Sault Ste. Marie and Port Mackinac Collection

Identifier: GLMS-0009

Collection Overview


This collection is composed of shipping documents from the Sault Ste. Marie area and nearby ports from 1802-1866. Among these documents are shipping manifests, clearance documents, bills of sale, enrollment bonds, Treasury Department circulars to custom collectors at the Port of Sault Ste. Marie and nearby ports, and personal and business correspondence. Early documentation includes significant material dealing with the American Fur Company.


  • 1804-1866
  • Majority of material found within 1815-1855


11 Reels (11 reels of 35mm microfilm)


Scope and Contents

This collection is composed of shipping documents from the Sault Ste. Marie area and nearby ports from 1804-1866. Among these documents are shipping manifests, clearance documents, bills of sale, enrolment bonds, Treasury Department circulars to custom collectors at the Port of Sault Ste. Marie and nearby ports, and personal and business correspondence.

Early period documents involve clearance documents and manifests from the English-held Port of Queenston and the surrounding American and English ports nearby. Later documents starting in 1800 move toward the Sault Ste. Marie region, also composed of similar clearance documents and manifests. Throughout this earlier period of documentation lie significant portions of documentation that dealt with the American Fur Company. A majority of shipping manifests, from small hand- written pieces of parchment for canoe-sized craft to printed manifests for more substantial vessels, listed the cargo these ships carried for the firm.

After the United States solidified control of the region after the War of 1812, a significant portion of business documentation, correspondence, and shipping documents belonged to the personal papers of three prominent individuals in the Sault Ste Marie region, Peter B. Barbeau, Myron W. Scranton, and George Johnston. The former two individuals were prominent businessmen, the latter was an Indian agent in the area and eventual governor of Michigan. The documents of Peter B. Barbeau and Myron Scranton are a useful supplement to the researcher concerned with business and economic documentation associated with Sault Ste. Marie in the nineteenth Century. The documents of George Johnston are equally useful to researchers concerned with Indian Affairs in the Lake Superior region. In addition to details about the amount of commercial traffic that passed throughout the region, other forms of nautical commercial activity were recorded via enrolment documentation, Treasury Department Circulars, and bills of sale from the period.

Document types:


This document form varies in style and composition depending upon the time period, ranging from printing to simple handwriting. It bears the signatures of one or more customs officials.. All display the name of the district and port of clearance as a heading. "Clearance" or "General Clearance" is often found, as is the statement "hath entered and cleared his said vessel according to law".

A typical form indicates the names of the vessel, its master, registered tonnage, guns mounted (if any), number of crew members, country in which the vessel was built, and the destination of that particular voyage. A general description of the cargo might be included, and the date of issue is usually found near the bottom of this one-page document. Some examples may contain small engravings or have relevant information printed on the backside. Customs stamps or seals are often present. Any vessel that departed for a foreign port without obtaining a Clearance Certificate was subject to a heavy fine.

To obtain Clearance papers the master would present a Manifest to the Customs collector and swear to the accuracy of the information contained in the papers, usually concluding with the phrase "so help me God." Vessels licensed for coastwise trade were not required to formally enter and clear if they were proceeding to another domestic port. However, they had to produce Manifests, or duplicate Manifests if their cargo included foreign goods, before they received permission to proceed.


Printed documents of various sizes and formats. This was the official document consulted when any legal action might be necessary relative to a vessel's cargo. The Manifest, properly made out and sworn to by the master, had to be presented to the collector, consul, or other appropriate authority, before a ship entered or cleared port. A typical Manifest would have columns for marks and numbers, packages and contents, numbers of entries, shipper, consignee, etc., in addition to the vessel's name and home port, tonnage, owner's names, and the ports of departure and destination. Most of the manifests within this collection fall into the category of 'Clearance' Manifests.

Included also is a sworn statement of accuracy (which is usually included with the aforementioned Clearance papers in this collection), signed by the master, and verified with a statement signed by the collector.


Printed document of various sizes and formats. "License" was often prominently printed near the top of the document, as is the case for this collection. Signatures of Customs officials are present, and there is a general absence of decorative engraving.

The License was a product of the Act of 1783 entitled, "An Act for enrolling and licensing Ships or Vessels to be employed in the Coasting Trade and Fisheries, and for regulating the same." It was issued through the Customs Service to vessels, regardless of size, authorizing them to engage in either fishing or the coastal trade for a period of one year. Any vessel licensed fo these trades that exceeded 20 tons would also need to have an Enrollment Certificate. Registered vessels were not required to have a license. These documents are frequently found in maritime collections, with the current collection not an exception to the rule.


