SOON after the close of the war with the United States in 1814, the era of steam navigation on Lake Ontario opens. The first steamer, the Frontenac, was launched at Ernesttown, on the Bay of Quintein 1816. Her trips began in 1817. The length of her deck was 170 feet; the breadth, 32 feet; her burden, 700 tons; her cost, L15,000; her commander, Capt. James McKenzie, a retired officer of the Royal Navy.
In 1818 we observe an enactment of the Provincial Legislature, having reference to steam navigation. It is decreed that the usual space occupied by the engine and machinery in a steam vessel, with the requisite stowage of wood, should be taken to occupy one third of such vessel, and that such vessel should only pay Lighthouse or Tonnage Duty on two-thirds of her admeasurement.
In successive numbers of the KingstonChronicle, the advertisement of the Frontenac, occupying the width of two columns, conspicuously appears, with a large rude woodcut of a steamer with two smoke-pipes at the top. For the sake of the fares and other particulars, we copy this document (from the Chronicle of April 30 1819). "The Steamboat Frontenac, James McKenzie, Master, will in future leave the different ports on the following days: viz., Kingston for York, on the 1st, 11th and 21st days of each month. York for Queenston, 3rd, 13th and 23rd days of each month. Niagara for Kingston, 5th, 15th and 25th days of each month. Rates of Passages: From Kingston to York and Niagara, l3. From York to Niagara, L1. Children under three years of age, half-price; above three, and under ten, two-thirds. A Book will be kept for entering the names of passengers, and the berths which they may choose at which time the passage money must be paid. Passengers are allowed sixty pounds weight of baggage; surplus baggage to be paid for at the usual rate. Gentlemen's servants cannot sleep or eat in the Cabin. Deck passengers will pay fifteen shillings, and may either bring their own provisions, or be furnished by the Steward. For each dog brought on board, five shillings. All applications for passage to be made to Capt. McKenzie, on board. Freight will be transported to and from the above places at the rate of four shillings per barrel bulk, and Flour at the customary rate delivered to the different consignees. A list of their names will be put in a conspicuous place on board, which must be deemed a sufficient notice; and the Goods, when taken from the Steamboat will be considered at the risk of the owners. For each small parcel, 2s. 6d, which must be paid on delivery. Kingston, April 28th, 1819." Capt. McKenzie has acquired confidence in himself and his vessel in 1819. An earlier notice in the Chronicle, relating to the Frontenac, was the following. Its terms show the great caution and very salutary fear which governed the action of sea captains, hitherto without experience in such matters, when about to encounter by the aid of steam the perils of a boisterous Lake. "Steamboat Frontenac will sail from Kingston for Niagara, calling at York, on the 1st and 15th days of each month, with as much punctuality as the nature of the Lake navigation will admit of."
The ordinary sailing craft of the Lake of course still continued to ply. We hear of a passenger-boat between York and Niagara in 1815, called the Dove; also of the Reindeer, commanded for a time by Captain Myers. In 1819-20 Stillwell Wilson, with whom we are already acquainted, is in command of a slip-keel schooner, carrying passengers and freight between York and Niagara. The Wood Duck was another vessel on this route. (In 1828 the Wood Duck is offered for sale, with her rigging and sails complete, for Four Hundred Dollars cash. "Apply to William Gibbons, owner, York." She is afterwards the property of Mr. William Arthurs.) The Red Rover, Captain Thew, and the Comet, Captain Ives, were others. The Britannia, Captain Miller, was a visitant of York harbour about the same period; a top-sail schooner of about 120 tons, remarkable for her specially fine model. She was built by Roberts, near the site of what is now Wellington Square, and was the property of Mr. Matthew Crooks, of Niagara.
Captain Thew, above named, afterwards commanded the John Watkins, a schooner plying to York. Captain Thew encountered a little difficulty once at Kingston, through a violation, unconsciously on his part, of naval etiquette. A set of colours had been presented to the John Watkins, by Mr. Harris of York, in honour of his old friend and a co-partner whose name she perpetuated. It happened, however, through inadvertency, that these colours were made of the particular pattern which vessels in the Royal Service are alone entitled to carry; and while the John Watkins was lying moored in the harbour at Kingston, gaily decorated with her new colours, Captain Thew was amazed to find his vessel suddenly boarded by a strong body of men-of-war's men, from a neighbouring royal ship, who insisted on hauling down and taking possession of the flags flying from her masts, as being the exclusive insignia of the Royal Navy. It was necessary to comply with the demand, but the bunting was afterwards restored to Captain Thew on making the proper representations.
In 1820, Capt. Sinclair was in command of the Lady Sarah Maitland We gather from an Observer of December in that year, that Lake Ontario, according to its wont, had been occasioning alarms to travellers. An address of the passengers on board of Capt. Sinclair's vessel, after a perilous passage from Prescott to York, is recorded in the columns of the paper just named. It reads as follows: "The subscribers, passengers in the Lady Maitland schooner, beg to tender their best thanks to Capt. Sinclair for the kind attention paid to them during the passage from Prescott to this port; and at the same time with much pleasure to bear testimony to his propriety of conduct in using every exertion to promote the interest of those concerned in the vessel and cargo, in the severe gale of the morning of the 4th instant (Dec. 1820). The manly fortitude and unceasing exertions of Capt. Sinclair, when the situation of the vessel, in consequence of loss of sails, had become extremely dangerous, were so highly conspicuous as to induce the subscribers to make it known to the public, that he may meet with that support which he so richly deserves. The exertions of the crew were likewise observed, and are deserving of praise. - D. McDougal, James Alason, G. N. Ridley, Peter McDougal."
This was probably the occasion of a doleful rejoinder of Mr. Peter McDougal's, which became locally a kind of proverbial expression: " No more breakfast in this world for Pete McDoug." The story was that Mr. McDougal, when suffering severely from the effects of a storm on the Lake, replied in these terms to the cook, who came to announce breakfast. The phrase seemed to take the popular fancy, and was employed now and then to express a mild despair of surrounding circumstances.
