The Garden Island Timber Droghers

Table of Contents

Title Page
The Editor's Notebook
Marine News
A Perfect Picture Of Decrepitude
Ship of the Month No. 25 Seguin
William T. Sharp
The Garden Island Timber Droghers
Late Marine News
Table of Illustrations

In the last issue of SCANNER, we published a picture showing the C.S.L., steel canaller MAPLEHURST laid up in the upper harbour at Port Dalhousie along with a number of other ships in the fleet. To the extreme left appears the wooden bulk carrier SIMLA. This latter vessel was built by the Calvin Company at their yard on Garden Island, Ontario, for their own fleet.

The Calvin family settled on Garden Island, which is located in the Upper St. Lawrence River near Kingston, in the 1830's and built up a large and lucrative timber forwarding business. Timber was gathered from all over the Great lakes area and brought to Garden Island by vessels. There it was unloaded and formed into rafts. which were towed down the River to Quebec City by company owned tugs for shipment to the United Kingdom.

Originally lake schooners, commonly referred to as "timber droghers," brought the timber to Garden Island. When steam superceded sail in lake trade, the Calvins built their own steam barges which towed the old schooners, by now cut down to barges. Squared timber was collected at the beaches and in small out-of-way harbours and was stowed aboard the vessels while at anchor as the weather permitted. The steamers were fitted with timber ports in their bows and the schooners were equipped with stern-ports. The sticks were floated out to the ships and entered via the ports, sliding down inclines of heavy plank in the hold and positioned by hand labour. When a ship was loaded to the port sills, the ports were closed and caulked. Further loading then went on via the deck, the timber being hoisted up by masthead tackles or gaff purchases. Thus the timber droghers not only filled their holds but also carried high piles of timber on deck.

Many of the Calvin schooners were named after foreign countries, such as BAVARIA, BURMA, CEYLON, DENMARK, NORWAY, etc., and this practice was carried over into the steam era.

This early photo of D. D. CALVIN, supplied by the late C. H. J. Snider, illustrates the loading of timber through the steamer's bow port. In the background is the schooner HERBERT DUDLEY.
The first Calvin wooden propeller was built at Garden Island in 1883 and was launched as D.D.CALVIN (Can. 83298). She was 166 feet in length, 32 feet in the beam and 15 feet in depth, with tonnage of 750 Gross and 483 Net. Upon completion of the heavy wooden hull, the CALVIN was towed to Cleveland for the installation of her machinery. D.D.CALVIN served her original owners until she burned at Garden Island on April 11, 1910.

The Calvins' second steamer was the ARMENIA (Can. 74388) which they purchased in the 1880's. Built at Chatham, Ontario, in 1873, she measured 172 x 25 x 12. Tonnage was 643 Gross and 403 Net. She was sold out of the fleet about 1900.

The third steamer in the fleet was JACK (Can. l0066l), built at Garden Island in the Calvins' own shipyard in 1895. Her measurement of 178 x 38 x 13 gave her tonnage of 833 Gross, 478 Net. She proved to be an unlucky ship and was involved in a number of mishaps including a serious collision with a lock gate in the Welland Canal. At any rate, she was rebuilt and renamed BOTHNIA in 1896 and passed out of the fleet about 1902. She was abandoned as a total loss after a collision in the St. Clair Flats with the steel upper laker S.S. CURRY on June 23, 1912. At that time, BOTHNIA was bound from Meaford to Welland. One crew member lost his life in the accident. Montreal Transportation Company Ltd. were her owners at the time of the accident.

INDIA (Can. 107735) was the fourth steam barge in the Calvin fleet and was built at Garden Island in 1899. She measured 215.9 x 36.4 x 15.0 and her tonnage was listed as 976 Gross, 573 Net. When the Calvins retired from the timber forwarding trade in 1914, the INDIA went to the Montreal Transportation Company Ltd. and thus in time became a unit of the fleet of Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. She settled to the bottom in the Welland Canal in 1922 and was abandoned to the Reid Wrecking Company of Sarnia. Capt. Reid salvaged the INDIA and sold her to Crawford & Company, Montreal (India Navigation Company). This concern sold her in 1926 to Ramsey Bros. of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, who operated her until she burned in the North Channel off Manitoulin Island on September 5th, 1928.

The last wooden steam barge built by the Calvins at Garden Island was the SIMLA (Can. 112144) of 1903. She was 225.6 feet long, 34.8 feet in the beam and 15.0 feet in depth, her tonnage being 1197 Gross and 731 Net. When the hull was completed, it was towed to the yard of Polson Iron Works Ltd., Toronto, for the installation of engines. Like INDIA, the SIMLA went to the Montreal Transportation Company Ltd, in 1914 and later joined the C.S.L. fleet. She was retired from service in the early 1920's and was laid up at Portsmouth, Ontario. The hull being no longer fit for service, her power plant was removed and in 1929 was installed in the steel canaller MAPLEHEATH where the engines continued to see service until this ship was withdrawn from service as a bulk carrier in 1959. The hull of SIMLA burned at Portsmouth about 1926 and the hulk settled on the bottom. It was finally raised by Sin Mac Lines Ltd. on September 6th, 1937, and was scuttled in deep water in Lake Ontario off Kingston.

It may be of interest to our readers that the Calvin family owned one further steamer, but that she never ran in the timber trade. This vessel, of course, was the steel canaller PRINCE RUPERT (Can. 124260) built in 1908 at Dumbarton, Scotland, and owned and operated by several Calvin subsidiaries. She measured 249.0 x 43.0 x 19.5 with tonnage of 1908 Gross and 1172 Net. She, too, was acquired by Montreal Transportation Company Ltd. in 1914 and was renamed (b) NORTHMOUNT. She was requisitioned for war service in 1915 but was lost at sea on December 18, 1915, while on a voyage from Newport News, Virginia, to Trinidad.

(ED. NOTE - We hope our readers will enjoy a look into the timber droghing operation through the photo of D.D.CALVIN appearing in this issue. The photograph, from the collection of the late C.H.J. Snider, was taken some time during the 1890's and shows D.D.CALVIN loading squared timber through her bow ports while lying in Toronto harbour off the foot of Brock Street).


Previous    Next

Return to Home Port or Toronto Marine Historical Society's Scanner

Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.