Chapter 13
The Second Railway Building Era
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 season of 1877 was not one of great activity in the shipping business. There was no shipbuilding going on, to any extent, in fact the only item of interest in this line at Hamilton, was the building of a steam launch by C. C. Roe, The launch was named IDA ROE and her high pressure engine 6 x 10" was built by Jos. H. Killey'sMona Iron Works.

Thomas Myles purchased. the schooner GULNARE which had been built by J. P. Abbey at Port Robinson in 1873 and measured 142.6 x 23,7 x 11.2, with a registered. tonnage of 367.

On the 26 March, the steamer SOUTHERN BELLE was advertised for sale by auction in Toronto. This was the former ROTHESAY CASTLE and the sale was prompted by the insolvency of one of the partners.

One shipyard that was keeping busy was that of Chaffey & Pierce at Portsmouth, Ont. This yard had, by the 30 March, done a complete rebuild on the ROCHESTER and had built a yacht for Gilmour of Ottawa. They had under construction a powerful tug for the Collins Bay Rafting & Forwarding Co. and also a small steamer for Rideau Canal service

On the 12 April, the new swing bridge of the Hamilton & North Western Ry. was opened and the honour of being the first vessel to pass through, went to the schooner ORIENTAL,Capt. Campbell of Kingston.

The propeller ARMENIA was advertised as sailing from Sylvester Bros. Wharf in Toronto about the 1 May for Sydney, C.B. for a cargo of coal.

The death occurred on the 14 May, of Aeneas Donald MacKay after an illness of 5 months. Mr. MacKay was born in 1825 at Golspie in the county of Sutherland. In 1852, he married Elizabeth Hughes, who was born in 1824 at Red Wharf, Anglesea, Wales, the wedding taking place at Cheltenham, England. He was survived by his wife, sons Robert Osborne,Aeneas Donald, Jr. and Adam Brown and by two daughters, Elizabeth Maltby and Eugenie Owen. Three other daughters died in infancy. Aeneas MacKay's business was carried on by his widow and R. O. MacKay, aged 24, executors of the Estate. Terms of the Will stated that the Estate could not be settled until the youngest son, A. B. MacKay reached the age of 21, in 1887.

The contract for supplying Light Stations went to the Lake & River Steamship Co. and the propeller LAKE ERIE was assigned to this duty. She was to leave Montreal, under Capt. Alex. Pollock, on or about the 2 July. The advertisement stated:

"The steamer LAKE ERIE having superior passenger accommodation, will make this the most delightful and pleasant summer trip that can be taken on our inland waters and passengers can join or leave the vessel at their pleasure, passage being charged at so much per day."

Notice to mariners regarding the Rush Bed, that middle ground which lay off the City Docks, from about Catherine Street to MacKay's Wharf, was published on the 11 July. Capt. Thos. Campbell, custodian of Aids to Navigation, had placed two-barrel buoys, painted black, with a red band on each end of this obstruction, in 9 feet of water. Vessels were advised to pass these buoys on their port side when proceeding up the Bay.

In August, a new steamer appeared in Hamilton Harbour. This was the EMPRESS OF INDIA, owned by Jas. S. McCuaig of Picton. She made a trip from Toronto to Burlington Beach and Hamilton on Mondays and on Thursday, 9 August, she was chartered for a trip to the Ontario Camp Grounds at Grimsby under the auspices of Zion Tabernacle in Hamilton. This vessel had been built in 1876 at Mill Point by Wm. Jamieson and measured 170.0 x 26.0 x 8.5. Her gross tonnage was 579 and her net tonnage was 336. She was powered by a low pressure beam engine 33 1/3 x 96" which was built in the Rathbun Company's shops at Mill Point.

The Hamilton Correspondent of the Toronto Globe wrote, in that paper's issue of 10 August,

"Since the Beach has become a place of public resort, the provision made by the Government for crossing the Burlington Canal by ferry, has become inadequate. The ferry was established over 20 years ago, when travel across the Beach was exceedingly limited and the ferryman's job was almost a sinecure. The Government regulations required the ferry to be at the free command of travellers from sunrise to sunset, but this is not sufficient to meet the requirements of the present day. It is true the ferryman, Mr. Joyce, does not refuse to take travellers over at earlier or later hours than those prescribed, but his labours are too great for one man to perform. It is stated that the average number of teams crossing in the summer is about 50 per day. For this work, Mr. Joyce receives $240.00 a year or 66 cents per day. It is true he has nothing to do during the winter, when the Bay is frozen over, but for five or six months in the year, his labour is enormous, nor can complaint be justly made because when called upon to ferry people after hours, he occasionally accepts a fee for this extra work. There can be no doubt that new regulations are necessary and it seems that the case need only be properly presented to the Government to induce it to comply with the demands of the public for increased facilities."

