Fifty years on the Lakes
Seventy-three Schooners then Hailed from Oswego.
Today there are only eighteen sailing craft on the lake. Some remarkably quick trips between this port and Chicago- the Cortez, Captain John Farrell, holds the record.
Fifty years ago April 22nd 1866, there was a fleet of seventy-three sailing craft hailing from this port, their white sails doting the chain of lakes from Ogdensburg to Duluth, for most of them were canal schooners. On Lake Ontario there were hundreds of these and smaller vessels., hailing from every port on the lake, many engaged in coastwise business.
Today there isn’t a single sailcraft on the lake hailing from the port of Oswego, unless in some obscure harbor on the upper lakes may be found a battered hulk of an old canal schooner, stripped of all pristine adornment and used in the ignoble work of boating sand and gravel. They were a great fleet of boats in their day and the record of arrivals and departures as reported at the custom house here show that many of them were almost as speedy when conditions were favorable as some of the present day steam craft and more so than the steamers of earlier days.
Captain William McDonald, who died many years ago and the members of whose family now live in Syracuse and Chicago, for years held the record with seven round trips between Oswego and Chicago in the schooner Lucy J. Latham. The Latham came out in1856, according to the best records obtainable and four years later made the record regarded as remarkable. The Latham belonged to that type of schooner of which the S. J. Holley, Uncle Tom, A.G. Mowery and Titan were noticeable examples. The latter equaled the record of the Latham, but did not beat it a year or two , but one of her trips was to Lake Erie, Captain Cal Carr , who died at the home of his daughter in Watertown a year or two ago, made seven trips one season in the schooner Syracuse but two of them were to Lake Erie. He also made some remarkable runs in the American, which he owned and sailed later.
But the greatest of all the records was made by the Cortez, one of the late M. J. Cumming’s fleet. Captain John Farrell, now living in West Oneida street. From the 11th of June to the 25th of November in the year 1879, the Cortez made six round trip between Oswego and Lake Michigan ports. The schooner was carrying grain to Kingston and came to Oswego for the up-cargo of coal, so that it will be seen, considering the lateness of the start and the difference in the run that she beat the record of the Latham. Two of the round trips were made in thirty-eight days one in eighteen and the other in nineteen. When it is considered that wooden steam craft take about fourteen days on an average run to Chicago and back, it will be seen that Captain Farrell put the Cortez through her paces on those trips. The loading facilities then were not nearly as efficient as those employed today.
But of all the sail craft that ever hailed from Oswego the speediest was the schooner Annie M. Peterson owned by the late Edward Mitchell, and for many years commanded by Captain Charles Bough, of 121 West Schuyler Street. There is nothing in the records here to show that she beat the record made by the Cortez but is recognized by sailormen that had she been in the same trade there would have been nothing to the records that today are handed down as remarkable. The Peterson was built as a yacht and her graceful lines attracted attention in every port of call.
She is now a towbarge.
Back in 1861, the Cascade owned by Harvey and Halt, ship chandlers, of Chicago, made six round trips from Chicago here. She was commanded by Captain Ras Day. His brother George, afterwards master of the Kate Richmond was his first officer.
Fifty years ago it was impossible to cast one’s eye lakeward without catching a view of the shining white sails of half a dozen sailing craft going and coming on the lakes. Today there are just eighteen sailing vessels in all ports on Lake Ontario all having Canadian registry, but several of the best of them have the distinction of having been built in American yards and reflecting the best in American workmanship.
The old schooner Maize, now being used as a sand scow at Kingston and along the North shore launched in 1856 is the dean of the fleet. She was built in honor and the fact that the original frame of oak are said to be still in the hull is an evidence that she was worthy of the time. She has seen the best of them come and go, but at last old Sinbad has seen her stripped of spars and rigging, the dumb driven slave of mercenary contractors, who will see to it that never again will she set to the blue waters of the lake that for more than half a century lapped her sides and whose waves she (buffeted to a haven of safety) in many a storm.
The Horace Taber is another of the old timers and Captain Oliver, her owner, is expected with her from Guanonoque in a few days to load coal. Captain Oliver is a resident of this city but the Taber has a Canadian register. Many now in middle life can remember when the New Dominion came on her first voyage to this port. She came in 1868 and she had been trading here almost constantly ever since.
The Abbie L. Andrews is another that in her day was a crack canaler, now in the coal trade and probably loading at Sodus for Kingston, having been booked to arrive there yesterday or today. The Andrews came out in 1873. The Oliver Mowat was launched the same year and the Arthur in 1871. The Katie Eccles that has made Oswego a constant port of call until it is believed that she could find her way in alone, was launched in 1877. The William Jamieson came out in 1878, Bertie Calkins in 1879, Ford River in 1879, Grace Filer in 1874 Kitchener in 1873, J. B. Newland in 1870, Voges 1876, St. Louis in 1877, J. B. Merrill in 1872, Charlie Marshall in 1881 George A. Marsh, 1882, Keewatin and Lizzie Metzner in 1888. Many of these were not originally Canadian bottoms and several of them were in their day crack schooners of the lakes.
There has been a recent discussion as to the advisability of building sailing craft for this lake but because of the scarcity and high cost of timber it is doubtful if this will be done, many vessel masters believe.