The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
On Board Steamer "Baltic", Number VII
Buffalo Courier (Buffalo, NY), 9 Jul 1847, p. 2

Full Text
Editorial Correspondence of the Courier,
Number VII
On Board Steamer "Baltic"
River and Lake St. Clair, July 2

Last evening we floated out into the broad expanse of Lake Huron, and soon the receding shores were lost in the distance, and could no longer be seen. The beauty and magnificence of teh view as we pass out of the river St. Clair and enter the lake,needs to be seen to be appreciated. And as twilight is creeping on, it strikes the beholder with more pleasing emotions, than in the full glare of a summer day. with us, it appeared to the best advantage.

Another bright and lovely morning is with us, and on taking a look out we find the light-housse of Thunder Bay Island bearing north, and about two miles distant. so that we have made during the night, or since 6 o'clock last evening, about 150 miles. The lake has been as smooth as a mirror, and so steadily has the Baltic moved through the water that we scarcely were made to feel that we were in motion.

Lake Huron is a magnificent sheet of water -- the second, in point of size, in the great chain of the western lakes. Its shape is irregular -- its bays running far into land, and it is dotted all over with islands.

Its length, from north to south is 260 miles, and along the southwestern shore it is 360 miles. It is 160 miles in breadth, from east to west, in its widest part; but exclusive of the bay on the northeast it is only 90. Its circumference is about 1100. its principal indentations are Saginaw Bay. The Georgian Bay is the largest, lying northeast of the Manitou Islands, and is 170 miles long by 70 broad, in its greatest extension. There is another large bay on the north of the Manitous. These islands extend from a peninsula in the southwest part of this bay to the north part, and with Drummond's Island separate it from another large body of water -- a lake or bay, whichever you choose to call it -- 80 miles long and 30 broad. The largest of the Manitous, which is called the Great Manitoulin, is 90 miles long in its widest part, and 30 broad. There are a large number of islands in the lake -- most of which have a habitation but no recognized name. Huron receives the waters of Lake Michigan by the Strait of Mackinaw, those of Lake Superior by the Straits or River St. Marys, of Lake Nipissing on the north by the river Francis [sic: French], and of Lake Simcoe, on the east by the river Severn, and discharges all this vast volume through the river St. Clair, as the only visible outlet.

Lake Huron is the deepest of any in the great chain. The great depth is towards the western shore, and is at least 1000 feet, while the mean depth is computed at 900 -- or about 400 feet below the level of the ocean. The elevation of its surface is 45 feet below that of Lake Superior, and 4 or 5 feet below that of Lake Michigan. There are but few settlements on either shore, and it is almost entirely without good harbors, and being subject to sudden and violent storms, the only shelter vessels can find is under the islands, of which, fortunately, it is provided with a large number. We can conceive of nothing more dreary and hopeless than the situation of the mariner in a fall storm upon this lake. There is no port of refuge near, and the shores present but an inhospitable appearance -- his only hope is in his own vessel and the means of safety which has been provided by nature.

The evening of the first of July found us just entered upon Lake Huron -- our noble steamer headed for the wilderness of waters beyond. The wind without was chilly, and after witnessing the retiring of the sun to his nightly repost, the passengers assembled in the cabin. Soon music resounded through that vast hall, and the feet of the votaries of Terpsechore--we believe that's the one that dances -- were in active motion, and merily passed the evening off -- good cheer and joyness prevailing. The more staid devoted themselves to the discussion of the harbor improvements, politics and such matters; or devoted themselves to backgammon, chess, or the whist table. And morning found us, as we stated in the beginning of this note, about one hundred and fifty miles on our way, and near Thunder Bay Island. And so, here, after this episode, we commence anew the thread of our discourse.

Before we passed the island we stopped a while to repack the hemp around the piston rods, which had become so worn that they leaked steam. While here the Oregon hove in sight, and continued about 15 miles behind us, until she stopped to wood, when we again lost sight of her.

About 30 miles above Thunder Bay Island we passed the Saratoga bound down, and some ten miles farther on, the propellor Princeton passed us far towards the British shore. There is nothing of importance occurring to-day--nothing of interest or excitement.

We arrived at Mackinac about 3 o'clock in the afternoon of the 2nd. This is a wild piece of creation, with an altitude, at its highest point, of about 300 feet above the surrounding waters. The village is rather a "shocking bad place," but the view from the island is magnificent -- extending in all directions, and taking in beautiful scenery. There is a court house here, a couple of churches -- one Roman Catholic and one Presbyterian. There is a school here established by the American Board of Foreign Missions, which, however, is not in a very flourishing condition at present. There is a branch of the University of Michigan established here, and a Catholic missionary school. The fort stands on a rocky eminence, 150 feet high, and commands the village, as well as the straits. A company of volunteers from Detroit is stationed here at present. The harbor is a good one and spacious, and we should think would contain from 150 to 200 vessels. Trout and white fishing are carried on here, and in the vicinty[sic], quite extensively, and form the principal business of the citizens.

This is the spot which Miss Martineau characterized as "the wildest, grandest piece of beauty in creation," and in some respects it merits the distinction. B.

Number VIII
On Board Steamer "Baltic,"
At no particular place

A gentleman connected with the business of Detroit, on board, has given me some interesting information in regard to various matters in relation to Michigan and Detroit.

...The central railroad has been doing a heavy business this season. It is known that this road has een purchased by a company of Bostonians for $2,000,000, payable in the acknowledged bonds of the state. The contract has already passed into the hands of this company, and they are now pushing its completion to Lake Michigan. at New Buffalo, with vigor. New iron has already been laid down over a portion of the old track, and preparations are making for re-laying the whole, with a heavier iron and a new track. The finished portion of the road already brings good dividends, and the stock is held at a high premium. In fact, there is but a very little in the market to be got hold of at all.

The company has made large purchases of real estate in Detroit, principally on the river, below the present most active business locations, with a river front of 1600 feet. Upon these grounds is to be erected an extensive freight warehouse and passenger depot -- the lagest, probably, west of Albany. The river is to be filled and docked along the shore, and the railroad to terminate thereon, so that vessels will load and unload directly from the depot, as do our canal boats from the elevators. A large number of men are now engaged on these works, and they are being driven forward with an energy characteristic of the Bostonians.-- The passenger depot is located on what is called the Cass front, and is now being covered. The foundation for the freight warehouse is laid, and the walls are going up. It is 800 feet long, and 100 wide, and is the largest one of which we ever saw an account. Pile drivers are at work for nearly half a mile down the river, preparing for the tracks -- one of which is now so far completed as to allow the dirt carts to run over it, while engaged in filling the water lots in front of what is called the "Jones Farm." It is contemplated to lay down five miles of track per week, until the structure is renewed the entire length. ...

The copper mania does not rage here to the extent which it did last season. People have become more rational on the subject.

The steamboat Sam Ward makes semi-weekly trips between here and the Sault, and generally goes well freighted and with many passengers.

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Date of Publication:
9 Jul 1847
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 45.7095570591708 Longitude: -84.07518390625
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On Board Steamer "Baltic", Number VII