Erie County, Pennsylvania

History of Erie County, Pennsylvania 1884

by Samuel P. Bates, 

Submitted by Gaylene Kerr Banister


 

Chapter XVI - Lake Navigation

The first vessel to sail the waters of Lake Erie was built by Robert Cavalier de la Salle, an adventurous Frenchman, on the Niagara River, six miles above the Falls, in the year 1677. She was named the Griffin, and was of sixty tons burthen. La Salle navigated Lakes Erie, Huron and Michigan, to Green Bay, in the present State of Wisconsin, where, with a picked number of men, he left the vessel and marched overland to the Mississippi. The remainder of the crew attempted to return to the Niagara, and are supposed to have been lost in a storm, as neither vessel nor men were heard from afterward. Nearly a hundred years later the French built another sailing vessel with which they undertook to navigate the lake. This second venture was as unsuccessful as the first, the vessel having foundered and forty-nine of her crew having been drowned.

No record is to be found of any other sailing vessel on the lake until 1766, when the British, who had secured possession of both shores, built and launched four. They were of light burthen, and were chiefly used for carrying troops and army supplies. All transportation of a commercial character, and all of the very limited passenger business was carried on by batteaux until after the close of the Revolutionary war. They kept close to the shore, were mainly propelled by paddles or oars, and if a sail was used it was simply a blanket fastened to a pole, to take advantage of favorable winds. The earliest American sailing vessel on the lake was a small boat, owned and run by Capt. William Lee, in which he carried passengers and light articles of freight between Buffalo and Erie. She was constructed to use oars in going against the wind, and had no crew, the passengers being obliged to work for their passage.

The first sailing vessel built on the south shore of Lake Erie was the sloop Washington, of thirty tons, under the superintendence of Eliphalet Beebe, at the mouth of Four Mile Creek, for the Pennsylvania Population Company, owners of the bulk of the land in the Triangle. She was launched in September, 1798, was employed for some twelve years in the service of the company, and was removed on rollers across the Niagara Peninsula, to Lake Ontario in 1810, where she was lost. The first vessel launched at Erie was built at the mouth of Mill Creek, in 1799, Capt. Lee and Rufus S. Reed being her principal owners. She was named the Good Intent and sunk at Point Albino in 1806, with all on board. The Harlequin, built at Erie in 1800, by Mr. Beebe, was also lost the first season, with her entire crew. About 1801, the Wilkinson, of sixty-five tons, was owned at Erie. She was commanded by Capt. Daniel Dobbins, in 1805. Another early Erie vessel was the schooner Mary, of 100 tons, built by Thomas Wilson, 1805.

The British kept a fleet of armed vessels on the lakes from 1792 until Perry's victory in 1813, and in 1810 had as many as seven of this class in commission. They were called the "provincial marine service," and were manned mostly by Canadians. To counteract their movements, the United States Government, at various times up to 1809, had placed four vessels of war upon the lake, the most formidable of which was the Detroit, the one that brought Gen. Wayne to Erie on returning from his Western expedition. She was wrecked off Presque Isle the next fall. Of this class of vessels the only one that was in service on Lake Erie at the outbreak of the last war with Great Britain was the Adams, of 150 tons, which was captured by the British in 1812. The brigs Lawrence and Niagara, and the schooner Ariel, of Perry's fleet, were constructed at the mouth of Cascade Creek (the site of the Erie and Pittsburgh docks), and three gunboats at the mouth of the old canal, in 1813.

In 1794, two British armed vessels lay outside the harbor of Erie for some time, as a menace against the occupation of the lake shore region by the Americans.

The Merchant Service
Previous to the war of 1812-14, a dozen or more vessels comprised the whole merchant fleet of the lake, averaging about sixty tons each.1 The chief article of freight was salt from Salina, N. Y., which was brought to Erie, landed on the beach below the mouth of Mill Creek, hauled in wagons to Waterford, and from there floated down French Creek and the Allegheny River to Pittsburgh. As the trade progressed, three large buildings were erected on the beach for storing the salt. In 1806, 6,000 barrels were registered at the Erie custom house, and the amount increased to 18,000 barrels at a later period. Commerce was suspended on the lake during the war, but it revived immediately after, and has steadily grown year by year.2 The discovery of salt in the vicinity of Pittsburgh put an end to that branch of the lake traffic about 1819.

