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 Dominion Line,Messrs. Wylie & Young, agents, placed their advertisement in the paper on the 15 March and listed the propellers AMERICA,BRISTOL,CITY OF MONTREAL,EAST and R. W. STANDLY. Service for passengers and freight was to be tri-weekly between Montreal and Hamilton, with intermediate ports of call.

The Merchants and Lake & River Steamship Line listed 18 vessels in their advertisement on the 3 April, as follows: CELTIC,CANADA,CALABRIA,DROMEDARY,DOMINION,LAKE ERIE,LAKE MICHIGAN,PERSIA and PRUSSIA in daily service from Montreal to Toronto,Hamilton and St. Catharines. The ASIA,ARGYLE,COLUMBIA,CALIFORNIA,EUROPE,LAKE ONTARIO,OCEAN,SOVEREIGN and SCOTIA were assigned to the Montreal to Chicago,Fort William and Duluth services tri-weekly. The Hamilton agents were Aeneas D. MacKay and Capt. John B. Fairgrieve.

The well-known propeller BRUNO underwent a rebuilding during the winter and emerged from this operation minus her passenger accommodation, The work was done at Chatham.

The Hamilton Spectator of the 15 April, remarked that:

"The prospects in the shipping business are brighter this season than they have been for the last two years and vessel-owners look forward to more prosperous times in the future. The freights from the west will be plentiful, but rates are likely to remain low, at least during the early part of the season. The competing trunk lines of railroad during the "war" of the last two months have reduced the rate to an absurdly low figures wheat being carried from Chicago to New York at 18 cents per bushel. The railroads are taxed to the utmost to supply rolling stock to fill the demand.... So long as this state of affairs exists, vessels will have to carry at low rates to compete with their railroad rivals.

The steam barge D.R. VAN ALLEN Photo: Oswego County Historical Society
The lines running to this port during the season will be the Richelieu & Ontario Navigation Co., composed of the amalgamated Canadian Navigation Co. & the Richelieu Line. The steamer of this line will leave Hamilton daily for Montreal, connecting there with the larger steamers for Quebec. There will also be three lines of propellers touching at this port, the Merchants' Lake & River Steamship Line, the Dominion Line, and the Western Express Line with the ACADIA,AFRICA,ALMA MUNRO,ARMENIA,GEORGIAN,BRUNO,CUBA,D. R. VAN ALLEN, CITY OF ST. CATHARINES,ZEALAND and L. SHICKLUNA.

The prospects of up-bound freight for these vessels are good, the imports of heavier classes of merchandise being larger than during last season.... The fall in the price of Scotch pig iron will tend to weigh the balance in favour of that market, which has been so successfully competed with by American iron during the past two seasons. Probably there will be more iron coming up from Montreal than from Cleveland and Rochester.

Grain in store at the Great Western Ry. is about 240,000 bushels; flour, 25,000 bbls. The Hamilton & Lake Erie Ry. has about 9,000 bbls. of flour."

In an item entitled.

"The Ocean House"
, on the 20 April, the Spectator said:
"The above is the name of the new hotel in course of erection on the Beach and which promises to be a really noble building. It was commenced in February last and will be completed in time for the summer season. Its dimensions are 100 x 40 feet and it is two and a half stories high. It contains 42 bedrooms, four parlor and sitting-rooms, a dining room 40 x 20, billiard, bar and other rooms, A double verandah encircles the house and adds greatly to the beauty of the building. Adjoining is an ice-house containing 100 tons and a laundry is being erected. During the season, a steamer which the proprietors have acquired at Detroit will ply between Hamilton and the Beach, as will the TRANSIT, which is being rebuilt. It is under stood that the DENNIS BOWEN and the ARGYLE will also ply to the Beach."

On the 22 April, the same paper remarked that

"There is still a large body of ice in the Bay, but around the Great Western Wharf, the water is open and our annual visitors, the raftsmen, are once more afloat. Large quantities of square timber are arriving and the men are busy constructing their drams. The steamers and schooners are all ready to sail as soon as the ice goes out."

Leopold Bauer's brewery, near the foot of John Street, was destroyed by fire during the winter, but on the 28 April, the Spectator printed such a glowing description of the new brewery which had risen from the ashes, that one must assume that Leopold had sent a keg of his finest up to the newspaper office.

