Chapter 16
The Iron Age
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 ice harvest for the winter of 1899-1900 was completed on the 27 March and the ice-houses were filled to capacity. By the 7 April the ice was beginning to show signs of breaking up.

On the 25 April, the schooner T. R. MERRITT,Capt. W. A. Corson, left for Oswego and was followed a day later by the W. J. SUFFELL,Capt. John Corson. The propeller LAKE MICHIGAN departed for Muir's Dry Dock in Port Dalhousie. The steamer ACACIA began service to Bay View on the 29 April.

The Hamilton Steel & Iron Company, 1900. This Photo was taken from the top of the Blast Furnace, and shows the Office in the foreground. Beyond the tracks in the Open Hearth shop with its two stacks and to its right is Harvey's Inlet, with Lottridge Inlet beyond it. The three short stacks belong to the Rolling Mill boiler house, behind the Open Hearth. Photo: Stelco Inc.
Hamilton entered the era of steel on the 30 April, when the first heat was poured in the new Open Hearth shop at the Hamilton Steel & Iron Company plant. The steel-making facilities consisted of an open hearth shop with two 25-ton Wellman tilting furnaces served by one Wellman Charging car. Gas for the furnaces was generated in four, 10 ft. diameter Talbot Gas Producers. The Rolling Mill contained two trains of rolls built by the Lewis Foundry & Machine Co. of Pittsburgh. They were driven by a stationary engine rated at 500 HP, built by John Inglis & Son of Toronto. A separate brick boiler house was located close to the engine room. The Open Hearth Shop and the Rolling Mill were erected by the Hamilton Bridge Co.

The first arrival in the harbour was the schooner OLIVER MOWAT, which came in late on the night of the 30 April, with coal from Oswego for the Rogers Coal Co. After unloading and cleaning out her holds, she moved to Dunlop's Warehouse and loaded grain for Kingston.

The LAKE MICHIGAN, having returned from Port Dalhousie, was taking on general cargo for Montreal on the 2 May and her owners, R. O. & A. B. MacKay, announced that the two steel vessels being built in Great Britain for the Hamilton & Fort William Navigation Co. would be named STRATHCONA and DONNACONA.

The propeller OCEAN made her first call on 5 May when she arrived from Montreal and returned thereto. She was followed two days later by the PERSIA, also on the Montreal service.

The schooner W. J. SUFFELL brought a cargo of coal from Sodus Point on the 8 May, for the Hamilton Gas Light Co. and on the 10 May, the R. & O. Line steamer ALGERIAN made her first appearance of the season. Her running-mate, the HAMILTON arrived on the 13 May, lay overnight, and cleared for Montreal.

The canal system on the St. Lawrence was finally completed with the opening of the Soulanges Canal, an event which went un-noticed, the press being more concerned with the Boer War in South-Africa. The way was now clear for progressive ship-owners such as the MacKays and others like them, to buy canal-sized vessels or to have them built overseas.

The Hamilton Steamboat Company sold their steamer MAZEPPA to John H. McLauchlan of Owen Sound on 8 June. This company's MACASSA and MODJESKA came in from Toronto on Saturday, 23 June with some 200 employees of the Polson Iron Works for a picnic in Dundurn Park, in addition to a group from the Gurney Foundry Co. of Toronto, who disembarked at the Canal to enjoy a day's outing at the Brant House.

Steamer CARLO: the first deep sea tramp steamer seen in Hamilton. This shows her loading rails at Conneaut, Ohio, in June 1900 Photo: Robt. J. MacDonald, reproduced by Randolph Rhodes
The Government dredge QUEEN, which had been doing some work in the Burlington Canal, moved over to the Hamilton Steel & Iron Co. wharf on the 26 June. During the next four days, the dredge made two cuts of 250' feet each and one of 60 feet, across the end, to a depth of 16 feet. This involved the removal of 1,080 cu. yds. of clay. The wharf was the scene of some activity, since it was being equipped with three McMyler Whirlies, fitted with 2-ton clams and two of these machines were completed by the 9 July, when the iron-hulled tramp steamer CARLO arrived with a cargo of ore from Two Harbours, Minn. She went aground in the Canal when she tried to enter the harbour, but after several hours, the captain of the tug attending the dredge QUEEN reluctantly agreed to tow her out of the mud.

