Mariners Tales, Ships, Wheels, and Rails

Mariners Tales

Steamer Sinks at Ashtabula and Crew is Missing 
Ashtabula, O., Oct. 14. – The wooden steamer C.B. LOCKWOOD foundered in a storm about 15 miles off this port last night. The Captain and crew launched two boats just before the steamer sank. 
      One containing the captain was picked up near the harbor this morning. The other boat has not yet been heard from. Tugs and life-savers are searching for it. It contained ten of the crew. 
      The LOCKWOOD was a freighter owned by the Gilchrists of Cleveland. She was commanded by Capt. Cassius French. She was bound for Buffalo. 
      After being storm-tossed throughout Monday the boat sprung a leak, and began to settle shortly before dark last night. Nineteen persons were on board. Capt. French and his wife, a woman passenger and six of the crew took a yawl and First Mate John Fritz and nine of the crew a life-boat. The steamer went down soon after. One of the two oars was lost soon after the yawl was launched. One of the sailors was thrown overboard by the violence of the storm, but was rescued. 
      Finally a shawl was improvised as a sail and the boat slowly headed towards this port. Early this morning the yawl was picked up by the steamer G.J. GRAMMER and its occupants were brought to Ashtabula harbor. 
      Buffalo Evening News 
      October 14, 1902 

Levi Langell of Marine City is known to be a member of the crew of the CB. LOCKWOOD which sank in Lake Erie Monday night. 
Port Huron Daily Times 
Wednesday, October 15. 1902 

 Yawl Is Found, But The Crew of Ten Is Missing

Ashtabula, O., Oct. 17. – The steamer G.J. GRAMMER soon after leaving this port yesterday afternoon, about 2 o’clock found the missing yawl boat of the ill-fated steamer LOCKWOOD. It was floating upside down a mile from land and one half mile west of Ashtabula pier. Within it were strapped one oar and life-preserver. The tug FABIAN righted the yawl and brought it into port. 

Nothing has been seen or heard of the 10 men who left the wreck in this yawl. They have undoubtedly all found graves in Lake Erie. It is probable that some of the bodies will wash up on the shore in this vicinity within the next two or three days. Rewards have been offered for the recovery of some of the bodies. 
      Buffalo Evening News 
      October 17, 1902 



The Henry Clay and Superior passenger ships came in and out of Ashtabula Harbor, regularly picking up freight and passengers.  In the time period between 1825 and 1860, passenger steamers were competing and increasing in speed, as steam engines were improved.

In the 1820s, the Walk- in -the- Water took 63 hours from Buffalo to Detroit. 

Of the first four captains of the Walk-in-the-Water, only one was a pilot, but all were gentlemen who impressed the passengers favorably.

In 1827, the Henry Clay took three days and 19 hours to make the round trip between Buffalo and Detroit, including a ten hour stop over at Detroit. The Cleveland to Buffalo run took 14 hours on one ship and 21 hours on another.  The Henry Clay reached Detroit in 33 hours, or about half the time taken by the Walk-in-the-Water.

The Dewitt Clinton was only able to make 8 ½ miles per hour. In 1851, the new Buckeye State reached Cleveland from Buffalo in 11 hours.  By 1857, seven hours was the usual travelling time between Cleveland and Detroit. By the end of 1860, it took about 17 hours to travel from one end of Lake Erie to the other by steamboats, about one fourth as long as it took in 1820.

In 1818, cabin fares from Buffalo on the Walk-in-the-Water was $12.00 to Cleveland and $18.00 to Detroit, while steerage fares were $5.00 to $7.00. In 1830, the fares on the Superior steamer from Buffalo to Sandusky was $8.00.  In 1833, the fare from Buffalo to Cleveland was $6.00.  In 1847, the fare from Buffalo to Cleveland was $2/00 and to Detroit $3.00.   Cabin fares from Buffalo to Milwaukee or Chicago in 1847 was $10.00.  In 1848, are in steerage from Buffalo to Milwaukee for three adults and three children who furnished their own meals came to $24.00. Their baggage presented a different issue. The first 100 pounds was free and then 44 cents per hundred to Detroit and 70 cents per HWT to Chicago.

In 1741,  the salary of a ship’s captain averaged $100.00 per month. Seamen’s wages ranged from $1.25 to $2.50 a day, varying with the time of year. They were highest in the fall of the year. Crews of sailing vessels worked with chanteys and better singers got higher pay

Captain Wilkeson, who had the Commodore Perry built for himself in 1832, was often kidded by his friends for keeping his ship in top condition while letting his own home go into a state of disrepair.

