ORIN LILLY, Great Lakes Sailor
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Synopsis by Bill Harvey          E-mail: BHarvey402@aol.com 

ORIN LILLY, Great Lakes Sailor


While oral family history infers that Orin Lilly was the master or captain 
of the vessels that he sailed on, there is no conclusive evidence of this to 
be found in his diaries from either 1857 or 1859 while he was sailing on 
Lakes Erie and Ontario.  However, from the tenor of the diaries and the work 
and events that he described, it is highly probable that he was a senior 
mate.  Basically, his diaries are more concerned in reporting the weather 
conditions and logistics than specific daily events.  He was religious in 
reporting something every day.  His spelling and punctuation have been copied 
as written.  My comments as reviewer and editor of this limited history 
appear as [Editorial Comments]. Data on the various vessels, noted in 
parenthesis ( ) which are mentioned in the diaries, appears in Appendix A 
at the conclusion of the abstracts. Where it is apparent that Orin Lilly was 
sailing on a specific vessel, that vessel is described in an editorial 


In addition to the diaries, information has been derived from family history 
gathered by Gladys M. Lilly Harvey some time during the 1940s thru 1970 or 
thereabouts.  This has been supplemented by reference to a book entitled 
"A Pictorial History of the Great Lakes," Bonanza Books, 1963, by Harlan 
Hatcher and Eric A. Walter.  Of particular help has been Duff Brace, Curator 
of the Ashtabula Marine Museum located in Ashtabula, Ohio.  Mr. Brace has 
provided history and data regarding the vessels which were mentioned in Orin 
Lilly's diaries.

Additional data has been derived from the Painesville (Ohio) Telegraph for 
March 31, 1859.  Refer to Appendix B.


Orin Lilly was the son of Leonard Lilly and Vesta Thayer and was born in 
1822; birth place unknown but probably New York state.  Orin apparently was 
the sixth of nine children of this marriage.  No information appears 
regarding the Thayer family.  After wearing out poor Vesta, who died in 
1840, Leonard married Lovinia Whitney in 1843.  Apparently no children came 
from this marriage.

On July 25, 1845, Orin Lilly married Mary Ann Sullivan, the daughter of 
Dennis Sullivan from Rochester, New York.  Dennis Sullivan journeyed to the 
Cleveland, Ohio, area in 1828 and acquired the property near Euclid which 
eventually became known as Lillys-by-the-Lake.  He did not return from the 
trip and was never heard from again.  However, his daughter, Mary Ann and at 
least one brother, Henry, survived as heirs to the estate.

Henry Lilly served in the Union Army during the Civil War for nearly three 
years.  Since he had been a sailor prior to his enlistment and was discharged 
as a Private in Nashville, Tennessee, it may be supposed that he served on 
the Union gun boats which patrolled the rivers during the war.  Being 
discharged as a private would further suggest that he was a typical hard 
drinking, fighting Irishman, who may not have taken kindly to military 
discipline.  Apparently he never married.

Mary Ann and Orin Lilly lived outside of Euclid and proceeded to have eight 
children with George Orin being born January 6, 1853, as the third child.  
Orin Lilly was actively sailing on the Lakes at that time, so he must have 
gotten home now and then to take care of parental duties.  (George Orin Lilly 
was the father of Leonard Orin Lilly and Gladys Mary Lilly Harvey.  This 
makes Orin Lilly the paternal great-grandfather of Ann Lilly Runyon and John 
Orin Lilly and maternal great-grandfather of William Leonard Harvey.)

1857 DIARY
Starting on December 29, 1856, he indicates that he "worked at the yard".  
By January 8th, the "Thermometer 6 degrees below zero".  On the 9th "all 
hands gone to a dance at Feers".  [This reference to Feers or Freers, as is 
spelt later, is interesting in that the Freers apparently were good friends 
or close acquaintances.]  On the 15th "went to Cleveland got a coper bilor 
and a thermometer".  [Evidently he distrusted his thermometer.]  However, on 
the 18th "thermometer 8 below 10 o clock wind NE 8 o clock thermometer 10 
below and clear".  On the 20th "went to the crick and got a paper".  21st 
"went to Cleveland".  [Land trips from Euclid to Cleveland and back 
apparently were all day affairs and involved "taking the cars."  Just what 
the cars were is not clear.  These could have been passenger, freight or 
even, as noted subsequently, hand cars.]

On the 23rd, "worked 1/2 day in blacksmith shop.  On the 24th " worked in 
shop to day".  27th "halled some wood to day and went to the yard".  [It may 
be assumed that he was either working in the shipyard or at home during this 
period when the lake was frozen or otherwise unfit for commerce.]  January 
27th has an interesting note "got a paper to day dated 17 January".  [Is he 
indicating that it took this long for the paper to arrive from Cleveland or 
that he picked up an old paper?  Or could this paper be something other than 
a newspaper?]

