Chapter 7
Good Times in Port
Table of Contents

Title Page
1 A place called Hamilton.
2 Public Works and Private Enterprise
3 Port Hamilton
4 1837-1839
5 Ericsson Wheels
6 1844-1847
7 Good Times in Port
8 Boom Town Days
9 Depression Years
10 Better Times Ahead
11 1867-1870
12 Prosperity for the Shipbuilders
13 The Second Railway Building Era
14 1884-1888
15 The Electric Era
16 The Iron Age
Table of Illustrations


In January 1849, M. W. Browne advertised for sale

"the wharf and premises commonly called the Queen's Wharf, lately occupied by W. Colcleugh & Co. The premises are in first rate order; storage capable of holding 12,000 barrels and a considerable quantity of wheat, etc. The whole frontage between John and James Streets, containing about 6 acres of land on which is erected a substantial brick house, well adapted for a tavern and now rented, for 40 per annum; a good wharf and three large warehouses with a breastwork across the greater part."

On the night of Saturday, 24 March, a violent storm of wind accompanied by snow and rain completely broke up the ice in the harbour and the steamboat ECLIPSE,Capt. Edw. Harrison made her first call of the season from Toronto, on Wednesday, 28 March. The ROCHESTER,Capt. Masson began her sailings to the Niagara River ports on 31 March and the MAGNET,Capt. Sutherland, made her first departure for Kingston on the 12 April.

A reporter for the Hamilton Spectator visited the waterfront in the last week of March and in the vague manner of his breed, a characteristic that has never endeared reporters to authors or historians, scattered a few remarks to his readers. Somewhere in the vicinity of the foot of John Street, he was able to identify the steamer ROCHESTER, fitting out for the season. He discovered also that M. W. & E. Browne were extending their wharf 40 feet farther into the Bay and that Messrs. Land & Routh have been busily cutting away the high bank, so that MacNab Street could slope down directly to their wharf. They had, in addition, built an extension to their wharf and were now erecting a shed thereon. Our reporter next began to babble about the MAGNET and the ECLIPSE, so we must assume that he found these vessels at MacNab's Wharf, which was the next one west of Land & Routh's. His feet hurting him by this time, he headed back to the office and took pen in hand, becoming involved in rumours concerning which "Royal Mail" steamers would call at Hamilton in 1849.

Still on the subject of wharves, Jos. C. Morrison, of Toronto, placed a notice in the Spectator on 7 June, regarding the sale of

"that large and commodious Wharf and Store House at the foot of MacNab Street, known as the MacNab Wharf ... For further particulars, apply to M. W. & E. Browne,Hamilton,James Browne,Toronto,E. Browne & Co.,Kingston or to Wright & Green, auctioneers, Hamilton."

On the 10 June, an advertisement appeared announcing the entry into Lake service of the

"Splendid Upper Cabin Steamer NEW ERA,Capt. Maxwell, which would, until further notice, leave Hamilton every Wednesday and Saturday morning for Toronto and Kingston."
She had just been completed at Kingston by O. S. Gildersleeve and measured 172 x 23 x 9, with a net tonnage of 263. She was powered by a beam engine 44 x 120". Her owner was Henry Gildersleeve of Kingston.

The NEW ERA, quickly made herself popular by her fast passages, one traveller noting that she came up from Kingston to Toronto in 13 hours, despite storms and boisterous seas. She beat the steamer SOVEREIGN of the Hon. John Hamilton'sRoyal Mail Line by three hours. There was a "rate war" in progress and one could go from Hamilton to Kingston for ls. 3d., meals not included. The "opposition boats" were the NEW ERA,MAGNET and CITY OF TORONTO.

John E. Ebbs, who had worked for the Brownes for nine years, set himself up as a Custom House Broker. He gave his address as "Port Hamilton", which probably indicated that he was in the building near the foot of John Street, originally built as a hotel and which later became the City Hospital.

Thomas Wilson, trustee of the Estate of Thomas Rae, advertised for sale in July, 32 shares in the schooner POMONA of Hamilton, built in 1847 and having a registered tonnage of 264.

A lengthy letter from an anonymous traveller interested in mining propositions on Lake Superior, told of his journey from Penetang to Sault Ste. Marie aboard the steamboat GORE, which was formerly in service on Lake Ontario.