Among the pioneer lake captains were Daniel Dobbins, William Lee, Thomas Wilkins, Seth Barney, C. Blake, James Rough, John F. Wight, Levi Allen, John Richards, George Miles and Charles Hayt. Capt. Richards quit sailing and went to ship-building with considerable success. Capt. Wilkins commenced with the Reeds in 1822, and was long one of their most popular commanders. Rufus S. Reed owned vessels at an early day, and continued in the business during the balance of his life. In 1809, he and Capt. Dobbins purchased the schooner Charlotte, of ninety tons, from a Canadian. She was long sailed by Capt. Dobbins. The Charlotte was at Mackinaw when that place surrendered to the British in 1812, and Capt. Dobbins, Rufus S. Reed, W. W. Reed and the crew became prisoners of war. She was sent by the enemy to Detroit, where Gen. Hull included her in the general surrender.

The Era of Steamboats
The first steamboat to navigate Lake Erie was the Walk-in-the-Water, of 342 tons, built on the Niagara River, between Black Rock and Tonawanda, and launched on the 28th of May, 1818. On her first trip it took from 7:30 P.M., on Monday, to 11 A.M. on Tuesday, to reach Cleveland from Erie, and the entire voyage from Buffalo to Detroit required forty-one hours and ten minutes, the wind being ahead all the way up. She carried quite a number of passengers, and having pleasant accommodations, they enjoyed the trip mightily. As the boat neared the head of the lake, the Indians ran down to the water's edge, and gave utterance to their amazement by repeated signs and shouts. The Walk-in-the Water made regular trips each season between Buffalo and Detroit, on each of which she stopped at Erie. She was stranded in Buffalo Bay in 1822, and her engines were removed and put into the Superior, which was her immediate successor.

The first steamboat launched at Erie was the William Penn, of 200 tons, in May or June, of 1826. She was the sixth on the lake, and was built by the Erie & Chautauqua Steamboat Company, the original managers of which were Walter Smith, E. L. Tinker and Charles Townsend, of New York, and R. S. Reed, P. S. V. Hamot, Josiah Kellogg, John F. Wight, Daniel Dobbins and Peter Christie, of Erie. The association was organized in 1825 and continued until some time after 1832. The William Penn was commanded by Capt. Thomas Wilkins in 1827.

Gen. C. M. Reed's first steamboat was the Pennsylvania, Capt. John Fleeharty, master. She was launched near the foot of Sassafras street, in July, 1832, and towed to Black Rock, where her engines were put in. The General built the Thomas Jefferson in 1834 and the James Madison in 1837, both at Erie, in about the same locality as the Pennsylvania, Capt. Wilkins being placed in command of the former and Capt. R. C. Bristol of the latter. A writer in the Erie Gazette makes this statement: "On the 25th of May, 1837, Gen. Reed's steamboat James Madison came into this port from Buffalo with upward of one thousand passengers and a heavy cargo of freight. The Madison cleared $20,000 on this single trip. She was 700 tons burthen. Those early steamboat days, before the time of railroads and palace cars, were the most prosperous times ever known on the lakes. Very often a steamboat would more than pay for herself in one season."

In 1837, the ill-fated Erie was built at the foot of French street, by the Erie Steamboat Company -- Thomas G. Colt and Smith I. Jackson being the chief men -- and the Missouri followed, built by Gen. Reed in 1840. The Erie was subsequently purchased by Gen. Reed, who owned the vessel until her destruction by fire. All of these were large, elegant, rapid and popular boats.

In 1826, three steamboats entered and cleared from Erie Harbor every week, and from two to ten schooners. The opening of the canal between Erie and the Ohio River, in the spring of 1845, gave an immense impetus to the lake trade at this port. Tens of thousands of emigrants were brought fro Buffalo each year, taking the canal route to the Ohio Valley, and the harbor of Erie was one of the liveliest on the lake. The tide of travel by way of the lake continued until the completion of the Lake Shore Railroad to Toledo in 1853, when the emigrant business dropped off and the steamboats were compelled to depend mainly upon the freight business, to and fro the upper lakes. In one of Mr. Frank Henry's valuable series of reminiscences, printed in the Erie Gazette, he says:

"As late as the year 1850, there were no railroads in this region of country. The only public means of conveyance between the East and West was by stage coaches on land, and steamboats on the lakes during the months of navigation. There were many competing lines of steamers, strongly built and fitted up and furnished in princely style, regardless of expense, and commanded by the most capable and experienced men that could be found. The arrival of one of these 'floating palaces' in port was an event of more importance and interest than a circus would be in these days. Scores of sight-seers would crowd the decks and cabins, closely inspecting every nook and corner. * * These steamboats all used wood for fuel, and were propelled by steam, the exhaust of which could be heard far over the hills on the mainland, striking terror to the hearts of timid people who never heard such sounds before. The highest ambition of many a country boy was to find employment in any capacity on one of these boats. Many of these lake captains were very popular with the traveling public, and were better known, either personally or by reputation, than many a United States Senator of the present day. The boats of these favorite were generally crowded to their utmost capacity."

