Our Ship of the Month is a feature on whose preparation we spend a considerable amount of time each issue. Sometimes the choice of ship is ours, and on other occasions it comes about through readers' requests. In either case, we try to make the feature as detailed and accurate as we can, and for this reason we usually have several possible features on the "back burner", waiting for additional information that we have been seeking, or searching out elusive photographs. Our Ship of the Month this time around is a perfect case in point, for we have wanted to present her history for a long time, but only recently have obtained the additional detail that we required, as well as a series of excellent photographs of the vessel.
The wooden-hulled, double-decked, sidewheel, passenger and package freight steamer MANITOBA was built of oak back in 1871 at the village of Port Robinson, Ontario, by the famous shipbuilder Melancthon Simpson, who, like his brother John, practiced his art at several lake ports over the years. MANITOBA was 173. 0 feet in length, 25.0 feet in the beam across the hull but some 45 feet over the guards, and 11. 0 feet in depth. Her tonnage was originally recorded as 338 Gross and 236 Net. She was powered by a beam engine which was built by George Oille at St. Catharines, and which boasted a cylinder of 45 inches diameter, and a stroke of 108 inches. It would appear that steam was provided by two boilers, which undoubtedly were of very simple construction, and which probably were fired with wood.
MANITOBA was a handsome vessel and was typical of steamers of her era. Her hull was very graceful, with a straight stem, a counter stern, and a sweeping sheer to her decks. Her main deck was closed in back to the paddleboxes and was open from there aft, with minimal protection afforded to the fantail area by a closed taffrail. Freight was carried on the forward section of the main deck, as well as in the hold, and was loaded and unloaded via large sideports. The after portion of the main deck was given over to passenger and crew accommodations, but the main passenger quarters were located in a long deckhouse on the promenade deck. Light was admitted to this upper cabin by means of a long clerestory, as well as by a multitude of windows featuring pseudo-Gothic, pointed-arch tops.
The promenade around the passenger cabin on the upper deck was protected by an open mesh rail, but was interrupted by the paddleboxes, which were extremely large and which soared high over even the boat deck. MANITOBA was propelled by large-diameter radial sidewheels, the smaller and more efficient feathering paddlewheel not yet being in vogue. The sidewheels were set further aft on MANITOBA than on many steamers of the period. The paddleboxes were very intricately worked and decorated, and the ship's name appeared in large and fancy letters across the main deck portion of the boxes.
On the boat deck, far forward and immediately above the forward end of the passenger cabin, was located MANITOBA's octagonal "birdcage" pilothouse, complete with carved finial sprouting from its domed top. There was no cabin behind the pilothouse for the master's quarters, nor was there any sort of cabin structure on the boat deck at all except for the pilothouse itself.
MANITOBA's two stacks, relatively tall but thin, and slightly raked, were carried athwartship and rose from the boat deck forward of the paddleboxes. Four lifeboats were carried on the boat deck, and they were worked from radial davits; there were two boats on each side, one forward and one aft of the paddlebox. Right aft was set an extremely tall flagstaff. The walking beam was not housed in any manner, and it protruded high above the boat deck, its aft connecting rod turning the cranks on the wheel shaft, as the engine was located forward of the wheels.
The steamer's hull was originally painted black up to the line of the main deck. Her superstructure and cabins were painted white, and her stacks were red with black tops. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing what colours were applied to the paddlebox designs, but it would seem evident that MANITOBA was quite a colourful ship.
After her completion, MANITOBA made four trips in 1871 from Collingwood to Lake Superior. A press report of May 2, 1872, stated that "the steamers MANITOBA, CUMBERLAND and FRANCES SMITH are to form a line between Windsor and Lake Superior. They are being fitted up in good shape. " In fact, at the beginning of the 1872 season, MANITOBA commenced operation on the main Beatty Line route from Sarnia to the Canadian Lakehead. She may well have run "in conjunction" with CUMBERLAND and FRANCES SMITH, but the Beattys had no ownership interest in either of those steamers as far as can be ascertained.
Her first full year of service saw MANITOBA involved in a serious grounding. On Thursday, July 11, 1872, the steamer stranded on a reef near Michipicoten Island on Lake Superior, the rocky outcropping not appearing on navigation charts of the day. Unable to communicate her plight to anyone, MANITOBA remained hung up on the reef for two days, until she was spotted by the sidewheeler CUMBERLAND. This steamer came to MANITOBA's aid, first removing 75 passengers from the stranded ship, and then pulling MANITOBA off the rocks. MANITOBA had sustained considerable damage, and she was temporarily beached again so that her condition could be assessed and temporary repairs made. She then was refloated and proceeded to Detroit for the necessary repairs.
