A TRIP FROM DAYTON TO CHICAGO
BY WATER IN THE YEAR 1847
DESCRIBED IN VERSE
JOHN VAN CLEVE
This is an original story written in rhyme by John Van Cleve, son of Benjamin Van Cleve. Its author, a graduate of the Ohio University, at Athens, was at the time one of Dayton’s most accomplished, public spirited and versatile citizens. He was quite a traveler; was interested in the arts and sciences, botany especially; read law in the offices of Judge Crane, and practised civil engineering. He laid out Woodland Cemetery and the levees around the city, planting the trees upon the old levee now know known as the “Robert Boulevard.” I have a distinct recollection of going botanizing with him and my sister, “Nettie” Thruston, one Saturday out to the “Stoddard farm, “ now a part of the Patterson and Schantz estates.
John Van Cleve was a large man, about the build of our President Taft, and lived for many years in the old Phillips House, which, by the way, is named after my mother’s father, Horatio G. Phillips. He was the legal guardian of the estate of my wife’s mother, Elizabeth Regans Harries. It is related of him that he had his picture taken but once, when he was in love with some maiden, who later disappointed him—and that when his love was rejected he destroyed it and never had another made.
This story is reprinted at this time for the entertainment of my sons and daughters, and also possibly for the amusement of the descendants of some of the others named in it. The trip was made before we had any railroads in this part of Ohio, and at a time when it was common to run a few packets, or passenger boats, on the canal.
It may be noted that many prominent people from Dayton and its vicinity joined in this excursion, including Mr. Bebb, Governor of our State; Thomas Corwin, of Lebanon, then one of our Senators, and Horatio Gates Phillips, at that time Dayton’s most prominent capitalist, land owner, and business man. When it was written, “Mr. Phillips”—Grandfather Phillips—was 64 years old; Father, 30; Mother, 33; General Schenck, “Uncle” Davies, “Uncle Charley” Anderson, and “Uncle Henry” Perrine, I think, about 45; Mr. Stoddard—Henry Stoddard I--about 55; Sister “Lida,” 14; Sister “Nettie,” Cousin “Kate,” Brother “Dick,” and “Sam” Davies from 10 to 12 years of age.
In the forties, the population of Dayton, then called by Mr. Frederick Cozzens, of New York City, “The Buckeye Oasis,” was about equal to that of Chicago, and at the time, in proportion to its size, our city had more of culture and less of commercial spirit than it has to-day.
Dayton, Ohio, Xmas, 1911.
“A Traveler’s Journey.”
“Twas on the twenty-eighth of June, a company left Dayton,
Upon a boat that started with a very pleasant freight on.
All going to Chicago to attend a great convention,
With various other things in view it’s not worth while to mention.
Tom Corwin came from Lebanon, and Mr. and Mrs. Dunlavy,
And Mr. Williams and his wife and a girl to nurse the baby;
And Governor Bebb came in the boat from Hamilton to join us,---
So that, you see, in Governors, we were by no means minus.
And there was Robert Schenck and wife, and Mr. and Mrs. Davies,
Maria Harrison, and Mrs. Nett, and lots of fun she gave us;
And there were John Lowe and his wife, and darling little Nett, too,
And Mrs. Phillips, and Lida, and Kate, who was the company’s pet, too;
And little Sam Davies, and Dr. Smith, and pretty Frank Dunlavy,
On board the Empire, Captain Wiggim, of Doyle and Dickey’s navy.
A great many friends came to see us at the starting,
With whom we had quite an affectionate parting;
There was laughing and crying and kissing; and all
Of them wished us good luck on the raging Canawl;
Just after we started we heard a great splash,--
‘Twas a man that fell into the water slapdash,
Which made Mrs. Lowe think it was nothing at all
But her own little Dick in the raging Canawl.
We traveled quite safely, though not very fast,
And the locks, and the bridges, and aqueducts passed;
And if there was danger, we passed through them all
Without any harm on the raging Canawl.
We got beyond Lockland before it was night,
And passed by St. Mary’s just after daylight,
And by that time we found that the danger was small
In traveling over the raging Canawl.