Propellers and Ships

The first propeller on Lake Erie was the Vandalia, of 150 tons, built at Oswego and brought through the Welland Canal in 1842. Two others appeared the same season. The propellers have entirely taken the places of the old style steamboats, being found more safe, economical and reliable.

The first full-rigged ship on the lake was the Julia Palmer, of 300 tons, launched at Buffalo in 1836. The ship Milwaukee was built in the same year at Grand Island, in the Niagara River.

The Old Times and the New
In an address delivered by Mr. Martin, of Buffalo, at Niagara Falls on the 11th of August, 1881, he made these striking statements:

"In 1855, the average wheat-carrying capacity of a sail vessel was from 16,000 to 18,000 bushels; in 1865, 25,000 to 30,000 bushels; in 1875, 40,000 to 50,000 bushels; and now 50,000 to 70,000 bushels. The largest sail vessel now on the lakes carries 2,300 tons of freight; in 1855, the average wheat carrying capacity of a propeller was 18,000 bushels, in 1865, 25,000 to 30,000 bushels; in 1875, 40,000 to 50,000 bushels, and now, from 70,000 to 80,000 bushels.

"Iron ship building was commenced in 1862. * * The propeller and consort system was first established in 1870, and has become a great factor in solving the question of cheap transportation."

In connection with the above, the following from the Erie Gazette of May 22, 1881, will be of interest:

"The five-masted schooner David Dows, Capt. Skeldon, Master, was in port, taking in a cargo of coal, during the week. She is the largest sailing vessel ever built on the lakes. She is 287 feet over all in length. The Dows carries 7,484 yards of canvas. Her tallest spar is 170 feet high from the deck. Her largest anchor weighs 4,320 pounds. One chain is one and a half inch links and 450 feet in length. The Dows was built in Toledo, and this is her first trip. She will carry 3,000 tons or 180 car loads. She can carry three kinds of grain at once. The Dows can carry 130,000 bushels of wheat."

Valuable Statistics
The following statistics of the vessels on Lake Erie at various periods show the progress that was made in sixty years:

In 1810, eight or nine sailing vessels, averaging 60 tons.

In 1820, one small steamboat and thirty sailing vessels, averaging 50 tons.

In 1831, eleven steamboats aggregating 2,200 tons, and one hundred sailing vessels, averaging 70 tons.

In 1845, forty-five steamboats, aggregating 30,000 tons, and two hundred and seventeen other vessels aggregating 20,000 tons.

In 1847, sixty-seven steamers, twenty-six propellers, three barks, sixty-four brigs and three hundred and forty schooners.

In 1860 (including Lake Ontario), one hundred and thirty-eight steamers, one hundred and ninety-seven propellers, fifty-eight barks, ninety brigs and nine hundred and seventy-four sloops and schooners. Total tonnage, 536,000; valuation, $30,000,000.

The Government statistics of 1870 showed that the marine commerce of the lakes in 1869 exceeded the whole American coasting trade on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Government Vessels
The United States Steamer Michigan, the only vessel of war now on the chain of lakes, was launched at Erie on the 9th of November, 1843, and accepted and commissioned by the Government on the 15th of August, 1844. She is of 538 tons burthen, is wholly built of iron excepting the spar deck, and is pierced for twelve guns, but only carries eight. The Michigan is a side-wheeler, with a length over all of 167 feet, an extreme beam of 47 feet, a depth of hold of 14 feet, a registered tonnage of 450 tons and a displacement of 685 tons. She was built at Pittsburgh, transported in pieces to Cleveland, brought from that City to Erie in a steamer, and put together at this harbor, being the first iron hull ever set afloat on the lakes. The crew of the Michigan averages ninety-eight persons, including eleven officers. Her tonnage, armament and crew are regulated by treaty with Great Britain, which is also authorized to place a vessel of the same character on the lakes. Erie has always been the headquarters for the Michigan. The successive commanders of the vessel have been as follows: William Inman, Stephen Champlin, Oscar Bullus, _____ Biglow, _____ McBlair, _____ Nicholas, Joseph Lanman, John C. Carter, Francis A. Roe, A. Breyson, James E. Jouett, _____ Brown, _____ Gillis, _____ Wright, _____ cushman, G. W. Hayward and Albert Kautz. Several of these officers have risen to the rank of Commodore, and one of them, Joseph Lanman, to that of Rear Admiral.