By February 8th, the ague was starting to be a bother:  "had an ague chill 
to day".  10th "had a shake of ague to day".  By the 11th he decided to do 
something about the ague and "went to the Crick and got a bottle of collegog."  
[If ague was malaria, then it may be assumed that collegog was some type of 
quinine medicine.  In any case, it probably had a high alcoholic content 
which may have helped anyway.]  However, he "had a shake of ague today" on 
the 12th.

By February 16th, it appears that the lake was starting to open up since he 
"went to Cleveland  the Scow Frederick (1)  left for Vermillion".  [Although 
steamers had been introduced to the Great Lakes as early as 1822, sailing 
vessels were still very common by 1857.  Scows were shallow-draft with 
center-boards, schooner-rigged and eminently suitable for shallow Lake Erie.]  
Vermillion lies about 25 miles west of Cleveland which would not be a 
difficult trip in one day since Orin reported on the 17th:  "came back from 
Cleveland ."

The weather remained pleasant and the lake open for a week until the 24th 
when "shipt centre board to day".  [If he was on the Scow Frederick, it 
would be reasonable to raise (ship) the center board if it was going into 
dock.]  The ague returned on the 28th with March weather being extremely 
variable.  It is possible that he was still on  the Frederick during this 
period.  However, by April 3rd, he reported that he "went to Cleveland" and 
"I went to the harbor".  On the 4th:  "settled with J E Greete".  [This might 
infer that he was paid for his time on the Frederick.]

By March 5th, he  "commenced work on the Prop Owego (2)."  [By 1856, 
propeller driven steam ships were replacing the earlier side-wheelers on 
the Lakes.  The Owega displaced 482 tons, was built in 1852 in Cleveland, 
of wooden construction, and was owned by the Erie Railroad.]  On the 9th, 
he "commenced to load" and on the 11th "shipt a watchman".  [These statements 
would indicate that he had a responsible position on the Owego.]

The next day, Sunday April 12th, they "left Cleveland -- went into Fairport 
took on 43 1/2 cords wood  lay at Fairport all night".  [Fairport is about 28 
miles down the lake to the NE from Cleveland.  The quantity of fuel taken on 
confirms that the Owego was a fair sized steamer.]

The weather kicked up about this time, but they made it to Erie, 
Pennsylvania, where on April 14th "blew a gale with snow squalls  lay in 
Erie all night" and on the 15th "still in Erie - blowing a living gale with 
snow".  On Thursday, April 16th "boat went ashore for provisions  had a 
ramble on the island".  [This would be Presque Isle indicating that the 
Owego was anchored in the protected bay off Erie.]  On Friday, they "left 
Erie 1/4 to 8 -- with foot of snow  run into ice 1 mile above Dunkirk -- 9 
men went ashore on ice".  [Dunkirk, New York, was a popular port below 
Buffalo and lies directly south of Port Colborne, Ontario, at the south end 
of the Welland Canal.  This canal bypasses Niagara Falls between Lakes Erie 
and Ontario.]

Saturday, April 18th:  "still in the ice  Portsmouth (3) came down 1/2 p 10 
and went back to Erie".  [The Portsmouth was a larger propeller steamer also 
owned by the Erie RR.]  Sunday:  "one deck hand went a shore on ice".  
Monday, the 20th:  "went a shore with 13 men for provisions on the ice".  By 
the 22nd, things must have been getting tough since "one deck÷hand went a 
shore and staid".  And on April 23rd:  "still in the ice Jersey City (4) 
came down a bout 10 of 4 lay a long side  had a fever to day".  [Coming down 
could mean coming down from the Welland Canal indicating that the ice was 
concentrated around Dunkirk while the northern part of the lake was free.]  
The next day:  "went a shore with 11 men for provisions went to Centreville".  
[No Centreville exists in the Dunkirk area today.]

On the 25th:  "had a shake of ague at the heirmesy hotel  got in at 5 with 
out any buckets".  [By this time, the Owego had been in the ice at Dunkirk 
for a week.  Orin's ague is recurring and apparently the hotel didn't have 
any slop buckets.  Life was not easy.]  By the 26th the Owego was able to 
move and "finished unloading  haled over to the E dock" and on the 28th "left 
Dunkirk commenced to load".  [If they had left Dunkirk, they may have gotten 
back to Erie for another load.]  On Tuesday, April 29th:  "went in to 
Conneaut took on 15 1/4 cords wood -- rote a letter home".  [Conneaut is in 
the very northeast corner of Ohio on the lake.]

From late April through May and June, Orin and the Owego were back and forth 
between Dunkirk and Cleveland spending more time loading and unloading than 
steaming.  They were frequently in the company of other vessels such as the 
Portsmouth, the Chief (5) and the Olean (6).  On Sunday, May 5th, Orin was 
home since he "went to the cemetree to day -- turned cow into Contreals 
pasture".  Apparently during this period he was able to be home most Sundays.  
He "went a fishing caught 18" on May 31st and on June 14th "went a fishing 
and caut a bout 100lbs".

