An Old-Time Trip

September 10, 2016

By Amorin Mello

An Old-Time Trip

by F. R. Stebbins

Thirty-five years ago. These words awaken in the minds of the young people of to-day, no personal memories of the past, and have to them only the significance of a mention of the times of “long ago,” the times away back of their first look upon this fair land, the region of the great lakes.

Francis R. Stebbins was either the brother or grandson of Cortland Bliss Stebbins; an editor of The Adrian Michigan Expositor.

Our children listen to the simple story of our experiences thirty, forty and fifty years ago, with great interest, but can never realize the full import of our narratives; but to such of us as have been, during these years, the actors in this labor of moulding and working out, in fact largely creating the great material, social, and political grandeur of this fair home of ours, which we found a wilderness, these words awaken many memories. How does the mention of these years bring to our minds a flood of recollections, of the sorrows and the joys, the failures and the successes, the toils of all, and the resting from their labors of so many, who once aided us in this great work of founding a new and noble State. Now, as we look around our well furnished homes, our smiling farms, our stores, our manufactories, our schools, and school-houses, and churches, our railroads and wagon roads, the memories of the times of forty and fifty years ago seem a dream only, and a record of those times, as they pass, only a page from the romance of the novelist; and yet how that page glows and enlarges, and how even romance is dimmed by the stranger realities, as the individual experiences of those years are related in the many volumes of our pioneer collections, you all know. I have, in this paper, no strange tale to tell, no startling romance, and perhaps very little interesting reality to record; but, thinking that the incidents of a trip to our truly great lakes in 1851 might not be entirely devoid of interest, I present them on this occasion.

Research of story details reveal that this trip actually started in July of 1851.
Sheldon McKnight was the founder of the Detroit Free Press and owned a fleet of steamships on the Great Lakes; including the London and the Monticello.
“With a view to showing the extent of the transportation of freights, baggage, mining-company supplies, etc., between Lake Huron, the Sault River, and Lake Superior, it may here be well to say that the late Sheldon McKnight, of Detroit, holding an official commission from the Government as connected with permits for the exploration of the copper lands of Lake Superior, and residing at Sault Ste. Marie, during the years of 1844 and 1845, did all the transferring of such articles across the portage thereat by means of one old gray horse and cart.”
~ Report of the Internal Commerce of the United States for the year 1891, by S. G. Brock, Chief of the United States Bureau of Statistics, Treasury Department, appendix 1, page 19.

Early in the month of August, 1851, it was my good fortune, through the kindness of Sheldon McKnight, in company with my wife and two young daughters, to find myself and family pleasantly settled in a good stateroom on board the steamer London, one of McKnight’s line of boats, at Detroit, bound for Sault Ste. Marie, where we were to be transferred to a “propeller” of his line on Lake Superior. The charm of such a trip to these then new and wild sections of our State, for the first time, to our party, can hardly be described: but that such a tour, with quiet water on the lake, was one of pure enjoyment, I have no doubt many pioneers present, who have taken such a trip, can easily believe. The few isolated settlements, with their rude wharves, and scattered and cheaply-constructed houses along the St. Clair River, and the land on the south and west shores of Lake Huron, to our eyes gave little promise of their present beauty and population, Port Huron was just beginning to be recognized as a stopping place of a few of the lake steamers, and Lexington and Sand Beach were of no account to mariners, with Forester, Forestville, and other points, now visited by nearly all the coasting steamers, either having no existence at all, or being usually avoided as dangerous localities for steamers.

On the west shore of the lake, beyond Saginaw Bay, the wilderness was still more unbroken. Where now stands Alpena, with its thousands of population, and its great lumber and’fishing enterprises, a solitary pioneer, or fisherman’s shanty, marked the spot—the Indians having prevented all attempts of settlement—and there, as along the coast, the great pine forests came down to the water’s edge. All was unbroken wilderness, with its wealth of timber. A small and very rude settlement only at Cheboygan and Duncans.

