informed that we had come to anchor with a stiff wind ahead.

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Column 3-4
Date of Original:
18 July 1826
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Dave Swayze
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Detroit Gazette (Detroit, MI), 18 July 1826, page 2