Printed document of various sizes and styles, even within this collection, as aesthetics vary by period and port of issue. Enrolment (spelled with one 'l' on the document), contained some variation of the phrase " conformity to an act of the Congress of the United States of America entitled, An Act for Enrolling and Licensing Ships or Vessels..." The world "Enrolment" is often printed prominently, and engraved eagles and other embellishments are frequently found on earlier documents. The signatures of various Customs officials are present, along with the official stamps and seals.

By the Act of 18 February 1793, all vessels over 20 tons engaged in the domestic coasting trade of the fisheries, in order to be entitled to the privileges of ships of the United States, had to be enrolled. The document was issued by the Customs surveyor, or the collector, and the enrollment qualifications and procedures were the same as those for registering ships. "And the same duties and authorities are given and imposed on all officers respectively in relation to such Enrollments...and the ships so enrolled, with the master or owner; are subject to the same requisites, as are in those respects provided for ships registered." In addition, enrolled vessels carried a license for either fishing or coastal trade. A cash bond, the amount of which depended upon the size of the vessel, was necessary to enroll a vessel, and they could be revoked if the conditions of the document were violated. Enrolment Certificates are fairly common maritime manuscripts, and they can provide valuable information about a vessel or her owners.


Bonds for duties on imported goods were fairly standardized printed documents with little or no ornamentation. If the duties for an imported cargo were over $200, the owner or consignee of the cargo could either pay immediately or sign this document, which bonded him for twice the amount of the duties. Blunt's 1837 edition of Shipmaster's Assistant states that the regulations at that time indicated one-half the duties were to be paid within three months from the importation date.


Enrolled vessels were also bonded, to insure that the "...vessel shall not be employed in any foreign trade during the continuance of the act entitled 'An Act laying an Embargo on all ships and vessels in the ports and harbours of the United States'..." It also states, after the sum is verified, that the vessel can now "...depart this port, and pursue her lawful business," on a specified date of issue. Document contains the signature of the Deputy Collector, and a Customs seal.


These Circulars (i.e. printed letters or announcements), were issued by the Treasury Department and sent out to the collectors at ports throughout the nation. It was the primary method used to keep each district abreast of the latest legislation and conditions affecting custom administration. Circulars often contain the signature of the Secretary of the Treasury.


On Roll 9, there are several documents that appeared to be indications of payment towards a spouse or relation to a specific sailor who was incapacitated. It contained details on payment, duration of payment, and explanation of why the payment was issued.

Biographical Sketch


Peter B. Barbeau was a prominent merchant and community leader in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, during the nineteenth century. He was born June 29, 1800, in LaPrairie, Quebec, and died in the Sault on October 17, 1882. According to available information, Barbea arrived in the Sault in 1817. He was initially employed by the Hudson's Bay Company, but eventually entered the service of John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company. After a tenure of company service in Baraboo, Wisconsin, he turned to Sault Ste. Marie in 1834. In the same year he was naturalized as a U.S. citizen at Mackinac, and indentured as a clerk under Gabriel Franchere (factor of the American Fur Company).

Mr. Barbeau continued in the employ of the company until 1842, when, after being refused an increase in salary, he resigned his position to embark upon his own commercial endeavors. He eventually opened a general store and trading post in Sault Ste. Marie and organized an extensive fishery on Lake Superior. Archange LaLonde of the Sault and Barbeau were married around 1831. Two of three daughters survived to marry prominent area merchants. Henrietta married Myron W. Scranton, who purchased Barbeau's store in 1864. Flavia married James Pendill of Marquette, who had established a major sawmill west of the Sault as early as 1834.

In addition to Barbeau's commercial interests, he maintained an active career in civic affairs. He became a county commissioner in 1838. He was elected to the state legislature in 1842, and Register of Deeds in 1845. The following year he secured a county judgeship. In 1849 and again in 1879 he was elected village president of Sault Ste. Marie. Barbeau was an early and effective advocate of the first shipping lock at Sault Ste. Marie, and when the second lock was opened in 1872, he presided over the dedication ceremonies.

During his years of residency in the Upper Peninsula, Barbeau acquired extensive holdings of property in the area. A log house at the corner of Barbeau Lane and Water Street served as the first Barbea home and remained in the family until 1895. He purchased and resided in the former Indian Agency house, previously the residence of Henry Schoolcraft. He owned and took possession of Chippewa Street, which was later changed to Barbeau. The settlement of Barbeau, its post office and Barbeau Point were named after him. Bass Lodge, built on Neebish Island ca. 1850, remained in the family until 1873. He also operated trading posts at Grand Marais and LaPointe on Lake Superior.


