Chapter 8
Boom Town Days
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


The year 1855 began with the news of the destruction by fire of the steamer QUEEN CITY on the 22 January, while she lay at the Queen's Wharf in Toronto. The steamers CHIEF JUSTICE ROBINSON and WELLAND were berthed astern of her, while the PEERLESS and the MAYFLOWER, together with several schooners, were endangered when the wharf caught fire. The QUEEN CITY, originally named LADY OF THE LAKE, was built in 1842 at Oswego by George S. Weeks and, measured 197 x 24 x 9.2; 425 tons. Her engine was built by the Allaire Iron Works in New York. She had operated on the Lewiston to Ogdensburg service until 1852, when she was placed on the Kingston & Cape Vincent ferry run. In 1853 she passed to the ownership of M. W. Browne of Hamilton for the sum of £4,000 and was renamed.

In February, P. S. Stevenson of Hamilton, purchased the steamer ST. NICHOLAS, which had been built in 1853 at Cape Vincent and had dimensions of 129 x 24 x 11, 115 tons. He sold her almost immediately to M. W. Browne, who retained her until 1857, when she was purchased by James Coleman of Dundas.

On the 28 February, the steamer LORD ELGIN was advertised for sale or charter. She was wintering at Kingston. Applications were to be addressed to Captains Sutherland and Colcleugh at Hamilton; to Alex. Milloy at Montreal or to Wm. Craig.

Early in March, the Kingston Whig reported that the Annual Meeting of the Steamboat Owners had concluded and that the Lake line would consist of the MAGNET,Capt. Twohy; the ARABIAN,Capt. Colcleugh and the PASSPORT,Capt. Harbottle. The River Line comprised the NEW ERA,Capt. Chrysler, the CHAMPION,Capt. Milloy, the BANSHEE,Capt. Howard and a new iron steamer

"now building at Montreal for the Hon. John Hamilton."
The ST. LAWRENCE and the OTTAWA would be held in reserve.

On the 14 March, the Rome, Watertown & Cape Vincent R. R. announced that they would, operate the propellers JEFFERSON, built in 1853 at Buffalo and the LADY OF THE LAKE, built in 1846 at Cleveland and that their agent at Hamilton was P. S. Stevenson.

An advertisement appeared on the 10 April for Holcomb & Henderson's Daily Line from Montreal to Hamilton and it listed the following vessels: HURON,Capt. Stalker,GEORGE MOFFATT,Capt. Twitchell,COLONIST,Capt. Sughrue,WESTERN MILLER,Capt. McGrath,BRITANNIA,Capt. Cummings and SCOTLAND,Capt. S. Patterson. Their Montreal - St. Catharines service would be handled by the BRANTFORD under Capt. Jos. Davis. The steamer REINDEER,Capt. Geo. Patterson, would operate from Montreal to Pt. Dover,Pt. Burwell, and Port Stanley, while the PORCUPINE,Capt. Crowley, would handle the River trade from Kingston down to Quebec. In addition, the fleet included these schooners: GOVERNOR,Capt. P. Davis,CALIFORNIA,Capt. Goodearle and the PREMIER,Capt. Fitzgibbon.

Service between Hamilton and Toronto was to be provided by the steamers WELLAND,Capt. Wm. Donaldson and the CHIEF JUSTICE ROBINSON,Capt. Murdock. However, in May, the ZIMMERMAN,Capt. Milloy, replaced the WELLAND, which presumably went to the Port Dalhousie-Toronto run, for which she was built.

On the afternoon of Saturday, 28 April, the three-masted schooner ANDREW STEVEN was launched at James Whyte & Company's shipyard near Cook's Wharf. This was situated below the high cliff at the corner of Bay and Burlington Streets. The steamer MAGNET stood by and towed the schooner in for fitting-out. This schooner had a registered tonnage of 331 and could carry about 450 tons.

Saturday, 19 May was a busy day at the City Docks, as witness this list of arrivals: Schooner ROYAL TAR,Capt. Smith from Oswego with general cargo for Nixon & Swales; steamer HURON,Capt. Stalker from Montreal with general cargo for Holcomb & Henderson; schooner AMERICA,Capt. Robinson from Kingston with general cargo, no agent given. The schooner INDUSTRY,Capt. Anderson from Cleveland with 100 grindstones for Edw. Zealand; steamer CHIEF JUSTICE ROBINSON,Capt. Murdock from Toronto with passengers and general cargo for Nixon & Swales; steamer ZIMMERMAN,Capt. Milloy from Toronto with passengers and general cargo for Holcomb & Henderson and the ARABIAN,Capt. Colcleugh from Kingston with passengers and general for Nixon & Swales.

