Chapter 15
The Canadian Electric to Queenston - An Old Portage Route Revived - History of the Two Portages - The Trek to the Western States - Chippewa Arrives - Notable Passenger Men.

Table of Contents

Title Page
Publisher's Note.
1 The First Eras of Canoe and Sail.
2 The First Steamboats on Lake Ontario and the Niagara River.
3 More Steamboats and Early Water Routes. The River the Centre of Through Travel.
4 Expansion of Steamboating on the Niagara - Its Decline - A Final Flash and a Move to the North.
5 On the Upper Lakes with the Wolseley Expedition and Lord Dufferin.
6 A Novel Idea and a New Venture - Buffalo in Sailing Ship Days - A Risky Passage.
7 Down Through the Welland - The Miseries of Horse Towing Times - Port Dalhousie and a Lake Veteran - The Problem Solved - Toronto at Last.
8 The Niagara Portal - History of Names at Newark and Niagara - A Winter of Changes - A New Rivalry Begun.
9 First Season of the Niagara Navigation Co. - A Hot Competition - Steamboat Manoeuvres.
10 Change Partner - Rate Cutting and Racing - Hanlan and Toronto Waterside - Passenger Limitation Introduced.
11 Niagara Camps Formed - More Changes and Competition - Beginnings of Railroad in New York State - Early Passenger Men and Passenger Ways.
12 First Railways at Lewiston - Expansion Required - The Renown of the "Let Her B" - A Critic of Plimsoll.
13 Winter and Whiskey in Scotland - Rail and Steamer Alongside at Lewiston - How "Cibola" got Her Name - On the Route - The U. E. Loyalists - Ongiara Added.
14 Running the Blockade on the Let Her B. - As Told by her Captain-Owner.
15 The Canadian Electric to Queenston - An Old Portage Route Revived - History of the Two Portages - The Trek to the Western States - Chippewa Arrives - Notable Passenger Men.
16 "Cibola" goes; "Corona" Comes - The Gorge Electric Railway openss to Lewiston - How the Falls Cut their way back through the Rocks - Royal Visitors - The Decisiveness of Israel Tarte.
17 Cayuga Adds her Name - Niagara and Hamilton Joined - The Niagara Ferry Completed - Ice James on the River - Once More the United Management from "Niagara To The Sea."
Table of Illustrations

No wonder that after his recital of her prowess, much as we had esteemed the bonnie ship, we now thought all the more of her, for as in the times of her previous owners, so now in ours, there appeared to be a sort of living sprite within her frames, evidencing a spirit of life, and consciousness, as that of a fond friend, as well as a faithful servant. Perhaps it is this very affection which arises between a man and his ship that has led to all vessels being spoken of in the feminine, and familiarly as "she." Perhaps, however it may be that it comes from their kittenish "kittly-cattly" ways, for you never know what a vessel will do, until you have tried her.

1890 brought us still further on the way to success. The business was fast increasing, under the more frequent services and the spread of advertising, and solicitation. So much was this the case that the possibility of placing another steamer on the route began to be debated, not only by ourselves, but by other people who were looking on.

A small American steamer had been running between Lewiston and Youngstown, and there was some talk of putting on another. Rumors also spoke of an electric line to be built between these points to more closely connect the troops of the American Garrison at Fort Niagara with the forces of the State of New York. We thought, therefore, it would be as well to obtain the dock at Youngstown, to which rail connections could he made, and also to create an American company, under which American steamers could be owned and operated by us, should it at any time be thought well to do so.

The "Niagara River Navigation Co., Limited," was then formed under a charter obtained from the State of New York, and the stock subscribed and paid up by members of the Niagara Navigation Co. families, the Board being,- John Foy, President; Barlow Cumberland, Vice President, and three gentlemen of Buffalo, directors.

The Youngstown Dock , which had been privately purchased, and is the dock down to which the railway track of 1885 ran, was taken over by this American company, and some people, whom it had been suggested might put on American steamers to run in competition with the Niagara Navigation Company, were informed that we were empowered, and quite ready to meet them under their own condition, so they drew in their horns and nothing more was heard of the matter.