Erie has been the station for the United States Revenue Cutters ever since that branch of the Government service was established on Lake Erie. The first cutter was the Benjamin Rush, of thirty tons, built at this port by Capt. John Richards, about 1827, and first commanded by Capt. Gilbert Knapp, who was succeeded by Capt. Daniel Dobbins. The second was the Erie, of sixty-two tons, launched at Reed's dock, in March, 1833, and placed in charge of Capt. Dobbins, with the present Capt. Ottinger as his Second Lieutenant. The latter made his first cruise uponthe lake in the Benjamin Rush, with Capt. Dobbins as his chief officer, in 1832. The Erie was succeeded in 1846 by the iron steamer Dallas, of which Michael Conner was Captain, and Douglas Ottinger First Lieutenant. This vessel was removed to the Atlantic coast, by way of the Canadian canals and the St. Lawrence River, in 1848. The Jeremiah S. Black was one of six steam cutters built by the Government, being one for each lake, in 1857, and was placed under the command of Capt. Ottinger, who had been promoted. At the outbreak of the civil war, these vessels were moved to the Atlantic coast under the direction of Capt. Ottinger, by way of the St. Lawrence River. In 1864, Capt. Ottinger superintended the construction of the steam cutter Perry, which is still in service and of which he was the commander, with the exceptionof two years, until 1881, when he was placed on the retired list. This vessel, which was built on the Niagara River, on her trial trip, for more than two hours moved at a speed of upward of nineteen miles an hour, and has made headway, in a winter gale, on the open lake against wind blowing fifty-five miles per hour. The Perry carries two rifled Parrot twenty-pounders, and two brass howitzers, twenty-pounders, and is manned by one Captain, three Lieutenants, three Engineers and thirty shipped men. She is 170 feet long, 24 wide, 10 1/2 deep, and draws 7 1/2 feet. Her capacity is 404 tons, old measurement. The revenue service is a branch of the United States Treasury Department, and has no connection with the navy. The duty of the cutters is to enforce the laws for the collection of the revenue, and to afford relief to vessels in distress during the storms of autumn. They have rendered valuable service in this way, saving many lives and a vast amount of property.

Disasters on the Bay and Lake
Some of the most appalling marine disasters on record have taken place on Lake Erie, causing sorrow to hundred of homes and involving the loss or ruin of many brave and enterprising citizens. The early disasters have already been recited, and it is unnecessary to repeat them. The following are some of the most terrible incidents that have happened in later years on the bay and lake:

The schooner Franklin, owned by P. S. V. Hamot, loaded at Buffalo for an upper port, left Erie on the 16th of October, 1820, and was never seen afterward. Capt. Hayt and three men, all residents of Erie or vicinity, were lost.

In April, 1823, four men -- Hutchinson, Zuck, Fox and Granger -- started to cross the bay in a boat. The water was rough, the boat capsized, and all but Granger were drowned.

The steamboat Washington burned off Silver Creek in 1838, and sixty persons lost their lives.

Eleven men left the wharf at Erie in a small boat on the 14th of May, 1834, to go to the steamboat New York, lying at the outer pier. A blinding snow storm prevailed and the boat was upset. Nine of the party were drowned, among them Thomas McConkey, Deputy Collector of the port.

One of the most dreadful calamities in the history of lake navigation occurred on the 9th of August, 1841, and is still remembered with horror by our older citizens. The steamboat Erie, of Erie, owned by Gen. Reed, commanded by Capt. Titus, and bearing a large party of emigrants, was coming up the lake from Buffalo, and when off Silver Creek was discovered to be ablaze. The fire is supposed to have been caused by the bursting of some demijohns of turpentine on board, which ignited by coming in contact with the coals of the furnace. The Erie having been newly painted and the wind being high, the flames spread with amazing velocity, and in an inconceivably brief period of time the boat was burned to the water's edge. Two hundred and forty-nine persons were lost, of whom twenty-six were residents of Erie. Between 120 and 130 bodies rose to the surface and were recovered. An act of heroism occurred in connection with the disaster which deserves to be handed down to the farthest generation. The wheelman, Augustus Fuller, of Harbor Creek, on the discovery of the fire, immediately headed the boat for the shore, and stood at his post till surrounded by flames, when he fell dead from suffocation. The Erie was valued at $75,000. Her cargo was worth about $20,000, and the emigrants, it is calculated, had with them $180,000 in gold and silver.

Another calamity of an equally horrible nature took place in 1850. The steamboat G. P. Griffith burned near Chagrin, Ohio, and 250 souls were lost.

The propeller Henry Clay foundered in 1851, and nothing was ever heard of any one on board. Nineteen lives were lost by the foundering of the propeller Oneida in 1852.

In the summer of 1852 the steamboat Atlantic collided with another vessel, and sunk of Long Point, opposite Erie. One hundred and fifty lives were lost.

