Ecorse Rowing Club
Ecorse, Michigan, USA
...a facility dedicated to the City of Ecorse and its surrounding communities providing recreation, exercise, commitment, and competition through the sport of rowing.
Okay, so Detroit isn't the first place that comes to mind when you think of rowing. But then again, Michigan has more freshwater coastline than any other state. And all we rowers need to be happy is some good water!
It all started in 1873...
The History of ECORSE ROWING CLUB
Less than a decade after the close of the Civil War, Ecorse became rowing conscious. In those earliest days shells were unheard of, but huge crowds thronged the river front to watch the competition of first the ten-oar barge and then later the eight and even the six-oar barge races that eventually brought world fame to Ecorse.
Richard LeBlanc was the first to conceive the idea of a rowing club in Ecorse. Promoting the idea among his friends an organization was formed in 1873. Probably less than twenty members became actively interested in the new club but those men established a tradition that has now been carried on for over a century. The club was known as Wah-Wah-Tah-Shee Club, an Indian name - like many other clubs in those times, the club was given an Indian name for luck from the Great Spirit.
For a number of years this organization rowed on the Detroit River in an eight-oar barge. Later they acquired a ten-oar barge and it was in this barge that the Ecorse men entered and won the Northwestern Amateur Rowing Assocation race at Bay City in 1880. Pulling oars in this race were: Will Montie, bow; John Montie, G. Beaubien, G. Sanch, Bob Montie, H. Seavitt, W. McLeod, M Bourassa, H. Labadie, E.J. Montie with W. A. Ferguson, coxswain.
From this crew, the Montie brothers organized the now famous Montie Brother's four-oar crew which went on in later years to defeat all competition.
In 1882, the Wah-Wah-Tah-Shee Club entered the six-oar barge race held in connection with the Northwestern Regatta. The Ecorse men won this race also. This crew included Phillip LeBalc, G. Reach, Lou Seavitt, and M. Bourassa with Ted Ferguson as coxswain. They covered the two-mile course in the extraordinary time of 13 minutes, 57 1/4 seconds.
The first boat built for Ecorse was built by George Clark. The boat was used in practically all of the races in which the Wah-Wah-Tah-Shee Club entered.
The club faltered and became dormant around 1901. In 1938 another group of rowing minded persons, who formerly rowed at Wyandotte, set about the reorganization of the Ecorse club and with only one eight-oar shell they started out. Handicaps were plentiful and in 1939 a storm that practically destroyed the club building also severely damaged their only shell. However, during the winter the members rebuilt both club and shell and in 1940 not only their quest for rowing championship but for boats and equipment became a main issue in Ecorse. Businessmen, industries, Board of Education and City Officials found rowing to benefit their city. First by giving the youths a clean healthful sport and also by keeping them busy they had less time to drift into trouble and become an asset to juvenile delinquency.
As a reward for the support of the citizens of Ecorse, the boat club manned by a group of real leaders, paid off with honors galore. Ecorse became the center of attraction of boat clubs all over the US and by 1941 Ecorse was known to every competing oarsmen from St. Louis to Cambridge, Mass. Ecorse became a feared organization when they rolled out of town with the most prized victories of the regatta.
Much of the success can be given to the old master of rowing, Jim Rice, who had a great knack for teaching as well as coaching high school students and his victorious crews will long be remembered. In many cases his scholboy crews not only won the scholastic events, but the same crew rowed as Ecorse Boat Club and defeated Jr. and Sr. crews from other well-known clubs.
The boat club had only one eight-oar shell in 1940 and in 1946 a 60'x80' Quonset Hut was donated to the club by Great Lakes Steel Co. and other interested parties of Ecorse. In 1947 it had 25 shells and the club's membership had doubled from 50 to 100 members. Today the club has 15 shells and over 100 members. The club also has 8 rowing ergs, weight training equipment and various exercise equipment for off-water training.
Each year the Ecorse Rowing Club sponsors a regatta, which attracts crews from places like Chicago, St. Louis, Windsor, Detroit, Bay City, Wyandotte, Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Toledo.
Today the Ecorse Rowing Club offers competitive, recreational and learn-to-row programs. Crews are comprised mostly of adults over the age of 27, who compete in regattas throughout the country. Unlike the early crews, women make up a large portion of today's crews, with more than half the crew being female.