Chapter 13
The Second Railway Building Era
Table of Contents

Title Page
1 A place called Hamilton.
2 Public Works and Private Enterprise
3 Port Hamilton
4 1837-1839
5 Ericsson Wheels
6 1844-1847
7 Good Times in Port
8 Boom Town Days
9 Depression Years
10 Better Times Ahead
11 1867-1870
12 Prosperity for the Shipbuilders
13 The Second Railway Building Era
14 1884-1888
15 The Electric Era
16 The Iron Age
Table of Illustrations


By the 5 April, 1880 there were signs of life along the waterfronts of Lake Ontario. At Port Hope, two schooners were sold at public auction and one was the old GARIBALDI, for which Mr. R. C. Smith paid $2,400. The other was the D. FREEMAN which went for $2,540 to Mr. Downey of Napanee.

News from Port Dalhousie stated that the schooner LAURA was loading at the Welland Ry. Elevator for Kingston and the little steamer ADA ALICE had started running between St. Catharines and Port Dalhousie.Captains Thompson and Stally arrived from Hamilton to fit out the schooner ALBATROSS and the propeller ALBION, which had been rebuilt from the burned BRISTOL by Muir Brothers at Port Dalhousie in 1876.

The barge ARK left Port Dalhousie on the 6 April in tow of the tug NEELON for Hamilton to load lumber for Quebec.

The Hamilton Spectator, on the 12 April, informed its readers that repairs to the Canal Piers were being carried out.

Two days later, the same paper carried the account of a visit by Hamilton shipping men to Collingwood, for the purpose of inspecting the winter fleet at that port. Leaving Hamilton on the Hamilton & North Western Ry., they travelled via Allandale and arrived in Collingwood at noon, having spent 5 hours admiring the immense stacks of timber, lumber and cordwood awaiting shipment at various stations. After lunch, the party went down to the docks where they found the propeller SIMCOE, the former steam barge MARY R. ROBERTSON, which had been burned at Parry Sound on the 22 July 1878, when a fire raged through the lumber yards. The rebuild was almost completed and the SIMCOE, under Capt. Hill was expected to take her place on the ChicagoCollingwood service by the 1 May. She now had an upper cabin, 100 ft. long, with stateroom accommodation for 45 passengers.

Also inspected by the visitors were the well-known propellers CANADA,COLUMBIA and LAKE ERIE, as well as the NORTHERN QUEEN,CITY OF WINNIPEG and the NORTHERN BELLE, which was to operate between Collingwood and Parry Sound. Another vessel was to join the fleet later. This was the former OSWEGO BELLE, just renamed EMERALD, which was built in St. Catharines in 1875 and was wintering in Toronto. There were also the sidewheeler FRANCES SMITH and the propeller CITY OF OWEN SOUND, both wintering at Owen Sound. All of these vessels were being managed by the Georgian Bay Transportation Co.

News from Collingwood on the 21 April, said that the CANADA was loading for Chicago and the COLUMBIA had gone to Owen Sound, where she loaded railway ties for Chicago,

A. M. Robertson's schooner NORTHMAN. sailed from Port Dalhousie with a cargo of corn for Kingston on Thursday 15 April and was not heard from. On the 22 April, a yawl was found floating bottom-up outside the Eastern Gap at Toronto. Nearby, was a water cask and a provision box. The yawl bore the name NORTHMAN on its transom and inside "A. Abbey", its builder. The yawl had a hole through the bottom and one plank near the bow, was started. Four oars were still lashed to the thwarts, showing that it had not been used and it was assumed that the schooner went down suddenly. The yawl had probably holed itself on one of the davits, when it was torn loose from the sinking vessel. The night after she left on the voyage, the wind whipped around to the north-east and blew a gale, accompanied by heavy rain. There were no survivors among the eleven men aboard. Robertson had her insured for $6,000 and was, at this time, busily engaged in building the propeller ST. MAGNUS, which would be fitted with the machinery out of the burned R. W. STANDLY.

The death of that famous shipbuilder, Louis Shickluna, was made public on the 24 April. He was 72 years of age and with him, the great days of shipbuilding in St. Catharines faded into history.

The Richelieu & Ontario Navigation Co. announced that the first of their steamers to sail for Montreal would be the ALGERIAN,Capt. Trowell. The Merchants' Line listed their vessels on the 28 April, as follows: CELTIC,Capt. Vaughan,CALIFORNIA,Capt. Hanna and DROMEDARY,Capt. Burrows, were fitting out at Hamilton. Elsewhere, the PERSIA,Capt. Cavers,AFRICA,Capt. Patterson and DOMINION,Capt. McMaugh were preparing for the new season. The line would operate the OCEAN,PRUSSIA,SCOTIA,ARGYLE,LINCOLN,CLINTON,CITY OF ST. CATHARINES and EUROPE on the Montreal and Chicago service, The DROMEDARY would be the first to leave for Montreal being advertised to sail on the 3 or 4 May.

