There was a time in history in the 1800's when Madison and Fairport were the two leading ports on Lake Erie. During this period of history, nearly four decades in duration, shipbuilding was a major industry. With the completion of the Erie Canal (1825) and both villages prime locations on Lake Erie for refueling and commerce, it is easy to surmise why both were key sites in Lake County's early industrial development.
Madison shipbuidling began in 1828 and flourished thru 1863. Dock Road was the leading by-way for this era of history. The Schooners Bailey (1830), Flying Dutchman (1845), Helen (1835), Tug George Mitchell (1844), Post Boy (1847), and Speed (1848) were some of the first vessels built.
In Grandon / Fairport, the shipbuilding trade arrived around the year 1826 with the launch of the schooner "United States" and lasted thru the end of the century. All - in -all over 50 vessels were built in Fairport and vicinity. Here is the story of one of the schooners - The Madeline
The Madeline was built in in Fairport,Ohio in the winter of 1844-1845 for owners at Mackinac Island. Her length overall was 92', length on deck 55', beam 16' and draft 7'. The height of her masts were 68' and 71'. The Madeline's gross tonnage was 50. Woods native to Northern Michigan were used. The white oak was the preferred material while native pine comprised the decking. Mackinac was her home for nearly 17 seasons. Owners included Henry Selby, William Scott, William C. Hubert, George Kirtland, Thomas Chambers, and the Fitzgerald brothers. Her early years saw her serving mostly the commercial fishing industry carrying barreled fish to the Lower Lakes. The summer of 1947 saw the Madeline chartered as a replacement lightship for the schooner Ocean. After a brief mishap, the Madeline ventured into a new career path. The year 1851-52 saw the schooner journey to Grand Traverse Bay and become an educational tool. William, Michael and John Fitzgerald-grandson of Edmund Fitzgerald, William Bryce, and Edward Chambers had storied careers and their students served many years as Great Lakes captains. Chambers even became a lightkeeper at Whitefish Point. In 1856, Madeline was reported to have carried Mackinac Islanders to Beaver Island when the Mormons were forced out after the assassination of King Strang. The Madeline ended her active career in the Milwaukee vicinity sometime after 1862 while owned and captained by Peter Colberg and Charles Nelson. Eventually abandoned in the mud of the Milwaukee rivers, her legacy survives today in a rebuilt vessel that travels the Lakes each season. The Madeline last visited Fairport in the mid-2000's and will be part of the War of 1812 anniversary celebration reenactment on September 8, 2013 near Put-In-Bay.