On Monday, 28 May, Holcomb & Henderson lost their steamboat PORCUPINE, when she was destroyed by fire about 2 miles above Prescott.

C. J. Brydges, Managing Director of the Great Western R. R. announced hopefully, that their steamers CANADA,Capt. G. E. Willoughby and AMERICA,Capt. John Masson would commence service from Hamilton to Toronto and Oswego on Monday, 18 June, daily except Sunday.

Tuesday, 19 June, saw many arrivals in port, but there was considerable activity at the Great Western R. R. Wharf, with these three schooners: the CAROLINE,Capt. Ewart from Montreal with two locomotives and 120 tons of pig iron; the PREMIER,Capt. Fitzgibbon, from the same port with two locomotives, 194 tons of pig iron and 226 kegs of powder and the BRITISH QUEEN,Capt. Mitchell, whose cargo consisted of two locomotives, two boilers, three tenders, 17 pairs of wheels and axles, 20 cases of machinery, 8 chimneys, 6 rods, 8 buffers, 42 pairs of wheels and axles and 65 tons of pig iron. She also came from Montreal.

An advertisement placed on the 23 June, stated that the steamer EUROPA,Capt. Harrison, was in service between Hamilton and Ogdensburg, Tuesdays and Fridays, connecting with the steamer BRITISH EMPIRE, eastbound. This was also the day on which the new steamer CANADA made a trial run to Toronto and we quote the Hamilton Spectator of Monday, 25 June,

"The CANADA, the first of the magnificent new steamers of the Great Western Company which commence their regular trips today between this city and Oswego, made a trial trip to Toronto on Saturday, which was in every way, highly satisfactory. She left the Company's docks a little before 11 o'clock with a goodly company on board. Among those present, we observed the Managing Director, C. J. Brydges, Mayor Chas. Magill, the Hon. Malcolm Cameron and other dignitaries, besides a number of ladies. The CANADA left her wharf at 10:44 a.m., reached the Canal at 11:11, stopping a short time while the NEW ERA was passing through. She passed Bronte at 11:43, Oakville at 11:56, Port Credit at 12:30, Queen's Wharf at 1:16 and reached Yonge St. Wharf at 1:26 p.m. The time occupied between James St. Wharf and Yonge St. Wharf was 2 hours and 24 minutes. She left Toronto at 4:15 p. m. and arrived back at the G. W. R. R. Wharf at 6:39 p.m. We have every reason to believe that the CANADA is capable of accomplishing the distance between this city and Toronto in 2 hours. We never enjoyed a more delightful trip, everything went off in the most admirable manner and Capt. Willoughby has reason to be proud of the satisfactory result of his first trip. He was accompanied by Captains Masson and Sutherland, who were most obliging and courteous to all on board. We cannot help regretting that the CANADA should have met with such a cold reception as she received in Toronto. Not a cheer was raised, We do not think the people of Oswego will follow this example when the CANADA makes her appearance in the harbour of that city. She leaves today, direct for Oswego, to be followed by the AMERICA tomorrow. We need hardly say, we wish them all success. Two more obliging and popular commanders than Captains Willoughby and Masson are not to be found and we doubt not their splendid boats will soon become the favourites of Lake Ontario. The Directors of the Great Western may feel justly proud of the noble steamers, for no vessels on our Inland Waters are at all to be compared with them. They are in every respect model boats, both as to build and accommodation, and are fitted up in a style of magnificence unequaled by any others we have ever seen."

Activity in the harbour during the weekend of 7 and 8 July was quite impressive. The arrivals and departures were as follows, giving the vessels name, captain's name, agent and the port from which she came or whence she sailed:

Str. WELLAND,Donaldson,Holcomb & Henderson, from Toronto
Str. CHIEF JUSTICE ROBINSON,Murdock,Nixon & Swales, From Toronto
Sch. MOWAT,Larkin,Holcomb & Henderson, from Cleveland with coal
Sch. MERCHANT MILLER,Thompson, to Routh & Co. from Cleveland, coal
Str. AMERICA,Masson,G. W. R. R., from Oswego
Sch. CERES,McMaster,G. W. R. R., from Oswego
Sch. ISABELLA,Morley,Edw. Zealand, from Oswego
Str. WESTERN MILLER,McGrath, G. W. R. R., from Montreal
Str. SCOTLAND,Patterson,Holcomb & Henderson, from Montreal
Str. PROTECTION,McDonald,Edw. Browne, from Montreal
Str. PASSPORT,Harbottle,Nixon & Swales, from Kingston
Sch. EDITH,Palmateer,Nixon & Swales, from Oswego
Str. EUROPA,Harrison,Nixon & Swales, from Ogdensburg
Str. BANSHEE,Malcolmson,Nixon & Swales, from Cape Vincent
Str. MAGNET,Twohy,Holcomb & Henderson, from Kingston
Str. CANADA,Willoughby,G. W. R. R., from Oswego
Sch. ELIZA MARIE,George, To Routh & Co., from Brighton
Sch. ELLEN,Dalmage, to Oswego, light
Sch. ALBION,Boylan, to Lake Erie, light
Sch. SARAH JANE,Quirk, to Brighton, light
Str. HURON,Stalker, to Montreal, general
Sch. HOPE,Zealand, to Oswego, lumber, sheep skins and wool
Sch. J. E. ROGERS,Granger, to Charlotte, wheat
Sch. JENNY LIND,McLean, to Pt. Credit, stone
Sch. D. L. COUCH,Martin, to Oswego, lumber
Sch. ELLEN WILSON,Softley, to Queenston, light

