Chapter 246
Storms and Shipwrecks -- Great Destruction of Life and Property -- The Commercial Distress in 1857.

Table of Contents

Title Page
203 The Island Lighthouse.
204 Two Western Piers.
227 The Island in the Forties.
236 Front Street of Old.
237 Canadian Lake Navigation
238 1766 to 1809.
239 Six Eventful Years, 1809-15
240 A New Era, 1816 to 1819
241 A Progressive Enterprise, 1819 to 1837.
242 The Rebellion of 1837-38
243 Complaining Travellers
244 The Trade of the Lake Still Continues to Expand
245 The Royal Mail Line, 1840 TO 57
246 Storms and Shipwrecks -- Great Destruction of Life and Property -- The Commercial Distress in 1857.
247 Gloomy Anticipations for the Spring Trade
248 The Niagara Steamers, 1874-78.
249 Niagara Falls Line - 1883 to 1893.
250 Hamilton Steamboat Co. '87-'93
251 The General History of the Lake Shipping Continued
252 New Steamers
253 Lorne And Victoria Parks.
254 Toronto Ferry Co. 1890-93.
255 Royal Canadian Yacht Club.
256 Canadian Pacific Steamers.
257 The Rochester Route -1889-'93
258 The Ottawa Steamers, 1864-93
259 The R. & O. Company.
260 Tabulated Statements of Various Vessels from 1678 to the Present Time.
Table of Illustrations

A terrible storm swept over the lakes on October 21st, resulting in great damage to the shipping and lamentable loss of life On October 22nd two men arrived at Point Sauble, almost naked, and their feet badly frozen, who informed the people of the neighborhood that they were firemen on board of the Reindeer, and that they were the sole survivors of the entire crew--she having been wrecked the previous evening. They stated that all day a most terrific gale blew from S. S. W., suddenly shifting to all points of the compass, with a tremendous sea running. The steamer kept up pretty well all the forenoon, but in the afternoon she shipped a heavy sea which extinguished the fires, and the captain had no recourse left but to set the helm up and make for the beach. For several hours in the evening the hurricane and snow storm increased in fury, and it was utterly impossible to see or to do anything. Those on board could only wait with anxiety the fate which they knew awaited them. At length somewhere about midnight, the steamer struck, and almost instantly the sea broke over her, and washed the whole crew into the lake, where 21 of them found watery graves. The two men who escaped were firemen, and they stated that they were utterly unable to relate how and in what manner they were saved. The first they knew after she struck was when they found themselves on the rocky beach. Next day the steamer was nearly all broken to pieces, and her timber and cargo were strewn along the shore for miles.

The Reindeer was a side-wheel steamer, known by sailors as a "Pollywog." She was owned by Holcomb & Henderson, of Montreal, and sailed from Chicago on the 16th inst, with 13,000 bushels of wheat, 61 barrels of tallow and some flour, for St. Joseph, where she was to take on some flour, and then start for Kingston. She had a crew of 21 men and two passengers. The captain's name was Geo. Patterson, a Scotchman, who belonged to Kingston He was much respected by all who knew him. The name of the steward was James Henry, and that of the purser, Charles Bradford, of Toronto. The steamer was eight or ten years old, and was valued at about twenty thousand dollars. The cargo was owned by Renaud & Frere, of Montreal. Both vessel and cargo were insured.

The latter days of 1857 had been marked by great financial distress throughout the Provinces of Canada, both Upper and Lower. Mercantile houses supposed to be as solvent " as the bank " had toppled over, bringing with them in their fall yet smaller houses, who, having unexpected pressure put upon them to settle their accounts while their credit was impaired, could no longer meet their liabilities. The imports for 1856 amounted to $1,685,959, but in 1857 they only reached $1,325,880, a decrease of more than $360,000, and in the exports the decrease exceeded $137,000. The prospects therefore for trade during 1858 were anything but reassuring. The Toronto Leader of April 2nd, 1858, in referring to the shipping trade, more especially in the Upper Province, says:--"It is matter of regret that in the outset we must speak of the prospects of this branch of our trade as much darker than usual. The present season of navigation opens before business men have recovered from the prostration of the late commercial crisis." After some more general remarks, setting forth how confidence among business men had been shaken, if not wholly displaced, the Leader adds, "This displacement has. of course, caused that lack of energy and business-like preparation which marks the present spring. Of the three forwarding, or freight lines, usually running between this port and Kingston, Montreal and other parts of the St. Lawrence, the boats of two of the companies are in the hands of assignees and none of them are, we believe, fitting out for traffic." After further lamentations over the poor prospects for the season the article concludes.

The American line of steamers that in 1857 were plying between Ogdensburgh, Lewiston and Toronto, were in 1858 all in the hands of the liquidators. What was known as the Royal Mail line comprised the steamers Kingston, Champion, Banshee, New Era and Passport. They were under the command of Captains Kelley, Sinclair, Howard, Crysler and Harbottle respectively. Ives & Co.'s line of freight steamers was the only one that had weathered the storm. They were on their usual route, but one steamer among them, the Dawn, had been withdrawn.

The Peerless was on the Niagara route from Toronto throughout 1858, while the Zimmerman had been transferred to that between Toronto and Hamilton. Through communication between Montreal and Lake Huron was ensured by the American Line of steamers, running in connection with the Northern Railway of Canada, from Toronto to Collingwood. These vessels, four in number, were the Montgomery, Hunter, Evergreen City and Ontanagon. They ran from Collingwood to Chicago daily. They were 879, 681, 624 and 600 tons respectively; their commanders being Captains Nicholson, Dickson, Ball and Wilkins.