However, the lake was still tricky.  On June 30th  "arrived at Fairport at 
10 + 1/2 p 10 the Prop North America (7)  "went a shore very cold" and the 
next day  "left Fairport 10 p 5 made an attempt to pool off North America  
a breast Conneaut 5 p 9".  [Apparently the North America went aground in the 
fog at Fairport.  After a charitable attempt to free the slightly smaller 
boat, they went on up to Conneaut, a distance of roughly 40 miles in less 
than 4 hours, indicating that they could easily steam 10 miles per hour.]  
On July 2nd:  "commenced to paint" and "finished painting to day" on July 
10th.  [Apparently he was painting at home since they went from Cleveland to 
Put-in Bay on South Bass Island north of Sandusky on July 5th.  He either 
was in the company of the "Prop Olean bound for toledo" on the 4th and the 
6th or on board.]

On July 7th, he notes "had a squall a breast of Turtle light".  [Turtle 
Light was one of the early light houses in the Great Lakes.  It is assumed 
that it was around the passage between Sandusky and the islands immediately 
to the north.  These islands apparently were used for firewood supplies since 
there was no commercial development there at that time.]

The remainder of July, August and September were spent steaming back and 
forth between Toledo, Cleveland and Dunkirk.  However, on Sunday, August 2nd 
while in Dunkirk:  "went a berying to day".  And on August 17th  "went home 
1/2 p 8 arrived at home 1/2 p 4 and hired a girl".  [This is interesting 
since on September 7th "went home and found my wife sick".  One might suspect 
that a baby was due about then.  Orin had been home during the winter nine 
months earlier.  This must not have been terribly important since on the 9th 
"bought an over coat to day".]

September 18th indicated that "Emeline went to Centreville".  [At this time 
they were in Dunkirk.  Emeline was Orin and Mary Ann's second child and 
could have been 9 or 10 years old at the time.  Was she traveling with her 
father to visit relatives in Centreville?]  On the 21st, back in Cleveland:  
"unshipt our rudder" and on the 23rd "got new rudder today".  On the 28th:  
"went to Centreville"  from Dunkirk.  From then on entries reflect wind and 
weather conditions back and forth between Cleveland and Dunkirk with many 
notes regarding loads of goods and barrels ranging from 35 to 70 tons at a 
time.  The remainder of the diary from October 17th is missing.

1859 DIARY
The 1859 diary is very similar to that of 1857.  Wind and weather are 
foremost.  The most significant difference overall is the apparent scope of 
sailing on the Great Lakes.  Orin reports trips through the Welland Canal 
into Lake Ontario.   The year begins on Saturday January 1st:  "Paid Mr. 
Robinson $5".  [No indication why.]  On Tuesday the 4th:  "Scow California 
(8) came in at 7 AM".  On Sunday the 16th:  "Went to George Owens this day".  
[Was George Owens a person or a boat?]  Warm weather prevailed and on the 
20th "Scow California  came in from Black river".  [The Black River is midway 
between Cleveland and Sandusky and enters the Lake at Lorrain.]  However, on 
the 23rd "Ice on Lake as far as you can see".  This apparently didn't slow 
the California down since on the 31st "Scow California left for Black River 
and came back" with the same report the following day.  [These references to 
the California might indicate that he was aboard.]

On Saturday, February 5th:  "Went home 1/2 p 5 received a letter from Captain 
Sisson".  [Refer to Appendix B for further information on Captain Sisson.]  
On the 6th:  "snow 14 inches deep at home to day".  On the 9th, he noted:  
"Philemon came here to day".  (Philemon was an older brother.)  Thursday, 
the 10th seemed important since he "received 2 letters 1 from J. Manchester 
1 from Jacob Murphy".  [It appears that he was actively seeking employment 
at this time since Sisson and Manchester are mentioned subsequently.]

On Tuesday, February 22nd:  "Scow California came in" and on Wednesday:  
"Peter Smith (9) went to toe the Scow Price (10)".  [It appears that the 
Peter Smith was a steam tug.]  After receiving "a letter from John Manchester" 
on Saturday, the 26th, on the 27th " 1/2 p 8 went to the Scow Price on the 
Peter Smith  Scow California left for Blackriver".  He may !have been sailing 
on the California but on Monday, the 28th, he must have been home since:  
"Emeline very sick with imflemation of the lungs" and on March 1st  "Emeline 
a little better this PM" and on the 2nd  "Emeline a little better this 

