The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), April 5, 1848

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p.2 The Welland Canal will be opened on the 10th of April, when the new harbour at Port Dalhousie will be brought into use. The attention of masters of vessels is particularly called to the Notice in the advertisement, relative to the Light, etc. The various alterations connected with this Canal are of the most useful and substantial description, and do the highest credit to the Department, at the head of which the Hon. W. Robinson so efficiently presided.

"The temporary light heretofore exhibited at the end of the old Pier, will be removed and placed for the present upon the longest or west pier of the new harbor. Vessels making the harbor will keep alongside this pier, not deviating from it more than thirty yards, until they reach the position of the old waste pier. As all the Dredging of the new harbor will not then be completed, the proper channel will be buoyed out until the whole is done, making an easy entrance to the new Lock, with not less than ten feet of water in any part of it. The Canal has been deepened throughout to afford nine feet draught of water." [Toronto Patriot]


No. IV

"Then gnawed his pen, then dashed it on the ground.

Sinking from thought to thought, a vast profound!

Plunged for his sense, yet found no bottom there,

Yet wrote and floundered on, in mere despair."


A walk to the village of Portsmouth, at Hatter's Bay, on a spring morning, is more a recreation than a labor. Scarcely two miles from the busy parts of Kingston, it may be said to form part of the city itself, joined together as it is, by a continuous line of buildings and tenements; consisting of Public Institutions, Manufactories, Distilleries, Breweries, Gentlemen's Villas and Market Gardens. Of these it is our intention to say more than a few words, in "Our Walk" home from the village, as the Provincial Penitentiary and General Hospital alone, will afford us matter for articles instead of "scraps." This paper we devote to the Village itself; begging our readers to bear with us, while recapitulating matters and things, dull and tedious in themselves, yet interesting to many; though affording little scope for a bright idea, or pungent expression - where the writer's sole aim is to do the amiable, and make everything appear in its brightest colors. And yet how little we feel inclined to the task before us may be inferred from the quotation from Pope's Dunciad, placed as a motto over this number of "Our Walk."

Less than thirteen years ago, the shores of Hatter's Bay were nothing more than a farming homestead, owned and occupied like many of the numerous lots about town. The Government having purchased the eastern side of the little Bay for the site of the Penitentiary, attention was speedily directed to the locality, and the late Mr. John McLeod first conceived the idea of making a village, where a scanty pasturage for cows was with difficulty obtained. That gentleman in conjunction with Mr. John Logan, also since deceased, made a purchase of the western side of the Bay, and the land in rear; and one of the best quarries in Canada being opened on the spot, the ground irregular in the extreme, soon became levelled for the purpose of business - the beautiful building stone being exported to all parts of the Province, and the debris consumed in Lime Kilns. Messrs. McLeod & Logan then drew the public attention to the spot, by advertisement, and the village being regularly surveyed, and laid out in lots, soon found customers, and began to be inhabited. At this, the original sale of Lots, it obtained the name of Portsmouth. Mr. John McLeod died in a short time afterwards, but lived long enough to know, that the most complete success would one day attend his enterprise. His partner, Mr. Logan, survived him a few years, carrying out his plans to the best of his ability, when death cut him off in the midst of his usefulness; leaving the estate of McLeod and Logan to be managed by a younger brother of the original founder, Mr. Angus McLeod, for the benefit of the heirs in general. On that estate grown a hundred fold more valuable than when purchased, the village of Portsmouth is built. Hatter's Bay is a small inlet of the Lake, or St. Lawrence, we scarcely know which, less than half a mile in depth, with very shoal water at its head, but affording 12 to 14 feet in other parts. One side is occupied by the Provincial Penitentiary; on the other is the village. The bay, near its head, is passed by a causeway, formed by the refuse of the building material used in the construction of the Prison, making upwards of two acres of very valuable ground. This we believe becomes the property of Government. The present population of the village exceeds five hundred souls, consisting chiefly of mechanics and their families.

At the entrance of the village, alongside the causeway, lies the old steamer Brockville. Her engines have been removed, her cabins dismantled, her hull thoroughly examined and made good; and like the chrysalis, changing to the butterfly, she is about commencing a new existence, in the shape of a three masted schooner; and a very beautiful vessel she'll make. Her tonnage being large, she is expected to carry 3500 barrels of flour; and her draft being light, her destination is Quebec. She has become the property of Mr. Thomas Davis, in conjunction, we believe, with Mr. John Crawford, the City Councillor.

The shore of the Bay, on the village side, is tenanted chiefly by ship-wrights. Of their Ship Yards it is now our duty to speak.

James Fisher's Yard - This is the Yard nighest the head of the harbor, and part of it is the property of the Kingston Marine Railway Company, purchased at the Sale of lots heretofore spoken of. The remainder is the property of the occupier. Mr. J. Fisher has leased the portion belonging to the Company, for the next 18 years to come, and is about constructing a Marine Railway of the largest size. This Railway will be 600 feet long, having at its extremity a depth of water exceeding 13 feet. This construction will be upon a novel, if not an improved plan; working on rollers, the ingenious contrivance of Mr. Jas. Fisher. It is expected to be completed by the middle of May; all the heavy timbers being put together, ready for sinking; and the Iron Work & Machinery are in a state of forwardness at the Kingston Foundry. When finished, this Railway will be of the utmost importance to the village, inasmuch as the largest vessels afloat can then easily be taken up and repaired.

On the stocks in Fisher's Yard is a most elegantly modelled Steamboat, building for the Messrs. Platt, of the Bay of Quinte, by Mr. George Alt. The length of this vessel is 183 feet, her breadth of beam 26 feet, and her width over all 45 feet. When fully laden she is expected not to exceed 5 feet draft of water; but the ordinary draft will be 4.5 feet. Her builder appears confident of this important fact. She is intended to carry the engines of the Unicorn, better known by name of the Shannon, being two low-pressure engines of forty-five horse power each; the boilers also will be those of the Unicorn, new a couple of years ago. Thus her power will be great, compared with the size and build; and judging from her construction, she will be able to do her 11 miles per hour with ease and safety. She will be ready to launch on the 1st of May; and about the 15th or so, will make her first start for a cargo. Her intended destination is the direct trade between Hamilton and Quebec. To carry flour down, and bring freight and Emigrants up; a trade that must be remunerative, if there be any business in the country to transact. She will commence operations before her joiners' work is completed. Her cabins, saloon, and other deck appurtenances, under contract of Mr. Sidney Scobell, will be ready by the middle of the summer, and be put upon her, during some slackness in trade. She will be commanded by one of Mr. Platt's sons, the same gentleman who was master of the Unicorn last season. Of her builder we may venture to say a few words in praise. Mr. George Alt, although well-known in Kingston, is scarcely known as a Marine Architect. The present vessel is the first he has attempted to construct; but we opine it will not be his last. We do not express our own opinion, when we say that the model of this vessel is universally admired; for every one who sees her, exhibits the utmost satisfaction at the first view; and the more her proportions are examined into, the more she is found worthy of approbation. The great difficulty, that of adapting a vessel to both lake and River Navigation, seems here to be surmounted. While her light draft of water and speed will suit the rapids of the St. Lawrence, her breadth of beam and general steadiness will fit her to encounter the gales of Lake Ontario. That she must be fast, is very apparent that she will be an excellent sea boat is extremely probable. That she may prove both is due to the untiring assiduity and the great pains taken by her industrious builder, who may be said personally to superintend the driving of every nail. His future fame depends upon the result.

Leaving Fisher's Yard, we next approach that of Messrs. McPherson & Crane; but here we find so much to admire, that as our sheet is smaller to-day than ordinary, we must defer, until Saturday, that and every thing else we may have to write of the most flourishing village of Portsmouth. Would that it had another name!

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April 5, 1848
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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), April 5, 1848