The Globe'sHamilton correspondent was again on the subject of the Beach on the 27 August and said, in part,

"In the year 1874, the Government leased for a term of 99 years, an infinite quantity of land comprising a large portion of the Beach, to the Municipality of Hamilton for the use and benefit of the people of the city. It was originally contemplated to make a public park of the land so acquired, but subsequently, the City Corporation determined to lay out a large portion in building and park lots. These were to be put up at public auction, to be leased for 99 years to private individuals, the purchase money to be used in improving the roads, streets, etc., on which the lots were located. Two sales of lots have already taken place, much to the dissatisfaction of numerous electors who contend that the Council has no right thus to dispose of property obtained for the benefit of the whole city."

The Canal Ferry was again in the news on the 30 August, when a news item stated,

"The ferry across the Canal has been stopped for some days past to allow certain improvements to be made. These have been completed and the ferry is again in operation.... It is understood that the Government will put a new one on next season, but it would be much better if some other and less troublesome means could be contrived for crossing the canal."
It was nearly 20 years before this
"other and less troublesome means"
appeared in the form of a swing bridge for vehicular traffic.

On the 30 August, the Lake & River Steamship Co. obtained charters for their propellers LAKE MICHIGAN and LAKE ONTARIO which had been laid up all summer through lack of business. Rates were so low and freights so scarce that the company preferred to have the vessels lie idle, than to operate them at a loss. They were to go to Detroit, to load grain for Montreal.

An interesting item from Kingston on the 4 Sept. read as follows:

"Messrs. D. McEwen & Son are putting the large iron tanks in the three-masted schooner FANNY CAMPBELL, which has been bought for the coal-oil trade. The schooner will not likely do anything in her new line of business this year. She will trade directly between Sarnia and Montreal, being loaded and unloaded by steam. At Montreal, a tank is being built, sufficiently large to hold a vessel-cargo of oil."

The ferry TRANSIT which had been in service to the Beach during the past two seasons, was towed to Toronto by the tug GOLDEN CITY on the 11 September, to lay up for the winter.

On the 15 September, the steamer EMPRESS OF INDIA was again in port and figured in a near disaster. She had taken on an excursion party at Oaklands and was headed for the Beach, in company with the steam yacht WINNIE T. MOORE, with a party of ladies and gentlemen. Just as the vessels approached the piers, the yacht closed with the steamer and then attempted to cross her bows. The captain of the steamer apparently sensed that something of the sort was about to happen and slowed, stopped and finally reversed his engine. Even so, he could not avoid a collision, which almost capsized the yacht. The Globe said

"the foolhardiness which would prompt the party in charge of the yacht to attempt to cross the bows of the EMPRESS OF INDIA was most reprehensible as she had neither the speed nor the sea-room to do so.... No blame can be attached to Capt. White, who did all in his power to avert a disaster."

During the summer, the Great Western Railway had a large number of men and teams engaged in filling the original Desjardins Canal(Beasley's Creek) at the trestle bridge carrying the Toronto Branch line. For some time, there had been a gradual subsidence of the embankment and a consequent deflection of the bridge.

Shipowners, plagued with a scarcity of cargoes earlier in the season, were now cursed with a grain blockade at Kingston, where all the elevators were full and a sufficient number of barges were not available. One case in point, was that of the ACADIA, operated by Mrs. Elizabeth Malcolmson of Hamilton. The ACADIA, consigned to a Kingston grain firm, was forced to lighten her cargo by means of baskets, dumping the grain onto a scow, which she then had to tow to Montreal. Other vessels were being diverted to Oswego,Ogdensburg and Prescott.

Word was received from Buffalo on the 9 October, stating that the former blockade-runner CHICORA had been cut in two at the Union Dry Dock. Both halves were now afloat and would be towed to Port Dalhousie to be re-joined during the winter. Mr. Bell of Buffalo, had the contract for this work.

The Toronto Globe on the 29 October, printed an item from Sarnia revealing that the schooner FANNY CAMPBELL had, in fact, been sent up from Kingston for a cargo of oil before the navigation season closed. It said,

"The schooner FANNY CAMPBELL was fitted with tanks for carrying oil this season and has reached Sarnia for her cargo. It is expected that only one trip will be made this season. The tanks in the schooner are six in number, three on each side, those in the centre being the largest. They are 60 feet in length and 9'4" in diameter, each with a capacity of 61,637 gallons. Those forward are 25 feet in length and 8'6" in diameters each with a capacity of 18,800 gallons, while the after tanks are 23 feet long and 7'9 1/2" in diameter, holding 16,640 gallons each. The total capacity was about 2,097 bbls.

As the season drew to a close, Kingston was enveloped in a heavy cloud of smoke arising from the heated controversy over the grain blockade. Involved, were the Collector of Customs, the Minister of Marine & Fisheries, four forwarding companies and of course, on the sidelines, the shipowners.

A heavy blow from the south-west, on the 29 October, caught the sailing scow SASSY JANE, loaded with lumber and drove her ashore near the piers in Hamilton Harbour. The scow was said to be bound from Bronte to Port Dalhousie, so what she was doing in Hamilton is questionable. Another piece of floating equipment called the FLYING DUTCHMAN was reported to be dragging her anchor and heading for the Beach."


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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.