As soon as hostilities between Great Britain and the United States had ceased, many claims were made by non-combatants en both sides for compensation for losses or injuries inflicted upon them owing to the war.
GENTLEMEN,--I have received your letter of the 25th of February, stating that in the spring of 1813 you had 200 barrels of flour in the store of Nathaniel Merril, at Sodus Bay, on Lake Ontario, tor the purpose of transporting the same to the village of Ogdensburg, for the use of the inhabitants of that vicinity, but when Sodus Bay was captured in the month of June last by the fleet under my command, the said 200 barrels were taken on board, and requesting I would cause you to be compensated for the loss you have thus sustained.
I have, therefore, only to recommend you. gentlemen, to lay the case before such Commissioner or Board as may hereafter be appointed by our respective Governments to investigate similar claims. I am. gentlemen.
The writer of this letter appears to be almost as proficient in concealing his exact meaning and being strictly non-committal in what he does say as a certain astute statesman who is sometimes known as "an old Parliamentary hand."
Peace having been concluded between the United States and Great Britain, and Canadians, having no longer invasion by a foreign power to fear, nor the necessity of taking up arms in defence of their homes forced upon them, naturally turned their thoughts in 1815 to improving the means of internal communication, both by land and water, throughout the country. A steamboat had, as has already been seen, appeared upon the St. Lawrence in 1809, but the calamitous troubles of 1812 and the next few years put an end for a time to commercial enterprise of every description, excepting such as was connected with ship building for warlike purposes and the supply of food, clothing and other necessaries for the troops. In the autumn of 1815 the construction of the first steamboat in Upper Canada was commenced (the Accommodation, though sailing on the St. Lawrence six years previously, being of American build). Of this steamer, afterwards called the Frontenac, much more will be said presently. The passenger traffic on the lakes in this year was carried on much as before the war. Running between York and Niagara were two schooners named the Dove and Reindeer, the latter under command of Capt. Myers. There also ran from Kingston to Sackett's Harbor a fast sailing schooner called the Kingston Packet. Her captain was James Chapman, and the fare each way was two dollars.
"In order to secure to us the possession of Canada in case of a rupture with the United States, the Government has given orders to build upon the lakes new vessels and gunboats suitable for the navigation of those waters. Everything necessary for the arming and equipment of those vessels is preparing in England."
Towards the close of this year, on September 25th, Lieutenant-Governor Gore returned to York after his four years' absence in England. The gunboat Montreal, than lying in the harbor, fired a salute in his honor. Still later can be found in the Kingston Gazette, of November 25th, the following paragraph: --
"We learn with pleasure that a steamboat is about being built in this place to ply between Kingston and Prescott. The shares, we understand, are already taken up, and the work is to be commenced immediately." The Gazette then proceeds to quote from the Montreal Gazette of November 13th,previously, some of the advantages, these being principally the extension of trade, likely to arise to the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada as the result of this undertaking. In November, 1815, the Montreal Gazette notices the lunch there of what is described as that "elegant steamboat, the Car of Commerce, in the presence of an immense crowd of spectators." She was intended for the waters of the Lower St. Lawrence, between Montreal and Quebec.
On the opening of navigation in May, 1816, the schooner Perseverance began plying as a passenger packet, under the command of Captain J. G. Parker, between Kingston and Sackett's Harbor, probably in opposition to Chapman's vessel, the Kingston Packet.
