Chapter 259
The R. & O. Company.

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

The Famous Lake Company--Some Notable Steamers -- A Favorite Route -- 1857- 75, 1875-93

A separate chapter has already been devoted to the history of the Royal Mail Line, which as a mail line, ceased to exist about 1857, and its story has been fully told elsewhere. It was succeeded by the Canadian Navigation Company and the latter still continued to designate their vessels as "Royal Mail Steamers," at last that was the term applied to those plying between Hamilton, Toronto and Montreal.

The Steamer Algerian
In 1875 a great change was effected though, for the Canadian Navigation Company in that year amalgamated with the Richelieu Navigation Company, of Montreal, and under the style of the Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Company have continued their business ever since.

The Steamer Passport
This is one of the largest lines of inland passenger and freight steamers combined that is to be found either in Canada or the United States, the "R. and O." being almost as much of a household word on this side of the Atlantic as the "P. and O." is on the other.

The Steamer Magnet
The steamers belonging to the Canadian company when its amalgamation took place with the Richelieu, were as follows:--The Passport, Magnet, Kingston, Champion, Grecian, Spartan, Corsican and Bohemian. All of these vessels have been spoken of previously, and after eighteen years have elapsed, four of them are still upon their old route, and likely to continue there yet for many years.

When the "Richelieu" company absorbed the "Canadian" company, Sir Hugh Allan, of the famous line of ocean steamships, was its chairman, so it is almost needless to say it had been most efficiently managed. It had many routes, each of which will be described later.

The entire number of different routes the company now covers is as follows: Toronto and Montreal, and between the latter city and Quebec. From Montreal to Saguenay forms another route in connection with the steamers plying from Quebec to Saguenay Then there are the ferrys from Montreal to Longueuil and St. Helen's Island and from Hochelaga to Boucherville. Besides these there are the various market boats, of which the names and routes will be given in due course.

The principal route is of course that between Toronto and Montreal, and it is but fitting that the first to be described should be


The vessels upon this course in 1875 have already been mentioned. Of those then in existence the Kingston was wrecked, was subsequently rebuilt and called the Algerian and is on the route now. The Champion was a wooden vessel, became unseaworthy about 1880 and was broken up. The Grecian was wrecked in 1870, on Split Rock, above the Cascade Rapids in the St. Lawrence. She had on board at the time a battery of Royal Artillery under command of Captain, now Major, General Sandom, all of whom with their equipments were saved. The steamer itself, though, became a total loss. Among the other vessels the Passport and Magnet are the oldest; they have been in constant service since 1847, and all particulars concerning them have been given elsewhere. In 1893 the former steamer was under the command of Captain A. J. Craig, and the latter under that of Captain Z. Lafrance. Her route was between Hamilton and Montreal, making a weekly journey from and to each port.

The Steamer Corsican
The other three vessels on the Montreal route are the Corsican, Spartan and Algerian. The first of these was built in 1870 in Gilbert's shipyard at Montreal, is of 478 tons burthen, had new boilers put in in 1891 and her engines "compounded " in 1892.

The Steamer Spartan
The Spartan is a much older vessel than the one just named. She was built by the same firm in 1864, and at the same place. She has a capacity of only twenty-two tons less than the Corsican, and her engines were likewise "compounded" a year earlier than the Corsican's.

The Algerian, the Kingston's successor, has already been described. She is of the same tonnage as the Spartan.

These steamers all connect with the Hamilton Steamboat Company's vessels and those also of the Niagara line.

On the downward journey to Montreal the following ports are called at, namely, Darlington, Port Hope, Cobourg. Kingston, Clayton, Round Island, Thousand Island Park, Alexandria Bay, Brockville, Prescott, Cornwall and Coteau Landing. There is a slight variation in the upward journey as the steamers call at the ports on the Bay of Quinte.

The next route in importance to that just described is that of the Lower St. Lawrence, or the


The Steamer Montreal
Two steamers ply daily on the river between Montreal and Quebec belonging to R. and O. They are most appropriately named the Montreal and Quebec, and are commanded by Captains L. H. Roy and Robert Nelson. They are "furnished with all the latest modern improvements, are unsurpassed for speed, comfort and safety," and form the only direct daily water route between Montreal and Quebec.