George Johnston was the son of one of the most influential fur traders and merchants on Lake Superior. John Johnston was of noble birth, emigrating to the Lake Superior region from Ireland around 1790. Soon after his arrival he established himself in the trade and eventually married the daughter of Waub-o-jeeg, a prominent chief of the Lake Superior Chippewas. He settled permanently at Sault Ste. Marie around 1792, establishing a small farm and trading post at the foot of St Mary's Falls.

Born in the Sault in 1796, George Johnston was sent away to receive a formal education in the English tradition at Montreal. He returned to Sault Ste. Marie in 1808. He remained conscious of his background throughout his life and became known for a refined and aloof bearing reflective of his upbringing.

The Johnston household was a hub of social activity in that period and the family was renowned for its gracious hospitality throughout the old Northwest. In such an atmosphere Johnston became intimately acquainted with the dominant cultures of the region and eventually became fluent in the French, Chippewa and English languages. He became equally well- acquainted with the geography of the Upper Great Lakes. This knowledge, together with his linguistic capabilities, came to serve him well as an interpreter, explorer and collector of Indian folklore for Henry Schoolcraft.

Johnston served in the British Army during the War of 1812, and survived the engagement at Mackinac Island on August 4, 1814. After the war he and a brother engaged in a short-lived trading venture on Drummond Island. He witnessed the arrival and firm establishment of American power at Sault Ste. Marie with the coming of the Lewis Cass expedition to Lake Superior in 1820. Johnston himself took American citizenship, and he and his family were largely responsible for placating the local tribes and easing the transition to American control. The 1820's saw the arrival of an American garrison in the Sault and construction of Fort Brady, the first in a string of outposts along what then constituted the old northwest frontier. An Indian Agency was established here in the same decade with the famous Henry R. Schoolcraft being appointed as first agent. A marriage between Schoolcraft and Jane Johnston resulted in a working relationship between the two brothers-law that was to span several decades and result in Schoolcraft's famous works on Indian ethnology, writings based largely on the information supplied by George Johnston.

Johnston began a controversial career in the Indian service when he was appointed by Schoolcraft as Indian sub-agent at the LaPointe agency on Lake Superior. He continued in the capacity of interpreter and gathered folklore for Schoolcraft from 1826 and on into the 1830's when the agency was discontinued. He was appointed to a succession of jobs in the Indian service at the Sault and Mackinac, as government carpenter at Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan, and as interpreter for a U.S. survey party.

Johnston was dismissed from most of his government jobs under controversial circumstances. In the 1830's he initiated a petition against the government for service dating back to 1826 for which he claimed to have never been paid. He also maintained a claim for property purchased by him under a controversial deal involving the Indians. Neither of these issues were settled in Johnston's favor although he pursued them throughout the remaining years of his life. He enjoyed only limited success in the fur trade. He likewise dabbled unsuccessfully in mineral exploration on the Lake Superior copper range. His final endeavor in Sault Ste. Marie was to open a boarding house for tourists in an old Baptist mission there in 1855. By 1860 he ended this venture, and the following year he met a tragic fate, becoming lost at night and perishing in a blizzard.


Mr. Scranton was the son-in-law and one-time business partner of Peter B. Barbeau of the Sault. He married Henrietta Barbeau in 1857, and soon became involved in the business affairs of her father. He purchased the store of the aging Barbeau in 1864 after having gradually assumed an active role in Barbeau's enterprises.

The Barbeau store was located on Water Street, just west of Ashmun, adjacent to the nearby locks. It was one of three general stores operating in Sault Ste. Marie at the time of the Civil War in addition to those of L.P. Trempe and Thomas Ryan.

Besides the operation of this store into the 1880's Scranton also served as postmaster in the Sault in 1869 and again in 1877. (The post office, in fact, occupied a corner of Scranton's hardware store.)

Scranton's family ties undoubtably helped to insure his success. Marrying into the Barbeau family enabled him to assume ownership and responsibility for an established commercial enterprise. Furthermore, another Barbeau daughter married the industrious James Pendill of Marquette. The two brothers-in-law collaborated on a number of commercial ventures in the Lake Superior region, investing heavily in fisheries and lumbering concerns. Scranton's politics were Republican, and his close association with many of the civic and financial leaders of the Sault also helped ensure his success.

Conditions Governing Access

No known access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers using this collection assume full responsibility for conforming to the laws of libel, privacy, and copyright, and are responsible for securing permissions necessary for publication or reproduction.

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Existence and Location of Originals

The original records used to create this microfilm are held by the Bayliss Public Library in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

Existence and Location of Copies

The original microfilm of these records is held by the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, MI.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Copies of these microfilm rolls were purchased by Bowling Green State University from the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University.

Guide to the Sault Ste. Marie and Port Mackinac Collection
Mark Sprang
January 2019
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