The Hamilton Steel & Iron Company's wharf in 1900 showing the three McMyler Whirlies for unloading iron ore cargoes. Photo: Author's collection
The CARLO,Capt. Carl E. Andersen, had come to the Great Lakes in May to carry rails from Conneaut, Ohio, to Fort William for the Carnegie Steel Co. She had, been built in 1879 at Newcastle-upon-Tyne by the Palmers Shipbuilding Co. and measured. 242.0 x 33.2 x 20.1. Her gross tonnage was 1,228, her net was 823 and her engine was a compound 28/52 x 36. She was owned by A/S Carlo, Blom & Ohlsen of Fredriksvoern, Norway.

On the 9 July also, the Hamilton Spectator quoted the Dundee Courier of the 29 June, which reported the launching of the new canaller STRATHCONA on the 28 June. This vessel was built at Dundee by the Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd. and measured 249.1 x 41.9 x 21.0 and had a gross tonnage of 1,881; net 1,465. She was powered by a triple expansion engine 18/30/50 x 36, supplied by the shipbuilder and steam was generated in one Scotch Marine boiler 15'6" x 11'0". She was built under the supervision of Hugh McIntyre, a consulting engineer of Glasgow and the Christening was performed by the daughter of Mr. Grant Barclay.A. B. MacKay was the only member of the launching party from Hamilton.

Schooner STUART H. DUNN entering the Burlington Canal n 1900 with a cargo of coal. Photo: Author's Collection
The schooner STUART H. DUNN arrived from Oswego on the 10 July with coal for the Rogers Coal Co. This vessel was originally the W. R. TAYLOR and had been built at Cooper's Dock at South Bay by George Dixon. She was rebuilt in 1888 after a stranding and was renamed, at that time. Her dimensions were 164.0 x 26.0 x 12.5 and her registered tonnage was 458.

The steamer CARLO had left port on the evening of 9 July and headed for Conneaut to load rails for the C. P. R. at Fort William. From that port, she would proceed to Two Harbors for another cargo of ore for Hamilton.

Traffic in the harbour on the 13 July included the schooner W. J. SUFFEL in from Charlotte with coal for Myles, the propeller OCEAN from Montreal and the ARABIAN, on a voyage from Montreal to Fort William. The propeller LAKE MICHIGAN was on dry dock at Buffalo, having gone aground on Long Point on the 8 July.

The steamer MACASSA grounded off Old Fort York at Toronto during dense fog on the 21 July. She had about 150 passengers and was finally refloated at 8:30 in the evening.

On the 28 July, the steamer CARLO, inward bound from Two Harbors with iron ore, was stuck in the Canal for an hour, but succeeded in working herself free.

The new canaller STRATHCONA passed Fame Point Reporting Station on the lower St. Lawrence on the 11 August on her delivery voyage and was expected to reach Montreal within two days.

A strong north-east wind on the 13 August gave the MACASSA and the MODJESKA some very unpleasant trips to and from Toronto, but assisted the schooners T. R. MERRITT from Oswego and W. J. SUFFEL from Sodus Point. The steam barge ERIN, with the schooner F.L.DANFORTH in tow, arrived from Two Harbors with ore for the steel plant. The schooners JESSIE DRUMMOND and ST. LOUIS, both from Oswego, came in on the 14 August. The Hamilton Steel & Iron Co. Wharf was busy on 16 August when the CARLO and the ARABIAN arrived with ore cargoes.

The STRATHCONA arrived at Toronto on the 18 August with a cargo of scoria blocks from Newcastle-upon-Tyne. She had a good crossing under Capt. Erikson and was 17 days at sea. Capt. John A. Irving of Hamilton took over at Montreal and after unloading, she cleared for Conneaut to load rails for Fort William.

Word came from Belleville on the 23 August of the sinking of the schooner VOLUNTEER after striking one of the piers of the Bay of Quinte Bridge. She was the former L. D. BULLOCK.

