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


City Docks, 1874
On the 18 March, the Hamilton Spectator remarked that the mild spell of weather felt like spring and that some activity was seen aboard the vessels wintering in the port. Unhappily, the season of 1874 was a disappointing one for the shipping industry, with many vessels operating only part time and some unfortunates spending the whole season

"at the wall".
The article went on to say
"With the advent of spring we note the appearance of the raftsmen, who never fail to gather here as soon as the weather is mild enough. These jolly, hard-working fellows are mostly French Canadians, who leave their homes in the Fall of the year and head for the back-woods, where they get out their timbers. The success of this depends entirely on the amount of snow that falls because without snow, very few large timbers could be dragged over the hard ground. The winter this year has been a good, one for lumbering and in consequence, several large firms have again made Hamilton their headquarters for rafting. Already a gang of men in the employ of J. S. Murphy have erected their shanty on the shore near Thompson's boat-house. The number of men yet to come is far more than ever before. The total is expected to be about 300 raftsmen. Booms have been made on both sides of the large wharf and a large one is ready at the iron bridge. These booms are being filled with sawlogs and square timbers and the monotonous chant of the overseer as he sings out his commands to the workers, brings back to mind thoughts of other springs when we were fond of watching the hardy voyageurs at work."

A news item of importance to the waterfront scene appeared in the

Spectator on the 15 April and read, in part:

"For some time, workmen have been busily employed on the old Custom House building at the foot of MacNab Street. Repairs have been made, a large new building has in less than 17 minutes. The amount of coal consumed was not more than 700 lbs. per hours, which is very much below the average for other canal-sized vessels."

The same issue of the paper mentioned that

"Yesterday, two rafts were towed out of the harbour, bound for Quebec and the tug WELLINGTON will leave to-day with another. This will be the fourth raft sent down this spring and about six more will follow in the course of a month or two. Each raft is composed of five drams. There will be 50 drams, at least, made up here this summer and if the extension of the Wellington, Grey & Bruce Ry. is soon opened, this will be exceeded as there is a large amount of timber up there to be shipped to Quebec."

The Hamilton & NorthWestern Railway wharf
Another item, headed

"The H. & L. E. R. R. Wharf"
"Since the arrival of the enormous pile-driver the work of constructing this wharf has gone forward with great dispatch. The machine that drives the piles is from Buffalo and is placed on a large scow built here. The placing of the cross-timbers will be commenced in a few days."

The Hamilton & NorthWestern Railway's lower trestle over Land's Inlet. The new wharf with its freight shed appears at the left. Photo: Frank Woods
Further information on this subject is given in a report by John Killough, Chief Engineer of the Hamilton & Lake Erie R. R. on the 20 May and reads, in part:

"the extension of the line to Burlington Bay was awarded to Alex. J. Brown and the earthwork north of the G. W. Ry. was let to John Taylor in March. The overhead bridge on Barton Street was completed this spring. Half a mile of track has been laid and is being used for delivering the stone for the bridge under the G. W. Ry.... Two pile trestles over Land's Inlet have been completed and good progress is being made on the wharf. This wharf is being built immediately north of what was known as
"Land's Wharf"
and is to be 312 x 56 feet, including space for track and on this a storehouse, 290 x 25 feet is to been erected with an immense furnace and quantities of machinery have been put in. It has been no secret that E. R. Kent & Co. were preparing for the manufacture of glass at that location. Though the work is not yet finished, operations were begun yesterday in the making of lamp chimneys."

A.D. MacKay's propeller CELTIC
On Tuesday, 5 May, crowds of people made their way to the waterfront in the early afternoon to see a launching at Robertson's Shipyard. At 3:25 p.m., Miss Eugenie Owen MacKay christened the new propeller CELTIC which slid down the ways in great style and was taken in tow by the steamer CORINTHIAN to MacKay's Wharf. The carpenter shop at the shipyard had been cleared and there, the launching party sat down to a lunch. The toasts to The Queen, The Governor General, Aeneas MacKay,A. M. Robertson, The Press, Capt. Sinclair,Thos. Wilson & Co.,Mr. Blain (of Galt), Mr. Abbey (of Port Robinson), Adam Hope,Capt. Larkin and finally to The Ladies, were given and duly responded to.

The CELTIC was built for Aeneas MacKay and was full canal-size, being 131.0 x 26.0 x 14.7 with a gross tonnage of 698, net 440. Her engine, a low-pressure 34 x 34, was built by Thos. Wilson & Co. of Dundas and was the 9th engine of this type manufactured by this firm. They supplied the return-tube boiler which had three fires.

The propeller R. W. STANDLY had been making quite a name for herself as a fast and efficient vessel, as witness this item in the Hamilton Spectator on the 14 May:

"The R. W. STANDLY has been keeping up her reputation for speed and economy of fuel since the alterations in her boiler were completed by J. H. Killey & Co. of this city. She arrived in port this morning from Pt. Dalhousie in two hours and forty minutes and made the distance from the piers to Wylie & Young's Wharf be erected."