A policy was formulated which has ever since been maintained, of adding steamers as the traffic, and new developments showed might be required and to add them even in advance of actual requirements.

From the position of its ports, and the variable requirements of the connecting lines, the Niagara River Line can be best handled by one stable company, in full control of docks at all the landing places, and with a number of steamers sufficient to meet all possible emergencies of sudden demands of travel as they arrive at different times on the several railway connections on both sides of the lake. The very flexibility of the service ensures adequate provision to keep the largest excursion business moving without delay, and with convenience from whatever quarter or connection it may at any hour come.

In 1891 Captain McGiffin was promoted to command of Cibola in succession to Captain McCorquodale, who after having given fullest satisfaction and faithful service, had died during the previous season. Captain W. H. Solmes, of Picton, was now appointed to Chicora.

In this year began the project for the construction of the Niagara Falls Park and River Railway on the Canadian side, following the bank of the river from Niagara Falls to Queenston and being the first electric railway to be built in this vicinity on either side of the river.

Electrical traction was then in its infancy. No better evidence of this can be given than the fact that although the Canadian Electric Railway Company had ample surplus power in their development at the Horseshoe Falls, yet the electrical engineers of the day, reported that the cost of wiring and the loss in transmission of power for the only seven miles to Queenston, would be prohibitive to commercial economy. An additional equipment for development of electricity by steam was therefore installed on the river side at Queenston to help the power current from the Falls in operating the cars up the zig-zag to the top of Queenston Heights.

This power house is shown in the view taken from the Heights and continued to be used until 1898, when the improvements in electrical transmission enabled it to be abandoned and full power brought from the company's water power house at the Falls.

The zig-zag series of curves by which the double track railway winds its way up the face of the Niagara escarpment from the dock to the summit at Brock's Monument is considered one of the achievements of Mr. Jennings, who was the engineer for the construction of this Canadian Power and Electrical R.R. Company, and had previously done some notable work for the Canadian Pacific Railway on the Fraser River and Rocky Mountain sections. As the cars wind up and approach the summit, a splendid and far distant landscape is opened to the view, one which the Duke of Argyle considered to be one of the "worthy views of the world." Below are the terraces and color-chequered fields of the vineyards, the peach and fruit orchards of this "Garden of Canada." Through these variegated levels the Niagara River curves in its silvered sheen to Lake Ontario where the blue waters close in the far horizon.

From Queenston Heights this electric railway skirts the edges of the cliffs above the great gulf in the depths of which the Niagara rapids toss and foam and then circling around the sullen swirlings of the fatal Whirlpool, lands the tourist within the spray of the great Cataract itself.

Our ownership of the dock and the waterfront at Queenston, purchased so many years before, now proved its foresight and facilitated the making of arrangements with the new Electric Railway for an interchange of business. As a result it was now determined that a fourth steamer should be added to the Niagara River Line, anal thus provision was made for the new connection and the increased business which would arise from its introduction.

This new connection apparently to the river was, after all, but the revival of the old Portage Route on the Canadian side, which had so long existed between Chippawa and the head of navigation at this point, but not exactly on the same location and had passed away upon the diversion of business to other routes.

As the steamer lies at the Queenston Dock, the eye naturally sweeps upward over the cedar clad slopes of the Niagara escarpment escarpment toward the striking monument which crowns its heights. The reminiscences are those of martial strife, when on the 13th of October, 1812, contestants met in mortal conflict. In fancy we can see the foemen moving upon the slopes, the American forces gain the Heights, the heroic General Brock leads his men in bold attack to regain possession, and falls at their head mortally wounded. Reinforcements under General Sheaffe come from the west along the summit of the cliffs, the contest is renewed; Indians are seen gleaming among the trees, they drive the invaders over the brink to fall into the rapids below, and at length the American forces with two Generals and seven Hundred men lay down their arms and are taken prisoners. Rut there are other phases much more ancient of this head of navigation and its portages.