The next day "met Franklin Lilly at the depo in town".  [Franklin Lilly 
doesn't appear to be a kin unless he was an uncle.]  On the 4th "took the 
Owego (2) out on the boxes".  [This may have referred to removing the Owego 
from dry-dock.  The boxes may have been some type of cradles or carriages to 
roll the ship down the dry-dock tracks.  However, the Owego was supposedly 
sunk in 1857.]  Things were definitely picking up since on Saturday, the 
5th:  "Capt Sisson came in to day from Dunkirk" and on Sunday "Prop Equinox 
(11) came in from Sandusky left 1/2 p 9".  However, on Monday "Commenced work 
on the Lady of the Lake (12)".  [A note under March Bills Payable for  
"Monday 7 Commenced work on the Lady of the Lake"  with checks by the names 
"DK, Charly Orin, John Smith, Phrily, Cafter and Erwin".  This would appear 
to indicate that he had hired these men to work on this boat and that he was 
overseeing them.  The Lady of the Lake was built in 1846 in Cleveland, 320 
tons of wood.]

By March 20th, Orin "left Cleveland for Dunkirk at 1/2 p 1 PM with full load 
arrived at Fairport at 5  I got aground on the bar left at 25m p 11 21 1/4 
cords of wood".  [The phrase "I got aground" rather than "we" might indicate 
that Orin was navigating as would be proper for the Mate.]  On the 23rd, on 
the way back from Dunkirk:  "run through ice 1/2 inch thick of[f] Madison."  
[Madison is between Astabula and Euclid.]  On Thursday, March 24th, in 
Cleveland:  "Ready Scow Burk (13) on the pear last night."  [This is 
interesting since the Burk has not be found in the marine histories.]

Friday, March 25th:  "left C 20 m to 4 arrived in [Fair]Port 1/4 p 7, heavy 
sea blows a gale".  The on Saturday, the 26th, disaster strikes:  "left 
Fairport 1/2 p 1  blowed up and lost 1 D hand and cook  1 and 2 Engineer 
and 1 fireman badly burnt  worked on the beach til 11".  [Refer to Appendix B 
for the news report on this "BLOW UP" of  the Lady of the Lake.]  Continuing 
on Sunday, March 27th:  "got freight up on the beach all day Vermont (14) 
took 1 corps to Cleveland  Praire (15) came in and took freight to C and 
part of crew".  [Whatever his role was, he was working diligently to salvage 
the freight as is confirmed in the newspaper report.]  On the 28th:  "went 
to the beach for frt  worked on the beach all day -- I saved 50 bbls".

The salvage effort continued on Tuesday:  "11 went to Perry to pick up 
freight  I saved about 600 bbls".  On Wednesday:  "went to Madison dock then 
to the station  took the cars to Painesville arrived at Fairport at 8 PM 
tired as a cur".  [Perry is midway between Fairport and Madison.  Painesville 
is inland from Fairport.)  On Thursday:  "went down on the beach  took a 
barrel of pork out of a man's seller in Madison".  [Apparently Orin was 
continuing to salvage freight which someone had taken from the accident?)  
Salvage continued thru Friday, April 1st:  "Scows came down for the freight 
in Perry  left the beach for Fairport on the Scow Rich (16) at 1/2 p 11".  
The salvage effort apparently ended on Saturday, the 2nd:  "Went down and 
paid hardy for board  went to Painesville 1/2 p 1 left for home at 1/2 p 6  
arrived at home at 7:20".

On Sunday, April 3rd he was "at home all day" but on Monday "went to 
Cleveland" and on Tuesday "left Cleveland for home at 4 PM  Snow at Euclid 
9 inches deep".  [Can one imagine the salvage effort compounded by miserable 
spring weather?]  On Thursday, the 7th:  "built a fence today and bought a 
clock  went down and cleaned up  received a letter from Philemon".  [The 
fence was important since he reported under CASH ACCOUNT in the back of the 
diary:  "Mr Hasmer turned in his sheepe April 9".]

On Sunday, April 10th:  "left for home on hand car at 8".  [He had been in 
Cleveland Friday and Saturday.]  He was back to Cleveland on Monday and 
stayed through Wednesday when he:  "went board the Granite State (17) left 
Cleveland at 8 PM with a full load".  [Obviously, he was able to get another 
position quickly after the accident.  The Granite State was owned by Northern 
Transit Co. of Odgensburg, NY, which may explain the broader scope of travel 
subsequently.]  On the 14th, breast Erie 10 m to 10  blew a gale could not 
get to Dunkirk  went to Buffalo  got there 1/2 p 7".  By Saturday:  "Snow on 
hills all day  got our mail put on"  and on ,*Sunday "left Buffalo at 2 AM  
arrived in DK at 7 unloaded  took on 108 tons and left at 6 PM".  On Monday 
in Cleveland:  "unshipt the rudder" and on Thursday:  "got our rudder shipt".  
By Saturday April 23rd:  "dug  of the beach from Madison  stock howled like 
all  went onto F Port at 1/2 p 10".