Crews were about 14 men on steamboats and an average of seven on sailing ships, but luxury passenger steamers hired about 40 men including servants.  In 1846, there were 7,000 sailors on the lakes and in 1851 there were 15,000 and about 6,000 men worked in the shipyards.. May Scandinavian sailors were attracted to the lakes because of shorter trips, faster advancement, more time ashore with their families. There was law about being a citizen, but it was not enforced.

In 1848, the schooner Pilot was built in Ashtabula, 180 tons burden, by Watrous & Thayer. G.A. Thayer was captain. The Pilot sank by collision on Lake Michigan in 1883.

In 1850, the scow T.W. Blake, built in Ashtabula, 35 tons, by Parmalee and Bugbee, Captained by Parmalee. On October 5, 1850, the steamer Petrel came ashore and stranded at Ashtabula Harbor, 100 feet below the piers to the East. The cargo was flour, owned by J.L. Kelsey of Port Huron. It was built in Port Huron, Michigan in 1848. It measured 199 feet long, built for the lumber trade. It was 237 tons.

On Tuesday, April 6, 1851, the Brig Constitution and Brig Oleander were sold by Edwin Harson to Smith Brothers of Buffalo, New York for $17,000. Seymour & Company purchased Captain G.A. Thayer’s shares in a new schooner building at Ashtabula.

On May 5, 1851, the schooner Alps capsized off Ashtabula. It was 108 tons built in 1840. In May 1851, the schooner Clay was lost off Ashtabula, Ohio. It was 59 tons built in St. Clair County, Michigan in 1844.

In October 1851, the schooner Cambria was sunk at Ashtabula, Ohio.


(This undated, unsourced summary of early railroad activity around Ashtabula Harbor can be found in the archives of the Ashtabula Maritime and Surface Transportation Museum.  It is a good beginning for further research and most likely originates in the Ashtabula Telegraph).

Railroad Activities Around Ashtabula Harbor Ohio


February 1836. Ashtabula Warren & East Liverpool RR was chartered. Capital:  $1,500,000. The company was organized, some work was done, depression came, and the project was abandoned


  • Mathew Hubbard
  • Horace Wilder
  • Rodger W. Griswold
  • Joab Austin
  • G.W. St. John


May 25, 1851. The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern RR extended six miles to the west of Ashtabula, Ohio. This portion of the railroad was first known as the Cleveland & Erie RR and they had two east bound passenger trains and three west bound passenger trains. A.C. Hubbard was the station agent.


The Cleveland Painesville & Erie Railroad came through Ashtabula, Ohio on the route that exists today. It was later incorporated into the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad Company. Later it became the New York RR System, then Penn-Central RR, and now Con-Rail System. (1982). In 1914, the Lake Shore & New York Central merged.


February 23, 1853. Ashtabula & New Lisbon RR was formed at 1,000.00 capital.


  • Henry Hubbard
  • Frederic Carlisle
  • Joshua S. Giddings
  • Levi B. Austin
  • Henry L. Springer
  • A.L. Brewer

Ashtabula Harbor Ohio to Niles, Ohio and to New Lisbon, Ohio on the Ohio River at Wellsboro. September 20, 1870, sold to Ashtabula Youngstown & Pittsburgh Railroad Company. One year later this company sold or leased the RR to Pennsylvania Railroad Company for 99 years. This was the start of Dock Activity in Ashtabula Harbor and a pickup of commerce as we know it today.


The Pittsburgh Youngstown & Ashtabula RR got started about this time and was completed to the Docks at the Harbor. Dock One was established in 1873. The machines were Lockports, built in Erie, Pennsylvania and on March 10, 1873, they arrived on the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern RR at Ashtabula, from Erie, Pennsylvania. From the Depot at 32nd Street, they were carted by wagon to the Dock Site on Dock # 1 (present location of Sutherland’s Marine). The first load of ore arriving on July 11-12, 1873, and unloaded from Schooner Emma Kaize, was 730 tons.  On June 25, 1873, the first load of coal was shipped in the Schooner C.H. Walker.


The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern RR started to build rails to the dock area on the east side of the Ashtabula River at this time. They connected Youngstown and Pittsburgh area with the Lakes at Ashtabula Harbor Ohio. This action with the same action of the Pennsylvania RR started to make the port of Ashtabula into a beehive of activity loading and unloading ore and coal and limestone.


The New York Chicago & St. Louis RR Company, “The Nickel Plate Road,” went through Ashtabula, Ohio, to connect with Buffalo, New York. The first train to operate was on October 23, 1882.