Another fire occurred on the waterfront on the 29 April and the Toronto Globe reported:

"At 7:00 p.m. fire started at the west end of the stables on Myles' Wharf and spread to the warehouse, then to Murton & Reid's Wharf, destroying a shed and the office. Myles lost five horses, all harness and fodder, while Murton & Reid's horses were saved. One of the coal piles caught fire, but due to the wind direction, the hospital was not in danger."

By the 1 May, most of the contracts had been let for the construction of the Third Welland Canal. This project would spell out the final chapter of the port of St. Catharines and slow decay would set in, once the Second Canal was abandoned. The closing down of three shipyards, Shickluna's,Simpson's and Andrews would be the end of an era.

The new propeller CUBA. was launched on the 1 May at Kingston by Wm. Power & Co., for John Proctor and Capt. Francis Patterson. She measured 142.2 x 26.0 x 11.7 and had a gross tonnage of 576, net 356. Her engine was built by Davidson & Doran of Kingston.

On the yachting scene, Alex. Cuthbert has under way, two new yachts of which the following are the particulars: They are named respectively, SURPRISE and KATIE GRAY. They are 31 X 11 feet, with centre-boards and will draw two feet of water. Mast is 38 ft., topmast 14 ft., boom 39 ft., gaff 18 ft., and bowsprit, outboard, 13 feet. They will run as 10-ton yachts. The first named is for Messrs. Gilmour & Cummings of Trenton and the KATIE GRAY is for Messrs. Benson & Campbell of Belleville.Mr. Cuthbert has also to refit the DAUNTLESS of Belleville with new canvas, rigging, blocks and spars and make some alteration to her hull. With these improvements, It is thought she will make it hot for some of her old opponents who have been crowing over her for the last year. Captain Gifford is having some changes made in the old GORILLA. The Vice-Commodore is rather gritty and does not like to be beaten.

Messrs. Wylie & Young advertised their first sailing to Montreal with the BRISTOL, leaving the 3 May. She was to be followed by the R. W. STANDLY, sailing on or about the 5th.

On the 25 May, the Hamilton Spectator printed. an article under the title of

"A Trip to the Beach"
and it read as follows:
"On Saturday last, a party of ladies and gentlemen took passage on the steamer FLORENCE at the invitation of the owners, Messrs. S. & H. Jenking of Windsor, for a trip to the Beach. This vessel has lately appeared in our waters to run regularly to the Beach. She was built in 1866 at Windsor by Henry Jenking and measured 86.0 x 20.0 x 7.0, with a gross tonnage of 108, net 73, She has a low-pressure engine 22 x 21, built in St. Catharines by George N. Oille. She ran as a ferry between Windsor and Detroit, but in 1871, she was badly damaged by fire at Amberstburg. After being rebuilt by the Jenkings, she was placed on the Black Rock and Fort Erie ferry service. On arrival at the Beach, the party inspected. and admired Messrs. Birely & Neville's new Ocean House, which had been built on the site of Bauldrey's Hotel, which was burned down early in the winter."
In an advertisement placed in the Spectator on the 26 May, the FLORENCE was to make three round trips per day sailing from Malcolmson's Wharf, foot of Simcoe Street. This was the old Beckett Wharf. She took her passengers directly to the piers at the Canal.

The Toronto Globe printed an item from their Quebec correspondent, dated 31 May, saying:

"The Lake propeller CITY OF ST. CATHARINES,Capt. Dillimore, arrived from Buffalo with a cargo of iron bridge work for the North Shore Railway and is moored at St. Andrews Wharf. On her way down, she stopped at Trois Rivieres and unloaded a quantity of bridge work and at Batiscan, the left iron for the bridge at Ste. Anne de la Pérade."

The same edition of the Globe, strange as it may seem noted some other items of interest from, of all places - Hamilton, One of these stated that

"About three quarters of a million cubic feet of timber is now being rafted from this port to Quebec. It consists principally of pine, oak and elm and comes chiefly from the Wellington, Grey & Bruce Railway."
Continuing with news from Port Dalhousie,the Globe noted that the dredge J. H. MUNSON from Cobourg, was undergoing repairs on Andrews' Dry Dock. Also, that the sidewheel steamer PICTON arrived that afternoon and was to be placed on the Port Dalhousie-Toronto route, making connections with trains of the Welland Railway.

On Thursday, 3 June, the schooner ELLA MURTON was launched at Mill Point by Wm. Jamieson for Murton & Reid of Hamilton.Jamieson, who was shipwright for the 'Rathbuns, had also built the schooner PEERLESS for these owners.