Two schooners, named respectively the Alliance, Captain S. S. Hamilton, and the Union, sailed in June from Toronto for Halifax direct. They carried on their outward voyage cargoes of wheat and flour, and on their return journey to Toronto were laden with sugar. The speculation appears to have been a successful one, as other trips were undertaken to the same ports.

The following steamers plied on the route between Montreal, Cornwall and Port Covington, during the navigable season of 1858:--Steamer Fashion, Captain C. B. DeWitt; steamer Star, Captain Allan McDonald. Upwards--Steamer Fashion left Montreal on the afternoons of Tuesday and Friday, and steamer Star on the afternoons of Monday and Thursday, calling at Lachine. Downwards--Steamer Fashion left Dundee on the mornings of Monday and Thursday, and steamer Star on the mornings of Wednesday and Saturday, calling at Lancaster, St. Anicet, Port Lewis, Coteau Landing, Valley Field, Lower Coteau and Beauharnois.

Later, in 1858, the Zimmerman, Captain Masson, resumed her former route from Toronto to Niagara Falls.

The steamers Zimmerman and Peerless, Captains D. Milloy and E. Butterworth, had their routes slightly altered for the season of 1859. The former made two trips each way daily from Toronto to Lewiston and vice versa, while the latter also made two journeys between the same ports, but extended her trip to Port Dalhousie.

On May 19th William Bright offered for sale the hull of the ferry steamboat Transit, then lying at Toronto. This said hull was, so the advertisement states, intended for the Island ferry. Its dimensions were 120 feet by 18 feet, with a depth in the hold of five feet six inches.

Commencing on July 26th, the Royal Mail steamer Rescue, so she was described by her captain, Thomas Dick, left Collingwood with the mail for the Red River, calling at Fort William, Sault Ste. Marie, Bruce Mines and intermediate ports. She also called " at Michipocoten Island with passengers if required." The Ploughboy was another steamer on the same route. She also was decscribe as the Royal Mail steamer.


which must not, though, be confounded with the Royal Mail steamer of the same name, was wrecked in the St. Lawrence on September 14th. It is scarcely to be credited, but it is true, nevertheless, that in descending the river at night the steamer was actually left in the sole charge of a man named Finnigan, who was at the helm. He went to sleep, and the steamer being left to her own guidance, ran ashore on Whiskey Island, on the American side of the river, about five miles below Alexander Bay. She struck a sunken rock, and in 20 minutes sank. Her captain's name was McCrea. The accounts of the disaster do not contain any mention of what the owners of the steamer had to say to him afterwards. It is, though, not probable that they were very complimentary in their remarks.

On October 13th Brock's monument was inaugurated at Queenston by Sir Fenwick Williams, of Kars. The Peerless and the Zimmerman steamers acted for the nonce as troop ships. They conveyed great numbers of the militia who were present from Toronto and Hamilton.

The Royal Mail through line for 1859 comprised the following five steamers, namely, the Passport, Champion, New Era, Banshee and Kingston. This was exactly as in 1858, the only change being that Captain Smith . on the Champion supplanted Captain Sinclair. Later in the season Captain Aiton assumed command of the New Era, vice Captain Chrysler. One of the royal mail steamers left the Custom House wharf, Toronto, every morning at 8 o'clock, in connection with the express trains for Niagara Falls, Buffalo, New York and Boston.

On the bay, Toronto, the steamer Firefly, in addition to her daily trips to and from the Island, made every Tuesday and Friday moonlight excursions round the bay. An advertisement of the time says " for the accommodation of dancers there will be music on board. Fare only one York shilling."

On November 7th, the Britannia, propeller, was, while lying at Anglin's wharf,Kingston, destroyed by fire, and what little the names spared was engulfed by the waters of the lake. She was fully insured. Her owners were Messrs. Holcomb, Cowan & Co., of Montreal.

The Zimmerman, Captain D. Milloy, recommenced her usual trips from Toronto to Niagara on April 9th, immediately on the opening of the harbor in 1860.

There was no change in the vessels known as the Royal Mail Line. They were five in number, as in 1859. In connection with them the steamers Northerner, Captain Kilby [sic: Kirby], and New York, Captain Van Clive, left Tinning's wharf, Toronto, on alternate days for Cape Vincent, Brockville and Ogdensburgh, connecting at the first port with the steamer for Kingston and at Ogdensburgh with those for Montreal and Quebec

Captain Robert Moodie, on May 6th, announced that the Firefly would on the day following resume her regular trips to the Island from Toronto Her first trip of the season had been made on the previous Good Friday, April 6rh.

A new steamer, the Jenny Lind, appeared on the route from Toronto to Montreal. She was chartered by the Royal Mail Line. Another well-known American river steamer was the Buffalo.

During the close of 1859, and prior to the opening of navigation in 1860, efforts had been made to have the charges on freight and minerals entering Toronto harbor reduced. The result was that when the harbor re-opened the following notice appeared:


Toronto, March 22, 1860.

Copy of a resolution of the Harbor Commissioners appointed this day.

Moved by Mr. Worts, seconded by Mr. Harris, that from the commencement of the season of 1860 the following changes be made in the tariff:

That twelve and half cents per ton of 2,000 lbs. be charged on all merchandise, and all unenumerated articles brought in by weight.

That the charges on coal be reduced from twenty-five cents to twelve and halt cents per ton of 2,000 lbs.

(Signed,) J.G. CHEWETT, Chairman,

Toronto Harbor Commissioners.

On April 9th the steamer Bowmanville left Kingston for Toronto and Hamilton, being the first steamer of the season to pass from east to west.