In 1820 a Traveller, whose journal is quoted by Willis, in Bartlett'sCanadian Scenery (ii. 48), was six days in accomplishing the journey from Prescott to York by water. "On the 3rd of September," he says, "we embarked for York at Prescott, on board a small schooner called the Caledonia. We performed this voyage, which is a distance of 250 miles, in six days." In 1818, Mr. M. F. Whitehead, of Port Hope, was two days and a-half in crossing from Niagara to York. "My first visit to York," Mr. Whitehead says in a communication to the writer, "was in September, 1818, crossing the Lake from Niagara with Dr. Baldwin - a two and a-half days' passage. The Doctor had thoughtfully provided a leg of lamb, a loaf of bread, and a bottle of porter: all our fare," adds Mr. Whitehead, "for two days and a-half." We have ourselves more than once, in former days, experienced the horrors of the middle passage between Niagara and York, having crossed and re-crossed, in very rough weather, in the Kingston Packet, or Brothers, and having been detained on the Lake for a whole night and a good portion of a day in the process. The schooners for Niagara and elsewhere used to announce the time of their departure from the wharf at York in primitive style, by repeated blasts from a long tin horn, so called, sounded at intervals previous to their casting loose, and at the moment of the start. Fast and large steamers have, of course, now reduced to a minimum the miseries of a voyage between the North and South shores; but these miseries are still not slight at the stormy seasons, when Lake Ontario often displays a mood by no means amiable
"Outrageous as a sea, dark, wasteful, wild,
Up from the bottom turned by furious winds
And surging waves."
It is some consolation to reflect, that with all the skill and appliances at the command of English engineers and shipbuilders, it has been found hitherto impossible to render the passage from Dover to Calais a luxury; nor possibly will that result be secured even by the enormous ferry-steamers which are projected. In 1791, twenty-four hours were occasionally occupied in the passage from Dover to Calais. " I am half-dead," writes the learned traveller Dr. E. D. Clarke, at Calais, to his mother; "I am half dead with sea-sickness: twenty-four hours' passage from Dover."
Again, the mode in which the first Lake steamers were made to, near the landing-place in the olden time, was something which would fill a modern steamboat captain with amazement. Accustomed as we are every day to see huge steamers guided without any ado, straight up to the margin of a quay or pier, the process of putting in seems a simple affair. Not so was it, however, in practice to the first managers of steamboats. When the Frontenac or William IV was about to approach the wharf at York, the vessel was brought to a standstill some way out in the harbour. From near the fore and after gangways boats were then lowered, bearing hawsers; and by means of these, when duly landed, the vessel was solemnly drawn to shore. An agitated multitude usually witnessed the operation.
In the Gazette Of July 20, 1820, we have the information that on Saturday evening, a schooner of about sixty tons, built for Mr. Oates and others, was launched in this port (York). "She went off," the Gazette says," in very fine style, until she reached the water, where, from some defect in her ways, her progress was checked; and from the lateness of the hour, she could not be freed from the impediment before the next morning, when she glided into the Bay in safety. Those who are judges say that it is a very fine vessel of the class. It is now several years," continues the Gazette, " since any launch has been here; it therefore, though so small a vessel, attracted a good deal of curiosity." This was the Duke of Richmond packet, afterwards a favourite on the route between York and Niagara. The Gazette describes the Richmond somewhat incorrectly as a schooner, and likewise understates the tonnage. She was a sloop of the Revenue cutter build, and her burthen was about one hundred tons. Of Mr. Oates we have had occasion to speak in our perambulation of King Street.
In an Observer of 1820, we have the first advertisement of the Richmond. It reads thus: " The Richmond Packet, Edward Oates, commander, will commence running between the Ports of York and Niagara on Monday, the 24th instant (July), as a regular Packet. She will leave York on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, at 9 o'clock a.m., precisely; and Niagara on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, at 10 a.m., to the 24th of September, when the hour of departure will be made known to the Public. The Richmond has excellent accommodations for Ladies, Gentlemen and other Passengers, and nothing will be omitted to make her one of the completest and safest passage vessels of the class in America, being manned with experienced mariners. Rates of passage: After Cabin, 10s. ; Fore Cabin, 6s. 3d. Children under twelve years, half-price. Sixty pounds baggage allowed to each passenger; above that weight, 9d. per cwt., or 2s. per barrel bulk. For freight or passage apply to John Crooks, Esq., Niagara; the Captain on board; or at the Subscriber's store. Ed. Oates, York, July 17, 1820."
Captain Vavassour, commandant at Fort George, presented Capt. Oates with a gun and a set of colours. The former used to announce to the people of York the arrival and departure of the Richmond; and a striped signal-flag found among the latter, was hoisted at the Lighthouse on Gibraltar Point whenever the Richmond Packet hove in sight. (For a considerable period, all vessels were signalized by a flag flying from the Lighthouse.)
Two years later, the Richmond is prospering on the route between York and Niagara. In the Gazette of June 7th, 1822, we have an advertisement of tenor similar to the one given above. "Richmond Packet, Edward Oates, master, will regularly leave York for Niagara on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; and Niagara for York on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, from the 1st of June until the 1st of September." The advertisement then goes on to say: "Edward Oates respectfully informs his friends and the Public, that his Packet shall leave York and Niagara on the above days, either in the morning or evening, as the wind and passengers may suit; and that passengers may depend on a passage on the above days. The superiority of sailing and accommodation for ladies and gentlemen are too well known to the public to make any comment upon. York, June 1st, 1822. " By the following year, however, the Richmond's occupation was coming to an end. Steam on the route between York and Niagara had its effect. From the Gazette of Jan. 16, 1823, we learn that Mr. Oates is about to dispose of his interest in the Richmond; is virtually about to sell the vessel. In the paper just named we read the following advertisement "Auction. Fifty Shares, or three-quarters and two sixty-fourths of that superior vessel the Richmond Packet, will positively be sold by auction, at the Town of York, on Saturday, the 25th instant, together with all her tackle, apparel, stores and furniture - an inventory of which may be seen on application to R. Coleman, Esq., York; Mr. Edward Oates, Niagara. N.B.-Terms of sale: one-third down - the remainder in two equal payments at three and six months, with approved endorsers. York, Jan. 6, 1823."
