The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), March 30, 1850

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No. II

An ill-natured article recently appeared in the Toronto Patriot, (copied into the British Whig) reflecting strongly upon the conduct of the new River Mail Contractors, for withdrawing their best boats from the St. Lawrence, for the purpose of successfully opposing Mr. Bethune's Line of Steamers on the Lake. The attention of Mr. Stayner, the Deputy Post Master General, was drawn to the asserted facts, and the whole article was a covert attack in a vital place, upon the contemplated enterprise of the Kingston United Forwarding Firm, of which we made mention in Thursday's issue. It shall be the duty of this number of "Our Walk," to describe the vessels composing the present line of River Mail Steamers, and to show how futile are the objections urged by the Patriot, and its interested supporters. Last season, and for several seasons past, the vessels composing the River Line, were the Canada, Highlander, Passport and Gildersleeve; and the whole were managed at Kingston by the Hon. John Hamilton. Of these boats, the Highlander has been dismantled, and a new hull is building at Lachine for her engine; the charter party of the Gildersleeve has expired and she has passed into other hands; the Canada remains in the Line; and the Passport is the only vessel that has been withdrawn. The Steamers at present engaged are the Canada, the Ottawa, and the Lord Elgin; and as it is intended to start these vessels at six o'clock in the morning, instead of eight o'clock; to run them light and to go no further down than Lachine; it is expected that the services of one steamer can be dispensed with; and the three vessels of the present season will be as effective as the four of last. In the management of the new Line, Messrs. McPherson & Crane, and Messrs. Hooker & Holton have now an equal interest with Mr. Hamilton, though probably all things as formerly will be transacted in the latter gentleman's name. We shall now say a few words of the respective boats.

The Canada - This favorite vessel has been refitted with extraordinary care. Her Engines and Boilers have been thoroughly overhauled and made good; the boat itself has been repaired wherever defective; and her cabins, saloons, and state rooms are well cleaned, elegantly painted, and beautifully furnished. She is as clean and tidy as a new made pin, and at no former period did she ever look as well as she does now. This, in a great measure is owing to the extraordinary pains taken by her new commander, Capt. O'Connor, who satisfied that his vessel is not quite so fast, or quite so new as some others in the Double Line, has devoted all his attention to the making of the Canada clean and comfortable for passengers. She will be the first vessel out this season, being already advertised to run on the immediate opening of the harbor. Leaving at six every morning the Canada will easily run down to Lachine by day light; and returning next day without cargo, will readily do all that is required of her in time. In writing the "Walk" of this year, it was the intention not to say a single word in favor of any of the "urbanity" gentlemen, i.e. the Steamboat Captains. A burnt child dreads the fire. The Shetland Islanders have a current superstition against saving a drowning man, lest he might live to do his rescuer an injury. We feel the same repugnance towards speaking in favor of any new master of a steamboat. However, strong motives and feelings influence us on the present occasion to break our predetermination, and to risk the future ingratitude of Captain O'Connor. He is a young man, unnecessarily calumniated, who by his own merit has risen from the humble ranks of life to the position he now occupies. If indefatigable zeal, indomitable industry, sterling integrity, and great knowledge of human nature, are requisites in Canadian Steamboat employ, Capt. O'Connor possesses them all; for he has been long tried in various inferior duties and agencies. He is now placed, by those who have known and appreciated his good qualities, to the grief of some and the envy of others, in the station of a gentleman and in the command of a fine boat; and we heartily trust, may feel confident, that his future life and conduct will give occasion for his employers to congratulate themselves upon the correctness of their judgement and foresight. May the Canada prove fortunate! and may Captain Anthony O'Connor long and worthily command her!

The Ottawa - This elegant and fast sailing vessel was built in 1848, but has never run a single day. She was intended for the Ottawa River, but drawing too much water, was chartered last year by Mr. Hamilton and placed in the St. Lawrence River Mail Line, but she never made a single trip. She commences her first duty this season. Everything that money, time and labor can procure, has been put into requisition to render her perfect. Her speed is known to be unparalleled, her accommodations are magnificent, and no manner of doubt exists, but she will prove the nonpareil of the river. Her task of running down in daylight she can easily accomplish; and her upward trip will be made with comparative swiftness. Capt. Sheppard, of the Oldfield, superintended her building for his own especial use, and Messrs. Brush and Ward, of Montreal, made her engine and boilers, both powerful for her size, and she is to be commanded this season by Capt. Lawless, late of the Canada, and her Purser is Mr. Putnam, whom yesterday we erroneously placed in that capacity on board the Passport, instead of Capt. Parker, late of the Gildersleeve. The Ottawa is a very superior vessel, and must become a great favorite.

The Lord Elgin - This is the third and last steamer of the River Mail Line. Last year when employed as an Opposition Boat, by Mr. Bethune, she was flauntingly described as a vessel of extraordinary speed and elegance. This year she is derated by the Patriot, probably at the same instigation. She is deserving neither of the censure or the eulogy. The Lord Elgin is almost a new vessel, of fair power and moderate speed; but both amply sufficient for the duty she has to perform. Her accommodations are good, her furniture elegant, and her captain is the most popular man on the river, Captain Stearns, late of the Highlander, who takes charge of her until his new vessel, the New Highlander, is ready. - As the Lord Elgin is fitting out at the lower end of the route, we have not had the pleasure of a personal inspection; but we had the assurance of a friend, that she is all the eye can wish for, or heart desire in the decorative line.

The above are the three vessels forming the River Mail Line, and when a few trips have proved the correctness of our assertion, we shall call upon the Patriot to retract his calumny. The next No. of "Our Walk" we intend to devote to the Bay of Quinte Boats.


Bay And River


The Steamer


Captain Gilpin,

Will the ensuing season perform one trip per week on the River, and two on the Bay, as follows:-

Will leave Belleville direct for Montreal, every Monday Morning, and arrive at the latter place on Tuesday Afternoon.

Will leave Montreal every Wednesday Morning, and arrive at Belleville on Thursday Night.

Will leave Kingston for Belleville, every Thursday, and Belleville for Kingston every Friday.

The Gildersleeve has been undergoing a thorough repair, and is now in all essential respects as good as new, and is perhaps stronger and more burthensome than ever. She is supplied with a new outfit of Furniture, and is intended, that as regards safety, comfort, and attention to Passengers, the Gildersleeve shall not be outdone by any Boat on the Route.

Kingston, 30th March, 1850.

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March 30, 1850
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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), March 30, 1850