What might have proved a very serious accident occurred to the steamer Bay State on the morning of Wednesday, May 9th. Daring a dense fog on her way up from Montreal to Toronto, on passing through the eastern gap in the Island opposite the city, she ran ashore, and despite all the efforts made by the captains of the Zimmerman and Hercules, could not for a long time be floated. A number of passengers were on board who were conveyed across to Toronto from the Island in small boats. Not until May 12th were the efforts to float the Bay State successful. When this was done she was happily found to be uninjured, and she steamed into Toronto Bay looking none the worse for her accident.

In anticipation of the visit to Canada of H. R. H. the Prince of Wales, the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, at a meeting held on May 21st, came to a determination to get up a grand regatta in Toronto, to be held when the Prince paid his expected visit.

The Prince arrived in Toronto from Cobourg by the steamer Kingston on September 7th. A temporary wharf was erected directly opposite the landing place at the foot of John street. Among the thousands who welcomed him were the members of the R. C. Y. Club. It had been the intention that the yachts should meet the Prince's vessel at the harbor mouth, bearing down in line, the Commodore leading, each yacht tacking or wearing as the steamer Kingston passed, and dipping her ensign, but this plan was found, owing to the absence of wind, to be impracticable, and the yachts were ordered to move in line opposite the landing place. As the Kingston entered this line the cross trees were manned, ensigns were dipped, and three hearty cheers given in honor of the illustrious visitor. The members of the club were all in uniform, and H. R. H. is said to have expressed himself as highly gratified with the reception they afforded him.

One of the most lamentable accidents that ever happened on the lakes occurred on September 8th to the Lady Elgin on Lake Huron. She collided, or was run into rather, by the schooner Augusta, and sank in twenty minutes in three hundred feet of water. She had a party of three hundred excursionists, fifty ordinary passengers, and a crew of thirty-five officers and men. Of these only ninety-eight were saved, among the lost being Mr. Herbert Ingram, proprietor of the London Illustrated News, and a great number of Canadians. This news arriving in Toronto, in the midst of the rejoicings consequent upon the visit of the Prince of Wales, saddened many a heart and darkened many an otherwise joyous household.

The regatta arranged for the Prince's visit took place from the harbor, Toronto, on Tuesday, September 11th. The Prince having signified his intention of being present at the start, and at the same time receiving an address from the club, it was decided that the boats should be moored in line in front of the amphitheatre, where the address was to be presented; the members of the club there assembled in uniform on the platform for the purpose of greeting the Prince. On his arrival, accompanied by the Mayor and several members of the corporation of Toronto, he was received with hearty cheers. The commodore of the club, Lieut.-Colonel Durie, then advanced and read the address, to which the Prince replied in suitable terms. The start of the yachts then took place. The race, which was over an unusually long course, extending outside from the harbor mouth to Mimico, a dead heat of several miles, and from thence round the light house point to a buoy outside the island, near the gap. The Rivet was the winning vessel, that being the third match she won in that season, being equally fortunate at the Cobourg and Kingston regattas. The Prince left Toronto by rail, not by water, on the following day.

During the latter portion of September severe storms visited Lake Erie, and a great many vessels were wholly or partially wrecked. Among these were


of Oakville, the brig Ocean, of Chatham, the Antelope, of Morpeth, and the J. G. Scott, of Port Burwell. The captains of the Ocean and the Antelope both perished and many other lives were also sacrificed.

The steamer Morning, Captain Isaac May, was on her usual route on Lake Simcoe throughout the entire season.

The Rescue, of which Captain Thomas Dick was managing director, ran from Collingwood to the Sault Ste. Marie and intermediate ports. She was a very popular vessel with tourists and was well fitted up and managed.

Another vessel on Lake Huron, one previously mentioned, the Ploughboy, this year was under command of Captain D. W. McLean. She was chartered by, if not the actual property of, the Great Northern Railway and carried the mail for the northwest, as did the Rescue also.

The first vessel to leave Toronto harbor in the spring of 1861, with merchandise, was the steamer Coquette, G. B. Chisholm, master She sailed March 29, and carried 10,000 bushels of wheat, consigned by Hagaman & Co., of Toronto, to Mr. Hagaman, of Oswego.

The trips of the Zimmerman to Niagara were commenced on April 23rd.

The vessels of the Royal Mail Line, or, as it was afterwards called, the "Through Line," were the Magnet, New Era, Kingston, Champion, Banshee and Passport. They ran, as heretofore, from Hamilton to Montreal.

A serious accident occurred to the George Moffatt, propeller. She ran ashore while passing down the Long Sault rapids, on April 21st, narrowly escaping total shipwreck.

There was no change on Lake Simcoe, the Morning still continuing at her work, and with the addition of the Clifton, W. H. Smith, master, the steamers on Lake Huron were the same as in 1860.

The freight steamers between Hamilton and Montreal remained much the same as in the immediately preceding season. They numbered among them the Avon, Huron, Colonist, Wellington and West. The steamer Bowmanville, Captain Smith, of the Beaver Line, also carried both freight and passengers from Toronto to Montreal.

On May 10th there was launched at the Nottawasaga River a large sailing vessel, afterwards known as the Queen of the North, Captain A. Martin. She was the property of Messrs. A. M. Smith and G. H. Wyatt, of Toronto: was built by John Potter, of Oakville, and was intended to ply with grain between the upper lakes and Montreal.

