Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Two "Barques" and Their Finish: Schooner Days CCLXIX (269)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 5 Dec 1936
Full Text
Two "Barques" and Their Finish
Schooner Days CCLXIX (269)


THAT staunch supporter W. R. Philimore writes:

With no desire to reawaken the 'closed 'barquentine' discussion, may I, nevertheless, say a few words from memory? Nomenclature may differ somewhat on salt water and the Great Lakes, though there seems to be some confusion when a correspondent suggests difficulty in a trysail boom going over the cook's funnel when going about. On lake vessels the galley would not be forward, where a trysail boom could come near it, but in the cabin aft. Having sailed with many salt water men, who came to the lakes for the better pay in summer, I often found them differing as to rig.

"On an American vessel, the Mary Lyon, one of the sisters about which you wrote recently, we took on hard coal at Oswego for Chicago. Clearing the Beavers on Lake Michigan we had a fresh breeze over the quarter, and presently the David Dows (have I the name correctly, or was it the Reuben Dowd?) crossed our bow close hauled, carrying everything, and she was good to look at. With squaresail, double topsails, topgallantsail, maintopmast staysail, and fore and aft sails on all of her masts, two salt-water men on the Lyon differed, one calling her a topsail schooner, the other a barquentine.

"But she was some smart craft, and famous on the upper lakes. Ship-owners often included a fast vessel in their fleet, such being the Singapore on which, also, I have sailed, sharp and pretty, but inferior as a carrier to those bluff old wagons built for the same firm, the Hyderabad or Bangalore. What was believed in the darkness to be the Dows was met again under near tragic circumstances.

"On the Albacore we had carried square timber all summer, but, attracted by good grain freights in the fall we took on iron ore for ballast at Kingston, went to Chicago and loaded wheat. On the way down, bowling through the Straits of Mackinac in a near gale, winged out, the other vessels being met working up, of course, there suddenly loomed out of the darkness a big fellow, about to cross our bow, close hauled on the starboard tack, and going like a racehorse. Even before an order was given I had the helm up and there was a yell to get the port watch out of the forecastle. With no time to haul aft a sheet or do anything in preparation for a gibe, the mainsail came over with a crash, but mast and boom stood. The Albacore was stout built. We passed under the stern of the other fellow, a close squeak, while the captains of both vessels hurled very picturesque language at each other, scarce heard in the racket - but I seemed to detect in the voice of our captain a note of great relief.

"I recall the barquentine (or was she?) Thomas C. Street, square-rigged forward, with storm staysail on a stay running from heel of foremast to mainmast head, and a maintopmast staysail above it. On the Jessie L. Breck of Kingston we were working up Lake Erie one dirty day, when a sailor remarked he thought the weather would clear, there being a new moon. Sailors attributed to the moon an influence on the weather, much as landsmen believe that at a certain phase is the time to kill hogs. We did have a good night, whereat the sailor said: "I told you so." But on passing Detroit and learning that the Street had capsized that same night in a squall at the lower end of lake, I reminded him that it was the same moon!"

As between the David Dows and the Reuben Dowd, the probabilities are in favor of the former being the big boy which nearly prevented Mr. Philimore writing this letter. The only "square" sail the Dowd carried in this commentator's time of knowing her was a three-cornered "squaresail," as it was called, hanging below the yard on which she set her raffee. This, however, was after she had been dismasted in Lake Erie and re-rigged at Detroit. What she had before that I do not know.

I had never heard of her as a, square-rigger, though often enough as the "bull of the woods," because forty oxen towed her down the Wolf or the Fox River, where she was built in the bush back of Green Bay.

This, of course, proves nothing. But the Dows was emphatically a square rigger, and was always called, erroneously, a "barque" because of the amount of four-cornered canvas she spread on her foremast. She was a long ship, the longest on the lakes, and had five masts. Only the foremast was square-rigged. Let us abide by Mr. Philimore's agreement to a barquentine-topsail-schooner truce.

The builder's sail-plan of the David Dows, from which the accompanying portrait was carefully drawn and painted by Mr. Loudon G. Wilson, of Royal Oak, Mich., shows that she was a topsail schooner.

The Thomas C. Street, of which Mr. Philmore tells, furnished endless fuel for the barque-barquentine-top-sail-schooner controversy, complicated by the fact that she used two of these rigs, and for some time had a compromise between both. It appears that after one of her voyages overseas - for though built for the lakes, to carry 330,000 feet of lumber or 20,000 bushels of grain on a 10-foot draught, she crossed ocean more than once - after one of these voyages she took out the mainstay which set the "storm staysail" and rigged a fore-and-aft foresail, spread by boom and gaff, in addition to her square fore course. Friend W. H. Smith, of 107 Alexandra Blvd., gives this account of her, written in his 90th year:

"Some sixty years ago (it was really longer than that, 1869 being the year), a fine square-rigged three-master was built by Louis Shickluna at St. Catharines, and named after Thomas C. Street, then a prominent business man of the Niagara Peninsula. ("Street's Farm" was the building place recorded by the Admiralty naval architects when the war schooner's Naawash and Tecumseh were built at Chippewa in 1815.) The Thomas C. Street, of two generations later, was fitted out in first- class style so as to take an active part in the growing trade on all our Great Lakes.