John Stewart Barry was the fourth and eighty Governor of the State of Michigan.
John Swegles, Jr. was the tenth Michigan Auditor General.
John Hanchett Harmon was an editor and owner of the Detroit Free Press, and later became a Mayor of Detroit.
Andrew Harvie was a lawyer in Sault Ste. Marie, connected with Lake Superior mining interests, and Senator of the State of Michigan.
Josiah A. Harris was a Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, and editor of the Cleveland Herald (formerly published by Charles Whittlesey).
William Henry was a banker, manufacturer, and Congressman from Vermont.
Truman Smith was a Senator and Congressman from Connecticut.
Captain John Wilson ~ Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper

John “Jack” Wilson was Captain of the propeller Monticello.
~ Portrait from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, September 22, 1860.

What a world of memories of the traditions and the romantic histories of the far-famed Mackinaw region came over us as we steamed by beautiful Bois Blanc, and came out in view of old Mackinaw, Point St. Ignace, and the gem of all, the peerless Mackinaw Island. All was new to many of our company, and save the fort and framed houses, and the rude wharf and modern vessels, instead of Indian wigwams, and the beach lined with bark canoes, much the same as when Marquette first looked upon the same scenery nearly two hundred years before. It did not detract from the interest I took in this beautiful island, when I remembered how, in my boyhood, in the old school-house spelling bees, in Vermont, so many of us used to wrestle with the old name “Michilimackinack,” and I am not sure that I can spell the word correctly even now. After a short stop we steamed away for Detour, and entered the river St. Mary. By this time our passengers became pretty well acquainted with each other, and we could call the roll for the then Governor John S. Barry, Auditor General John Swegles, John Harmon, a State senator, A. Harvie, Mr. Harris, editor of the Cleveland Herald, and we were joined at the Sault by Hon. Mr. Henry, from Vermont, and Hon. Truman Smith, U. S. Senator from Connecticut. The fact that four of us were staunch whigs, and four dyed-in-the-wool democrats, did not mar in the least our pleasant intercourse during the trip. Governor Barry, from his sedate countenance, in the early voyage, had been set down by the stranger passengers as a missionary to the Indians, on the way to join his charge, and we had to joke the governor on his missionary work, all of which he took without offense. To those of us who knew John Harmon in those days, I need not say he was not taken for an assistant missionary, although a listener might sometimes hear him exclaim, “I assist.”

Detroit Free Press
May 13, 1851
“THE ‘SOO.’ – The London, Capt. Watts, came in last evening with a full freight of the commodities of Lake Superior, copper from the Cliff Mine, &c. The new steamer Monticello, of McKnight’s line, was on the ways, and the most active exertions making to launch her across the Portage to take her place along the line on Lake Superior. The London carried up 250 passengers, and considerable interest seems to be exhibited in relation to the copper mines. The Railroad across the Portage is in full operation, with all it can do. If a pleasure trip is desired, let a passage be taken on the favorite steamer London, via Mackinaw to the Sault and back. She leaves for the above places on Wednesday morning.”
Buffalo Daily Courier
June 17, 1851
“The propeller MONTICELLO has been taken over the portage—and was launched in the water of Lake Superior Monday week.”