Under the hill there can be discerned beneath the shadow of the Height the old road leading up from the lower level of the dock to the upper level upon which, what is left of the Town of Queenston stands. It is marked and scarred with the ruts of many decades and full of memories. Upon these slopes the Indian made his way to the waterside at the Chippewa creek. Here came the trappers with their bales of furs brought down from the far North-West. Here came the voyageur traders of France with beads and gew-gaws for barter with the Indians, and later the English with blankets and firearms.

In the earliest days two portages were available, one on each side of the river, but during the French period and for long, long after the one on the east side from Lewiston was mainly used, its terminus at Lake Erie being called Petite Niagara as distinctive from the great Fort Niagara at its lower end.

With the end of the war of the Revolution, Capt. Alexander Campbell of the 12th Regiment, was sent by Lord Dorchester to report on the portages. In reporting in 1794 he mentions that the American portage was at a steep bank just below the rapids, to the foot of which the batteaux were poled with difficulty and the contents raised by winch and hawser to the upper level some 60 feet above. On the Canadian side at Queenston the eddy was more favorable and there were, he said, four vessels waiting to be unloaded and sixty waggons working on the portage. In consideration of the expected transfer of Fort Niagara he thought it would be better to improve the mouth of the Chippewa Creek and adopt the all-Canadian side instead of sending up supplies on the Fort Niagara side to Schlosser to be boated across to Fort Erie.

Mr. Robert Hamilton, afterwards Hon. Robert, sized up the situation and built a new dock and storehouse on what afterwards turned out to be Government property at the Chippaway River. He had early appreciated the value of the portage and had established a large transfer business across it. Becoming the chief personage of the neighborhood he had in 1789 changed the name of its northern terminus to Queenston instead of the West Landing by which it had previously been known.

With these increased facilities and to his own great profit he in time secured the bulk of the portage trade.

In 1800 John Maude mentions that three schooners and 14 teams were lying at the dock at Queenston on one day, and that from 60 to 60 teams a day passed over the Portage, the rate for freight being 20 pence New York currency per hundred pounds between Queenston and Chippewa.

When the great trek from Maine and Massachusetts began to the Western States of Michigan and Illinois, this Queenston road was mostly taken by the wandering land seekers, it being adopted by them then as the short cut across the Peninsula to the Detroit River instead of the long detour along the south shores of Lake Erie, just as at present the Michigan Central,Wabash and Grand Trunk Railways cross from the Falls on this shortest route to the west.

The waggons with their horses, having come to Lewiston from Albany and Rochester by the Ridge Road, were placed upon the batteaux to cross the river, and although at first carried far down by the current on the eastern ride were easily taken by the eddy up the west shore to the landing place at Queenston. Up this inclined road to the upper tier, in imagination one can see the lines of immigrants, with their teams and canvas topped wagons, in long extended line seeking the far West for their new homes and great adventures.

So great was the traffic in this direction that, in 1836 a "horse boat" was employed on the ferry and the first Suspension Bridge at Queenston was promoted in 1839 to accommodate the movement from the East towards the West. At present except when a Niagara Navigation Co. steamer is alongside, all is so quiet it seems scarcely possible that this landing place could at one time have been the centre of such busy movement.

The re-opening revived also the memories of an oft told narrative of a little family, which years before had arrived over the portage route, at this same dock at Queenston, and made their first acquaintance with the Niagara River and its navigation.

Mr. Fred W. Cumberland, our late Director, and his wife had come to the opinion that the position which the held on the Engineering Staff, in Her Majesty's dockyard at Portsmouth, did not represent such a future as they could desire, and therefore they determined to emigrate to Canada. In the spring of 1847 they took passage on a sailing ship, bringing with them their ten-months-old baby. After a voyage of six weeks they reached New York, from where they came by Hudson River steamer to Albany, where they spent the night. From here they came by steam railroad at the unexpected speed of "twenty miles an hour." And again, as was usual, for there were no night trains, broke their journey and stayed over night at Syracuse, 171 miles, where there was a fine large hotel, and the following day leaving 8.00 a.m., arrived at Buffalo at 9.00 p.m. Leaving Buffalo next morning they came by steamer down the Niagara River to Chippawa, where they took the "horse railroad" for Queenston to join the steamer for Toronto.