It is interesting to note that CUMBERLAND, although somewhat larger than MANITOBA, and operated normally between Collingwood and Port Arthur by the Toronto and Lake Superior Navigation Company Ltd., Toronto, of which F. W. Cumberland was manager, began her life with MANITOBA. Both ships were completed in 1871 by Melancthon Simpson in the same shipyard at Port Robinson. MANITOBA, however, was a far more successful ship. CUMBERLAND enjoyed but a very short career, for she stranded to a total loss on Rock of Ages Reef, near Isle Royale in Lake Superior, on Tuesday, July 24, 1877.
Once she was fully repaired from the damage which she sustained in her grounding, MANITOBA went back into service for Beatty's Lake Superior Line. She made history on Saturday, August 16th, 1873, when, under the command of Capt. J. B. Symes, she had the honour of being the first large steamer to enter the harbour at Fort William, Ontario. A bar across the mouth of the Kaministiquia River had previously forced steamers calling at Fort William to anchor outside and transfer their passengers and cargo to lighters for removal ashore. On this auspicious occasion, however, MANITOBA entered the harbour and tied up alongside the dock of the Hudsons Bay Company. In Toronto, it was reported that, in 1873, "from Sarnia, in connection with the G. T. R. (Grand Trunk Railway), the steamers MANITOBA and CITY OF MONTREAL formed a line from Montreal to Fort Garry, or, as it was just being called, Winnipeg".
MANITOBA, operated without major incident until Thursday, August 26, 1875. During that evening, MANITOBA was upbound in the upper St. Mary's River on her usual run to Fort William. In the haze of the summer evening, some seven miles southeast of Whitefish Point, MANITOBA met the downbound steamer COMET, which was owned by Hanna, Garretson and Company, Cleveland (later to be known as the M. A. Hanna Company). For some reason which never was explained, the master of COMET, on observing ahead first the white and then the red light of MANITOBA, altered course to port, thus turning directly across the path of the oncoming steamer. When he realized what he had done, COMET's master swung his ship back to starboard, but it was too late to avoid a collision. MANITOBA struck COMET on the port bow, not far from the stem, and her bow sliced deeply into COMET's hull. COMET rapidly took on water, and she sank some ten minutes after the impact. Eleven members of her crew were lost but ten others were rescued by MANITOBA, which turned around and took them to Sault Ste. Marie.
Such minor damage as MANITOBA had received in the collision was repaired and the steamer was soon back in regular service. In 1876, there was an ownership change for MANITOBA, in that the members of the Beatty family transferred their personal interest in the ship to their Northwest Transportation Company Ltd., Sarnia, which had actually been incorporated back in 1870. A review of the company's services for 1877 did not include MANITOBA, perhaps because she may have been chartered out to other operators, but a report for 1878, as contained in Robertson's Landmarks of Toronto, contained the following mention of MANITOBA and her fleetmates.
The Northwest Transportation Company Ltd. consisted this season of five steamers, one of which left Sarnia every Tuesday and Friday at 10: 00 p. m., and Windsor every Friday at 9: 00 a. m., carrying the Canadian mails, in connection with the Grand Trunk, the Great Western, and Canada Southern Railways. These first class and powerful steamers left Sarnia at 10: 00 p. m. and Goderich, Kincardine and Southampton the following morning for Bruce Mines, St. Joseph's Island, Sault Ste. Marie, Silver Islet, Fort William and Duluth, making close connections with the Northern Pacific Railway and Kitson's Red River steamers for Fort Garry. These vessels were the QUEBEC, MANITOBA, ONTARIO, ASIA and SOVEREIGN. " It is interesting to note that of all those vessels, MANITOBA was the only sidewheeler, the rest being propellers. Virtually the same schedule was in effect for the 1879 season.
In 1880, the press reported that "from Sarnia sailed the MANITOBA, QUEBEC and ONTARIO for ports on Lake Superior". The "Sarnia Observer" for Friday, May 28, 1880, under the heading of "Point Edward News", reported that "while the steamer MANITOBA was taking on excursionists for Detroit on the 24th, some part of the machinery connected with the capstan broke, throwing the lever back, striking one of the crew and inflicting a very serious wound".