The fact has already been referred to that in the previous October a steamboat, the first built in Upper Canada, had been commenced near Kingston. The following account of the circumstances attending her construction is taken from "The Settlement of Upper Canada," the bay referred to is that of Quinte:--
After peace things did not relapse into their former state. A spirit of enterprise was abroad, especially in the mercantile community. The leading men of Kingston conceived the idea of forming a company to build a steamboat to ply on Lake Ontario and the navigable waters of the St. Lawrence. A company was consequently formed composed of individuals belonging to Kingston, Niagara, Queenston, York and Prescott. The shareholders of Kingston were Joseph Forsyth, Yeomans, Marsh, Lawrence, Herkimer,John Kirby,Capt. Murney, William Mitchell, and, in fact, all of the principal men except the Cartwright family. Advertisements were issued for tenders to construct the boat. The advertisement was responded to by two parties, a Scotchman by the name of Bruce, from Montreal and Henry Teabout from Sackett's Harbor. Bruce was several days at Kingston before the other person arrived, and he supposed he would get the contract. Mr. Finkle says Teabout came with a letter from Hooker and Crane to Johns and Finkle, informing them who Teabout was, and asking them to favor him with their influence in procuring the contract. The letter was shown to Mr. Kirby, of Kingston, who was one of the committee of the company. Mr. Kirby assured Finkle and Johns that, notwithstanding the prejudice which existed on account of the war, the tender of Teabout should receive every justice. No other tender being made, the committee met and decided by a small majority to accept Teabout's. All those who voted for Bruce "were either Scotch or of Scottish descent." Teabout having received the contract, at once, with Finkle, set about to find a place to build. After two days' examination of the coast he selected Finkle's Point, in consequence of the gravelly nature of the shore, as thereby would be obviated the delay which frequently followed rains, where soils would not quickly dry. The next consideration was to advance £5,000 to go to New York to procure a ship carpenter and other necessaries to commence operations. " Accordingly we (Johns and Finkle) became security, with the understanding that so soon as the boat should be so far advanced as to be considered worth the security, our bond will be returned. So satisfactorily did the work progress that the bond was shortly handed to us by the Treasurer, who was William Mitchell. Here I will digress a short time. During the war of 1812David Eckford [sic: Henry], the master ship-builder of New York, was sent to Sackett's Harbor to take charge of the shipbuilding at that place and brought with him his carpenters. Among them were three young men, Henry Teabout, James Chapman and William Smith. The last was born on Staten Island, the other two in New York. Teabout and Smith served their time with Eckford. Chapman was a block turner. At the close of the war these three formed a co-partnership, and Teabout, in contracting for building the Frontenac, was acting for the company. Before building the steamboat they had built for themselves at Sackett's Harbor, the Kingston, the only craft plying between Sackett's Harbor and Kingston, and a fine schooner for the lake called the Woolsley. Chapman was in charge of the Kingston and was doing a more than ordinarily profitable business. Bruce's friends wished to do something for him and had him appointed at a guinea a day to inspect the timber of the Frontenac. His study was to delay the building of the boat. There was a constant contest between him and Teabout."
The contract price of the wood work was £7,000. When the boat was almost ready for the machinery the contractor's funds were expended. The engine cost £7,000. Before the vessel was completed the cost reached nearly the sum of £20,000.
The Kingston Gazette informs us that:-- " On Saturday, the 7th of September, 1816, the steamboat Frontenac was launched at the village of Ernesttown. A numerous concourse of people assembled on the occasion. But, in consequence of an approaching shower, a part of the spectators withdrew before the launch actually took place. The boat moved slowly from her place, and descended with majestic sweep into her proper element. The length of her keel is 150 feet; her deck 170 feet (the tonnage was about 700). Her proportions strike the eye very agreeably, and good judges have pronounced this to be the best piece of naval architecture of the kind yet produced in America. It reflects honor upon Messrs. Teabout & Chapman, the contractors, and their workmen; and also upon the proprietors, the greater part of whom are among the most respectable merchants and other inhabitants of the County of Frontenac, from which the name is derived. The machinery for this valuable boat was imported from England, and is said to be of an excellent structure. It is expected that she will be finished and ready for use in a few weeks. Steam navigation having succeeded to admiration in various rivers, the application of it to the waters of the lakes is an interesting experiment. Every friend to public improvement must wish it all the success which is due to a spirit of useful enterprise." The Gazette adds:--" A steamboat was lately launched at Sackett's Harbor. The opposite sides of the lake, which not long ago vied with each other in the building of ships of war, seem now to be equally emulous of commercial superiority." Gourley says the boat at Sackett's Harbor was on a smaller scale and less expensive. "She the Frontenac, was estimated to cost £14,000; before she commenced her journeys, her cost exceeded £20,000." "The deck was 170 feet long and thirty-two feet wide, draws only eight feet when loaded. Two paddle-wheels with about 40 feet circumference; answers slowly to the helm."