At the ‘”Soo” we left the London and took quarters at the hotel, waiting a day or two for the arrival down of the propeller Monticello, upon which we were to take our voyage on Lake Superior. During our stop I had the pleasure of catching a string of speckled trout, in the rapids, fishing from the shore. The population of the village of Sault Ste. Marie at that time was made up largely of Chippewa Indians and French and Indian halfbreeds, and a few soldiers at the United States military post, and contained very little enterprise or trade beyond saloons, and stores for Indian supplies. There was no canal, and all transit to Lake Superior, and from the lake to the river, around the rapids, was overland about one mile, by teams, or by a tram railway, with platform cars; and the two and only steam vessels on Lake Superior had been taken over this portage from St. Mary’s river. What a contrast with to-day, when it is stated, on good authority, that the tonnage of grain, metals, ores, merchandise, etc., through the great locks at St. Mary’s, was during the last year, larger than that passing through that great world’s highway, the Suez canal. The next morning, after leaving the Sault, we were in sight of the Pictured Rocks. And who can describe the sensation of a traveler whose eyes for the first time rest upon these wonderful pictures of nature’s handiwork? And who shall describe the pictures as they appear? Weird, wonderful, beautiful is all we can exclaim. Passing Pictured Rocks, we tied up to the shore of Grand Island. Here was one house and a little clearing, where a solitary family was struggling for a living, by cultivating a few vegetables and furnishing fuel for the propellers on Lake Superior.

Gov. Barry was here taken with a fainting attack; but he was taken on board and soon recovered, and we proceeded on our way.

Peter White, circa 1860's. ~ The Honorable Peter White: a biographical sketch of the Lake Superior iron country, by Ralph D. Williams, 1907, page 146.

Peter White, circa 1860’s.
~ The Honorable Peter White: a biographical sketch of the Lake Superior iron country, by Ralph D. Williams, 1907, page 146.

Our next landing was at the present site of Marquette, then called “Carp River.” A settlement had just commenced here, but the bluff was covered with pine and spruce trees, with a few modest cabins, the whole presenting as dismal a looking pioneer beginning as one could find anywhere. A little iron ore had been quarried and smelted there, but the greatness of this industry and mineral wealth, since developed under the fostering care of protection to home industry, was not dreamed of. even by the most sanguine of the enterprising men who even then saw great things for the newly discovered mineral wealth of the Lake Superior region. Seeing Marquette, as I did then as Carp River, with no wharf, almost no settled population, a mere opening in the wilderness, I was not prepared for the wonderful change I saw when I visited it some thirty years afterwards, in the great ore docks, and an almost continuous line of cars, discharging into the boats the rich ore from Negaunee and Ishpeming, and the busy, beautiful city, with its brick blocks, costly residences and iron works, and other industries. To no one man, probably, has Marquette more reason to be grateful for her wonderful growth and prosperity, than to a member of this society, and one who has often added to its interest in recitals of accidents connected with the early settlement of the Upper Peninsula, the Hon. Peter White.

Giving Carp River a parting gun from a small cannon on our deck, we steamed away up the lake to Eagle Harbor. This was also a very small beginning of a settlement, with a few rude buildings scattered among the pine trees. Our next stop was at Eagle River. Here was no harbor and no wharf, and the steamer anchored some distance from shore, and the passengers went ashore in row boats. Here the steamer “landed” some cattle, which was done by pushing them overboard at the gangway, the cattle swimming ashore. Eagle River was the landing place for the Cliff and North American copper mines, which were located some three miles away, the road to the mines passing over a high land ridge some six or seven hundred feet in height. The Cliff mine that year was thought to have done a great work in the shipment of 1200 tons of copper. Another mine, since that, has shipped 18,000 tons in one year.

“In 1851 the propeller Monticello was taken over the portage by Sheldon McKnight to compete with the Manhattan. A war of rates was pursued and the feeling between the two lines was very bitter.  Three months later a collision occurred between the Monticello and the Manhattan. This affair has never been satisfactorily explained, though it was the general opinion at the time that it could have been avoided.”
Marine Review, Volume 32, July 27, 1905, pages 44-45.

Another parting gun, and we headed direct for La Pointe. Soon after starting, we met and saluted heartily the other steamer on the lake, the propeller Manhattan, little dreaming of the coming events of our next meeting.

Our approach to La Pointe was one of great interest to many of our party, the larger part having never before visited the region of the Apostle islands.

