The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
On Board Seamer Baltic, Number V
Buffalo Courier (Buffalo, NY), 8 Jul 1847, p. 2

Full Text
Editorial Correspondence of the Courier
Number V
On Board Steamer "Baltic"
River and Lake St. Clair, July 1

We left Detroit this morning at about half-past 8, and were soon out upon the bosom of the river. The banks of the river, as well as those of the St. Clair, present a low and level appearance, and are generally covered with forest trees, excepting where there are settlements, which are less frequent than one would suppose, from the little distance to Detroit But what is called the Fort Gratiot road, is back from the river,and along this are not only early French settlements, but those of a more recent date. The British side, next to the river is higher than the American, and more settled. The old French inhabitants are not inspired with that spirit of progress which characterizes their Anglo-Saxon neighbors, but are much wedded to the customs and manners, which their fathers brought from their native country, some two centuries ago. They stand amidst the surrounding population like relics of the past, bearing the same relation to the present, as would some old French castle of the time of Charlemagne, set down amid the newness and freshness of a western village.

The first village of any considerable size, above Detroit, is Newport. It is a place of much activity -- having of late embarked much in the steamboat and shipbuilding business. Within a few years past, many craft of the first class have been turned out here.

Capt. Philips has recently launched a new boat here called the America. She is to be a magnificent craft of 2100 tons [sic: 1083] burden, 240 feet in length, 34 breadth of beam, 13 1/2 depth of hold; extreme length of deck 58 feet, water wheels 35 feet in diameter, 16 1/2 feet bucket, cylinders 30 inches in diameter, 14 feet stroke, with seven large boilers. The engine was built at the Franklin foundry of Ostman & Shields, Cincinnati, and is of great power. The America is designed for great speed, and is to be finished in the modern style. Her proprietor intends to carry the broom, but he will hav to do his best to get ahead of some now already afloat.

We passed through lake St. Clair and over the celebrated flats, which afre so much the dread of mariners, without difficulty. As is customary the speed of the boat was diminished, and we wound with the serpentine channel which has been staked out -- often times coloring the water with the sand from the bottom, so near did our keel scrape an acquaintance with it. There were no vessels on the flats, except the schooner Saltillo, with a cargo of wheat, which had been run into and sunk. The water was so shallow, however, that she was but a little lower than a full laden craft. She had been struck abaft her quarter and stove in.

These flats, in low water, form a serious obstruction to the navigation of the lake, and often times quite a large fleet is detained here, either hard aground or waiting to be lighted over. The improvement of the flats cannot be classed among the works which are not national, and therefore comes within the rule laid down by the strict constitutionists. The water is of very good depth now, and unless vessels are heavily laden, they meet with no serious difficulty in the day time. But we are told that a night passage is rarely attempted.

Lake St. Clair is a small but very beautiful sheet of water, with frequently low and marshy shores. The river of the same name partakes of the same features. For miles we passed along either shore with not a ripple to disturb the placidity of the current, save that caused by the boat. There is quite a rapid current in the river, full four miles to the hour, we should judge, against which we had to make our way. We passed the Oregon at the village of Palina, lying to, to wood. A short distance farther on, on the Canada sisde, is the village of Port Sarnia, at which it is proposed to locate the western terminus of the Hamilton Railroad. It is a small village of about fifty buildings, with a neat brick church, with spire and vane, and another partially completed, rather larger. The principal business done appears to be in wood and lumber.

Opposite, in Yankee land, is Port Huron -- a village of scattering houses, laid out without taste or arrangement, and presenting to the passer-by no peculiar attractions. There is considerable business done here is staves, lumber, 7c., and we noticed large quantitites piled upon the banks of the river. Above the village the banks are higher, and the country presents a more pleasing view. Sometimes we like the quiet and beautiful in nature's scenery. But this continued monotony wearies one with its sameness. We would occasionally have it rise into the grand and sublime, like the mountain scenery of the Hudson, which wraps the soul in an awe of amazement at beholding it.