The propeller Charter Oak foundered in 1855. Eleven persons were missing.

Fifty six persons met with an untimely end in 1856 by the burning of the Northern Indiana.

The sloop Washington Irving, of Erie, Capt. Vannatta, left this port for Buffalo on the 7th of July, 1860, and was never heard from again. She is supposed to have foundered. All on board -- seven persons -- were drowned.

The steamer Morning Star was sunk by a collision with the bark Cortland in 1868, and thirty-two persons were lost.

The loss of life on all of the lakes in 1860 was 578, and of property over $1,000,000.

Coming down to the season of 1882, the notable disasters were the foundering of the Canadian steamer Asia, in Georgian Bay, on the 10th of September; the wreck of the schooner Henry Folger, on Salmon Point, on the night of December 3; the burning of the steamer Manitoulin, in Georgian Bay, on May 18; and the burning of the steam barge Peters, on Lake Michigan, in December. The loss of life was as follows: In connection with the Peters, 13; the Manitoulin, between 30 and 40; the Asia, upward of 100, and the Folger, 9.

One of the severest gales ever known occurred in November, 1883, lasting from the 11th for several days, and extending over the whole chain of lakes. Nothing like it had been seen for many years. From fifty to sixty vessels were lost, and the damage was scarcely less than a million dollars.

Distances by Lake
The following are the distances by water in miles from the harbor of Erie:

Alpena, Lake Huron

578.0

Bay City, Lake Huron

407.5

Bayfield, Lake Superior

376.0

Buffalo, Lake Erie

79.0

Chicago, Lake Michigan

827.0

Cleveland, Lake Erie

100.0

Coburg, via Welland Canal

172.0

Copper Harbor, Lake Superior

727.0

Detroit, Detroit River

188.0

Duluth, Lake Superior

933.0

East Saginaw, Lake Huron

421.0

Hamilton, Lake Ontario

130.0

Marquette, Lake Superior

634.0

Milwaukee, Lake Michigan

762.0

Port Sarnia, Lake Huron

253.5

Sandusky, Lake Erie

150.0

Sault St. Marie, Lake Superior

534.5

Superior City, Lake Superior

933.0

Toledo, Lake Erie

197.0

Toronto, via Welland Canal

126.0


Opening of Navigation

The season of 1834 was unusually backward. Navigation opened the 24th of March, but was much retarded by ice and storms. On the 14th of May, snow fell along the south shore of the lake to the depth of six inches.

The lake was open and navigation was in full operation between Erie and Detroit in April, 1835, but Buffalo Creek was closed till the 8th of May.

The Revenue Cutter Erie sailed from the port of Erie to Buffalo about the last of December, 1837, without interruption. In February, 1838, the steamer Dewitt Clinton came into Erie from Buffalo and went from Erie to Detroit without obstruction.

In the winter of 1844-45, the steamer United States made a trip every month between Buffalo and Detroit.

On the 13th of December, 1852, a steamboat passed up the lake and another on the 10th of January, 1853. Generally speaking, the port of Erie is open about two weeks before that of Buffalo, as is shown by the following table:

OPENING OF THE HARBORS OF ERIE AND BUFFALO

 

ERIE

 

BUFFALO

 

 

 

ERIE 

 

BUFFALO 

Year

Month

Day

 

Month

Day

 

Year

 

Month

Day

 

Month

Day

1826.........

April

2d

 

May

2d

 

1855.........

 

May

10th

 

April

21st

1827.........

April

24th

 

May

11

 

1856.........

 

May

6th

 

May

2d

1828.........

March

5th

 

April

1st

 

1857.........

 

April

27th

 

April

27th

1829.........

January

29th

 

May

21st

 

1858.........

 

April

3d

 

April

15th

1830.........

April

18th

 

April

6th

 

1859.........

 

April

8th

 

April

7th

1831.........

April

14th

 

May

8th

 

1860.........

 

April

21st

 

April

17th

1832.........

April

21st

 

April

27th

 

1861.........

 

April

15th

 

April

13th

1833.........

April

12th

 

April

28th

 

1862.........

 

March

31st

 

April

6th

1834.........

March

24th

 

April

8th

 

1863.........

 

February

27th

 

April

7th

1835.........

April

11th

 

May

8th

 

1864.........

 

April

1st

 

April

14th

1836.........

April

25th

 

April

27th

 

1865.........

 

April

10th

 

April

27th

1837.........

April

17th

 

May

16th

 

1866.........

 

April

14th

 

April

22d

1838.........

March

29th

 

March

31st

 

1867.........

 

April

5th

 

April

19th

1839.........

April

9th

 

April

11th

 

1868.........

 

April

9th

 

April

11th

1840.........

