Our Ship of the Month for the December issue was the little wooden steamer RESOLUTE, (b) JOHN ROLPH, which for many years was a familiar sight on Lake Ontario and particularly in the Toronto area. RESOLUTE is, perhaps, best known for her unfortunate sinking off Toronto's Western Gap on November 21, 1906. While sorting some old newspaper clippings recently, we found an item concerning RESOLUTE which we thought might be of interest to our readers.
For many years, "The Evening Telegram" of Toronto carried a waterfront column, written by C. I. Radford, which featured vessel passages and notes concerning ships and activity around Toronto harbour. This was, of course, back in those happy days when Toronto was blessed with two evening papers and when the local press considered shipping news and vessel movements to be both important and interesting. Today, in contrast, the "Telegram" is long gone and. although Harbourfront Park is a vibrant and welcome addition to the harbour scene, nobody seems to care about Toronto as a commercial port or about what the ships there (if there are any, that is) may be doing.
"With the names RELIANCE and RESOLUTE figuring prominently in the war news of Britain's navy, D. S. LaRue of Belleville, retired marine engineer on the Great Lakes, recounted his experiences while sailing on ships of the same names back in the '80s.
"One of his most interesting reminiscences was that of 'the shantyman's curse', which superstitious sailors of that day believed had been put on a certain cargo of lumber (which was being transported by ship) from the Port of Deseronto to Oswego.
'"I was firing on the RESOLUTE', Mr. LaRue related. 'We were returning from Oswego, light, and we met the RELIANCE (the two steamers were then running on opposing schedules, providing a tri-weekly service) off the False Ducks at the tip of Prince Edward County. She (RELIANCE) had a cargo of lumber loaded at Deseronto. We collided with her at night, and the RELIANCE settled until she was drawing seventeen feet of water instead of her usual ten feet. The cargo of lumber held her up, and we towed her back to Deseronto, unloaded the cargo, and put it into another ship, the TWO BROTHERS (a two-masted schooner built at Port Burwell in 1868). She got out to Glenora, where the (passenger steamer) REINDEER, owned by Captain Collier of Picton, hit her.
'"Back she (TWO BROTHERS) came to Deseronto again and the lumber was put in a kiln to be dried out. It was loaded on the RESOLUTE this time, and we got it safely across to Oswego. There the cargo was put on a canal boat, bound for New York, but we learned later that it had foundered near Syracuse. That cargo really was a jinx. Most of the men figured that the shantyman who cut it had put a curse on it.'
"A few years later, the RESOLUTE figured in another incident, which happily ended without casualties. While towing the 'three-and-after' schooner ABBIE L. ANDREWS (a 138.7-footer built in 1873 at Toledo), from Oswego to Deseronto, a terrific storm blew up, making it necessary to cut the tow rope. The RESOLUTE, according to Mr. LaRue, ended up in Port Dalhousie, while the ABBIE L. ANDREWS made Hamilton safely." (That must have been quite some storm, if it was strong enough to blow both vessels all the way down to the other end of Lake Ontario!)
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.