The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), Aug. 4, 1881

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p.2 Accident At Garden Island - Luther, son of Capt. John Donnelly, almost drowned.


The schr. T.R. Merritt is loading iron at Portsmouth for Chicago.

The Maud goes to the Camp Ground tomorrow. Be sure and go.

The Rothesay and the Prince Arthur carried over 3,000 passengers during the first three weeks of the season.

The new yacht Robert McCorkhill has been hauled out and will have new and larger rudder and centreboard put on.


Str. Magnet, Charlotte, pass. and fgt.

Str. Spartan, Hamilton, pass. and fgt.

Str. Algerian, Montreal, pass. and fgt.

Prop. Argyle, Chicago, 16,000 wheat.

Schr. Sligo, Chicago, 20,350 wheat.

Schr. M. McRae, Chicago, 23,739 corn.

Schr. Erie Queen, Toronto.

Tug M.J. Cummings, Oswego, with two barges

Steam barge Water Lily, Cape Vincent, with barge.

Welland Canal - Bound Down.

Wm. Elgin, Cleveland, Kingston, coal.

J.R. Benson, Toledo, Collinsby, timber.

E.H. Rutherford, Toledo, Kingston, corn.

Prop. Celtic, Chicago, Montreal, gen. cargo.


Tug Glide, Montreal, six barges, 120,000 bush. grain.

Prop. Ocean, Montreal, pass. and fgt.

Str. D.C. West, Westport, pass. and fgt.

p.3 Accident To A Kingstonian - while painting schr. Bavaria at Windsor.

Cutting The Rates - St. Lawrence and Richelieu Steamboat Companies.

Shop-Lifting Case - two sailors in a jewellry store.


Continuation Of The Interview With Capt. John Donnelly.

Yesterday we gave a few of the jottings made by us while talking with Capt. John Donnelly, of Garden Island, over some of the prominent wrecking cases which occurred to his mind, without previous thought and preparation. It is a great pity that such men have not a full and accurate record of the principal events which have transpired from year to year, as it would be interesting for reference purposes. But it so happens that most men become eminent by slow degrees and without having the conceited opinion at the outstart that they will be great sometime, and that it is best to pencil down the incident of every day life for use in after years. Some who have kept diaries have never had occasion to reveal their contents, while men like Capt. Donnelly after a long and industrious career, could have contributed material for purposes more important than those of newspaper articles. We left him describing the "ups" and "downs" of the Royal Mail Line. Having noted these we asked,

Raising Two Steamships

"What was your greatest triumph, the best work accomplished in your own opinion?" we asked.

"My most important and difficult contract was to raise the steamship France, of the National Line, which struck in the St. Lawrence river, off St. Helen's Island, and sunk near Montreal. Such was the violence of the shock, a reef being struck, that 40 feet of the keel was torn off. The cargo was first taken out, the ship's iron bottom patched with wood in a manner which was then quite unique. When raised the France had to be taken to Quebec for repairs, the dock at Montreal not being large enough for her. She is yet in service.

"In the same year (1872) the steamship Vicksburg, of the Dominion Line, struck an obstruction on the Lower St. Lawrence and sunk about 150 miles from Quebec. She had a cargo valued at half a million pounds sterling, being composed principally of hardware and drygoods, consigned from Liverpool to Montreal. Forty of her frames were broken, and some 5 feet of her broadside pushed in. She was so situated that when the tide fell her stern contained six feet of water beside a portion a portion of the cargo which added to the strain and injury received. In running ashore the middle of the steamship's hull was shoved up, displacing the boiler and machinery two and a half feet. Some 59 days were consumed in raising her, about 15 of which were spent in waiting for the spring tide and in unloading the cargo before docking her at Quebec. The Vicksburg afterwards went ashore near New York, and was subsequently lost, together with most of her crew, off St. John, Nfld.

Number of Rescues Unknown.

"Can you approximate the number of steamers and vessels to the assistance of which you have been summoned?"

"I can not; I have not the slightest idea."

"I presume you have gone to the aid of scores of distressed schooners some of them in pretty bad shape?"

