Chapter 12
Prosperity for the Shipbuilders
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 death occurred on the 11 February, of George Northey, iron founder and machinist, at his residence, 17 Wellington St. North. He was a Cornishman, aged 85 years and 8 months and he left two sons, Thomas and Francis, as well as four daughters, In the style of so many businessmen of the Victorian era, he lived alongside his place of business and was thereby able to keep a close watch on it to the last.

On the 10 April, employees on the Great Western Wharf were treated to some unexpected entertainment by four seamen from the E. H. RUTHERFORD who were taking a kedge anchor out in their yawl, in order to warp the vessel out. When they tried to get the kedge out of the yawl, the boat flipped over. After the initial coughing and spluttering, the air was filled, for the next ten minutes with the lusty yells of the four unwilling bathers, until they were fished out by the captain and men of the HERCULES.

The OSPREY arrived in Montreal on 24 April and was the first vessel of the season to enter that port. At the same time, the ACADIA was on her way to Chicago, to pick up a cargo of flour for St. Catharines.

The Hamilton Spectator, on the 6 May, gave the following description of a new propeller under construction:

"A first-class propeller is now being got ready for launching at Chatham, for Mr. James McKay of Hamilton. She is intended to operate in connection with the Merchants' and North Shore Lines and to run between Montreal,Hamilton and Chicago. She is, beyond a doubt, one of the finest and best-built boats in Canadian waters and is fitted up with a view to comfort and capacity. Her name will be CITY OF MONTREAL and she is being built by Hyslop & Ronald, engineers and ship-builders of Chatham. Her timbers are of the choicest quality, all young oak, bolted and fastened in the best possible manner and extra strong. Her length over-all is 144 ft., breadth 26 ft., depth of hold 11'6" and she is designed to carry 16,000 bus. of grain on Welland Canal draft. Her engine is a low-pressure 24 1/2 x 30", turning an 8" diameter shaft with a 9 ft. wheel. Her boiler is 16'6" long and 7'4 1/2" in diameter and has 3 flues, one 18" and two 16" as well as 118 return tubes 14 ft. long and 3 1/2" in diameter, stayed and braced in the best manner. She had new patent smoke consumers in the boiler, a steam pony-engine and steam hoisting crane. Her speed is expected to be about 10 knots. She is equipped with two patent swivel anchors, each with 75 fathoms of chain. There are two treble-purchase capstans. The anchors, chain and capstans were imported from Glasgow. She is fitted with the necessary bilge and fire pumps. The deckhouse is 100 ft. long and the saloon for passengers is 65 x 9'. The cabin doors are to be of black walnut, with oval tops and oval stained-glass fronts. All the cabins are to be furnished in superior style, affording great convenience to the passengers."
She was launched on the 23 May.

The first five years of this decade proved to be a busy one for the shipbuilders and as we go on, more new vessels will appear on the scene.

On the 11 May, readers of the Spectator were informed that F. G. Beckett & Co. had purchased

"a very commodious and fast-sailing steam yacht called NEW ONTARIO, to be used for excursion parties during the summere She arrived here on the 9th and is now lying alongside the ONTARIO's wharf."

Nearly 500 people gathered around Robertson's Shipyard on the afternoon of 15 May and were rewarded with the launching at 3:25 p.m. of the schooner JESSIE SCARTH. This was indeed a happy occasion, as the launch went off without a hitch. Mrs. Scarth successfully smashed the bottle of champagne, gaily beribboned in red, white and blue, at the precise moment. A huge tent was set up in the yard and Mr. D. Black of the Club House, catered for about 100 guests. These included from Toronto, the Scarth brothers, owners of the schooner, Miss W. Henderson,W. R. Harris,Geo. Wyatt and Capt. Fortier; from Hamilton, Messrs. Adam Hope,J. I. MacKenzie,Edw. Browne,F. Ritchie,C. M. Counsell,R. Milroy,Dr. Bullen,J. Robb,Jacob Young,A. H. Macaulay,James Robertson,Jas. McKay,J. A. Bruce,Geo. Rutherford,Dr. O'Reilly,W. Muir and Colin Hamilton; from Dundas,Dr. Walker and Messrs. Gwynne and Begue. After the lunch was served the following toasts were drunk: To the JESSIE SCARTH; the health of Mrs. Scarth; the health Of Capt. Fothergill and Archibald Robertson; to Lake Navigation; to the Commercial Interests of Hamilton; the health of the Scarth Brothers; to the Banking and Monied Interests of Hamilton; to W. W. Grant, the sail-maker and finally the Queen. I mention these because this was quite typical of most launchings in those days. After this, the company dispersed - somewhat unsteadily - in some cases, no doubt, but all feeling well pleased with themselves.