Favoured by fine weather, the Victoria Day holiday brought much business to the Brant House and the Ocean House, as well as to Oaklands. The ECLIPSE and the DENNIS BOWEN handled the traffic to Oaklands and the SOUTHERN BELLE brought some 800 passengers over from Toronto in the morning. She then made a round trip to Toronto with a good crowd of Hamiltonians and returned to Toronto in the evening. Another small steamer, the GENEVA, purchased by Dr. Springer in Kingston, had left that port on the 20 May and got to Hamilton in time for the holiday. She carried about 1,500 passengers to the Beach during the day.

Other vessel arrivals on the 24 May included the CELTIC from Montreal with 4,000 kegs of nails for Messrs. Wood & Leggat, the DOMINION, which unloaded 300 tons of cargo for the G. W. Ry. and the R. & O. steamer CORSICAN with passengers and freight.

On the 25 May, the Hamilton Spectator remarked that

"the old propeller R. W. STANDLY, when her rebuild is finished, will be one of the largest propellers on Lake Ontario. Apparently Robertson used more than just her machinery."

The tug W. T. ROBB left Hamilton on the 29 May with a raft containing 100,000 cu. ft. of timber for Quebec. This was the second raft dispatched by Flatt & Bradley and both were to be at Prescott to prepare for running the rapids together. Mr. Bradley was going by train to Prescott to supervise the wild part of the voyage.

From Port Dalhousie came word that the CALABRIA, which had been lying there for several years, was about to be rebuilt by the Muir Brothers. She was originally the BRANTFORD and had already been rebuilt by the Muirs in 1874.

The propeller ST. MAGNUS upbound in Lock 19 of the Third Welland Canal Photo: Author's Collection
A few minutes after 8:00 p.m. on Monday 21 June, the ST. MAGNUS slid down the ways at Robertson's Shipyard. The launching, originally scheduled for 3:00 p.m. was delayed by adjustments to the ways and tackle, but was brought to a successful conclusion. The shipbuilder's daughter Jessie Robertson, did the honours. The ST. MAGNUS measured 180.0 x 28.0 x 14.0 and had a gross tonnage of 853, net 540.

The steamer GENEVA,Capt. A. G. Stanton, made five round trips to the Beach daily from MacKay's Wharf, 15 cents return. Also, from MacKay's, the ECLIPSE was running two round trips to Oaklands and the Beach at 10 and 15 cents, respectively. The steamer STARLING,Capt. R. Henderson, was operating from the old Beckett Wharf at Simcoe St. to Rock Bay and John Dynes' Wharf three times daily.

In the early hours of Monday, 12 July, the propeller CITY OF ST. CATHARINES,Capt. Jas. McMaugh, was sunk in Lake Huron after being rammed by the American steamer GEORGE A. MARSH, whose captain seemed loath to pick up the passengers and crew of the sinking vessel. After finally doing so, he treated them in so surly a manner, that they transferred to the steam barge DAVID RUST,Capt. Pringle, who did everything possible to make them comfortable. The CITY OF ST. CATHARINES had sailed from Montreal on the 6 July for Chicago with general cargo. She was built in 1874 at Port Robinson by John & James Abbey for T. Bullivant of St. Catharines, later of Hamilton. She measured 139.0 x 26.0 x 10.8, gross 606, net 516 tons. She was salvaged in 1882 and on the 27 September, was towed to Port Huron, where she was repaired and renamed OTEGA. She ended her days at Green Bay, Wis. on the 17 October 1895, when she was destroyed by fire.

Oaklands was the scene of a summer theatre production on Friday, 16 July and the patrons arrived from Burlington (no longer called Wellington Square) by the steamer DENNIS BOWEN, from Hamilton by the steamer GENEVA and from Dundas by the STARLING.

The steamer PRINCE ARTHUR, which became well-known to Hamiltonians in 1879, was seized by the Customs Officials at Toronto on the 3 August. Her owners had ignored repeated warnings about a deficiency in her life-saving equipment. After some discussion, a special permit was issued, allowing her to proceed to Victoria Park, without passengers, to bring back those people taken down in the morning.

On the Civic Holiday, which occurred on the 18 August, the steamer EMPRESS OF INDIA was chartered by the Committee of Management of Christ Church Cathedral for an excursion to Queenston Heights. She sailed from MacKay's Wharf at 8:30 a.m. and left Queenston at 5:30 p.m. calling at Niagara, both ways. A string band and refreshments were provided. Tickets 50 cents. The Cathedral choir went along but were required to "sing for their supper", and speaking of meals, Mr. Palmer of the Monument House at Queenston, put on a "plain and substantial dinner for the excursionists at 25 cents a head.

