E is for “Eastern States”


My grandparents - Albert B. Cleage & Pearl D. Reed in 1909.
My grandparents – Albert B. Cleage & Pearl D. Reed in 1909.

For this year’s April A-Z Challenge I will be blogging everyday using items taken from the letters written by my grandfather to my grandmother from 1907 to 1912, starting with “A” and moving right through the alphabet to “Z” during April.


onboard“June 27, 1909 (On board the Steamer “Eastern States” – Lake Erie)
This is Sabbath night about 10:00 o’clock and we are about six hours ride out of Detroit and about twelve miles from land in the shortest direction.

Surroundings are such as to impress one with his insignificance and emphasize the fact that he is indeed kept by Jehovah’s care. I shall first endeavor to acquaint you with the boat on which I am working. It’s name is “The Eastern States” and runs from Detroit to Buffalo. We leave Detroit one day at 5 PM and arrive in Buffalo the next morning at 8 o’clock, staying in Buffalo all day we leave again for Detroit in the Evening at 5 pm. You see we spend one day in Detroit and one in Buffalo. Today we were in Detroit and would it interest you to know how I spent it? Well, if it will interest you; after breakfast was over about 9 am, I went down to our “quarters” (I suppose you have only a faint conception of what that word means – I describe it later.) and slept until 11:30 – served lunch, after which Aldridge and I walked up town for about 2 hours – smoked some cigars, came back to the boat and took a couple of hours more of sleep. So you see I am putting in plenty of time sleeping. This stuff I’m sure does not interest you and I will not bore you longer but as I promised to say something about our “quarters”

This isn't the dining room of the Eastern States but the City of Detroit was a sister ship so it was probably similar.
This isn’t the dining room of the Eastern States but the City of Detroit was a sister ship so it was probably similar.

It is one large room about 35 x 40 ft. in which are 32 beds – just think of it!! Those beds or better bunks are arranged in tiers of three and I at the present time am sitting on my bed (the top one) and there are two other fellows below me. What ventilation we get comes through six small port holes the diameters of which are about 6 in.

The fellows are a cosmopolitan aggregation, men from everywhere and at any time you can hear arguments and discussions on all subjects – Sensible and nonsensible. There are several students on board – boys from Howard University, Wilberforce University, Oberlin University, Michigan, and Indiana and out of them there are some very fine fellows to know…  I could talk all night about the desirable and the non-desirable features of my Steamboat experience…”

You can read an earlier and more complete post about the Steamer Eastern States here.


19 thoughts on “E is for “Eastern States””

  1. I actually really envy this guy his experiences! It sounds like he was having a great time and getting to explore places. And getting lots of sleep. haha. I am a bit sleep-deprived right now due to foster kittens!

  2. I love your grandfather’s writing style. The gratitude and humility, the effort he takes to describe his surroundings, his concern that he should not bore Pearl–and yes, the hints at the rich variety of conversations he both overheard and partook in, Very few people take the trouble to write as well as this anymore.

    1. People did seem to write better back when letters were an important way to communicate. They probably talked and told stories better too because it was an important means of entertainment.

    1. Most people probably threw away or lost those letters along the way, but it’s true that there is not going to be a packet of emails with a ribbon around them found in the attic one day. People move a lot more too so things tend to get lost.

  3. He must have met a lot of interesting people along with some not so interesting. I would have loved to listen to him tell stories.

    1. I’m pretty sure they didn’t have to go through security and the food was good. You arrived with your luggage and the surroundings were posh.

  4. Hi Kristin!

    I’m hopping over from A Sunday Drive and liked your post about your family history. What lovely pictures. I am now a happy follower of your blog!

    I am a 4th Degree Black Belt and children’s author. For the month of April I decided to review 26 picture books as part of the A to Z Challenge. If you get a chance, I would love for you to visit my blog…

    Take care,

    Donna L Martin

  5. Love all his “Particular’s” in his ventures. How I would of loved to be on the receiving end of those letters. Those two had a very intimate relationship with letter writing.

    1. Those particulars are what makes the story come to life. I had never thought what life on a Steamer would have been like for the staff. All the movies show it from the passenger side.

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