During the winter of 1878-79, changes came. The City of Toronto had tired of her partner. The railway companies had recognised the value to their route of the steamer of the Niagara Navigation Company, and the ability of its organizers to promote additional business.
To enable obligations to be fulfilled monies had to be earned elsewhere, so another position was sought and obtained as General Traffic Manager of the "Collingwood - Lake Superior Line" to Sault Ste. Marie and Lake Superior, at the same time continuing the General Ticket and and Freight Agency, at 35 Yonge street. In April, Mr. Cumberland resigned his position as manager of the Niagara Company, retaining the original position and salary as vice-president and assistant in passenger and executive work and Mr. John Foy, the secretary and son-in-law of Sir Frank Smith, was appointed manager as well as secretary. Sir Frank Smith, recognizing the good work done, in bringing the steamer down, the organization of the company, and in the strenuous contest which unexpectedly had been forced on us, but had been won by active ability, carried the liabilities created, which in course of time were duly shared and met.
Mr. John Foy, who hereafter gave his whole time to the company, although not technically educated in the passenger business, had very many excellent qualities and a genial personality which did much in subsequent years for the advancement of the company's interests, and in the new connections which arose. As each new connection developed, he was able to enlist their goodwill, and so harmonize and satisfy them by effective service.
The season of 1879 was a comparatively easy one, so far as executive work was concerned, for with City of Toronto as a partner we were included in direct connection with all the railway companies, who therefore provided all the passenger requirements, and in the regular route with her from the Yonge street dock, the trips being divided between the steamers, and each taking its own earnings.
The Rothesay having been dropped by the City still continued running to Lewiston, but afterwards only to Niagara and Youngstown, communicating with Lewiston by a small river steamer. Captain Wm. Donaldson was in command; she sailed at 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. from Yonge street dock, the same dock as the other two steamers, a concession in her favor made by Mr. D. Milloy as lessee.
To this policy of unremunerative prices was developed that of annoyance, by too close proximity of the steamers both at the docks or when running, which had in some degree been introduced in the previous season.
So noticeable and dangerous did this become that the directors of the Niagara Company felt it necessary to make public protest and the following announcement was published in the Toronto morning papers of August 6th, 1879:
It is to be remembered that the present eastern channel from the harbor did not at that time exist, but that the western channel, by the Queen's Wharf, was the only one which was open, and was not then wide enough for two steamers to pass out together. The proposition was that the first through this channel should hold its lead.
Toronto had then a population of only 70,000. There were very few steamers running out of the harbor, lake excursion business may be said to have been only in its introduction and infancy, so that very much personal and family interest was taken in the several steamers on the routes, thus accounting for the public announcement of the regulations proposed.
The City and Chicora were running three trips daily, 7 a.m., 1.45 p.m., 3 p.m., and on Saturdays four trips, the advertisements announcing "No overcrowding, as both steamers return in the evening." On the four trips being made the alternating steamer left at 8.30 p.m. for Niagara to make the first trip from there at 8 a.m. on Monday. While other rates were maintained, a special excursion rate of 25 cents was made for round trip on Saturday afternoon.
In early August Rothesay put on a return rate at 25c. for every afternoon, heading its announcements "Keep down the rates." The Milloys were averse to reduction and favored holding up the rates, considering that better equipment deserved better money. In this midsummer season the Rothesay was getting a pretty good batch of passengers every afternoon, a process which would help her to continue the competition. She was then running from the Yonge street slip on the west side of Milloy's dock, the City and Chicora both being on the east side out of sight behind the buildings. We had the next move under consideration. The Hon. Frank Smith came down on the dock one hot afternoon when the people were swarming down the street for the 2 p.m. steamers. We were standing and watching the streams dividing to go on board the two steamers, the Chicora and the Rothesay, the latter being in sight in the Yonge street slip, the other further down the dock and behind the buildings.
There was quite a stream taking the Rothesay. "By heavens," said the Hon. Frank, suddenly and decidedly, "there's one of the men from my own warehouse going on board the Rothesay, he's holding down his umbrella, so that I shan't see his face, but I know his legs."
We forthwith called and held a joint meeting with the Milloys in the office on the dock, when the round trip rate of 25c. for every afternoon was at once adopted, and all other rates were thereafter to be the same as the Rothesay.
One of the most eventful days in this season was the reception given to Edward Hanlan on his return from winning the sculling championship of England from Edward Trickett on the Thames in July, 1879, thus becoming the champion oarsman of Canada, the United States and England. Many champions have since been welcomed but never such a welcome as this, for it was the city's first offence, her first World's Champion.