"Yesterday afternoon the steamboat left Mr. Kirby's wharf for the dock at Point Frederick. We are sorry to hear that through some accident, the machinery of one of the wheels has been considerably damaged, notwithstanding which, however, she moved with majestic grandeur against a strong wind. We understand she has gone to the dock, it being a more convenient place for putting in a suction pipe."
Just a week later, on May 31st, the same paper tells its readers that " The steamboat Frontenac, after having completed the necessary work at the naval yard, left this port yesterday morning for the purpose of taking in wood at the Bay Quinte. A fresh breeze was blowing into the harbor, against which she proceeded swiftly and steadily, to the admiration of a great number of spectators. We congratulate the managers or proprietors of this elegant boat, upon the prospects she affords of facilitating the navigation of Lake Ontario, by furnishing an expeditious and certain mode of conveyance to its various points." "June 7th, 1817. The Frontenac left this port on Thursday, 5th, on her first trip for the head of the lake."
Upon this, her maiden trip, the Frontenac was under the command of Captain James McKenzie, a gallant sailor, who had previously served in the Royal Navy. A. G. Petrie was her purser. Captain McKenzie commanded the Frontenac as long as she remained on the lake.
The route of the Frontenac was from Prescott to York and back once a week. Later on she went further westward than the latter port, but in her earlier days, or very early days rather, there is no record of her having done so.
Captain James McKenzie first served on the lakes during the war of 1812. When peace was concluded he, like so many others, both of the naval and military services, was placed on half pay. An inactive life in England, though, was foreign to his tastes, so, having in the meantime made himself acquainted with the nature of the steam engine, and seeing that it was the propelling power of the future, he returned to Canada in 1816, and his services were soon made available in constructing the first of her now magnificent fleet of steamers.
Returning for a short time to the events of 1816. From the Kingston Gazette of June 8th, we extract the following notice:-- "Orders of the Lieut.-Governor-in-Council. Toronto, May 22nd, 1816. It is ordered that so much of the Order-in-Couucil of the 18th of April, 1816, as imposes a tonnage duty on vessels belonging to the subjects of the United States be cancelled, and that the following tonnage duty be imposed in lieu thereof:
The reason for this order was that previously to its date, a rate of 12s and 6d per ton currency, equal to $2 50, had been imposed on all vessels, either from Canadian or American ports, entering those of the former. This was a higher rate than obtained on the American side; hence this order which equalized the dues at all places on Lake Ontario. Despite the fact that sailing vessels at this date were being multiplied, and steam navigation of the lakes and rivers an accomplished task, the batteaux still pursued " the noiseless tenor of their way," but at great risk, both to their navigators and passengers, for it is learned from this same paper that on June 5th previously one of them, loaded with sand, proceeding towards Kingston, being struck by a sudden squall sank, and that all on board, four men, perished.
Another steam vessel known as the Malsham had now been placed on the St. Lawrence, between Montreal and Quebec, for on August 10th is a notification of the fact that she had arrived in the latter port at the same time as the Car of Commerce previously referred to.
"It is reported, and we fear too true, that the schooner Comet, Captain Warner and owned by Mr. A. G. Goss, of this town, which has sailed as a packet from this port to the head of the lake has been lately wrecked near Burlington Bay and every person on board perished, there being a number of passengers, except three, the captain, a woman and a sailor. We hope soon to have the particulars of this distressing occurrence. " A week later, on December 4th, the paper stated that this report " has been contradicted."
Two other vessels are referred to at this time as belonging to Kingston, namely the schooner Pert,Captain Sampson, and the Ann, Captain Mosier. This latter gentleman's name is frequently to be met with later on.
