The registry of the schooner T. R. MERRITT was transferred to Hamilton on the 4 February by R. O. & A. B. MacKay. This schooner was built in 1874 at Port Dalhousie by S. Andrews and her dimensions were 138.0 x 23.5 x 12.l with registered tonnage of 325. According to her register, the previous owner was William A. Corson of Brighton, Ont.
The W. J. SUFFELL got away to Oswego on the 8 April with her cargo of lumber and the following day MacKays stated that their propeller LAKE MICHIGAN was due in about a week and would stay in port until her Texas house was rebuilt to its full length, as it was originally.
As it turned out, Capt. Corson did not have a very good voyage to start the season. Considerable ice, as well as heavy weather was encountered off Oak Orchard and he was compelled to beat back to Port Dalhousie and seek shelter.
The MACASSA started her season on the 12 April, with over 100 passengers and a good general cargo for Toronto. The propeller MYLES was laden with barrel staves for Duluth and was awaiting the opening of the Welland Canal and event expected to take place on the 20 April. Although the coal rates had not been fixed for the season yet, the schooners ELLA MURTON and SINGAPORE cleared for Oswego on the morning of the 14 April, to load coal for Murton.
Vessel-men were having a very hard time when it came to trying to make a profit on the operation of schooners and steamers. Some railroads on the American side of the Lakes had banded together to fix the rates on grain from the mid-West to the Atlantic Seaboard in an attempt to eliminate the competition. Now, it apreared in the local press, on 24 April, that fuel was to be added to the fire from a Canadian source. J.R.Booth,the Ottawa
"Lumber Baron"had built a railway called the Ottawa, Arnprior & Parry Sound, connecting the places named in its corporate title. This line connected at Ottawa with another Booth railway, the Canada Atlantic, which ran east to Coteau Landing, where a small side-wheel car-ferry made the connection to Valleyfield. From that town the railway continued to Swanton Jct., Vt., on the Central Vermont R.R. In 1894, the car-ferry was replaced by a bridge. At the western end of the line, an extension was built from South Parry to a new port called Depot Harbour where freight sheds and a grain elevator of one million bushels capacity was built. In 1898, an elevator of 500,000 bus. capacity was erected at Coteau Landing and the function of this facility was to receive grain from cars and transfer it to barges which were towed to Montreal. This elevator was dismantled in 1905 after Booth sold out to the Grand Trunk Ry. Co. To round out this system, the Canada Atlantic Transit Co. was organized to operate vessels on the Upper Lakes.
A storm accompanied by high north-west winds caused considerable havoc in the Thousand Islands on the night of 27 April. The steel steamer ROSEDALE,Capt. Ewart, running light from Prescott to Toledo, went aground just below Rock Island, in a snow squall, but was refloated next day. She was owned by the St. Lawrence & Chicago Steam Navigation Co. of Toronto. The same night, the Montreal Transportation Co.pany tugs H. F. BRONSON and JAMES A. WALKER, left Kingston with 8 barges laden with approximately 200,000 bus. of wheat. As they neared Johnson's Island Light Station, the tow broke up and four of the barges
went adrift. The barge KINGHORN went down in 100 feet of water and when they found the barge MONTREAL, she was in a bad way, with 5 feet of water in her hold. The steel steamer BANNOCKBURN, owned also by Montreal Transportation Co., stranded on Four Mile Point and it was necessary to send a floating elevator out from Kingston to lighter-off most of her cargo of grain. This steamer had been built for these owners in 1893 by Sir Raylton Dixon & Co. at Middlesborough. Her dimensions were 245.0 x 40.1 x 18.4, and her tonnages were 1,620 gross and 1,035 net. She had a triple expansion engine 21/34/56 x 39, built by the North East Marine Engineering Co. Ltd. and steam was provided by two Scotch Marine boilers. The unfortunate vessel disappeared with all hands on Lake Superior on the 20 November, 1902.
The propeller MELBOURNE was at MacKay's Wharf on the 1 May, loading cargo for Cleveland and two days later, the steamer HAMILTON arrived at Browne's Wharf on her first trip of the season from Montreal. On the 8 May, the OCEAN was in port on her regular Montreal service and the SIR S. L. TILLEY was loading brick at the Grand Trunk Wharf.
The propeller LAKE MICHIGAN was being painted after having her cabin work done, but there was no great hurry. Business was slack and the idea of seeking a replacenent for the lost ACADIA had been shelved.
The propeller OCEAN made the news on the 14 May when she smashed several gates on one of the locks in the Beauharnois Canal, causing $1,000 damage to the lock. The 2nd engineer, who was on duty at the time, was responsible.
The Hamilton Spectator noted on the 17 May, that C. J. Myles was dismantling the coal sheds on Myles Wharf. After the 1897 season, no more coal would be brought in by water for this firm. The sheds would be re-erected on property at Ferguson & Hunter Streets, adjoining the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Ry. right of way.
The firm of Adam Hope & Co., wholesale hardware merchants, went bankrupt on the 19 May with liabilities of $75,000, the Bank of Commerce and the Bank of British North American being creditors to the extent of $45,000. This concern had failed in 1883 when its creditors were paid off at 75 cents on the dollar.
A letter to the editor of the Spectator remarked on the very dilapidated condition of the Hamilton waterfront. The writer said that the Grand Trunk Ry. and the Magee Walton Ice Co. kept their properties in shape, but nobody else did.
