We have already referred to the batteaux. These, at the outbreak of the American revolutionary war, were being gradually superseded by the Schenectady, and still later by the Durham, boats, though they did not finally disappear until half a century later. The Schenectady boats were so called after the town of that name on the Mohawk river, in the State of New York, where they were built. They were greatly used by the U. E. Loyalists, who fled from the revolted North American colonies during the progress of the war and on the conclusion of peace to make their homes in Canada. They are described as "being flat-bottomed, generally small, and rigged with an ungainly sail." Families who intended going from the United States to Canada would either themselves build or cause others to construct for them such boats as would be required. Murray gives us the following description of the Durham boats. He says they were "long, shallow, and nearly flat-bottomed. The chief instrument of steerage is a pole two feet long, shod with iron, and crossed at short intervals with small bars of wood like the feet of a ladder; the men place themselves at the bow, two on each side, thrust their poles into the channel, and, grasping successively the wooden bars, work their way toward the stern, thus pushing on the vessel in that direction."--(Canniff.)
Of the vessels built at Carleton Island during the war of independence one of the largest appears to have been the Ontario, which was pierced for and carried 22 guns. She was under the command of Captain Andrews, of the Royal Navy. This officer was also the first commissioner at the dock yard, besides being the commodore of the small fleet which was maintained upon the lake principally for the conveyance of troops and stores for their use. Some time between the years 1780 and 1783--there is some dispute as to the exact year, but the former date appears the more probable--whilst the Ontario was proceeding from Niagara to Oswego, having on board, in addition to her crew, a detachment of the 8th King's Regiment under the command of Colonel Burton [sic: Bolton], she encountered a fearful storm, and her gallant commander and all under his charge were totally lost. No less than one hundred and seventy-two persons perished on this occasion. In 1788 a survey of all the lakes and harbors from Kingston to Michillimackinac was made by Deputy Surveyor General Collins, acting under instructions received from Lord Dorchester, the then Governor of Canada. Reading the report made on the work by Collins, in the light of a century's experience, one is tempted to amusement at his statements about what he considered should be the tonnage of vessels built for service upon the lakes. We give his report in his own words:--
"Vessels sailing on these waters being seldom for any length of time out of sight of land, the navigation must be considered chiefly as pilotage, to which the use of good natural charts are essential, and therefore much wanted. Gales of wind or squalls rise suddenly upon the lakes, and from the confined state of the waters, or want of sea room (as it is called), vessels may in some degree be considered as upon a lee shore, and this seems to point out the necessity for their being built on such a construction as will best enable them to work to windward. Schooners should, perhaps, have the preference as being rather safer than sloops. They should be from eighty to one hundred tons burthen on Lake Ontario and fifteen tons burthen on Lakes Erie and Huron; but if not intended to communicate between these two lakes they may then be the same size as on Lake Ontario; and if this system it approved there can be no necessity to deviate from it, unless an enemy should build vessels of greater magnitude or force; but as the intent of bringing any such forward, at least, the building of them, can never remain a secret, there may be always time to counteract such a design by preparing to meet them, at least on equal terms. It does not seem advisable nor do I know any reason to continue the practice of building vessels flat bottomed or to have very little draft of water; they are always unsafe, and many of the accidents which have happened on the lakes have perhaps in some degree been owing to that construction. On the contrary, if they are built on proper principles for burthen, as well as sailing, they are safer and will find sufficient depth of water proportioned to any tonnage which can be requisite for them upon these lakes."
The Government had ship building yards at Murney's and at Navy Points. Among the vessels constructed there was the Speedy, schooner, besides the Mohawk, Mississaga and the Duke of Kent. About the same time also, that is, between 1776 and 1782, came the large influx of U. E. Loyalists from the United States to Canada. For the most part they made use either of the batteaux or of open boats to convey themselves and their families, together with such small earthly possessions as remained to them, across the lake. The most of the early commanders of ships plying upon the lakes belonged to the Royal Navy. Among them were Captains Bouchette, Earle, Fortiche [sic: Fortier], McKenzie, Richardson, Steele and Paxton. The first named of these officers had in 1793 the entire command of the naval force on Lake Ontario. His son, Joseph Bouchette, who was born in 1774, made the first survey of Toronto harbor in 1793. Under date 1831 he thus describes the scene of his labors:--"General Simcoe, who then resided at Navy Hall, Niagara, having formed extensive plans for the improvement of the colony, had resolved upon laying the foundations of a provincial capital. I was at that period in the naval service of the lakes, and the survey of Toronto (York) harbor was entrusted by his Excellency to my performance. I still distinctly recollect the untamed aspect which the country exhibited when first I entered the beautiful basin, which thus became the scene of my early hydrographical operations. Dense and trackless forests lined the margin of the lake and reflected their inverted images on its glassy surface. The wandering savage had constructed his ephemeral habitation beneath their luxuriant foliage--the group then consisting of two families of Mississagas--and the bay and neighboring marshes were the hitherto uninvaded haunts of immense convoys of wild fowl. Indeed, they were so abundant as in some measure to annoy us during the night."
This was in May, 1793, and from contemporary records it appears that Governor Simcoe made his first visit to the site of the proposed capital of the young province at the same time. The Gazette of May 9th, 1793, printed and published at Newark, tells us that on May 3rd of that year, "his Excellency, the Lieutenant-Governor, accompanied by several military gentlemen, set out in boats for Toronto, round the head of Lake Ontario by Burlington Bay, and in the evening his Majesty's vessels, the Caldwell and Buffalo, sailed for the same place."
