Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Detroit Post and Tribune (Detroit, MI), June 27, 1880
Full Text
A Very Remarkable Incident Thirty-two Years Ago
Bishop Fuller to the Chicago Tribune.

On the 31st of March, 1848, the falls of Niagara were virtually dry for an entire day. A Mr. Street, Bishop Fuller's brother-in-law, had a grist mill on the rapids above the falls. On the morning of the day mentioned his miller knocked at his bed-room door about 5 o'clock and told him to get up, as there was no water in the mill-race, and no water in the great river outside the race. He hurried out as soon as he could dress himself, and saw the river, on the edge of which he had been born thirty-four years before, dry. After a hurried breakfast, he and his youngest daughter went down about three quarters of a mile to the precipice itself, over which there was so little water running that, having provided himself with a strong pole, they started from Table Rock, and walked near the edge of the precipice about one-third of the way toward Goat Island, and having stuck a pole in a crevice of the rock, and Miss Street having tied her pocket-handkerchief firmly on the top of the pole, they returned. He then turned his view toward the river below the falls, and saw the water so shallow that immense jagged rocks stood up in a frightful manner.

Mr. Street's theory was that the winds had been blowing down Lake Erie, which is only about 30 feet deep, and rushing a great deal of water over the falls, and suddenly changed and blew this little water (comparatively speaking) up to the western portion of the lake; and at this juncture the ice on Lake Erie, which had been broken up by these high winds, got jammed in the river between Buffalo and the Canada side, and formed a dam which kept back the waters of Lake Erie the whole day.

A citizen of Buffalo writes to the Courier of that city: There are undoubtedly many witnesses yet living to attest to the truth of Rev. Bishop Fuller's statement relating to the sudden and extraordinary subsidence of water in the Niagara river at the time he refers to. I remember the circumstances well, being in charge at the time of the custom house at Black Rock ferry. The wind for several hours previous had varied but little from east to northeast, causing a strong current during the time, and piling the water back upon the bosom of Lake Erie. No slight sensation was manifested by the millers, whose inoperative machinery was unexpectedly in a mute condition, minus the element of propelling power. George W. Tifft, Esq., in this connection, may undoubtedly be referred to as an interested witness. The steam ferry boat Union, during the greater part of the day, was unable to reach her dock on either side, being prevented by the low stage of the water. The shore on the Canada side presented the appearance of an extended marsh of gravel and sand beds; fishermen's nets were in fold beyond the reach of the boats. The absence of water was equally perceptible on the American side. The massive pier stretched like a stone wall on dry land; Squaw Island was extended by a temporary area of barren beach; the harbor displayed the worst features of the annoying deposits which obstructed navigation and often disturbed the equilibrium of the millers' temper. In the latter respect it was a benefit furnishing a clue as to the worst obstructions to be removed. The remembered timber float-bridge sunk below available use for crossing trains, the declivity of the windlass-worked falls at the ends requiring of a pedestrian a persistent effort to reach a reliable foothold. I recollect a remark made by the late respected Col. Bird in the evening, he having visited the falls during the day, that "the water was so low on the American side that footmen could pass from the Porter mill to the small islands upon the naked rocks."

Item Type
Date of Original
June 27, 1880
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Language of Item
Dave Swayze
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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Detroit Post and Tribune (Detroit, MI), June 27, 1880