Hamilton workers benefitted from the Government contracts on the Third Welland Canal. The Hamilton Bridge & Tool Company had orders for 19 swing bridges, each 120 ft. long and 30 fixed bridges, each 25 ft. long, About 800 tons of iron would be used in this work, both cast and wrought. The castings were to be made in foundries, of which Hamilton had several and the wrought iron would be partly imported from England and partly made by the Ontario Rolling Mills Co. This meant about a year's work for 75 men who would earn wages totalling $40,000.

On Saturday, 14 August, the steamers GENEVA and ECLIPSE had a minor collision when both tried to reach MacKay's Wharf at the same instant.

The fourth and last of Flatt & Bradley's rafts left Hamilton on the 23 August, in tow of the tug S. S. EDSALL for Quebec. It contained 80,000 cu. ft. of timber and was the smallest sent down this season.

Captain Edward Zealand, Jr., master of the propeller ZEALAND, which foundered with all hands west of Nicholson's Island in 1880. Photo: the late Edward L. Zealand
The propeller ZEALAND,Capt. Edw. Zealand, arrived in Hamilton on Friday, 20 August after

"a difficult voyage."
Coming up the St. Lawrence River, she had struck a rock which tore away her iron rudder frame. Mr. J. H. Killey was called in and by midnight on Saturday, a new frame of wrought iron was finished by the Mona Iron Works.Capt. Zealand loaded it aboard on Sunday and sailed for Muir's Dry Dock in Port Dalhousie to have it installed. The frame weighed 1,100 lbs.

The rebuilt propeller CALABRIA emerged from Muir Brothers' dry dock on the 3 September, after a three or four-month stay and sailed for Hamilton to load cargo for Montreal. Her owners were Capt. Harry Zealand and Alex. Turner, both of Hamilton. The rebuild cost about $7,000.

A telegram from Oswego told a sad story on the 9 November. It told of the schooner MAY TAYLOR passing many flour barrels adrift in the Lake and a yawl boats branded "Propeller ZEALAND". This report confirmed suspicions that the ZEALAND had met with disaster in the gale of 7 November and the scene of her loss was later proved to be west of Nicholson's Island.Capt. Edward Zealand and his crew went down with the steamer. The barrels of flour were shipped by L. Coffee & Co. of Toronto and below decks, she had grain from the Northern Elevator at that port.

The propeller SIMCOE,Capt. R. Hill, foundered about 15 miles south-west of Providence Bay on the 24 November, while on a voyage from Chicago to Collingwood. Laden with corn, flour and pork, she went down after her gangways were stove in by seas. Twelve lives were lost. The vessel was valued at $24,000, the cargo at $9,000.

The schooner GARIBALDI, once owned by A. D. MacKay of Hamilton, left Fairhaven with 350 tons of coal for Toronto, under command of Capt. McGlenn and after much trouble with head-winds, had worked her way up the Lake to a point off Frenchman's Bay. The date was Saturday, 20 November 1880. She carried a close-reefed mainsail, reefed foresail, staysail and flying jib, but by 10:00 p.m. that night, the little green light at Frenchman's Bay was still visible. In short, the GARIBALDI was getting nowhere. Capt. McGlenn decided to put about and run back down the Lake. This was not easy, since her running-rigging was ice-coated. The halliards had to be chopped to get the mainsail down and furled. When they attempted to get the foresail down, with only one man at the wheel, she yawed and the foresail jibed, carrying away its gaff and its boom and tore itself to ribbons. Next, the staysail was blown from its hanks and the schooner drove onward under nothing but the flying jib. In the dark hours of Sunday morning, she passed Presqu'ile Bluff and at 8:00 a.m. she entered Presqu'ile Bay and anchored off Salt Point. The sails were furled, as best they could and all hands went to the cabin for some hot food, the first since starting the voyage. No sooner had they begun, than a gust of wind screaming off the land, struck her and she parted her cable and headed for the Lake. They hauled up the heads of two jibs to give her some steerage-way and Capt. McGlenn steered for the entrance to Weller's Bay. It was his only choice and a desperate one at that. Luck was not with the GARIBALDI. After clearing the tail of the bar at the entrance, the effects of an outflow current, plus a wild eddying wind, whirling around Bald Head to the south of her, drove her onto the bar. The woman-cook and three seamen were rescued by a boat from the schooner JOHN WALTERS and a boat from Presqu'ile Light, but owing to the early darkness of late November, Capt. McGlenn and the other two men were left aboard the wreck. One of the men died of exposure during the night and all three had to be chopped out of the ice next morning when the rescuers returned. The GARIBALDI was so encased in ice that she suffered very little damage and was refloated in the spring of 1881. She was owned by J. & J. T. Mathews of Toronto, who sold her up the Lakes. She ended her days on 3 October 1887, when she foundered 5 miles off Port Elgin on Lake Huron.


Previous    Next

Return to Home Port

This volume is copyright The Estate of Ivan S. Brookes and is published with permission of the Estate. The originals are deposited in the Special Collections of the Hamilton Public Library.