The stay of the Governor and his friends in Toronto could not have been of long duration,for in the Gazette of May 16th it is announced that "on Monday, the 13th, about 2 o'clock, his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor and suite arrived at Navy Hall from Toronto; they returned as they had gone, in boats round the lake." A little earlier than this in the same year, the Gazette of April 18th, 1793, also informs us that "his Majesty's sloop, the Caldwell, sailed the 5th inst. from Niagara for Fort Ontario (Oswego) and Kingston." Again on the 13th of the month we learn from the same source that "there arrived in the river (at Niagara) his Majesty's armed schooner, the Onondago, in company with the Lady Dorchester, merchantman, after an agreeable passage from Kingston of thirty-six hours." The following is a list of those who came as passengers on board of the former vessel: --Mr. L. Crawford, Mr. J. Denison, the great-grandfather of Toronto's present (1893) Police Magistrate, Captain Thomas Fraser, Mr. Joseph Forsyth, Captain Archibald Macdonald, Lieutenant McCaw, 60th Foot, and Mr. J. Small, Clerk of the Executive Council. A few weeks later, on May 2nd, the Gazette says, "on Sunday morning early, his Majesty's ship Caldwell arrived here, and on Monday also arrived from Kingston, the Onondago in twenty-three hours." The point of arrival is, of course, Niagara.
"The civil and military authorities of the province met his Royal Highness at Quebec and paid him all the honors due to his elevated station. After a short stay there, and many visits to the chief objects of interest in that neighbourhood, he determined to pay a visit to the great object of wonder and admiration in America, the Falls of Niagara, the fame of which had excited a lively interest, even then, in England. His Royal Highness and suite left Quebec for Montreal in a number of the ordinary caleches of the country, drawn by French ponies, and urged over the rough roads by Canadian habitant drivers, with pipe in mouth, as is their custom. From Montreal they proceeded to Lachine, in the same primitive fashion, where the Royal party embarked in a large batteaux, manned by hardy voyageurs, to stem the mighty St. Lawrence. After many 'a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull altogether,' and many amusing mishaps and adventures, thoroughly enjoyed by the Royal party, they at length reached still water at Oswagatchun--now Ogdensburg--where they were met by a barge from Kingston belonging to my brother, Peter Clark, Esq., Clerk of the Legislative Council, and manned by a force of military and sailors from the latter city, where they were quickly and safely conveyed. They were soon embarked on board the King's ship, Mohawk, commanded by Commodore Bouchette, grandfather of the present Commissioner of Customs. In this vessel they proceeded up Lake Ontario to Navy Hall, on the Niagara River, the residence of his Excellency Sir John Graves Simcoe. The Royal party was there received and entertained with all the state and dignity that was possible, by his Excellency and the various civil and military authorities. With much difficulty horses and saddles were procured for the whole party, when they proceeded along the banks of the river to the Falls, where at that period there was but one small log hut for the reception of visitors. Their horses being tied to the trees, they proceeded by an Indian path to the Table Rock. Some of the more adventurous succeeded in descending beneath it, by means of a rude rickety Indian ladder. Curiosity being satisfied, the Royal party made their way to Queenston, where an ample and substantial lunch was prepared by the Hon. Robert Hamilton, who had the honor of entertaining the illustrious visitors. They then returned to Niagara, where they dined in the evening with his Excellency the Governor. Many of the great chiefs and warriors of the Six Nations, headed by the renowned Capt Joseph Brandt, in full war paint, gave the war dance before his Excellency's residence for the amusement of the Royal party. The next morning a large party of the swiftest And most skilful of the young warriors got up a match of baseball of a very exciting character. Then there were foot races and several other characteristic games, in which his Royal Highness took a very warm interest, and expressed the high gratification he felt in witnessing them. After having examined the Fort and other objects of interest connected with the French occupation, the Royal party embarked for Kingston, en route for Quebec. The frontier towns on the American side had not then been transferred to the United States authorities."
Collins' report on the harbour of York (Toronto) has already been quoted. There is another report somewhat analogous from Governor Simcoe preserved in the archives at Ottawa concerning York harbour and the erection of barracks for the Queen's Rangers. In this letter Simcoe says that it was a most desirable harbour. The spot of land referred to is Hanlan's Point. This was Gibraltar Point, and on it was a large block-house, which stood about a hundred feet north of Hanlan's Hotel from about 1796 until 1825. It was dismantled in 1815. The "bottom of the harbour" is the Don. It may be said that the proposed buildings of stone were never erected. The first huts built were on the west side of the old fort--a row of six, that stood on the left side of the eld gate at the eastern entrance to the fort. The letter is written by Lieut.-Governor Simcoe to Col Alured Clarke, of the Royal Engineers, Quebec, and reads:--
"I lately examined this harbour and found it to be without comparison the most proper situation for an arsenal in every extent of that word that can be met with in this province. The Spit of Land which forms its entrance is capable of being fortified with a few heavy guns as to prevent any vessel from entering the harbour or from remaining within it. From the diversity of the Sand Banks any small point of ground is sufficiently strong to be selected for the present purpose, and which, as circumstances shall require, may be occupied to the widest extent. At the bottom of the harbour there is a situation admirably adapted for an arsenal and dockyard; and there flows into the harbour a river, the banks of which are covered with excellent timber. Upon this river I propose to construct a sawmill, principally for the benefit of the settlement, but which, I have no doubt, will, at the cheapest rate, supply every material that may be wanted for his Majesty's service in the various ports on Lake Ontario. I have fixed upon a site for a place for a town on the main shore; and another, where I propose to build barracks for the king's troops. These barracks 1 have the idea of constructing so as to hold 250 men and officers with health and conveniency. The ground not being as yet surveyed, I cannot transmit to your Excellency a plan. But my general idea is to build them of stone and in the form of an oblong of three sides, a single story in height, enclosing the angles to the land with a kind of breast-work of sod, to leave an opening towards the harbour for a battery en barbette. I have beard of two eighteen pounders that were sunk in the lake after the late peace. They are described as being good guns and easy to be weighed. If I obtain them, I should propose to place them and some heavy carronades on the part of the harbour opposite to the intended barracks, where I should wish to build a storehouse that might occasionally serve as a blockhouse to secure such batteries as may be necessary for the troops to erect. I must observe to your Excellency that at this point there is an excellent harbour for batteaux."
