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


This notice appeared in the Hamilton Spectator on the 9 February 1872.

"Mr. Pollock of Toronto, was in the city yesterday and contracted with Messrs. Hancock for all the stone they can deliver at Zealand's Wharf, for the purpose of macadamizing the streets of Toronto. The stone is to be broken at the wharf, ready for use when delivered in Toronto. One dollar and fifty cents a cord will be paid for breaking the stone and we think that the number of worthless vagrants inhabiting the police cells will be greatly diminished, in consequence. There will be work enough for all those who are industriously inclined during the winter. This is another benefit accruing to the city by opening the Jolley Cut Road, as otherwise the stone could not be got."

An Item in the Chatham Planet on the 29 February saids

"We understand that Messrs. Eberts have just disposed of their side-wheel steamer SILVER SPRAY to J. O'Neil of St. Catharines, who is to run her on Lake Ontario. Though we regret to see such a light and swift little steamer leaving our own locality we are glad to know that the owners have sold her to good advantage, having got their own price for her."

Navigation opened on the 16 April with the arrival of a sailing vessel, referred to as the FERGUSON from Port Credit, home of Toronto's stonehooker fleet, She was owned by Mr. J. Douglas of Port Nelson and she berthed at Zealand's Wharf to take on stone for Toronto's streets. The winter fleets now preparing for the seasons consisted of the steamers ACADIA,BRUNO,OSPREY,ONTARIO and ARGYLE. The sailing vessels were: HERCULES,PEERLESS,E. H. RUTHERFORD,NEW DOMINION,ORION,VICTOR,H. N. TODMAN,AGNES HOPE,CHINA,MALTA,CAMBRIA, GARIBALDI,AYR,SWEEPSTAKES,ALPHA,JENNY RUMBLE and MARIE.

Edward Browne's schooner SOUTHAMPTON was expected from Port Dalhousie, where she had laid up. Most of these vessels were booked for cargoes of oak staves to Garden Island and Clayton.

Coal began to move on the 26 April, when the schooner RATHBUN arrived at Myles' Wharf with 100 tons of Blossburg Coal from Oswego.Thomas Myles was expecting the UNDINE with 170 tons of Scranton Stone coal.

On the same days the Spectator gave a dismally brief account of the launching of the first steamer for the newly formed LAKE & RIVER STEAMSHIP Co., so for the proper details, we quote from the St. Catharines Journal:

"Already there have been quite a large number of launchings along the Canal and at each repetition of the ceremony the interest, to judge by the numbers present, has not flagged, in the least. Yesterday afternoon, the launch of another propeller at Melancthon Simpson's yard at Lock 5, attracted spectators from different sections of the United States and Canada and even from Hamilton. To meet the views of the owners, the shipbuilder postponed the launch from 2:00 until 3:00 p.m. and at the latter hours the vessel descended into the water in a most satisfactory manner to all present but those on the opposite side of the canal who stood too near the tow-path and had not speed enough to get out of the way of the water thrown up on the side-hill by the plunge of the vessel. Miss Ella Larkin performed the christening ceremony, bestowing on the new craft the name LAKE MICHIGAN, she being intended for the Montreal and Chicago trade. Her dimensions are: 136.0 x 23.9 x 11.5; Gross tonnage 429; Net 360. The machinery is from the works of Thos. Wilson & Co. of Dundas, the engine being a low-pressure 34 x 34 (which was later rebuilt as a steeple compound 20/34 x 34). The pipefitters were Burrow, Chatfield & Co. of St. Catharines. Her captain will be Wm. Rollo, with first mate Wm. McBroom, Chief Eng'r. A. Mills, Purser R. Sewell and Steward Wm. Duffy. Zeno LaFrance, pilot. After the launching a large company repaired to the office and with the Hon. J. G. Currie in the chart succeeded in doing full justice to a champagne lunch provided by the owners. Appropriate toasts were proposed, eliciting speeches of varying excellence from Messrs. Adam Hope,Jas. Norris,J. G. Currie,M. Simpson,McKenzie,Larkin,Crerar,Smith,Grant and Mayer, the company separating with a bumper and three rousing cheers for the Queen, highly pleased with the afternoon's proceedings, themselves and humanity in general."