In eating and drinking we fared very well,
But of comfort in sleeping, there’s not much to tell;
Where the company’s large, and the boat is but small
There’s poor chance to sleep on the raging Canawl
At the Junction, on Tuesday, a while afternoon,
We parted from three or four bold Hoosieroons,
Returned volunteers from the Mexican halls,
On their way to their homes by the raging Canawl.
We passed by Defiance, and while they locked down,
The most of the company walked into town;
And then we went on about four miles, where all
Of the River Maumee is a raging Canawl.
At the guardlock, as some one had uttered the wish,
To have the next morning a breakfast of fish,
The steward provided enough for us all,
And we had them next day on the raging Canawl.
Just after he purchased them, Robert Schenck took
One out of his basket, and fixed on his hook,
Then close by the side of the boat let it fall,
And again jerked it out of the raging Canawl.
On this an old Yankee, who foolishly thought
That the fish had just then by Schenck fairly been caught,
Took the rod, in the hope that he too might make a haul,
And fished until night in the raging Canawl.
At Napoleon we found Mr. Phillips was waiting;
He had come in advance of us, two days, from Dayton,
And had it arranged that the captain should call
And take him up there on the raging Canawl.
On the morning of Wednesday we landed at eight
At the town of Toledo, and tho’ it was late,
A steamboat was there, and with pleasure we all
Bid goodbye at last to the raging Canawl.
The boat that we took passage in was but a small affair,
But as ‘twas only for a day, we thought we would not care;
She was not near as nice, indeed, as Doyle and Dickey’s packet,
And then her engine shook the boat and made a monstrous racket.
Her name was the James Woolcot, and we would not recommend
The craft, unless as Hobson’s choice, to any of our friends.
Eliza Kirk, was in Toledo when we got into port.
We asked her to go with us, but the notice was too short.
Our company, however, here received a small increase;
The first was Robert dickey, who belongs to our own place.
The second one was Mr. Scott, belonging to Toledo,
Who seems to like the jaunt almost, or quite as well, as we do.
And Mr. Campbell and his wife, New Yorkers, also joined us.
And then we soon got on the lake and left the land behind us.
The boat was such a little thing and had such bobbing motion,
A few of our good ladies felt some singular emotion,
But matters all were soon set right in that respect, however,
About the time we left the lake and got into the river.
We passed by old Fort Malden, keeping near the British shore,
And we thought so fine a river we had never seen before.
Before we landed at Detroit, we all agreed to go
To one hotel, and make our quarters altogether; so
We all went up to Wales’s, but the landlord came and told us,
Our number was so great his hotel would never hold us.
Then yielding to necessity our company divided,
And probably fared ver well,--at least I know that I did.
On Thursday morning all went on
The fine large steamboat Oregon.
The day was beautiful and fair,
And soon we reached the lake St. Clair,
And fortunately passed right slick
The flats where steamboats often stick,
Above the lake, upon each side,
The stream which here is not so wide
Is bounded by fine farms, that “jine”
And run up to the water line,
And next the river all the land
Is cleared, and all the houses stand
Upon the road, which with good taste
Upon the river bank is placed.
That afternoon at 2:00 o’clock
The boat was landed, as her stock.
Of wood was getting rather low,
And so we thought ashore we’d go,
And ramble in the wood around
And see what strange things could be found.
Myself and Nettie left the rest
To wander where they might think best.
We hunted ‘round , and pretty quick
We found strawberries very thick,
And each brought back a nice bouquet,
Before the boat got under way.
While, of the others, not a soul
Had found a berry in their stroll.
We passed by Newport and St. Clair,
And then Port Huron, close to where
The channel of St. Clair receives
The water that Lake Huron leaves,
And where Fort Gratiot’s morning gun
Salutes each day the rising sun.
When from our view night veiled the land,
The music of a nigger band
Struck up, and on this inland ocean
Set all the folks’ toes in motion.
They only danced till after ten,
Then all retired to rest, and when
They got up in the morning, found
The sky and water all around.
