The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Kingston Herald (Kingston, ON), March 3, 1846

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The public meeting to organize a Bethel Society in this Town was held in the Town Hall yesterday evening, and the spacious Hall was filled with a respectable assembly. At a moderate estimate there must have been 6 or 800 persons present. A large Bethel Flag, presented to the Society by Mr. Edward Proby, was stretched over the platform, and behind it the raised circular seats were occupied by a numerous choir, who during the evening performed several anthems with excellent taste and spirit.

The Hymn - "Before Jehovah's awful throne," having been sung, the chair was taken by John Counter, Esq., who observed that he was much gratified to see so large an assembly collected together in order to devise the means of benefitting the sailors of these lakes. Many persons were not aware of the extent of our commercial marine, and therefore he would read an abstract prepared with care from the best information, which gave the following results. The commerce of Canada on Lakes Ontario and Erie employed:-

Tonnage Men

21 Steamboats

6 Propellers 5,790 361

100 Sailing Vessels 11,098 658

127 16,888 1,019

This was exclusive of the vessels that are being built, and also exclusive of all the Steamboats and other vessels that ply on the St. Lawrence and the Ottawa and Rideau Canal between this port and Montreal. It will thus be seen that the class of persons that we propose to benefit are numerous. Our object is to promote their eternal welfare, and the full importance of this object will be told only in eternity. Great good has been done to sailors by Bethel institutions in England and the United States, and he has been informed that 17,000 temperance sailors go out from the port of New York alone. Kingston ought to be the Head Quarters of every good thing for Canada. There is a prejudice against her in certain quarters, but though they have taken away the seat of Government, they can't take away the St. Lawrence, or prevent her from being the key of Western Canada. Therefore she would rise, and the 1000 sailors would become 10,000. They are tossed about, with no friend to take them to Church, and when they have they prefer being under the flag. Let us then provide the means of meeting their wishes by bringing them under the Bethel flag.

Dr. Liddell, in moving the adoption of the first resolution, observed that this was the first public meeting that he had been invited to attend since he came to Kingston, and he rejoiced in being able to meet his brethren on common ground to promote the object of the meeting. That was to bring sailors into a house of God, where they might obtain a knowledge of God, and increase and consolidate their knowledge of him, his word, his works and ways. But it will be asked, Is not every church a house of God? And may not sailors go to these Churches? They may, but they do not. On the contrary, we see them thronging our wharves and streets on the Sabbath, but not our churches. For at least six months in the year they are here in great numbers, but in 95 cases out of 100, they come we know not whence, and depart we know not whither. They are strangers, adverse to mixing with strangers in churches which they do not regard as for them. Then shall we not provide them a Bethel of their own? Shall we who enjoy our own Bethels see these men spending the Sabbath in neglect of God and his worship, without providing such means as sailors consider most adapted to their condition for bringing them to know God? Say not, they can go to churches if they like, and if they do not the fault is theirs, for the objection is not tenable. There is no place that a sailor so much likes to go to as his ship, for he is there, to use a landman's phrase, at his own fireside. And there the recollection of the dangers that he has passed through, and from which God has mercifully preserved him, can be most vividly impressed upon his heart and conscience. We should, like the Apostle, become all things to all men, if by any means we may save some. It is the interest of Christians to see that sailors have a house of God to go to; for the peculiar vices imputed to them find a ready vent on shore. And to accomplish this it is requisite to have a society, a union of many. It is a blessed thing to find common ground on which we may all stand; and if this ground were more frequently occupied we should have less dissension among Christians than we have now. The sailor of all men is the least likely to regard mere denominational distinctions; for what does it matter to him when on the raging wave in the jaws of death who points him to the Saviour of men? A Bethel will not supersede the necessity (for I put it on that footing) of a sailor joining such branch of the Church as he may prefer. He is peculiarly tempted to forget his relations to God and man, considering the life he leads; and he often speaks of his escapes from danger in a way bordering on heathenism: The wind chopped round and saved us. We therefore require a Bethel in which a right direction may be given to their thoughts, and to those of their wives and children, whereby they may be taught that salvation is of the Lord: He only hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.

Excellent addresses were also delivered by the Rev. Messrs. John Machar, A. Lorimer, E.L. Botterill, John Carroll and Lachlan Taylor; but we are obliged to omit the report of their speeches.


Whereas it is expedient to establish a Bethel Society in this Town, for the purpose of improving the moral condition of the Sailors on these Lakes - Be it therefore Resolved

1. - Moved by the Rev. Dr. Liddell, seconded by the Rev. John Machar, and supported by the Rev. A. Lorimer, That a Society be formed in this Town, to be designated the Kingston Bethel Society - Carried.

2. Moved by the Rev. E.L. Botterill, seconded by the Rev. John Carroll, and supported by the Rev. Lachlan Taylor, That the Sailors are a class of men who, from their peculiar and perilous situation, and on account of their religious privations, are entitled to our Christian sympathy - Carried.

3. Moved by Capt. Matthew T. Hunter, seconded by Thomas A. Corbett, Esq., That the Office-bearers and Committee of the Kingston Bethel Society be chosen seriatim, and that following gentlemen be said Office-bearers and Committee, with power to frame a Constitution for the government thereof, and also with power to add to the number of said Committee, viz.:

John Counter, Esq., President.

Mr. George Henry Oliver, V. President.

Mr. William Masson, V. President.

Mr. William Merrill, Recording Secretary.

John Waudby, Esq., Corresponding Secretary.

Capt. Thomas Maxwell, Treasurer.

Capt. M.T. Hunter, Collector.


Capt. Andrew C. Rose, Mr. Francis Milo,

Capt. M.T. Hunter, Mr. Samuel W. Brady,

Capt. Geo. Alward, Mr. Charles Gilbert,

Capt. Thos. Maxwell, Mr. John Walker,

Capt. Joseph Pierson, Mr. Edward Proby,

Capt. Robert Kent, Mr. S.B. Merrill,

Capt. Saml. H. Abbott, Mr. D.D. Calvin, Esq.,

Capt. Robt Patterson, Mr. George Davidson,

Capt. Wm. Donaldson, Mr. James Irvine,

Mr. Robert Steed, Mr. James Stewart, and

Mr. James Cheeld.

4. Moved by Capt. Andrew C. Ross, seconded by John Waudby, Esq., That the Officers and Committee meet at Mechanic's Institute on Wednesday the 4th instant, at 2 o'clock P.M., for the purpose of framing and adopting the Constitution of the Bethel Society, and of transacting all other business connected with the Institution. - Carried.

5. Moved by Capt. Andrew C. Ross, seconded by Capt. Robert Kent, That the thanks of this meeting be given to the Rev. Gentlemen for their very able and powerful addresses on this occasion. - Carried.

The Chairman then left the Chair, the Rev. Dr. Liddell was appointed Chairman, and the thanks of the meeting were given to Mr. Counter for his able conduct in the Chair.

Thanks were then voted to the Mayor and Corporation for the use of the Town Hall; to Mr. Boyle and the Choir; to Mr. Proby for the flag; to the different persons who had assisted in fitting up the Hall, and to the Committee of Management for their efficient services.

The meeting was closed with the Benediction by the Rev. John Machar. The sum of £6 11 11 was called for the purpose of defraying the expenses of fitting up the Room for the occasion.


Kingston, March 3rd, 1846.

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March 3, 1846
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Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
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Kingston Herald (Kingston, ON), March 3, 1846