During this wait we whiled away the time by seeing football played in seas of mud, and half lost in fogs, women by the thousands with heads uncovered except when they pulled their shawls over them, and children innumerable with feet entirely bare. Poor kiddies how they suffered when on one day there was a fall of snow. Such snow, damp, heavy clots, which moistened as they touched anything, exuding cold, and slobbering over the stone pavements.
The children wrapped their red frosted feet with rags, or bits of carpet, to keep them off the stones, while their elders hunched themselves together and shivered. No wonder these people feared the snow and cold of Canada, for they thought that if they felt such suffering in a temperature only just at the freezing point, what must it be when the thermometer went below zero.
Yet did they only know it, as many have since learned, the dry salt-like winter snow of Canada is pleasant for the children to play in, and the sensation of cold not to be measured by the figures on the thermometer. It is the dampness which brings the suffering, which, needing to be met by heat from within, inclines to the suggestion, expressed by some, that whiskey is a natural beverage for Scotland. That it is a usual one I learned in actual experience.
In our "steamboat samplings" we had made a trip through the "Kyles of Bute" and to Tarbert, where we took carriage across the Mull of Cantire to the outer sea. Stopping for lunch at a neat little inn about half way
across. The mid-day meal was being served in a large room with one long table down the centre. At this all the company sat, one, apparently a commercial traveller, occupying the seat at the head and doing the carving. A large open fireplace with glowing fire gave comfort and pleasant radiance.
The one maid, a cheery looking young girl, did all the serving and was busy in her attentions to the guests. When she had got them all served I asked her, as she passed by, if she would please get me a cup of tea. Pausing for a moment she gave me a searching look and then without speaking passed on. A little while later I again caught her attention and suggesting that perhaps she had not understood me, said that I would like to have a cup of tea. Bending forward over me with a puckering of the forehead she said abruptly, "Where do ye coom frae?" "From Canada," I answered.
I didn't so I'm afraid Canada fell greatly in her estimation. The contracts were at length completed and we hastened for home, taking the Guion LineAlaska as the fastest ship on the Atlantic. She held the "record" for the then fastest passage, 6 days, 21 hours, 40 minutes from Queenston to New York.
We had a frightful passage, during one 24 hours making only 52 miles. When the captain of a first-class Atlantic liner enters on his log, as ours did next day, dangerous sea," one may feel satisfied that something unusual had been going on.
Construction of the new steamer was begun early in April in the yards of the H. W. Rathbun Company, at Deseronto on the Bay of Quinte, there being then no other shipyard on the shores of Lake Ontario. The facilities here were excellent, in convenience of access by rail to the waterside, and in complete iron and wood-working factories for the cabin construction.
In the early part of the season of 1887 the New York Central completed the extension of its tracks to the shore line at Lewiston, just above the steamer dock. The relief to the traffic was welcome and immediate. The passengers were saved the weary jolting for the mile and a half transfer through enveloping dust, or of red bespattering mud, according to the varying conditions of the weather, and the through time between Niagara Falls and the steamer was also much shortened.
Ever since the branch railway had emerged from the Gorge this trial of temper and nerves had continued just in the same state as it had when Lewiston was the focus centre for the quickest routes to Rochester,Ogdensburgh, and to Albany and New York, via Lake Champlain, and the only route to Toronto,Kingston and Montreal.
At length, after a meritorious service of so many years, their duty being over, the lumbering old Transfer Coaches, which looked as though they had never felt another coat of paint since their first, were consigned to the retirement of broken bottles and old tins. No traces of them are now to be found. There are, however, some notable memorials still left in the old town of its earliest days of tourist and travel activities.
On the old road between Lewiston and the dock, once traversed by the transfer coaches, and part of the main road from Batavia when the village was known as "Lewis-Town," is the "Frontier House," built in 1825, and for many years considered the "finest hotel west of Albany." It was once the stopping place of many early celebrities, and with its broad stoop and great pillars is still a very prominent building. The residence of Captain Van Cleve, one of the earliest navigators on the lakes, and who sailed from the port on the Martha Ogden, is on the hillside not far from the present terminus of the railway.
At last the railway and the steamers had been brought alongside. This facility of interchange, and the shortening of the schedule time much improved the volume of traffic in both directions and a start was made which indicated that, when made more fully known to the general public, would justify the expenditures being made by both the railway and the steamer interests.
A new era was being opened for the Niagara River route. We had brought about the first steps, had taken part in the bringing of the railways and the river together, and now were to add the new steamer.
