Kent transport

Gilberts: Ships on the water led to the development of Chatham-Kent

The Chatham-Kent waterways were the main travel and transportation routes during the early settlement of the area.

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The Chatham-Kent waterways were the main travel and transportation routes during the early settlement of the area. A relevant comparison is that rivers like the Sydenham, St. Clair and Thames were the 401 highways of their day. They were also just as essential and just as busy and probably safer!

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For example, as early as 1828, a steamship (called the Argo) crisscrossed the Thames between Detroit and the St. Clair River. It was, by modern standards, a rather crude and rudimentary form of transportation. It was essentially made up of two huge hollowed-out logs surmounted by a bridge on which was installed a small motor to drive the paddle wheels.

He traveled at a dizzying top speed of four miles per hour in calm water and a respectable two or three miles per hour against the strong currents he sometimes encountered in the St. Clair and Thames rivers.

Stephen Brock, who owned a store at the northeast corner of King and Fifth streets, built Chatham’s first wharf as well as Chatham’s first merchant ship. This boat, named Sans Pareil, was a half-decked 50-ton craft plying between Chatham and Detroit.

The Sans Pareil was definitely more seaworthy than the Argo, but they were not the definitive ships to be built to navigate the Thames. These two boats were only the first ventures into the shipbuilding industry that would soon occupy much of the building activity that existed in Chatham in the 1840s and 1850s.

Much of Chatham’s early shipbuilding industry was centered on the banks of the McGregor Creek where it met the River Thames, behind Stephen Brock’s store. Shortly thereafter, this wharf was extended westward to encompass the new Ebert Block at the northwest corner of King and Fifth Streets.

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From Brock’s Wharf (or Ebert’s Wharf, as it would later be known), a number of ships were then launched. One of the oldest and most important was the Squareoes in 1842.

Too large to be built on the creek or river bank, it was built on an inland site behind the Royal Exchange Hotel (southwest corner of King and Fifth Streets). It was the largest merchant ship to ply the Thames up to that time.

A little later in time, there was probably the most famous of all ships that sailed the Thames was a ship called the Hattie Hut. She was elegant, fast and a real pleasure to watch. I have included a photo of this contraption to give you a better idea of ​​what it looked like.

The owners of the Eberts Block (Walter and William Eberts) made good use of their excellent location in the heart of Chatham town center and their mastery of the River Thames to move immigrants efficiently and effectively, as well as all forms of goods , from the outside world at their dock in downtown Chatham. This not only made the Eberts Brothers “merchant princes”, but successfully ushered the fledgling town of Chatham into the exciting world of the future and, in turn, much of Chatham-Kent.