In a Gazette of this year we have a pleasure boat offered for sale at York, apparently a bargain. In the number for May 15, 1823, is the following advertisement: " Pleasure-boat to be sold : built of oak, an extremely fast sailer, and in every respect a complete vessel of the kind. It is rigged with jib, foresail, mainsail, and driver. Original cost, upwards of forty guineas (and not more than four years old). It will now be sold, with everything belonging to it, at the low price of fifteen pounds currency. Enquire at the Gazette Office, York. 7th May, 1823,"
As the Richmond Packet filled an important place in the early marine of the harbour, it will be of interest to mention her ultimate fate. While engaged, in 1826, in conveying a cargo of salt from Oswego, she was wrecked near Brighton, on the bay of Presqu'isle, towards the eastern part of Lake Ontario. The Captain, no longer Mr. Oates, losing his presence of mind in a gale of wind, cut the cable of his vessel and ran her ashore. The remains of the wreck, after being purchased by Messrs. Willman, Bailey and Co., were taken to Wellington, on the south side of the peninsula of Prince Edward county, where the cannon which had ornamented the deck of the defunct packet, and had for so many years daily made the harbour of York resound with its detonations, did duty in firing salutes on royal birthdays and other public occasions up to 1866, when, being overcharged, it burst, the fragments scattering themselves far and wide in the waters round the wharf at Wellington.
Just as the Richmond disappears, another favourite vessel, for some years distinguished in the annals of York harbour, and commanded by a man of note, comes into the field of view. "The new steamer Canada," says the Loyalist of June 3, 1826, "was towed into port this week by the Toronto, from the mouth of the river Rouge, where she was built during the last winter. She will be shortly fitted up for her intended route, which, we understand, will be from York and Niagara round the head of the Lake, and will add another to the increasing facilities of conveyance in Upper Canada." The Loyalist then adds: "Six steamboats now navigate the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario, in this Province, besides the Canada, and a boat nearly ready for launching at Brockville." We shall presently hear much of the career of the Canada and her commander.
The Toronto (Capt. Shaw), named above as towing the Canada into the harbour, was a steam-packet of peculiar make, built at York. She was constructed without any difference of shape at the bow and stern, and without ribs. She was a shell of successive layers of rather thin boards placed alternately lengthwise and athwart, with coatings, between, of stout brown paper pitched. She proved a failure as a vessel for the Lake traffic, and was speedily taken down the river, where she was also unfortunate. We hear of her in the Loyalist of June 17, 1826. " By a letter," the Editor says, "received from Kingston we are sorry to hear that the steamboat Toronto, on her first trip from that place to Prescott, had unfortunately got aground several times, and that in consequence it had been found necessary to haul her out of the water at Brockville, to be repaired. The damage is stated not to be very great, but the delay, besides occasioning inconvenience, must be attended with some loss to the proprietors." The Editor then adds : "The navigation of the St. Lawrence, for steamboats, between Kingston and Prescott, is in many places extremely difficult, and requires that the most skilful and experienced pilots should be employed." In the same number of the Loyalist is an advertisement of the Martha Ogden, a United States boat. "Notice. The steamboat Martha Ogden, Andrew Estes, master, will ply between York and Youngstown during the remainder of the season, making a daily trip from each place, Saturdays excepted, when she will cross but once. Hours of sailing, 6 o'clock in the morning and 3 o'clock in the afternoon. To accommodate the public, her hours of departure from each place will be changed alternately every week, of which notice will be regularly given. This arrangement will continue in effect, weather permitting, until further notice is given. Passengers wishing to cross the river Niagara will be sent over in the ferry-boat free of charge. Cabin passage, two dollars. Deck passage, one dollar. Agents at York, Messrs. M. and R. Meighan. June 13, 1826."
The Frontenac is still plying to York. In 1826 she brings up the Lieut.-Governor, Sir Peregrine Maitland, from Kingston. The Loyalist of Saturday, June 3, 1826, duly makes the announcement. "His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor arrived here (York) on Wednesday afternoon, on board the Frontenac, Capt. McKenzie, from Kingston. His Excellency landed at the King's Wharf under a salute from the Garrison. Major Hillier and Captain Maitland accompanied his Excellency. On Thursday morning, his Excellency embarked on board the Frontenac for Niagara."
The following week she brings over from NiagaraCol. McGregor and the 70th Regiment. The Loyalist of June 10, 1826, thus speaks. "We have much pleasure in announcing the arrival in this place of the Head Quarter Division of the 70th Regiment, under the command of Lieut.-Col. McGregor. They landed from the steamboat Frontenac yesterday morning, and marched into the York Garrison." The Loyalist then proceeds to eulogize the 70th, and to express satisfaction at the removal of that regiment to York. " The distinguished character of this fine regiment, and the honourable testimony which has been given of their uniformly correct and praiseworthy conduct, wherever they have been stationed, affords the most perfect assurance that from the esteem in which they have so deservedly been held, during a period of more than thirteen years' service in Canada, their stay at this Garrison will be rendered highly satisfactory to the inhabitants, and, we should hope, pleasant to themselves." It was on this occasion that many of the inhabitants of York beheld for the first time the impressive sight of a Highland regiment, wearing the kilt and the lofty plumed cap. A full military band, too, which accompanies only Head Quarter Divisions, was a novelty at York; as previous to this year Niagara, and not York, was regarded as Military head quarters. The Pipers increased the excitement. The band of the 70th displayed, moreover, at this period further accessories of pomp and circumstance in the shape of negro cymbal players, and a magnificent oriental looking standard of swaying tails surmounted by a huge glittering crescent bearing small bells.