In the summer of 1793 there appeared on Lake Ontario for the first time the premier merchantman built in Canada. She was named the York, and had been constructed on the River Niagara in the previous year, 1792. Although sailing vessels were now being used, not only for the conveyance of merchandise, but also of passengers, other modes of transit by water were far from being obsolete, for we read in the Gazette, published August 1st, 1793, that "a few days ago the first division of his Majesty's corps of Queen's Rangers left Queenston for Toronto, now York, and proceeded in batteaux round the head of the Lake Ontario, by Burlington Bay." The second detachment of this gallant corps was, however, more favored, for we learn from the same authority that they "sailed in the King's vessels, the Onondago and Caldwell, for the same place." The last portion of the regiment left on the 29th of July, and they were accompanied by the General himself, the Gazette telling us: "On Monday evening his Excellency, the Lieutenant-Governor, left Navy Hall and embarked on board his Majesty's schooner, the Mississaga, which sailed immediately, with a favorable gale for York, with the remainder of the Queen's Rangers." Some days later the Onondago and Caldwell, having returned to Niagara from York, (Toronto) again sailed from the former port, the first conveying the Chief Justice of the province, the Honorable William Osgoode, and the Attorney-General, Mr. John White, to Kingston, the second having on board, en route for York, Major Littlehales, who was the much valued private secretary to the Lieut.-Governor. The next notice we have relating to the fleet on Lake Ontario is contained in the following general order, dated York, 26th of August, 1793 "His Excellency, the Lieutenant Governor, having received information of the success of his Majesty's arms under His Royal Highness, the Duke of York, it is His Excellency's orders, that on the raising of the Union Flag at twelve o'clock to-morrow, a royal salute of twenty-one guns is to be fired, to be answered by the shipping in the harbor, in respect to His Royal Highness and in commemoration of the naming this harbor from his English title, York. E. B. Littlehales, Major of Brigade." The records of 1794 are very barren, but we do learn that early in that year the "Anondaga of 14 guns," the same vessel as that commanded by Commodore Bouchette, the "Onondago," there being some slight confusion in the names, was stranded at the entrance to the harbor and given up for lost. She was, however, got off the shoal and floated into deep water by the exertions of Lieutenant Joseph Bouchette. This was the same officer whom Governor Simcoe had already instructed to make A survey of these waters. Several journeys appear to have been undertaken on the lake and River Thames during 1794 by the Governor, but they were all performed, so far as we can ascertain, in open boats. The following year, 1795, in June, General Simcoe is again at Navy Hall, Newark, and there is visited by, and hospitably entertains, the famous French traveller, the Duke of Rochefoucault de Liancourt. We quote from the published diary of that nobleman the following remarks. Writing from Detroit, while en route to Navy Hall, on June 21st, 1795, he says: "After a hearty breakfast on board the Chippaway frigate, commanded by Captain Hara--where we learned that this vessel, which is about 400 tons burthen, cost five thousand pounds sterling--we embarked for Chippaway," we presume on board one of the boats belonging to that ship, for he further tells us it was a king's vessel and manned by six soldiers, who were excellent hands at rowing, and that the commandant insisted on Lieutenant Faulkner attending him as far as Niagara. Arriving at Navy Hall, continuing his narrative, he relates:--
"Some trifling excursions we made in the environs of the city, and especially a tour of four days with the Governor along the banks of the lake, afforded us an opportunity of seeing the interior of the country. The chief purpose of this journey was to reach the extremity of the lake. A boat made of the bark of trees and destined for the Governor's excursions between Detroit and Kingston contained the whole company." He then proceeds to say who they were; then continuing, say:--"Twelve chasseurs of the Governor's regiment rowed the boat, which was followed by another vessel carrying tents and provisions." Again, says the same writer, "Governor Simcoe intends to make York the centre of the naval force on Lake Ontario. Only four gun-boats are at present on this lake, two of which are constantly employed in transporting merchandise; the other two, which alone are fit to carry troops and guns and have oars and sails, are lying under shelter until an occasion occurs to convert them to their intended purpose. It is the Governor's intention to build ten smaller gun-boats on Lake Ontario and ten on Lake Erie. The ship carpenters, who construct them, reside in the United States and return home every winter."The Duke was at this time expecting a communication from Lord Dorchester, respecting his own future movements, and he records with some disappointment on July 6th, that "the English ships are not yet arrived from Quebec."
After a visit of eighteen days at the Governor's residence, the Duke left there for Kingston, on July 10th, embarking on the "Onondago," a cutter pierced for twelve guns, but in time of peace only carrying six. Arrived at his destination, he remarks regarding the Canadian navy:--
"The Royal Navy is not very formidable in this place; six vessels compose the whole naval force, two of which are small gunboats, which we saw at Niagara, and which are stationed at York, two small schooners of twelve guns, viz: the "Onondago," in which we took our passage, and the "Mohawk," which is just finished; a small yacht of eighty tons, mounting six guns,as the two schooners, which have lately been taken into dock to be repaired, form the rest of it. All these vessels are built of timber fresh cut down and not seasoned, and for this reason last never longer than six or eight years. To preserve them, even to this time, requires a thorough repair. They must be heaved down and caulked, which costs at least one thousand to one thousand two hundred guineas. This is an enormous price, and yet it is not so high as on Lake Erie, whither all sorts of naval stores must be sent from Kingston, and where the price of labor is still higher. The timbers of the Mississaga, which was built three years ago, are almost all rotten. It is BO easy to make provision for ship-timber for many years to come, as this would require merely the felling of it, and that too at no great distance from the place where it is to be used, that it is difficult to account for this precaution not. having been adopted. Two gunboats, which are destined by Governor Simcoe to serve only in time of war, are at present on the stocks; but the carpenters who work at them are but eight in number. The extent of the dilapidations and embezzlements, committed at so great a distance from the mother country, may be easily conceived. In the course of last winter, a judicial enquiry into a charge of this nature was instituted at Kingston. The Commissioner of the navy and the principal ship-wright, it was asserted, had clearly colluded against the king's interest; but interest and protection are as powerful in the new world as in the old; for both the Commissioner and ship-wright continue in their places.