Wm. Power & Co. of Kingston, launched the propeller CHINA on the 27 April for John Proctor of Hamilton and Capt. Francis Patterson of Kingston. She measured 129.7 x 25.3 x 11.6 with gross tonnage of 355 and net 259. This unfortunate vessel had a very short career. On the same day, George N. Ault at Portsmouth, put the old BRANTFORD in the water after an overhaul on the marine railway.

On the 29 April, the shipyard of Hyslop & Ronald at Chatham, launched the propeller MARY R. ROBERTSON. There were two rather close calls at this affair and we judge that everything went off somewhat faster than was expected. First, the sponsor, daughter of the owner in Goderich had not arrived and Mr. Ronald's daughter was hurriedly made the stand-in. Then, just as the Robertson girl appeared on the platform, the ways at the stern began to shift and the axe-men were forced to cut the vessel loose. The bottle broke and the MARY R. ROBERTSON shot into the river sending up a magnificent spray.

A further note from the Chatham Planet remarked that

"An immense boiler, weighing about 13 tons for the MARY R. ROBERTSON, was hauled down yesterday (8 May) from Hyslop & Ronald's boiler-shop to the Creek Dock at the foot of 6th Street, to be put in the vessel."
The Planet went on to mention that the barges MUSKOKA and WAUBASHENE
"will be fully fitted out by the end of the week and will be towed down to the mouth of the river to await a tug to take them to Collingwood. They look quite formidable and handsome with their three masts and wire rigging."

The CITY OF CHATHAM,Capt. Murdock, went a few miles down river and took on 200 cords of wood. She left for Milwaukee to load wheat for Montreal.

Not to be out-done by these other ship-building towns, Hamilton staged one on the 5 June, when A. M. Robertson launched the propeller CANADA for Capt. John B. Fairgrieve and his partners Hugh Fairgrieve of Hamilton and D. Butters and T. Howard of Montreal. The launching was delayed for two hours owing to some trouble with the ways, but at 5:00 p.m. the captain's daughter, Ida Fairgrieve christened the vessel which glided gracefully into the harbour. The CANADA's machinery was built by F. G. Beckett & Co. and her hull measurements were 142.1 x 23.9 x 13.0, Gross 624 and net tonnage 408.

On the 7 June, the propeller ACADIA was advertised in the service of Beatty's Sarnia & Lake Superior Line in command of Capt. H. Macauley. The proprietors of this line were J. & H. Beatty & Co. of Thorold and their Hamilton agent was Chas. B. Morgan.

F. G. Beckett & Co. stated in the Hamilton Spectator on the 7 June, that they had leased Martin's Wharf on the Beach and that their steamer ONTARIO would be the only vessel going to that point. This was later proved to be a bluff to keep the ARGYLE, or any other vessel, away.

The Hamilton Spectator on the 19 June, took considerable note of the launching of the propeller LAKE ONTARIO, as follows:

"It is not perhaps generally known that Hamilton is the Headquarters of a new steamship company, which gives promise of being extensively heard of at no distant day. The Company has been formed within the last few months and has already put afloat two splendid propellers, the second of which was launched yesterday at Port Dalhousie."

The morning train took down a large party from this city to witness the launching. Among those present were the following gentlemen: Adam Hope, President of the Lake & River Steamship Co.,Aeneas D. MacKay, Manager, John Harvey, Sec.-Treas., John Crerar, Solicitor, as well as directors John Brown,Thomas Saunders,Chas. Hope,Robert Osborne,Alex. Turner,John McPherson,Capt. John B. Fairgrieve,Hugh Fairgrieve,Wm. Turnbull,Wm. Muir and John McKeown. A number of ladies accompanied the party.

The Company's first-built vessel, LAKE MICHIGAN, was in waiting at St. Catharines to receive the party and to make her trial trip to Hamilton with them. The launching was to have taken place at 2:00 p.m., but had to be postponed until 5:00 p.m. so the party adjourned to the Welland House, where they enjoyed a splendid lunch and learned, from the hospitable attentions of mine host Mr. Stephenson, exactly how a hotel ought to be kept. The various points of interest in St. Catharines were afterwards visited and the LAKE MICHIGAN got under way at 4 o'clock for the trip down the canal to Port Dalhousie and the shipyard of S. Andrews & Son."