Another launching of importance took place on the 4 June at Point Edward, when the Grand Trunk Railway car-ferry HURON slid down the ways. The Globe of 11 June, had this to say:

"The new iron ferry HURON, which was launched at Point Edward on Friday afternoon, is one of the finest railroad ferries on the rivers. Her length is 238.5 ft., breadth of beam is 53.9 ft. and her depth of hold is 12.8 ft. She has two boilers, each 22 ft. long and 9 ft. in diameter. She has two non-condensing 30 x 30 engines which, together with the boilers, were built in Dundas by Thos. Wilson & Co. Her hull was built at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, dismantled and re-erected at Point Edward. Her capacity is 24 cars, carried on three tracks. The christening was performed by Miss Jessie S. Hughes of Toronto, in very fine style."

Capt. O. Beatty of the steamer TRANSIT, began his sailings from the foot of Simcoe Street (Malcolmson's Wharf) on the 14 June, for the Canal Piers and Dynes' Wharf. On the same day, the tug S. S. EDSALL with a tow of 60,000 ft. of timber from the Great Western Ry. and belonging to Messrs. Bradley & Wilson, had some trouble getting out of the harbour. There was a north-west wind blowing at the time, and, as the tug entered the Canal the last two drams swung and hit the south pier. In the confusion which followed this mishap, the tug collided with the schooner GULNARE, inbound.

The steamer FLORENCE made two trips to Niagara Camp in the early part of June, the second one on the occasion of a Field Day. The round trip fare was one dollar.

An interesting advertisement appeared in the Hamilton Spectator on the 26 June, stating that the propeller ARMENIA would leave Hamilton on or about 1 July for Toronto,Montreal,Quebec,Shediac,Charlottetown and Pictou and had accommodation for a limited number of passengers, Passengers and freight could be booked by applying to Capt. Malcolmson or Thos. McIlwraith, at the Commercial Wharf. In Montreal, the agent was Wm. McCaulay at the office of the Western Express Line.

Messrs. Wylie & Young gave notice on the 29 June, that

"the Splendid Propeller CITY OF MONTREAL"
would leave Montreal on Monday, 5 July for Prince Arthur's Landing, with a multitude of intermediate ports of call. Some of these were Amherstburg,Port Lambton,Sombra,Mooretown,Inverhuron,Michael's Bay,Colpoy's Bay,Byng Inlet,Killarney,Spanish River,Bruce Mines,Batchawana Bay,Michipicoten Island,Silver Islet and Fort William. In addition to these, virtually every port on Lake Erie was included in the itinerary, as well as all the larger places, some of which still have commercial shipping to-day.

According to a news item on the 3 July, both the steamer FLORENCE and the Ocean House were doing very well. The FLORENCE was providing her passengers with a band on the afternoons of Monday, Wednesday and Friday and her last trip of the day left the Piers at 10:00 p.m. The Proprietors of the Ocean House stated that their rooms were mostly booked for the season, predominantly by Hamilton people,

The propeller CALIFORNIA, according to the Toronto Globe, of the 5 July, completed a long voyage. She had loaded coal in Pictou, N. S. on the 24 May for Montreal and after discharging the coal, she loaded rails for the Canadian Pacific Ry. She arrived at Duluth on the 14 June, 10 days after leaving Montreal.Capt. J. W. Leslie was greeted and hailed as the master of the first vessel from salt water.

On the 5 July, Capt. Campbell, the light-keeper at the Canal took delivery of the new Storm Signal. The reporter remarked that the red and white storm drum looked much to him

"like a wash tub"

Three days later, the Beach Committee notified the public of its willingness to discuss cottage sites and prices with those desirous of building there.

One item of interest at this time, is found in advertisements for the Western Express Line. The uptown agents were John Proctor and John Malcolmson, while the wharfinger was Thos. McIlwraith, at the Commercial Wharf. This old wharf was acquired by Proctor in 1869 from Thos. Routh and became the property of McIlwraith in 1872. He retained it until 1912, when it was taken over by the City. By that time, it would have been about as old and shaky as the last remaining schooners still in the Lake Ontario coal trade. John Proctor had disposed of his interests in the propellers INDIAN and CUBA, but retained that in the AFRICA. He was finding a more lucrative field for his talents in the railroad industry.

