The way having been opened by the Algoma between Georgian Bay and the Sault, with sundry extra trips beyond, N. Milloy & Co., of Niagara, brought up from Halifax, in 1868, the even then celebrated steamer Chicora to increase the service to Lake Superior. No finer steamer was there on the Upper Lakes than the Chicora, and none whether American or Canadian, that could approach her in speed; she could trail out a tow line to any competitor. She had arrived opportunely and had greatly increased her renown by carrying the Wolseley Expedition, in 1870, from Collingwood to the place on the shores of the Thunder Bay where the expedition for the suppression of the Riel Rebellion at Fort Garry was landed.
It was in the arrangements for the movement of this Wolseley Expedition that some difficulties arose which were due to a want of harmony between the local government of the State and that of the National Cabinet of the Federal Government at Washington, a condition which is liable to occur at any time under the peculiar provisions of the American Constitution.
Having been compiled in the time of stress for the avoidance of an autocracy and for the development of the individual rights of the several component States, the relations between States and Federal authority were strongly drawn. While in the Canadian Constitution any power which has not been specifically allotted to the Provinces remains in the Dominion Government, which is thus the centre of all power, in the United States the reverse condition exists.
The only canal lock at that time at the Sault by which the rapids of the Sault River could be overcome and the level of Lake Superior be reached from that of Lake Huron, was on the Michigan side, and owned and controlled by the State of Michigan. As an armed force could not be sent by rail through the United States, it was necessary that all supplies and the men of the Canadian forces for Fort Garry should be forwarded by this water route to the head of Lake Superior, from where they were to take the "Dawson Route" of mixed road and river transit to Lake Winnipeg and the scene of action. A cargo of boats, wagons, and general supplies for use by the troops had been sent up by the "Chicora" (Captain McLean), leaving Collingwood on the 7th May, but the steamer was not permitted by the Michigan authorities to pass through the Sault Canal. Owing to this action immediate steps were imperatively necessary, pending negotiations, to obtain additional tonnage to carry forward the expedition.
Col. Cumberland, A.D.C., M.P.P., was sent on a secret duty to Detroit, where he succeeded in chartering the American steamer Brooklyn, which was at once sent off with instructions to report for orders above the canal at Point Aux Pins, to Col. Bolton, R.A., Deputy Adjutant General. Being passed up the canal, without obstacle, the difficulty was immediately relieved. Fortunately the "Algoma" was at the upper end of the route and on Lake Superior. The supplies and stores were accordingly unloaded from the Chicora at the Canadian Sault, portaged across by the twelve miles road to the wharf at Point Aux Pins, on the Canadian side above the Rapids, and sent on up Lake Superior by the "Algoma" and "Brooklyn."
This was in other ways a remarkable event, as being one in which the "Coasting Laws of Canada" were for a time, cancelled by the action of a citizen. The "Brooklyn" being an American boat could not legally carry cargo between two Canadian ports, such as Point Aux Pins and the Landing, so Col. Cumberland gave Captain Davis a letter * to Mr. Joseph Wilson, the Collector of Customs at the Canadian Sault, authorizing him to permit the American vessel to trade between Canadian ports. As Mr. Cumberland was member of Parliament for the district, the local authorities gave immediate attention, especially as every one on the Canadian side was ready to run all risks and do everything in their power to help the expedition along.
Returning to Collingwood the "Chicora" left again on the 14th May with two companies of the Ontario Contingent recruited from the Volunteer Militia of the Province, twenty-four horses and more arms and stores. Refusal was again given and the same portaging took place as before, the men during the transfer being encamped near the old Hudson's Bay Fort. Urgent representations had been made to the local State authorities, pointing out that the expedition was pressed for time, much loss might be occasioned, and the rebellion spread if the troops were delayed. The British Minister at Washington was using every endeavor to obtain the necessary permission, but without avail. The "Chicora" returned to Collingwood and left again on 21st May with Col. Garnet Wolseley (afterwards Viscount Wolseley), a detachment of the "60th Rifles" of the Regulars (the Regiment of H.R.H. Prince Arthur) and the balance of the expedition. In the absence of the expected permission the same procedure was again followed, and when everything on board had been unloaded the Chicora was passed empty through the canal, and reloading the soldiers and all the equipment at the Point aux Pins proceeded up the lake to her destination.
