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Book and Marsh Collection exhibit highlight history of local shipping

Author Patrick Livingston poses with his book, Eight Steamboats.

There are five Great Lakes in Ontario, two in the Windsor-Essex region, and all of them encompass 94,600 square miles.

For five years during the 1960’s, Detroit’s Patrick Livingston worked on large ships, transporting goods and passengers through the connecting causeways including Detroit River.

The author of “Eight Steamboats – Sailing Through the Sixties,” Livingston made a brief stop at the River Bookshop in Amherstburg to talk about his adventures.

It was part of the official launch of the Marsh Historical Collection’s “Boats in the Burg” exhibit, which is currently ongoing.

“It occurred to me when working on the ships as a young man, that the history of the Great Lakes was passing me by,” said Livingston.

Livingston said that growing up near the Detroit River he constantly saw the freighters go by and remembers the sound of the fog horns.

Working either in the galley (kitchen) or the more dangerous deck, Livingstone said there have been a lot of changes on the big ships, not only to how they were built and their size, but what they were hauling.

“I thought it would be good to keep a record of what the conditions were like.”

The author of “Summer Dreams – the Story of Boblo Island,” Livingstone called his book Eight Steamboats because that is the number of ships he worked on including the SS South American and the SS Mercury.

Livington’s book includes an in depth look at shipping throughout the Great Lakes including photos of those that were in distress like the Put-In-Bay that caught fire on Lake St. Clair.

The Marsh Historical Collection is hosting an exhibit called Boats in the Burg until July 12. It’s an interesting look at some of the captains and companies that utilized the waterways to help shape Amherstburg.

This includes the establishing of a permanent Coast Guard base in 1965 and before that the Mullen Coal Company which began in the 1870’s. At the time, it was considered to be the largest independent steamship coal company on the Great Lakes.

It was housed on an 800-foot-long dock stretching along the river front from Murray to Ramsay Streets.

“Boats in the Burg” highlights numerous captains who battled the lakes including Captain J. Earl McQueen who was a salvage officer in World War I before returning to Amherstburg where, among other accomplishments before his passing in 1957, had a tugboat named after the town.

The Marsh Historical Collection is located at 80 Richmond St., in the Heritage Square plaza. It is open Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.

Book and display all about shipping in the area

By Fred Groves


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