A local press report for July 23, 1880, stated that "the MANITOBA arrived in Sarnia about four o'clock on Saturday morning, having been detained some 4 hours in Lake Superior by dense fog. She brought a goodly number of passengers on their return trip. Saturday evening, she left on the upward trip, laving on board a large number of excursionists under the charge of Mr. W. H. Sunderland of Dayton, Ohio. The MANITOBA was crowded to her utmost capacity for first class passengers, numbering 135. besides having on board a large consignment of freight for the Hudsons Bay posts. " It was reported on August 13, 1880, that "Governor Colville, Mr. C. D. Brydges, Commissioners of the Hudsons Bay Company, arrived here (Point Edward; last Friday evening and took the steamer MANITOBA for Duluth".
MANITOBA carried on in the Beatty Line's service, but her days became numbered when the Northwest Transportation Company launched its most famous steamer, the beautiful big UNITED EMPIRE, in the autumn of 1882. UNITED EMPIRE's first full season of service for the Beattys was 1883. and that was the year that MANITOBA passed out of the fleet's operations.
It was on Wednesday, November 14, 1883, that MANITOBA managed to go ashore in the inside of Chantry Island, located on the east side of Lake Huron, ap-approximately three-quarters of a mile west of the mouth of the Saugeen River at Southampton, Ontario. According to an entry in the diary of William Lambert, the lightkeeper at Chantry Island, the steamers MANITOBA and QUEBEC both went ashore on the inside of the island on the same day. This was somewhat unusual, in that both boats sailed for the Beatty Line, and neither of them would normally have been behind Chantry Island even though it was a recognized place of shelter. In any case, QUEBEC was refloated before the end of the 1883 season, but MANITOBA was not removed until May 30, 1884, when tugs pulled her off with the aid of pontoons. The Port Huron newspaper reported on Saturday, May 31, 1884, that "the new tug CHARLTON has pulled off the Str. MANITOBA at Southampton, where she went ashore last fall. The CHARLTON is S. A. Murphy's new tug, but she has the hull and machinery of the tug CHARLES KELLOGG."
At this point in time, we have little choice but to engage in a spot of speculation, which is the historian's anathema but which occasionally is necessary in order to make some sort of sense out of otherwise inexplicable fact. Considering that the season was well advanced, and that adverse weather conditions might have been expected, and knowing that MANITOBA was still hard aground long after QUEBEC was freed, we can draw certain deductions which, we must hasten to warn, are NOT to be construed as fact.
It is likely that MANITOBA was bound for the Lakehead via her usual way ports, two of which were Kincardine and Southampton. She may have run into heavy weather, sought shelter in the harbour of refuge behind Chantry Island, and then run hard aground, either in attempting to leave the anchorage, or perhaps caught in a wind shift that carried her into shoal water on the island shore. QUEBEC may well have been attempting to assist MANITOBA, or else was sheltering herself, at the time that she found the same bottom, although in a more accessible position. In the past, we knew of MANITOBA's grounding, but it was only with the discovery of the lightkeeper's diaries that we became aware of the QUEBEC's involvement in the peculiar occurrence. No other details are presently available to us.
(Incidentally, this was not MANITOBA's only adventure in the Chantry Island area. Back on September 1879, she had been in the vicinity when the small schooner MARY & LUCY grounded on the reef at the south entrance to the harbour of refuge. MANITOBA put her yawl in the water, and from it several of her crew as well as the son of the lightkeeper attempted to aid the crew of the schooner. The yawl overturned at least twice, and the lightkeeper's son was drowned in the process. As it turned out, the stranded MARY & LUCY eventually washed right over the reef and fetched up on the mainland beach, from whence her crew could simply walk up into the town of Southampton!)
When CARMONA returned to service in 1888, she did so under the ownership of the Canada Lake Superior Transit Company Ltd., of Toronto and Collingwood, this being a firm that was managed by Messrs Smith and Keighley, wholesale grocers. There is reason to believe that this company was in some manner associated with the Beatty Line operations, and that Smith and Keighley may even have been connected with the operations of MANITOBA in her very early years. Nevertheless, we have no knowledge of the details of any arrangements that may have existed between the two organizations.
The Canada Lake Superior Transit Company Ltd. also owned the steamers CAMPANA and CAMBRIA, as well as CARMONA, and all three spent time operating under charter to the Canadian Pacific Railway (whose marine operations had been managed since 1882 by none other than Henry Beatty, formerly of the Northwest Transportation Company). CAMBRIA had been rebuilt in 1880 from the wooden tug CHAMPION, and it would appear that she was running under charter to the C. P. R. before that company's three steel-hulled vessels were commissioned in 1884. CAMPANA, of course, served as a replacement for the lost ALGOMA, and the C. P. R. used this iron-hulled steamer until its new MANITOBA, built in 1889, was completed. Then, in 1889 and 1890, CAMPANA operated under charter to, of all people, the Beattys and their Northwest Transportation Company. A tangled web, indeed...
