Most of the canallers operated by Canadian fleets in the pre-Seaway days fell into general groups as far as their appearance was concerned. Vessels built at any given yard around the same time were very similar in design, but one of the odd canallers that did not really fit into any of the groups was YUKONDOC. This ship was in the fleet of Paterson Steamships Ltd. for only a relatively short period of time, being purchased in August 1926 from William M. Connelly of Buffalo and then sold early in 1929, while in winter quarters at Toronto, to the Hudsons of Midland. She had an interesting and checkered career, serving on both fresh and salt water.
FORDONIAN entered service for the Canadian Interlake Line (Merchants Mutual Steamship Co. Ltd.), Montreal, and operated in the package freight and grain trades, Canadian Interlake Line became Dart of Canada Steamship Lines Ltd., Montreal, in December 1913 and for the next two seasons FORDONIAN continued operating on the lakes, but under C.S.L. colours. In 1915 she was taken to salt water due to the urgent need for tonnage created by the hostilities of the Great War. C.S.L. continued operating her after she was released from government service in 1918 but she remained on salt water and in 1921 was sold to the American Mediterranean Line of New York.
In May 1923, a Buffalo attorney, William M. Connelly for whom an upper lake bulk carrier was named, gave up his law practice to become manager of FORDONIAN on her return to the lakes. Ownership appears to have remained with American Mediterranean. From 1923 until 1925, Connelly chartered the ship to the Canada Atlantic Transit Co., which operated a package freight service from Chicago and various Lake Michigan ports to Depot Harbour, Ontario, in conjunction with the Canadian National Railway Co. A Chicago firm, Elphicke & Company, had operated this route for many years on behalf of the C.N.R. and its predecessors.
As indicated, Paterson Steamships Ltd., Fort William, took over the ship in August of 1926. They named her (b) YUKONDOC in honour of the most westerly of Canada's northern territories. This is one of the few names that has not been repeated by the company since the sale of the vessel. Paterson employed the ship in the grain trade, mostly on the upper lakes. YUKONDOC was an odd ship for Paterson, most of whose canallers were of standard design. She was, firstly, the only diesel canaller the company owned at the time. She had a handsome forward end, with a large and beautifully ornamented wooden pilothouse and a very heavy foremast. Her after end, however, left much to be desired, The main mast was well forward of the after cabin and no mast was stepped aft. Her "boilerhouse" was very high and boxlike and its blankness was accentuated by the appearance of a short and extremely thin funnel.
When sold to the Northwest Transportation Co. Ltd. which was formed by Capt. A. A. Hudson and Capt. D'Alton Hudson in 1929, she was renamed (c) GEORGIAN and her appearance was much improved by the fitting of an outer stack around the original funnel. James Playfair of Midland would appear to have had some interest in this venture because she was painted in his distinctive colours, grey hull, white forecastle and cabins, and crimson stack with a black smokeband. The white paint was stripped off the pilothouse and it was given a coat of varnish. The vessel looked better at this stage than at any other time during her career.
GEORGIAN operated mainly carrying package freight from Toronto to the Lakehead and on the return trip she usually had grain for Toronto Elevators Ltd. She made the news in 1930 when, on the 21st of April, she officially opened Lock One of the new Welland Canal, passing upbound and being the first ship to use the new facility. The entire canal was not, of course, operational until 1931 and, in fact, the system was not officially opened for traffic until August 6th, 1932. GEORGIAN was not, however, destined to spend many years on her new route, for she was driven ashore on Lake Superior's Keweenaw Point on December 12, 1932, while downbound on her last trip of the season. Her owners abandoned her to the underwriters.
Salvaged in 1933 by Sin-Mac Lines Ltd., and their upper lake subsidiary United Towing & Salvage Co. Ltd., she became a unit of the Sin-Mac fleet, the intention apparently being to use her as a salvage lighter. She reverted to her original name at this time and thus became (d) FORDONIAN. Sin-Mac sold her in 1934 to the Federal Motorship Corp., Buffalo and she was taken to the Ogdensburg, New York, yard of the St. Lawrence Marine Repair Dock Corp., where she was rebuilt as a barge canal type motorship (sometimes referred to as a "bridge skimmer"). Her depth was reduced to 16'7 and her tonnage dropped to 1540 Gross and 1118 Net. Her original diesel was removed and she was fitted with a smaller six-cylinder diesel 18" x 22" built by the Bessemer Gas Engine Co., of Grove City, Pennsylvania. She returned to service as (e) BADGER STATE and along with two newer vessels built for the trade, BUCKEYE STATE and EMPIRE STATE, she operated on the lakes and the Erie Canal. Starting in 1942 and continuing for the duration of the Second War, all three motorships were chartered to the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Co. Ltd., for the movement of newsprint from the mill at Baie Comeau, Quebec, to New York City via the relatively safe inland waterways of the St. Lawrence River, the Erie Canal, and the Hudson River. Shipments of this nature were banned from the open east coast routes which were subject to enemy interference. On the return trip, the canal boats carried bauxite ore to Port Alfred, Quebec.
At this stage, BADGER STATE had her oddest appearance ever. She was a typical canal boat in that she was low in profile and carried a squat pilothouse sitting right on deck, hinged pipe masts, and an almost non-existent funnel. However, her lines made her past history obvious. The shape of her deck made it painfully clear that she had been cut down and not built that way and, in addition, she was one of only a few canal motorships ever to have a counter stern (the others were also conversions). She was a very strange combination indeed.
The end of her career came, unfortunately, in a violent manner. On January 14, while operating in the Gulf of Mexico, she struck a submerged object, possibly a wreck, and tore her bottom so severely that she foundered soon afterwards. And so ended the life of a ship that seemed unable to settle down to any lengthy period of operation in a given trade. Perhaps she would have lasted longer had she avoided the clutches of the dreaded Keweenaw and stayed on the lakes.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.