It was conceded that the name must begin with a "C," and end with "A," and not exceeding eight letters in length, so that proper balance in advertising display might be preserved. A good deal of public interest was taken in the matter and many names suggested.
The members, both male and female, of the two families interested in the company, were invited by Hon. Frank Smith, to dine at "Rivermount," his residence on Bloor street. We sat down about twenty-five in number, being all the adult members of the Frank Smith,Foy and Cumberland connections, and at a splendid repast good fortune to the new steamer was heartily toasted.
I had had some twenty posters printed in the same size and wording as we then used for street advertising purposes. On each of these was displayed the name Chicora together with one of the new names which had been suggested. These posters were then set in a line along one side of the spacious hall, so that the exact effect of the contiguity of file two names could be seen.
After dinner a sort of Dutch auction was held. The adherents of each name stated the reasons for their preference, promoting some arousing discussion. Each of the posters was then voted on in succession and with varying majorities ordered down until finally the one with Chicora and Cibola gained the preference.
There would seem good reason for this selection, for in addition to the suitability in appearance and euphony of the two names, a very interesting historical connection between them had been unearthed in the archives and annals in the beginning of Spanish-American history, after following up the exploits of Pizzaro in South America.
The early Spaniards had made a foothold in the island of Cuba.Ponce-de-Leon had visited the shores of Florida, but it was not until 1539 that Hernando-de-Soto, heading an expedition from the Island established the first permanent occupation upon the mainland for the Spanish nation.
A settlement was formed and a fortress built at Ste. Augustine, Spanish influence thereafter gradually extended around the northern shores of the Gulf of Mexico toward the Mississippi and inland through the intervening
Somewhere about the year 1580 a coterie of these venturesome ones carried over with them to Spain a party of the native Indians including among them the principal Chief of the Chicora Indians, the occupants of the country between Florida and the river. These they presented at their sovereign's court as visible evidences of their travellings and enterprises.
In those early days of discovery on this Western hemisphere, and for long years afterwards, it is noticeable in how lordly a manner the Sovereigns and Magnates of Europe parcelled out the new found territories, making wholesale grants of land to their own followers with or out the leave of the original Indian occupants. In this case the representative Chief was present. The King created him "Don Francisco de Chicora," and a grant was combined to his introducers of all the country lying adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico, on the far side of the Mississippi.
Returning with this authority the Spaniards extended their enterprises to their new opportunities. As they advanced westward they found on the terraces of the great plains, and on the foothills of the Mountain ranges, the countless "Cibolos," or Buffalo, ranging in mighty bands over the nature pastures.
It was in consequence of this that when giving a name to the new Province which was being added to their previous domain, they named it "Cibola," "the Buffalo country." This name is still preserved by a ranching hamlet in a part of that territory now in the State of Texas.
As another steamer was to be added in partnership with Chicora "the pretty flower," what more appropriate name could we give to her than that of "Cibola," "the Buffalo," in reminiscence of the old time territorial expansion.
So Cibola it was to be. There was also a further propriety in the selection that this "Buffalo boat" was to be one of the line of steamers which were to form the greatly improved connection between Toronto, and the great and modern city of Buffalo.
On 1st of November the steamer was successfully launched in the presence of a large party brought down by special train from Toronto, the name Cibola being given, and the traditional bottle of champagne smashingly broken on the bow, by Miss Constance Cumberland, the youngest sister of the Vice-President, and who subsequently married Mr. A. Foy, a brother of the Manager.
The firms engaged on the construction were:- Designer, Robert Morton,Glasgow-; steel hull, Dalzell Co.,Dalzell, Scotland; erection of hull, W. White & Co., Montreal; marine engines, Rankin Blackmore & Co., Greenock; woodwork, Rathbun Co.,Deseronto; interior mahogany and decoration, Wm. Wright & Co.,Detroit; electric lighting, Edison Co.,New York.
The steamer Hastings was chartered to make the early trips from Niagara and late from Toronto, and to carry the increasing fruit business. We had acquired the rights of the International Ferry between Queenston and Lewiston and chartered the small steamer Kathleen to perform the service and to transfer passengers to the main line steamers.
A new excursion feature in connection with the extension of their line was introduced by the New York Central by "shuttle trains" with observation cars run frequently between the Falls and Lewiston. These cars were open on the side next the river and the passenger seats set lengthwise, facing the view, were raised in tiers one above the other, securing an unimpeded view of the scenery of the wonderful rapids and Niagara Gorge.