CARMONA was given the usual early C. P. R. stack colours when in the railway's service. Her funnel was painted black, with two dark red bands and a very narrow white band. Her hull was all white (except for a dark boot-top, which may well have been red), and her cabins were all white. Her redesigned and marginally smaller paddleboxes were still ornately decorated, and the ship's lame was emblazoned on them at the main deck level. Around the outside rim of the facing of the paddleboxes was painted the legend "Windsor, Detroit and Soo Line". It would appear that CARMONA ran this lower route, in company with CAMBRIA, to connect with the C. P. R. steamers at the Soo for Owen Sound and for Fort William and Port Arthur. As well, CARMONA and CAMBRIA stopped at way ports en route, such as Kincardine, Ontario, which had a very busy harbour at that time.
In the autumn of 1890, CARMONA was brought to Toronto, and in 1891 she ran excursion and ferry service out of the city to Lorne Park and to Grimsby. during the seasons of 1892 and 1893. she ran from Toronto to Rochester, New York, with occasional trips to the Thousand Islands of the Upper St. Lawrence River. She was still under the management of Smith and Keighley, Toronto, whilst so engaged. Robertson's Landmarks recorded that her master, towards the end of her Lake Ontario service, was Capt. William Parkinson, and that Frank White was her principal engineer. Previous commanders of the steamer ad been Captains Black and La France. The same source indicated that "the boat is famous for the regularity of her journeys and for the attention that s paid by those on board to all who travel by her means from Toronto to Rochester. She is elegantly fitted throughout, lighted with electricity, and the attractions that she offers are greatly appreciated by the travelling public... The offices of this popular steamship are at 9 Front Street East, Toronto. She is owned by the Canada Lake Superior Transit Company."
By 1895. the ownership of CARMONA had passed to Brown and Company, of St. Catharines, the manager of this firm being listed as George W. Brown, Port Arthur. Brown put the steamer back in Lake Huron service, operating her under the name of the Georgian Bay Navigation Company Ltd., Toronto.
It is to be noted that CARMONA received a further reconstruction during the period in which she carried that name. A great many portholes replaced the gothic windows in the closed-in sides of the main deck cabin. As well, a new pilothouse was placed forward on the boat deck, taking the place of the old "birdcage" structure. The new house was a large, squarish cabin, with three large curved-top windows across its front. The master's quarters were contained in the after portion of this structure, and the entire cabin was topped with an open rail. The old fidded mast was removed, and a new and much shorter pole mast was fitted; it rose from the bridge structure approximately where the pilothouse and the master's quarters abutted each other.
The high, dome-topped clerestory, which ran down the boat deck, was rebuilt with a raised flat top, and an observation area, complete with benches and sheltering awnings, was built atop the clerestory between the pilothouse and the stack, this being the first time that the vessel had carried any facilities for passengers on the boat deck. Another improvement made at this time was the closing in of the forward section of the promenade deck rail.
It is not known exactly when these changes were made to CARMONA, although the work probably was done in the mid-1890s. Photographs of the ship, taken after the reconstruction, show her still to be carrying the "C. P. R. colours" on her stack. This is odd indeed, for it was prior to her years of service on Lake Ontario that she had actually been chartered to the C. P. R, and one would have expected that the stack colours would have been changed during the intervening period. Was it simply that neither Smith and Keighley nor Brown ever got around to changing the stack design after the C. P. R. charter ended, or was the design retained because CARMONA made connections with the C. P. R. steamers at Sault Ste. Marie? Once again, we must speculate as to the answer. We have never seen any proof of it, but we rather suspect that, even when she was running in summer service on Lake Ontario, CARMONA may have returned to her Lake Huron run during the spring and fall of each year, still connecting with the C. P. R. boats.
Sometime during the 1899 season (we do not know the exact date or location), CARMONA was in collision with the Davidson Steamship Company's 308-foot, wooden-hulled steamer SHENANDOAH, which was towing Davidson's schooner-barges CRETE and GRANADA at the time of the accident. CARMONA was damaged in the altercation and, in a decision rendered in the late spring of 1902, the Canadian Court of Admiralty awarded the sum of $2,183. 00 to the Georgian Bay Navigation Company Ltd. as damages for the injuries suffered by CARMONA.
