The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), July 7, 1835

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p.2 The first steamboat ever built at Toronto was launched at that place the week before last. It belongs to a number of spirited individuals. Improvements in and about the city indicative of increasing prosperity are rapidly progressing. Mr. Knott, and also Mr. Palin particularly distinguished themselves in the peaceful and beneficial rivalry of honest industry and activity. [Irish Advocate]

We are requested to notice, that the steam-boat Oswego, in connection with the steam-boat Commodore Barrie, will hereafter make two trips in each week. She leaves here for Lewiston on Friday evening, and arrives on Wednesday afternoon; and leaves the same evening for Oswego, where she puts her passengers on board the Commodore Barrie, and returns here Friday afternoon. We shall publish their advertisement next week. [Ogdensburgh Republican]

A steamboat resembling the Rapid at Prescott, passed this way on Wednesday morning last on her way downwards - not having called at the wharf we are unable either to tell her name or business; - some say her name is Nonsuch from Bytown, while others contend that she is the Rapid, but in our opinion the boat is neither one nor the other. We surmise that she has been recently chartered from Lake Ontario to go in search of the Sea-Serpent. If so the crew can find his snakeship sporting his figure to the new-fangled portion of the community at Montreal. Should her whaling excursion prove successful, we would thank her for a call on her way upwards, as the good folks of Cornwall are anxious to see the amphibious traveller. - It is well for his serpentship that the Jackass Bill did not become a law in this province, for if it did, the canallers would harpoon him while ascending the rapids as a substitute for Brother Jonathan's eatables. [Cornwall Observer]

p.3 We have been forestalled in our intention of relating the particulars of the late dissensions between the Great Britain and St. George, by the receipt of the following letter.


Sir, - Observing in your paper of yesterday, that you intend laying the particulars of the disgraceful riot and fight on the wharves of the Ottawa & Rideau Forwarding Company, before the public, I shall in order that you may be more fully acquainted with the matter, furnish you with a plain statement of facts.

In consequence of the hostility manifested towards the St. George last season by the forwarders of the St. Lawrence, it was this year determined to confine the trips of this boat to between Kingston and the head of the Lake, and in conjunction with the Commodore Barrie, attend the arrivals of the Steam-boats and barges of the Rideau Canal. The management of the St. George and Commodore was placed in the hands of a committee of gentlemen, who are also stockholders in the Forwarding Company.

On Tuesday, June 23rd the Rideau being hourly expected with three barges in tow, filled with passengers and goods, known to have left Bytown on the preceding Sunday the St. George was detained as long as possible; and towards night it was proposed by the committee to send to Kingston Mills to ascertain whether there existed any probability of their arriving in time for the St. George, should she be detained a few hours longer. Mr. Counter, one of the committee, having some country friends on a visit, proposed to accompany them in a boat to the Mills and bring back the news. This proposal being accepted, Mr. Counter departed with his friends, and about ten o'clock at night returned giving as his opinion, that as no tidings could be learned of the Rideau, that the St. George had better depart. The St. George immediately cast off and proceeded on her way. The next morning the Rideau and the barges arrived, and as the Great Britain came in at the usual time the whole party of emigrants bag & baggage, proceeded onwards in that vessel. It may here be observed, that no attempt was made on the part of the committee either of the Kingston boats, or the Forwarding Company to detain their passengers for the Commodore Barrie next day, and far less did they attempt to lessen the emolument of the Great Britain by attempting to lower the fare. However unwilling they might be lose a valuable freight, yet as it was unavoidable, they submitted with as good a grace as they could. Some malicious individuals who hang about the wharves and boats, having misrepresented to Capt. Whitney and others concerned in the Great Britain, the object of Mr. Counter's visit to the Mills, the following discreditable proceedings were the consequence.

On the succeeding Tuesday, a similar circumstance occurred. The Rideau was again detained by the towing of two heavy barges loaded with passengers and their goods, and as many of the former had paid their fare on to Toronto, the committee of the Kingston Boats were requested to detain the St. George until the Rideau arrived. The next morning early, the Great Britain came in, and instead of mooring at Counter's wharf as usual, made fast at Phillip's. Shortly afterwards the Rideau and her barges with the expected passengers arrived, and proceeded to the Company's wharf where the St. George was lying, whose crew commenced preparations for receiving on board the passengers. Immediately the purser of the Great Britain was observed among the passengers, endeavoring to entice them on board the Great Britain, promising to take them to Toronto for 3s. 9d. each. Being remonstrated with by Capt. Harper, he went away, and he was hardly gone, when the Great Britain was seen to cast off her fastenings and make up to the St. George, and then sending out a line ahead, drop alongside. At the time she was executing this manoeuvre, a barge was alongside the St. George, which was ordered by Capt. Harper to be cast off and passed astern. Capt. Whitney then addressed the passengers, telling them to come on board, and he would take them for what they would give; and lowering his jolly boat, sent it round with four hands, to fetch the passengers & their luggage, as it were by main force. This was not permitted on the part of the St. George's crew, and a scuffle was the consequence, in the course of which one of the Great Britain's men fell into the water. Seeing this discomfiture of their shipmates, the whole crew of the Great Britain, firemen and all, immediately rushed to the scene of the combat, across the decks of the St. George, and by their superior numbers soon turned the scale. A furious fight ensued, and two of the St. George's men in turn were thrown overboard. Having performed this feat, the crew of the Great Britain retired in a body with "their faces to the foe." As in self defence, the St. George was compelled also to lower the rate of passage money, the Great Britain made nothing by her ungenerous reduction of a fare too low already to afford a living profit, and shortly afterwards proceeded on her voyage without having succeeded in obtaining one single passenger. Before she departed, some one on her behalf went among the passengers, and promised all those who were then unable to proceed, a free passage in the Cobourg next day. The St. George with the greatest proportion of the emigrants left Kingston about noon, being deprived of more than one half of her fair passage money through the ungenerous conduct of the Great Britain. These are the facts of the case, upon which I shall trouble you with a remark or two.