Up until the middle of June, it was back and forth between Cleveland, Dunkirk 
and Sandusky with notes about wind and weather, loading and unloading with 
only a note that he "went to a dance"  in Fairport and occasionally got home.  
Very smoky on the Lake at that time. On June 2nd, he noted:  "blew a gale  
S Artic (18) went out and came back".  On June 16th, in Cleveland"  Went up 
to Spaldings law office til 1/4 to 6".  On Friday, the 17th:  "went to 
Spaldings office and was there til 1/2 to 7".  Saturday:  "went up to 
Spaldings office  laid up and went home at 8 PM".  [At this point and based 
upon subsequent notes, it is apparent that Orin was relieved of his duties 
aboard the Granite State and effectively was "on the beach."  It can be 
surmised that this was the result of the accident in March.  In any case, 
the remainder of June through early August he was primarily occupied around 
home.  The new report in Appendix B notes that the freight from the Lady of 
the Lake was insured and that the bulk of freight was salvaged.  This is 
confirmed by Orin's diary, so it is difficult to determine just what the 
problem might have been]

The following paints an interesting picture:  June 19th  "at home all day".  
Monday the 20th:  "went a fishing this afternoon".  Thursday, the 23rd:  
"shingled 1 side of my house".  The 24th:  "went a fishing" and on Saturday:  
"finished shingling the house".  Sunday:  "went a strawberying".  However, 
on Monday, June 27th:  "went to Cleveland put 600 bbls flour in the Granite 
State  left for home at 8 PM".  (What was he doing loading the Granite State, 
but not sailing on it?)  He was at home the next day and on Thursday, June 
30th:  "mixed mortar to plaster my house" and "plastering my house" on Friday.  
[The possessive "my house" rather than "our house" should make modern 
feminists cringe.]  He was back in Cleveland on the 2nd and 3rd, but on 
Monday, July 4th:  "went home at 10AM  went to a ball at Fenners".  [Was 
July 4th being celibrated then with dances and other festivities?]

The leisurely summer continued with "went a fishing to day" on the 7th, 
"went fishing all day" on the 10th, but "commenced to build a cook house on 
the 15th.  The effort continued on Saturday June 16th:  "at work all day".  
And on Monday:  "shingled one side of my cook room to day" and "finished 
shingling" on Tuesday.  By Thursday, he apparently finished  "extend my cook 

Friday, the 22nd:  "went to Cleveland at 1/2 p 10 went bord the Prop 
Jefferson (19) in Neils place  left for Sandusky at 9 PM".  [The Jefferson 
was another Northern Transit Co. vessel of 344 tons displacement and of wood 
as were all of the boats of that era.]  By Sunday, he was "abreast of North 
East at 7 AM  arrived in Dunkirk at 10 p 10".  [North East is a small town 
NE of Erie just before the border with New York.]  He remained aboard the 
Jefferson until the weekend, when on Sunday, July 31st:  "went down to Mother 
Freers  she is sick  Came back at 8  had a rain shower and rote a letter to 
George".  [Who is George?  Possibly an unmarried brother, but not likely to 
be his son who would have been only six at the time.]

On Monday, August 1st:  "went to Mayfield after shingles".  [Mayfield is 
about 6 miles south of Euclid.]  On Tuesday, he "finished shingling" and 
celebrated "went to a concert with wife  staid to dance".  Friday was back 
to work:  "shipt bord the Prop Jefferson on the dry dock all day".  On 
Saturday, the 6th:  "got of the railway at 9 AM  got up steam  went up to 
the ware hous at 20 p 12 and found that steam pipe had burst  left for 
Sandusky".  [Must not have been a critical pipe or else it was easily 
repaired.  However, problems continued on the Jefferson.]  On Tuesday, stopt 
2 hours to pump up the boiler a bout 11 miles out" [of Dunkirk.]  And on 
Wednesday, the 10th:  "went on deck 1 AM  boat stopt  could not make pump 
work by 3 hoses".  [They still made it to Cleveland and on to Sandusky 

But in Sandusky on Thursday, August 11th:  "went up on the railway  broke 
the chain and run off".  [The railway was at the dry-dock where a chain was 
used to tow the boat up the railway.  It must have been interesting when it 
broke.]  They tried again on Friday:  "went on the railway a gain to day" 
and on Saturday "got of the railway at 5  left for Dunkirk at 11 PM".  On 
Sunday:  "pumps would not work".  They continued to muddle along back and 
forth between Cleveland and Dunkirk until Tuesday, September 6th, then:  
"left the Jefferson at 12 and went home".

On Wednesday:  "went to Mother Freers to day paid Charly Galls 5 dollars".  
[From a tabulation in the back of the diary it appears that Orin could have 
earned as much as $155 while working on the Jefferson during this period.]