"Captain Bouchette commands the naval force of Lake Ontario, and is at the head of all the marine establishments, yet without the least power in money matters. This gentleman possesses the confidence both of Lord Dorchester and Governor Simcoe; he is a Canadian by birth, but entered the British service when Canada fell into the power of England.
"While Arnold and Montgomery were besieging Quebec, Lord Dorchester, disguised as a Canadian, stole on board his ship, into that city, on which occasion he displayed much activity, intrepidity and courage. It is not at all a matter of surprise that Lord Dorchester should bear in mind this eminent service. By all accounts he is altogether incorruptible, and an officer who treats his inferiors with great mildness and justice.
"In regard to the pay of the Royal Marine force on Lake Ontario, a captain has ten shillings a day, a lieutenant six, and a second lieutenant three shillings and sixpence. The seamen's wages are eight dollars per month. The masters of merchantmen have twenty-five dollars, and the sailors irom nine to ten dollars a month.
"Commander Bouchette is among those who most strenuously opposed the project of moving to York, the central point of the force on the lake, but his family reside at Kingston and his lands are situated near that place. Such reasons are frequently of sufficient weight to determine political opinions."
The Duke's meaning here is plain enough, namely, that by Bouchette's aid Lord Dorchester (who at the time referred to was known as Sir Guy Carleton, being afterwards created Baron Dorchester), succeeded in entering Quebec, whilst in a state of siege, but he expresses himself rather loosely. It would be impossible for a comparatively large vessel, such as was under Bouchette's command, to pass undetected through a vigilant blockading squadron. The real facts are these. Sir Guy Carleton had heard in Montreal of the danger which threatened Quebec. He thereupon resolved to get his small forces together in defence of that important place. Montgomery approaching, he (Carleton) ordered the troops to withdraw to his fleet. Unfortunately, they were intercepted by the Americans but Carleton escaped. In a small boat, with muffled oars, he was rowed at the dead of night through the American vessels below Montreal, and, after a perilous journey, reached Quebec. This boat belonged to Bouchette's ship and was manned by sailors under his command.
The same authority in telling us that Bouchette was opposed to Governor Simcoe's plan of making York the capital, rather more than hints that his opposition was from interested motives. This unworthy insinuation may be passed ever unnoticed.
"Kingston seems better fitted for a trading town than Newark, (Niagara) were it only for this reason, that the ships which arrive at the latter place and are freighted for Lake Erie, pass by the former to sail again up the river as far as Queenston, where the portage begins. Nor is the position of Newark equally advantageous for sharing the trade. in provisions, with which the lake may one day supply Lower Canada, England, perhaps all Europe, if Upper Canada should ever answer the expectations entertained by Governor Simcoe."
The Duke took his departure from Kingston for the United States by way of Oswego on July 22nd, 1795, sailing in a barge belonging to Major Dobson, commanding the troops at Kingston. It was manned by four soldiers quartered in the garrison, under the command of an officer named Lemoine. It took nearly two days to accomplish the journey.
About this time there was running on the lake between Kingston, Oswego and Niagara, a schooner named The Sophia. She appears to have been a quick sailer, as the Gazette informs us that she accomplished in May her journey between Kingston and Niagara in eighteen hours.
In 1796 Governor Simcoe was engaged not only in erecting buildings for the use of the Government at York (Toronto), but also in constructing a wharf and what is spoken of in the correspondence with the commissary of stores, John McGill, Esquire, as a "cannal," This probably was something in the nature of a dock. A boat was also being built "for the purpose of transporting stone," probably from Niagara to York, to aid in the erection of Government House. We give the boatbuilder's receipt for materials he received for this purpose from Mr. McGill. It is copied from the original document preserved in the Parliamentary Library:
"Received of John McGill. Esquire, commissary of stores, etc.. for his Majesty's forces in Upper Canada, for public service ordered by his Excellency Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe. at York. One hundred and forty-three pounds spikes, fifty pounds pitch, thirty-five pounds oakum, eight pounds 20d nails, one grapnail, five inch tarred rope, ninety-eight pounds, thirty pounds bar iron for bolts, having expended the same in building and fitting out a strong boat for the purpose of transporting stone for the Government House.
"SIR,--You are hereby required and directed to purchase from time to time such quantities of rum as may be requisite to give to the men employed at work in the water on the wharf and canal at York, and for so doing this shall be your order and authority.
The Schenectady boats had at this period by no means become obsolete or disappeared, for in the Gazette of October 26th, 1796, is an advertisement offering for sale "an excellent five handed boat, Schenectady built, well painted, allowed to equal any running to or from that place. Enquire at the Printing Office, Niagara."
The Mohawk, referred to by Rochefoucault, wag in the November following engaged in conveying President Russell from Niagara to York. This gentleman had succeeded Governor Simcoe, who had obtained leave of absence as Governor of the province.
The fact has already been referred to that Canada took the lead in building the early ships which sailed upon the lakes. The Americans purchased a vessel from the British in 1796, known as the Detroit, and she plied on Lake Erie. Not, however, until the following year (1797) were any American built ships afloat either upon Lake Ontario or Erie.
In May of the same year (1797) we again hear of the Mohawk, and also of a vessel which has not been referred to before. She was called the Governor Simcoe, constructed for the North-West Company, the first vessel built for trade upon Lake Ontario, (Canniff, p. 149). About the same time, the fact is mentioned in the Gazette of May 31st, there arrived at Niagara "a deck boat, built and owned by Colonel John Van Rensselaer, of Laningburg, on the North River." The Gazette proceeds further to inform us that "this enterprising gentleman built and completed this and one other of the same bigness (fifty barrels burthen) and conveyed them by high water to Oswego and arrived there without injury this Spring. They are to ply continually between Oswego and this place and Kingston."