On arrival there, the party went aboard the new vessel for a quick tour of inspection before the launching. She was launched broadside and was christened by Miss Eugenie Owen MacKay, 10 year-old daughter of Aeneas D. MacKay. The LAKE ONTARIO measured 136.8 x 23.8 x 7.6 with gross tonnage of 675, net 411. Her engine was built by Thos. Wilson & Co. of Dundas.

After the launching, the Officers and Directors of the Company adjourned to Mr. Andrews office for a quick one before embarking on the LAKE MICHIGAN for Hamilton. The trip to Hamilton was made pleasant by Capt. Larkin's hospitality, he having laid on a good supply of food and drink. The usual toasts, in this case, were drunk "at sea", and MacKay's Wharf was reached about 1:00 a.m.

An accident which filled the papers for some time occurred on the 1 July at the Beach. Late in the afternoon, the flimsy jerry-built structure known as Martin's Wharf collapsed under the weight of the holiday crowd and several small children were drowned. The inquest, with Capt. Thomas Harbottle as foreman of the coroner's jury, dragged on for some time and brought to light the fact that F. G. Beckett & Co. had no exclusive rights to the wharf. Mrs. Martin, the owner, stated she had signed no lease with the Becketts, or anyone else.

The propellers BRISTOL and BRUNO, according to a sailing notice in the Spectator on the 13 July, would be leaving from Proctor's Wharf on the 17 July for Lake Erie ports. The agents were Messrs. Wylie & Young, 2 Merrick St., Hamilton.

Aeneas MacKay advertised.

"The magnificent steamer LAKE MICHIGAN, now on her way to Chicago, will take passengers from Port Colborne, on or about the 29 July for Chicago. She is provided with Upper Cabins, hot and cold water basins and all conveniences. For particulars, apply to Capt. Larkin at St. Catharines,A. D. MacKay,MacKay's Wharf,Hamilton."

The death occurred. on the 5 August of Stewart Malcolmson, aged 80 years, father of Capt. John Malcolmson. The funeral was to be held from his residence on Ferrie Street.

On the 16 August, Beckett's steamer ONTARIO ran a moonlight excursion to Oakville, calling at Oaklands and Wellington Square. A quadrille band was provided for the dancing enthusiasts,

The loss of Edward Zealand's schooner ORION was recorded in the Hamilton Spectator on the 6 September and was copied from the Oswego Palladium, as follows:

"From a conversation with Capt. Daniel Pease of the ORION, we gather the following particulars: The ORION had a cargo of freestone from Cleveland for Brockville and was running down the Lake with a fresh wind over the port quarter, under foresail, mainsail, fore staysail and jib. The mizzen, gaff topsails and other jibs were furled. The night was what seamen term a dirty one and the captain had been on deck the whole night and as morning broke, grey in the east, was congratulating himself upon getting safely through and the near approach of his destination. At six o'clock yesterday morning, Capt. Pease went into the cabins roused the cook and while he was lighting his pipe from the stove, the vessel gave a lurch to starboard, and as she did not righten, the captain stepped out and asked the wheelsman if she was on her course. Upon being told that she was, he at once concluded that something was wrong and ran forward to arouse the men in the fo'cstle. When the men got on deck, the pumps were tried and water was found aplenty. The captain then descended into the fo'cstle and found that the water had reached the floorboards and was rising rapidly. Seeing that hope of saving the vessel was gone, he gave orders to luff the vessel up into the wind and to lower the yawl. The last order was obeyed none too soon, as the men had only time to get into the boat and cut it loose. The ORION then gave another lurch and went down head first. As she sank, the internal pressure burst her decks and hatches with a report as loud as a cannon shot, sending splinters and pieces of wood flying in all directions. She went down 10 miles south of Long Point and about 7 miles from the nearest land. Now came the tug-of-war for the crew, adrift in an open boat with no sail and but two oars, the waves rolling mountains-high and white caps constantly breaking over its sides. To run before the wind was their only chance. Once, a sail was sighted, but attempts to attract attention to their plight were to no avail. Bailing and rowing by turns, they ran down the Lake until Nine Mile Point, below Oswego was sighted and they made a safe landing in the bay, just below the Point at 1:30 yesterday afternoon. After pulling their boat up high and dry, they, 8 men in all, managed to get something to eat and then went to New Haven stationg where they caught the train from Rome to Oswego."