Late in the afternoon, we saw
The famous Isle of Mackinaw,
And found when we approached the pier
Some friends from Dayton waiting here,
Joe Barnett, Stoddard, Anderson,
Who with their ladies had come on
A few days previous, and were
In very pleasant quarters there.
Some of the company then took
A walk up to the fort, to look
At Uncle Sam’s provision for
An enemy in time of war.
We bent our way across the lake
Directly in the Baltic’s wake
And soon were gaining on the chase
And had a quite exciting race.
At sunset our boat passed ahead,
And after that the way we led.
They had a dance again that night,
And, in the morning, had in sight
Wisconsin’s high and sandy shore,
And then it was not long before
Sheboygan city came in view,
Where every single house was new,
And looked as if Aladdin’s sprite
Had built them all within the night.
Some went up into town, and some
Went out among the woods to roam,
And found the things that met their view
Were equally as strange and new.
Sank Washington,--Oh, what a name!
Was the next town to which we came;
A place I don’t know much about
Because I was not looking out.
Milwaukee next appeared in sight,
At which we stopped till almost night.
And then Miss Lizzie Helfenstein
Agreed our company to join.
Another night on board we passed,
And when the morning came at last,
Chicago rose before our view
And to the boat we bade adieu.
Our rooms were all engaged, and ‘twas well for us they were,
We should have hard times in the crowd that we found there.
In stages and in steamboats the folks were pouring in,
And through the whole of Sunday there was a monstrous din.
On Monday morning Henry Perrine got into town,
He came upon the Empire, the boat of great renown.
Now as for the convention, I don’t intend to tell
You anything about it; it went off very well,
And if you want to know what was said and done in full,
You’ll see it all in print, but perhaps you’ll find it dull.
We saw the great procession; it was a fine affair
And all the city firemen in uniform were there.
The Cleveland horse artillery maneuvered in the street,
And fireworks in the evening made everything complete.
We lost on Tuesday evening Miss Lizzie Helfenstein,
She went home to Milwaukee along with Henry Perrine.
We stayed till Wednesday evening, convention then adjourned,
And on the boat St. Louis our faces home we turned.
That night and all day Thursday we kept the western shore,
And only saw the places that we had seen before.
We landed at Milwaukee, where Lizzie Helfenstein
Had strawberries and cream, which her friends thought very fine.
I missed all the, however. Instead of going there
I walked along the shore, hunting flowers rich and rare.
And, as I was not keeping our starting time in mind,
The steamboat left the pier, and there I was left behind.
But I went onto the next pier as she was going past,
And there they rounded to, and I got on board at last.
On Thursday night we altered our course, and took our way
To view the islands lying at the entrance of Green Bay.
We circled ‘round among them, and saw the cliffs and caves,
Where towering walls of rock bid defiance to the waves.
Well satisfied with seeing we changed our course anew,
And struck across the lake to the larger Manitou.
And while the boat was wooding we there all went ashore
And gathered many fine flowers we never saw before.
A crimson honeysuckle, I found upon a bank
Which, with its splendid clusters, so delighted Mrs. Schenck,
She thought she’d take the vine home, and plant it out, you know,
So Robert dug it up, and I hope he’ll make it grow.
At dusk on Friday evening we left the Manitou,
And early in the morning had Mackinaw in view.
There we were left by Henry Perrine, who could not longer stay
He went upon the Baltic, and homeward took his way.
When people are traveling for pleasure, it shows little gumption, you know,
To always be hurrying onward, and be all the time on the go,
As we were all people of gumption, that day on the island we stayed,
Excepting a few of our party, for whom an arrangement was made,
That we on the shore should have plenty of ice and provisions left out,
And the steamboat should carry the others to Carp river, there to catch trout.
The steward and servants stayed with us, and took all the charge of the things,
We rambled and rode ‘round the island and drank from delicious cold springs.
Kate, Nettie, and I spent the forenoon about a fine spring that we found;
We dug out a beautiful basin and banked it up nicely all ‘round;
Then Nettie and Kate fixed a channel, and changed it in various ways,
They made one or two little islands, and then some nice harbors and bays;
Cascades and bold rapids succeeded, and then they determined to make
An object surpassing all others, a beautiful, sweet little lake.