In the down-trip from York, the same week, the Frontenac took away a detachment of the 76th Regiment. "The detachment of the 76th Regiment;" the Loyalist of June 10 reports, "under command of Lieut. Grubbe, embarked on board the Frontenac yesterday, on its destination to join the regiment at Montreal. Lieut. Grubbe takes with him," the Editor of the Loyalist says, "the cordial regard of the inhabitants of York; and the exemplary conduct of the detachment under his command has been such as to merit from them their best wishes for their future prosperity." During the same week the steamer Queenston had arrived at York, as we learn from the following item in the same Loyalist of June 10: "The Rev. Mr. Hudson, Military Chaplain, who accompanied the Lord Bishop from England, arrived here in the Queenston on Tuesday last. Mr. Hudson is appointed Chaplain to the Garrison at York." (In August, 1828, Mr. Hudson must have been in England. We read the following in the Loyalist of Oct. 11 in that year:- "Married, on the 12th of August last, at Crosby-on-Elden, Cumberland, by the Rev. S. Hudson, B.A., the Rev. J. Hudson, M.A., Fellow of St. Peter's College, Cambridge, and Chaplain to the Forces at York, in Upper Canada, to Barbara Wells, second daughter of the Rev. Thomas Lowry, D.D.") In the Loyalist of July 29, in this year (1826), we hear of " the new steamer Niagara, built at Prescott, John Mosier, captain." This new steamer Niagara was in reality Capt. Mosier's schooner The Union of Wellington Grove, turned into a steamer. Some error had been committed in the build of the Union, and she suddenly capsized in the river near Prescott. Capt. Mosier then cut her in two, added to her length thirty feet by an insertion, and converted her into the Niagara steam-packet. Her arrival at York is announced in the Loyalist of July 29, and her return thither from Niagara with American tourists on board. The Loyalist says: "The new steamboat Niagara, built at Prescott, John Mosier, captain, arrived here (York) on Monday last, the 24th instant. She proceeded the same day to Niagara, and returned on Tuesday afternoon, with a number of American ladies and gentlemen making the Northern tour. This arrangement," continues the Loyalist, "of visiting York twice on the route round the Lake will be continued, we hope, as the number of persons travelling at this season of the year, having an opportunity of seeing York, will tend to enliven the town. The Niagara" it is added, "is a handsome and well-built boat, with a powerful engine, and most excellent accommodation for travellers." A Loyalist of the following month (the number for Aug. 12, 1826) reports the Niagara as bearing another kind of freight. She has on board, for one thing, 60 hogsheads of tobacco. "The steamboat Niagara, Capt. Mosier, arrived in port on Monday last from Prescott via Niagara. On going on board," says the Editor of the Loyalist, "it afforded us much pleasure to find that her cargo consisted in part of sixty hogsheads of Leaf Tobacco for the Montreal market, the produce of the western part of the Province. The cultivation of this article of consumption," continues the Loyalist, " is attracting the attention of the farmers in the Western District, and a large quantity of it will be offered in the market this year. The next season it will be very much increased. The soil and climate of that part of the Province is represented as being well adapted to the growth of the tobacco plant, and the enterprize which is exhibited to secure the advantages thus held out, gives fair promise that the article will before long be added to the list of the staple productions of our country, and afford not only a sufficient supply for home consumption, but also form an important item in the schedule of Canadian exports."
In the same number of the Loyalist we bear again of Capt. Richardson's new steamboat, the Canada. We read of her first passage across from York to Niagara, thus: "The new steamboat Canada, Capt. Richardson, made her first trip to Niagara on Monday last, and went out of the harbour in fine style. Her appearance reflects much credit on her builder, Mr. Joseph Dennis; and the machinery, manufactured by Messrs. Wards of Montreal, is a specimen of superior workmanship. The combined excellence of the model and machinery of this boat is such," says the Loyalist, "as will render her what is usually termed 'a fast boat.' The trip to Niagara was performed in four hours and some minutes. Her present route, we observe, is advertised from York to Niagara and the Head of the Lake. In noticing this first trip of another steamboat," continues the Loyalist, "we cannot help contrasting the present means of conveyance with those ten years ago. At that time only a few schooners navigated the Lake, and the passage was attended with many delays and much inconvenience. Now there are five steamboats, all affording excellent accommodation, and the means of expeditious travelling. The routes of each are so arranged that almost every day of the week the traveller may find opportunities of being conveyed from one extremity of the Lake to the other in a few hours. The Niagara and Queenston from Prescott, and the Frontenac from Kingston once a week, and the Canada and Martha Ogden between York and Niagara and the Head of the Lake every day, afford facilities of communication which the most sanguine could scarcely have anticipated at the period we speak of. Independent of these boats, it must be mentioned that the Cornwall on Lake St. Louis makes a trip every day from Coteau du Lac to Cornwall ; the Dalhousie runs between Prescott and Kingston twice a week and conveys the mall; the Charlotte and Toronto once a week from Prescott to the Head of the Bay of Quinte thus affording to every part of the country the same advantages of convenient intercourse. These are some of the evidences of improvement among us during the last few years which require no comment. They speak for themselves, and it must be pretty evident from such facts as these, that those who cannot, or will not, see the progress we are making, must be wilfully blind." (The closing remark was of course for the benefit of contemporary editors at York and elsewhere, who, from their political view of things, gave their readers the impression that Canada was a doomed country, going rapidly to perdition.)
From the Loyalist of Aug. 19, 1826, we learn that "the steamboat Niagara, on her trip from York to Kingston, had her machinery injured, and has put back into Bath to repair." In the same number of the Loyalist, we are told that the proprietor of the Frontenac had fractured his leg. "We regret to hear," the Loyalist says, "that an accident happened last week to John Hamilton, Esq., the proprietor of the steamboat Frontenac. In stepping out of a carriage at the Falls, he unfortunately broke his leg." In a Loyalist of the following month (Sept. 2, 1826), we hear again of Sir Peregrine Maitland's movements in the Frontenac, The Loyalist says: "His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor and suite arrived in town (York) from Kingston yesterday morning, on board the Frontenac, and after remaining a few hours, proceeded to Stamford." The next Loyalist (Sep. 9, 1826) speaks of an expeditious trip made by Capt. Mosier'sNiagara. "The Steamboat Niagara, Capt. Mosier, made," it says, "her trip last week, from York to Prescott, and back again, in something less than four days, touching at the ports of Kingston, Gananoque and Brockville, going and returning, independent of the usual delay at Prescott. The distance is nearly five hundred miles."
From the Loyalist of Sept. 30, 1826, we hear of the steamboat Queenston, Capt. Whitney. A notice appears that "The steam boat Queenston, Capt. W. Whitney, will, during the remainder of the season, leave Niagara for Kingston and Prescott every Thursday day at eight o'clock a.m., instead of 10 o'clock as heretofore. Queenston, Sept. 8, 1826." From a number of the Loyalist in the following month (Oct. 7, 1826), we gather that an accident, which might have been very disastrous, had happened to the Queenston. " With pleasure," the Editor says, "we state that the steamboat Queenston arrived here (York) on Thursday last, without having sustained any serious injury in consequence of the late accident which happened by her getting aground near Kingston. The apprehensions which were entertained for the safety of this fine boat are therefore happily removed. After getting off she returned to Prescott, where the necessary repairs were immediately made, and brought up several passengers and a full cargo."
