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History Lives Here Text

From Ohioto Michiganby Sailing Vessel

This account was written by EllenI. (Upham) Smith of Saugatuck in about 1912. She wasabout twelve years old when she made the voyage.]

Ellen I. Smith and Benca 1900

Fifty years ago we came to Michigan,not as Pioneers but as early comers. To look back through the mists of fiftyyears requires some fortitude. Fifty years! It is gone! It is as a tale that istold! In 1862 when we started for the then far west our country was in thethroes of a Civil War.

My father, Captain Upham, bought the Carrie Woodford, a sailing vessel, and made the voyage inher. It was in the balmy month of June we started from Lorraine,Ohio, a town about 20miles from Cleveland.My grandfather was here at Saugatuck waiting our coming. Grandmother and myaunt were to come with us, coming from Rochester,N. Y. by rail. There were 10 of us relatives: Grandmother, Father who was thecaptain, Mother, Sister, Brother, Uncle, Aunt, 3cousins and last but not least, the hired girl.

At last we were aboard ready to sail. Father gave orders to let go thelines and amid the good-byes of friends on shore and the cheery song of thesailors making sail we were at last outward bound for our new home in the west.Grandfather's flattering descriptions of this country to my father induced usto come and they all came true.

We sailed through Lake Erie, beautifulsunny days and moonlit nights. Thence through the delightful Detroit River,Detroit on theAmerican side and Windsor on the Canadian. Sights ofbeauty and interest meeting the eye all the way. We sailed merrily oninto Lake St. Clair, then into St. Clair River where father stopped and tied upto a dock near a sand bank to take in ballast for father had started outwithout ballast which was a dangerous thing to do as the Woodford was verycranky. Having been built for a steamboat and afterwards converted to a sailvessel, but there was nothing available till we reached this place. It was aSunday toward evening when we stopped so the next morning the sailors commencedloading her in the hold to a certain depth and trimming her properly so she sateasily in the water and was more seaworthy.

Whilst this was being done we fished, even grandmothertook a hand in this sport which was sport indeed as we caught them fast as wecould pull them up, great silver beauties. The water was so clear we could seethe rocks on the bottom and the fish playing about them and when they nibbledour bait.

Soon we were on our way again. We were often becalmed. Not a breath ofwind which is trying to the captain and grew monotonous to us so we resorted tomany things to while away the time. Now we enter Lake Huron where we were nearly run down by a passing steamer in thenight but father ran on deck with a torch which is made and carried for thatpurpose.

We had no boat of any kind which made it doubly perilous. A vesselalways carries a yawl but father had spent so much money in buying the vesseland fitting out and provisioning her up and the cost of moving and war timeprices that he had no more to spare. We encountered a storm on Lake Huron. Father called all hands on deck to shortensail. Quick decisive orders were given and promptly executed but none too soonfor as soon as all was taught [taut?] and trim the squall struck us and thevessel lay over as though she never would recover herself but she did rise upona mountain wave only to be engulfed in the depths again. We were all sick inthe cabin, but I climbed the companion way and on top of the cabin and curledup in a coil of rope to see what was going on,. Two men were at the wheel andfather shouting orders and the men flying to his commands. Everything was darkand leaden and the sun which was hidden behind black and ominous clouds lookedoccasionally with a lurid and wicked eye. About 4 o'clock in the afternoon the storm began to abate but a heavy sea [was]rolling when we approached the straits of Mackinaw. Here we experienced somerough weather.

Sailing grew smoother as we came down into Lake Michigan. When we came abreast of Charlevoix we were caught in adense fog. Throwing the lead line firing gun- fire on shore- comingout with scow. Nextmorning unloading ballast.Securing load of staves and heading. Going ashore. Meeting Lady of Ireland,the few inhabitants which consisted of about 6 families also some workingmenand one Indian. After the dance and the vessel loaded we got under weighfor Chicago.Father laid his course on the west shore of Lake Michigan sailing along therich farming country of Wisconsin passing Kenosha, Ravine and Milwaukee.Arriving at Chicagowe discharged our cargo of staves and heading. Here father had an opportunityof buying a yawl boat very reasonable so he purchased it. The good luck ofgetting the load at Fox Island gave him morefunds to deal with. Finally we cleared for Saugatuck. When we reached this portwe stood outside waiting for a tow for the harbor was very crooked anddifficult to take. Pretty soon out came a little steamboat. She seemed to bemodeled after a pumpkin seed. She was something like the A. R. Heath whichnavigated our river for several years, so we gladly gave her a line and shetowed us along. As we came in it was a desolate looking entry with those barrensand dunes and when we came in view of Singapore with its huts and saw millmother burst into tears thinking that our destination but we did not stop andcoming round the bend fair Eden appeared before us and our fears and tears were dashed away and we drew up to the dock where thePavilion now is, Grandfather and many others were there to greet us. Here inSaugatuck we met some of the most kind people we hadever met. We were cordially welcomed.

Schooner and Piers- Early

We adopted Michigan as our home andhave never regretted it.


Michigan, my Michigan!


[In 1870 Ellen Isabel Upham was married to Charles T. Smith who had been a sailorwith her father, Captain J. N. Upham, on Lake Eriebefore enlisting in Company E., 60th Ohio Infantry Regiment of theUnion Army. After he received his honorable discharge SmithJoined Captain Upham at Saugatuck. He alsoserved many years on Captain Britain'sbarges as marine engineer and on the boats of the Rogers & Bird Co. Ellenand Charles Smith had six children. In 1879 the partnership of Upham & Smith was involved in a trade with the Wallin family which had run a tannery in Dingleville or Wallinville on Goshorn Creek. Wallin received aninterest in a tug and several scows owned by Upham& Smith in exchange for the large home which the Wallinshad built near the mill. The Smith family moved into the old Wallin home and lived there until 1925. Ellen Smith died in1930. The Wallin/Smith home still stands at 6473 135thAvenue, just north o f the Clearbrook Golf f Courseclub house on the west side o f the road.]


Wallin Home Circa 1872


A second item brought in by Smith relatives from Spring Lake was anautograph book that belonged to Lucien B. Upham,usually called "Bess" or "Bessie;" son of Captain J. N. Upham. Most of the autographs date from his school days1884 to 1886. One long page of advice for life is from Lizzie Hamilton, one ofhis teachers. Steve Moreland gives his address as "Singapore Mich."and another friend, Kattie Brower of Holland, decorates the page with a sailingvessel named the L. B. Upham. Both Upham and his brother, Sherman, earned their Master'spapers and sailed on the Great Lakes.