This month we present the stories of two early lake package freighters which were notable not only because each served for more than forty years, an extraordinarily long life for a hard-used wooden ship, but because the careers of the two sisters ran parallel for some thirty-eight of those years.
Hulls 67 and 68 of the Detroit Dry Dock Company were wooden hulled 'tween deck package freighters delivered to the Rutland in 1884. They were named WM. A. HASKELL (U. S. 81025) and WM. J. AVERILL (U. S. 81027) respectively, presumably in honour of executives of the parent railroad. The records of the shipyard indicates that the overall dimensions of the two sister ships were 255'0" x 37'2" x 25'6" but these measurements will not be found in any official register of shipping. In fact, the 1896 American register shows the length of the AVERILL as 241'7 (registered length, not overall) and that of HASKELL as 242'5. It was not uncommon for the measurements of wooden vessels to change slightly over the years as the hulls warped and bent with the strain of operation and assorted accidents. Tonnage of the AVERILL was 1603 Gross and 1425 Net, while that of the HASKELL showed as 1530 Gross and 1440 Net.
The builders fitted the HASKELL and AVERILL with their own engines numbered 122 and 123 respectively, these being Compound engines with cylinders of 27" and 44" and having a 40" stroke. This machinery gave each vessel Indicated Horsepower of 600 and Nominal Horsepower of 800. Steam was supplied for each ship by a pair of coal-fired firebox boilers measuring 8' 0" x 15'6", the company assigning its builders numbers and 2 to the boilers fitted in the HASKELL and 3 and 4 to those in her sister.
The two freighters were very handsome specimens, much better looking in your editor's opinion than the five later ships that followed for the Rutland from the same builders over the next few years. The HASKELL and AVERILL were typical of their period, being high-sided, flush-decked vessels, the deck cluttered by an assortment of cabins, and the pilothouse set back from the bow atop a rather large texas cabin. Unlike their single-stacked successors, this pair carried twin funnels athwartship, as did the earlier FROST. They carried auxiliary sail in case of difficulties with the steam machinery.
WM. A. HASKELL and WM. J. AVERILL had a gruelling life in the service of the Rutland. They had the longest run of any of the American lake package freight lines since not only were they the only company to operate down into Lake Ontario (most had their eastern terminus on Lake Erie), but they went as far east in the St. Lawrence River as their home port of Ogdensburg. Their cargoes westbound consisted of the usual general cargo plus large quantities of granite being shipped to Chicago for the building trades. Eastbound, they could be found with their holds filled with grain. The service was even more of a grind since each round trip necessitated two tedious passages through the many locks of the old Welland Canal,
The AVERILL and HASKELL walked up and down the Canal on their usual route until they were superceded by newer tonnages. The company commissioned new steel package freighters starting in 1906 with OGDENSBURG and RUTLAND. BROCKTON followed in 1908 and ARLINGTON and BRANDON appeared in 1910. It is safe to assume that our wooden twins were laid up by at least 1910, their usefulness to the Rutland at an end. However, an event which killed off the railroad lake lines brought new life to the retired steamers which otherwise might have lain in idleness until no longer fit for use.
In 1915, the United States Government enacted the Panama Canal Act, one of whose provisions served to prohibit American railroads from operating competing water routes. Six companies, the Rutland, the Pennsylvania Railroad, New York Central, Erie Railroad, the Delaware & Lackawanna, and the Lehigh Valley, were forced to divest themselves of their lake fleets and, on February 22, 1916, it was announced that the directors of these firms had united to form the Great Lakes Transit Company of Buffalo, New York, which company would purchase the steamers from the various railroads and operate them.
Accordingly, AVERILL and HASKELL were purchased by the G.L.T.Co. in the spring of 1916 but since they were no longer economical to operate and since there was an excess of good tonnage due to the rationalization of operating policies in the new firm, they remained available for purchase by other operators. In due course they were, in fact, sold, the purchaser being Roy M. Wolvin's Lake and River Transportation Company, Montreal. WM. J. AVERILL was renamed (b) OATLAND (Can. 138107) while WM.A. HASKELL became (b) JOYLAND (Can, 138108) Under Canadian measurements, the former's tonnage was shown as 1854 Gross and 1063 Net, while JOYLAND was listed as 1845 Gross, 1070 Net.
The following year, 1917, OATLAND and JOYLAND were transferred to the fleet of the Montreal Transportation Company Ltd., the parent firm of Lake and River. During the period 1917 to 1920, they were actually managed by Canada Steamship Lines Ltd., in which concern Wolvin also had considerable interest. The two steamers, by now showing the strain of their years of labour, ran up the lakes with cargoes of package freight for C.S.L., returning from the Canadian Lakehead to Montreal with grain for M.T. Co.
The formal absorption of M.T.Co. into C.S.L, in 1920 had little effect on the two vessels which remained as running mates until accident separated them in 1922 by removing JOYLAND from the C.S.L. fleet. More on this later. Meanwhile, however, OATLAND kept on her old route until 1925 when her condition forced her retirement. She was laid up at Kingston where she remained for some years, her timbers falling victim to decay. Eventually her hull was towed away and discarded on an island in Lake Ontario near Cape Vincent, New York.
The accident we mentioned previously befell JOYLAND on April 22, 1922, when she stranded in the St. Lawrence River near Clayton, N. Y. Canada Steamship Lines abandoned her since a vessel of her age and condition was obviously not worth any great expenditure of funds for salvage. Nevertheless, the famous John E. Russell of Toronto started work on the wreck. He removed her early in 1923 and took her to Toronto. where she was completely refurbished while lying at Russell's yard in the Keating Channel.
Russell sold JOYLAND to the Aube Steamship Company Ltd., Montreal, one of the companies in the Mapes and Fredon group, and she was given the usual distinctive funnel colours, black with three gold bands. The rebuilt JOYLAND cleared Toronto in the latter part of the summer of 1923 (probably during August) and one of our members recalls the day she steamed out of the Eastern Gap, her fresh paint sparkling and, strangely enough, with sail set on the mainmast. Mapes and Fredon ran JOYLAND until 1925 when she was purchased by the Maitland Sand and Gravel Company Ltd., Port Maitland, Ontario. At this time she was converted for use as a sandsucker and gravel carrier, her looks being spoiled by a strange assortment of equipment that was mounted on deck immediately forward of the boilerhouse.
JOYLAND operated for another decade despite her age and the signs of wear that were causing her to lose the splendid lines that the Detroit Dry Dock Company had given her hull. Eventually, about 1937, JOYLAND reached the end of her usefulness and was laid to rest along the shore of Lake Erie that she had come to know so well in her comings and goings of the preceding twelve years.
(Ed. Note: There seems to be considerable dispute over the spelling of the original name of OATLAND. The records of her builders show the name as WM, J. AVERILL and this is the way the name appears in the 1896 "List of Merchant Vessels of the United States". This spelling is also supported by biographical references to the Averill family. However, later U.S. government registers of shipping, such as that for 1910, show the spelling of the name as AVERELL and this spelling is also used in Canadian registers of later years when quoting the OATLAND's former name. There are not many photographs of the ship in her original colours, although her sister vessel was captured on film many times. One photograph in our collection, taken by the late William A. Traill in the mid-1890's, shows a group of vessels in Port Dalhousie harbour, among them being the elusive ship, and on her fantail is plainly visible the name spelled AVERELL. We would welcome the comments of any readers who may have information on this subject or who may have photos of the vessel in their collections).
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.