Another launch took place on the following day, May 11th. A new steamer for Lake Simcoe, intended to replace the J. C. Morrison, burnt some time previously, was launched at Orillia. She was a pretty vessel, 151 feet long, 24 feet wide and 7 feet 8 inches deep. Her engines were supplied by the well-known engineers, Gartshore, of Dundas, her builder being Hugh Chisholm. She, at her launch, was christened the Emily May, out of compliment to the eldest daughter of her owner and master, Isaac May. Miss Worthington, of Toronto, gave the vessel her name.

Early in May Robert Moodie, captain of the Fire Fly, advertises from Toronto, "The Fire Fly has commenced her trips to the Island, where our citizens can get a mouthful of fresh air. She starts at 11 a.m. and every hour afterwards." There is a very great contrast between Toronto Island in 1861 and the same place thirty years later.


About the end of May there disappeared from Canadian waters one of the most popular steamers that had ever sailed thereon, the Peerless. She was purchased from the Bank of Upper Canada by J. T. Wright, of New York, for $36,000. She left Toronto on May 10th, under Captain Robert Kerr. Upon reaching Montreal it was found necessary to dismast her to enable her to pass under the Victoria Bridge. This was accordingly done, and on May 27th she arrived in Quebec. But Wright's troubles were not nearly over. Before he could take her away from Quebec much had to be done. It was ascertained that under recent British laws the vessel could not sail for a foreign port without an Imperial clearance. This, she being owned by an American, the proper officer at Quebec could not grant. Wright then applied to the American consul at Quebec for a "sailing letter." This also was declined on the ground that the Peerless might be intended for the use of the Confederate States, the American civil war having just broken out. Wright then was obliged to give heavy bonds that the vessel would not be used for warlike purposes, and was eventually allowed to clear her, on condition that she was placed under command of Captain McCarthy, who was a Nova Scotian by birth, but a naturalized American citizen. Eventually the Peerless formed one of the Burnside expedition and was wrecked off Cape Hatteras. Her owner, J. T. Wright, received no less than $100,000 compensation for her loss, besides $6,000 for her hire.

At Hamilton, on May 29th, was launched at Cook's wharf the steam tug Hero. She was built by A. Lavallee, of Hamilton, and was owned by him in conjunction with Messrs. Barr and Maxwell, of the same city. Misses Lavallee and Barr both assisted in naming this steamer.

Tenders were invited in all the provincial papers, in May and June, for the erection of a lighthouse and also a house for the keeper, at the Queen's wharf,Toronto. Quantities and specifications were to be obtained from Kivas Tully, architect, Toronto. The notice was signed by "Hugh Richardson, Harbor Master."

On July 11th the steamer Bowmanville carried a large number of excursionists from Toronto and other ports between that city and Kingston to Quebec, to see and inspect the


then just arrived from England. When it is borne in mind that this vessel was no less than 650 feet in length, and that she was wide and deep in proportion, it is little to be wondered at that great numbers of people availed themselves of the advantages offered by the proprietors of the Bowmanville. On July 26th, on the return journey, so pleased were the passengers at the attention paid to them by Captain Smyth, the master of the vessel, and his subordinates, that the gentlemen among them presented him with an address, accompanied by a silver cup and salver. This address was signed on behalf of the others by T. D. Harris and S. B. Fairbanks. The ladies of the party, not to be behind " their brothers and their cousins and their uncles," also asked Captain Smyth's acceptance of a piece of music and also a meerschaum pipe.

On July 13th there arrived in Toronto, from the Channel Islands, under command of the gallant Colonel Mauleverer, of Crimean fame, the 30th Cambridgeshire regiment. The steamers Passport and Banshee conveyed the entire regiment, and it is worthy of note without the slightest mishap, from Quebec to Toronto. This was by no means a small undertaking.

A new steamer is in the middle of July thus announced:--


The splendid steamer


Will leave the Custom House wharf to-day, at 11 o'clock, a.m., for Kingston and intermediate ports. Fares reduced. Apply at Mail Line office. Toronto.

July 16th, 1861."

A yacht race took place in Toronto harbor on September 7th, between the following yachts: The Wide Awake, Dart, Rivet, Cygnet, Water Lily, Irene and Arrow. The Wide Awake was true to her name. She distanced all her competitors by seven minutes.

In view of the unsettled state of affairs in the neighboring republic, and the very tall talk indulged in by certain American politicians, a meeting was, on December 27th, held, of a number of sailors and men connected with navigation who were willing to serve on the lakes should their services be required. This meeting was called by R. Arnold, of steamer Caroline fame, and was held at G. H. Wyatt's office, Toronto, the result being that a large number of men were enrolled, and what was known as the Naval and Pilot Brigade of Toronto formed.

The Australian arrived at Quebec in the end of December with 40 officers and 833 non-commissioned officers and men belonging to the First Battalion Rifle Brigade; seven officers and 254 men of the Royal Artillery.

The Persia arrived a few days later with 4 officers and 118 men of the Royal Engineers, and 36 officers and 823 men of the 16th Regiment, under the command of Colonel Peacock.

The Niagara also brought 27 officers and 350 men belonging to the Royal Artillery.

Owing to the comparatively mild winter of 1861, navigation opened early in the spring of 1862. The Royal Mail Line of steamers commenced their trips between Hamilton and Kingston on April 20th, and as soon as the canals on the St. Lawrence opened extended them to Montreal. The steamers were the same as in the year previous.

The steamers Northerner and New York, of the American line, had been sold to the Federal Government for the purposes of the fratricidal war then raging in the United States. So in the early part of the season this line did not run.

On the morning of April 7th the Zimmerman made her first trip of the season from Toronto to Niagara, Lewiston and Queenston. Upon her arrival there, by the kindness of Major Grange, the Royal Canadian Rifle Band went on board and accompanied the boat to Lewiston and back, discoursing some of their choicest music.