On shore we saw the old mission house, a large trading house, a few other buildings, with a large sprinkling of Indian wigwams. From all parts of the little settlement we saw coming towards the landing a few white men, and a motley crowd of Indians, including squaws, and young and older children, all clad in Indian costume, or a mixture of Indian and white men’s clothing, the advent of a steamboat being at that time an uncommon event at La Pointe.

1851 was a particularly stressful year for Chief Buffalo and the La Pointe Band, following the 1849 Removal Order and 1850 Sandy Lake Tragedy.

We were much pleased to learn that old Chief Buffalo was at home, and that a hundred or more wild Chippewas were encamped in the woods nearby, adding no little interest to our visit. We were soon all on shore, and exploring the settlement.

Of course the first objective point, for a few of us, was the Indian wigwams, made either of skins or bark, with the usual architecture of Indian skill, and the usual decoration of dirty blankets, kettles, and skins. Meanwhile the dancing portion of our party were entertaining a large party of the natives with a white man’s dance, in the trading house, which soon suggested an Indian dance; the first intimation of which I received by the arrival of the lord of a wigwam, the interior of which I was inspecting, who turned me out of his “castle,” peremptorily, with the excuse, imparted mostly by signs, that he wished to dress for the war dance. We found when we recognized the gentleman of the woods later, at the dance, that his “dressing” consisted in taking off what few clothes he usually wore, and painting his body with all manner of devices, rudely made with his several fingers for a paint brush.

We all lost no time in gathering at the mission house before which, on a wide lawn of short grass, the dance was to be held. Ere long we heard in the direction of the woods, where the wild Indians were encamped, the peculiar thump of the “tom-tom,” or Indian drum.

Buffalo‘s interpreter was often his adopted son Benjamin Armstrong.  Buffalo and Armstrong made their famous journey to meet President Millard Fillmore in Washington, D.C. the following year in 1852.
Detail of Benjamin Armstrong from a photograph by Matthew Brady (Minnesota Historical Society)

Detail of Benjamin Armstrong from a photograph by Matthew Brady (Minnesota Historical Society).  See our Armstrong Engravings post for more information.

The excitement of the white tourists now became intense. We all knew we were to look upon a genuine war dance—all but the war—not by some mountebank company, but principally by the woods Indians, who so far had refused to be civilized and Christianized into doubtful saints, at the Jesuit mission stations. We all moved outside, and arranged on the wide platform in front of the house, which from a gentle elevation afforded a fine view of the dance ground. On one part of the platform were placed chief Buffalo, seated in the only arm chair to be found, with Governor Barry and the other dignitaries on either side of him. Chief Buffalo could only express himself through an interpreter, and he sat in stoical silence, without a movement of facial muscle during the whole dance. The rest of our party were standing on the other part of the platform, with our ladies in front, all in eager anticipation of the appearance of the Indians; and certainly not the least interested in the coming procession were our tourists who enjoyed the front seats, where nothing could obstruct a free vision of the warriors. On came the red men. First is seen the motion of the elevated staff adorned with large eagle feathers, borne by an aged warrior; next an old torn American flag; and soon, with steady tread, to the measured beatings of the Indian drum, the whole band comes in view. Now came a new sensation. The ladies had not been informed of the peculiar features of the elaborate ball dress of the Indians, and no sooner had the much-painted warriors come in sight, than the longest-sighted lady, shading her eyes with her hand for a moment, to get a better view of the details, was suddenly taken ill, and, hastily pushing our rear ranks of gentlemen asunder, she fled into the house, Nearer came the Indians, and another lady was attacked with the same disorder, and escaped inside. Thump, thump, louder sounded the tom-tom, nearer and nearer came the Indians, when another lady was attacked with the strange contagious disease, and then another, and another, quickly followed by a stampede of every lady on the platform, for which was made an open rank movement, and we, the men, were left alone on the platform to admire Indian warriors’ toilets. Now the motley band halted before us, the tom-tom ceased, and the naked loveliness of these forest dancers appeared, even to the most short-sighted beholder. Notwithstanding our great interest in the display, we could not help being anxious about our ladies, in the house, whose sudden illness was depriving them of an equal share in the entertainment. Our great regrets were uncalled for; and if we had in those earlier years of life known what riper experience has taught us, that the ladies, although timid at the start, on any great and unusual display of strange forces will always find a way to overcome the timidity, and push again to the front, and be the last to leave the conflict, our anxiety for these would have been less. And so it was on this occasion. My mind, reverting in sympathy to the unfortunate indisposition of our ladies, I naturally cast my eyes back towards the windows of the room in which they were concealed, just as the drum commenced to beat again for the grand dance; and what was my astonishment to see six distinct female faces instantly dodge back from six window panes, they were plainly and closely pressing. Soon, another fair face appeared, looking over the shoulders of the gentlemen in the doorway. The gentlemen naturally made way for the fair one to get a better view, and the lady improved the kindness. Another lady filled her place, and soon, in her turn, advanced for a better view; occupying the place of the first lady, who had now moved on nearer the front, and this movement went on by the ladies, until, in succession, as quickly, as they had been attacked by the Strange disorder, the invalids were all recovered, taking their old positions in the front, “fighting bravely until the last gun was fired,” and then complaining that the battle of the “breech-cloths” did not last longer.