March

27th

 

April

27th

 

1869.........

 

April

3d

 

May

1st

1841.........

April

10th

 

April

14th

 

1870.........

 

April

15th

 

April

16th

1842.........

March

12th

 

March

7th

 

1871.........

 

March

25th

 

April

1st

1843.........

April

11th

 

May

6th

 

1872.........

 

April

12th

 

May

6th

1844.........

April

1st

 

March

14th

 

1873.........

 

April

17th

 

April

28th

1845.........

March

29th

 

April

3d

 

1874.........

 

March

28th

 

April

18th

1846.........

March

23d

 

April

11th

 

1875.........

 

April

15th

 

May

12th

1847.........

April

7th

 

April

23d

 

1876.........

 

April

7th

 

May

5th

1848.........

March

20th

 

April

9th

 

1877.........

 

April

23d

 

April

17th

1849.........

March

25th

 

April

11th

 

1878.........

 

March

16th

 

March

16th

1850.........

March

11th

 

March

29th

 

1879.........

 

April

26th

 

April

25th

1851.........

April

1st

 

April

2d

 

1880.........

 

March

16th

 

March

17th

1852.........

April

1st

 

April

20th

 

1881.........

 

April

27th

 

May

3d

1853.........

May

9th

 

April

14th

 

1882.........

 

March

6th

 

March

10th

1854.........

April

8th

 

April

29th

 

1883.........

 

April

13th

 

Navigation on Lake Erie usually closes about the 1st of December, but is sometimes extended to the middle of the month. Ice, as a rule, forms first in the shoal water of the western part of the lake. Vessel insurance begins generally on the 1st of May and always closes on the 30th of November.

Collectors at Erie

The collection district of Presque Isle embraces the whole coast line of Pennsylvania on Lake Erie. Below is a list of the collectors, with the dates of their commissions:

Thomas Forster, March 26, 1799; Edwin J. Kelso, July 1, 1836; Charles W. Kelso, July 10, 1841; Murray Whallon, June 19, 1845; William M. Gallagher, April 29, 1849; James Lytle, April 22, 1853; John Brawley, October 15, 1857; Murray Whallon, March 11, 1859; Charles M.Tibbals, November 1, 1859; Thomas Wilkins, June 22, 1861; Richard F. Gaggin, May 7, 1869; James R. Willard, February 19, 1874; Hiram L. Brown, March 22, 1878; Matthew R. Barr, December 1, 1880; H. C. Stafford, July 17, 1883.

Deputy Collectors
Under Col. Forster, Thomas McConkey, James Maurice; under F. J. Kelso, Murray Whallon; under C. W. Kelso, A. C. Hilton; under M. Whallon, first term, A. P. Durlin; under W. M. Gallagher, William S. Brown; under Messrs. Lytle, Brawley, Whallon (second term) and Tibbals, W. W. Loomis; under Thomas Wilkins, R. F. Gaggin; under R. F. Gaggin, Thomas Wilkins; under J. R. Willard, William F. Luetje; under Messrs. Brown and Barr, R. F. Gaggin; under Mr. Barr, from March, 1883, Andrew H. Caughey; under Mr. Stafford, E. H. Wilcox and Alfred King.

The Collectors are appointed by the President for a term of four years, unless sooner removed. Messrs. Forster, Edwin J. Kelso, Whallon, Lytle, Brawley and Tibbals were appointed as Democrats; the others as Whigs or Republicans. The emoluments of the office are as follows: Collector, $1,000 salary, and fees not to exceed $1,500 (averaging $1,800 in all); Deputy Collector, $1,600; Inspectors, $3 a day during the season of navigation.

Collector Forster's salary for the year 1817 was as follows: Regular pay, $250; fees, $267.95; emoluments, $8.01.

Vessels Owned in Erie
The following lists of vessels owned in Erie at the opening of navigation in 1860 and 1880 are given for the purpose of comparison:

1860
Brigs-- Paragon, 212 tons, Andrew Scott and William Christian.

Barques-- American Republic, 459 tons, Charles M. Reed.