On the 24 May, Henry Marlton launched a hull at Goderich and it was of considerable interest in Hamilton. Named the ADELAIDE HORTON, the vessel had a composite hull and her machinery was being built in Hamilton. She measured 116 feet, over-all and was 8 ft. deep in the hold and was built for W. E. Leonard of Goderich.

Martin Stally, boatbuilder, received an order for the immediate construction of a steam yacht for Mr. Gardner, head of the Gardner Sewing Machine Co. in Hamilton. This was announced on the 26 May.

F. G. Beckett & Co. were building a low pressure beam engine, 24 x 96" , for the steamboat NIPISSING, being built at Muskoka Wharf for A. P. Cockburn, by Robt. Robertson of Kingston.

The following account appeared in the Spectator on Monday, 5 June.

"On Saturday morning we observed a large boiler being drawn along James Street, toward the Bay and upon inquiry, we found that it was intended for a new boat recently launched at Goderich. The boiler and engine were manufactured by Messrs. Northey of this city. The boiler was 19 feet long and 6'3" in diameter. The engine is what is termed an oscillating engine of 120 HP and the largest of its kind ever built in Canada. The hull is 118 feet over-all, 24 ft. beam and 9 feet deep, built of wood and iron and is consequently known as a composite hull. The iron plates were brought from England, but were bent and fitted at Goderich, being the first attempt of this kind in the Dominion. Hitherto, it has been the practise to have the plates fitted before exporting them, but the experiment has proved eminently successful. The hull and engine were designed by and built under the supervision of J. H. Killey, a mechanical engineer with Royal Navy experience, When completed, the vessel will be put on the Sarnia and Lake Huron service."
We will not hear too much more of the steamer ADELAIDE HORTON, but we will hear more of J. H. Killey.

The new CITY OF MONTREAL celebrated her arrival on the shipping scene by taking an excursion to Detroit on Monday 3 July, sailing from Rank's Dock in Chatham. The Chatham Cornet and String Bands were engaged to keep things lively.

On the morning of 7 September, James Miller Williams' refinery, known as the Ontario Carbon Oil Co. was destroyed in a spectacular conflagration. The damages were estimated to be $30,000 and an east wind carried the greasy smoke all over the north end of town. Even the surface of Coal Oil Inlet was a mass of flames, starting grass fires on the opposite bank. The Canadian Oil Company plant, a little to the east, was not involved.

The Erie Dispatch of 10 September, recorded the arrival in that port, of the schooner H. N. TODMAN,Capt. Thos. Zealand, with 200 tons of iron ore from Wellington, Ontario, for the Erie & Pittsburgh R. R. Co.

The ADELAIDE HORTON was driven ashore at Kincardine during a gale on the 19 October and at the time, was assumed to be a total loss. However, she was refloated and in 1873, she was taken to Chatham and rebuilt as a barge. Her machinery was placed in a new hull named VANDERBILT, which was ultimately lost on Georgian Bay.

Hyslop & Ronald launched another propeller on the 2 November, named CITY OF CHATHAM and she was christened by Miss Annie Ronald, daughter of one of the partners in the shipyard. This vessel was built for the ship-builders' account, the managing owner being A. Hyslop, who had hopes of sending her to Montreal before the season closed, but she was not completed in time. She had to wait until the following May to set out on her maiden voyage.

Capt. John B. Fairgrieve, now in command of the CORSICAN, had given A. M. Robertson a contract to build a propeller and work on this vessel was progressing during the autumn.

An article entitled

"Rumpus on the High Seas"
appeared in the Oswego Palladium and was copied by the Spectator on the 24 November. It read:
"Edward Cook, captain and part-owner of the schooner BELLE of Hamilton, lodged a complaint against W. J. Hudgins, mate, and also part-owner for assault with a deadly weapon. The weapon was a revolver - unloaded, Hudgins was arrested. and brought before the Recorder. His case has not been disposed of, though the impression seems to be in police circles, that Capt. Cook is trying to swindle Hudgins and oust him from the vessel."

Garden Island, the Calvins' snug little empire opposite Kingston, was the scene of a fire in which two well-known side-wheel tugs were destroyed, on the 19 December. These were the HERCULES and the HIGHLANDER. The HERCULES was built at Garden Island by Calvin & Breck in 1856 and measured 122.2 x 25.8 x 11.5 and had tonnages of 331, gross and 192 net. She made the news in 1858 when her boiler exploded while towing the NEW ERA up the Rapide Plat and during the seasons of 1866 and 1867, she was under charter to the Provincial Marine as a gunboat. The HIGHLANDER was built in Montreal in 1850, measured 173 x 24 x 9, with gross tonnage of 402. She inherited the 40 x 96" low-pressure beam engine from HIGHLANDER (I), built in 1840 at Coteau du Lac.


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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.