The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), Nov. 30, 1881

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Unusually Long Engagements.

The firm of Calvin & Sons bear the palm for the length of time they retain their employees. We give a few instances.

Mr. Joseph Dix, sr., foreman of the sail and rigging department, entered the service of Calvin & Co. in the Spring of 1841, 41 years ago. Though the old gentleman is over three score and ten he is still as smart and active as the majority of men are at half his age, thanks to a sober and temperate life.

Mr. A. Brabant, shipwright, began a few months after Mr. Dix, and has been continuously employed on the island since.

Mr. H. Roney, foreman of their shipyard, commenced in 1848, nearly 34 years ago, and during the long period since he personally superintended the building and repairing of every of every craft turned out by his employers, and a more genial and competent foreman than the "Old boss" (as he is familarly called) is hard to be found.

Mr. Anthony Malone, head book keeper, entered Mr. Calvin's service in 1853, then a mere youth, but showed such a good business capacity that he rapidly advanced in his employer's confidence till he obtained the lucrative and responsible position he now holds.

There are many others whose terms of service run from 10 to 20 years. Mr. Calvin is never slow to appreciate real worth, which, in a great measure, accounts for the long engagements of his employees.


Interviews With Prominent Mariners Relative To The Past Season's Business.

Today navigation virtually closed. Owners of vessels, no matter how mild the weather may be, have no desire to risk their craft on the lakes uninsured. In the interviews reported below it will be seen that on the whole vessel captains and owners feel fairly satisfied with the season's business. The amount of freight taken from this port was not much, railway competition interfering greatly with the marine business. Lumber and ore have been the principal shipments and fair rates have been given. This fall considerable barley has been moved, but no more than the average rate has been given. During the grain season small vessels hope to reap great benefit, and they generally do a fair trade. There is, however, a feeling of insecurity on the part of vessels which have occasion to enter Oswego harbor, and there is a decided preference to go elsewhere.

In the various interviews there are numerous suggestions worthy of consideration, and we hope that during the winter they will be discussed.

St. Lawrence River Trade.

This morning a gentleman connected with the shipping stated that the only loss sustained on the river that he knew of was that of the barge London, which struck a rock and sunk near Dickinson's Landing. The loss was about $4,000 in a Chicago pool, and $8,000 in a Canadian pool. "This speaks well for the success of the St. Lawrence route and the careful management in doing business." said the Captain. "I think the Chicago pool have had insurance on over 4,000,000 bushels of grain passing down the river. Of course this is only guess work."

"Has the despatch been good at this harbour during the season?"

"Yes, very good; there have been no delays to speak of. There was a sufficiency of barges for double the service required of them."

"Has the trade been profitable?"

"The rates on the upper lakes have been very poor indeed, but on Lake Ontario they have been favorable and vessels have made a reasonable margin. Taken altogether the vessels on Lake Ontario have been well employed. If the sailors' wages had been in proportion to the earnings the owners would have made money."

Condition Of Vessels.

"What is the condition of vessels on this lake?"

"Most of them are in fair condition. There have been no Kingston vessels lost this season that I can recollect except the Richardson."

"What are the future prospects for vessel men?"

"Well, I cannot yet say; but the Americans are hopeful of a prosperous season next year. However, before this can be the price of grain must come down. If grain is kept above a fair marketable price it will not be moved. The cornering of grain was the cause of the depression this year."

Another Favorable Opinion.

Messrs. Oldrieve & Horn, interested in several vessels being laid up here, were questioned as to their experience during the past season. Mr. Oldrieve replied.

"As far as we are concerned it has been a favorable one, not very profitable but satisfactory in comparison with previous years. The sailors are showing the benefits they have received, being considerably ahead in their earnings. Our vessels have paid their way through, which was more than they did last year. We have had no serious losses this year. On the last trip the Acacia, chartered from Whitby to Prescott with wheat, was on her way from Oswego to Whitby when a gale from the west struck her. Her centreboard was broken. She came to Kingston and was laid up on Friday."

Inspector Taylor's Impression.

Marine Inspector Taylor was next seen. The Insurance Companies he represented have have had several losses, including the barge London, the schooner Richardson and the Erie Queen. Both the latter were wrecked at Oswego. The Richardson was an entire loss; the cargo of the Erie Queen was the same, but the vessel was saved in the damaged condition.

"There has been a great amount of grain sent down the river," remarked Capt. Taylor, "and generally there has been good despatch here. The loss of the barge London was the only accident of note on the St. Lawrence. This is a conclusive proof of the safety of the route. Some millions of bushels of grain have been transhipped and forwarded from here. The only thing I can think desirable in order to make the Canadian route even more preferrable than the American route is to have Montreal a free port and the establishment of a Government tug line for service from Montreal to Quebec without expense to vessels."

