North River, Steamboating, Fulton, shipwrecks
Arts and Humanities | History
Piloting Robert Fulton's steamboat up the North River to Albany was a far cry from hunting seals and whales in Atlantic waters for Nantucket-born Barzillai Pease. But for a little while in 1808 the River was his road and Fulton's captain, Samuel Wiswall, his evil genius.
Born on that seamen's island in 1773 of a sea-going father, Pease moved to Hudson, New York, with his family when he was fourteen years old and soon after shipped out on his first whaling-sealing voyage. With Hudson as home port, the basic pattern of his life between 1789 and 1826 was sailing the Atlantic from Newfoundland to the Falkland Islands in search of sealskins and whale oil, sometimes as seaman, sometimes as captain, and occasionally as master of his own ship.
Nineteen journals written during these years, as diary-logs while aboard ship or as continuous narratives of recall immediately following a voyage, are in the manuscript collection of Syracuse University Libraries and provide a detailed picture of life at sea in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The later period of the journals finds Pease navigating Lake Ontario as he commanded Army transports during the War of 1812, but up to that time, he records only one other experience on fresh water, the infamous summer on the North River in Fulton's "Steam-boat."
Schmavonian, Arsine, "Barzillai Pease and Mr. Fulton's Steamboat" (1970). The Courier. 2.