A communication from Hugh Richardson, Captain of the Canada, appears in the Loyalist of Oct. 14, 1826. A passenger has leaped overboard from his vessel and been drowned. " To the Editor of the U. E. Loyalist. Sir, - On Friday evening a passenger on board the Canada, on her way from Burlington Beach to Niagara, was seen by the man at the helm to jump overboard. On the alarm being given, in an instant the sails were in, engine stopped, and boat lowered, into which I jumped with two hands, and rowed a quarter of a mile in our wake, but, I am sorry to say, without success. On returning aboard, his hat was found, as if deliberately placed near the gangway whence he jumped. The hat is a new white one, and beside the maker's name is written 'Joseph Jewell Claridge, Jersey City.' The hat contained a new red and yellow silk handkerchief, a pair of white cotton gloves, and three-quarters of a dollar in silver. He was a good-looking young man, well dressed, in blue coat, yellow waistcoat, black or blue pantaloons and boots. He had neither bundle nor luggage, and came on board at Burlington Beach. I am inclined to think from all appearances, and the trifle of money left in the hat, that distressed circumstances had pourtrayed, in a too sensitive mind, insurmountable evils, producing temporary derangement, during which the barriers of nature were broken down; and he rushed in frenzy before his Maker. Perhaps by your kindly inserting this it may meet the eye of some relation or friend, to whom, on application, the little articles he left will be restored. I am, Sir, your most obedient servant, Hugh Richardson. York, Oct. 3, 1826."
(We shall have other communications of Capt. Richardson's brought under our notice shortly. They are always marked by vigour; and are now and then pleasantly racy of the profession to which the writer belonged.)
The Loyalist of Nov. 11, 1826, notices a second accident which has befallen Captain Mosier's vessel. It says: "The steamer Niagara, on her way from Prescott last week, unfortunately struck on a reef of rocks off Poplar Point, about fifty miles from Kingston, where, at the latest dates, she was lying on her beam ends, in about five feet of water. The Queenston brought her passengers up," it is added, "on Saturday last; and we are informed that, owing to the exertions of Capt. Mosier, the greater part of her cargo has been forwarded to York. Yesterday a person who came from the Niagara, stated that she had received no damage from the late gales of wind, and as she has weathered these, we sincerely hope that she may be got off without much difficulty or injury." In the next number it is noted that "at the latest dates the steamboat Niagara was still aground. The greatest exertions are making by Capt. Mosier to get her off. The weather has been tempestuous; but we are happy to hear that the Niagara has not received any material injury."
In this number is a notice that "a meeting of the stockholders of the Steampacket Canada will be held at York, on board of the Boat, on Monday, the 4th of December, at 12 o'clock. By order of the Committee of Management. J. W. Gamble, Treasurer. York, 15th Nov., 1826." -One result of the meeting thus advertised is an address to the stockholders from Capt. Richardson, which appears in the Loyalist of Dec. 9. The Captain is plainly uneasy in view of the possibility of the majority deciding that he shall not be in the sole charge and management of the Canada in the ensuing year. He announces his intention to visit England during the winter, for the purpose of raising funds among his friends which may enable him to buy out the few persons who are associated with him in the ownership of the boat. "Gentlemen'' he says, "it having been decided at a Meeting of the Stockholders, held on board the Canada, that I should be invested with the sole charge and management of the boat the ensuing year, unless at a Meeting to be held the first Monday in March, other arrangements take place, I seize this opportunity, on the eve of my departure for England, to assure the Stockholders that I have made every arrangement for the safety of the boat and the necessary repairs. And at the same time I respectfully submit to them the ostensible motive of my voyage. Gentlemen, I am so deeply embarked in the speculation I have entered into, that the prospect of the stock depreciating, and of the boat's services and my own labours being rendered abortive in so lucrative a ferry as that betwixt York and Niagara, mainly by a plurality of the management, fills me with dismay. And, as I trust I am entitled to the confidence the Stockholders generally placed in my abilities, and am convinced that unless the power of management be invested in one person to act with all his energies in the scene of profits, to seize the advantages of market in the economy of the outlay with the discretion of a sole owner, loss and ruin to myself must ensue. With this view of the subject I embark for England to endeavour to raise funds and relieve those gentlemen who are averse to my management, and to take up the remainder of the stock, that they who so kindly confided in my assurances of individual profit, and placed implicit reliance in my integrity and abilities, may not be disappointed in their fair expectations. Confident that I possess the hearty wishes of success from many valuable patrons, in taking leave, I am happy to subscribe myself, Gentlemen, your most obedient humble servant, Hugh Richardson. York, Dec. 6, 1826."
By the 24th of March in the following year (1827) he is back again in York. In the Loyalist of the date just given is a second address to the stockholders, preparatory to the meeting which is to take place on the 2nd of April. He recounts his proceedings in England, and urges again his own appointment as sole manager of the Canada. As illustrative of the anxieties attendant at an early period, and at all periods, on individual personal enterprise, insufficiently supported, the document possesses an interest.