"I have indeed. I remember the interesting time I had with the schooner New Dominion, of 16,000 bush. capacity, laden with corn consigned from Milwaukee to Kingston, which, when going through the cut in Lake Erie, near Port Rowan, ran ashore. Her decks went under water, and the swelling of the grain did considerable damage. The underwriters spent $5,000 and failed to raise her. I undertook the contract of delivering her at Port Colborne for $3,000. I went up and having looked at her, telegraphed to Buffalo for a tug and pumps. I was sent the Frank Perew (the tug now in this harbour towing for the St. Lawrence & Chicago Forwarding Co.) and a 12 inch pump. The latter was put in motion at 8 a.m. and by noon the vessel was afloat. That was expedition for you.

"The brig Henry Rooney in 1868 sunk during a gale at Fairport and worked down in the sand until her decks were under water. She was laden with oak timber for Kingston. It took $6,000 to raise and repair her.

Last Year's Engagements.

"Your wrecking engagements were numerous last year, were they not?"

"Yes, more so than usual. There were ashore in the Georgian Bay the schrs. Edward Blake and Prince Alfred and the prop. Lake Erie. The latter has been sunk two or three times. Once she sunk in the river near Edwardsburg. The current ran so swiftly at the point where she lay that a barge had to be taken from Kingston, filled with stone and sunk beside her to prevent her from drifting while the pumping was in progress.

"I lifted the Burnside, which had been sunk off Clayton for several years, and which has been converted into a steam barge.

"The schr. Marquis, 1,000 tons burden, ran ashore in a gale at Big Sodus, 40 miles west of Oswego. She was successfully floated.

"The Wood Duck lay on Duck shoal all winter and had her side worn out by rubbing on the rocks. She was rescued and repaired.

"In the east I had an opportunity to test my skill in the pumping out of the Passport, sunk at Lachine, and the steamer Bohemian, which broke one of the locks of the Lachine Canal, and had a disastrous collision with other craft. The barges Lalonde and Wheat Bin, which went down in connection with that accident, had 20,000 bushels of grain each, the larger portion of which was damaged.

This Season's Active Operations.

"Have you had much to do so far this season?"

"I have been actively employed since the opening of navigation. On the 21st of February I started for Byng Inlet, on Georgian Bay, at the entrance to which the prop. Isaac May and her consort, the Severn, had sunk. The bow of the propeller for six feet up and twenty five feet back had been broken away by pounding on the rocks, and her machinery and boilers were damaged. Having got her up I took her, supported by pontoons, to Detroit, where she was patched and then put on the dock. The wrecking bill amounted to $10,000. The underwriters complimented me highly upon the expedition and completeness of the contract.

"I need not speak of the late occurrences upon the river. It was a nice job, however, to recover the barge Maggie which broke from the tow recently and run down the Long Sault rapids to a point where a steam barge had never been before. She was difficult to reach because the current ran there quite strong."

Interpreting The Law.

Capt. Donnelly, in speaking of general things, said wrecking on both Lake Ontario and the river could be more satisfactorily performed than on Lake Erie. The American officials are not alike in their exactions when operations have to be conducted in American waters. An officious official can give the law a wide interpretation if he is so disposed.

Whats The News? - Capt. Donnelly, the wrecker, is kept pretty busy, and is now on his way to the burned City of Winnipeg, but will have to stop at Port Huron and Chicago to settle some other little difficulties.

Yachting Twaddle - The Ontario, in its own patronizing way, writes respecting Mr. Offord's challenge, that "as a rule the owners of yachts at Kingston have always had a weakness for ballast-shifting, and have allowed it in contests which have taken place at Kingston, while the contrary has been the case in Belleville." Rules are one thing and practice another thing. Our contemporaries are eternally preaching about how things should be done and casting reflections others for what it is alleged their friends have been guilty of over and over again. Why it was not long since the boast of a Bellevillian, who has sailed the best boats on the Bay of Quinte, that he never won a race in which the ballast was not shifted. If there is any merit in the custom we may be sure that the Belleville yachting fraternity are not too good to take advantage of it. The Emma, we presume, can sail as well as any Belleville yacht under any circumstances, and it was not because Mr. Offord thought differently that he desired his challenge race to take place under the rules of the Royal Canadian Yachting Club of Toronto.

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Date of Original:
Aug. 4, 1881
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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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British Whig (Kingston, ON), Aug. 4, 1881