Canada has since then, for her self control and the protection of her trade, built a great canal on her own side, through which ever since it was constructed the United States vessels have been freely allowed to pass upon exactly the same terms as her own.
When the "Chicora" landed the Wolseley Expedition at Prince Arthur's Landing there was no wharf large enough for her to be moored to, so she had to anchor off the shore, and the men and cargo were landed in small boats.
As Col. Wolseley came ashore in a rowboat he was met by Mr. Thomas Marks, a principal merchant, and Mr. William Murdock, C.E., who was then in conduct of the Government Railway Exploration Surveys from the shores of Thunder Bay to Fort Garry for what afterwards became the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Colonel, finding on enquiry that the place had no particular name beyond that of "The Landing," proposed that it should be called "Prince Arthur's Landing." This was to be in honour of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, who was then serving in his battalion of the Rifle Brigade at that time stationed in Montreal. The name was immediately adopted and was kept unchanged until 1883, when, to mark the eastern end of the Canadian Pacific and to correspond with "Port Moody," the then accepted terminus at the western end, it was changed to "Port Arthur." The name and reminiscence of the Royal Prince is in this way still happily retained.
Rivalries had begun between the long established hamlet clustered around Fort William, the ancient post of the Hudson Bay Company on the banks at the mouth of the Kaministiquia River, and the newly created village on the shores of the Lake at the "Landing." To appease the vociferous claimants of both, the expedition was divided, one part being sent up by the lower river from "Fort William," the other by waggon on land from the "Landing," to join together again at a point on the Kaministiquia above the Falls, from where they proceeded together by the mixed transport of water and waggon on the "Dawson Route" to Fort Garry.
There were then few lighthouses on the lakes, and no buoys in the channels. When a steamer left the stores of Georgian Bay nothing was heard of her until she came in sight again on her return after being away ten days, for there were no telegraphs on the North Shore nor even at the Sault.
The hamlets were few and far spread, being mainly small fishing villages. Bruce Mines with its copper mines, then in full operation, was perhaps the most important place, with a population of 2,500. The Sault had perhaps 500, Silver Islet, with its mysterious silver mine, 1,500, and Prince Arthur's Landing about 200 residents; with whatever importance was given by its position at the head of the lake, and as being the starting place of the Dawson Road to Fort Garry, and the supply point for the developing mines of the interior.
Whatever meat, flour, or vegetable foods the people ate had to be carried up to them from the Ontario ports. Westwards the decks were filled with cattle, hogs, and all kinds of merchandise, but there was little freight to bring back east except fish and some small quantities of highly concentrated ores from the mines.
The business had not developed as had been expected, and the "Chicora" was found to be too good for the Lake Superior route as it then existed. Her freight-carrying capacity was light, cabin accommodation in excess of requirements, and her speed and expenses far beyond what was there needed. So the boat had to be withdrawn from service, dismantled, and laid up alongside the docks at Collingwood in the season of 1873.
One splendid and closing charter there had been in the season of 1874, when the "Chicora" was chartered for the months of July and August to be a special yacht for the progress of the Governor-General, Lord Dufferin, and his suite, through what were then the northern districts of Ontario and through the Upper Lakes.
Col. F. W. Cumberland, M.P., General Manager of the Northern Railway, was also Provincial Aide-de-Camp to the Governor-General and thus in general charge of the arrangements for the tour, particularly on the Northern Railway, through whose districts the party was then travelling. The further portions of the tour were through the district of Algoma, comprising all the country along the north shores of Lakes Huron and Superior, which Col. Cumberland then represented in the Provincial Parliament, being the first Member for Algoma.
Washago, at the first crossing of the Severn River, was then the "head of the track" of the "Muskoka Branch," which was under construction from Barrie. Beyond this point the party were to proceed through the byways and villages of Muskoka by mixed conveyance of boats on the lakes and carriages over the bush roads to Parry Sound, where they were to join the "Chicora."
Every minute of the way had been carefully planned out to satisfactorily arrange for the reception en route, stopping places for meals and rest, stays over night, and allowance for all possible contingencies, for the Governor General insisted that he should make his arrival, at each place on the way, with royal precision.
There was therefore no room for the insertion of the many special demands for additional functions and time, which increasingly arose as the days drew near, for the fervor of the welcome became tumultuous.
