The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), Aug. 19, 1886

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Daniel Cunningham, diver, of this city, has been relating his experiences to a Watertown Times reporter. He has been in the business about 20 years and has been employed principally on the mail line of boats. The steamer Spartan, which sank at Lachine nine or ten years ago, was one of them, and the Grecian, which sank at Split Rock, about four years ago, was another. "I have searched," said Mr. Cunningham, "for many drowned people, but the saddest job that I ever had was that of recovering the bodies of the ladies drowned when the yacht Josephine went down at Clayton. I shall always think how I found them, clinging to the stanchions under the deck of the ill-fated boat. I recovered only two of the bodies at that time; the rest were taken out by grappling."

Mr. Cunningham had an adventure once while unloading the sunken steamship France, lying in the St. Lawrence near Montreal. They were hooking up bags of corn when the grapple caught Cunningham's armor squarely in the back. The air escaped rapidly and the diver was in danger of drowning when the workmen succeeded in pulling him up. Mr. Cunningham is about 60 years of age and expects to retire shortly. While searching the river bed in Watertown, through uninviting water, he stepped off a ledge into a hole and was being sucked down when the attendant noticed something wrong and saved him. Frederick Delvonzo, the attendant, lived on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. He is an Englishman and a few months ago his father gave him 800 pounds to make a journey around the world. He came to Kingston via London, Boston and Montreal. Mr. Cunningham accidentally met him on the Maud, while going to Watertown to search for young Taylor's body, and he kindly offered his services. In the Black River Mr. Cunningham came across six mowers lying against a sand bar.


The tug McArthur has arrived from Quebec, light.

A gang of men started today to remove the rotten timber from the hull of the prop. Europe.

The schr. Singapore is at Stewart's dry dock, Portsmouth, undergoing general repairs and caulking.

The steam barge D.D. Calvin and consorts, from Toledo to Kingston with timber, are passing through the Welland Canal.

Arrivals - schrs. Annie M. Foster, Oswego, 147 tons coal; schr. Julia, Charlotte, 215 tons coal.

Cleared - schr. Cornelia, Oswego, light; steamer Resolute, Oswego, 355,809 feet lumber.

A Yacht In Port - Laura of Oswego.


A Matter That Has Caused Government Inquiry.

The Department of Justice having asked Warden Lavell for an explanation of his action, in allowing convicts to replace lumber-shovers in unloading a cargo of deals a few days ago, a Whig reported started out to learn the facts. The matter has become one of very great public interest. It appears, according to one story, that when the prop. Myles and schr. Gulnair arrived at Portsmouth the purser at once sought for help to unload and engage men at certain rates and to commence at a certain time. The time arrived, but the men did not put in an appearance. The purser again sought the men, who gave, as a reason for not going to work, that the rate agreed upon was not sufficient. Another agreement was entered into at a larger rate, as the officers were desirous of unloading rapidly and had already lost a good deal of time in waiting for the workmen. The men decided to commence at 1 o'clock the same day. The hour arrived, but the men, instead of going on as agreed at the higher rates, refused to do so until the rates were advanced still higher. The demand appeared to the purser very exorbitant, but in order to hurry matters a proposition, looking to higher rates, was offered and refused. A day had been lost in trying to come to an agreement, two agreements had been broken, and an endeavour to secure the men at a higher rate a third time had failed, so in this extremity the penitentiary authorities were appealed to, and after assurance had been given that terms could not be made with the men, convicts were allowed to unload with the understanding that only the two vessels' cargoes would be worked. The warden felt the circumstances warranted him in rendering assistance in the emergency, and while assuming the responsibility did not think it was a case in which outside interests would suffer.

Interviewing Workmen.

Workmen say the agreement was as follows: That the prop. Myles would be unloaded for 15 cents per m.; the schr. Gulnair for 20 cents per m. The Myles' captain was to do his own hoisting, the labourers to pay for the hoisting on the schooner. There was nothing said about stacking the deals on the dock. The captain and purser were perfectly satisfied. At 10:30 o'clock the captain wanted to know if the men could be sent to him then, but the boss said, "No, the men live so far apart that it would be impossible to get them together before 1 o'clock." At that hour they were on the prison dock ready for work, but the captain wanted the vessels' cargoes stowed upon the wharf. As this was not agreed upon the men objected to proceed. The men were willing to work according to the agreement made, but the captain was not, and, as a result, convict labour was called in and free labour cast out. The labourers do not think the authorities of the Kingston penitentiary had any right to send the convicts out to labour on the deals unless they were for the use of the institution. The convicts are fed and clothed, whether they work or play, while honest men have to feed and clothe themselves, besides adding their little mite for the support of the institution. The purser paid the convicts 10 cents an hour, besides a plug of tobacco to each man per day, and gave them lunches twice a day. The outside labourers would have furnished these things for themselves. It is claimed that instead of the vessels lying four days and a half at the dock the shovers would have unloaded them in from fifteen to twenty hours.

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Date of Original:
Aug. 19, 1886
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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. 19, 1886