"How has the position of the trade struck you this year?"

"As far as I am concerned our vessels have not done as well in some past seasons. The Annie Falconer did fairly up to September, since which time she has not made anything. I question if the season has been a profitable one."

"How do the Kingston vessels classify?"

"There are few rating A 1. Most of them rate B 1. The vessels are wearing out and business apparently does not warrant the thorough and constant rebuilding of them. I think steam craft will do most of the trade hereafter, although if there are too many of them the results will be unprofitable. Steam vessels are doubly more expensive than sailing crafts when idle. Again, sailors' wages are out of proportion with the vessel's earnings. When I was on the lakes we used to pay the sailors only $16 per month, and kept them for the season. Now, to keep sailors on a vessel for more time than a passage is too expensive. The rates from this port during the season just closed have been about the same as during previous years. Kingston vessels do not get the preference, however, for the trade of even this port."

Another Firm's Judgement.

Mr. H. Richardson said that the firm's vessels paid fairly well, but the loss of the schr. Richardson took away the profits for this year. Said he, "We sustain Capt. McKee in his statement that the insufficient and misplaced lights and the unsafe state of the entrance to Oswego harbor were the real causes for the loss of our schooner."

Well Satisfied.

Messrs. J. Swift & Co. were generally well satisfied with the season's work. Boats that had regular service to perform did very well. Those running "wild" had in some instances, very good success, and in other cases did poorly, owing to keen competition of the railroads. They escaped without an accident to their floating property. Their vessels are now laid up.

Hard To Get A Charter.

Messrs. A. Gunn & Co. did not look upon the past season as favorably as formerly. No lumber vessels had done well. Owing to the high price of grain in Chicago and other Western ports, and the low rate at which railroads offered to carry it, no high or very desirable charters could be secured for vessels trading with Kingston.

Vessels At A Disadvantage.

A modest quiet vessel owner said his crafts had been profitable this year. They had traded all over the lakes. He considered the season better than the average. Vessels that took chances for cargoes generally had poor success. The Canadian vessel trade here, he held, was anything but prosperous owing to the many disadvantages against which they had to contend. For instance, the wheat trade on the lakes was from one American port to another. In this the Canadian vessels cannot compete. He knew of instances where vessels from Chicago to Oswego had an 18 cent freight, while from Chicago to Kingston there was only an 8 cent rate. Both vessels had to do the same work.

Talk About Timber.

A gentleman, whose knowledge of the timber trade is well known, stated that the timber trade this year has been better than it had been for some years. He did not think that unchartered vessels lost anything, as they secured fully as high rates as those that had been engaged last winter. The freights paid fairly well, but nothing more than vessels ought to earn, in fact if the profits were less no person could afford to build vessels or keep them in repair. This winter, he thought, it would be difficult to obtain charters, as the owners of timber were likely to hold off until the spring. This was owing to the fact that last summer rates fell to lower figures than those for which vessels had been chartered. He thought this holding off would be a wrong policy, as when there was a demand for vessels the captains would be independent. There will really be a larger amount of timber for moving next year than this. The method of chartering will be the very opposite to that which was adopted last winter. If there be good rates for grain, vessels will prefer to carry it. Grain freights this year were, however, far below the average, and not nearly as good as the year before. A 6 cent freight from Toledo and a return cargo of iron ore to Astabula or Cleveland would be better than a $70 freight on timber from the same port.


The schr. Oliver Mowat is unloading a cargo of corn into Richardson's warehouse.

The prop. Celtic carries a cargo of wheat from Hamilton to Prescott at 6 cents.

The lake has been calm throughout the night and the weather cannot be more favorable for the preservation of the wrecked steamer Norseman.

The schr. Annandale is loading a grain cargo at Belleville and it is said she will lay up there; but if the present mild weather continues, she can go to Oswego and return.

As the steamer Chieftain was proceeding on her way to the rescue of the str. Norseman ashore near Oshawa, and when a few miles above Nine Mile Point one of the straps of her engine broke, causing her to return to Garden Island for repairs, which are rapidly being completed. The steam pumps were transferred to the steamer H.A. Calvin and at 2 a.m. the latter left for Oshawa.

Another Bad Accident.

Detroit, Nov. 30th - The following special appears in the Morning Post & Tribune:

Escanaba, Mich., Nov. 29th - The New England Transportation Company's steamer Northern Ocean which sunk the steamer Lake Erie of the line off Poverty Island last Thursday, was lost on Friday evening in the attempt to get into the mouth of the Manistigee river. She struck on the bar and broached to, closing the channel, and is so broken up that the schooner Starkey ran through on over her amidships into the river. The crew of the Queen and Erie went south by rail today.

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Date of Original:
Nov. 30, 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), Nov. 30, 1881