The Ship of the Month in our March issue was CITY OF OWEN SOUND (96), (b) SATURN, which was featured in a fine article painstakingly prepared especially for "Scanner" by member Ron Beaupre of Port Elgin. The March issue was hardly into the mail, however, when Ron came up with even more material concerning this steamer. We had hoped to include it in the April issue but we were forced to give CITY OF OWEN SOUND a one-month rest as a result of the length of the April feature concerning the C.P.R. steamer ALGOMA.
Ron was able to come up with a marine protest which was sworn at Collingwood on September 22, 1879, by John McNabb, master of CITY OF OWEN SOUND. (It will be recalled that, at that time, the steamer was operated by Smith and Keighley in their Collingwood and Lake Superior Line, of which Barlow Cumberland was general traffic manager.) "The said propellor, being tight and seaworthy and well and properly found in every respect, left the port of Collingwood, bound for Duluth with general cargo of freight and passengers, on 1st September, 1879.
"Ran without assistance until we arrived at Little Current, when after leaving the wharf there, a strong current running up and the water being low, the vessel touched on the bottom rather heavily. This was about 1:40 a.m. on 3rd September, wind N.E. fresh. Not perceiving any damage as far as we could tell, proceeded on our voyage. Got into the canal at the Sault at 6:25 a.m. on 4th September, wind blowing heavily from the Northwest. Got out of the canal at about 11:00 a.m. the same day. Lay off Point aux Pins until 6:50 p.m., wind blowing heavily, when, it appearing to be a fine night and the glass going up, we proceeded on our journey.
"And when about 5 miles above Point aux Pins and opposite Romeo Island, vessel touched bottom several times heavily, heavy sea running. When about a mile on over from where she touched, we found the vessel would not answer her helm, when we reversed the engine to keep her off shore while we got the anchor ready. During the time we got the anchor ready, the tug E.M. PECK came out to our assistance and towed us in Whisky Bay. When we got under shelter, made an examination and found that the rudder was broken off close to the fantail, leaving nothing but the stalk above deck. Felt to see if shoe was gone and found that it was, together with the shoe post on suspenders.
"Got the same tug to take us into the canal, where we arrived at 8:00 a.m. on 5th September. Got a new rudder made and returned to Owen Sound, being the nearest point where we could arrive at a drydock, having first transferred our freight and passengers to the steamer FRANCES SMITH. Arrived at Owen Sound on Tuesday morning, 9th September, at 8:10 o'clock. Had to remain until Saturday, 13th September, when we got on the drydock, but too late to do any work. Found that the whole shoe had been entirely torn off. Had a new shoe put on and got out of drydock on Thursday morning, 18th September, and proceeded to Collingwood, where we arrived at about 1 o'clock same day."
The protest was apparently taken down in the stream-of-consciousness manner in which Capt. McNabb related the incident. With all due apologies to the good skipper and to the lawyer's stenographer, we have edited it a bit, adding punctuation and paragraphing to make it somewhat easier to follow. Regardless, it is a valuable account as it documents yet another incident in CITY OF OWEN SOUND'S almost interminable string of ill fortune. As well, more information has come to light regarding the events that took place as Capt. William Leslie worked to salvage CITY OF OWEN SOUND after her October 24, 1887, encounter with Robertson's Rock. (The wreck lay undisturbed, in well over 100 feet of water, until 1891.) From "The Manitoulin Expositor" of 1891 and 1892, we have a series of fascinating reports.
From the issue of July 25, 1891: "The steam barge TECUMSEH, having in tow the schooner SYLVESTER NEELON, passed up (by Little Current) Sunday (July 19th). They were on their way to commence the work of raising the CITY OF OWEN SOUND, sunk in Clapperton Channel..."
The issue of August 15, 1891: "A string of pontoons to be used in raising the sunken (CITY OF) OWEN SOUND, passed up the (Little) Current, Tuesday afternoon (August 11th), and a strange sight they presented. As they tailed round the lighthouse, they looked for all the world like a herd of gigantic hippopotami." This was, no doubt, the tug EMMA MUNSON arriving from Kinsgton with Capt. Leslie's pontoons in tow.
By the next report, September 5, 1891, CITY OF OWEN SOUND had been partially raised but work had been suspended owing to a shortage of pontoons. To remedy this situation, two more pontoons passed upbound at Little Current on September 12 in tow of the steam barge ORION. It is interesting to note an incident that took place as ORION passed down the Little Current Channel on the morning of September 24. She ran aground on the shoal opposite the lighthouse at Little Current. The tug JAMES CLARK offered to pull ORION off the ledge for the princely sum of $10, no money to be paid unless the effort succeeded. The master of ORION refused this offer and managed to work his vessel free the next day at 4:00 a.m.
Disaster struck just as CITY OF OWEN SOUND was being towed away from Clapper-ton Island on Saturday, October 31, 1891. The tug EMMA MUNSON was overwhelmed by a gale of wind as she attempted to reach Little Current with CITY OF OWEN SOUND in tow, the wreck supported by Leslie's pontoons. The MUNSON was driven ashore at Elm Island, 2.83 nautical miles due east of Clapperton Island. The tug was holed and foundered, whilst the wreck of CITY OF OWEN SOUND lay in 20 feet of water. The wrecks were abandoned at Elm Island and the pontoons were removed. They were brought down to Picnic Island, near Little Current, and there they were hauled out on shore to await further salvage efforts.
The "Expositor" of November 7, 1891, further reported that "Capt. Burke of Midland, who bought the (CITY OF) OWEN SOUND (?? - we do not understand this reference -Ed.) went down on the BALTIC on Monday to get a wrecking tug to raise the MUNSON. CITY OF OWEN SOUND lies in perfect safety and the fact of her having drifted into shallow water will make the work of raising her much easier." It is possible that Burke was assisting Leslie in the wrecking job, but we doubt that Burke ever owned an interest in CITY OF OWEN SOUND.
Be this as it may, by July 30, 1892, CITY OF OWEN SOUND was reported to be raised and brought down as far as the Waubuno Channel. The raised tug EMMA MUNSON (which was not the victim of a pontoon "torpedo" after all) towed the wreck downbound at Little Current on August 11th.
Before we leave CITY OF OWEN SOUND, we should note that the Elm Island, to which we have referred, is merely a rock projecting out of a patch of shoals east of the centre of Clapperton Island. Our reference to Romeo Island in Capt. McNabb's protest is simply a guess on our part, because the handwriting in the document is so poor. In addition, we wonder what the Captain could be referring to when he mentions the "shoe post on suspenders". The rudder shoe, of course, would be the projection of the keel abaft the stern post, on which the spindle of the rudder would rest. But Capt. McNabb's reference is too obscure for our comprehension. Can any members enlighten us?
Ed. Note: We are sincerely indebted to Ron Beaupre for providing the basis for this addendum to the CITY OF OWEN SOUND story. In turn, Ron extends his thanks to Bruce Pitfield of Sudbury, who provided the quotations from "The Manitoulin Expositor", and to Gerry Ouderkirk of Toronto, who located the marine protest of 1879 in the Ontario Archives.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.