On April 29th the fine steamers Ontario, Captain Estes, and Cataract, Captain Ledyard, of the Lake Ontario Steamboat Company, commenced their regular trips, forming a weekly line from Toronto to Ogdensburgh.

On the Royal Mail Line, Captain Swales succeeded Captain Howard in command of the Banshee.

There was a most efficient


from Hamilton to Montreal during the whole of this season, Messrs. Jacques, Tracy & Co.s, propellers Huron, Indian, Colonist, Avon, St. Lawrence and Ottawa, forming a daily line from and to the ports just named, calling at Oswego, Ogdensburgh and Kingston.

A barque of 400 tons burthen was launched from the ship-building yard of Messrs. Muir Bros.,Port Dalhousie, on June 7th. She was called the Advance, and was christened by the wife of Captain D. Muir.

An interesting yacht race took place on September 8th from Toronto harbor, for the Prince of Wales champion cup, offered by the Royal Canadian Yacht Club. It had been arranged previously that the course should extend from Toronto to Port Dalhousie and back, a total distance of about seventy miles, thus affording a good opportunity of developing the sailing powers of the crafts entered. The cup was won by the Gorilla, her time being 6 hours, 46 minutes 25 seconds. The Rivet followed her in thirty minutes, and the Breeze, though third, was more than two hours behind. This was the second year a Cobourg yacht had carried off this cup, the Wide Awake, of the same place, having secured the trophy in 1861.

A very violent storm prevailed at the eastern end of Lake Ontario on the night of November 2nd. Many vessels were wrecked, accompanied by great loss of life. The propeller Bay State, Captain Marshall, belonging to the Northern Transportation Company, was lost on her journey from Oswego with all on board, the officers and crew numbering eighteen persons.

On Lake Erie the storm was no less disastrous. As the propeller Howard was on her way from Dunnville to Buffalo, having in tow six scows, when near Point Abino, owing to the violence of the storm, the scows broke loose and were totally wrecked, no less than sixteen of their crews perishing in the waves.

Navigation closed for the season about November 17tb, about the same time as in the two years preceding.

On March 5th, 1863, expired at Hemmingford, Canada East, at the age of sixty-seven years, Mr. Alexander Walker, for many years mate of the Chief Justice Robinson, and subsequently lighthouse keeper of Toronto harbor.

The Collingwood Enterprise, in its issue of April 11th, says: "Captain T. Dick has taken the contract for carrying the mails from Collingwood to Sault Ste. Marie this season. He will have a boat on in the course of a few days."

The Zimmerman's trips began this year on April 17th. Her command was still in the hands of Captain Milloy.

On April 15th Messrs. Chaffey, of Brockville, launched a second large propeller from their building yard. A large crowd assembled to witness the vessel, which was called the Brockville, glide from the stocks into the waters of the St. Lawrence. This firm also ran during 1863 another propeller called the Bristol, besides the steamers Wellington and Boston.

The great event of the season, in connection with the shipping of Kingston, was the launching from that port, on April 21st, of the barque Robert Gaskin, at the Marine Railway Shipyard. This vessel was commenced in the previous October, and completed early in April following. Her dimensions were 136 feet keel and depth of hold 11 feet 6 inches. She was built expressly for the grain trade, and had a carrying capacity of 20,000 bushels. She was "tree-nailed" fastened throughout, being with one exception the only vessel on the lakes at that time that was so fastened.

Navigation on Lake Ontario opened early this season (1863) on March 26th, there being two arrivals at the port of Toronto. One of these was the schooner Indian Maid, from Port Dalhousie with 450 barrels of plaster on board. The other was also a schooner from Port Credit carrying thirty-five cords of words.

The "Royal Mail steamer Ploughboy," so the advertisement for the season described her, resumed her regular trips from Collingwood to Sault Ste. Marie on May 20th. She was under command of T. F. Park.

The Emily May, on Lake Simcoe, began her journeys from Bell Ewart to Orillia on April 30th. She was still under the same command and ownership, that of Isaac May.

The steamer Clifton, W. H. Smith, master, commenced running in connection with the Northern Railway from Toronto, on May 2nd, between Collingwood and Owen Sound.

Mr. Shickluna launched the propeller America from his yard at St. Catharines on the afternoon of Wednesday, April 29th. The vessel was owned by Messrs. Morris & Neelon, and the engine and boiler were built by Mr. G. F. Oil, all of St. Catharines.


that was in 1863 raging so fiercely between the Federal and Confederate States of America had a most baneful influence on the trade of the lakes. "There is that," says the Rochester Union of May 2nd, 1863, " which leads me to the belief that the steamers which ply to and from this port on Lake Ontario the coming season will be few indeed. The American Steamboat Company cannot find much to encourage the running of their large and excellent boats, and as parties on the Atlantic are seeking these boats for those waters, we need not be surprised to hear at any time that they have been withdrawn, even if they are put in commission on Monday next as announced. As for a boat to run across the lake to the north shore ports, the prospects are by no means flattering. A large and expensive boat cannot be maintained, and small ones adapted to such a route are not easily to be had. It must be a good sea boat to get a license to carry passengers across the broadest part of Lake Ontario. Such a boat has not yet been found Capt. Schofield has had the subject under consideration all winter, but with no conclusion as yet. The derangement of the currency puts a quietus upon the trade with Canada, hence there is little for a steamer to do on this route. Captain S. would be willing to run a boat, without profit, to accommodate the public, and keep the route open this season in the hope of future profit when trade shall resume its accustomed channels. Thus far there is nothing that indicates that a steamer will be put on the route to the North Shore this season, though the subject is still under consideration. The Canadian business done by water will be conducted by sail craft in the absence of steamers. The primitive method, in vogue half a century ago, will be revived, indeed it has been already. Schooners are carrying both freight and passengers to and from this port."