The river grows broader and deeper above Port Huron, and the current is less rapid.

Soon after we passed Fort Gratiot, and the broad expanse of Lake Huron opened before us and once more we were upon an inland sea, soon to lose sight of the shore scenery. As we were bidding adieu to St. Clair, the band struck up, and we greeted the meeting of the waters with sweet music.

On entering the lake, we headed across the portion of it known as Saginaw Bay. Around this Bay there are extensive forests of the choicest pine, upon which the eastern world will, at some future period, have to depend for much of its lumber. There is also abundance of ship timber in this part of Michigan, to which steamboat builders have within a year or two past turned their attention.

We passed but few vessels of any description between Detroit and the head of the st. Clair, and only one steamboat, the Oregon.

At the foot of Saginaw Bay is the village of Saginaw -- an active place of much trade in lumber, staves, &c., but off from our route to Mackinaw, so that we only saw it in the distance.

So far we have had a most delightful time. It has been neither too warm nor too cool -- the lake and rivers have been as smooth as could be desired. We have a pleasant company on board, though rather crowded just now, and the arrangements about the boat are every thing that could be asked. We make about 13 miles an hour, and go steadily along. We shall cruise about in the upper lakes -- calling at the various ports, and not probably reach Chicago much before Sunday night. We shall leave on our return Thursday morning, as it is supposed the Convention will not hold over two days.

The passengers passed a vote of thanks, nem con. to Wormley, the steward, for the magnificent manner in which he laid in his stores of choice things, for the voyage across the lakes and rivers to Chicago, and bid me record it. B.

Way Notes -- A Resume

Generally, and at no particular place

In the limited sketches which must necessarily be made, as we steam along, we were under the necessity of omitting, or rather of not noticing many things which were brought to our view:


We have already spoken generally of this place. It is so intimately connected with Buffalo in its business relations that many of our citizens are as familiar with it as with our own streets.

They have the hurried air here which so peculiarly characterizes the business men of Buffalo. And during the recent excitement in the breadstuff market, the amount of transactions here have been enormous. We heard an estimate by an extensive produce dealer, that the recent rise in grain would give to the people of Ohio $20,000,000. This, a large portion of it, at least, goes to the producers, for on the rise of wheat and flour the granaries of the State were well filled, in many instances with the harvest extending back three or four years. We find, too, that the tariff of '46 is becoming every day more popular with the people of the west, as the whig prophecies of ruin are falsified, and prosperity pervades the land, and their produce bears high prices. The democratic doctrine of equal laws, equal privileges and equal protection to all, only requires a practical test to find favor and approval with the toiling millions.

Cleveland has an excellent harbor. On the east side of the river extending into the lake is one of the best stone piers we ever saw.

... Passing through the lake, direct to Cleveland, we leave on the left Black River, Huron, Milan, Vermillion, Sandusky City, Toledo, Maumee City and Monroe, all thriving, active places -- doing especially this season, a large business in produce.

Sandusky City is now one of the most important points between Cleveland and Detroit. The Mad River Railroad, which connects with the Little Miami road, from Cincinnati, is now nearly completed -- there being only about 40 miles between Springfield and Richland, which is not constructed, but which is under contract, and expected to be in operation on the opening of navigation on the lake in the spring of 1848.

There are now in operation on this road eight locomotives, and it is contemplated to add two more during the season. We may as well say here that this road is owned by Bostonians, whose far seeing and far reaching policy is extending all over the west, and making her interests theirs, and theirs hers. There are four passenger cars and 110 freight cars in use, with a large number building to meet the increased business which the extension of the road brings. It is to have 175 on the road by the first of September, and it is estimated that with even these increased facilities, that it will not be possible to clear the store houses along the line of the road by the first of December.