The winter of 1816 and 1817 seems to have been remarkable for its mildness, for in the beginning of January of the latter year vessels were still passing into and out of the ports of York and Kingston. That very serious attention was at this time being given to the means of communication by water throughout the Province of Canada is shown by the following extract from the speech of the Lieutenant-Governor when opening the Provincial Parliament at York on February 4th, 1817, wherein he says:-- " The improvement of the water communication of the River St. Lawrence, below Prescott, is also deserving of your serious consideration."
On April 5th, 1817, a list is given in the Upper Canada Gazette of--" The following ships being commissioned upon the lakes of Canada:--Kingston, 56; Commodore, Sir Robert Hall, Burlington, 42; captain, N. Lockyer. Charwell, 50; captain, Montresor, for Lake Ontario. Champlain, 32; Captain Duell, for Lake Champlain. Confiance, 32; captain, D. Pring, for Lake Erie."
Navigation had opened rather early in 1817, for on April 14th vessels were entering not only York but Kingston harbors. The Mary Ann, under Captain Mosier, arrived in Kingston from York on that day, "with passengers and baggage," while the Netley also left Kingston for Niagara with troops on board.
On June 20th, 1817, the Kingston Gazette announces that the Frontenac has completed her second trip across Lake Ontario and will in future leave the different ports on the following days: Kingston, for York and Queenston, on June 22nd, July 1st, 10th, 19th and 28th and from Queenston on her return trip on June 26th, July 5th, 14th, 23rd, and August 1st; she also called at Ernesttown, Newcastle and Burlington. The fares were as follows:
Just at the end of this year, on December 16, is noted " the arrival at the port of Ernesttown of the machinery of a new steamboat which is upon the stocks at that village, at the same shipyard where the Frontenac steamboat was built." The Kingston Gazette, from which this extract is taken, goes on to observe that: " The building of the only two steam vessels on the Canadian side of the lake at the same place is a proof that the builders think it a favorable situation for shipbuilding." It proceeds then to impress upon the people of Ernesttown the necessity that exists for them to provide a good wharf for the accommodation of ships sailing from or calling at that port.
Referring to the Kingston, the vessel mentioned as having been built by Teabout and Chapman, at Sackett's Harbor. She was meant to run from Lewiston to Ogdensburg, her length was one hundred and her width twenty-four feet, her burthen being about 246 tons. She appears to have been a failure and speedily disappeared.
"Almost immediately after the Frontenac was launched a second steamboat was commenced. The material which had been collected while building the Frontenac had not all been used, and went far in the construction of the Queen Charlotte, which was destined to be the pioneer steamer upon the Bay Quinte and River St. Lawrence in its upper waters. She was built by shares of £50 each. Johns and Finkle had nine shares. She was built (Gildersleeve, being the principal shipwright), launched, and commenced running in the early part of 1818. The engine was furnished by Brothers Wards, of Montreal, being made at their foundry. She was not long launched before she was ready to run. She made trips twice a week from Wilkins' Wharf, at the Carrying Place, to Prescott. She was commanded a few of the first trips by an old veteran captain named Richardson, who lived then near Picton and afterwards to the close of the season, by a young man named Mosier. Of the number of passengers on the first trip we have no knowledge, but suppose them to be few, for Belleville, then the largest place above Kingston, was a mere hamlet -- Trent,Hallowell, Adolphustown and Bath were the only stopping places from the head of the bay to Kingston. They were regulated in their course the first summer by frequently heaving the lead, an old man-of-war's man being on board for the purpose. (Collins reported in 1788 that vessels drawing only from eight to ten feet of water can go into the Bay of Quinte). For two seasons she was commanded by Captain Dennis; Mr. Gildersleeve was purser the second and third seasons; and the fourth commenced his captaincy, which lasted as long as the boat was seaworthy, a period of nearly twenty years: he was at the building, a master shipwright, and became a stockholder.