The steamer ROSEDALE Photo: Author's Collection
The largest cargo of iron ore yet received at Hamilton, was brought in by the steamer ROSEDALE,Capt. Jas. Ewart, on 5 September. It amounted. to 1,850 tons.

A severe storm caused trouble at the lower end of Lake Ontario on the 12 September. The schooner ALBACORE, well known in Hamilton, attempted to enter Oswego, but the howling westerly wind drove her past the piers and she fetched up on the beach under the Fort. The Oswego Life Saving crew managed to get all hands off her. At the same time, the schooner T. R. MERRITT, en route from Hamilton to Oswego, came ashore at Nine Mile Point, N.Y., west of Oswego.Capt. W. A. Corson and his crew got ashore before the Life Saving crew appeared on the scene. The vessel was valued at $5,800, 16 shares being held by Capt. Corson and 48 shares by R. O & A. B. MacKay. There was no insurance on her. R. O. MacKay went to survey the wreck and pronounced her a total loss.

The second new canaller for the Hamilton & Fort William Navigation Co. was launched on the 22 September at Bill Quay on the Tyne, by Wood, Skinner & Co. Ltd. Her dimension were 245.0 x 42.6 x 20.8 and her tonnages were 1,906 gross and 1,222 net. Her triple expansion engine 18 /30 /51 x 36, was built by the North East Marine Engineering Co.

The steamer ALGONQUIN Photo: Author's Collection
The steamer SEGUIN arrived on the 22 September with ore from Two Harbors and was followed two days later by the steamer ALGONQUIN. This latter vessel was one of the first steel steamers built overseas for service on the Lakes, having been launched in 1888 at Yoker on the Clyde by Napier, Shanks & Bell Ltd. Built for Thos. Marks & Co. of Port Arthur, she measured 245.0 x 40.1 x 20.5 and had a gross tonnage of 1,806; net 1,172. She had a triple expansion engine 21/33/54 x 35, built by Dunsmuir & Jackson of Glasgow and steam was generated in two Scotch Marine boilers 13'0" x 9'0". Soon after entering Lake service, she was acquired by the St. Lawrence & Chicago Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. of Toronto.

The STRATHCONA made her first appearance in Hamilton on the 28 September with a cargo of iron ore and successfully passed through the Burlington Canal, a feat which can only be attributed to good luck. Since the Hamilton Steel & Iron Company's wharf was occupied by two vessels, the new-comer had to anchor in the Harbour and wait her turn.

Traffic on the Welland Canal came to a halt on the 10 October when the new canaller WACCAMAW, on her way down to salt water, damaged two gates on Lock 6 at St. Catharines. This steamer was fresh out of the yards of the Craig Ship Building Co. at Toledo, Ohio and had been built for J. L. Crosthwaite of Buffalo. She measured 249.7 x 40.5 x 15.4 and had tonnages of 1,359, gross and 920 net. She had a triple expansion engine 20/32 1/2/55 x 40, rated 900 IHP, supplied by Craigs. Two Scotch Marine boilers 11'2" x 12'6" supplied the steam. The WACCAMAW saw service on the U. S. Atlantic coast, went overseas during World War I and was acquired by Canadian owners in 1921, returning to the Lakes.

The STRATHCONA was not lucky in her second attempt to reach Hamilton. Entering the Canal on the 16 October, she stuck and remained hard aground for two days.

Heavy fog prevailed on the 26 October and the MACASSA, with 30 passengers was returning from Toronto.Capt. Crawford was unable to find the Canal piers and anchored come distance south of them until o'clock the next morning, when visibility improved. Capt. Campbell remained on duty all night and about l:00 a.m., while standing by the Front Range Light looking for the MACASSA, he heard a crash and the sound of broken glass and the light went out. He rushed in the door in time to meet a large red-headed duck, rolling down the stairs. The intruder had flown into the lantern room and knocked over the lamp and the reflector, setting fire to the woodwork. The captain extinguished the fire, resurrected the lantern and decided to take the duck to the taxidermist.

The new DONNACONA sailed from Newcastle-upon-Tyne on the 1 November, on her maiden voyage to Barcelona with coal. She then went to Cartagena and loaded iron ore for Maryport in Cumberland. She was then placed in the West African trade until the spring of 1901, when she came to Canada.