A few days later the same subject is again referred to by the Rochester Democrat, which says: "On Saturday evening the schooner Morgan sailed from Charlotte to Toronto with a cargo of seventy five boxes of trees. The schooners John Wesley, Mary Adelaide and Petrel, sailed on Friday evening for Canadian ports with cargoes of miscellaneous merchandise. Notwithstanding the high price of exchange and coin, there seems to be quite a trade springing up with Canada, and in the absence of any steamer directly across the lake, this trade is carried on with schooners."

When the steamer Bowmanville was entering Hamilton on May 8th the mate of that vessel, Nathaniel Montgomery, fell overboard and was drowned. He belonged to Toronto and was unmarried. He was a most popular officer, and greatly liked by everyone.

On May 10th died at his residence, Clover Hill, Toronto, after a long and severe ill ness, Captain Elmsley. The deceased gentleman was a member of the Legislative Council of Upper Canada before the union. He was formerly in the Royal Navy, and as has been seen for some time commanded a steamer on the lakes.

The Toronto Globe, in referring to Captain Elmsley's death, says " He was liked by everyone for his kindness of heart, sincerity and candor."

Under the name of the American Express Line, "one of those magnificent steamers," so runs the advertisement, "Bay State and Cataract," leaves Toronto " every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, for Montreal and Quebec," calling at Rochester, Oswego, Sackett's Harbor, Kingston. Brockville, Ogdensburg, etc., connecting with the new river steamers Montreal and Caistor.

Not only were the "fares at lowest rates," but mirabile dictu "American money was taken at par." Considering that gold at that particular time was in the United States at a premium of 150, and that "American money" consisted for the most part of "greenbacks," these terms must be considered princely in their liberality.


The following amusing account of two desertions from the garrison at Kingston by the aid of the steamer Cataract is taken from the Rochester Democrat, published in April:--

A MILITARY IMPORTATION FROM KINGSTON, C. W.--NOVEL MODE OF DESERTION.-- A passenger by the steamer Cataract, which arrived at Charlotte last evening, relates the following interesting occurrence as transpiring during the passage from Kingston to Sackett's Harbor. The boat arrived at the former port at 5 o'clock on Tuesday morning, where the captain found upon the wharf awaiting shipment an oblong box bearing the following marks:-- With care

Pearl street,
New York.

Wm. Hunter & Co.,

Payment on delivery.

The box was taken aboard without suspicion, and the Cataract proceeded to Sackett's Harbor. While the boat lay at the wharf, the engineer approached the box and pulled out a wisp of hay for the purpose of wiping his hands. What was his astonishment, a moment afterwards, to behold one side of the box fall to the deck, and two of Her Britannic Majesty's soldiers hastily emerge therefrom, spring to their feet, and bound up the embankment. There they halted and began their toilet. Several of the boat hands followed, with a view of requesting explanations and collecting freight charges, but, apparently fearing a recapture, the soldiers took to their heels. Upon examining the box, a stock was discovered, marked on the inside as follows: " Wm. Cassons, 4th Battery, 10th Brigade, Royal Artillery Station, Market Battery, Kingston." The plan of escape proved as successful as it was novel and ingenious; but its disclosure will doubtless prevent its repetition with impunity. As for the sergeant--one of the refugees is a sergeant--if he is recaptured, we predict that the stripes will be taken from off his arms and placed upon his back. We advise him to make for Rochester and go into the heavy artillery.

On June 22nd the American Express Line announces a change in its arrangements, as follows:--


"Through to Montreal in 36 hours. American money taken at par.

"On and after Monday, June 22nd, the splendid lake steamers Ontario, Captain J. B. Estes; Bay State, Captain J. B. Morley; Cataract, Captain J. H. Ledyard; with the new and elegant river steamers Alexandra, Captain J. N. Backus, and the fast steamer Montreal, comprising the American Express Line, will leave Toronto daily for Lewiston, Rochester, Oswego, Kingston, Brockville, Ogdensburgh, Montreal and Quebec, passing the Thousand Islands and Rapids of the St. Lawrence by daylight."

The notice, after giving information as to tickets and rates of freight, modestly concludes: " This route offers to the business man and pleasure-seeker attractions not surpassed in this or any other country."

Under the heading "Water Excursions and Picnics," the owners of the steamer Hero, of Toronto, advertise July 9th that they are prepared to take parties of any number under eighty on excursions or picnics, not as might be supposed to the Island or to Victoria Park, but " to any place at very reasonable terms." The final paragraph of the notice, though, does not suggest the idea that the advertisers expect their words to be taken too literally, for they say: " Try the lake breeze and the cool spots about the Humber."

On Thursday, August 6th, the steamer Ploughboy, under command of Captain McLean, left Collingwood as usual for the Sault Ste. Marie. She reached her destination safely, and started on her return journey on the 10th. About midnight on the same date she broke her engines, which in a few seconds became absolutely useless. Captain McLean, finding the boat disabled, sent off a boat quickly to try and find a tug to render him assistance. The accident occurred off Barrie Island, about 45 miles above Little Current. In the boat despatched by the captain were the purser and mate of the Ploughboy and three other hands. While in their open craft a terrible storm burst upon the lake. After buffeting with wind and water for nine hours four of the boats' crew perished, only Duncan McLean, the mate, surviving. Meantime the passengers on the Ploughboy were unrelieved; nor was it until Thursday, August 20th, that after experiencing great dangers and not a little privation the Ploughboy and her passengers were by the steamer Nicolet, owner Mr. G. H. Wyatt, of Toronto, towed into Collingwood. The steamer Rescue took the place of the Ploughboy for the remainder of the season.