John Quincy Adams "Indian peace medal" from the 1825 Treaty at Prairie Du Chien. ~ Smithsonian Institute

John Quincy Adams “Indian Peace Medal” distributed at the 1825 Treaty at Prairie Du Chien.  Buffalo was a signatory of this Treaty on behalf of the La Pointe Band.
~ Smithsonian Institute

Reverse side of "Indian peace medals" from 1801 and 1825. ~ Smithsonian Institute

Reverse side of “Indian Peace Medal” from the 1825 Treaty at Prairie Du Chien was reproduced from the 1801 Thomas Jefferson medal (pictured).
~ Smithsonian Institute

The warriors in this dance, as they moved around in a circle in close single file, presented a variety of dress enough to suit anyone. Very many of them had no dress, save the breech-cloth, and paint. One old warrior was dressed in a wolf skin, with the wolf head forming a head covering. Another, with spare spindle shanks, trotted around with a bright scarlet shawl on his shoulders, worn folded, with the corner points dangling at his heels. One nobly-formed savage wore, suspended on his bare breast, two large silver medals, presented by the U. S. Government in 1825, one stamped “peace and friendship,” the other, “John Quincy Adams, President of the United States.” The old men simply gave an occasional grunt, as they moved around with measured tread of spare and tawny limbs unclothed, in solemn dignity. The younger braves were profuse in grotesque postures and whoopings, barkings, wolf howlings and discharging their guns in the air. Some were dressed only in deer-skin breeches, with the usual ornaments of beads, tassels and feathers, and some had red shirts only.

After the dance the great Buffalo signified his desire to have a talk with Gov. Barry. State Senator Harvie introduced the Governor, who said: “The great chief of Michigan is glad to meet the great chief of the Chippewas. He desires to meet him as a friend and a brother, but not to confer upon political subjects. Let this meeting be one of friendship between the people of the great chief of Michigan and the people of the great chief of the Chippewas, and nothing more.” This was repeated to Buffalo in the Chippewa language, sentence by sentence, by the interpreter.

The great Buffalo replied, through the interpreter, as follows:

Buffalo was a signatory of the 1826 Treaty at Fond Du Lac:
“ARTICLE 5.  In consideration of the poverty of the Chippewas, and of the sterile nature of the country they inhabit, unfit for cultivation, and almost destitute of game, and as a proof of regard on the part of the United States, it is agreed that an annuity of two thousand dollars, in money or goods, as the President may direct, shall be paid to the tribe, at the Sault St. Marie. But this annuity shall continue only during the pleasure of the Congress of the United States.”
Buffalo was a signatory of the 1842 Treaty at La Pointe, which ceded the greater La Pointe region to the United States.  Bagone-giizhig (Hole-In-The-Day) the Younger was the first signatory listed on this treaty.  While La Pointe, Mille Lacs, and other Chippewa Bands did not recognize Bagone-giizhig as a leader, the United States did.