Generally speaking, business in the harbour was good in 1849, the regular callers, NEW ERA,MAGNET,CITY OF TORONTO,ECLIPSE and ROCHESTER being very active in the package freight trade. Other vessels made their appearance, like the BRITANNIA, which arrived on 22 June at Land & Routh's Wharf, where she unloaded 395 pieces of freight for 9 different consignees. Two days earlier, the new propeller HIBERNIA had left port with 3,000 barrels of flour, 1,000 shipped by the Brownes and 2,000 by Land & Routh. On the same day, the schooner TRAFALGAR sailed with 30,000 feet of boards and 1,500 shingles from Browne's Wharf.

The propeller FREE TRADER arrived at Land & Routh's on the 22 June with 209 pieces of freight for 13 different consignees and the following day, the schooner GILMOUR berthed there with 137 1/2 tons of iron and 300 barrels of salt. On the 25 June, the steamboat OTTAWA arrived at Browne's with 52 pieces of package freight and the HIBERNIA was back in port with 426 items for 15 consignees. The schooner CLYDE came in the same day with 374 pieces of package freight. The BRITANNIA's outward cargo on the 23 June, consisted of 953 bbls. flour and 4 bbls. ashes, shipped by Browne; 1,843 bbls. flour and 9 bbls. butter, shipped by Land and Routh and 37 bbls. flour, 9 bbls. whiskey, 21 bbls. butter, 8 bbls. cheese and 3 bbls. ashes, shipped by Knox & Fairgrieve of Dundas. The same day, the FREE TRADER cleared port with 1,500 bbls. flour, from Land & Routh; 77 bbls. flour and 11 bbls. whiskey from Knox & Fairgrieve and 41 bbls. whiskey and 57 bbls. butter from Browne.

The receipt and forwarding of cargo was not the only business of the port, as witness this item from the Spectator of 22 August:

"The immense influx of indigent emigrants at this port during the last fortnight has created the utmost alarm in the community. These people are landed upon our wharves, entirely penniless, and friendless - with no fixed destination - no means of transportation further - and the very bread which keeps them alive, is doled out by order of the authorities. Our readers will recollect that the City Council sent a deputation to Montreal, to present the claims which Hamilton possesses to assistance, on account of its position at the head of navigation and the great expense of forwarding emigrants overland to other destinations."
The government gave the Hamilton deputation a polite reception, but that was all. It was intimated that Mr. Hawke the chief agent at Toronto was taking the easy way out of his own problem by distributing one-way tickets to Hamilton to all those unfortunates considered by him to be unacceptable to "Toronto the Good."

Late in August came the story of the schooner LILLA of Kingston, recently returned to Quebec from a Trans-Atlantic voyage, and the Quebec Pilot had this to say:

"Last Fall, Messrs. C. E. Levey & Co. of Quebec, brought down the LILLA, a very fine three-masted schooner, built at Kingston by Mr. Hunter, with the intention of sending her to England. The lateness of the season prevented the necessary alterations being made and the vessel had to winter at Quebec. She sailed in May for London and made a very good run home, having sailed from Deal on the 5 July. Our Western friends will have the satisfaction that the first arrival of the Fall Fleet is the Lake Schooner LILLA, proving that slip-keel [centre-board] vessels can traverse the Atlantic as fast as the best European keeled vessels."

On the 30 August, a meeting was held at the head office of the Canada Life Assurance Company in Hamilton, for the purpose of incorporating the Ontario Marine & Fire Insurance Company. The chairman was Hugh C. Baker and the secretary was C. A. Sadleir. The Committee of Management nominated at this meeting was a veritable roster of the business community and read as follows: R. Juson,Daniel C. Gunn,J. H. Larkin,Nehemiah Merritt,Jas. Mathieson,R. O. Duggan,J. O. Hatt,G. S. Tiffany,R. Spence,Jas. Osborne,Jasper T. Gilkison,J. Cummings,Aeneas S. Kennedy,M. W. Browne and W. Atkinson.

The MAGNET went ashore near Bond Head Harbour on 12 November during a fog. She was pumped out and towed into Port Darlington by the steamboat AMERICA and there awaited the arrival of salvage equipment from Toronto. She was then taken to the Niagara shipyard and was back in service by the end of the month.


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This volume is copyright The Estate of Ivan S. Brookes and is published with permission of the Estate. The originals are deposited in the Special Collections of the Hamilton Public Library.