The season of navigation opened on the 18 April, when the tug CHIEFTAIN of the Calvin fleet, arrived with a tow of four schooners to load timber for Garden Island. The tow consisted of the ORIENTAL,BAVARIA,SIBERIA and ST. LAWRENCE. The DENMARK was dropped off at Toronto on the way up. The tug had to break some ice in the Bay in order to shepherd her flock to the Great Western Ry. docks.
A news Item on the 21 April stated that Burrow, Stewart & Milne were enlarging their foundry at John and Cannon Streets and that they had a contract for castings for the Third Welland Canal. A new 100 HP engine, built by J. H. Killey & Co. was being installed.
"iron deckhand"- a donkey boiler and steam winch - to take over the heavy work, formerly done with the capstan. This piece of equipment was built by Messrs. Copp Bros. & Barry, who were now located in Northey's old works at King William and Wellington Streets. It was tried out on Thursday, 28 April, to the satisfaction of all present.
On the 29 April, Thomas Myles let it be known that he had let contracts for the construction of a composite propeller. The Hamilton Bridge & Tool Co. would make the frames, A. M. Robertson would do the wood-work, while Copp Bros. & Barry got the contract for the machinery. The cost was expected to be about $60,000 with delivery by 1 May 1882.
On the same day, the first of the R. & O. steamers, the ALGERIAN, arrived as did the schooner UNDINE, with coal and lime for Thos. Myles. The Hull Inspector had come from Toronto to inspect the LAKE MICHIGAN,LAKE ONTARIO,CELTIC,ST. MAGNUS and ACADIA. The following day, the propeller ARGYLE arrived from Montreal with general cargo and the schooner E. R. C. PROCTOR came in with coal for Murton & Reid. The schooners GRANTHAM and FANNY CAMPBELL arrived to load timber. The little DENNIS BOWEN towed a raft from the H. & N. W. Wharf around to the G. W. Ry. She was booked to run to the Beach in the summer from MacKay's Wharf. The steamer GENEVA would be on the Beach service also, but the ECLIPSE had been sold to owners on the Upper Lakes. Her registry was transferred to Sarnia on 1 June 1882.
Appointments for the propellers were as follows: On the Western Express Lines LAKE ONTARIO,Capt. Williams,LAKE MICHIGAN,Capt. Woods,LAKE ERIE,Capt. Johnston. The Merchants' Line listed the following: AFRICA,Capt. Patterson,CALIFORNIA,Capt. Jas. McMaugh,PERSIA,Capt. Cavers,DOMINION,Capt. R. McMaugh,DROMEDARY,Capt. J. C. Burrows,GLENFINLAS, the former CALABRIA,Capt. H. Zealand,ST. MAGNUS,Capt. D. A. Kish,SCOTIA,Capt. J. H. Scott,EUROPE,Capt. J. Clifford,PRUSSIA,Capt. E. Wright,OCEAN,Capt. Archie McMaugh,ARGYLE,Capt. G. Malcolmson,LINCOLN,Capt. J. Duncanson,CLINTON,Capt. Maudsley and CELTIC,Capt. Thos. A. Green.
The schooner E. H. RUTHERFORD was floated out of Shickluna's Dry Dock on the 3 May, after an extensive rebuild during which she was lengthened by 19 feet and had her depth of hold increased by one foot. The tug S. S. EDSALL was floated at the same time.
By mid-May, news from St. Catharines stated that the new steam barge under construction at the Shickluna shipyard should be ready for launching by the end of July. She was being built for Thomas Conlon of Thorold and George N. Oille was building the engine. Her name would be ERIN.
By the end of May, the Storm Drum, which was hoisted at the Burlington Light Station, was augmented by the addition of a cone, the position of which indicated the expected wind direction when a storm was approaching.
On the 3 July, the steamer CORINTHIAN acquired the bell which was formerly on the old steamer GREAT BRITAIN of 1830. The bell was taken on board at Kingston and was said to have been used at the Millburn Tannery for about 25 years.
The propeller ASIA got into serious trouble on the night of the 9 July while bound down the St. Mary's River about 20 miles below the Soo. She passed the steam barge HAVANA, upbound, but ran afoul of the barge HELENA, which was on the end of the HAVANA's tow-line. The ASIA was successfully beached by Capt. Birnie and all hands, got off in the boats. A tug took them to the Soo.
On Sunday morningg 17 July, the R. & O. steamer CORSICAN, attempting to ascend the Galops Rapids with a strong head-wind and in conditions of low water, struck a rock and had to be beached on the New York side of the River. The steamer CULTIVATEUR was sent down from Prescott to take the CORSICAN's passengers up to board the MAGNET for points west.
The schooner OLIVER MOWAT, entering the Burlington Canal on the 19 July, let go an anchor, which promptly hooked the Montreal Telegraph Company's cable. After fiddling around for three hours, during which time the swing bridge was held open with a train waiting, they succeeded in breaking the cable.
On the same day, word was received from Duluth, of the destruction by fire of the steamer CITY OF WINNIPEG, with the loss of four men. If the prospective traveller on the Lakes could disregard all the burnings, strandings and founderings, he had no less than 116 excursions from which to pick, according to Mr. Barlow Cumberland of Toronto.
The Hamilton Regatta, staged on the 20 July, drew crowds from Toronto, who came on the SOUTHERN BELLE and on something advertised as the "LADY RUPERT", which may have been the former side-wheel tug RUPERT, built in 1877 at Quebec by John Wilson. She is reported, to have been rebuilt with passenger accommodation in 1881, at which time she was owned by W. E. Cornell of Toronto.