"I wish to record the experience of but one trip made by this grand ship. Though planned for the inland waters only, the owners were so anxious to try an ocean trip that they secured the services of an experienced salt-water man, Capt. Phipps, as first officer (he died fifty years ago), and another from the Orkneys, Capt. Allan, as second in command

"With a cargo of bone fertilizer and Canadian choice woods, they made their way through the lakes, canals and river St. Lawrence to the ocean. Though not having the usual depth of keel of the ocean craft, they succeeded in defying the Roaring Forties of the North Atlantic and delivering their cargo in London. They then took on another for Demerara, in South America (British Guiana) and by careful handling were successful in overcoming the dreaded tornadoes and hurricanes of the tropics and the Caribbean. Securing a load of sugar and rum for Montreal, they proceeded homeward through that inner passage that has caused the disastrous loss of the Morro Castle and others in recent days.

"In a few weeks she was back on Lake Ontario, and while the chief officers were visiting their families she was sent up light through Lake Erie, and when near Long Point encountered one of those sudden northwest squalls so common on that lake that upset her, and caused the loss of one man. After braving the stormy ocean to come home to meet disaster on the smaller of the Great Lakes. She was righted and refitted and finally perished on Lake Ontario.

'It was indeed a grand sight to see this ship coming to our harbor when a good offshore breeze was filling her sixteen sails, smoking through the waves like a race horse striving for the wire—a sight we are not likely to see again, as the windjammer, like the stagecoach with its prancing steeds, has given way to the craze for speed."

Let me point out, Mr. Smith, that it is the craze for money that has pushed the sailing vessel under the horizon. Freight steamers do not, in general, make much better time than sailing vessels, but they pay better dividends. They can be built to carry very much more, and they do not require so many men per ton of freight handled. So they pay better.

Let that other good friend of Schooner Days, "Red" Macdonald, of Goderich, take up the parable of the Thomas C. Street. He knows about her, for his father, Capt. John Macdonald, was in her the night she was lost in the great gale of Nov. 7th, 1880:

"Wm. Carradice was before the mast with my father, in the Street, and the mate's name was Gagen, with Capt. Tripps. My father used to sail the yacht Vixen for Mr. M. C. Hays. She became the yacht Alarm, in the R.C.Y.C., and was owned by. Col. Grasett. Father would sail in Hagarty and Grasett's vessels after laying up the yacht in September.

"Old. Capt. McLaren, of the schooner Defiance, told me he remembered that night. She was rigged with main and topmast staysails when she was trading across, and they took them out of her and put back her fore and aft foresail, I and she still had her square one, and an old-fashioned single topsail, above it, with three reefs in it, and above this a topgallantsail. When the Street was trading across with deals she carried this topsail, top-gallantsail and a royal, and she had studdingsail booms, so she would be a barquentine, with a square fore-sail that clewed up to the yard, and not brailed in to the mast, like the squaresail of a lake vessel. Her captain's name was Tripps, and had her across three times, and not just once.

"The night she was lost on Lake Ontario she had 23,000 bushels of No. 1 wheat in her, and her canvas was good new No. 1 storm canvas, but it all went into ribbons and blew out of her like so much brown paper, or she would have weathered Long Point and got safe into Kingston. As it was she drove in on the beach two miles above Wellington, in Prince Edward County.

"Father said she had a deep monkey-rail all around, above the main rail, and when a sea would board her she would fill up to the top of the monkey-rail, fore-and-aft. That would mean she would have six feet of water on her decks at times. They broke all the bulwarks out of her with the windlass brakes, to let me water run off her.

"She struck about two o'clock in the morning, having no sail left to keep her clear of the land. The boat was washed away. When it began to get light the farmers saw her spars and ran to the beach. Father said the way they got off her was by bracing the foreward sharp up and swinging the leadline from the end of the yardarm nearest the shore. When the farmers got the leadline the crew bent on a messenger, and so a big hawser was hauled ashore, and the crew slid down it from the fore crosstrees."

So stoutly built was the Thomas C. Street that her wreck lay on the beach above Wellington for nine years before breaking up; and the boulder beach of Wellington is exposed to the full fury of all Lake Ontario's gales from west of south. Her wreck was disastrous for more than one Toronto and Niagara family had "a piece" of her sixty-four shares. She had been such a profitable vessel from her launching that she attracted shareholders. The Georgian Bay Lumber Co., of Waubashene, Ont., owned her at that time. Capt. Edward Anderson was an early master, in the Chicago-Collingwood grain trade. She was 139 feet long, 23 feet 4 inches beam, and 11 feet 6 inches deep in the hold, and registered 362 tons. She cost $16,000 to build.


THE DAVID DOWS, longest sailing vessel on the lakes, painted from the builder's spar plan by Loudon G. Wilson, of Royal Oak, Mich. This schooner was designed, built and sailed by Capt. Joseph L. Skellonden and launched from Bailey's Shipyard, Toledo, Ohio, in 1881. She was 265 feet long, 37 feet beam, 18 feet deep in the hold and registered 1,418 tons. She was lost with all hands in Lake Michigan, off Whiting, one of Indiana's few ports, on Thanksgiving Day. Her master at this time was Capt. Thomas Roach.

THAT STONY BEACH OF WELLINGTON. The THOMAS C. STREET came in somewhere near the point.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
5 Dec 1936
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 43.45535 Longitude: -76.5105
  • Michigan, United States
    Latitude: 45.81668 Longitude: -84.75005
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.95012 Longitude: -77.34947
Richard Palmer
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Two "Barques" and Their Finish: Schooner Days CCLXIX (269)