"Taken up a Canadian Batteau. She was found adrift the 14th inst., on the Lake is now well secured and the owner may know where she may be found by applying to the printer and paying costs." The Mohawk continued to ply throughout this year upon the lake between the ports of Kingston, Oswego, Niagara and York, but we learn from the Gazette of December 2nd, that "Fears for the fate of the Mohawk are entertained by several persons. It is said minute guns were distinctly heard through moat of Thursday last, but we hope it has suffered no further than being driven back to Kingston." It is also learned from the same source that the Onondago, which has been previously referred to, had been aground in Hungry Bay but had got off safely.
These fears were not wholly groundless, for a day or two later the Simcoe arrived at Niagara, with the intelligence that the Mohawk had encountered a heavy storm, in which she was partially disabled, losing her bowsprit and most of her sails.
In August there was a proposal to place a gunboat on York harbour. A letter in the Simcoe papers in the Archives Department at Ottawa, written by Col. Arnold to President Russell, dated Aug. 21, 1797, says:--
"The selection of York for the capital of the province was made upon the most mature reflection. I therefore trust that the removal to it will neither have been so sudden nor so unforeseen as to have occasioned any material impediment to the due course of the administration of justice, as that is a circumstance which should be particularly guarded against.
"In consequence of your representation of the necessity of a small armed vessel being immediately built at Toronto, to be entirely under the orders of the civil government, for the purpose you mention, you are hereby authorized to build and employ such a vessel, taking care that the same is done in the most economical manner."
The following instance of some of the difficulties attending travelers at the period to which we are referring will prove interesting. It is a notice of the death of Mrs. Gamble, taken from the Toronto Colonist of March 10th, 1859, and was written by a gentleman who, even as late as 1833, had experienced great difficulties, not to say hardships, in his journeying from Quebec to Toronto:--
"Mrs. Gamble continued to reside with her father at Mangerville, New Brunswick, until 1798, when, her husband having in the meantime been promoted to the surgeoncy of his regiment (the Queen's Rangers), she, with her five daughters, the eldest then but thirteen years of age, accompanied by her father and a sister, ascended the River St. John in a bark canoe, crossed the portage by Temiscouata to the Riviere du Loup came up the St. Lawrence and joined Dr. Gamble, then with his regiment in garrison at York."
On March 8th, 1798, Samuel Hurst, of Newark, advertises in the Gazette as follows: "Taken up, some time last fall, in the mouth of the Niagara River, by the subscriber, a three-handed Schenectady boat. The owner, by proving his property and paying the expense, may have her by applying at Mr. Forsyth's store in this town."
On the 19th of the following May the schooner Simcoe, under the command of Captain Murney, arrived at Niagara from Kingston with the intelligence "that upwards of a hundred houses in the lower province have been carried away with the ice this spring." We shall have occasion to refer to Captain Murney later.
"On the stocks at the Bay of Long Point at any time before the 28th of June next, a GOOD SLOOP, ready for launching, in good order and warranted sound and masterly built. She is framed of the beet black 'walnut timber, 38 tuns burthen, and calculated for carrying timber. With her will be sold her rigging and tackle compleat. She will be sold by consent of Mr. Troyer, and a good title with warranty given on the sale. The conditions are for cash only, one half down and the other in three months, with approved security for payment.
"During the late heavy gales of wind which we have had, a vessel loaded with sundry goods was drove on shore at the Mississaque Point at Newark, and another vessel belonging to this town was drove on a place called the ' Ducks' where she received considerable damage. York, November 24."
The Gazette, under date at York, November 29th, 1798, announces from an English source "the very gratifying information of an action having taken place between Admiral Nelson and the French fleet on their return from Alexandria, in which the British were happily victorious." This was headed "Glorious, Glorious News !" and the paper concludes the account of the action, which it gives in full, together with a list of the killed and wounded, thus:--"In consequence of the above important intelligence a salute was fired yesterday at 5 o'clock p. m. from the garrison, and in the evening a general illumination throughout the town took place on the happy occasion."
The following paragraph, showing how difficult were the means of communication at this time throughout the province, appears in the Gazette, dated "York, Saturday, April 13th, 1799" "We anticipated more interesting matter than is contained in our sheet of this week, but in consequence of the non-arrivals by water from Newark (Niagara) and the irregularity of the conveyance by land, nothing important has come to hand. The Gazette labors at present under the greatest possible disadvantage for want of a regular conveyance between this place and Newark."
On August 16th, 1799, the newly appointed Governor, his Excellency Peter Hunter, arrived at York on the schooner Speedy. He sailed from thence to Niagara on the 29th of the same month, but we are given no information as to the name of the ship conveying him, though it was probably the Speedy. Mr. Hunter remained at Niagara until September 8th, when he again set sail, this time for Kingston. As in his previous short journey, the paper does not name the ship on which he embarked, A very few days later, on September 14th, this advertisement appears prominently in the Gazette:
"The Toronto Yacht, Captain Baker, will, in the course of a few days, be ready to make her first trip. She is one of the handsomest vessels of her size that ever swam upon the Ontario, and if we are permitted to judge from her appearance and to do her justice, we must say she bids fair to be one of the swiftest sailing vessels. She is admirably well calculated for the reception of passengers, and can with propriety boast of the most experienced officers and men. Her master builder was a Mr. Denison, an American, on whom she reflects much honor."
"Mr. Denison" is a misprint for Dennis, a gentleman of whom we shall have much more to say hereafter. It is to be regretted that no information is given as to where the Toronto Yacht was built and launched, nor as to her dimensions and tonnage. On November 30th, the Gazette chronicles the death of a raftsman upon the Don by falling from his raft into the river. It adds that "his his remains were interred in Masonic order."
The same papers refer to two other vessels, namely, the Genesee and the Peggy, both schooners. The former appears to have been more than a month in accomplishing the distance between Oswego and Niagara, having "been driven back by heavy gales." The latter vessel, the Peggy, was owned, in part at least, at York (Toronto). The reference made to her is contained in an advertisement running thus:--
"For sale, one moiety of the well-known schooner Peggy. Any recommendation of her sailing or accommodation will be unnecessary. With these particulars the public are well acquainted, and the purchaser will no doubt satisfy himself with personal inspection. For terms of sale apply to the executor and executrix."
