The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), April 4, 1849

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No. IV

McPherson & Crane's Forwarding Establishment - Instead of dilating in a rapid manner, upon wharves and steam tugs, schooners and durham boats, we shall take the name of this, the chief forwarding house of Canada, as a text, to make a few preliminary general remarks upon the forwarding trade in general, and its connection with Kingston in particular.

In all new countries, from the difficulties of land carriage, and the natural impediments of unimproved water-communication; the forwarding business has been and ever must be an important and lucrative trade. It has been so in North America, since its first settlement. In England, where, from the goodness of the roads, the carrier trade is assumed by parties who sometimes only own the single horse and cart, with which they do their little business, and where myriads of these homely vehicles, in the good old days of turnpikes, used to be passed daily on the road, it is difficult to conceive the capital, and what is equally necessary, the intelligence required to carry on successfully the Forwarding Trade in Canada. Such an establishment as that of Messrs. McPherson & Crane, for instance, where half-a-dozen first class steamboats, twice as many of an inferior description, including propellers, nine or ten schooners, twenty or thirty barges of all sizes, and an infinity of other smaller craft are required to do the business of an ordinary season, to say nothing of extraordinary years, when all kinds of craft are hired into service at extravagant rates. Nor can this expensive stock be considered as permanent, when once built or purchased; since from its perishable materials it has to be wholly renewed once in ten years, exclusive of accidents. - The elegant steamer Speed, the pride of the Ottawa River last year, and valued at £10,000, was burnt down to the water's edge, and lo! from her ashes has again arisen, the steamer Phoenix, equally elegant, to be like her predecessor, subject to the incidents of flood, if not field. The loss of barges in the Rapids of the St. Lawrence loaded with produce, and the loss of others coming upwards filled with valuable merchandise, are occurrences of every season; yet these losses are always made good by such houses as Messrs. McPherson & Crane, without a murmur, and often without a word; and yet, from the immensity of business they transact, and from the excessively high rate of marine insurance, it often happens, as in the case of the Speed, as a matter of policy, that they are their own insurers. When the good people of the British Isles think of Canada, as some outlandish place in the wilderness of North America, all they have to do, is to cast about in their mind's eye for some home establishment equal to McPherson & Crane's, and then to bear in mind, that this House, large as it is, is but one out of several of a like kind.

The firm of Messrs. McPherson & Crane has a peculiar claim upon the gratitude of the people of Kingston. At an early date it became the Managers of the Ottawa & Rideau Forwarding Company, which broke up the monopoly of the River Forwarders at Prescott, and thence drew up to Kingston, the whole river trade. From that period, the Forwarding Business has been the main stay of the town. And now, when in consequence of the various improvements, both in the navigation and craft of the river, it has become no longer imperative to tranship produce at Kingston, it is almost the only firm which does not occasionally talk of pulling up stakes and going down to Prescott. -- Not that we believe any sane house has any intention of so doing; and more particularly since the new principle of steam tugging has been proposed by the Government. And this new project brings us more immediately to the connection which Kingston has with the Forwarding Trade of the province.

The intention of the Government is to place several powerful steam tugs on the intervals of smooth water, between Montreal and Prescott; to be solely employed in towing all vessels at a fixed tariff. One on Lake St. Louis; one on Lake St. Francis; and one between Dickenson's Landing and Prescott. The intention evidently is to allow all loaded vessels, whether up or down, the privileges of perfect navigation, without hiring special steam tugs. The rate of towing allowed by the Government tariff is very low; a loaded barge of 100 tons, paying from Lachine to Prescott the sum of £8, or thereabouts - larger sized vessels in proportion. This plan of transport, if generally adopted, will lead to the abandonment of the large propeller principle, already found partially impracticable, and tend to the resumption of transhipment at Kingston or Prescott. And here let us pause to say, that should the Forwarding Trade revive in this good old city, and be once again its pride and glory, it will be mainly owing to the businesslike conceptions of Messrs. Hincks and Merritt, whom the grateful people of the town so very recently burnt in effigy in the market place, when they had no other means of spitting their spite against an unpopular ministry. The principle proposed to be put into operation during the present season, will probably have the effect of increasing the number of small forwarding houses, since the chief object of expense, that of steam power, will be wholly unnecessary. It will also have a tendency to raise up a class of Brokers or Commission Agents, like Mr. Donald McIntosh, to whom goods will be consigned, to be forwarded on the best terms to be obtained, as is now generally done in Oswego and Buffalo. On the whole, we look with much complacency on the proposed scheme, and heartily hope, that our anticipations be realized.

Not intending entirely to pass over the Means of Transport of the House we made our text to-day, we shall simply add, that this year, Messrs. McPherson & Crane will do the chief part of their business on Mr. Garratt's Wharf and in his extensive warehouses. In addition, they have leased the western portion of the Fire Proof Warehouses on Browne's Wharf. The only addition to their "Means" of last season, are the new steamer Phoenix at Bytown, and a new steamer building or built at St. Catherine's. But it is of very little consequence what their present "Means" are - they are always ready for any emergency that can happen; and no goods can be consigned to them which could now stay in store a single day when the canals are open. And when they have no goods of others to forward, they go into the market themselves as buyers, and freight their own vessels. In fact, were we to pen an article upon them as General Merchants, instead of Forwarders, that article would have more pretensions to the length of an essay than the present one, which is long enough in all conscience, if it has no other recommendation.




Will leave Kingston on Friday evening, the 6th inst., for Messrs. Platt's Wharf at Hay Bay, returning the following evening.

Kingston, April 3rd, 1849.



Capt. Parker,

Will make a Daily Trip, all the present week, between Kingston and Prescott, leaving Kingston every morning at seven o'clock, and returning every evening.

Kingston, April 4th, 1849.




Respectfully informs the Public that he has opened his large and commodious Stores for the reception of all kinds of Merchandize, on the following terms, viz.:-

Ashes, 4d. per bbl. Per Month in Store.

Pork, 3d. do. do.

Flour, 2d. do. do.

Grain 1d. per bag do.

Wharfage on the above, half price.

All Goods for Shipment, drawn by Carters, for Steamboats or other vessels, 4d. per load. Schooners can be accommodated with Ballast at low prices.

The Subscriber being well known, and his Wharf and Warehouses safely and most eligibly situated, he hopes by strict attention to business, in conjunction with a careful Warehouseman, to merit a share of public patronage.

All goods at the risk of the owner.

Kingston, April 3rd, 1849.

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April 4, 1849
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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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Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), April 4, 1849