Schooners-- W. M. Arbuckle, 170 tons, C. M. Tibbals and John M. Gray; West Chester, 208 tons, E. L. Nason; Armada, 235 tons, John Dunlap and G. J. Morton; W. A. Adair, 82 tons, E. Longley; Post Boy, 95 tons, Andrew Scott and Mary Day; Huntress, 351 tons, W. A. Brown & Co.; E. C. Williams, 157 tons, J. Hearn and W. L. Scott; Pacific, 186 tons, George J. Morton; Washington Irving, 111 tons, A. Scott and James Marshall; St. James, 286 tons, Charles M. Reed; Columbia, 166 tons, J. Hearn and W. L. Scott; St. Paul, 304 tons, Charles M. Reed; Mary Morton, 246 tons, George J. Morton; Arrow, 281 tons, J. Hearn and W. L. Scott; N. G., 61 tons, A. R. Reynolds & Brother; Mary M. Scott, 361 tons, J. Hearn and W. L. Scott; Susquehanna, 271 tons, Charles M. Reed; Milton Courtright, 389 tons, J. Hearn and W. L. Scott; L. D. Coman, 178 tons, J. Hearn and W. L. Scott; Citizen, 150 tons, Charles M. Reed; St. Andrew, 444 tons, Charles M. Reed; Illinois, 110 tons, E. L. Nason and T. W. Roberts; Storm Spirit, 214 tons, A. Scott and J. H. Rankin; Geneva, 197 tons, J. Hearn and W. L. Scott. Total, 5,924 tons; valuation about $300,000

1880
Propellers-- Alaska, 1,288 tons, Anchor Line; Annie Young, 1,007 tons Anchor Line; Arizona, 924 tons, Anchor Line; China, 1,239 tons, Anchor Line; Conemaugh, 1,610 tons, Anchor Line; Conestoga, 1,726 tons, Anchor Line; Delaware, 1,732 tons, Anchor Line; Gordon Campbell, 996 tons, Anchor Line; India, 1,239 tons, Anchor Line; Japan, 1,239 tons, Anchor Line; Juniata, 1,709 tons, Anchor Line; Lehigh, 1,705 tons, Anchor Line; Lycoming, 1,610 tons, Anchor Line; Philadelphia, 1,464 tons, Anchor Line; R. Prindaville, 246 tons, Anchor Line; Winslow, 1,049 tons, Anchor Line; Wissahickon, 1,620 tons, Anchor Line; City of New York, 417 tons, A. E. Shepard.

The China, India, Japan and Winslow are elegant passenger boats.

Tug Propeller-- Erie, 58 tons, Anchor Line.

Tugs-- Hercules, 8 tons, R. O'Brien; Thomas Thompson, 19 tons, J. & T. Mahoney.

Steamer-- Mary Jarecki, 646 tons, A. E. Shepard.

Sloop-- Rambler, 11 tons, A. Steinmetz.

Schooners-- Allegheny, 664 tons, Anchor Line; Annie Sherwood, 622 tons, Anchor Line; Charles H. Weeks, 325 tons, Anchor Line; Keepsake, 287 tons, Anchor Line; Schuylkill, 472 tons, Anchor Line; Thomas A. Schott, 741 tons, Anchor Line; Charles H. Burton, 515 tons, Thomas White; John Sherman, 322 tons, James McBrier; Frank W. Gifford, 452 tons, J. C. Van Scoter and Levi Davis; J. S. Richards, 311 tons, J. C. Van Scoter and George Berriman; Harvest Queen, 299 tons, Margaret Christie; Julia Willard, 214 tons, H. W. Spooner and Samuel Rea, Jr.; Wanderer, 11 tons, E. D. Ziegler; James F. Joy, 583 tons, R. O'Brien and M. Christie.

Steam Pleasure Yachts
-- Emma V. Sutton, 23 tons, J. D. Paasch; J. H. Welsh, 14 tons, John and William Stanton; Mystic, 75 tons, W. L. Scott; S. H. Hunter, 27 tons, James Hunter.

Total -- Propellers, 18; tug propellers, 1; tugs, 2; steamer, 1; sloop, 1; schooners, 14; steam yachts, 4; in all 41; enrolled tonnage, 28,690; cash valuation, $1,675,000.

Business of the Port
The entrances at the port of Erie during 1860 were 655, and the clearances 678, with a total tonnage of about 300,000. The following persons and firms were in the lake business in that year: Coal and shipping, Walker & Gilson, John Hearn & Co., Charles M. Reed, Josiah Kellogg, Starr & Payne, George J. Morton, Scott & Rankin; coal and iron, Curtis & Boyce; grocery and ship chandlery, Andrew Hofsies. Besides these there were about half a dozen saloons in operation on the docks, and a grocery at the mouth of the canal.

During the season of 1880, the entrances were 1,025, and the clearances 999, with a total tonnage of 1,565,183. The revenue collected for three years was, from July 1, 1878, to June 30, 1879, $9,163; from July 1, 1879, to June 30, 1880, $4,910; from July 1, 1880, to December 31, 1880, $19,448. The largely increased receipts of the last year were owing to heavy importations of barley from Canada. With the exception of the lumber business, the whole trade of the port is now done by the Anchor Line and William L. Scott * Co. The former do all the grain and miscellaneous business, and the latter firm control the entire coal and iron ore trade.