Captain Roy's steamer is the smallest of the two, but she is nevertheless a magnificent vessel. She was built in 1830, as so many more steamers have been, by Gilbert, of Montreal, is of five hundred and nineteen tons capacity and can comfortably accommodate nearly two hundred cabin passengers. She had new boilers in 1891 and is lighted throughout by electricity. She is a sidewheel iron steamer with compound engines.

The Steamer Quebec
The Quebec is not quite so old a steamer as the Montreal, having only been launched in 1865. She was built by Le Mas at Sorel, and is an iron side-wheel vessel of seven hundred and fifty tons capacity, and is valued by her owners at no less than $85,000. She can accommodate nearly three hundred passengers, and is a most popular vessel. She had a new deck in 1877, and was entirely overhauled and extensively repaired in 1891.


The steamers plying on this route are the Carolina and Canada, between Montreal and the Saguenay River, and the steamer Saguenay, between Quebec and the river. The two former vessels are under the command of Captains Dernier and Barraf respectively.

The Steamer Canada
The Canada was built at Sorel in 1870 by White, is of five hundred and seventy tons and is an iron side-wheel steamer.

The Steamer Saguenay
The Saguenay was built by Brunet of Quebec, in 1868, was formerly known as the Union, is a side-wheel steamer, with a capacity of seven hundred and twenty tons. Her name was changed to that she now bears in 1892.

The Steamer Carolina
The Carolina made her first appearance in 1893, haying been purchased from a United States firm.

Supplementary to the various routes of travel that have been described is the daily line throughout the summer season from Kingston known as the


The Steamer Columbian
This in 1893 consisted of the steamers Columbian and Bohemian, which were fitted out expressly for this service. They left Kingston daily, calling at all intermediate ports between there and Montreal, and connected at that port with either the steamers for Quebec or the River Saguenay. Speaking of the journey by water from Hamilton at the head of Lake Ontario to the River Saguenay, it has been fitly described as " one of the longest lines of inland water communication on the continent, and which for grandeur and variety of scenery cannot be surpassed, if equalled, in the whole world."

The Steamer Bohemian
The Bohemian was built many years ago by Cantin, of Montreal, but was entirely rebuilt in 1892. She is a side-wheel steamer of three hundred and eighty tons, and is under the command of Captain A. J. Baker.

The Columbian, a vessel of which her proprietors are justly proud, is a twin screw steamer, built at Chester, Pa., U.S.A., in 1892. She is constructed of steel, her bottom being sheathed with wood, and her capacity is four hundred and eighty-eight tons. She is commanded by Captain George Batten.

These steamers are only employed in the height of the season. There is yet one other branch of R. & O. 's business of which nothing has been said, that is their


The Steamer Trois Rivieres
These are the Trois Rivieres, Captain St. Louis; Chambly, Captain Tranche Montague; Berthier, Captain Boucher; Terrebonne, Captain Laforce; and the Laprairie, Captain Courcelles.

The first of these steamers has been chiefly employed throughout her career in carrying devotees on pilgrimages to St. Anne de Beaupre, some distance lower down the river from Quebec.

The vessel itself is a side wheel steamer of five hundred and twenty-five tons burthen, built by White, of Sorel, in 1870, and though now, at the close of the season of 1893, in her twenty fourth year of service, may, through the fact that she is an iron vessel, be expected to last for many years longer.

The Str. Chambly's route is from Montreal to Chambly through the Richelieu river. She is an iron side wheel steamer, built by White, of Sorel, in 1871, and has a capacity of two hundred tons.

The Berthier runs between Montreal and Three Rivers, calling at intermediate ports. She is also an iron side wheel vessel, and was built by the same firm and at the same place as the Chambly, in 1870. She has a capacity of four hundred and twenty-four tons.

The fourth steamer of this group, the Terrebonne, runs from Montreal to Terrebonne, Boucherville and all intermediate ports. She is an iron vessel of only one hundred and ninety tons, and built by the same firm as the three steamers already named.

The Laprairie runs from Montreal to Laprairie. This vessel was built by Cantin, of Montreal, in 1867, and she has now a cap; city of four hundred and forty-three tons, she having been lengthened and rebuilt in 1893. Like the great majority of the steamers belonging to the R. & O. she is a side-wheel vessel.