To accommodate the increased passenger load, PITTSBURG was given two extra lifeboats, bringing the total number of boats to six. The new boats were added forward of the original forward set, so that on each side of the vessel there were three boats, two forward of the paddlebox and one aft. As well, the top of the boat deck clerestory was again rebuilt and lowered, and open observation areas were provided both forward of the stack and aft of the walking beam. Despite all of these various improvements, however, the reconstruction of the ship produced one major negative feature; the enlarged PITTSBURG could now manage a speed of only six miles per hour!
When PITTSBURG returned to service, her operator once again was the Georgian Bay Navigation Company Ltd., Toronto. Her promenade deck rail forward carried the company's name in large letters for several years, and the letters spelling "G. B. N. Co. " appeared in the hub area of the paddleboxes. For a while, the legend "Cleveland and Georgian Bay Route" appeared around the rim of the paddleboxes just as it had during the steamer's latter years of operation under the name CARMONA, but this route description later was painted out.
As revealed in various photographs, PITTSBURG's hull was all-white for some time, and then became black to the top of the main deck rail. We have no actual confirmation of the dates of these colour changes, but we are certain that the white hull came first, because at least one photo of the ship during this period shows her with both the white hull and the "Cleveland and Georgian Bay Route" legend on the paddleboxes, thus tying the appearance of the steamer more closely to her CARMONA years than to the years that followed. Her stack appears to have been a light shade (buff, perhaps) in her early years as PITTSBURG, but without a smokeband, and contemporary photos indicate quite clearly the effects of soot and cinders on such impractical funnel colours. By the time PITTSBURG's hull became black, her stack also had been painted all black, a less colourful but more practical arrangement all around.
It would also appear that PITTSBURG was given a new stack at the time of the rebuilding, for photographs of the ship in this, her final guise, appear to show a taller and much heavier funnel (possibly equipped with a "liner"), with its top cut off almost parallel to the water instead of perpendicular to the rake of the stack. The combination of all these changes made PITTSBURG an impressive ship indeed, although somewhat peculiar in design.
Brown was apparently referring to a proposal to place a line of turbine ships on a passenger and freight route between Fort William and Toronto, but details of the plan were not made public until 1904. The new operating company was to be known as the Cleveland and Georgian Bay Line, and it was planned that three combination steamers, with steel hulls 235 x 41 x 14, and with a passenger capacity of 250 persons each, would be built at Newcastle-on-Tyne in Great Britain. Profile and section plans of the ships (presumably submitted by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd.) made them look very much like canal-sized versions of the C. P. R.'s KEEWATIN and ASSINIBOIA which, of course, only came out from Glasgow in 1907. The plans for the Cleveland and Georgian Bay Line never came to fruition, and we have been unable to locate any further reference to the line or its proposed turbine steamers subsequent to the detailed announcement of March 1904.
By the time the 1904 announcement was made, her owners had already lost the services of PITTSBURG, and it is not surprising that nothing came of the service. On April 14, 1903, W. J. Brown transferred the ownership of PITTSBURG from the Georgian Bay Navigation Company Ltd. to the Huron Navigation Company Ltd., Toronto, but the only significant change that resulted from this transfer was the removal of the old company's name from the ship's rail and from the paddleboxes. Her route appears to have remained unaltered. On Sunday, August 30th, 1903, however, PITTSBURG was severely damaged by fire whilst lying at the Queen's Dock at Sandwich (Windsor), Ontario. The tug HOME RULE attempted to extinguish the fire, but to no avail. The crew of PITTSBURG escaped the ship without loss of life, and the cause of the conflagration was never determined. The steamer was damaged beyond repair, and her remains were finally dismantled at Port Dalhousie during the 1904 season.
MANITOBA/CARMONA/PITTSBURG enjoyed an active life of more than three decades, and thus lasted considerably longer than did many of her contemporaries, whose wooden hulls had given out from hard use, or whose lives had been terminated early as a result of fire (the scourge of the wooden passenger steamer), or of collision or stranding. When Melancthon Simpson built MANITOBA back in 1871 at the village of Port Robinson, he did an extremely good job, and he somehow managed to endow the steamer with a generous measure of good fortune that remained with her through the years.
Ed Note: Both Ye Ed. and the Secretary of T. M. H. S. worked many long hours over this feature in an effort to make it the definitive history of MANITOBA/ CARMONA/PITTSBURG. We are greatly indebted to member Ronald F. Beaupre of Port Elgin, Ontario, for his assistance in finding answers to many of our questions, and for providing us with many excellent photos of the steamer.
The more we learn about this vessel, however, the more questions are raised, and if any of our members are able to shed light on any of the "loose ends" of her history, we should be most pleased to hear from them.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.