Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Dalhousie to Dublin: Schooner Days LXXXV (85)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 29 Apr 1933
Full Text
Dalhousie to Dublin
Schooner Days LXXXV (85)

Resuming the history of the Muir Brothers, whose famous drydock at Port Dalhousie, built in 1850, is still a going concern, we come to their "barque" Niagara, a lake pitcher which went once too often to the well of the ocean, but cleared thousands of dollars for her owners.

UNDETERRED by the adverse experience of their Alexander, when that schooner’s venture across the Atlantic from Port Dalhousie was marred by her dismasting on the Banks of Newfoundland, the Muir brothers, of Port Dalhousie laid the keel of another and larger vessel while the Alexander was on the high seas, in 1859, ana launched her before the Alexander got back to fresh water.

This was the "barque" Niagara, only one of the long line of Muir sailers to break the rule of beginning her name with "A."

The Niagara was definitely designed for "foreign consumption," so she was deliberately given a name that would call attention to the wilds of America whence she came. She was registered at Montreal, as was the custom for most inland vessels of British North America at this time. A very fine craft she was with the roof of her cabin carried out to the rails, forming a poop deck, with covered approaches on each side to the wheel. She was 140 feet long, 26 feet beam, 18 feet deep in the fore hatch, and loaded to 15 feet draft. That was more than the Welland canal would then accommodate, but as said, the Muir Brothers hoped to sell her in England. But, like the canny Scots that they were, they kept her draft as light as possible, and gave her a centreboard, so that she would be fit for lake navigation if she did not find a purchaser abroad.

"This vessel," recorded Alexander the Great, the Mussolini among the Muir brethren, "we sent to England with a view of selling her, but over there they all seemed to be afraid of a vessel with a centreboard."

According to the Globe of March 26th, 1860, the Niagara, launched that month, was to load in Hamilton early, in the spring with white oak timber and pine deals for a Mr. Patton of Quebec, "and will probably sail direct for London."

An account of this voyage, if it was made, is not to hand, but there are complete details of other voyages she performed across the Atlantic.

In November, 1861, probably after returning to Canada from the Patton voyage, without finding a purchaser for herself in London, she left Port Dalhousie with a cargo of corn, which she had brought down from Chicago, for England, or, if so ordered, for Ireland. J. Aspinall and Son, of Detroit, were the shippers, and Segar and Tunnecliffe, of Liverpool, were the consignees. The freight was 57 cents a bushel, which for the cargo of 20,610 bushels, guaranteed $11,747.70 for one half of the voyage, with $500 more promised—and secured—should she be ordered to an Irish port.

The Niagara ran all the St. Lawrence rapids before the river froze, and reached Montreal in time to load 1,600 bushels more of corn, at 9 shillings per imperial quarter. The delay at Montreal was dangerous, for she was caught by the river ice, and on Dec. 7th was frozen in at Sorel, where she had to lie until the following May. This was not altogether serious, for her crew was paid off, and shipped again by April 30th, and the only expense of keeping her in Sorel was wharfage and a shipkeeper’s wages.

David Muit, one of the brothers, himself a master mariner, waved good-bye to the Niagara at Quebec, on the 4th of May, 1862. On the 2nd of June, twenty-nine days later, she anchored off Cork in Ireland. She was ordered to Dublin for delivery, which ensured the $500 bonus.

On June 8th she arrived in Dublin, and took seventeen days to discharge all her corn to MacKan & Sons, receiving a freight note for £2,607, or $12,660. She took on board 50 tons of stone ballast—it was one of the merits of the centreboarders that they needed very little ballast—and 116 empty casks, and towed out into Dublin Bay at a cost of thirty shillings. Two days later, June 27th, she sailed into Liverpool, and there she loaded 67 packages of crockery for Thomson and Burns, Toronto storekeepers, and nine crates, one cask and a hamper, for James Jackson, another Toronto merchant.

This added $297.11 to her freight earnings, bringing them close to $13,000, well on to the Niagara’s original cost. Alexander Muir listed her at $17,000, but Thomas’ register placed her insurable value at $14,000. Her expenses for the whole voyage, although it was prolonged from one year into another, left a margin of profit of $12,744.

The Niagara sailed for home on July 11th, and arrived at Quebec in 48 days. Two days later—Aug 30th— she reached Montreal. She towed up the St. Lawrence canals, hiring horses for the purpose. All this cost was $37. On Sept. 15th she sailed into Toronto harbor in state, and Alexander Muir himself met her there. Two days later, having delivered to Messrs. Thomson and Burns and Jackson their Liverpool crockery, she sailed for Port Dalhousie, and on Sept. 17th ten months after leaving for Ireland, she was berthed again beside the Muir drydock.

The Niagara’s crew on this voyage, with their wages, were:

Master, Capt. Robert Hamilton, $70 per month.

First mate, Benjamin Berriman, $35 and $40 per month.

Second mate, John Collings, $35 per month.

Steward, John Ousley, $1 per day.

Cook and steward, Chas. J. Harrison, shipped in Liverpool at 3 pounds 5 shillings a month.

Seamen shipped at Sorel at $1 per day, John Smith, Michael Cody, James Cenden, Wm. Waters.

Seamen shipped at Quebec at 7 pounds ten shillings a month, John McCann, John Murphy, Thomas Smith and Thomas McGuire, who took $20 a month.

Seamen shipped for the return voyage, in Dublin and Liverpool, at 2 pounds, 10 shillings a month, Wilfrid Curwen, John Murphy, Thomas Rendall, Peter Bergman, George William Baker, Isaac Beggs and William Waters.

This list, with its repetitions, gives

an exaggerated idea of the number of the Niagara’s crew. She had a master, two mates, a cook-steward and eight men before the mast, out and home; twelve men all told. In addition, one Robert Stewart, a sort of west-bound passenger, was paid thirty shillings and a pound of tobacco for his services helping at the pumps. Like all centreboarders, the Niagara was not perfectly tight at sea.

Another member of the crew was John Young, seaman, who, according to a memo: "Joined the ship as an A. B. in Liverpool, July 11th, 1862; remained on duty till 15th July, when in a fit of Incenity caused by Dissipation on shore, jumpt of the Ship’s side, went down, and was drowned. Received advance paid by Cunningham and Shaw, Liverpool, 2 pounds 15 shillings; one pound of tobacca at sea."

Most careful account was kept of every penny spent on the voyage. It will be noted that wages east-bound were more than double the wages west-bound, a glimpse at the English and Canadian labor market at the time of the American war. The last entry in the long list of expenses was a "York shilling," twelve and a half cents, paid for reporting the ship when she arrived at Port Dalhousie. Beef cost 7 cents a pound in Quebec Province when she provisioned there, potatoes 45 cents a bushel, eggs a York shilling a dozen, and butter 20 cents a pound.

If this was the Niagara’s first voyage across, which is doubtful, it was certainly not her last. She was engaged in the trade in 1863 and 1864, clearing $4,664 in the period. Part of the time she was laid up at Port Dalhousie. Her size and draft made it impossible to load her to full capacity if she had to use the Welland Canal. In 1865 Muir Brothers loaded her with a cargo of their own oak timber and pipe staves, consigned to Greenock on the Clyde. Capt. Wm. Zealand, of Hamilton, went as master of her. He had as bad luck almost as Archibald Muir with the Alexander, for the Niagara peaked and labored so badly that he had to jettison the deckload of staves, and as these were the property of the owners every stave that went overboard was a "total loss." This lost deckload was worth $5,000, but it saved the ship. The oak timber was so heavy that she would not have floated if they had not been able to lighten her load.

When the Niagara did reach Greenock, after being caulked, she loaded a cargo of pig iron, bought at £3 a ton. When she got back to Hamilton with it it was sold at $25 a ton, and in spite of the setback of the pipe staves, the voyage showed a profit of $1,841.

On the first Dominion Day of all, July 1st, 1867, the Niagara was at Garden Island, opposite Kingston, with all her colors flying, unloading square timber for rafting to Quebec. Shortly afterwards the Muir Brothers sold her to lake owners, who sent her on another voyage across the Atlantic with timber. On this she was lost. Her net earnings for the Muir Brothers in addition to her selling price, were $21,295.


Who do you think writes thus?:

"I have been much interested in your articles under the title, "Schooner Days," and well remember the glory that came to Cobourg by the incident portrayed by your picture in The Telegram of Saturday, April 22nd, namely, the rescue of Edward Hanlan in Toronto Bay by Captain Ackerman in the Nellie Hunter’s yawl boat.

"I sailed in the Nellie Hunter with Captain Brokenshire and his fine crew, comprising the late Tom Cavanagh (mate) and Seamen Tom Flood and James Cashion. We sailed light out of Cobourg harbor to Oswego, there loading coal for Hamilton, and thence to Fairport on Lake Erie, for a load of coal back to Cobourg. Later in the same season I sailed out of the Cuyahoga River at Cleveland, bound for Cobourg, Ontario.

"I well recall, while unloading at Hamilton, Big Jim Cashion, and I (then a small boy) rowed out in the Nellie Hunter’s yawl boat to the centre of Burlington Bay for a swim. After diving in the bay, I found the yawlboat too high out of the water to get in again, until Jim Cashion sat on the side of the boat so that I could get a hold and climb in.

At that time the Nellie Hunter was owned in Cobourg, an uncle of mine being part owner, hence the trip for me."

Mr. Justice Field is the correspondent; an unexpected one-time passenger in the yawlboat which rescued Ned Hanlan.


Sir, —A long time ago I happened to glance over a man’s shoulder in the street car on my way home from work. He was reading The Evening Telegram. At first I paid no attention to the paper, always having patronized another, but as I took a second look he had opened to the page called "Schooner Days." O, Boy! Just the right thing for me. So when I got off the car I bought a Tely and soon found the page I wanted, and, believe me, I was glad, because it certainly was a great story, and now I am a reader of your paper regularly. Not only do I get a good story every week about old-time sailing ships and days, but all the information regarding the Bluenose, and all sailing ships, seem to be in The Tely.



Friend Dave Williams, Mayor of Collingwood, and boss of the Enterprise-Bulletin, sends this from the Midland Argus:

"One of the oldest houses in the district was removed last Wednesday evening, when the home of Mr. Ed. Quesnelle was destroyed by fire. The building was situated about two miles south of the town on the old Penetanguishene road, just across Little Lake. The house was built in the year 18830 by William Wilson, then master shipwright in the Naval Dockyards at Penetanguishene. Wm. Wilson came to Canada 1812 with the 100th Foot Regiment and later became ship's carpenter on the 'Nancy.' After the war he was at the Naval Establishments in Kingston and Penetanguishene. He received his discharge papers in 1834 and retired to his home on the Old Military (Penetang) road. The house was originally of a colonial type with a long verandah and a row of French windows in front. Inside there was a fireplace which is still standing, made of stones squared by hand. The building was constructed with squared timbers and sheeted with clap-boards which were cut in a saw-pit just behind the house. For many years a work shop housing the figurehead of the "Nancy" stood beside the house."

We visited this fine old place three years ago, in company with a man who had actually seen the figurehead of the Nancy, painted red and blue. William Wilson had salvaged it from the wreck in the mouth of the Nottawasaga, and kept in this workshop. Our guide was Waverley Smith, whose farm is on the town-line between Tiny and Tay townships—a grandson of the Nancy’s carpenter. His grandfather had often shown him the figurehead in his boyhood.


We had a good deal of discussion over the Ocean Wave, in which Capts. Brokenshire and Martin were lost 45 years ago, at the Mariners’ Service in Cherry Valley last Sunday. Capt Palmateer is writing to Mrs. Upper, Capt. Martin’s granddaughter, about it.

Capt. Byron Bongard, who was lying in Deseronto the night the Ocean Wave went down (I think it was in the Acacia he was then) sailed through acres of barrel-headings the following day, on his way to Oswego, and saw that some vessel had lost her deck-load. He knew nothing then about the Ocean Wave having foundered.

He and all the old-timers agreed that it was remarkable that this vessel, being lumber-laden, should not have floated after she went over; but, as they pointed out, much lumber was cut and shipped very green then, and the Ocean Wave’s load may have been wet and heavy. It may have swollen and burst her apart.

It was strange, too, they all agreed, that the Garibaldi, in company with the Ocean Wave down the Bay of Quinte, did not see her disappear when the squall struck them. Capt Bongard pointed out that the squall may have been very local. It made the lines creak in Deseronto, but did not seem to be very vicious there, as it passed down the lake, and the Garibaldi, a few miles away, may have missed it.

Capt. Palmateer said that the model in the church, of the little schooner Nina, gave a very good idea of what the Ocean Wave was like-white, plumb stemmed, with a good sheer and saucy looking. The only difference was that the Nina’s model showed four jibs, and the Ocean Wave’s staysail set on her bowsprit, reducing her to three.


Waved 'Niagara' Bon Voyage For Ireland

DAVID MUIR, one of the five brother owners who "saw the Niagara off" at Quebec.

The FANNY CAMPBELL, " lake "barque" built in Shickluna's yards, St. Catharines, a contemporary of the Niagara's and very much like her in appearance.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
29 Apr 1933
Personal Name(s)
Muir, David ; Muir, Alexander ; Hamilton, Robert ; Berriman, Benjamin ; Collings, John ; Ousley, John ; Harrison, Charles J. ; Smith, John ; Cody, Michael ; Cenden, James ; Waters, William ; McCann, John ; Murphy, John ; Smith, Thomas ; McGuire, Thomas ; Curwen, Wilfrid ; Murphy, John ; Rendel, Thomas ; Bergman, Peter, Baker, George William ; Beggs, Isaac ; Waters, William ; Stewart, Robert ; Young, John ; Zealand, William ; Cavanagh, Thomas ; Flood, Thomas ; Cashion, James ; Wilson, William ; Bongard, Byron
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Dublin, Ireland
    Latitude: 53.33306 Longitude: -6.24889
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.200555 Longitude: -76.465555
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.7834 Longitude: -79.91637
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.20011 Longitude: -79.26629
  • Quebec, Canada
    Latitude: 46.85258 Longitude: -71.33082
Ron Beaupre
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Dalhousie to Dublin: Schooner Days LXXXV (85)