Few calamities created more regret in Toronto than the burning of the steamer Zimmerman at Niagara on the early morning of August 21, 1863. The fire was first discovered by the watchman between the smoke stacks under the main deck. The alarm was quickly given and all hands were soon on deck, every effort being made, but unavailingly, to suppress the fire. Mr. Sinclair, the second mate of the vessel, in a vain endeavor to rescue some of his personal property, fell a victim to the flames. Patrick Lawless, while endeavoring to escape from the burning vessel to the wharf, he having till the last moment worked courageously at the pumps, became enveloped in smoke and fire and was burned to death.

With these two sad exceptions, the whole of the rest of the crew escaped with very slight injuries, but they lost all their property that was on the vessel.

Nothing could be done to save even a portion of the famous Zimmerman. She was doomed to entire destruction. The closing scene in her life is thus ably depicted by an eye witness:--

"The firemen at this time were playing copious streams on the burning vessel, which had not the slightest effect in checking the progress of the flames, which were spreading with fearful rapidity in every direction, and lighting up the sky for miles around. The attempt to scuttle the vessel proved futile owing to the dense heat, and although the firemen continued their efforts till a late hour in the morning, the vessel was burned to the water's edge before the fire was entirely subdued. Between four and five o'clock, the steam rushing into the cap of the whistle, caused it to give forth a dull, melancholy scream, as if sounding the requiem of the vessel."

The Zimmerman was the exclusive property of Captain Milloy, and was only insured for $12,000. It is said that but a few days previously an offer made to her owner to purchase her for $35,000 was refused. Be that as it may, Captain Milloy's loss was a very heavy one.

An accident occurred to the Passport in passing the Coteau du Lac on the morning of September 17. She ran for about two miles further and was then beached. There were about sixty passengers on board, none of whom received any injury. The vessel was subsequently got off, not much the worse for her adventure.

The steamer Rochester ran throughout the season of 1863 from Cobourg to Rochester, calling at Port Hope and Colborne. The fare, including meals, was only $2 50. The following notice appeared on October 24th, in reference to a new freight vessel:--

"THE OSPREY.--The new steamer Osprey passed up yesterday morning, with a cargo of freight for Hamilton. The Osprey is fitted with the engines of the Jenny Lind, a. steamer that prematurely closed her career, but was noted for great speed and power. She can stow away 5,000 barrels of flour, which is a freight capacity surpassing by considerable that of any other craft at present navigating the lake. The new steamer is also provided with an upper cabin saloon and staterooms, fitted up in a style of comfort and elegance rivalling the passenger accommodations of the line boats. Parties from the United States have made urgent applications for her purchase, but it seems that the owners have concluded that the most profitable disposition of their investment is to retain the steamer in the traffic of the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario."

Another accident occurred to the Passport on November 1st. The Toronto Globe thus refers to it in its impression of Tuesday, November 3rd: " The steamer Passport sunk in Kingston harbor on Sunday evening. She was upward bound with over 100 tons of freight on board."

On November 5th the propeller Her Majesty, built for Captain Perry, was launched from the yard of Mr. Shickluna, of St. Catharines. Her dimensions were 185 feet long by 30 feet wide. Her depth was twelve feet six inches. She was at the time one of the largest vessels of her kind on the lake.

There was much rough weather on the lakes at the close of October and early in November, though happily the season closed without serious destruction either of life or property.

Mr. O. S. Gildersleeve, of Kingston, died very suddenly on March 9th. The Kingston News, speaking of his death, describes him as "a wealthy steamboat owner, an active lawyer, and a man of much business energy and enterprise."

Mr. Henry J. Smith, the Deputy Harbor Master at Toronto, also died in that city on March 27th.

On March 31st the St. Catharines Journal, under the heading " The first vessel," announces " On Thursday last," this would be on March 24th, " the nondescript craft Sunshine came over from Toronto to Dalhousie and returned with a load of cement. She has the honor of being the first vessel to clear from port in 1864. May she long shine."

The new fast-going steamer Rochester, Captain W. T. Greenwood, ran from Port Hope to Rochester in the season of 1864, commencing April 4th. She connected with the G. T. R. and the steamers of the R. M. Line.

On April 11 the Toronto Daily Leader says, in a short article, that " Navigation may be said to be fairly opened, Messrs. Miller & Good, of this city, being engaged in loading the following vessels with grain: Paragon, Newcastle, Flying Fish and the Two Brothers."

Burlington Bay was clear of ice on April 9th, the first arrival of the season,the brigantine Cambria, coming into port there on that date.

Messrs. Donaldson & Andrews launched from their yard at St. Catharines, on April 7th, says the Journal, published in that town, " one of the finest vessels in appearance, at least, now afloat on these inland lakes, and she is apparently as strong and staunch as she is beautiful." The Anglo Saxon, for such was the name bestowed upon the vessel by Miss Anna Donaldson, daughter of one of her builders, glided off the ways smoothly and swiftly. She was commanded by Captain Thomas Neil, who was also a part owner, and was intended for the timber trade.

The steamer Ottawa, one of the freight propellers on the lakes, has often been referred to. She was launched from the marine railway shipyard on April 9th, where she had been undergoing extensive repairs. The Kingston News remarks: " She will be ready to leave, as indeed will most of the propellers, in a few days."