The Civic Committee headed by Mayor Jas. Beatty, Jr., Ald. A. R. Boswell chairman Reception Committee and the Members of the Hanlan Club, a coterie of men of standing and sporting instincts, who financed and managed Hanlan's early career, met the Champion at Lewiston, on July 15th. It was one of the most wonderful scenes ever occurring on Toronto Bay. The Chicora had been specially chartered to bring the Champion into Toronto at 5 p.m.
We were met outside the harbor by a fleet of steamers, Filgate, Empress of India, Maxwell, Jean Baptiste, and many others, crammed with excited and shouting people. Headed by Chicora, the procession entered the bay, which was covered by a crowded mass of boats of every description, sailing, rowing or steam, making it necessary to bring the steamer down to dead slow. Hanlan was put by himself on the top of the pilot house, where he stood, easily seen, holding one hand on the pinnacle and waving a return to the enthusiastic greeting of his fellow citizens. Never was there such a din of welcome. Every steam whistle on the boat and on shore that could speak, shrilled its acclaim, bells rang, guns fired, the city, half of which was afloat, hailed its Island born son and Champion who had brought laurels and renown to both himself and them.
The citizens of Toronto had always been partial to boating and taking their pleasure in water sports, but these victories of Hanlan gave a renown to the city and a zest to rowing which greatly increased that interest in boating and rowing races which has ever since been a dominant feature in the sports of the city and the pleasurings of its young people.
Yet it is open to question whether in these later and more mechanical days, the leisure-rowing and paddling section is not somewhat on the wane, under the influence of the puffing, stench-spreading and lazy-luxury motor boat. At the same time it is a matter of congratulation that the competitors in the racing shells and canoes become still more numerous, and in every way energetic as of yore, mainly under the splendid influences of the Argonaut, Don, and other amateur boating clubs.
The Rothesay held on through the season. Mr. Lunt being an energetic and capable opponent, apt in attack and with much experience in the ways of steamboat competition. He was hard to shake off and while making no money himself he prevented others from making any. The managers of the City were now reaping the reward of their broken faith and their having introduced him to the route. Her owners were obliged to make an assignment toward the close of the season and Chicora finished alone on October 18th.
Competitions such as was this, carried on with intention, only, of doing damage to an opponent's investment, and without any regard as to the number of passengers who might be induced by low rates to go on board the steamer cannot be conducted at other than with greatest risk. This was further intensified by the fact that the Government inspection limited itself to inspection of engines and boilers and no discrimination was exercised as to the service in which a boat was to be employed.
Such a condition would seem strange in these present days when all routes are specified and regulated, but in those days it was different. Once physical inspection was passed it made no difference as to the passenger service in which the boat was to be run, whether on the open lake or in river service, nor was there any limitation upon the number of passengers who might be taken on board.
This condition was not a fair one, either for the Public, who are not always discriminating and look mostly at the lowness of the rate, or for the Owners, who were not being given any consideration for their larger expenditures in producing steamers fit for the routes upon which they were to be employed. This gave the Rothesay a good handicap and one which enabled her to longer continue a contest.
Movements were, therefore, initiated by us for the introduction of regulations for the limitation of numbers, and restriction or steamers to appointed routes, but it took much time to bring about any result.
The season of 1880 found the City of Toronto under Capt. Donaldson and Chicora under Capt. Harbottle, still running together between Milloys wharf and Lewiston; the Chicora opening the season on 4th May.
In addition to running to Niagara,Rothesay this year dropped over to Youngstown on the American side, from where connection was made to Lewiston by a small American steamer. She also worked up an excellent excursion business for the Youngstown and Fort Niagara Park.
During this season an opportunity offered for the purchase of a dock frontage alongside the Lewiston dock. The New York Central had not then been extended from its upper station to the edge of the river above the dock, and it was also under consideration whether the railway would make a new move to reach the bank of the river at Lewiston nearer to the steamers, or would replace the rails and again operate its seven miles extension branch to Youngstown. If they should resume this latter route to the mouth of the river, conditions at Lewiston would be changed. It was, therefore, considered best to await further developments before making any purchase.
Rothesay ended her season on 15th of September, and Chicora on the 8th of October, having run the latter part alone and kept up the connections for the railways. The public had enjoyed the pleasures of lake travel to the utmost, but the steamers were none the better off, for the magnitude of steamboat business is not to be gauged by tile crowds carried oil the boats, but by the net results in the purser's accounts.
During the winter 1880-1881 the negotiations for limitation were continued and met with success, and as the Rothesay, in the spring of 1881, could only get a certificate for "river" work, for which she had been constructed and was well adapted, she was withdrawn to the St. Lawrence River, where she ran between Kingston and the Thousand Islands until in 1882 she grounded and was abandoned.
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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.