2018 Blue Water Chapter News & Announcements

BWC Learns About the Shipbuilding Era in Port Huron at October Meeting

In the late 1800’s, Port Huron was a mecca for shipbuilding, with as many as 2,000 people employed. Retired SC4 professor, Paul J. Schmidtt, has researched this long-forgotten history and shared his findings with the Blue Water Chapter at their October 16th meeting.

By the second half of the 19th century, several large companies operated dry docks and shipyards in Port Huron. It was the era of the wooden-hulled, three-masted schooners. Port Huron was strategically located by the water and near to the two types of raw materials needed for wooden ship construction. The tall, straight pine trees to the north were the preferred material used for masts and decking, while plentiful, nearby white oak hardwood was used for the ribbing and support structures.

Wooden ships required a lot of maintenance, and much of the work done in Port Huron involved repairs and periodic re-caulking with oakum to make seams watertight. The companies also custom built these large ships, as well. In the 1870s, 16 ships were launched from Port Huron builders, followed by another 12 in the 1880s. The launchings were major community events. Schools would close for the day and bands would play for large crowds of people who would assemble to watch.

The 1890s saw major changes in ship building. Steam engines were being used to supplement and replace wind power. Steel hulls replaced wood as the preferred building material. Only one of the Port Huron facilities, the Jenks Company, made the transition. In this era, ships were becoming larger and larger, and the confined space of the St. Clair river made it difficult to compete.

In the early decades of 20th century, the Jenks Company built several large steel-hulled Great Lakes ships, but eventually that declined. They and other companies continued to operate dry docks for repairs, but by the 1940s, that had all ceased as business moved to larger facilities around the Great Lakes outside of the confines of the city and the river.

Today, almost all vestiges of the once-booming business are gone. The few traces that still exist are only seen by people who know what to look for. For most residents of Port Huron, the era of ship building and the major social and economic impact that it had is long forgotten history.

Photo above: Professor Paul J. Schmidtt (center) addresses the Blue Water Chapter at their October 16th meeting at The Dorsey House.

BWC Inducts New Members at September Meeting

The September meeting of the Blue Water Chapter was a big night for inducting new members. Along with Ed Bickley from Marine City, three members of the Wilton family were sworn in: Jack Wilton, along with son, Robert Wilton, from Lakeport joined the Blue Water Chapter. Jack’s other son, Matt Wilton, from Mattawan, joined Sauk Trail, but made the trip across the state so that all three members of the family could be sworn in together. Aaron Wagel, a representative from the Sauk Trail Chapter, was on hand to welcome Matt into the SAR.

Photo above L-R: MISSAR President, James Petres administers the SAR oath to Matt Wilton, Robert Wilton, Jack Wilton, and Ed Bickley.

BWC Honors Eagle Scout With Certificate of Recognition

Blue Water Chapter Vice President, Cal Jewett, was on hand July 28th at the Eagle Scout Court of Honor for Tyler Allen Bliznik of Troop 127 from Lapeer. Tyler graduated with honors from Lapeer High School and will be studying Engineering at Kettering University this fall. For his Eagle Service Project, Tyler worked to organize a book donation effort to fill the shelves at the Lapeer Family Literacy Center with over 1,280 books for needy children in the Lapeer area. The project took several weeks with an outreach to the local schools, libraries, and Facebook.

BWC Inducts New Member from Texas at June Meeting

When Michigan native, Keith Hines, decided to apply for membership in the SAR, he thought about his home state, where he spends his summers. Even though he lives most of the year in his adopted state of Texas, he and his wife plan to relocate to Michigan permanently, and he wanted to join a chapter where he could be active in the coming years. With no regularly scheduled meetings planned for the summer months when he would be in the state, several BWC officers arranged for a special meeting on June 5th at The Dorsey House to welcome Keith and perform his induction ceremony.

When he returns to Texas in the fall, Keith will be an associate member with the Col. Turner Sharp Chapter in El Paso.

Pictured above L-R: Registrar Robert Eager, President Gary Pastiva, Keith Hines, and Secretary Jim Wade..

2018 Officers Sworn In at April Meeting

Blue Water Chapter officers were given the oath of office by Past State President, Rod Wilson, (above left) at the chapter's April 17th meeting. Taking the oath (L-R) were President Gary Pastiva, Secretary James Wade, and Registrar Robert Eager. Vice-President Calvin Jewett, and Treasurer Robert Zimmer, were out of state and will be given the oath at a later date.

Blue Water Chapter is Presented with the Story of Historic Ft. Sinclair

In 1764 British Colonel, John Bradstreet, in Detroit, gave Lt. Patrick Sinclair orders to construct a small fort where the Pine River flows into the St. Clair River. For many years it was the only fort protecting the fur trade between Detroit and Michilimackinac. Members of the Blue Water Chapter had a chance to learn all about the fort at the April 17th meeting when Bob Freehan (pictured above, standing), Chairman of St. Clair Historical Commission, gave a presentation. It was a fascinating story about how the enterprising young Sinclair took it upon himself to purchase 4,000 acres from two Chippewa chiefs, and set up a trading post and sawmill at the site of the future City of St. Clair.

Besides maintaining a fort, Lt. Sinclair oversaw economic development at the site by planting an orchard, starting a farm, and building a gristmill. He also built a manor house in the wilderness for himself. The Pinery Trading Post at the fort was a successful business enterprise and continued to operate for many years even after Sinclair left in 1769. Lumber from the sawmill was rafted for sale in Detroit. In one of Sinclair’s mutually agreeable arrangements with the Chippewas, only the pine and oak trees were cut for the sawmill. Maple trees were left because the production of maple sugar was important to the local inhabitants.

In his presentation, Bob Freehan utilized pictures of a scale model of Fort Sinclair that is on display at the St. Clair Historical Museum. The model shows the two blockhouses, each with its cannon overlooking the rivers, as well buildings for the barracks, the trading post, and the sawmill.

Eric Rhude Receives SAR Good Citizenship Medal

On Sunday, February 25, 2018, Petty Officer First Class, Eric Rhude (photo right) was presented with the SAR Bronze, Good Citizenship Medal. He is a member of the F.C. Sherman Division of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps. Eric distinguished himself as an outstanding cadet in the program by volunteering for numerous color guard events and by being well respected by both his shipmates and his officers. In the division, he serves as the assistant leading petty offer (ALPO), a position of leadership for which he earned through demonstrating his strong leadership skills.

The medal and certificate were presented by Blue Water Chapter President, Gary Pastiva (photo left), at the Sea Cadet Annual Awards and Recognition Banquet held at the American Legion Post in Port Huron.

Two New Blue Water Members Inducted by National Secretary General, Warren Alter

Two new members of the Blue Water Chapter, Gary Pastiva and son Jack, took advantage of a visit to Hillsdale College to attend the February Board of Managers’ meeting. They were surprised to learn that while there they would also have their induction ceremony. The oath was administered by National Society Secretary General, Warren Alter, assisted by MISSAR President, Paul Callanan.

Photo L-R: BWC Registrar Robert Eager, Gary Pastiva, Jack Pastiva, MISSAR President Paul Callanan, and NSSAR Secretary General Warren Alter.