In the first place, no public inconvenience is experienced by the detention of the St. George a few hours after the appointed time; on the contrary a public good is effected, since were she to go off when a large number of emigrants are expected, all those who had paid their fare to Toronto, would have to be detained until the Commodore Barrie was ready, a detention of something more than 24 hours, since the contract to forward the emigrants is made with the two Kingston boats.

Moreover, as the St. George never goes below to interfere with the Forwarders on the St. Lawrence, it is hardly fair that the Great Britain should come between her and her bread.

Secondly, lowering the rate of passage money was entirely commenced on the part of the Great Britain; as it is, the Kingston Boats, although very superior vessels, hardly make a livelihood, and the idea of curtailing their own receipts is scouted on the part of their proprietors.

One more observation and I have done. When Captain Harper was in Toronto, immediately after the fight, he was told that a statement of the case would appear in the Courier. He requested the editor to allow him to put in an explanatory note, in order that the bane and its antidote might appear together - he was refused, but promised that on another occasion, his justification should be published.


Kingston, July 4, 1835.

Note: - Although the Great Britain when she cut Mr. Counter and his bread, boasted of making fast no more at his wharf, yet when she hauled along side the St. George, she was glad to avail herself of the privilege of sending out a line ahead.

In order that fair play should be shown, we have given the Great Britain's account of the same transaction, copied from the Toronto Courier, to which allusion has been made in the letter of our correspondent.

To the Editor of the Courier.

Sir, - I deem it but justice to Captain Whitney of the Great Britain steamer, to give to the public, through your journal, a sketch of a scene to which I was an eye witness at Kingston yesterday. About half an hour before the time at which the Great Britain was to start, the Rideau came up with two barges in tow from the canal. There were a great many passengers, and the Captain naturally expected that he would get some of them. What was his astonishment, then, to see the whole towed alongside the St. George steamer, which should, according to advertisement, have started the day before, (Tuesday) at ten o'clock! A short time after, Capt. W. was told that a number of barge passengers wished to go with him, and he agreed to go alongside the St. George to receive their luggage. He accordingly did so and got out a warp a-head; but no sooner did his men throw out one abaft, than the mate of the St. George threw the end overboard and declared he would allow none to be made fast. He even proceeded to kick at the second mate of the Great Britain who had gone on board the St. George to make fast the rope, and ordered him off immediately. The jolly boat was then sent round to receive the luggage from the barges, but the crew of the St. George forcibly resisted all attempts to do so, and after a good deal of squabbling, the boat returned empty. In the mean time a few of the passengers had got on board the Great Britain; but a number of others were kept back, and the gangway of the St. George was actually shut and kept so by a party of the crew, contrary to all the rules of any port I was ever in. Capt. W. was urged to allow his men to clear the gangway again, and I own I was one of those who wished him to do so, as I was satisfied that the obstruction was quite illegal and unjustifiable. But he would not give his consent to use force, and drew off to the next wharf, to receive such of the passengers as were anxious to get on board. Will it be believed that the gates of the landing place at which the St. George lay, were actually shut, to prevent the people from getting off! Such was the fact: and a number was thus kept back by force. What shall we say of our boasted liberty? I was indeed ashamed of my countrymen and was ready to doubt in what land I was. Such conduct was assuredly little calculated to give a stranger a favorable impression of the people of this country, but I feel persuaded that very few would have done what was done in this instance by the owners and Captain of the St. George. No comment is required on this strange proceeding. I repeat that justice to Captain Whitney calls for this expression of my sentiments. I was, in common with the rest of the passengers of the Great Britain, highly delighted with his coolness and good temper in circumstances which were calculated to try that of any man.

I am, Sir, Yours etc.,


Toronto, July 2nd, 1835.

It has been currently reported this day that the Hon. John Hamilton has written to Montreal and Quebec, desiring an advertisement to be placed in the papers, stating that all deck passengers shall be taken from Kingston to the head of the Lake for seven pence half-penny each, per Great Britain. - This will benefit Kingston in two ways: it will bring more passengers to Kingston by the Rideau Canal, and it will throw a vast increase of business into the hands of the Bay boats, who will be filled with persons from Prescott, anxious to take advantage of the low fare from hence.

On the evening of the 4th of July, the steamboat Black Hawk, from Ogdensburg visited our harbor with a pleasure party on board...



July 5th - The steamer Thomas McKay, Chambers, with barge Iroquois in tow. (consignees listed.)


July 7th - The steamer Thomas McKay, Chambers, with barge Mayflower in tow. (consignees listed.)

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July 7, 1835
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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.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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British Whig (Kingston, ON), July 7, 1835