Three steamers were in service on the Bay for the summer. The DENNIS BOWEN,Martin Stally, captain, was running to the Beach with calls at Rook Bay, Martin's Wharf and Dyne's Wharf twice a day. She sailed from the wharf

"formerly occupied by the ARGYLE".
The steamer TRANSIT,Capt. G. Beatty, also stopped. at Rock Bay and Dyne's and the ARGYLE,Capt. F. Reynolds, was leaving the foot of Bay Street for The Gardens at the Beach.

Gordon Campbell, a man well-known all over the Lakes, died, on the 18 August at Aiken, South Carolina. He was born on the 11 September 1827 in Wellington Square to parents in poor circumstances. He was orphaned at the age of fifteen and two years later, became a lake sailor. Five years later, he was master of a sailing vessel. In 1852 he went into the shipbuilding and repairing business in Detroit as Gordon Campbell & Co. In 1862, the business became Campbell & Owen and in 1872, it was incorporated as the Detroit Dry Dock Co. In his later years, ill health forced him to take a less active interest and for this reason, he had purchased the plantation where he died.

In its issue of Friday, 11 December, the Spectator printed an account by one of its reporters who was unusually thorough in his tour of the waterfront and he recorded for us the names of the vessels comprising the winter fleet. He did this with considerable enthusiasm and, at times, waxed almost poetic. We quote:

"Yesterday afternoon one of the Spectator staff took an hour's ramble through the docks in order to ascertain the number of steam and sailing craft which will winter at this port. He found the scene around old Burlington Bay quite altered since the summer days have fled and the prospect to the eye of the gazer had grown dull and uninviting. The afternoon was quiet and calm and the waters of the Bay lay placid and unruffled, but there was wanting the freshness and life which makes the scene so attractive and inviting in the long warm days. The opposite shores loomed out of the water, verdureless and dreary while on their strand, no groups of pleasure seekers or any living object could be seen as in the months just passed; the shrill whistle of the rushing steamer echoed, no more o'er the glad waters; the bustle of unloading vessels sounded no longer at the docks and above all, the Bay was now no more enlivened with the lightly-skimming yacht,or the clean, trim row-boat and the voices from the sea rang no more-on the evening air. The old Bay had called Silence to watch over it while it turned its blue face to the coldness of its winter's death.

The yachts and pleasure boats were all hauled-up on dry land and were stripped and dismasted, only the dull buoys indicating their former moorings along the shore. Mr. Bastien and the other boatmen are already preparing for next year and have a number of very fine boats in progress for the 1875 season.

The first of the large craft that come into sight on reaching the Bay, are Capt. John Malcolmson's two fine propellers ARMENIA & ACADIA, which are moored at Beckett's old wharf as usual. They have been laid up since the 27 November."

We might remark here, that Beckett's Wharf was a handy place to lay up the ACADIA and the ARMENIA, since the Malcolmson clan resided in this vicinity. Capt. John lived at 26 Ferrie St. West, James lived at 138 MacNab St. North, James F. resided, at 309 John St. North and engineer Samuel's address was 48 Picton St. West.

To continue the tour of the docks:

"Passing along, we come to the NAPOLEON,EMPRESS,UNIQUE and other yachts at H. L. Bastien's boathouse, and then upon the SAILOR BOY and the CUTHBERT, which is not beached, but stripped and moored alongside Williamson's Grain Wharf. The FAIRY and the BRUNETTE are both beached, the latter in its own boat-house. At Stally's Wharf are the schooners CECELIA, of Windsor,MALTA of St. Catharines and the AGNES HOPE of Hamilton. Off Birely's Wharf is the schooner DEFIANCE and at Wylie & Young's Wharf are the MARY JANE,HERCULES and the NEW DOMINION, as well as the propellers BRISTOL and R. W. STANDLY. The propeller ZEALAND, recently rebuilt on the bottom of the CITY OF CHATHAM is berthed at Zealand's Wharf. At Browne's Wharf, the VICTOR,E. H. RUTHERFORD and the propeller NIPIGON are laid up. Vessels lying alongside McIlwraith's Wharf are the schooner ARGO, steamer DENNIS BOWEN and the propellers MATTAWAN,DROMEDARY and COLUMBIA. In the basin east of this wharf are the propeller CANADA and schooner T. R. MERRITT.MacKay's Wharf was taken up with the steamer OSPREY and the propellers CELTIC,LAKE ERIE,LAKE MICHIGAN and LAKE ONTARIO. The schooners UNDINE,GULNARE and AIGLE DE MER are berthed at Myles Coal Wharf and the schooner PEERLESS is at Murton & Reid's Wharf. All of the vessels that are expected to winter here are now in port.

Navigation this year has been duller than has been known for many years past. So little business has been done during the summer, that many vessels have had to lie in port for a month at a stretch, and some indeed, have been idle during the entire season. Even those that were fortunate in getting a good. run of business, have been obliged. to sail short-handed. Wages have been poor during the whole season and when sailors formerly made two to three dollars a day, they could only obtain this year $1.50 to $2.00. However, better hopes are now entertained for a large increase in trade next year."


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.