In addition to the vessels that have described there are the various


To Longueuil and Hochelaga there plys the Longueuil, of four hundred and ten tons, built by Lamont, of Montreal, in 1881, and commanded by Captain Jodvin.

To Longueuil only runs the Island Queen, a screw steamer of one hundred and two tons, built by Davis, of Kingston, in 1887. To "St. Helen's Island the Cultivateur, Captain Labelle, makes daily journeys. She was built in 1857 by Freshet, of Sorel, was extensively repaired in 1881, and was completely refitted in 1888. Her burthen is just three hundred tons. The Hochelaga forms the ferry from Hochelaga; she is a composite steamer of three hundred and eighty-one tons, and was built in Sorel in 1886.

There is little left now to tell regarding the R. & O., excepting to refer to some of their


Alexander Milloy. Mr. Milloy was born in Kintyre, Argyleshire, Scotland, in 1822, and came to Canada eight years later -- in 1830. At the age of 18 years, on March 17th, 1840, Mr. Milloy entered the Montreal office of the Royal Mail Line of steamers and has continued his connection with the company in all its changes since. He is now (December 1895) the traffic manager of the R. & O. N. Co., which company is the lineal successor of the R. M. L.
On the Montreal line from Toronto, Captain Sinclair can boast of many years' faithful and meritorious service. He is respected and honored by his employers, loyally revered by his subordinates, and greatly liked by the travelling public. Captain Roy of the Montreal is also another veteran who has everyone's liking and respect. Pursers Grange and Henry Kotner of the Spartan and Magnet are also widely known, as also is Engineer Wadsworth, on the Algerian.

Most appropriately, as many will think, the head offices of the R. & O. are in St. Paul street, Montreal. not such a very great distance from the spot where once lived the pioneer of lake navigation, La Salle. A marble tablet placed on the house which now occupies the southwest corner of St. Paul and St. Peter streets records that


The president of the R. & O. is Mr. N. K. Connolly; vice-president, Mr. Wm. Wainwright; the general manager, Mr. Julian Chabot; the traffic manager, Mr. Alexander Milloy, and the secretary and treasurer, Mr. R. Bourdon.

Their principal offices are 228 St. Paul street, Montreal, and 2 King street east, Toronto.

Before concluding this article it will perhaps prove interesting to many of those who may read it if a letter from "An Old Quebecker" on the speed of the old R. M. line is giver. In Montreal and Quebec that line was often spoken of as the Torrance Line," as in Toronto it was not infrequently referred to as "G. B. Holland's Company." The contents of the letter are as follows: --


"As the running time of the above boats has been discussed in your columns, allow me to give the time of the old "Mail Line" known as the Torrance boats.

"This information I have before me received lately from an old and well-know steamboat owner and agent in Quebec. He says: As to the speed of the "John Munn " and "Quebec," I can speak positively as we had for five years a deadly contest between the "Quebec" and the "Montreal" (this was the first "Montreal"),but we beat her every trip, and often arrived in Quebec at 3 a. m. after having left Montreal at 6 p. m., on her way down calling at Sorel, Port St. Francis, Three Rivers and Batiscan, and upward at Montreal (as the tide suited), at 3:50 to 4:50 a.m., having left Quebec at 5 p.m. The time: "Quebec" from Montreal to Sorel, 2 hours, 25 minutes: "John Munn," 2 hours. 16 minutes down: 2 hours, 50 minutes up.

"The Armstrongs (captains) disputed this time of the "John Munn's," and Captain Charles Armstrong (so long and favorably known to the Harbor Commissioners here) was invited to go on board and time her, which he did, and reported to Messrs. Torrance and Molson that the above time, 2.16 down and 2 50 up, was correct.

"It must be noticed that these days they called at Port St. Francis, which none of the R. & O. N. Co.'s boats do now.

"Above I have said the first 'Montreal,' there have been three of the same name on the route.

"The first was lost in a snowstorm on November 29. 1853, the second was burned off Cap Rouge, the third is the R. & O. N. Co.s boat, and has made herself, like this city, a good name. Long may she keep it up." And so say all of us.


Previous    Next

Return to Home Port

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