Complaint was made even in these early days of excessive port charges, for we find that Capt. Jos. Kendrick, of the Peggy, protested to the Executive Council, and in the Simcoe papers in the archives at Ottawa is the following from the minutes of the council.
Recommended, that a table of the charges made on the entry of vessels and craft of all kinds by the superintendents of the several ports on this and the Upper Lake be laid before the Board, until which time the consideration of this petition is deferred.
The schooner York, which we have mentioned as being the first Canadian merchant vessel, had, as we have just seen, encountered a severe storm on the 29th of November, and was grounded near the mouth of the Geneva river. She became a total wreck, and went entirely to pieces.
"By virtue of a writ of fieri facias, at the suit of Peter Vanalstine, against the goods and chattels of Abner Miles to me directed. I have signed and taken in execution one-third share of the schooner Jemima or Genesee packet, as belonging to the said Abner Miles."
The advertisement proceeds to say that this share will be sold on the sixteenth of the following June to the highest bidder. It concludes by enjoining all persons who have any lien upon the vessel to at once notify the fact to the sheriff. It is signed, "Alexander McDonell, Sheriff."
In the Gazette of September 6th appears this somewhat amusing apology from the printers of the paper: "We hope to be excused for the badness of the quality of the paper we are obliged this day to print on, owing to the non-arrival of the vessel, which has our new supply of that article on board and which we daily expect."
"The situation of two towns seems to have been properly laid out in the eastern part of the Province, the one being where the rapids end, called Cornwall, and the other at the termination of the ship navigation of the lakes, near the island of Livy, named Johnstown.
"Kingston, at the mouth of the St. Lawrence, being the best, harbour for the shipping at this end of the lake, and the place where the batteaux from Montreal resort, must be a town of some consequence, though it is incapable of defence, unless on a system beyond all propriety. It cannot under present circumstances be of very great importance. It has astonishingly increased since the establishment of the Government.
"In the upper part of the province on Lake Ontario, the best harbour is that of Toronto or York. A communication between this place and Lake Huron has been explored, which may be of the utmost commercial and military advantage to the province "
In the first year of this century there was constructed in the township of Marysburgh, a short distance west of the Stone mill, a schooner of some celebrity. It was built by Captain Murney, father of the late Hon. Edward Murney, of Belleville. Captain Murney came to Kingston, in 1797, at the solicitation of Mr. Joseph Forsyth. It was constructed for himself, and was made altogether of red cedar, a kind of wood formerly very plentiful along the bay, and which possesses a most agreeable odor, and is extremely durable. The vessel was named the Prince Edward. John Clark, of Dalhousie, says of this vessel, that he was on board the following year of her building, and that she was a "staunch, good ship, with an able captain." Her size was sufficient to allow 700 barrels of flour to be stowed beneath her hatches. She ran upon Lake Ontario for many years, and made for her owner a small fortune. She was in good condition in 1812, and was employed by Government as an armed vessel. A schooner called Prince Edward, probably the same, Captain Young, was the first vessel to land at the pier when erected at Wellington. (Canniff, p. 153.)
In the same year, 1800, we learn from the source from which we have just quoted, that "a schooner of 100 tons was brought to Clifton, and during the winter of 1801, she crossed by the portage road on immense runners to Queenston, where she again found her native element in the Niagara river." She was in 1804 lost in bringing a cargo to Niagara, with all on board.
On June 13th is this announcement: "Last Monday," that would be on June 8th, "was a day of universal rejoicing in this town, occasioned by the arrival of the news of the splendid victory gained by Lord Nelson over the Danes in Copenhagen Roads, on the 2nd of April last."
In the Niagara Herald of January 18th, 1802, appears the following paragraph: --"The sloop Mary Ann will sail from this town (Niagara) on first favorable day." In addition there was the vessel known as Skinner's Sloop. We learn "through a private letter from Captain AEneas Macdonell to Ensign Chiniquy, dated York Garrison, 28th March, 1802, of the receipt of a budget of news by Skinner's Sloop." (Scadding, p. 527).
On March 30th, 1802, Levi Willard advertises in the Gazette that he "will run a boat from York to the head of the lake once a week. The first departure will be from York, the 31st instant, and from the head of the lake on Saturday every week." This advertisement continues in several successive numbers.
In the Gazette, published on May 15th of the same year, we again have the intelligence of the Governor's arrival at York, and, as in the two preceding years, he came on the Toronto, after a remarkably quick passage from Quebec of nineteen days!
Travelling at this period both by land and lake was a widely different matter from what it is now. There are many living who can remember, and remember with a shudder, what its discomforts were less than fifty years ago. Long after the Upper Province had been settled it was an undertaking of no small magnitude to accomplish a journey, say from New York to Kingston or York. Writers who are presumably well acquainted with the subject, relate how travellers were six weeks in accomplishing the distance between Albany and the Bay of Quinte.
Compare such inconveniences with the comforts obtainable in 1893. A traveller can dine in New York on one Sunday and in Liverpool on the one following. He can breakfast in Toronto, have his lunch, say at Buffalo, and a late dinner in New York, or he can dine in Toronto at a late hour one evening and breakfast in Montreal at a tolerably early hour on the following morning.
In the Gazette, published February 5th, 1803, there is a proclamation from His Excellency, the Lieutenant Governor, Peter Hunter, Esq., constituting two additional places as ports of entry in the following terms:--
"I, Peter Hunter, Esquire, Lieutenant Governor of this Province, do hereby declare and appoint that in addition to the Ports of Entry and Clearance established by and under the authority of a certain act." The document then proceeds to quote this act and to define the locality of the new ports in these words: "The places hereinafter described and specified, that is to say: ... on the west bank of the river Gananoque, in the Township of Leeds, in the County of Leeds, in the District of Johnstown, at or near the place where the said river St. Lawrence and on the north bank of the river Chippawa, in the township of Stamford, in the county of Lincoln, in the district of Niagara, near to the bridge over the said last mentioned river, shall from the fourteenth day of February next, severally and respectively be and the same are by these presents proclaimed to be ports and places of entry and clearance, for all goods and merchandize, brought into this province from the United States of America."
