"Whenever the Spectator strongly urges the completion of the St. Lawrence Canals, the Montreal Gazette asserts that the Spectator is jealous of Montreal and desires to injure that city. The charge is dishonest. We desire a policy which will, if carried out, do more for Montreal than all the schemes of the Elevator men, the Barge men and the Harbour Trust put together. It desires the putting of the St. Lawrence into such a condition that no other route, from the interior to the ocean, can compete with it. The Gazette is merely trying to confuse the issue and is playing into the hands of those who, for fifteen years, have succeeded in delaying the work on these canals.
The enlargement of the canals was resolved upon in 1872. Since that time $25,000,000 have been spent on the Welland and the St. Lawrence Canals. This money has been unproductive. Canal tolls have been less than formerly.
Of course, the Gazette pretends that the Montreal Interests are not using their influence to retard the work of completing the Canals. Will it tell us theng what influence has retarded the work? Why have 15 years been allowed to pass without a spade being put into the Beauharnois Canal? The Lachine Canal was finished promptly because Montreal mill-owners needed more water for their mills. The Dept. of Railways and Canals cannot say whether the Beauharnois is to be rebuilt or whether it is to be paralleled or whether a new canal is to be built on the north bank of the St. Lawrence. We assert that the Montreal interests have resisted the completion of the canals.
Here is the Kingston News, for example, voicing the wishes of the Elevator and Barge men in this fashion: Another undertaking now being pressed upon the Government is that of enlarging the St. Lawrence Canals to a uniform depth of 14 feet. This policy was decided upon some years ago and has been proceeding slowly since. There is no need of asking the country to spend $10,000,000 to hasten the completion of this work. The public debt of the country is about as high as it ought to be and now that the Canadian Pacific Ry. is built and paid for, the system of large capital expenditures on public works, only indirectly productive, might well be dispensed with. It is time to call a halt and the enlargement of the St. Lawrence Canals is just one of those projects that can afford to wait. (end of quote)
The enlargement of the canals cannot afford to wait. Every farmer in Ontario loses from 2 to 3 cents per bushel on account of these canals. The average rate on wheat last year from Chicago to Buffalo, a distance of 900 miles, was 2 cents. At the same time, it was 5 cents from Hamilton to Montreal, a distance of only 375 miles. This province is robbed of a million dollars a year in order that the sharks of Montreal may grow fat. Is it any wonder that the Spectator uses strong language when such spoliation is going on?
If the Government did not intend to complete the canals, why did it begin them? Why throw away $25 million of the people's money? If it does intend to complete them, why not go on with the work? Why leave only 9 feet of water in the Beauharnois Canal when there is 14 feet in the Welland?
The Government must go on with this work in earnest or a protest will go down from Ontario that will make things unpleasant. If the enlargement be completed, the small toll charges will not divert traffic from the St. Lawrence and that traffic will be so large that the revenue from the canals will amount to fair interest on the cost of doing the work."
In April, it was brought to the attention of the citizens that the proprietors of two boathouses at the foot of Wentworth Street, a Mr. Weir and a Mrs. Webster, had been conducting a feud, for some time and had now engaged legal counsel. Furthermore, they had involved the Crown Lands Commissioner in the squabble. The Board of Works was requested to look into the matter, so this august body drove down to the battleground in their carriages and inhaled the stench from the Ferguson Ave. sewer, which was being wafted across Land's Inlet on the westerly breeze. Consequently, the meeting was brief and the Board decided that, even though Weir had stupidly built part of his boathouse on a street allowance and then blocked same with a walkway, it would be unwise for the City to embroil itself.
Navigation opened in Hamilton on the evening of 19 April, when the schooner SPEEDWELL arrived with coal from Oswego. This vessel had been built in 1875 at Port Milford by Dixon and had a registered tonnage of 276. The schooner GOLD HUNTER was expected from Oswego and the PANDORA was due in from Charlotte.
The propeller, LAKE MICHIGAN would be in service with Capt. Green in the pilot house, while Capt. O. Patenaude would have the LAKE ONTARIO. These vessels were lying at MacKay's on the 22 April and across the basin at McIlwraith's Wharf.Capt. Jas. Johnson had the schooner UNDINE ready to go. The schooner GULNARE,Capt. Wm. Skelton, was to leave for Toledo, to load lumber as soon as the Welland opened.
Murton & Reid had had new masts and spars put in the ELLA MURTON. At Robertson's Shipyard, the propellers ACADIA and ST. MAGNUS had been fitted out and the Hamilton Bridge & Tool Co. was building a large iron caisson for use at Port Dalhousie, to close the gap in the towpath above Lock 1 because the new canal was two feet higher than the old (second) canal. The caisson was 60 feet long and 15 feet deep and had a roadway for the towpath, on top. It was expected to be complete by mid-May.