On Thursday, September 8th:  "went to Cleveland  went bord the Granite State".  
From there on the 9th:  "left for Sandusky  stopt at Black river took on 53 
cords wood".  [Black River comes out at present-day Lorain about 25 miles 
west of Cleveland.]  On the next day, Saturday:  "went to Putin bay  master 
came near drounding  left Sandusky for Detroit at 9".  [Here is additional  
evidence that Orin was not the captain or master of the Granite State.]  
From then on until December 7th, the entries detail continuous steaming back 
and forth between Cleveland and Ogdensburg, New York, which is well down 
along the St. Lawrence River.  These trips involved going through the Welland 
Canal.  Notable locations mentioned include:  Gravely Bay, possibly Chippewa 
Bay now; Pt Dullikon(?) somewhere around the south entrance to the Canal; 
Oswego, New York; Cape Vincent, at the entrance to the St. Lawrence; French 
Creek, downstream from Cape Vincent; Port Dalhosa, on the north end of the 
Canal; Port Colborne, at the south end; Long Point, a projection of Ontario 
in to the Lake directly north of Erie, Pennsylvania; Clayton, on the St. 
Lawrence in the 1000 Island area; Alexander Bay, same area; Genesee, possibly 
around Rochester;  St. Catherines, at the the north end of the Canal.

Interesting notes during this period include:  September 19th:  "left the bay 
at 6 with brig Mayflower (20) in tow".  [The Mayflower had been built as a 
sailing vessel in 1844, but was rebuilt in 1857.  It is probable that it was 
used as a barge from that time on.]  20th:  "arrived Oswego  commenced to 
load worked all night".  23rd:  "left the Canal 1/2 p 2 AM  arrived Clev 9 
PM commenced to load at 10 -- 12 still at wor:8k".  24th:  "1 AM 5 nigers 
quit -- workt all night".  25th:  "4 AM finished unload Slep til 7  1/2 p 7 
commenced to load -- worked til 6".  26th:  "finished loading at 4 PM left 
for the Canal at 5 PM".  This indicates that he was probably getting less 
that two or three hours sleep each night and supervising both steaming and 
loading and unloading when in port.  [Review of the Painesville Telegraph 
for that period indicated that the newspaper was strongly abolitionist, so 
reference to the "nigers" quitting would confirm that there were a good many 
freed negros employed along the Lakes at that time.] 

On Thursday, October 6th:  "left Clevaland for Toledo 6 AM  run back for 
Capt Walch  left at 8 arrived Put in bay at 3 PM".  [This indication of 
Captain Walch missing the boat literally coupled with the time that Orin is 
spending running things suggests that the captain was probably involved in 
other pursuits.  A bottle perhaps?]  On the 10th:  "arriv Clev unload our 
freight and went on the railway  vessel leakt bad".  Tuesday, the 11th:  
"shipt rudder  went home at 8 PM on freight train".  [This is the first time 
home since September 7th.]  By Thursday, the 13th, he was back at it again on 
the way to Ogdensburg.  On the 17th:  "put patch on boiler fired up at 12 P 
blowd patch off".  [What do you do when you can't patch the boiler?]  By the 
next day, they must have gotten the boiler fixed since they "finished loading 
at 6 PM -- cold and froze".  On the 20th in Oswego:  "froze ice 3/4 inch 

On Tuesday, October 25th:  "company with Bay State (21) arrived in Clev 1/2 p
 6 PM".  [The Bay State was also a Northern Transit Co. vessel comparable in 
size to the Granite State.]  On the 26th:  "snowed all night workt all night".  
Trips now included Detroit on the 28th:  "stopt at the Smelting works took 
off 20 tons fire brick  workt til 1/2 p 12 A".  On the 29th:  "took on 2000 
bushels wheat and 900 bbls flour".  On the 30th:  "took on 20 cords wood and 
left for the Canal at 5 PM".  [This and subsequent notes indicate that the 
Granite State was a sizable vessel, but they conserved capacity by limiting 
wood to just enough to get to the next stop.  For example, at Dalhosa on 
November 1st just 13 1/2 cords and on the 2nd at Clayton 9 cords and back at 
Clayton on the 4th 12 cords.]

For some reason on November 7th:  "took passengers off Bay State at St. 
Anthony".  [This apparently was on the Canal south of St. Catherines.]  On 
Wednesday the 9th:  Arrived in Cleveland 1/2 p 1 AM -- workt til 9 PM then 
turned in been up 67 hours and slept til 5".  [This man was in his prime at 
age 37, but it had to have been a tough life.]  The next day:  "left for 
Toledo 25 m to 3 A out 5 miles turn back very foggy took on the Akrons (22) 
freight and left 5 m to 5 PM -- sent a letter home with 10 dollars".  [About 
time.  Mary Ann probably could use the money.]

