Sunday is generally the best day of the week for excursion boats, for that is the day on which the majority of people seek rest and relaxation on the water. This was not always the case, however, for there was a time when people were expected to divide their Sundays between church and meditation at home. Streetcars did not run on Sunday and neither did the excursion boats.
That is, most of them did not. It would seem, however, that the pretty little steamer ONGIARA of the Niagara Navigation Company Ltd. did run between Lewiston, N.Y., and Queenston, Ontario, on Sundays during the summer of 1899, and that the zealous protectors of "The Lord's Day" took violent objection to her services being provided on such "inappropriate" occasions. The report that follows appeared in the August, 1899, issue of "The Railway and Shipping World".
"In the charge against Capt. McIntyre, of the steamer ONGIARA, for Sabbath profanation, brought at Niagara recently, judgment was reserved. The defence put in a number of pleas, but it is held that the magistrate has no jurisdiction. The remedy, if any, is a civil one by action only. The Provincial Legislature can make a crime of it or amend the Lord's Day Act, which was in force at Confederation. It is claimed that the Legislature has no jurisdiction in respect to the Niagara River, as it is an international highway, and that the Dominion Parliament alone has jurisdiction. The Niagara Navigation Co. has a Dominion charter, and when a corporation is not liable, its servant is not liable."
"On June 22, W.H.J. Evans, J.P. for Lincoln, Ontario, issued a summons against Capt. McIntyre, charging him with 'unlawfully carrying on the business or work of his ordinary calling on the Lord's Day, by being the captain of the steamer ONGIARA, engaged on the said Lord's Day in Sunday excursions, and having for their only or principal object the carriage of Sunday passengers, for amusement or pleasure only, and to go and return on the same day by the same boat'. The ONGIARA, owned by the Niagara Navigation Company, plies between Queenston and Lewiston as a ferry boat, and evidence was taken at Niagara-on-the-Lake on July 12, the County Attorney appearing for the prosecution and J.J. Foy, Q.C., for the defence.
"Several witnesses were examined and the magistrate reserved judgment. It was contended for the defence, among other things, that the Provincial Legislature, which introduced in 1882 the legislation as to Sunday excursions has no jurisdiction to pass any such law, inasmuch as it purports to create a criminal offence not previously existing, and that the Dominion Parliament alone has such jurisdiction. At the time of Confederation, a Lord's Day Act was in force, and it was contended that the Ontario Legislation cannot vary that law, so far, at all events, as to make anything criminal that was not previously so. The case of Regina v. The Dominion Electric Tram Co., decided by the full Bench in Nova Scotia, was cited as authority for this proposition. It was further contended that the local Legislature has no jurisdiction in respect of boats navigating the Niagara River, which is an international highway. The Dominion Parliament alone has jurisdiction in respect of navigation and shipping and navigable waters, and more especially those forming the boundary of any of the provinces. It was also contended that the running of the ONGIARA between Niagara and Lewiston was not for the carrying of passengers for amusement or pleasure only, but to carry travellers, and that the carrying of travellers is not a violation of the Lord's Day Act.
"The magistrate, on August 11, delivered judgment for the defendant, without stating the particular grounds on which he agreed with the contention of the defence. It is, however, understood that he conferred with the Attorney-General's Department in Toronto before giving his decision."
Despite the fact that the Niagara Navigation Company Ltd. had the reputation of being a very staid and proper company, and did not even operate its large cross-lake steamers between Toronto and Niagara on Sundays until well into the second decade of the new century, the little ONGIARA seemed destined to be a continual annoyance to the local authorities. She provided a most valuable cross-river service, but was frequently cited for infractions of one sort or another, real or imagined.
ONGIARA, (a) QUEEN CITY (88), (C.90562), was a wooden, double-deck, propellor driven steam ferry built in 1885 at Toronto by Melancthon Simpson. She was 90.0 x 18.4 x 5'4, 98 Gross and 64 Net, and was powered by a high-pressure non-condensing engine, 14" x 16", built at Toronto by the Doty Engine Company. Doty also built her 5' x 10' firebox boiler. She was bought by the Niagara Navigation Company Ltd. in 1888 for the river ferry service and was renamed at that time. She was also used to carry Niagara-grown fruit to Toronto each autumn. In 1912, ONGIARA was purchased by Capt. Pat. McSherry of Toronto who used her for towing in and around Toronto Bay. She foundered in Lake Ontario off Bowmanville on October 17, 1918.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.