T. B. Griffith, president of the newly organized Hamilton Steamboat Company, with invited guests, made a trip around the harbour on the steamer MAZEPPA,Capt. Stanton, on the 20 May. The MAZEPPA was built in 1884 at Toronto by the ubiquitous Melancthon Simpson and narrowly escaped total destruction in the waterfront fire in 1885. She was powered by a high pressure 14 x 140 engine built by Ingles & Hunter of Toronto. Her hull dimensions were 101.0 x 20.0 x 5.7; Gross 146; Net 87 tons. She was registered at Hamilton on the 4 July 1887 and was to commence trips to the Beach on the 21 May, sailing from the James St. Slip.
On the 27 August, the MAZEPPA had the honour of towing the new lifeboat to the Beach. This little boat, christened ADAM, after Mr. Adam Brown, M.P., had just been completed in the boat works of H. L. Bastien and measured 21 feet in length and 4 feet 11 inches beam. Buoyancy tanks were built into each end and the boat was equipped with three pairs of oars. Capt. Campbell would be in charge.
Word was received from Detroit on the 4 October, of the loss of the propeller CALIFORNIA in the Straits of Mackinaw. A further report wired from St. Ignace, Mich. stated that she had sailed from Chicago for Collingwood and was caught in a gale which was raging across the lake. Fires were extinguished by the rising water and at 1:00 a.m. she began to break up. Two boats got away and, one with seven men, made shore at Pte. les Barbes.Capt. John Trowell, whose father commanded the ALGERIAN, was her master and he reached land in the other boat with three men and one of the two stewardesses. The CALIFORNIA was built in Hamilton by A. M. Robertson in 1873 and had been lengthened in 1883 when a total of $18,000 was spent on her. Her owners, Crangle & Geddes of Toronto, valued her at $30,000.
The same storm on Lake Michigan claimed another Robertson-built vessel as its victim. This was the schooner JESSIE SCARTH,Capt. Roberts, built in 1871 for Wm. B. Scarth of Toronto. She was outward bound from Chicago with 26,600 bus. of corn for Collingwood when she was abandoned. The mate was Martin Mahoney who resided at 12 Wood St. in Hamilton.
On the night of 13 October, the schooner MANZANILLA of Hamilton,Capt. Geo. O'Brien, was driven ashore 6 miles above Dunkirk, N.Y. while on a voyage from Cleveland to Toronto with a cargo of block stone. All hands reached shore. The vessel, a product of the Shickluna yard in St. Catharines, was owned by R. Williamson of Hamilton and J. S. Murphy of Quebec, at the time of her loss.
A wild storm lashed the Lakes< on the 24 October resulting in marine casualties over a widespread area. On Lake Ontario, the propeller SCOTIA,Capt. Fraser, from Charlotte to Toronto, with the schooner ORIENTAL,Capt. Geo. Stewart, in tow, tried to reach Pt. Dalhousie, but gave up the attempt. Instead, Capt. Fraser turned about and headed for Niagara. Just after turning, the tow line parted and, the schooner foundered about 1 ½ miles east of Port Dalhousie. The SCOTIA reached the safety of the Niagara Rivpr and Capt. Fraser went back to search for possible survivors. The ORIENTAL's masts were showing above water. She was laden with 700 tons of coal and Capt. Stewart had a mate, two seamen and a woman cook.
On the 25 October, word was received from Collingwood, telling of the loss of the steamer CITY OF OWEN SOUND,Capt. F. H. LaFrance, This vessel had sailed from Duluth on the 19 October and had experienced very rough seas all the way down Lake Superior. She left Sault Ste. Marie on the morning of 23 Oct., in heavy snow and high winds and struggled on through the day and the next night, until 4:00 a.m. on the 24 October, she struck the Robertson Rock to the east of Clapperton Island. She sank in about 30 minutes. There were no passengers on this trip and all hands managed to get ashore on the Island. Her cargo consisted of 24,500 bus. of corn, consigned to Dunn & Thompson of Montreal, to be forwarded by rail from Collingwood. The purser saved the ship's papers. These shipwrecked mariners were fortunate indeed, for after only four or five hours, they were able to hail the steamer CAMPANA and she picked them up. The CITY OF OWEN SOUND had been built in 1875 at Owen Sound by John Simpson and was owned by Smith & Keighley of Toronto. She was valued at $29,000.