“My father, I am glad to meet you here, on this land where my fathers lived, and the land which they have left me, and where their bones repose. Especially am I glad to meet you at this time, when on account of some things, my heart is sad. I was told I should be paid off here, in this place, twenty-five years ago; and now, before the time is half gone, I am told I must go to Sault Ste. Marie.  It is a great way; I am old and cannot go. The man who sold these lands was but a child. Buffalo did not do it. My father knows the ways of the white man and the ways of the red man. In view of all this, the great Buffalo feels sad. I wish you to look at these papers.”

Here the chief took from beneath his dress a copy of a treaty with the Chippewas and handed it to the Governor, who, after looking at the title, handed the papers back to the chief, and replied:

“The chief of Michigan is only chief of another great tribe, and has no power in the matter of this treaty. He will do all in his power to promote justice and right, and he advises the great Buffalo to do as his great father, the President, directs, as he will do right.”

The same old “taffy,” as the boys now call it, always dealt out so liberally to the Indians. The “great father” at Washington no doubt “did right.” by enforcing the wrong in the bogus treaty with the “child,” of whom Buffalo spoke. As Buffalo told Gov. Barry, “he knew the ways of the white man.” I think we all know pretty well of the wrongs so many times enforced in accordance with the terms of fraudulently obtained treaties with the Indians by the government, which the wronged natives are told “always does right.”

Michigna Governor John Stewart Barry ~ Commons.Wikimedia.org

Governor John Stewart Barry
~ Commons.Wikimedia.org

The pipe of peace was then passed around, and the “talk”‘ was over. At this point John Harmon and the mercurial Senator Harvie had concluded the scheme of a little joke upon a peculiar financial characteristic of Gov. Barry. It was well known that the Governor, although wealthy, was very prudent with his means, in his expenditures of money, and it required very adroit management to open his purse strings on any common occasion. But here was a very uncommon call, and when John Harmon suggested to the Governor that it was customary in such cases to make some small present to the Indians, the Governor, thrown off his guard by the excitement of the dance, and the words small present, in Harmon’s suggestion, replied: ‘”Very well, gentlemen, make them such a present as you think suitable for me.” Harmon and Harvie sped away to the trader’s store, and the small present speedily distributed to the red men and their squaws would have insured the Governor at least six votes each from the braves had they resided in Chicago or New York at the next election. But when, just before we were to embark for our departure, the bill, to the amount of some forty or fifty dollars, was presented to the Governor, those of you who knew him can imagine the pent up wrath which his dignity, before another great chief, restrained from explosion; but it cast over his dark features a look which reminded one of a black thunder cloud which seemed just ready to burst asunder with terrific lightning and thunder. He paid the bill in portentious silence, and said not a word; but had he, about that time, caught John Harmon and Senator Harvie alone, I think I would decline to record the merited rebuke he would have given them in his well known vigorous language, when occasion called for it. The clouds of the affair hung over him a long time; and when we landed at Ontonagon, the Governor would not go ashore, for fear, I suppose, of more Indians, to receive “small presents.”

We left La Pointe with regret, having our time so much occupied by the red men that we had no time to thoroughly explore the locality where Marquette was located about 1669, when only thirty years of age.

We were obliged to anchor nearly a quarter of a mile from shore, at Ontonagon, on account of the shoal water; and a part of our company went ashore in row boats. An old barn-like warehouse, a low double log house, one or two other log cabins, and a small frame house in process of construction, was all there was of Ontonagon; and we were soon on board and steaming down the lake.