"To the Stockholders in the Canada Steamboat. Gentlemen, it must be fresh in the memory of you all that I am the original projector of the Canada ; that my abilities, in whatever light they may be viewed, were wholly employed in planning, constructing and fitting her out. Facts have already proved that I led no one astray by false theories in her construction; and her engine is upon the model of the very best now generally in use in England. I have been all along by far the largest shareholder, and nearly the whole of the shares were taken up by gentlemen upon my personal solicitations, in doing which I did not fear, in the strongest language I was master of, to pledge the success of the undertaking, not only on the prospect of the lucrative ferry, but also upon the faith of my own personal exertions. Then do I infer too much by saying that a friendly disposition towards me, a confidence in my abilities and my integrity (with very few exceptions), was the basis upon which I met with such general patronage? However, after a certain period it was no longer possible to raise sufficient stock to complete the vessel ; the expedient of borrowing was resorted to, and a debt of L1,200 contracted with the Bank. Upon this the boat commenced her operations, and ran from the 7th of August, a period of 98 days; during which time, Gentlemen, I look upon it as a matter of congratulation that at her very first starting, having an American boat to oppose her, the proceeds of the Canada not only paid her current expenses, but also a sum of upwards of L200 in extraordinary outfit, including L40 insurance On money borrowed, also the interest thereon; L50 nearly for replacing her wheels repeatedly destroyed, and considerable repairs. I see nothing but what is most flattering in this her first outset. Thus it would have appeared had I made my report: and had I done it in the most favourable light, I should have thought, as one of the guardians of the property entrusted to my charge, that I was only fulfilling a duty I owed the Stockholders when 1 enhanced, rather than depreciated, its value. At the end of the season, from disappointments and expenses in collecting the amount of the shares taken up, there was found still wanting a sum of L400; and .at the last general meeting this further sum was borrowed, hampering the boat with a debt of L1,000. At this crisis, at a very great personal expense, and at a greater sacrifice of domestic comfort, I set out for England to trespass upon my own immediate friends; and now return prepared to relieve the embarrassments of the boat, and am willing, in the face of representations that went to disparage the stock, to invest a much larger capital in the Canada; in doing which I confer a benefit upon the whole, and trust I give further proof of the sincerity of my professions, when I undertook the arduous task of getting up a Steamboat. But, Gentlemen, things have not gone as I wished, or as I intended; and, perhaps, I am the only person who will have property invested in this vessel to such an amount as to make it of vital importance that success should attend the adventure. Therefore, upon this ground, upon the ground of my being the projector of this vessel, upon the responsibility of my situation as Master, ostensible agent, and possessing owner, I most earnestly solicit your particular support to my appointment as managing owner of this vessel; and to that effect may I again solicit the most general attendance of the Stockholders at the meeting to be held on board the Canada the second of April. I am, Gentlemen, your very obedient and very humble servant, Hugh Richardson. York, 24th March, 1827."
In the Loyalist for May 5, 1827, we have him subscribing himself "Managing Owner," to the following notice: "The Canada British Steam-Packet, Capt. Hugh Richardson, leaves Niagara daily for York at 7 o'clock in the morning, and starts from York for Niagara every day at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. The Canada crosses the Lake -in the short space of four hours and a half, and affords travellers arriving at the Falls an expeditious and convenient opportunity of visiting the Capital of Upper Canada. Fare: Cabin passage, two dollars; Deck and Fore Cabin, one dollar. Passengers returning immediately with the boat will only pay half the above prices for the return. Hugh Richardson, Managing Owner. York, April 21, 1827."
In 1827 Capt. Richardson was the recipient of an honorary present of a Key Bugle. In the Loyalist of June 30, '27, we read the following card:- "Mr. Richardson takes this opportunity of acknowledging the receipt of a Key Bugle from the young gentlemen of York, accompanied by a letter expressive of their esteem and approbation of his conduct in the management of the Canada. In returning his sincere thanks for the above mark of their valued esteem and the high compliment paid him in the accompanying letter, he must look upon the warm and friendly colouring which they have been pleased to give to his conduct, as a picture drawn by the free and generous hand of youth, rather to emulate, than having semblance to the original. Nevertheless, his aim has ever been, and ever will be, to do credit to those who placed him where he is, and to support the character of a British seaman. York. 30th June, 1827."
From a preceding number of the Loyalist in this year we learn that on the 20th of April the mate of the Canada was accidentally drowned. The paper just mentioned says:- "George Reid, mate of the Steamboat Canada, was last night drowned by falling from the plank leading from the wharf to the vessel. It is painful to hear that the unfortunate man leaves a wife and five children to deplore his sudden loss."
The Loyalist of the 7th of that month says His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor and family left York for Stamford on Wednesday morning last, on board the Steamboat Queenston. His Excellency's departure was announced by a salute from the Garrison.
On May the 12th the Queenston has returned from Niagara, and meets with a casualty at York. The Loyalist of the 19th says: "The Steamboat Queenston met with an accident while lying at the wharf here on Saturday last. In raising the steam before proceeding to Niagara, the boiler was partially burst. The accident was not attended with any serious consequences. The Queenston was delayed until the following Thursday in making the necessary repairs, before she proceeded on her voyage."
In June this year (1827) the Niagara has been removed from the spot where she was run ashore last year, and is undergoing repairs at Kingston. In the Loyalist of June 16, 1827, we read: " We are happy to hear that the Steamboat Niagara has been got off the rocks near Long Point, and that she is now lying in the harbour at Kingston, undergoing repairs. She is stated to have received but little damage; and it was expected that in the course of a month she would commence her regular trips across the Lake."
In the Loyalist of May 26, 1827, we hear once more of the Frontenac. She is laid up, we are told, and a steamer to succeed her is to be built: " We are happy to hear," the Loyalist says, " that Captain McKenzie, late in command of the Frontenac (now laid up), has made arrangements for building a new boat, to be propelled by an engine of greater power than that of any other now navigating the Lake. The acknowledged ability of Capt. McKenzie while in command of the Frontenac, the regularity with which her trips were performed, and the attention he at all times bestowed to the comfort and convenience of his passengers, induce us to hope that the undertaking he has commenced will be speedily carried into effect."
In the Loyalist of June 9th, 1827, the Frontenac is offered for sale by auction at Kingston. In the advertisement, the historical machinists Boulton & Watt are named as the makers of her engine: "By Public Auction. Will be sold on Monday, the second of July next, at Kingston, as she now lays (sic) at the wharf, the Steamboat Frontenac, with her anchors, chain-cables, rigging, &c. Also the engine, of 50 horse power, manufactured by Messrs. Watt & Boulton. Sale to commence at 10 o'clock a.m., on board. For any further information application to made to Mr. Strange,Kingston, or to John Hamilton, Queenston. June 1, 1827."
Possibly no sale was effected, for we learn from the Loyalist of Sept. 1 that the Frontenac was to be removed to Niagara by Mr. Hamilton. The Loyalist copies from the Upper Canada Herald, published at Kingston, the following paragraph: "Yesterday the old Frontenac, under the care of R. Hamilton, Esq., left Kingston for Niagara, where, we understand, she is to be broken up. Mr. Hamilton is preparing materials for a new boat of about 350 tons.
