Maritime History of the Great Lakes
The Brothers Leave the Brothers Schooner Days CCCCXXXVII (437)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 15 Jun 1940
Full Text
The Brothers Leave the Brothers
Schooner Days CCCCXXXVII (437)

(Progress of a Master Mariner of the Great Lakes)

By C. H. J. Snider

THE WILLIAMS BOYS always consulted their father, "Kew Beach" Williams. To his dying day they respected his judgment and sought his advice. But they had brains of their own, and used them.

Ever there comes a time for the fledgings to leave the nest. Sometimes the parent birds have to push them out. Joseph Williams, Sr., did not have to push his sailor sons overside. They were eager to fly for themselves. How young Johnny Williams came to desert the floating nest represented by the good scow Brothers, of 90 tons deadweight, was thus:

The three boys, Joe, Tommy and Johnny, had sailed the little blunt-ended vessel successfully for a number of years. Their father had not been in her after the preliminary purchase-voyage, devoting himself to developing the homestead, in his great vision of Kew Beach, Toronto, as another Kew Gardens, London. In her last season, when all the bills were paid, the humble Brothers, which had been bought for $400 cash, had earned $1,200. A grand showing. But young Captain Joe was not well pleased to find that it was all absorbed in paint and lumber and interest at 8 per cent, on more land for the Kew Beach vision. It was not that he did not see the future, too. But he thought the mortgage should be cut down, instead of nourished by eight cents on the dollar. So he said he would sail the Brothers no more. Johnny Williams, the third son, was designated for the command. All the family had confidence in him, and he had often had charge of the Brothers in Joe's absence. The little hooker had been laid up properly, and Joe had taken good care of her. In the spring young captain-designate Johnny made a careful survey, and produced a frugal list of What was necessary for outfitting.

'"Paint, oil, turps, whitelead, lampblack—what do you want with paint to throw stones and gravel against?" grumbled Joseph Williams, Sr., late color-sergeant in Her Majesty's 100th Regiment of Foot.

Johnny's face fell. Every ship he ever had he loved. Even the yawing, awkward, unhandy Speedwell which he was to own ten years later. He would no more let his ship go unpainted than he'd let his mother go undressed. And, for the health and upkeep of a ship, paint is just as necessary as clothes for a lady. Johnny's temper was hot, but he was learning to hold his tongue. He made no reply to his father until a day or two later, when he announced quietly, "Father, I have an offer for the Brothers."

"Grab it quick, " said the father. "Who is it?"

"Doughnuts O'Brien of Frenchman's Bay and his partner, a young fellow named Bundage. They're aboard the vessel now."

"I'll be right down and save them and us money," said the ex-color sergeant, and forthwith he gathered up the Brothers papers and some bill-of-sale blanks, and hied him to the schooner.

The two young men were on deck. Mr. Williams invited them into the cabin. "You needn't go to the expense of lawyers," said he, as though he knew all about the offer. "Her title is good, she is clear of debt, and I can make out the bill of sale and the guaranty and it will cost you nothing."

The would-be purchasers, already primed with Johnny's earnest salesmanship, flavored with a cautionary "if only" regarding the father's consent, were delighted. They sat breathless with expectation while Mr. Williams made out the document transferring "sixty-four shares in the good ship Brothers, her spars, rigging, sails, guns, boats, furniture and other appurtenances" to Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Bundage, the parties of the second part, in consideration of the sum of—

"What's the consideration? " asked Mr. Williams of his son.

"Five hundred dollars, father," said Johnny respectfully, hoping for a forgiving ray of sunshine after his presumption in asking for the paint. He had made a good bargain, and he knew it: 25 per cent, advance on the little vessel's purchase price, after years of use of her.

Instead, Joseph Williams, Sr., rose, folded up all the papers, and left the cabin, with the air of a man insulted beyond endurance.

The two young fellows from Frenchman's Bay were panicked. Five hundred dollars was all they could scrape together. They had gone to great pains to get it They had made great plans. If the Williams' boys could earn $1,200 in one year with the Brothers, why couldn't they? They would make her pay for herself in the first season, as the Williamses had done. And now — all their hopes were dashed.

"Can't you argue with him? " they begged Johnny.

"I'll try," said Johnny, non-commitally, "but there is only one thing that will work. "

Without a word the boys handed him fifty ten dollar bills in a roll. They could trust Johnny. He left the cabin and found his father strolling—not too fast—up the wharf.

"It's all right, father, " said he, showing the roll.

The old man right-about-faced, came back to the cabin, spread out the papers again, and resumed where he left off, as though he had gone out to look at the weather.

"In consideration of the sum of? " —he repeated.

"Five hundred dollars, father," repeated Johnny, "and I have it here in my pocket."

The pen scratched on, the blotter was applied. The cork went back into the ink bottle, and Joseph Williams suddenly beamed on all hands.

"Here are her papers, your bill of sale, and your receipts, gentlemen," said he politely. "You have made an excellent bargain and I wish you good luck with the Brothers. "

Walking home with Johnny he remarked, as to the clouds, "Taste and try before you buy, but always make sure your customer can pay—and will—before you sell. None of your dollar-down and a dollar a week if you're parting with something that does float and can sink."

"All right, father, " said Johnny serenely, accepting in good part a homily where he might have had a ten-spot. His mind had been made up since the episode of the refused paint. He would strike out for himself.

This ended the fraternal partnership of the Williams boys in this particular vessel, although they continued to follow the lakes, sometimes in pairs, sometimes in different vessels. All three, Joe, Tommy and Johnny, became captains, but their commands varied greatly in size and responsibility. Johnny eventually captained a hundred times the tonnage of any of his brothers.

The O'Brien-Bundage partnership in the scow the boys had turned into such a money-maker was prosperous in a lesser degree. "Doughnuts" became the owner of a fine-looking little Bronte-built schooner called the Madeline, and his partner rose to the rank of first class constable on the Toronto police force.

Young Capt. Joe Williams was in command of the Brothers, although Johnny was not with him at the time, when they met the thr schooner Northman, just before her mysterious end. The Northman had come out of Port Dalhousie with a cargo of corn and was to pick up odd lots at other lake ports, on her way to Kingston. She had been a propellor and had only recently been converted into a sailing vessel. When the Brothers sighted her standing up-well'to a stiffish easterly breeze, under her lower canvas, with her gafftopsail stowed. She was next sighted five miles southeast of Port Credit light, running up the lake, steering wildly and in distress of some kind. Suddenly she disappeared — so quickly that she seemed to vanish, rather than to sink. The next known of her was her cabin top washing in on the beach near Bronte, with a dead man jammed in one of the window frames. He was buried unknown, but those who found him thought he was a Frenchman from his appearance and the scapular around his neck. It was supposed that the Northman's timber-ports had opened up, or had not been properly caulked in the spring fitting out. This happened in April, 1880. The Brothers herself was not distressed by the weather at the time and made port before it got worse. She lived to be blown up at the Exhibition, In 1898, in representation of the destruction of the U.S.S. Maine, as already told.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
15 Jun 1940
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.65011 Longitude: -79.3829
Ron Beaupre
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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The Brothers Leave the Brothers Schooner Days CCCCXXXVII (437)