Morning Express, Buffalo
      Friday, August 8, 1851
“The Lake Superior Journal gives the following particulars of the collision between the Propellers MANHATTAN and MONTICELLO:- The accident occurred at midnight, about five miles this side of White Fish Point, and thirty five miles above the Sault, the MANHATTAN being bound up, and the MONTICELLO, bound down. There was a large pleasure party on board the MONTICELLO, and many of the passengers, were up at the time and were out on deck to see the other boat pass; but by some unaccountable mistake or misapprehension of the part of one or both, they came in collision; the MONTICELLO striking the MANHATTAN on the starboard side, about midships, and cutting through the narrow guard into the hull, so far that she filled and sunk to her upper deck in less than ten minutes.
The passengers on the MANHATTAN were generally asleep, but by most wonderful good fortune they all succeeded in getting on board the MONTICELLO, and it is not known that a single person was lost or was seriously injured. The MANHATTAN had just left port on an upward trip, and had a large quantity of wood and pine lumber in her hold, and on her lower deck, which prevented her from sinking altogether. In this condition she was towed back to a small bay at the mouth of the river, where she now lies. The most of the passengers left their baggage on the lower deck, which with much valuable property was lost, or buried for the present, several feet beneath the water.
      Capt. Wilson is spoken of in high terms of praise for his conduct on this occasion, in affording every accommodation in his power to the distressed crowd of passengers from the wrecked vessel.”
George L. Colwell may have been Captain of the propeller Manhattan.

We made two other landings on our way back, and as the last sunset we would be able to enjoy on Lake Superior bade us a golden good night, we gathered around the cabin lights, and congratulated each other upon the unvarying beautiful weather for the entire week we had passed upon this great water; and retired to our state rooms for peaceful rest, and the landing in the morning at the Sault. It was a beautiful starlight night, and when about five miles off Whitefish point, at midnight, we were all awakened by a terrific crash, and concussion of the boat, which nearly threw us out of our berths. Such of us as were thus rudely awakened, supposed we had struck a rock. On entering the cabin from my state room, I found the floor around the dining room table strewn with broken crockery, food, and glassware, which the collision had thrown from a table where the captain and the choice spirits of the passengers were having a farewell supper; and the passengers were running to and fro in great alarm. We soon found we had come in collision with the other and opposition steamer on the lake, the Manhattan, but did not know for a short time of intense suspense if one or both steamers would go to the bottom,’which was soon found to be beyond soundings. Very soon, we heard our captain, Jack Wilson, call out to Capt. Colwell, of the other steamer, “For God’s sake hurry your passengers aboard my boat, for you are sinking.”

In the midst of intense excitement, the few men, women, and children, were hurried from the sinking Manhattan, and lifted from the small boats on board the Monticello, nearly all of them in their night clothes, barely escaping with their other garments in their hands.

We saw the doomed steamer gradually sinking deeper and deeper in the water, and waited with anxious eyes for the moment, soon expected, when she would take the final plunge. She was soon down to the upper deck, and just as we held our breath to see the water engulf her, some one cried out, “She floats!” And so it proved. The boat was heavily loaded with lumber and wood, and, just sinking to her upper deck floor, floated, from the buoyancy of the loading. We took the wreck in tow, and the next morning, within a few miles of the landing at the Sault, I saw her keel plow into the sand bottom, in twenty-two feet of water, and the rest of that season, “our line” had no opposition.

It is often very amusing, even in the midst of events full of ruin and disaster, to witness the ludicrous acts of individuals.

A lady was brought on board our boat, who sank upon the cabin floor, in her night clothes, and, clasping her hands as if in utter despair, exclaimed, “Oh, dear! my trunks are all lost, and my two new silk dresses in them, and I have been way down to Massachusetts to get them; but I don’t care if I can get my new teeth! I left two new sets in my state room, and I must have them! Do tell somebody to get my teeth before the boat sinks. If I can only get my teeth, I don’t care for anything else!” One man came through the cabin, crying out to the passengers, “Get out of the way; she has powder on board, and will explode in a minute!”