We then gather from a Loyalist of Sept. 29, 1827, that while lying at the wharf at Niagara, the Frontenac was mischievously set fire to. The paper just named says: "The Messrs. Hamilton, proprietors of the Steamboat Frontenac, have offered a reward of L100 for the discovery of the persons who set fire to that vessel some time ago. The Frontenac, after being fired, was loosed from her moorings, and had drifted some distance into the Lake, when she was met by the NiagaraCapt. Mosier, who took her in tow, and succeeded in bringing her to the wharf at Niagara, where after some exertions the flames were extinguished."
As associated with Boulton & Watt's engine, spoken of above, we must mention the name of Mr. John Leys, for some years Capt. McKenzie's chief engineer on board the Frontenac. At the outset of steam navigation, men competent to superintend the working of the machinery of a steamboat were, of course, not numerous, and Captains were obliged in some degree to humour their chief engineer when they had secured the services of one. Capt. McKenzie, it would be said, was somewhat tyrannized over by Mr. Leys, who was a Scot, not very tractable - and the Frontenac's movements, times of sailing, and so on, were very much governed by a will in the hold, independent of that of the ostensible Commander. Mr. Leys, familiarly spoken of as Jock Leys, was long well known in York.
In July, 1827, the Queenston was engaged in the transfer of troops. In the Loyalist of July 21, 1827, we read: "Detachments of the 68th Regiment for Amherstburg, under the command of Captain North; Fort George, Captain Melville; and Penetanguishene, Ensign Medley, were on board the Queenston, and proceeded on Tuesday last to their several destinations. On Thursday the Queenston returned to York from Niagara, when the first division Of the 70th Regiment embarked to proceed to Lower Canada." In her next trip the Queenston brought more troops, and took more away. In the Loyalist of the 28th of July we read: " The first division of the 68th Regiment for this Garrison arrived by the Queenston on Tuesday, and on her return a second detachment of the 70th proceeded to Lower Canada. The exchanges are now we believe nearly completed," the Loyalist adds. In the number for August 4, the Queenston is once more spoken of as engaged in the conveyance of troops to and from York. "The head-quarter division of the 68th Regiment, under the command of Major Winniett, arrived on Tuesday morning, and on Thursday that of the 70th Regiment, under Lieut.-Colonel Evans, embarked on board the steamboat Queenston. During the short stay made by the 70th Regiment in this garrison," the Loyalist says, " their conduct has been such as to secure to them the same kind feelings which have been expressed towards them by the inhabitants of the towns in both Provinces where they have at different times been stationed. They are now on their return to their native country, after a long and honourable period of service in the Canadas, and they carry with them the best wishes of the inhabitants for their future welfare and prosperity." When thus announcing the departure of the 70th Regiment, the Loyalist adds: "We cannot but notice with pleasure the arrival of so distinguished a corps as the 68th amongst us." The standing advertisement of the Queenston for this year may be added: "Lake Ontario Steam-Boat Notice : The Public are informed that the Steam-Boat Queenston, Captain James Whitney, has commenced making her regular trips, and will during the summer leave the different Ports as follows : Leave Niagara for Kingston, Brockville, and Prescott, every Thursday morning at 8 o'clock precisely ; and leave Prescott on her return for Brockville, Kingston and York, every Sunday, at 12 o'clock, noon. Arrangements have been' made with Messrs. Norton and Co., Stage Proprietors, Prescott, by which passengers going down will arrive at Montreal on Saturday evening; and passengers proceeding upwards will, by leaving Montreal on Saturday morning, arrive at Prescott in time to take the Boat. Every endeavour has been made to render the accommodation and fare on board of the best description. Queenston, May 25, 1827."
In a Loyalist of this period we have a communication from Captain Richardson, of the Canada, giving an authentic account of the swamping of a small boat in the attempt to put a passenger on board his steamer in the Niagara river. This characteristic letter contains some excellent directions as to the proper method of boarding a steamer when under way.
"To the Editor of the U. E. Loyalist. - Sir, according to your request, and to prevent misrepresentation, I herewith furnish you with the particulars of the little accident that occurred to a Ferry Boat in Niagara River, in attempting to board the Canada. On Saturday last as the Canada passed the lower ferry, coming out of Niagara river, a boat put off with a passenger, and contrary to the rule laid down to admit of no delays after the hour of departure, I ordered the engine to be stopped, to take the passenger on board. The Ferryman, instead of rowing to the gangway of the Canada, pulled the boat stem on to her bow before the water wheel. The vessel going through the water, all possibility of retreat from that position was precluded, and the inevitable swamping of the boat ensued. Fortunately the engine was entirely stopped: the Ferryman had the good luck to get hold of the wheel and ascend by it. The passenger, after passing under it, clung to the floating skiff. No time was lost in going to his relief with the boats of the Canada, and both escaped uninjured. Any comment upon the impropriety of boarding a steam vessel before the water wheel would be absurd; but I may be allowed to advise this general rule to all persons going alongside of a steam vessel, viz. : always to board to leeward, never to attempt to cross her hawse, but to bring the boat's head round in the same direction with the vessel under way; row up on her lee quarter double oar's length distance, until abreast of the gangway; then gradually sheer alongside, keeping as much as possible in parallel line with the direction of the vessel you are boarding. I am, sir, your very obedient servant, Hugh Richardson, Master of the Canada."