The MACASSA made her last trip of the season on the 3 November and then laid up for the winter.

A violent storm on the Upper Lakes began on Wednesday, 7 November and Capt. Fairgrieve's steamer ARABIAN was driven ashore 8 miles west of Whitefish Point on Lake Superior. Fortunately, she fetched up on a sandy beach. Two tugs were sent from the Soo, but still had not reached the scene on 15 November, due to heavy seas. The ARABIAN, aided by a rise in water level, was able to work herself free on the 21 November.

The little steam barge A. H. JENNIE loaded a cargo of pig iron at Hamilton and sailed for Cobourg, but she never finished the voyage. On 22 November, off Pickering, she foundered but all hands got ashore. She had been built in 1882 at Port Rowan, was 107 feet long, 21 feet beam and had a registered tonnage of 148.

The STRATHCONA's troubles were not over. On the 24 November, she stuck at the entrance to the Canal and was released later in the day by the dredge NIPISSING. This dredge had just completed the clearing of a channel 16 feet deep and 1,500 feet long, but this was obviously not deep enough to allow for fluctuations in lake levels. The STRATHCONA had loaded at Two Harbors and was carrying only 1,087 tons of ore.

The west wind that lowered the water level at Hamilton, created turbulent conditions on the Lake. At Port Credit, the schooner AUGUSTA with 675 tons of coal for the Conger Coal Co. in Toronto, stranded one mile west of the piers, after losing her rudder. The schooner JESSIE DRUMMOND, Capt. Quinn, owner and master, with 500 tons of coal for P. Burns & Co.,Toronto, was anchored off the port with seas breaking over her.

Considerable anxiety was felt in Hamilton for the safety of Capt. John Corson and his crew of six in the W. J. SUFFELL. On the 27 November, she had been unreported for 9 days on a voyage from Kingston to Fairhaven, but the following day, she was found to be at anchor in South Bay. As the storm eased, the JESSIE DRUMMOND got sail on and finished her voyage safely. A tug with the schooner ANTELOPE and a lighter in tow, went out to the AUGUSTA and began removing her cargo.

The propeller PERSIA, which had been on the Hamilton-Montreal service, was badly damaged by fire at Toronto on the 28 November. The fire started when an oil lamp exploded in the watchman's cabin and she was scuttled, settling in 10 feet of water. Capt. Scott estimated the damage to be $10,000.

The season was rapidly drawing to a close and on the 5 December, the W. J. SUFFELL arrived and went into winter quarters at the Simcoe St. Wharf. The STRATHCONA, on her way down the Lakes, was reported to be at Goderich on the 7 December.

With the close of the 1900 season came the end of the century, which very nearly coincided with the end of the Victorian Era. We have followed the activities of the Harbour through its first seventy-five years as a commercial port. We have seen notable changes in the vessels frequenting the Harbour, from William Chisholm's little sailing vessels to the steel-hulled canaller STRATHCONA, the direct descendent of those first primitive applications of Ericsson's wheel. In our mind's eye, we have watched the development of the side-wheel steamboat from its beginning to its last few declining years.

We have become familiar with the names of many of the captains and vessel-owners as well as with the triumphs and disasters that accompany their particular line of business. We have watched the limited number of industrial endeavours which took place during this period of time along the waterfront, starting with the Great Western Railroad in 1853, to the Hamilton Blast Furnace Co. in 1896.

We have seen the ups and downs of the City's business and the high and low water levels in the Burlington Canal, which, coupled with the inefficiency of the Welland Canal, would keep the tonnage in the Harbour at a fairly insignificant figure for the next thirty years. In the Edwardian Era the Harbour entered, an extended period in which it didn't actually die, but remained in a sort of coma. This condition prevailed throughout World War I and right through the 1920's. The revivals or should we say rebirth, came in 1931 when the Fourth Welland Canal was opened to traffic and large vessels from the Upper Lakes were able to reach Hamilton. Their cargoes of iron ore and coal for the new dock of The Steel Company of Canada Ltd. were the sole factor that pushed the Harbour tonnage up to third place in the Dominion of Canada. The Golden Age would only then begin.



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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.