Light-Houses and Their Keepers

The first light-house upon the chain of lakes was erected at Erie in 1818, on the bluff overlooking the entrance to the harbor, a tract of land for the purpose having been ceded to the United States Government by Gen. John Kelso. A new structure was built of Milwaukee brick in 1858, but proved to be defective, and it was replaced by a third building of stone in 1866, at a cost of $20,000. For some unexplained reason, and against the protests of all the lake men at Erie, the officer in charge of light houses upon the lakes concluded to abandon it; the buildings and grounds were sold at public auction on the 1st of March, 1881, and the light-house was demolished.

About the year 1830, the Government added a beacon light on the north pier at the entrance to the harbor of Erie. It consisted of a tall wooden tower, resting upon a heavy bed of masonry. This structure was carried away by a sailing vessel in the summer or fall of 1857, and was replaced by the present wrought iron tower in the summer of 1858. The light-house was modeled and forged into form in France, reaching Erie with nothing to be done except to bolt the pieces into their proper positions. A neat frame dwelling for the keeper, the same that still exists, was erected while the tower was being put together, John Constable and Ed. Bell being the contractors. Five different lights are maintained at this station, all fixed, white, sixth order lenses, and used as ranges. In addition to these and for the further protection of navigators, there is a 1,200-pound Meneely fog bell, which is operated by clock work, and tolls three times every minute in snowy and foggy weather.

A third light-house station was established on the north shore of the peninsula, and a handsome brick tower erected for the purpose, from which the first light was exhibited on the night of July 12, 1873. It is known as the Flash Light, and cost the Government $15,000. The keeper's family are provided with a snug residence, but the isolated situation renders their life anything but a cheerful one.

No regular journal seems to have been kept by any of the keepers until 1872, when Mr. Frank Henry commenced a daily record, which, it is to be hoped, will always be continued as a part of the duties of the position. By the kindness of various gentlemen, we have been able to make up the following partial list of keepers.

Land Light
1818-1833 -- Capt. John Bone, of Erie.
1833 -- Robert Kincaide, of Erie.
1841 -- Griffith Hinton, of Harbor Creek.
1845 -- Eli Webster, of McKean.
1849 -- James W. Miles, of West Mill Creek. He died in the summer of 1853, and the duties were performed by his wife, Isabel Miles, till the ensuing spring.
April 1, 1854 -- John Graham, of Erie.
April 1, 1858 -- Gen. James Fleming, of Erie.
October 27, 1858 -- A. C. Landon, of Erie.
July 15, 1861 -- John Goalding, of Erie.
April 1, 1864 -- George Desmond, of Erie.
August 1, 1871 -- A. J. Fargo, of Fairview.

Mr. Fargo retained the position, with his wife as assistant, until the lighthouse was abandoned. The pay was $560 per year to the principal and $400 to the assistant.

Beacon Light
William T. Downs, Erie, years unknown.
Benjamin Fleming, Erie, years unknown.
John Hess, Erie, years unknown.
Leonard Vaughn, Summit, years unknown.
George W. Bone, Erie, appointed July 19, 1861.
Richard P. Burke, March 1, 1863.
Frank Henry, Harbor Creek, May 1, 1869.

In June, 1873, upon the addition of another light, James Johnson, of Erie, was appointed assistant keeper. He was succeeded in September of the same year by C. E. McDannell, of East Mill Creek, who still holds the position. The pay is $520 per year to the keeper and $400 to the assistant.

Flash Light
July 12, 1873 -- Charles T. Waldo, of Fairview.
Spring of 1880 -- George E. Irvin; A. J. Harrison.
Fall of 1880 -- O. J. McAllister, of Wattsburg.
Fall of 1880 -- George F. Town, of North East.
Spring of 1883 -- Clark Cole, of Erie.

Messrs. Waldo, McAllister and Town all resigned, finding the lonely life incident to the position more than they could stand. The pay of the keeper is $520 per year.


1The Buffalo Express of October 10, 1811, contained the following: "The schooner Salina, Daniel Dobbins, master, arrived at this port on the 31st ult., having on board a cargo of fur, estimated at $150,000."

2Col. Foster, collector of Presque Isle, writing under date of July 28, 1815, said: "Lake Erie is crowded with small craft, generally of five to twenty tons."



Bibliography: Samuel P. Bates, History of Erie County, Pennsylvania, (Warner, Beers & Co.: Chicago, 1884), Part II, Chapter XVI, pp. 270-283.
 

 


This page was last updated on  Sunday, October 08, 2000.

Return to Erie County Genealogy Project

2014 Erie County Pennsylvania Genealogy Project