Last year there was sent over this road to Sandusky City 3354,262 bushels of wheat. The increase of business this year may be inferred form the following tables of receipts up to the first of June:

January 18,212 bushels wheat.
February 64,416 " "
March 40,876 " "
April 63,634 " "
May 122,204
________ " "
Total 361,44 [sic] [sic: 309,342]

The receipts for June, it is estimated, will reach 175,000, and for the season 800,000. The amount going over the road is very large, and when fully completed, large portions of the southern travel will take this route. The stage travel is to be reduced to 32 miles by the 5th inst., by the completion of the road from Cherokee to Bellefontaine. The present earnings of the road are from $600 to $700 per day.

The produce people up here are talking about shipping to New York via Montreal, and the following estimate of the comparative cost of the routes has been given me:

Via Montreal
Sandusky to Kingston 45 cents
Kingston to Montreal 40 "
Montreal to New York 50 "
___ $1.35
Via Buffalo
Sandusky to Buffalo 30 cents
Buffalo to Albany 1.50 "
Albany to New York 12 1/2 "
____ 1.92 1/2
Saved by shipping via Montreal, 57 1/2 cents.

But this estimate was made when freights on the Erie canal were at their highest point. As lake and canal freights now are, the cost is in favor of the Buffalo route, by from 25 to 37 1/2 cents -- unless the cost of transportation via Montreal has been correspondingly reduced, which is not probably the case.


After struggling through years with local rivalry and the unhealthiness of its location, Toledo has received a new impulse, and is now going ahead rapidly. There must be a large town, at or near the mouth of the Maumee river. It cannot be otherwise. The Wabash canal alone, in the course of a few years, of itself, will build up and sustain a city. It extends through as productive a region as there is in the United States, which is at present but sparsely populated. Let northern and interior Indiana become settled, as it will be in the course of a few years, and the vast amount of produce it will rush down through the Wabash canal to the lakes, will astonish even those who are familiar with the mighty resources and capabilities of the west.

In addition to this there is the Miami Extension canal, which terminates here, connecting with Cincinnati and the river country on the south. It will bring on immense trade, not only in produce coming north, but in merchandize going to the west and southwest. Already has the business of the Maumee increased ten fold since the opening of these channels of connection with the interior. A vast amount of corn, brought out by high prices, has been sent forward from Toledo this season, and a heavy tonnage has been employed in the "Toledo trade." There has been this season, for the first time, established a regular daily line of steamboats to Sandusky and Toledo, which shows the increasing importance of their commerce.


This is the first port in Michigan. It is a beautifully situated place, upon both banks of the river Raisin, and a short distance inland from La Plaisance Bay. Liberal appropriations have been made by the government for a harbor here. A ship channel has been cut across a bend in the river, and the rail now connects with the landing a short distance below the city. The citizens some years ago, voted to raise a loan on the credit of the city, to excavate this canal, which has done so much to add to their commercial business.

The Southern Railroad of Michigan terminates at Monroe. This, like the Central Road, has been sold to a private company, which is to complete it, and hereafter to have the management of its affairs. It was originally contemplated to terminated [sic] this road at New Buffalo, on Lake Michigan, but he decision to terminate the Central Road at this point, will interfere with this arrangement; as we believe, it is provided in the grant to the latter, that no road shall be permitted to be located parallel within 30 miles of it.

The increase of business, the present season, over the Southern Road has been large, but we have no data before us, from which to give particulars.

Monroe is the site of the battle of Frenchtown, which is remarkable for winchester's defat, and the cruel massacree [sic] which followed. That part on the western side of the river yet retains the original name. The French made an early settlement here over two hundred years ago, -- and their persons, their farms, and their habitations -- every thing around them, bear the marks of antiquity -- and are in a remarkable state of preservation -- showing more fixedness of purpose, and stability of character than is usually ascribed to the volatile French. B

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8 Jul 1847
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  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 42.88645 Longitude: -78.87837
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On Board Seamer Baltic, Number V