A few more trips back and forth Cleveland to Toledo, Oswego and Clayton and 
finally on Wednesday, December 7th:  "finished laying up  went home at 1/2 p 
5 P".  However on the 8th:  "Gov Cushman (23) went out".  [This must have 
been one of the last vessels on the lake that year.]  On the 9th:  Paid 
Olmer $50 -- at home all day" and on the 10th "went down to the lake".  [One 
would think that he would have been ready to hole up beside the fire.]  On 
Sunday, the 12th:  "at home all day  had a load of wood delivered".  The 
snow continued since on the 15th:  "good slaying" and on the 16th "went to a 
dance last night".  The last entry is on Tuesday,  December 20th:  "Wind 
still W light and snowing".


1.   Scow FREDERICK  1854, Black River (Lorraine) Ohio, by C. Hunter, 61 
     tons, wood, A. Frederick, owner.
2.   Prop OWEGO  1853, Cleveland, by R. Calkins, 482 tons, wood, owed by 
     Erie RR, registered Dunkirk, NY, packaged freight and passenger 
     propeller driven steamer, Buffalo - Chicago -Duluth run, sunk 1857.  
     (This doesn't appear correct based upon Lilly's notation in 1859.)
3.   Prop PORTSMOUTH  1853, Buffalo, by Bidwell and Banta, 523 tons, wood, 
     owed by Erie RR, lost on Lake Huron 1867.
4.   JERSEY CITY  1855, Cleveland, by Geo. Washington Jones, 633 tons, wood, 
     for S. D. Caldwell, registered Dunkirk, NY, cost $25,000.
5.   Schooner CHIEF  1852, Clayton, NY.
6.   Prop OLEAN  1856, Cleveland, by Quayle and Martin, wood, owed by Erie 
     RR, packaged freight and passengers, cost $24,000.
7.   Prop NORTH AMERICA  1857, Cleveland, by Quayle and Martin, 397 tons, 
     wood, B burned St. Clair Flats 1858.
8.   Scow CALIFORNIA Lost on Lake Erie, 1859.
10.  Scow PRICE  1843, China, Michigan, by Thompson Bros., 102 tons, wood.
11.  Prop EQUINOX  1857, Buffalo, by F. N. Jones for western Transit Co. 
     (NYC RR), 620 tons, wood, passenger and freight liner costing $29,000.  
     Lost 1875 on Lake Michigan with 25 persons.
12.  LADY OF THE LAKE  1846, Cleveland, 320 tons, wood, wrecked by boiler 
     explosion on Lake Erie, March 26, 1859, sunk off Fairport, Ohio.
13.  Scow BURK  No listing.
14.  Prop VERMONT  1851, Cleveland by Sanford and Moses for Northern Transit 
     Co., 255 tons, wood.  Sunk Lake Erie 1878.
15.  Prop PRAIRIE STATE  1852, Ohio City (suburb of Cleveland) by Presley and 
     Stevens for Northern Trans. Co. of Ogdensburg, NY, 352 tons, wood, cost 
     $12,000, south shore of Lake Erie for ports-of-call.
16.  Scow RICH  No information.
17.  Prop GRANITE STATE  1852, Ohio City,by Moses and Quayle for Northern 
     Transit Co., Ogdensburg, NY, 355 tons, wood, sailed Lakes Michigan, 
     Huron, Erie and Ontario.
18.  Scow ARCTIC  1853, Ashtabula, sunk in collision on Lake Huron.
19.  Prop JEFFERSON  1853, Buffalo by Bidwell and Banta for Northern Transit 
     Co., 344 tons, wood, Lakes packaged freighter.
20.  Brig MAYFLOWER  1844, Cleveland by W. E. Turner, for Boyd and Simmons of 
     Ogdensburg, 219 tons, wood, cost $6000, rebuilt 1857.
21.  Prop BAY STATE  1852, Buffalo by Bidwell and Banta for Northern Transit 
     Co., 373 tons, wood, passenger and packaged freighter, cost $12,000.  
     Sunk 1862 on Lake Ontario.
22.  AKRON  No information.
23.  GOVERNOR CUSHMAN  1857, Cleveland by Luther and Moses for D. Scott of 
     Cleveland for $17,500.  Rebuilt 1865.  Boiler exploded 1868 on Lake 
     Ontario.  Eleven lost.


A number of conclusions may be drawn from the foregoing list of vessels that 
Orin Lilly either sailed on or encountered in the late 1850s.  First, 
everything was built of wood which is not surprising since wood was still 
plentiful.  The Great Lakes steel industry was several years in the future.  
Second, sailing vessels, which while they still existed were rapidly being 
replaced by propeller driven steamers, were modified to accept steam 
propulsion or reduced to being used as barges.  Third, the average life of a 
vessel was less than ten years.  Fourth, boiler explosions were a fairly 
common problem much as was the case on the river steamers of that era.  Bulk 
freight such as ore or grain wasn't being carried yet.  All of these vessels 
carried "packaged" freight, e.g. barrels of flour, meat or other agricultural 
products from the lake ports to the East and manufactured goods from the 
eastern ports on the St. Lawrence back to the Midwest.  Most of the vessels 
were owned by subsidiaries of the dominant railroads and continued only as 
long as water transport was cheaper than rail.  Several ship builders seemed 
to build most of the vessels.  Bidwell and Banta seemed to have the Buffalo 
market sewed up with Quayle and Moses being pre-eminent in the Cleveland area.  
Moses, however, apparently partnered with whomever was available.