The next day, the Welland Canal was closed after the steam barge J. H. OUTHWAITE, owned by W. C. Richardson of Cleveland, knocked three gates off Lock 7 at St. Catharines. The dislodged gates were washed 500 feet down the canal and the steamer was carried all the way back to Lock 6. The canal reach, 1 1/4 miles long, between Locks 7 & 8 was drained, there were several breaks in the dyke and serious flooding resulted. The J. H. OUTHWAITE was built in 1886 at Cleveland and measured 243 x 37 x 18, with tonnages of 1,304 gross and 1,000 net.
On the 24 May, the steamer QUEEN CITY brought an excursion from Toronto, the steamer HAMILTON was in on the Montreal service and the propeller PERSIA arrived from St. Catharines and cleared for Montreal.
The propellers TECUMSEH and L. SHICKLUNA collided off Long Point,Lake Erie, at 1:00 a.m. on the 29 May and the latter vessel was a total loss. Capt. Clifford and his crew were brought in to Port Colborne by the TECUMSEH.
On the evening of 28 May, the steel freighter SEGUIN arrived at Browne's Wharf with a cargo of 1,350 tons of coal for the Hamilton Gas Light Co. Drawing 14 feet, the SEGUIN dragged bottom all the way through the Burlington Canal. This vessel was built in 1890 at Owen Sound by the Polson Iron Works Co. for the Parry Sound Lumber Co. and the managing owner was J. B. Miller. Her dimensions were as follows: 207.0 x 34.2 x 13.0; Gross 818 tons, net 556 tons. She was powered by a triple expansion engine 17/28/46 x 30, built by Polson and she had two Scotch Marine boilers 11'0" x 11'0". Three gangs of men were to unload the SEGUIN and she left for Ashtabula on the 1 June, loaded another cargo and was back in Hamilton on 5 June.
"Family Books"of tickets to Toronto. For $5.00 a family could have 10 round trips.
James Dunlop was doing a good business in grain. On the 3 July, he shipped a cargo of oats on the propeller OCEAN and one of rye in the schooner OLIVER MOWAT. On the same day, the propeller MELBOURNE called at MacKay's Wharf on her way to Montreal.
The propeller PERSIA and the steamer HAMILTON were in port on 23 August and the steam barge JUNO arrived at Zealand's Wharf with cedar posts, ties and lumber from Georgian Bay. She cleared two days later and headed back to Georgian Bay. The JUNO was built in 1885 at Wallaceburg and her dimensions were 114.0 x 26.8 x 8.3, 209 tons gross and 130 net. She had a steeple compound engine 15/24 1/2 x 30 and steam was generated in a fire box boiler 6'6" x 12'3".
Despite the miners' strike, some schooners were able to get coal cargoes, among them, the MARY ANN LYDON, the OLIVER MOWAT and the T. R. MERRITT. On the 25 August, the schooner GENOA was towed in to McIlwraith's Wharf with 1,000 tons of steel billets from Chicago for the Ontario Rolling Mills Co.
Matthews Brothers' steamer ACACIA was found to be on fire at 1:15 a.m. on 26 August and all of her superstructure was destroyed. The schooner L. D. BULLOCK, laid up on the opposite side of the Simcoe St. Wharf, was slightly damaged, and the steam launch ATHENA, lying across the west end was badly damaged. The ATHENA was owned by J. McDonald and W. Clendenning and was insured for $3,000. She had previously been damaged by fire on 18 May 1895. The wharf was owned by the Turner Estate and was pretty well gutted.
The coal miners' strike ended on the 11 September and up in the Yukon, there was another kind of strike. Klondike would become almost a household word and many adventurers from Hamilton, as well as every other place, would be trying to figure out how to get there.
The Hamilton Bridge Company received an order from the Government on the 27 September, to supply the metalwork for 16 pairs of lock gates being built for the new Soulanges Canal. This order amounted to $25,000.
By the end of September, the Ferguson Ave. Sewage Disposal plant was nearing completion, but the engineer had electrical problems. The lighting dynamo had burned up. So far the City had spent $16,500 on the project.
The schooner W. J. SUFFELL arrived on the 30 September with a cargo of wire from Cleveland and the propeller SIR S. L. TILLEY came in from Prescott and cleared for Duluth. Word was received that the steamer HAMILTON, on her last trip down the river, had struck a rock in the Long Sault Rapids and would be detained at Montreal for a few days.
The R & O steamer CORSICAN called at Hamilton on the 4 October and the schooners OLIVER MOWAT and MARY ANN LYDON were carrying grain for JAMES DUNLOP. The schooner SIR C. T. VAN STRAUBENZEE came in with coal for the gas works on the 11 October.
The MACASSA made her last trip of the season to Toronto on the 30 October. The steamer HAMILTON was back in service in November on the 30 October. The steamer HAMILTON was back in service in November and cleared for Prescott. She would return to Hamilton to lay up.
The propeller CUBA arrived on the 3 December to unload general cargo and lay up for the winter. Three days later, the LAKE MICHIGAN came into the harbour towing the schooner T. R. MERRITT, which had been having a rough time with the weather. Having sailed from Charlotte with coal, she had to take shelter in the Niagara River. On the second attempt she was unable to make Hamilton and was finally blown back down the lake, ending up in Charlotte.
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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.