On the 14th of May following the Government schooner Duke of Kent, arrived at York from Kingston, conveying a detachment of troops. This is the first mention we have of this vessel. On June 25th, the Gazette tells its readers that the Lieutenant - Governor with his suite, will sail that day from York for Quebec, via Kingston, and on July 29th the same paper refers again to the arrival in York harbour of the schooner Duke of Kent.
In the Gazette of November 26th there is this notice:--"It is currently reported, and we are sorry to add with every appearance of foundation, that the sloop Lady Washington, commanded by Captain Murray, was lately lost in a gale of wind near Oswego, on her passage to Niagara. Pieces of the wreck and her boat, by which she was recognized, together with several other articles, are said to have been picked up. It is yet uncertain whether the crew and passengers were saved. Among the latter were Messieurs Dunn and Boyd, of Niagara."
The vessel just referred to was the first American craft built on Lake Erie. She was constructed at Four Mile Creek, near Erie, Pa., in 1797. For one season only she sailed on Lake Erie. She was then sold to a Canadian, who took her on wheels round the Falls from Chippawa to Queenston, There she was registered as a British vessel, her name being changed from Washington to Lady Washington.
The business hindrances arising from the delay or non-arrival of expected vessels have previously been referred to. Another instance of it is given in the advertisement published in the Gazette, of December 10th, 1803, by Mr. Quetton St. George, where, after explaining that he had lost a large quantity of goods through the foundering of the Lady Washington, he thus expresses to his customers his regret for their failure to receive their supplies:--
"Mr. St George is very sorry that he has not received his East India goods and groceries. He is sure they are at Oswego, and should they not arrive this season," that is before the navigation of the harbor closed for the winter, "they may," the advertisement concludes, "be looked for early in the spring."
The Gazette of the same date also gives a table of exports and imports at Quebec for the year 1803. It is to be regretted the quantities only are given, not the values. Among the exports are 14,984 barrels of flour and 372,533 bushels of wheat, a large quantity of salted beef, pork and fish, six kegs of tobacco, also the same quantity of Canada balsam, and a large consignment of sarsaparilla. Timber, rough and prepared, forms, as was to be expected, the chief article of export, although it is nearly equalled by furs, among which was the enormous number of 207,229 deer skins.
Navigation must have opened late in 1804 for not until the 22nd of May is there any intelligence in the Gazette respecting the vessels on the lake. Even then the information is most meagre. The fact is merely recorded that upon that date the Lieutenant-Governor and suite sailed from York to Kingston on their way to Quebec. They returned to York on August 29th following. Terrible storms and floods devastated the country early in September and the River Credit rose to such a height that the Indian camp was flooded, its inhabitants barely escaping with their lives and losing all their canoes and arms But a still worse storm took place early in the next month, resulting in the total lose of the Government schooner Speedy. Ihe Gazette narrates the story thus:--
"The Speedy, Captain O. Paxton, left this port on Sunday evening, the 7th of October last, with a moderate breeze from the N W., for Presque Isle, and was descried off that Island on the Monday following before dark, where preparations were made for the reception of the passengers, but the wind coming round from the N. E. blew with such violence as to render it impossible for her to enter the harbor, and very shortly after she disappeared. A large fire was then kindled on shore as a guide to the vessel during the night, but she has not since been seen or heard of, and it is with the most painful sensations we have to say we fear she is totally lost."
The paper goes on to say that enquiry had been made at all the lake ports, hut no information could be obtained about the ship excepting that a mast, compass-box and hen-coop, known to have belonged to her, had been found on the beach at the opposite side of the lake. On board the Speedy were among others. Mr. Justice Cochrane, Mr. Robert J. D. Gray, Solicitor General; Mr. Angus McDonell, Advocate, and a member of the House of Assembly; Mr. John Fisk, High Constable of York, and Mr. George Cowan, who was an Indian interpreter.
"These gentlemen were," the Gazette goes on, "proceeding to the district of Newcastle, in order to hold the Circuit, and for the trial of an Indian, (also on board the Speedy), indicted for the murder of John Sharpe, late of the Queen's Rangers." The sad story concludes by saving that it is feared others, whose names were unknown, had also perished, and that the total loss of life amounted to twenty souls. In the last issue of the Gazette, in December, 1804, there is a reference made to the schooner Peggy. She had brought a valuable consignment of goods for Quetton St. George, and that enterprising gentleman informs his patrons that "they will close his supply for this year." We may conclude, therefore, that though navigation had opened late in the season of 1804 it had not made up for it by closing early. The imports and exports at Quebec for 1804, excepting in wheat, do not show any very great differences from those of the preceding year. Among the latter are 200,043 bushels of wheat, a decrease of no less than 172,490 bushels, but there is a very considerable increase in oats and barley There is, too, a considerable augmentation in the number of deer skins exported. They exceed by more than 41,000 those shipped the year previously. Among the dutiable imports there is an increase in the quantity of rum, but the number of packs of playing cards decreases exactly 3,000 packs. In salt, too, there is a decrease of more than 9,000 minots. But the Canadians were less luxurious in 1804 than in its predecessor, for the importation of Noyeau is conspicuous by its absence.
The records of shipping for 1805 are very barren. The arrival at York and departure of the Lieutenant-Governor for Kingston and Quebec is noted without any information as to the means he employed to transport himself from place to place. Only in November is there a casual reference made to the Toronto Yacht. She had apparently been lying near the Garrison, for we learn from the Gazette of November 16th that "a boat put off from her to the rescue of some persons in danger of drowning, who had been upset from a boat bound from the Credit to Toronto," and which had been, to quote the Gazette, "overset near the Garrison at the entrance of this (York) Harbor." Despite all exertions though, one person and nearly all the cargo, were lost. The officer in command of the Toronto Yacht was Capt. Earl.