The Toronto Globe printed an article on the 26 July, chiding the Government for delaying the opening of the enlarged Lachine Canal, by refusing to hang the gates on the locks. A paragraph in this story told of the steamer CAMPANA, which had been purchased overseas by A. M. Smith of Toronto and which was now at Montreal. It stated that as soon as the new locks were in working orders the CAMPANA would be taken up to Tate's Dry Dock to be cut in two for the trip to the Upper Lakes. The CAMPANA was an iron-hulled. steamer built in 1873 at Glasgow by Aitken & Mansell, measuring 240.3 x 35.2 x 20.8. She had two compound engines, 26/52 x 33, built by D. Rowan. Originally named NORTH, she was renamed when sold to Argentine buyers. While on the River Plate she was chartered to take 700 mules to South Africa in connection with the Kaffir Wars, which ended in June 1878. Having unloaded the mules, the super-cargo absconded and the vessel had to be sold, to pay the crew and the outstanding expenses. A. M. Smith picked her up in London. The two halves of the steamer were re-joined in Muir's Dry Dock at Pt. Dalhousie and she left there on the 7 November for Collingwood, where, during the winter, a cabin deck was added.
The conditions in the approaches to Hamilton left something to be desired. On the 30 July a news item related the experience of the little steamer GENEVA. She left for Grimsby, stopping at the Canal to pick up extra passengers and then grounded on a sand bar about 100 yards beyond the Piers.
Capt. John B. Fairgrieve's propeller COLUMBIA foundered off Frankfort in Lake Michigan at 11:00 p.m. on the 10 September. There were 15 lost, including Capt. James Malcolmson and his son Robert, the 1st Mate and seven men were saved. She was on her way to Collingwood when her grain cargo shifted in heavy seas and she went down in 15 minutes.
"LAKE ERIE sunk Thursday, 6:00 a.m. (14 November) off Poverty Bay by colliding with the NORTHERN QUEEN. All saved except one deckhand scalded to death."Both vessels had sailed together from Chicago and the captains had agreed to keep in company because of the treacherous weather at this time of year. When off Poverty Island, Capt. Johnston of the LAKE ERIE signalled his intention to alter course, but due to wind and driving snow, Capt. Cameron, or one of his mates did not receive the signal. The LAKE ERIE then out across the course of the NORTHERN QUEEN and was rammed about the after gangway, She went down in an hour and forty minutes. Capt. C. A. Cameron of the NORTHERN QUEEN, seeing the condition of the deckhand who had been scalded when a steam pipe burst, immediately headed his vessel for Manistique, but the man died before help could be reached. The NORTHERN QUEEN, with her damaged bow, staggered on and sank in the harbour at Manistique. She was built in 1872 at Marine City by J. J. Hill as the ROBERT HOLLAND and measured 156 X 30, with a gross tonnage of 619. Her engine was a steeple compound 21/37 x 32. She had been purchased in 1878 by the Georgian Bay Transportation Co. of Collingwood,Thomas Long and Chas. Cameron being the principals. She was abandoned and in 1882 she was refloated and towed to Port Huron, where she arrived on the 11 June. She was subsequently rebuilt as a steam barge at Bay City by James Davidson and resumed her original name.
The owners of the LAKE ERIE were the Lake & River Steamship Co. of whom the principals weres Richard Blain of Galt, pres., John Harvey of Hamilton, Treas., John Young of Hamilton, sec'y., and the directors were Geo. H. Gillespie, C. J. Hope and the Estate of A. D. MacKay, all of Hamilton.
In giving a resumé of the 1881 season, the Hamilton Spectator remarked at some length on the high hopes of the shipowners at the opening of navigation. These were not totally realized, but the business of the year did prove to be reasonably good and in fact, somewhat better than that on the U. S. side of the Lakes. The Merchants' Line did better in the Upper Lakes trade than on Lake Ontario and succeeded in keeping the CELTIC,PRUSSIA,OCEAN and SCOTIA busy on the Chicago-Montreal service. Their service between Cleveland and Montreal was a new venture and the AFRICA and the CALIFORNIA did extremely well. The DROMEDARY and the GLENFINLAS were maintained in the Montreal and Lake Ontario package freight trade, but the Government's lack of enthusiasm in pushing the Third Welland Canal to an early completion prevented the latter vessel from making any trips to the Upper Lakes. This caused the owners much disappointment.
The Western Express Line steamers ACADIA and ST. MAGNUS spent most of the season on the Lake Ontario service, although the latter did manage to make one trip through the new canal, late in the season, with a cargo of barley for Buffalo. The ACADIA would be lengthened during the coming winter to take advantage of the larger locks in the spring of 1882.
The Lake & River Steamship Co. operated their LAKE ONTARIO and LAKE MICHIGAN between Toledo and Montreal for most of the season. A contract to carry steel rails up from Montreal made the business look a little better.
Of the Hamilton-owned sailing vessels, the GULNARE did fairly well in the timber trade, while the ELLA MURTON and the UNDINE were busy bringing coal to Hamilton and taking grain out. The E. H. RUTHERFORD made some money on the Upper Lakes with grain. Edward Browne's schooner VICTOR was lost by collision in the Detroit River early in the autumn and the wreck was sold to U. S. buyers.
Vessels in winter quarters were: ELLA MURTON at Murton & Reid's,UNDINE at Myles',CELTIC,DROMEDARY,LAKE MICHIGAN and LAKE ONTARIO at MacKay's,GENEVA at McIlwraith's,E. H. RUTHERFORD at Browne's and at Robertson's Shipyard, the ST. MAGNUS,DENNIS BOWEN and the schooner GULNARE for repairs. So ended 1881.
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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.