The terminus at Queenston of the horse railroad was at the end of the "stone road," near the hotel above the road leading down to the steamer. Just when arrived at this, the car went off the track, and while Mr. Cumberland was endeavoring to extract their belongings, Mrs. Cumberland, the baby, and a young clergyman, the Rev. G. Salter, who had crossed the Atlantic on the same ship with them, were carried off on the steamer for Toronto, and the father was left behind. It was amusingly told, how, after they had landed at the foot of Church Street, and were walking up into the town, Mr. Salter, who had been consigned to an appointment under the Rev. Dr. John Strachan, then Bishop of Toronto, wondered what his Bishop would say if he should chance to meet his new curate with another man's wife and carrying a baby as he entered his Diocese. The baby was Barlow Cumberland, who then made his first steamboating on the Niagara River, on which he was afterwards to be so actively engaged.

It was determined that the new steamer should be a further advance in size and equipment to prepare for the increased traffic now to be fed from both sides of the river. Additional capital was therefore required, of which part was provided by the Niagara Company, and part by the introduction of new stockholders, including Mr. E. B. Osler, and Mr. William Hendrie.

Here, in 1892, the purely family relationship of the first members of the Company closed, the stock holdings being more widely spread and the Board increased from five members to seven.

The services of Mr. Frank Kirby, of Detroit, the most accomplished designer of passenger steamers, were engaged, the plans made, the tenders of the Hamilton Bridge & Shipbuilding Co. accepted for the hull, boilers and upperworks, and the engines contracted for with W. Fletcher Co., of New York, the builders of the fastest marine engines on the Hudson and the Upper Lakes. Mr. Geo. H. Hendrie left the next day for Scotland to arrange for the materials.

Cibola, Capt. McGiffin, and Chicora, Capt. Solmes, conducted the season 1892 with good success. Work on the new steamer was commenced at Hamilton.

The CHIPPEWA in Toronto Harbour.
Again the question of a new name arose, and this time, it was considered that, the name should still be Indian. but of Canadian origin. Thus the name Chippewa was selected as that of a renowned Canadian tribe of Indians which had flourished in the Niagara River District, and also as a renewal of the name of H.M. sloop Chippewa, upon which General Brock had sailed on Lake Erie. It will be noted that the name is not that of the village and postoffice of Chippawa, but is spelled with an "e," being that of the Indian tribe. A fine carving of a Chippewa Chieftain's head, taken from Catlin's collection of Indian portraits, is placed on the centre of each paddle box, similarly as a rampant Buffalo had previously been paced on those of the Cibola. On May, 1893, the steamer was successfully launched in the presence of many of the cititownsman, Mr. William Hendrie, and of a number of visitors from Buffalo,Toronto and Montreal. The name was given and the bottle gallantly broken by Miss Mary Osler, daughter of Mr. E. B. Osler, and Miss Mildred Cumberland, daughter of Mr. Barlow Cumberland.Chippewa, the Indian Chief, was the first of our vessels to be constructed of steel. Her tonnage is 1,574 tons. Length, 311 feet; beam, 36, and is authorized to carry 2,000 passengers in lake service. The interior arrangements were more convenient and spacious than any previously, and an innovation was the addition of a hurricane deck, upon which ample space for passengers is provided. The Chippewa had satisfactorily passed through her trial trips, and in May, 1894, the steamer, completed in every respect, sailed from Hamilton to take up her station on the Niagara Route. A goodly number of railway and steamboating officials and friends were on board under the leadership of Sir Frank Smith.

