Thursday, May 15, 2014

Memories of the Steamship Walk-in-the-Water, first on the Upper Lakes

From the Michigan Historical and Pioneer Collections vol. 15 (1889) 2nd ed. An interview with an old woman living in Detroit in 1889 named Jane Deming, who sailed there aboard the Walk-in-the-Water in 1820. The boat was wrecked the following year:

I reached Detroit in July, 1820. I came west by invitation of my brother, John J. Deming, who was confidential clerk for Judge Witherell and also inspector of revenue at this point. My father escorted my from Castleton (Vermont) to Schenectady, where I expected to be met by Judge and Mrs. Witherell, but instead I was met by my brother. Together we traveled by stage to Buffalo, the journey lasting seven days. You know the Erie canal was not then built. After a night at Buffalo we took a stage ride of three miles to Black Rock, where we took passage on the steamer Walk-in-the-Water, the pioneer steamboat on the Great Lakes. I remember my brother had to pay $18 each for our passage to Detroit from Buffalo, and I remember, too, that the boat was towed down the creek to the lake by the use of oxen. I think it took three days for us to reach Detroit, which we did without mishap... We thought it very comfortable and in our eyes it was a very large and wonderful craft. I recollect the cabin was up on deck, so to speak, and that it had, I think, six berths on either side with a free or walking space of perhaps eight or ten feet between the seats, which extended in front of the berths and lengthwise of the cabin. Of course such a boat nowadays would not be considered safe as a means of transportation across Detroit River; but you must bear in mind I am talking of a steamboat 69 years ago.