The fare from the head of the Bay of Quinte to Kingston for the first season was £1 5s. currency, equal to $5; this included meals. The Charlotte was a very acceptable improvement in the navigation of the day. A few of the owners of sailing craft, perhaps, suffered for a time; but the settlers regarded her as an unmixed blessing. During the first years she was so accommodating as to stop anywhere to pick up a passenger from a small boat or let one off. She was not a commercial success until Gildersleeve became her commander; after that she paid well. She ran for many years, and was finally broken up on the shores of Cataraqui Bay. In this year an important amendment was made in the Lighthouse Act, which has been before referred to as having been passed in 1803. It was felt to be a great hardship at ports where there was no lighthouse that the ships frequenting or passing that port should be subject to lighthouse dues, so it was enacted that "No vessel, boat, raft, or other craft of the burthen of ten tons and upwards shall be liable to pay any lighthouse duty at any port where there shall be no lighthouse erected, any law or usage to the contrary notwithstanding."
dated York, April 30, relating that:-- " Captain Patterson, of the schooner May Flower, last week tried in this harbor the power of a machine which he has invented for propelling small vessels in light winds or to work out of harbor with a contrary wind. The experiment completely answered his expectations, the vessel proceeding with a comparatively small power at the rate of three knots, or miles, per hour, and he feels confident that when the machinery is complete it will perform at the rate of five miles per hour." This is the first reference to the schooner named herein, also to the machine of Captain Patterson's invention. It is also the last, so it may be presumed it was not a very great success The same paper contains an advertisement from the Assistant Commissary General's office offering for sale "a number of batteaux and Durham boats, with their appurtenances," also a "second-hand cable." On May 8th the Frontenac arrived at Kingston from Niagara, having on board two companies of the 70th regiment. The following week, May 19th, the Gazette mentions the fact that the stage between Kingston and Prescott had been discontinued, adding, "This would be more regretted had not the new steamboat Charlotte now commenced running up and down the river, so that travellers on this route may be accommodated with a safe and agreeable passage by water instead of the former carriage by land." A terrible storm swept over Lake Ontario in the middle of this month. The Gazette thus refers to it:--" The steamboat Ontario, which was, in the recent storm, driven on a ledge of flat rock near Oswego, has been got off and arrived here this morning." The paper aids that the damage, though not inconsiderable, is less than was anticipated, and concludes its remarks thus:--" It is expected she will be ready for further operations in a week or fortnight at the fartherest (sic)." The Ontario was an American vessel, belonging to Sackett's Harbor.
"Rates of passages from Kingston to York and Niagara £3. From York to Niagara £1; children under three years of age half price, above three and under ten two-thirds. A book will be kept for entering the names of passengers and the berths which they may choose, at which time the passage money must be paid. Passengers are allowed eighty pounds weight of baggage. Surplus baggage will be paid for at the usual rate. Gentlemen's servants cannot eat or sleep in the cabins. Deck passengers will pay fifteen shillings, and may either bring their own provisions or be furnished by the steward. For each dog brought on board five shillings. All applications for passage to be made to Captain McKenzie on board."
A few weeks previously to the date of the foregoing advertisement, the following notice was issued by a syndicate who were "running" a line of Durham boats. In it the Frontenac is referred to by name and the Charlotte by inference. It is thus worded:--
"An elegant passage boat will also leave Kingston every tenth day for Montreal, which will be fitted up in the most commodious manner and prevent any delay to passengers leaving the upper part of the lake in the steamboat Frontenac, it having been built for the purpose of leaving this place immediately after her arrival.
There were on the lake in the year 1819, besides the sailing vessels already mentioned, the Wood Duck, apparently a small schooner, the Red Rover, (Captain Thew), and the Britannia, the property of Matthew Crooks, of Niagara. She was splendidly modelled, of 120 tons burthen, and was under command of Captain Miller. In addition to these we find at various times from 1815 to 1819, the Jane, under Robert Hughson, the Willing Maid, John Smith, and the Asp, under George Miller, The May Flower also still plied from York to Niagara and Kingston.
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.