The Hamilton Times, of April 9th, contains this notice in reference to a mariner who has frequently been mentioned: " We learn that our esteemed fellow townsman, Captain Thomas Harbottle, has resigned the command of the Passport, of the through line of steamers he having purchased a large and powerful tugboat, the W. K. Muir, now lying at Detroit, of which he will himself take the command this season. His intention is to initiate a new branch of marine business on this lake, namely: the carrying of freight in barges towed by steamer. Captain Harbottle has been well and favorably known as captain of the Passport, and we wish him much success in his new undertaking."


formerly the City of Toronto, of the Royal Mail Line, was rebuilt, in Detroit in 1863 She was sold in 1864, and her name changed to the Algoma, she being sent to Lake Superior, plying from Collingwood to Fort William. Her captain was D. Maclean. She made her first trip on April 28th.

The steamer Empress left Kingston for Toronto on April 14th, for the purpose of taking the route between that town and Niagara in place of the Zimmerman. Captain Chrysler was in command.

The Royal Mail Line in 1864 consisted of the steamers Kingston, Captain Howard; Passport, Captain Kelley; Magnet, Captain Fairgrieve; Banshee, Captain Swales; the Champion and the new steamer Grecian, Captain C. Hamilton, of Kingston. These steamers, running from Montreal to Hamilton, were the only vessels which ran the north channel of the rapids, the most picturesque one on the way to Montreal.

The steamer Grecian had been built on the Clyde and brought out to Canada in the autumn of 1863 and there put together. Her projectors expected her to prove the fastest boat on Lake Ontario.

The steamers on the R. M. Line were all thoroughly renovated this season and placed in a condition to ensure comfort and safety to the passengers.

The Toronto Daily Leader of April 18th, in commenting upon the facilities this line offered to the travelling public, says: " Such privileges cannot be overestimated by the public, who will find the Royal Mail Line an exceedingly safe and pleasing one to travel by east or west. The commanders have been selected from amongst the most gentlemanly and thorough seamen to be found on our lakes, the better to secure the confidence of the public."

Messrs Chaffey & Co., of Toronto, were agents for the following freight boats: Whitby, Captain McMillan; Ranger, Captain Leslie; Propeller Magnet, Captain Malcomson; the Merritt, Captain Smith; the Bristol, Brockville and Cantin. The latter was a new boat, built by Mr. Cantin for Mr. J. D. Black, of Montreal. The Merritt was the largest propeller that had been built in Canada up to 1864. Her capacity was 35,000 bushels of grain, or 7,500 barrels. She was three masted and barque rigged.

Jacques, Tracy & Co.'s freight line of Montreal consisted of the steamers Huron, Captain Taylor; Colonist, Captain Moat; Indian, Captain Vaughan; St. Lawrence, Captain Rea; the Ottawa, Captain Johnson, and the Avon, Captain Smith. These vessels formed a daily line from Montreal to Hamilton, carrying both freight and passengers.

Messrs. Henderson & Co. succeeded to the old established business of Holcomb & Cowan, of Toronto and Montreal. Their vessels were the Brantford, West, Osprey, G. Moffatt and a new propeller owned by Captain Perry called Her Majesty. This vessel was commanded by Captain Handside. She had cabin accommodation for ninety passengers and freight capacity for 6,500 barrels of flour

The propeller America ran from Montreal to St. Catharines, calling at Toronto on her upward trip.

On the Georgian Bay the Clifton was on her old route, commanded as in previous seasons.

The Grand Trunk Railway chartered eight steamers to run in connection with their road from Sarnia to Chicago, and the Great Western had six steamers also on the same route.


On April 29th Captain Milloy's new steamer, the City of Toronto, was successfully launched at Niagara. The timbers of the unfortunate Zimmerman had scarcely become cold when Captain Milloy, with the earnestness and determination for which he was so famous, began making preparations to replace her. To assist him in this design he called to his aid the services of Mr. Shickluna, of St. Catharines, the well-known ship-builder. The keel for the new steamer was laid on October 20th, 1863, and exactly that day six months the vessel itself was launched. Miss Robertson, daughter of Mr. Donald Robertson, of Queenston Heights, named the new vessel, the usual bottle of wine being broken upon her bows. The dimensions of the City of Toronto were: length of keel 202 feet, 219 feet over all; width of beam, 27 feet; depth of hold, 11 feet 6 inches; draught, 7 feet 6 inches, and 600 tons burden.

The Royal Mail Line began their regular trips for the season on April 29th. The first to leave was the Banshee.

The American Steamboat Company arrangements for the lake and St. Lawrence for 1864 were as follows: The Ontario and Bay State at first formed a tri-weekly line. Early in June they were joined by the Cataract and Lord Elgin, a regular daily line being then established. Their route was from Oswego to Toronto and from Toronto to Montreal, connecting with the river steamers at Ogdensburg

The new City of Toronto commenced her journeys from Toronto to Lewiston on July 26th. The vessel was a great success. The Empress, which up to this time had been on this route, was removed to that from Rochester to Cobourg. She collided near the "Ducks" with the Banshee on August 6th. Fortunately no lives were lost but great damage was caused both steamers.

A new vessel built at St. Catharines, known as the Silver Spray, Captain Donaldson, commenced running on Monday, July 25th, between Toronto arid Port Dalhousie, connecting with trains for St. Catharines and Buffalo. She returned to Toronto from Port Dalhousie every evening at 8 o'clock.

Terrible disasters occurred on the upper lakes in November, which resulted in the loss of fifty lives and the destruction of property valued at more than one million dollars.

Navigation closed pretty generally about the middle of November, the steamers of the Royal Mail Line having all concluded their trips by November 20th.


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This electronic edition is based on the original in the collection of the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston.