The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), May 14, 1850

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p.2 For Parliament Ho! - The steamers for Montreal upwards have arrived laden with passengers for the Opening of Parliament which takes place today. The Canada, Capt. O'Connor, came up yesterday with upwards of 80 cabin passengers, many of whom, including Sir George Simpson, signed a letter to the captain expressive of the high sense they entertained of his kindness and attention to them while on board the Canada.

On board the Steamer Canada,

Kingston, May 13th, 1850.

We, the undersigned Passengers from Lachine to Kingston, by the Canada, Capt. O'Connor, have much pleasure in testifying the high sense we entertain, and perfect satisfaction we have derived from his attention to our comforts, his gentlemanly demeanor, the good sailing qualities and cleanliness of his Boat, and the excellence and liberality of his table.

(signed by 25 signatures)


We re-publish the following letters from the Port Hope Watchman, on the subject of the excellency of Presqu'isle Harbor as a Harbor of Refuge, so much needed between Kingston and Toronto.

No. 1

Presqu'isle, April 15th, 1850.

Sir - I have read Mr. Lyon's description of Presqu'Isle Harbor, and I must say I am a good deal surprised at it! My own observations here for the last ten years as Light House Keeper, do not lead me to the same conclusions. In the first place with regard to the Channel being a "tortuous and shifting one" and only 7 feet 6 inches water, I have only to say that I have sounded the channel from the harbor through to the Lake, and from twelve to thirteen feet in the shallowest part; and as to the channel twisting I found the depth of water in a straight course or nearly so, from the harbor to the Lake; with regard to its shifting I never heard of it before; my own observations as to the course the vessels take in coming into harbor will not admit of it, neither will the experience of the captainsof vessels that I have conversed with, those old captains who have long been acquainted with the harbor using the same landmarks to steer in with now which they ever did and moreover I suppose it will be acknowledged, that the late superintendent of the Light Houses and harbors, Captain McIntire, was as well acquainted with this harbor as any other man, both as to his own experience in sailing, and also from a survey which he made whilst in the employ of the Board of Works, now sir, if Mr. Lyon's opinions be correct, that "a channel defined by buoys today, would after the next gale lead vessels aground," would Captain McIntyre have sent buoys and cables here, only last year, to have the channel buoyed off, which was to have been done then, but poor McIntyre was suddenly taken off, and the buoys in consequence are lying here on the shore. Now here are both experience and science in favor of Presqu'Isle Harbor. - Facts are indeed stubborn things.

Wm. Swetman.

No. 2

Presqu'Isle Point, April 16, 1850.

Dear Sir, - I have now been a resident at Presqu'Isle upwards of forty years, having settled here in 1808, and during this time have frequently piloted vessels in and out of the Harbor, and sailed a schooner for several years myself, during which time I have never known the channel to fail nor shift, neither is it tortuous or crooked, making only a slight curve from the mouth of the harbor to the lake. I have never known any vessel to ground in the channel, but have frequently seen vessels ashore on the shoals of Salt Point and sometimes on the flats for want of knowing where the channel was, which might be easily defined by buoys and a Harbor Light. I have never known the water less than two fathoms in the Channel, and this Spring having sounded, I find there is thirteen feet and upwards all the way out. Dear Sir, if you think proper you may make use of this statement for the good of our much neglected harbor.

Joseph Gibson.


To the Editor of the Hamilton Spectator.

Hamilton, 9th May, 1850.

Sir, - I have seen in the Toronto Patriot and other papers, a telegraphic report from Buffalo, giving an account of the wreck of the steamer Commerce, under my command; and could have wished that such report had not been published until the party making it could have obtained correct information, calculated, as it is, to mislead the public in regard to the management of my steamer.

Feeling called upon, in justice to myself, to give a true statement of the case, I enclose a copy of my protest, made here this day, and will feel obliged by your publishing it, leaving nautical men and the public to judge in how far I did my duty; and I always have the satisfaction of feeling that not one life was sacrificed through my negligence.

It gives me great pleasure to mention that the conduct of Capt. McSwain, of the Despatch, after the collision, was praiseworthy in the highest degree, for, with his steamer making a great deal of water, and in a precarious state, he remained by the Commerce so long as a life could be saved.

I am, Sir,

Your obedient servant,



By this public instrument of Protest, be it known and made manifest unto all people, that on the 9th day of May, in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty, personally appeared before me, Alexander Logie, Notary Public, duly authorized and commissioned by Royal authority, in and for that part of the Province of Canada heretofore called Upper Canada, and residing at the City of Hamilton, in the said Province, John Cochran, Master of the Vessel or Steamer called the Commerce, belonging to the Port of Kingston, and James Robertson, the Engineer of the said vessel, who did severally declare and state as follows, that is to say:-

That on the second day of May, instant, about 5 a.m., these appearers and the rest of the crew of the said steamer, left the port of Lachine, in the said Province of Canada, bound on a voyage to Port Stanley, on Lake Erie, with about 150 passengers, being a detachment of 124 men of Her Majesty's 23rd Regiment of Foot, with the officers in charge of the said detachment, and with the wives and children of the said soldiers, and laden in addition to the baggage of the said soldiers, with about two tons of goods, the said steamer being then tight, staunch and strong, well manned, victualled and found, and in every respect fit to perform her intended voyage. And this appearer, John Cochran, for himself declares and says, that having passed through the Welland Canal, the said steamer left Port Maitland, on Lake Erie aforesaid, on her intended voyage to Port Stanley aforesaid, about the hour of ten minutes to twelve o'clock a.m. on Monday the 6th day of May, inst., the other appearer, the said James Robertson, then being below attending to his duty as Engineer of the said steamer; that on leaving Port Maitland aforesaid, the course of the said steamer was shaped south-west, a little southerly, being the proper course for the said steamer to take on leaving Port Maitland, until the shoal that lies some distance above Port Maitland is passed; the wind being about south west, and the weather moderate; that immediately after leaving Port Maitland aforesaid, the said steamer being on her said course, and this appearer standing beside the helmsman at the wheelhouse, being near the bow of the said steamer, made the steamer Despatch ahead, if anything on the larboard bow; that the Commerce kept her course until she got within amply sufficient distance to give the Despatch a berth to keep on her own side, when the helm of the said Commerce was put a little to give the Despatch a good berth to pass on her own side. That this appearer, seeing that the Despatch did not edge off to keep on her own side, caused the helm of the Commerce to be ported a little more, so as to make sure of passing her, even if said Despatch had kept her straight course; but instead of that, she, the Despatch, edged in on the Commerce; that when this appearer saw that he caused his helm to be put hard a-port, to see if he could keep clear of the Despatch, always keeping on the right side, and on seeing that the collision was unavoidable, this appearer rang the bell for the engine to stop, and that the engine was immediately stopped; that immediately afterwards the Despatch struck the Commerce as near as this appearer can judge, about ten or fifteen feet from the stem, on the larboard bow; that about four minutes after the collision, the forehold of the Commerce was full of water, and about ten minutes afterwards she careened over on her starboard side, and gradually settled down in about eight fathoms water; that this appearer, John Cochran, from the time the Commerce left Port Maitland, until the happening of the collision, was upon deck, and standing near the helmsman, at the bow of the said steamer. And this appearer, James Robertson, for himself declares, that from the time of leaving Port Maitland aforesaid, until the happening of the said collision, he was below attending to the engine of the Commerce, as engineer; that about 19 to 20 minutes after having left Port Maitland, the bell was rung for the engine to stop; that this appearer did immediately stop the said engine, and that in a moment afterwards the Commerce was struck by the said Despatch on the larboard bow, as declared by the said John Cochran, and immediately began to fill with water; and that the said Commerce careened over and sunk, as related by the said Master.

And these appearers do further declare, that from the time of leaving Port Maitland, until, and at the time of the said collision, the said Commerce carried two signal lamps attached to the cross-trees aloft, newly trimmed before leaving Port Maitland, and shewing a brilliant light; and that the night was clear, and not unusually dark. That the said accident happened about ten minutes after midnight; and these appearers, and others of the crew and passengers, who were saved, left the Commerce about twenty-five minutes after the said collision, when the said Steamer was fast settling down and sinking.

And these appearers do protest, and I, the said Notary, do also protest, against the said steamer Despatch, and the said collision, striking, facts and occurrences, and all loss or damage occasioned thereby.

We, the said John Cochran and James Robertson, do severally swear, that the foregoing statements are correct, and contain a true account of the facts and circumstances, to the best of our knowledge and belief.



Thus declared, sworn and protested, in duplicate, at the City of Hamilton aforesaid, the day and year first above written, before me.


Notary Public, Hamilton.

Kingston Imports.

May 10th - Str. Cataract, Ogdensburgh, gen. cargo.

Str. Ontario, Rochester, gen. cargo.

May 11th - Schr. Scotia, Rystenham, 1015 staves, Calvin, Cook & Co.

Schr. William Blash (sic), Port Dover, 32,000 staves, Calvin, Cook & Co.

May 12th - Schr. Annexation, Goderich, 2,000 staves, Calvin, Cook & Co.; 4 boxes and 1 bale goods, Browne, Toronto.

Str. Bay State, Lewiston, gen. cargo.

Str. Ontario, Ogdensburgh, gen. cargo.

May 13th - Scow Oddfellow, Cape Vincent, 2 rolls leather, E.F. Powell; 2 Brewing machines, John L. Gordinier.

Schr. Alert, Oswego, 75 bbls. plaster, for Bondhead.

Schr. Georgiana, Port Dover, 15,250 pipe staves, Calvin, Cook & Co.

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May 14, 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), May 14, 1850