On the morning of Friday, 20 July, at half past two, as the steamer AMERICA was on her way to Oswego, after having passed her sister, the CANADA, she unfortunately collided with the schooner EMBLEM of Hamilton, owned by Rae Bros. She was almost cut in two, and filling rapidly, she fell over on her port side. A boat was immediately lowered and three men were rescued. Wm. Ross and John Bease, deckhands, who were on the side of the schooner and the cook, Geo. Anderson, a coloured man, who was in the rigging. According to one of the survivors, the others were attempting to get in the yawl boat, when it was dragged under as the schooner rolled over. Those lost were, Capt. Donald Malcolmson, his brothers the mate, Wm. Malcolmson, seamen Thos. Malcolmson, also a brother, John Malcolmson, a cousin and finally one Alex. Leith, a passenger from Oswego,Capt. Masson decided to lie by the wreck until daylight, which was just as well, for as he later discovered, one of his anchors was caught in it. When dawn broke, those aboard the AMERICA were greeted by Capt. Malcolmson's dog, patiently awaiting his rescue. At about 8 a.m. the AMERICA left the scene and arrived in Oswego at 1 p. m. The EMBLEM, light of cargo, had cleared Oswego on Wednesday evening, bound to St. Catharines,Edward Browne placed two sailing notices in the Hamilton Spectator, one for the steamer RANGER,Capt. Hayes, leaving Toronto for Chatham and intermediate ports on or about the 25 July, and offering excellent cabin accommodation and the other for

"The new propeller OSHAWA."
Capt. Kennedy, now loading for Bruce Mines and other ports including Goderich. Superior cabin accommodation was assured.

The steamer OTTAWA,Capt. McGrath, sailing for Hooker, Pridham & Co., left Toronto on the evening of Saturday, 21 July, with a cargo of 2,213 bbls. of flour and other merchandise for Montreal, As she proceeded down the Brockville Narrows, and was about a mile and a half above the town, at 1 a.m. on Monday, 23 July, she was rammed by the side-wheel tug B. F. TIBBETTS of Quebec, which made a huge hole in her starboard side near the forward gangway. To quote the Brockville Monitor, "the water rushed into her with fearful rapidity, the fires were extinguished almost immediately and she drifted but a few rods before settling to the bottom. Luckily, however, she neared an island and sank with the forward half of her hull protruding from the water. Most of the passengers and crew were in bed at the time of the collision and the scene on board is said to have been quite exciting. Among the passengers were a number of recruits bound for the Crimea. Capt. McGrath stated that the B. F. TIBBETTS was running without lights, and we must assume, without a competent look-out.

On the 22 September, Nixon & Swales,City Wharf, advertised "The New Independent Line of Freight Steamers's which would, for the remainder of the season, run between Hamilton and Quebec, The vessels listed were

steamer BOWMANVILLE, Capt. C. Perry
" CITY OF HAMILTON, Capt. Everett
" ST. NICHOLAS, Capt. W. Williams
" BANSHEE, Capt. John Malcolmson
The waterfront community, on occasions involved itself in matters other than business and were instrumental in organizing a regatta to take place on Saturday, 13 October, near the G. W. R. R. Wharf. The advertisement was signed by Capt. Edward Zealand, Acting Commodore and persons interested, whether yachtsmen or boatmen, were urged to contact Dennis Phelan, boat-builder at Hallett's Hotel, foot of James Street or John O. Nixon at the City Wharf.

The navigation season lasted well into December and on the 14th of the month, the steamer OSHAWA, Kennedy, arrived from Brockville; the schooner WILLIAM RAYNER,Goldring, arrived from Toronto and the schooner AGNES,Wm. Hall, arrived from Port Nelson. The steamer ST. NICHOLAS,Williams, cleared for Ogdensburg and the schooner PRINCESS VICTORIA,McLeod, sailed for St. Catharines.


Previous    Next

Return to Home Port

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.