Our steamers were that year running from Geddes' (now the City) Dock, as we had again, for the fourth time, been turned out of Milloys.Mr. William Fletcher, the builder of the engines, had come up from New York and was in charge of the motive department. It was a Saturday afternoon. Chicora was occupying the face of the dock, so Chippewa had to come in on the west side. By some mischance she was not stopped soon enough and made her entry into Toronto by driving her nose some five or six feet into the wooden timber of the side of the Esplanade. The steamer seemed scarcely in motion, yet cut into the heavy timbers as though they had been matches. When backed out no damage was done excepting the loss of a little paint on the bow. The party landed, the Buffalo and New York visitors with Mr. Fletcher going off on Chicora amid hearty exchange of greetings.

Sir Thomas Lipton on CHICORA.
The introduction of a third boat on the Main Line made an exceeding difference in the frequency of the services, and again was at first a good deal in excess of the demand, or of business offering.

A new trip was introduced by the Chicora leaving Toronto at 9 a.m., staying over at Lewiston and returning in the afternoon, making one round trip. The whole departure being five trips; 7.00 a.m., 9.00 a.m, 11.00 a.m., 2.00 p.m., 4.45 p.m. This 9.00 a.m. trip was not a success during its early years, but gradually gained in importance.

Chippewa (Capt. McGiffin), Cibola (Capt. W. H. Solmes), Chicora (Capt. Jas. Harbottle), closed the season of 1894, in which much more activity was produced, and good evidences given of growth to be expected in the future.

In effecting its growth the route continued to be exceedingly assisted by the energies and assistance of the connecting Railway Company's officers. Mr. D. M. Kendrick had succeeded to Mr. Meeker, and he in turn, in 1887, followed by Mr. Henry Monett. A most notable advance was begun during this regime, an entirely new idea being evolved. The reputation of the New York Central Railway for the regularity and character of its trains and service had been well created, but up to that time the Erie Railway, by persistent advertising, had been established in the minds of the public as "the only scenic" route between Buffalo and New York.Mr. Monett instituted a series of descriptive and illustrative announcements developing the Mohawk Valley, through which the New York Central runs, as being "the really most beautiful" route, passing through the scenery of the romantic valley of the Mohawk and the mountain heights of the Hudson with all the advantages of "a water-level line" following the coursings of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers, and so giving a perfect night's rest.

It was a novelty and an inducement which caught the public idea, and added attraction to efficient service.

Owing to the early death of Mr. Monett in 1888, Mr. E. J. Richards followed as Acting General Passenger Agent to 1889, with his intimate knowledge of the passenger requirements he gathered in and secured the business which Mr. Monett's methods had begun to attract. During his period Cibola was added to our line.

With the career of his successor Mr. George H. Daniels, (1889 to 1905) there was a still further expansion of the advertising method of attracting business to the great railway, whose train service was of the highest development. The celebrated pamphlets known as the "Four Track" series under Mr. Daniels led the way in railway advertising publications, introducing methods which since then have been so extensively followed and applied by all the principal railways. As an instance of widespread advertisement, no less than four millions of the one issue of the "Four Track" series which contained "The Messages to Garcia" were distributed to the public, the demand for copies exhausting edition after edition. Chippewa and Corona were both added during Mr. Daniel's term.

During the later changes in the Head Offices the local passenger representation in the Buffalo and Western district had been held in succession by Mr. E. J. Weekes and Mr. H. Parry. No railway was ever better served, nor its patrons more firmly secured in friendship.

Equally successful assistance was given by Mr. A. W. Ruggles and Mr. Underwood of the Michigan Central Railway, which with its quickest route to Buffalo direct from Niagara-in-the-Lake was specially developed.

Thus in a series of years, steamer after steamer had been added, each of the highest capacity, so that by mutual energy the good reputation of the route had been advanced and traffic gradually created, for, as each steamer was put on it created at first a surplus of accommodation, and an increase of running expenses until later the passenger trade had again worked up to the capacity. It is beyond question that the character and satisfaction of the steamers provided on a combined rail and water route have more to do with the attracting of business than even the land facilities on the railways. It is to produce this result that the railway companies steadily support the established steamboat lines in private ownership which have been developed in connection with them, as being the best way to secure fullest facilities for the public, and efficient service for themselves.


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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.