The propeller CELTIC,Capt. Cavers, sailed from Fort William on the 25 October, towing the schooner BESSIE BARWICK,Capt. Murray, with 18,000 bus. of grain for Kingston.Capt. Murray related his experiences, as follows:
"After we had been out a short time, the seas became so heavy that the CELTIC went into Nipigon Bay, arriving there about 3 a.m. on the 26 Oct. At 9 a.m. the next morning, the wind went down and we made another start, but we had hardly got out into the Lake before the CELTIC turned back again into the Bay. Capt. Cavers instructed me to shorten the tow-line and told me that the propeller's machinery was disabled and he would not be able to tow us any further. He then towed us to Simpson Island and let us go. We remained there until the next day, when we left in a good wind. On the night of the 27th, it began to blow very hard from the southeast, but about 6:00 a.m. the following morning it died out and the schooner rolled on a heavy sea. I then discovered that she had sprung a leak and immediately set the two pumps to work, but the water seemed to be gaining on us. On the 28th, a good wind sprang up and I headed her for the north shore. We were about 20 miles from land. About 1:00 p.m., I sighted the CELTIC and hoisted the colours and signalled them. I thought they would follow me, but they did not seem to understand the signal. I do not think Capt. Cavers acted unfairly. Shortly after hoisting the colours, the wind commenced to blow hard and it started to snow. It was impossible to see any distance through the snow. The water continued to gain on us, although both pumps were working and the schooner was a foot lower than when we started. When we were within three miles of shore, I saw that she was getting logey and would not answer her helm. It was getting dark and our only chance was to reach the shore and when we were within 150 yards of it, the schooner touched bottom. It was then about 6:00 p.m., so I instructed the crew to load the small boat with provisions and blankets and other things we were likely to need. We went on shore and pitched a tent to shelter us for the night. The temperature was below zero and it was still snowing, so we made a large fire to keep from freezing. The next morning, I discovered that we were a short distance west of Pilot Harbour, which is due north of Michipicoten Island. This shore is uninhabited. We went out in the boat to inspect the BESSIE BARWICK and found her in bad shape. The deck was heaved up by the swelling of the grain. We remained at Pilot Harbour until the 30 October, when we started out in the small boat. The lake was so rough that we had to hug the shore and after we had gone about 15 miles, it began to get dark. We hauled the boat up and pitched the tent, staying until the next day. There was a foot of snow and the weather was very cold. We made another start, but the lake was so rough that we had to go ashore ten miles to the east. On the morning of the 2 Nov., I concluded to try it again and as the seas had gone down considerably, we made good headway and arrived at Dog River by noon, remaining there with some fishermen. During my stay there, I ate so much fish that I never want any more as long as I live. We went to Michipicoten River on the 3 Nov. in a fishboat and tried to make the railroad, but were unsuccessful. I could not get even an Indian to take a telegram to the nearest station. We went back to Dog River and enjoyed the hospitality of the fishermen for another week. On the 11 November, we left for the Soo on a fish-tug that came for the fishermen and we arrived about noon on the 12th. We intended to come down on the ST. MAGNUS, but she was a day late, so we went to Owen Sound on the ATHABASKA. The passage was rather rough and we laid for 5 hours in a snow storm off Cove Island. We arrived in Owen Sound and went to a hotel before taking the train home to St. Catharines."
The Hamilton Spectator had published a very critical article, while the crew of the BESSIE BARWICK was still missing, in which certain members of Capt. Wm. Cavers' crew are reported to have said that Cavers was aware of the distress signals, but had refused to go to the aid of the schooner. However, the paper did print a short item on the 26 November, headed
"Capt. Cavers Exonerated". Capt. Murray had made a statement to the press, as follows:
"As a rumour has by some means got abroad that Capt. Wm. Cavers of the CELTIC acted unfairly towards me and my crew, I wish to say that there is no foundation for such a report. When we last saw the CELTIC, she was steering directly after us and we were then shut out from each other's view by a blinding snowstorm, while she was yet ten or twelve miles astern of us. We were then under full sail and no doubt making better time than the steamer, she being disabled by a broken crank pin. Thos. E. Murray."
The Hamilton Steamboat Company announced in November, that they had contracted to have a steamer built by Melancthon Simpson of Toronto, at Robertson's Shipyard. The cost was to be $40,000 and the vessel would be a wooden-hulled screw steamer approximately 165 x 26', drawing 9 feet of water. They had evidently sounded out the British shipbuilders and the prices quoted were in the neighborhood of $70,000, which they felt was a bit steep. Simpson was to start immediately.
"President T. B. Griffith, of the Hamilton Steamboat Co. has received a satisfactory reply from the Customs authorities at Ottawa and instead of the new steamer being built by Simpson, a steel vessel will be built for the Company in Glasgow. It seems that, under the customs regulations, all vessels coasting in Canadian waters are entitled to come in from Great Britain duty free, Mr. Griffith cabled to William Hamilton & Co., Port Glasgow, instructing them to commence work on a steel steamer, according to the design furnished by him while he was in Scotland. The cost will be $60,000. The new steamer will be 160 feet long and 24 feet beam and, will be propelled by triple expansion engines. There will be two decks - main and promenade - and the steamer will be finished in white and gold. On the after part of the main deck, there will be a large dining room, furnished with handsome chairs, upholstered in plush and the floor is to be covered with velvet pile. The windows will be plate glass and the vessel will be lighted by electricity. From the main deck, there will be a mahogany staircase leading to the promenade deck. A cabin 30 feet long and 16 feet wide will be on this deck, with furniture the same as in the dining room. The steamer will be equipped with all modern conveniences. A speed of 15 miles per hour is guaranteed and she will be capable of running, to Toronto in a little over two hours. She is to be completed by the 25 April next year and should arrive here by the 20 May, just in time to make her first trip on the Queen's Birthday."
By the 3 December, Capt. Campbell had taken in all the buoys and was ready to call it quits for 1887. The steam barge GEORGIA had arrived with coal from Toledo, on 2 Dec. and the ST. MAGNUS came in with 650 tons of coal from Oswego. She would lay-up for the winter at Zealand's Wharf.
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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.