The Presbyterian clergyman at Washago had been particularly insistent and had called to his aid every local influence of shipper and politician to obtain consent that the Governor-General should lay the corner-stone of the new church which the adherents of the "Auld Kirk" were erecting at the village. The ceremony was whittled down until it was at last agreed that it should be sandwiched into the arrangements on condition that everything should be in readiness, and that the proceedings should not exceed fifteen minutes, for there was a long and rocky drive ahead of fourteen miles to Gravenhurst, where an important afternoon gathering from all the countryside and a reception by His Excellency and the Countess of Dufferin had been arranged.
The Municipal and the local Society receptions at the Washago station had been safely got through when the Governor and party walked over the granite knolls to where the church was to be erected. The location of the village, which is situated between two arms of the Muskoka River, is on the unrelieved outcrop of the Muskoka granite, which, scarred and rounded by the glacier action of geological ages, is everywhere in evidence.
On the knoll, more level than the others, was the church party expectant. At their feet, perched upon a little cemented foundation about a foot and a half in diameter, built on the solid granite, was the "corner stone," a cube of granite some three inches square. A miniature silver trowel, little larger than a teaspoon, was handed to the Governor, who, holding it in his fingers smoothed down the morsel of mortar and the corner stone was duly laid.
It was a burning hot noon-day in July. Having got fairly started the minister seemed to be in no way disposed to stop. At five minutes a chair and umbrella were brought for Lady Dufferin. At ten minutes motions were made to pluck the minister's coat tails, but no one dared. The fervid appeal covering all possible contingencies, and meandering into varied "We give Thee thanks also" still continued so the Governor and Lady Dufferin and their Suite quietly slipped away from the group and going to the carriages, which were waiting in readiness near by, drove away.
He at least had succeeded in having his corner-stone laid by a Governor-General and was satisfied, even though he had lost that portion of his audience. There were others also who were satisfied as one of the devout congregation who said as we walked away, "Wasn't the Meenester powerful in prayer?"
Lord Dufferin's private secretary and myself, having seen our duties to this point satisfactorily completed, returned to the cars and proceeded back by the special train to Collingwood, where the outfit and arrangements of the "Chicora" for the long cruise were being completed, and active operations had for some true been going on.
The ship was a picture, resplendent in brightened brasses, new paint and decorations. The staterooms had been re-arranged and enlarged so that they could be used in suites with separate dining and reception rooms arranged for various occasions. Strings of flags of all varieties, and ensigns for every occasion were provided, including His Excellency the Governor-General's special flag, to be raised the moment he came on board. Captain James C. Orr, his officers, and the picked crew were all in naval uniform, and naval discipline was to be maintained.
About ten o'clock one night we sailed out of Collingwood to make an easy night run across the Georgian Bay and arrive in the morning at Parry Sound, where the Governor-General was to join the steamer in the afternoon.
We were naturally anxious that nothing should occur on our part to mar the arrangements for the much heralded tour, and so I turned out early in the morning, called up by some indistinct premonition. Of all the evils that can befall a ship's captain it is that of a too supreme confidence in his own powers; a confidence which leads him to take unnecessary risks and so incur dangers which a little longer waiting would avoid. Of this we now met a most striking instance.
There are two routes from Collingwood to Parry Sound. The outer passage, outside the islands, longer but through open lake and safe, the other the inner passage winding through an archipelago of islands, tortuous and narrow. This latter was also known as the "Waubuno Channel," from its being the route of the steamer of that name, a vessel of 140 feet and the largest passing through it. As a scenic route for tourists it is unsurpassable, threading its way amid many islands with abrupt and thrilling turns.
Going forward, Captain McNab, in reply to questions, said he intended going through the Waubuno Channel, and admitted that he had never taken a boat as large as the "Chicora" through the channel, but was sure he could. Amiable suggestions that he might like to bet $10,000 that he could, being promptly declined, he accepted instructions and the steamer was at once turned around to go by the outer channel for which there was plenty of time. He might have done it, but there was a doubt in it, and supposing he had not, what then? It is better for a captain to be sure, than to be sorry.
The tour was a great success. Wherever the bonnie boat went, whether in Canadian waters around the northern shores of Lakes Huron and Superior at Sault Ste. Marie,Nepigon,Prince Arthur's Landing, or in American waters, at Mackinac,Lake Michigan and Chicago, her trim appearance, beautiful lines, and easy speed, won continued admiration.
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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.