"As the public curiosity has been lately considerably excited by a report of Lord Nelson's having fallen in with and obtained a victory over the combined French and Spanish fleet, with the loss of his life, we publish the following letter, with which we have been politely favored (dated 29th December), received by a gentleman in Niagara. The paper then cautions its readers against placing too much reliance on the letter, and proceeds to give its contents, which ran thus:--
"I hasten to let you know that we have received direct information from Albany that Lord Nelson has fallen in with the combined fleet, taking nineteen, sinking two, blew up one, and seven got away. Two admirals (French) and one Spanish taken prisoners. Lord Nelson was shot with a musket ball through the breast and killed. No other officer of distinction on either side was lost. * * * * Lord Nelson's fleet consisted of twenty-seven. It was spoken of as certain in Albany."
By a Gazette extraordinary, dated January 20th following, the news just referred to was fully confirmed. On the same date the President, Alexander Grant, Esquire, ordered a salute to be fired in honor of the victory by the troops in York garrison. The following letter, copied from the original document and addressed to the commissary of stores, will be read with interest:--
"Sir,-- You will please issue to Sergeant Robert Hadden, of the Royal Artillery, one barrel of gunpowder to be used in firing a royal salute in honor of the signal and glorious victory, obtained by the British fleet under Lord Nelson, over the combined fleets of France and Spain, at the entrance of the straights (sic) of Gibraltar on the 21st of October last, and on such other services as may be occasionally required, and for which Sergeant Hadden is hereafter to account.
Later, on February 15th, the Gazette refers to the loss of a boat plying between Oswego and Sandy Creek, near the mouth of the Salmon river, when four people lost their lives. Still later, on June 14th, the Gazette prints a request. "That no person will draw sand or pass with loaded waggons or carts over the new bridge or float at the opening of the Don river," and then proceeds to explain "this source of communication, was intended merely to accommodate the inhabitants of the town in a walk or ride to the Island."
Among other notices that appear in the Gazette of May 16th, 1807, is one appointing "Joseph Chiniquy, Esquire, Collector of Customs at the ports of St. Joseph and St. Mary." By a letter of Governor Gore, written in the following August, we learn that the schooner Toronto had met with an accident, of what particular nature we are not informed. We also see that even those who held such prominent positions as his, were compelled even at this period to have recourse to batteaux in proceeding front place to place.
"We arrived here (Kingston) yesterday after a passage of forty-eight hours. Mrs. Gore suffered very much from sickness and the gallant major was near giving up the ghost. As for myself I never was more hearty in my life." He is on his way to Montreal and proceeds to add:--"I have got two batteaux and shall start at ten o'clock to-morrow, and hope to be with you at furthest on the 17th of next month." In the latter portion of his letter he refers thus to the recent accident to the Toronto Yacht "I am vexed to hear of the Toronto's disaster. For God's sake let us avoid a second Speedy affair."
Unfortunately, there was yet another accident to this same vessel, for on October 17th following the Gazette briefly chronicles the event. It occurred on her passage between Niagara and Toronto, causing her to put back to the former port. At this time the means of communication throughout the province must have been, both by land and water, in a most primitive condition, for almost each number of the Gazette contains complaints about the non-arrival of various articles required by the publishers. This important announcement is made in the Gazette of March 16th, 1808:
"It is with pleasure we inform the public that the dangers to vessels navigating Lake Ontario will in a great measure be avoided by the erection of a lighthouse on Gibraltar Point, which is to be immediately completed in compliance with an address of the House of Assembly to the Lieutenant-Governor."
It has been stated on, perhaps, somewhat doubtful authority that a lighthouse had been commenced at this place in 1799, or even a year earlier, also that the schooner Mohawk had been employed in carrying stone from Niagara for building purposes, and that building had begun. This may have been so, but the undertaking must have been of a private nature, and never came to anything. The Act for the establishment of lighthouses at Isle Forest, near Kingston, at Mississaga Point, near Niagara, and at Gibraltar Point, opposite York, was not passed until 1803, and there is no record of any advantage having been taken of its provisions until this year, 1808. By this Act the maintenance of the lighthouses is provided for by levying a toll of threepence per ton (this would be Halifax currency, equivalent to five cents) "on every vessel, boat, raft or other craft of ten tons burthen or upwards, doubling the point named, inward bound."
We hear of two new vessels this year, namely, the Elizabeth and the Governor Simcoe. They were built by Judge Richard Cartwright, the first for himself and the second for the Northwest Company, to replace one similarly named that had become worn out and whose advent we have already mentioned. These schooners were built and launched at Mississaga Point, at the mouth of the river Cataraqui.
In the Gazette, of April 7th following, there is a reference made to the schooner Mary Ann having sailed from Kingston on the 3rd or 4th inst. "with an elegant assortment of fashionable printed cottons and calicoes," and that her arrival at York is duly expected. The Toronto Yacht was fairly busy in the latter end of 1808 conveying the Governor to and from Niagara and York.
There also appears to have been a schooner on Lake Erie at this time known as the Camden, for in the Gazette, of July 30th reference is made to the Lieutenant Governor's return from a journey to Amherstburg and Sandwich. He is said to have returned to York by Lake Erie "on board the Camden, having had rather a tedious passage of seven days and blowing advene weather."
Navigation closed early in 1808, for on December 14th the Gazette announces that in consequence of the suspension of our water communication with Niagara at the present season "the day of publication would in future be Wednesday, instead of Saturday, as heretofore." This year is remarkable not only as being the first in which the provisions of the Lighthouse Act were enforced, but also as being the last year in which the navigation of the Canadian rivers and lakes was compassed solely by sailing vessels. The introduction of steam power, then threatened, became an accomplished fact in 1809, and as that year marks a new era in the life of our Canadian marine the second portion of the history of that service closes at this period.
Return to Home Port
This electronic edition is based on the original in the collection of the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston.