For a brief moment in 1866 the British Admiralty's investment in her was justified. Within a few days of the crossing of the Niagara frontier by armed Fenians, the Magnet was requisitioned by the Canadian government. For eight days a company of the Royal Marines from HMS Aurora was assigned to the vessel. In the fleet of fifteen Canadian gunboats the Magnet was both the second largest and the oldest. In fact she was nearly twice as old as any other steamer pressed into service. Despite Sutherland's original agreement with the Admiralty, a commitment delegated to subsequent purchasers, the Canadian government would be charged $1,800 for her hire.96 When in 1875 her owners merged with the Richelieu Company, the Magnet became a part of the new Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Company fleet.
Eight years later the Magnet, together with another company vessel, the Spartan, were leased to the Owen Sound Steamship Company,97 which wanted them for the rapidly expanding trade between the Georgian Bay ports, Sault Ste. Marie and Port Arthur. The piecemeal construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway along the north shore of Lake Superior was stimulating the marine freight trade, while Manitoba was experiencing a flood of immigration by this route. The Magnet worked for ten seasons on the Owen Sound-Lake Superior trades before returning to the lower lakes for the opening of the 1893 season.98
It was in a much humbler capacity that the Hamilton finished her days. In the winter of 1909-10 her engine was removed and the superstructure altered to make her a barge.100 For eight seasons she was owned by the Empire Refining Company, an oil company based in Walkerville.101 Then in 1917, she passed into the hands of her final owner, Grant Cooper, the Toronto-based solicitor for the British American Oil Company.102 How the end came ten years later is nowhere recorded; all we know is that the registry was closed.103
With the opening of the Grand Trunk Railway between Montreal and Toronto, the region's shipping trades underwent a severe crisis. While the Magnet shifted to the lower St. Lawrence, others were moved up the Welland Canal or were used in the American Civil War. After these initial, difficult adjustments were made, the Great Lakes fleets were once again profitable, much more so in fact then the debt-ridden Grand Trunk Railway would ever be. Like the Saguenay line, the upper lakes route was relatively free of railway competition when the Magnet arrived. Ten years later, with several shipping lines and a transcontinental railway, the route was suffering from some of the same excess capacity that had been felt on the lower lakes in the late 1850s. More than sixty years in the passenger trades, especially during the highly competitive railroad era, was a remarkable record, and it is not surprising that eventually the Hamilton was converted into an oil company barge, or that after another twenty years the hull was scrapped.
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This article originally appeared in Ontario History.