As we all knew that powder was, at that time, ten feet under water, he did not alarm us much. But it was very touching to see the mothers clasp their children in their arms, when they realized their safety, and with tears streaming down their cheeks, thank God for their deliverance from the sinking boat. There were many tearful eyes in that cabin, besides those of the rescued. Before we left the wreck aground, I went aboard and found the stem of our boat had struck the Manhattan about midship, and almost at right angle, cutting completely into her hull and deck some seven or eight feet. As a piece of naval war practice, this collision would have been a great success. But as a peaceful meeting, on the broad, deep lake, on a bright, starlit night, I suppose the courts must have decided on its merits. I never learned the subsequent fate of the Manhattan.

We found the London at the wharf, below the St. Mary’s Rapids, and the tram railway soon transferred us to the new quarters on board. We took a direct course for Detroit from Mackinaw, in the face of a strong wind; and the next morning, when somewhere off Thunder Bay, it was blowing a gale, and the waves made our boat groan in every joint. The captain very prudently put about and made for Presque Isle harbor, where we remained all day, until the storm subsided. There was one board dwelling house at Presque Isle, and the old unbroken forest came down to the lake shore.

A pleasant ride down to Lake Huron, and we entered the River St. Clair, at Fort Gratiot, in the afternoon, well contented to enjoy the beautiful quiet waters of the river, after the somewhat uncertain waters of the lake; and at night we went to our state room for our last sleep on the steamer, before we should again walk the streets of Detroit, with its already known dignity as a city, and rejoicing that on our now fast closing tour we had safely escaped all the perils of collisions, the wild Indians, and wilder waves of the great lakes. But events proved it is not judicious to balance your books before your accounts are all posted. In my berth that night, while quietly enjoying the steady movement of our boat in the still water, I heard a low grating sound coming up from the bottom of the boat, and by a little attention soon discovered it was the keel of the boat scraping acquaintance with the gravel of the shoals in Lake St. Clair, and I was rather enjoying the novel entertainment, when, all at once, there came a crash below our room that shook the boat as if a torpedo had been exploded under us.

The schooner in this second collision has not been identified.

You may well believe the satisfaction I felt, at that moment, in the knowledge that the solid earth was not six inches below our boat’s keel was of no little magnitude, and as the wheels soon began to move, and the boat evidently was again on her course, we kept our berths, and slept until morning, counting two collisions on one trip of no small importance in the list of our adventures, for we found, in the morning, we had collided with the bowsprit of a large schooner, breaking it off, and it in return completely wrecking the cook room and pantry of the steamer.

Mrs. Colvin, the author’s daughter, has not been identified.

The pleasant memories of that two weeks’ trip to Lake Superior, in 1851, are green in my memory yet; but with them is mingled the sad reflection that of the twelve persons of our party mentioned in this paper, only three remain, John Harmon, my oldest daughter, Mrs. Colvin, of Adrian, and myself. Oh how our pathway through the departed years is shaded by the many willows we have planted along the way, over the graves of our friends and loved companions. Fellow pioneers, our turn to stop and rest, as these have done, is not far away. May our lives be such that when it comes, kind hands may plant the cypress and the willow over our resting places with the same sincere regard we have cherished for the dear ones who have gone before us. On through the coming years we seem to see the unclouded brightness of the pathway, for those who shall fill our places; but let our children remember that an unbroken line of the cypress and the willow will follow them, as it has followed us, as the years move on, until we all gather on that shore, where there can be no shadows, because there is no sun; “for the Lord our God is the light thereof.”

The Monticello also sank a few weeks after this voyage on September 23rd, 1851. Portrait of "Loss of the Monitcello." from asdf, pages 292-304.

The Monticello also sank a few weeks later circa September 25th, 1851. Portrait from “Shipwreck of the Monticello” from Thrilling Adventures by Land and Sea, by James O. Brayman, 1852, pages 292-304.

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