The propeller DALHOUSIE of the Welland Railway was destroyed by fire in Lake Ontario on the 27 September, while bound from Kingston to Hamilton with general cargo. Here is the account of this loss from the St. Catharines Journal of 30 September:

"The Welland Ry. Co., we regret to announce, has met with another serious loss in the destruction by fire of their fine steamer DALHOUSIE, making the second which the company has lost within the last four years from the same cause. The DALHOUSIE,Capt. Maurice McGrath, left Kingston about midnight with a cargo of pig iron and general merchandise. At noon on the 26th, fire was discovered in the vicinity of the after bulkhead. The alarm was given immediately and all hands summoned to combat the flames and all worked well. Their efforts failed and after fighting the fire for two hours, they prepared to abandon the vessel. After the boats were got ready, a propeller was sighted and signaled and she proved to be the CITY OF CONCORD. An hour later, she was alongside and made an unsuccessful attempt to douse the fire. The crew and passengers were able to save their belongings, as well as the books and papers belonging to the vessel. The CITY OF CONCORD then took the burning steamer in tow and headed for the Genesee, but when about two miles off, the tow-line broke and a few minutes later, the DALHOUSIE sank in 8 fathoms. The MARY WARD of Chatham, then hove in sight and since she was bound for Port Dalhousie, she relieved the CITY OF CONCORD of her extra passengers and freed her to carry on toward Cape Vincent. The DALHOUSIE was built in 1869 at St. Catharines by Louis Shickluna and a large portion of her cost came from the insurance money paid on the lost PERSEVERANCE. Her dimensions were 144 x 26 x 11; 353 tons. Her Chief Engineer was Thomas Hickey."

The Hamilton Spectator, on the 11 October, said:

"We learn that Capt. Malcolmson, owner of the propeller ACADIA, which has been chartered to the Beatty Line between Sarnia and Duluth during the present season, has made arrangements to have another first-class propeller built at Chatham, at a cost of $33,000, as a running-mate for the ACADIA. The only difference is that the new vessel will be built of wood, while the ACADIA is composite. The builders will be Simpson & Chisholm. The latter gentleman is a brother of our "worthy and respected" mayor, D. B. Chisholm."

The loss of John Proctor's propeller CHINA, was reported by the St. Catharines Weekly News on Thursday 17 October as follows:

"The propeller CHINA left Kingston Sunday evening about 6:00 p.m., bound up, having on board 300 tons of pig iron and a quantity of merchandise. When about 14 miles out, she was found to be on fire. Notwithstanding the utmost efforts of the crew and the assistance rendered by two steamers close at hand, she burned to the water's edge and is supposed to have sunk. All hands were taken off by the propeller AMERICA and transferred to the CITY OF LONDON, which returned them to Kingston. A tug was sent to search for the CHINA, but found no trace. When abandoned, she was drifting and it is supposed that she sank six or seven miles from Nine Mile Point. She was insured for $24,000 and the loss is estimated to be $14,000."

In Kingston, on the 28 October, Wm. Power & Co. launched the schooner MARCO POLO and one week later, they laid the keel for a new propellor to replace the CHINA.John Proctor didn't waste any time collecting his insurance money.

Word was received on the 7 November, that the brig LAFAYETTE COOK, now owed by Parsons of Kingston, had been driven ashore near Port Stanley a day or two previously. Her value was set at only $5000, after 21 years in service. On the 8 November, the tug BRYANT was sent to render assistance.

On the 25 November, 8 meng attempting to get ashore from the stranded propeller MARY WARD between Thornbury and Collingwood, were drowned when the small boat over-turned in the surf. Three fishing boats had saved 9 passengers the night before. This was the end of the MARY WARD, which had been rebuilt on the bottom of the propeller NORTH, in 1869.


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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.