The first General Meeting of the Canada Fire & Marine Insurance Co. was held in Hamilton on the 20 July and, to quote the Hamilton Times, it

"was attended by a large and highly influential body of shareholders."

It was indeed and the list read like "Who's Who" of Western Ontario., John Winer, a wholesale druggist, was elected President, while Mayor George Roach and David Thompson, M.P., the Laird of Indiana, were both elected Vice-Presidents. Thompson, a highly successful contractor on the Second Welland Canal job, had built his magnificent mansion, Ruthven Park, overlooking the Grand River at Indiana, where he owned. some 2,000 acres of excellent farm land.

Passage to Chicago on the propeller LAKE ERIE,Capt. John Omand, leaving St. Catharines on the 26 July, was advertised by John B. Young, c/o Harvey & Co., 60 James St. North and on the same days the ZEALAND,Capt. Edw. Zealand, took a "Grand Excursion and Picnic" to Toronto. This was sponsored by the Canadian Order of Odd-Fellows, who had engaged the Artillery Brass and String Bands for the occasion. On the 27 July,

"The First-Class Upper-Cabin screw steamer"
LAKE MICHIGAN,Capt. Wm. Moore, sailed from MacKay's Wharf for Montreal. Cabin fare, including meals and berth was $8.00. The use of "screw steamer" in place of the customary "propeller" illustrates a trend toward modern times.

H. L. Bastien announced his intention of erecting a new boathouse, complete with the latest conveniences for the season of 1876. He had also built bath-houses on the Beach for the use of his customers.

During this summer, Capt. Campbell, the light-keeper at the Canalwas kept busy extinguishing fires on the piers. In each case he, and any volunteers that he could, muster, were faced with the backbreaking job of tearing up the deck planking to get at the seat of the fire.

The Hamilton Times, on the 26 July, copied an article from the Buffalo Commercial, which read, in part:

"Ever since the enlargement of the Welland Canal was decided upon, we have been fearful that its completion would result in a large diversion of the western grain trade from the New York route, to the St. Lawrence. A careful examination of the work, now far advanced, has greatly increased our fears."
The Buffalo Commercial had sent a spy to inspect and report upon this great project. It then went on to say
"A good idea of the magnitude of the improvement may be obtained from a comparison of the capacity of the looks with the large-class vessels now navigating the Lakes. The locks are to be 270 feet long and 45 feet wide. The monster propeller COLORADO of the Union Steamboat Company's Line is 254'6" long and 35 feet beam. The new locks, therefore, will be of ample capacity to receive this ship, which is one of the very largest on the Lakes. It is expected that these large craft will go through to Kingston and there transfer the grain into barges for Montreal. The talk of making the St. Lawrence Canals of equal capacity with the Welland is simply to flatter our friends in the West who are so intent on the establishment of a direct trade with Europe. The aim of the Dominion Government is to make Kingston the destination of the Upper Lakes fleet. The Lower Canals will be put in good condition for barge navigation and nothing more."

Although our Buffalo friend was, in all probability, doing some

"whistling in the dark",
we wonder if he lived long enough to see his prophecy come true. The Dominion Government managed to fumble the ball until 1899, by which time, the Canal system was obsolete by Upper Lakes standards. The results of this in-action was that a few barge owners in the Montreal-Kingston forwarding trade were enabled to remain in business until the end of the century and the demise of Kingston, as a port of some commercial importance, was staved off for the same period of time.

On the 30 July, word was received from Brantford of the drowning in the Grand River of two young girls. One of them was Miss Ella E. Murton, daughter of John W. Murton, coal dealer and vessel owner, while the other was the adopted daughter of C. H. Waterous, engine builder, at whose home young Ella was a guest. The girls had evidently slipped out of the house and so were without supervision. The following day, by some coincidence, the schooner ELLA MURTON arrived in port.

The August Civic Holiday seemed to have been enjoyed by many who took advantage of the excursions run by the railways and by the steamers FLORENCE and DENNIS BOWEN on the Bay. The propeller L. SHICKLUNA took 800 passengers, consisting of local Orangemen and their friends, to Toronto and, succeeded in landing them all safely in Hamilton at 10:45 p.m.