Business at Queenston, where we had improved the dock, was much increased, due to our working up the excursions which were rendered more attractive by the great improvements made by the Queen Victoria Niagara Park Commissioners in the park upon the Queenston Heights and around Brock's Monument.
During the winter of 1887-88 the cabin work had proceeded assiduously on Cibola. During this period we came much into personal contact with Mr. E. W. Rathbun, the head of the Rathbun Co., and, one might say, the physical embodiment of Deseronto and of everything within its borders. In the prime of life, genial, incisive, he was the focus centre of vibrant energies.
He was interested in every public and benevolent project in the vicinity and although not himself entering into parliamentary duties, his opinion was much sought and valued in political development. With intense devotion to his work, and much continuous strain on his energies it was not to he wondered that his years were not many.
A small party of friends had cone down for the trip up, among them Alderman John Baxter, of Toronto a genial soul, whose girth was not far from equalling his height, he was the very embodiment of merriment and was a most excellent singer. As the most elderly member we dubbed him The Chaplin, although perhaps he was not the most sedate. Mr. Ross Hayter, a Tea Planter cousin, lately come from Assam, and who was the first to introduce Indian package tea to Canada, was installed as the Doctor, and Mr. Gus. Foy brother of Mr. John Foy, ably acted as Steward.
As each rounded point, and changing turn of this island-studded channel came in view one could not but recall that along these waters once came from Montreal, and Cataraqui, the fleet of canoes carrying the families of the Six Nations Indians to the new homes, which had been given them by the British Government, to replace those in the State of New York, which they had lost by their local adherence to the King's cause during the War of the Revolution. One party under Chief Deseronto had determined to stop at a reservation which had been selected on the shores of the Bay of Quinte. Before leaving Catarqui, the communion service which had been given to their ancestors by Queen Anne in 1712, for their chapel in the Mohawk Valley in the Colony of New York, had been divided between the bands, the larger share being given to the more numerous party under Chief Brant, which separating from their Deseronto companions went onward up Lake Ontario to their reservation upon the banks of the Grand River.
These were the United Empire Loyalists, descendants of the British pioneers and settlers who had founded the English colonies in America, but who having fought on the King's side in the Revolution were driven out of their homes and their property confiscated, but who chose; rather than foreswear their allegiance, to come north into the forests of Canada where they could live beneath the British flag under which they and their fathers had been born.
Chicora and Cibola together carried the troops to camp and performed the services of the route for 1888. The leaving times from Toronto were 7 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m., 4.45 p.m., the Chicora taking the morning trip from Lewiston.
This was a very considerable increase, being in fact a doubling of the previous service, and although the traffic did not at first justify it, the trade soon began to show signs of building up, the new steamer proving herself a valuable addition by her higher speed, larger capacity for passengers and with running expenses practically the same.
The arrangements for the militia at the camp at Niagara in these early days were in the charge of Lt.-Col. Robert Denison, one of the Denison family, who have taken so large a part in the military annals of the country, and an uncle of Lt.-Col. George T. Denison.
Col. "Bob" as he was most frequently called, was the Brigade Major for the Western District with his headquarters in the "Old Fort" at Toronto in the original "Officers Quarters" building which had been military headquarters for the Province since 1813. This old building is still in existence and is to be preserved as part of the restoration of the Old Fort.
Unconventional and breezy in his ways, he used, referring to the fact that he had entirely lost one eye, to say that he "had a single eye to Her Majesty's Service," and sitting straddled, as was his habit, on a four-legged saddle shaped sort of seat that "he was always in the saddle, ready for a call to action."
The Observation Train service of the New York Central Railway increased much in importance as also the transfer between Lewiston and Queenston. A smart little steamer was purchased to specially fill these services.
The "Relations des Jesuits" are the reports sent back to France between 1616 and 1672 by the devoted Jesuit priests who had come over in the early French Regime and worked among the Indians for their Christianization. Much information is given in these conditions among the tribes, and concerning the geography of the country.
One of these, Pere Lallement, reports that in 1642 an "Onguiaara" tribe of Indians were living between the two lower lakes on a river bearing the same name as the tribe. Later on the Great Falls on this river are mentioned as the "Ongiara Cataractes." This name of Ongiara, which was the earliest by which the river was known among the Indians, has since been transmuted by the whites into its present name Niagara.
We therefore named the little steamer Ongiara as being appropriate to the history of her surroundings, and to her duties between the original portage routes of Indian and historic periods at the landings at Lewiston and Queenston.
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This volume is copyright The Estate of Ivan S. Brookes and is published with permission of the Estate. The originals are deposited in the Special Collections of the Hamilton Public Library.