The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Feb. 10, 1877

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Early Sailing Days in Oswego

"Captain Augustus Ford was among the early settlers of that vicinity (Unionville, three miles west of Oswego), and made a clearing abreast of the shoal which still perpetuates his name. There the only remnant of the lost Lady of the Lake was found, perhaps in the spring of 1826. It was a companion way slide, embedded in the ice bank. She was never heard from, it may be remembered, after leaving York late in the fall, homeward bound. Captain Ford removed to Sackets Harbor before the war and was long in government employ of some kind there."

"Prior to the dawn of steamboating on the lake, at the neighboring village herein referred to the first pleasure party that I know of, for that purpose, way formed formed an excursion to Niagara Falls on board the schooner Julia, Capt. Joseph Whitney, to which party the mill owner attached himself uninvited, but on pretense of buying wheat for his mill.

"He did, in fact, purchase some 200 bushels at Lewiston which was sacked and brought home on a return trip, being the first grain imported into the customs district for milling purposes, which was probably 1817. I shall not follow that pioneer visit to the Falls in detail and do not know that anything notable attended it till the return voyage when the ship and passengers were placed in great jeopardy by reason of a storm of wind which arose.

"Nearly all the green ones were sea sick, the miller distressingly so, but the poet of the party was rather inspired by the 'bounding billows,' and while most of the others were settling small matters with Neptune he busied himself in penciling what afterwards proved a source of amusement to his acquaintances, especially to the excursionists who could best appreciate it.

"Turning to the proper page in memory I find the document recorded verbatim, and will transcribe a portion of it as a curiosity of the time, though of course it cannot be fully understood in all its points and bearings. The article was entitled, "The Miller's Last Will and Testament," and reads thus:

In God's name, though in sound mind and health,
Being exposed to great danger and possessed of some wealth,
I'm desirous of closing accounts ere I go,
With each moral on Earth, whether friendly or foe.

Here follow four verses commending his soul to its author, giving directions about the disposal of his body and making some small requests. The testator then proceeds:

To my good friend the doctor, whom I find loves to eat,
I bequeath twenty grains of the best of my wheat,
With the use of my mill for grinding the whole,
Providing the miller's not robbed of his toil.

And to each of the girls who've attended this jaunt,
Who have soothed all my cares and relieved every want,
Then kernels I give, but on this one condition,
That our bills shall be paid by the girls and physician.

To the captain, I give-but stop, the dear paif,
?Tis the noblest, the choicest best part of myself,
The danger increases, life soon may be o'er,
But I'll hug my wealth close while my time is up."

"Captain Bill, who with his vessel, the Winnebago, was first to reach Cleveland through the Welland Canal, on which occasion he was feted and toasted by the principal business men of that place, assembled for that purpose at the Franklin House, kept by Philo Scoville.

"The first downward freight was taken out of the Welland Canal by the schooner Erie of Oswego, Captain Benjamin Dorchester; it consisted of flour from St. Catharines to Ogdensburg. Captain Bill removed his family to Monroe, Michigan, thee built the schooner Jacob A. Barker, and died some forty odd years ago. His widow now awaits, at Trenton, Michigan, an invitation to a final 'jaunt' across the dark and stormy water. may the passage be made safely, and the desired haven, when reached, prove blissful."

Media Type:
Item Type:
Excerpts from a letter dated Feb. 6, 1877 from Hamilton Colton of Milan, Ohio, to the Oswego Palladium, published Feb. 10, 1877.
Date of Original:
Feb. 10, 1877
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Richard Palmer
Copyright Statement:
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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Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Feb. 10, 1877