Life was rough.  Orin Lilly apparently survived boiler explosions, groundings, 
malaria and wicked Lake Erie weather, however; and lived to be 68 before he 
died in 1890.  Interestingly, his sons didn't quite follow in their father's 
footsteps, but were involved in technical occupations.  George worked for the 
Illinois Central RR as Superintendent of Bridges and Buildings.  His brother, 
Henry, also started with the railroad in construction and moved on to build a 
number of buildings in Cleveland.



The following is a verbatim copy of a news report appearing in the 
Painesville Telegraph for Thursday, March 31, 1859:

  BLOW-UP. - The "Lady of the Lake."  Capt. Sisson, a Propeller owned by 
Chamberlin & Crawford, Cleveland, and running in the Ogdensburgh line bound 
for Dunkirk, came down to Fairport on Friday and lay in port until Saturday 
afternoon, when she left Fairport and had past the end of the piers not more 
than three-quarters of a mile and blew up and sank in a very few moments in 
water about 18 feet deep.  There were 19 men on board, officers and hands, 
one of whom, Peter Miller was killed and one, the Cook, has not been found.  
Four others are more or less injured.  The first Engineer, Mr. Stoddard, was 
thrown out into the Lake and but slightly injured.  The second Engineer was 
passing down the stairs to oil the machinery at the time of the explosion and 
is dangerously injured; his leg was broken, besides being badly burned and 
bruised.  He was found hanging on the ladder.  The Fireman's shoulder was 
dislocated, and he was otherwise injured.  Two others sustained light 
injuries.  Most of the men were forward at the time of the accident, which 
accounts for no more being hurt.  The craft had on board 1070 bbls. Flour, 
100 do pork, 83 tierces hams and shoulders, 200 sacks wheat, 60 bbls. 
highwines and several bbls. eggs.  The freight, we understand, was insured.  
About 100 bbls. Of the Flour have been saved, some of the highwines, most of 
the hams, and some bbls. Of the eggs.  The craft was some thirteen years old 
which fact may give some clue to the cause of the catastrophe.


Basically this news report confirms Orin Lilly's account of the boiler 
explosion with additional detail.  This establishes that Sisson was the 
captain of the Lady of the Lake and apparently Orin had sailed under Sisson 
previously as indicated by the letter received on February 5, 1859.

Since the news report indicates that the vessel was thirteen years old which 
may have contributed to the "catastrophe", it may be noted that records 
indicate that the vessel was closer to being fifteen years old.  The average 
life of a steam vessel on the Lakes at that time was 10 years, so the 
observation was probably partially correct.  Certainly, some of the problems 
which Orin noted on other vessels indicates that maintenance was an ongoing 
problem with older boats.

The cargo at that time consisted of "packaged" goods which apparently aided 
salvage.  The barrels of flour, pork, eggs and so forth, would float and 
could be salvaged relatively easily whereas sacks of wheat could not.  The 
reference to "tierces" of hams and shoulders is interesting in that a "tierce" 
was "a cask of tierce [equal to 1/3 pipe or approximately 42 gallons] capacity 
for wine or other commodities (as salted meat)".  "Highwine" is another 
archaic term for "distilled spirits containing a high percentage of alcohol".

The fact that the cargo was apparently insured may provide a clue as to why 
Orin was spending a good portion of time in mid June at Spauldings law office.  
It may be that he was required to provide depositions regarding the condition 
of the vessel or the salvage operations.  He certainly was intimately involved 
in both.  This, however, does not explain why he was unemployed from mid June 
until August 5th, unless he just wanted to work on his house.


The mystery of Orin Lilly's time ashore during mid summer 1859 is worthy of 
further investigation.  It would appear that it will be necessary to research 
the owners, Chamberlin & Crawford, Captain Sisson and Spauldings law firm.  
The entire picture at that time is fascinating.  The abolitionist sentiments 
of the Painesville Telegraph suggest that Lake trade during the Civil War 
might be quite interesting.  Was Orin Lilly involved with any military 
endeavors or was Mary Ann Sullivan Lilly's brother, Henry, the only family 
participant in the War?

The real mystery, of course, is what happened to Dennis Sullivan after he 
purchased the property outside of Euclid.  Gladys Lilly Harvey obviously was 
able to research the family back that far, so records should exist which would 
permit further research into both the Lilly and Sullivan families.

Bill Harvey
November 13, 1997

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