The steamer ALGERIAN berthed at Swift's Wharf in Kingston Photo: Author's Collection
The R. & O. steamer ALGERIAN stranded in the Split Rock Rapids on the 11 August while downbound from Hamilton to Montreal. This was blamed on low water in the rapids and on the fact that she appeared to be somewhat overloaded. All hands were removed, although some had, to spend the night aboard. The ALGERIAN had, up to this point, had a rather exciting existence. Built in 1855 at Montreal by Bartley & Dunbar as the KINGSTON, she had a prefabricated iron hull which measured 174.0 x 26.2 x 9.0 and a gross tonnage of 344, net 201. She was powered by a beam engine with a 45 inch cylinder and having a stroke of 120 inches. Steam was generated in two fire-box boilers 19 ft. long and 8'6" in diameter. Her original owner was the Hon. John Hamilton and she later passed into the fleet of the Canadian Inland Steam Navigation Company. On the 11 June, 1872, while bound up-river, 18 miles above Brockville, she was burned and beached on Grenadier Island. Two lives were lost. She was rebuilt the following year and renamed BAVARIAN. Whether her engine was rebuilt or replaced, is not clear, but it was now stated to have a 45" cylinder with a stroke of 144". On the 5 November 1873, she again caught fire about 15 miles off Whitby while bound down the Lake and there was some loss of life involved. In 1874 she was rebuilt again, this time at Kingston, coming out as the ALGERIAN. In 1913, she was cut down to the status of a side-wheel tug, in the employ of the Calvins of Garden Island, who sold her the following year to John Donnelly of Kingston. She finally ended up in the Sin-Mac towing fleet, being scuttled in the late 1920's as the CORNWALL.

On the afternoon of Saturday, 20 August, the schooner ROYAL OAK, bound for Hamilton with coal, was struck by a sudden squall about 7 miles east of the Canal and was dismasted. The main mast snapped off at the deck and the foremast broke just below the cross-trees. The steamer DENNIS BOWEN went out and towed the unfortunate vessel into port. There was no insurance on her.

The death of John Fairgrieve occurred on the 3 October. He was Capt. John B. Fairgrieve's father and was born on the 5 August 1811 at Galashiels, in Selkirkshire. He came to Canada in 1833 and resided in Dundas, where he was engaged in the forwarding business. He moved to Hamilton in 1855 and lived at 43 Charles Street with his other son, Hugh.

The Hamilton Times of 8 October reported the burning of two propellers, as follows:

"This morning about 4:00 a.m., the fire alarm rang out for one of the most serious fires that has occurred in this city for some time. It was found that the propellers BRISTOL and R. W. STANDLY, lying at the Dominion Wharf, were in flames and that the ZEALAND and two schooners of Edward Browne's were in danger. Luckily the morning was a calm one and there was scarcely a breath of wind stirring. The ZEALAND was got out and by pouring water on the sails of the schooners, they were saved. The fire, it appears, broke out on board the R. W. STANDLY, but what caused it is a mystery. Both vessels are almost destroyed, the upper decks being completely so. The ZEALAND was badly scorched and is damaged to the extent of $1,000. There were two men sleeping aboard the BRISTOL and one lad on the ZEALAND. The BRISTOL was insured for $10,000 and the R. W. STANDLY was insured for $28,000."

A great loss to the Shipping fraternity was announced by the Evening Times on the 21 October, when it reported the untimely death of Capt. John Malcolmson in Montreal. He died from injuries sustained when he fell from an unsteady gangway. He did not die from drowning. John Malcolmson was born in 1825 at Long Hope, in the Orkney Islands and came to Canada with his parents in 1837. Having settled in Niagara, John was apprenticed to a ship-carpenter at the Niagara Harbour & Dock Co. shipyard, remaining there until dissolution of the company in 1844. He then found employment in shipyards at St. Catharines and other ports, until he signed on as ship's carpenter on the MAGNET under Capt. James Sutherland. He subsequently became 2nd Mate on the MAGNET and in 1852 he settled in Hamilton, the home port of his steamer. He was at one time a mate on the BOSTON and 1st Mate on the ARABIAN, under Capt. Colcleugh. Capt. John's first command was the BANSHEE. In 1860, in partnership with his brother, the late George Malcolmson, he purchased the propeller NEW ENGLAND and renamed her MAGNET. He sold her in 1867 to Proctor and Patterson when he was building the composite vessel ACADIA. Capt. John gave up sailing in 1872 and came ashore to devote more time to his business. He had married in 1854 and left a wife and seven children.

Navigation closed late in November with the arrival of the schooner AIGLE DE MER which went into winter quarters at Zealand's Wharf. By the 9 December, Capt. Campbell was thinking about "dousing the glim" in his light-house.


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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.