The lake was dug out, and its borders were decked out with moss and with flowers,
And so in this happy employment we passed away several hours.
At length we went off to the picnic, not far from the old British fort,
The loftiest part of the island, and there we saw plenty of sport.
The flags of the boat were spread over the bushes to thicken the shade,
And there on the grass and wildflowers, the table cloths nicely were laid.
They had chowder, ham, dried beef, broiled chicken, and pickled pork fried on a stone,
I tried a small piece that they gave me and found it right good, I must own.
For drink there was ice water plenty, hot coffee, and cold lemonade,
And for those who liked something still stronger, an ample provision was made.
To all this profusion of good things, full justice was certainly done,
And our feast in the woods was enlivened by all sorts of frolic and fun.
And after the dinner was over the sport was kept up for awhile
And ended at last in a foot race performed in magnificent style.
I shall not attempt to describe it for Bennett’s reporter was there,
And he’ll dress it up for the Herald with all of its incidents rare.
At last as the night was approaching the company moved toward the shore,
The steamboat came back with the fishers and all were together once more.
We did not much envy that party, altho they brought back a few trout,
If they had had half the fun we had, we thought it was a matter of doubt.
And then too a sight of their faces brought one fact most clearly in view,--
That no matter how well the trout bit, black flies and mosquitoes bit too.
We lay in the port until morning, and then shaped our course with a view
To go up the river St. Marie, and pass a short time at the Sault.
The singular way of pronouncing the word shows what custom will do
For custom has settled the matter that S-a-u-l-t spells Soo.
At Mackinaw, John Lowe was left with his wife and little girls too,
They wanted to rest and concluded they would not go up to the Soo.
The forty-five miles in Lake Huron it did not take long to get through,
But then from the mouth of the river ‘twas forty–five more to the Soo.
Our boat being rather a large one would never be able, we knew
To pass through the flats of Lake George, and to go all the way to the Soo.
So we paused at the Sailors’ Encampment that afternoon, just after two,
And the little St. Clair came to meet us and carry us up to the Soo.
Two ladies we knew came down on her, and such dreadful pictures they drew
Of the want of enjoyment and comfort they suffered while up at the Soo,
Mr. Davies concluded to stop here, and Mrs. Net also did, too,
And so they remained at Mud Island and did not go up to the Soo.
The rest of the party, however, determined to stick or go through,
Went on the St. Clair, and by evening were landed all safe at the Soo.
One hundred and eighty-odd people made rather a crowd it it true,
But all of them got into quarters as long as they stayed at the Soo.
We remained at the place over Monday. The day was as hot as a stew;
The folks had no trouble, however, in passing the time at the Soo.
Some rambled and some went a fishing, some rode in an Indian canoe,
And some went to visit the Missions, of which there are two at the Soo.
On Tuesday when breakfast was over, we soon were done bidding adieu,
And steering our course down the river, we quickly lost sight of the Soo.
Once more all on board the St. Louis, Detroit was our next port in view,
And when we got into Lake Huron, we went there direct from the Soo.
On Wednesday evening at Detroit, we found
John Lowe and all his folks, who had come down
From Mackinaw, an hour or two before,
And so we saw the little girls once more.
The Lowes and Davieses made up their minds
With Mr. Phillips to remain behind,
And take the Canada next day, and go
Along the northern shore to buffalo.
The rest of us continued on that night
Down toward Sandusky, but we didn’t quite
Get there in time to take the cars for home,
Which therefore put us out of humor some.
Along about the middle of the day,
A boat from Buffalo came up the bay,
And brought the Andersons and Stoddards, who
Like us were on their homeward journey, too.
That afternoon, to pass the time away,
We got a boat and sailed upon the bay;
And Mrs. Follet asked us all to tea
So that we had a pleasant time, you see.
We took our places in the cars next day,
And came a hundred miles upon our way;
In stages then a tedious night we passed,
And Saturday morning all got home at last.