A passage from Captain Richardson's"Report on the Preservation and Improvement of the Harbour," to which in 1854 a supplementary or extra premium of L75 was awarded by the Harbour Commissioners, may be quoted as a further example of the neat employment of a sailor's technical language. (He is arguing against cutting a canal into the Harbour at the Carrying Place, where the great irruption of the waters of the Lake subsequently took place.) "With wind at S. W., and stormy," he says, " (such a canal) would be valuable for exit, but for entrance from the east, every nautical man would prefer making a stretch out into the open Lake, weathering the Light at one long board, and rounding into the Harbour with a fair wind, to hauling through the Canal, coming in dead upon a lee shore, and having to beat up the Bay in short tacks." Some twenty years previously similar views had been expressed in a printed essay on York Harbour - a production in which, in his zeal for the well-being of the Bay, Captain Richardson said some hard things of the river Don, which we may here notice. The person who had uttered an imprecation on the North Pole, Sidney Smith pronounced capable of speaking evil next even of the Equator. Of what enormity of language must not the dwellers by the stream which pours its tribute into the Harbour of York, have thought Captain Richardson capable, when they heard him in his haste call that respectable stream "a monster of ingratitude," "an insidious monster," "the destroying cancer of the Port?" "From the moment that the peninsula raised its protecting head above the waters, and screened the Don from the surges of the Lake, the Don." Captain Richardson says, " like a monster of ingratitude, has displayed such destructive industry as to displace by its alluvial disgorgings by far the greater part of the body of water originally enclosed by the peninsula. The whole of the marsh to the East, once deep and clear water, is," he asserts, "the work of the Don, and in the Bay of York, where now its destructive mouths are turned, vegetation shews itself in almost every direction, prognosticating" as he speaks, "the approaching conversion of this beautiful sheet of water into another marshy delta of the Don." Fothergill, too, in an address to the Electors of the County of Durham, in 1826, indulges in a fling at the river which pays its tribute to the Harbour of York. After quoting some strong words of the elder Pitt in the British House of Commons on the subject of public robbery and national plunder, he adds: "Perhaps the very quoting of such language will be deemed treasonable within the pestilential range of the vapours of the marsh of the great Don, and of the city of many waters," meaning York, the head-quarters of the Government. But the Don, the poor unconscious object of all this invective, is in reality no more to blame than is the savage because he is a savage, not having had a. chance to be anything else. In proceeding to lay the foundation of a delta of solid land at its mouth, the Don followed the precedent of other streams, in conformity with the physical conditions of its situation. When at length the proper hour arrived, and the right men appeared, possessed of the intelligence, the vigour and the wealth equal to the task of bettering nature by art on a considerable scale, then at once the true value and capabilities of the Don were brought out into view. Speedily then were its channel and outlet put to their proper and foreordained use, being transformed by means of cribwork and embankments into a convenient interior harbour for Toronto, an arrangement of high importance to the interests of a now populous quarter, where some of the most striking developments of business activity and manufacturing enterprise that the capital of Ontario can boast of, have been witnessed."
In July, 1827, the Canada met with an accident. She broke her main shaft on the Lake. The Loyalist of the 4th of August says : "We regret to state that the steam-boat Canada, while crossing the Lake from Niagara on Tuesday last, unfortunately broke her main shaft. The accident we hope is not of such a nature as to deprive us any great length of time of the convenience which that excellent Boat has afforded us of daily communication with Niagara." In the paper of August 18th it is announced that the Canada is all right again. "The Canada, we are happy to state, has again commenced making her usual trips to Niagara: she left the Harbour yesterday afternoon." Towards the close of the season we have a record of the brave buffetings of this vessel with an easterly gale on the Lake. " On Monday last," says the Loyalist of the 27th October, "we were visited by one of those violent gales of easterly wind, accompanied with torrents of rain, not unusual at this season of the year. The Steam-Boat Canada, at 10 o'clock in the morning, when there was an appearance of the storm moderating, left the Niagara river for York. She had not proceeded far on her voyage however, when the gale increased with greater violence than before, and in a short time both her masts were carried away, and some damage done to her chimney. Fortunately her engine remained uninjured, and enabled her at about five in the afternoon to reach the wharf in safety. The Canada has made some of her trips in the most boisterous weather, and deservedly bears the name of an excellent sea boat. She suffered no delay from the damage she had sustained, and left the Harbour the following morning for Niagara. The weather since Monday continues boisterous and cold."
On December 1st, the Loyalist announces that " the Canada Steam Boat made her last trip from Niagara on Tuesday, and is now laid up for the winter." In the following spring, on the 27th of March, she takes over Sir Peregrine Maitland. " His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor and family left York," says the Loyalist of March 29, 1828, "on Thursday morning for Stamford. His Excellency embarked on board the Canada Steam Packet under a salute from the Garrison." A communication from the Captain appears in the Loyalist of the 12th of April, having reference to this trip. He replies to some strictures in the Colonial Advocate on some alleged exclusiveness exhibited by Sir Peregrine while crossing the Lake in the Canada. "Having observed in the Colonial Advocate of the 3rd of April, under the head of Civilities, that His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor engaged the whole of the two cabins of the Canada for himself and family, and would not allow even the Members of Assembly who were returning home to go over that day, except as deck passengers, I have to declare the same an impudent falsehood. His Excellency having condescended to intimate to me his desire to remove his family and household as early as possible, I hastened the equipment of the Canada expressly on His Excellency's account, contrary to my intentions, and the requisite delay for outfit until 1st April. To all applications for passage on the day fixed for His Excellency's embarkation I replied, I considered the vessel at His Excellency's orders. The moment His Excellency came on board, and understood that I was excluding passengers, I received His Excellency's orders to take on board every passenger that wished to embark. The only further intimation I received of His Excellency's pleasure was, on my application to know if I should stop at Niagara, I received for answer that His Excellency had no desire to stop there, but if I wished it, it could make no difference to His Excellency. Born and bred under a Monarchical Government, educated in the discipline of a British seaman, I have not yet learned the insolence of elbowing a desire (in right, an order) of the Representative of my Sovereign, by an impertinent wish of my own. I have only to say that as long as I command the Canada, and have a rag of colour to hoist, my proudest day will be when it floats at her mast-head indicative of the presence and commands of the Representative of my King. Hugh Richardson, Master and Managing Owner of the Canada Steam-Packet. April 11th, 1828. P.S. Perhaps Dr. Lefferty being a Member on the right side, who embarked on board the Canada, and who did me the honour of a call a night or two before, for information, may confirm this."
Captain Richardson, as we can see, was a man of chivalrous temperament. His outward physique, moreover, corresponded with his character. His form was lithe, graceful and officer-like. It was not alone when the Governor of the Province happened to be present that established distinctions in society were required to be observed on board the Canada steam-packet. At all times he was particular on this point. This brought him into collision occasionally with democratically disposed spirits, especially from the opposite side of the Lake; but he did not scruple to maintain his rules by main force when extreme measures were necessary, calling to his aid the stout arms of a trusty crew.
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This transcription is available with the co-operation of the Archives and Collections Society.