The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), Dec. 28, 1887

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Evidence Of Some Experienced Mariners Is Taken.

The investigation touching the loss of the barge Oriental, near Niagara, commenced at St. Catharines, was resumed here today in the office of Mr. W. Adams, steamboat inspector. Mr. Risley, chairman of the board of inspectors, assisted by Capt. Taylor, inspector of hulls, conducted the enquiry.

Mr. Risley read the authority he had received from the government to institute the investigation.

Capt. S. Fraser, owner of the Oriental, asked that the following witnesses be subpoenaed to give evidence: Isaac Jaquith, J. Doyle, E. Arundell, and Capt. E. Booth, sr.

Witnesses were asked to speak and Mr. McMaster, wheelsman of the Scotia, invited forward.

Capt. S. Fraser was anxious to hear the evidence of Mr. Calvin, former owner of the Oriental, followed by that of Capt. W.R. Taylor.

As Mr. Calvin was not present Capt. W.R. Taylor was the first to make a statement. For sixteen years he had been in the service of the Marine insurance company, as inspector, and had handed in a report two years ago with reference to the Oriental. When her survey was made she was owned by W. Lewis & Son, and well fastened. The condition of the ceilings was bad. There were two centreboard cases. The aft one was poor and the forward one fair. The decks and beams were bad. There were two masts - mainmast poor, foremast bad. The frames were decayed aft. She had a large anchor, 1,250 lbs., and a heavy chain, one patent iron pump and one double horse pump forward. Witness gave orders that until satisfactory repairs were made she could not leave port. When she received repairs she was suitable for lake service for the carrying of coal and lumber. She needed a mainsail, foresail, and fore staysail to go to sea, and an additional anchor and chain. With this equipment she would be fit for service. Since the survey was made he had not examined her. If the vessel was laden to 11 feet she would be safe, assuming that the depth of the hold was 13 feet. With reference to cargoes witness said that flour, lumber and coal would make better and safer cargoes than grain, as they were easier upon the vessel and more buoyant. The survey referred to by him had been made for insurance purposes. After he had made an inspection he was satisfied that the company by which he was employed would not take a risk on the Oriental. At the time witness visited the vessel the hull was not in a safe condition.

Capt. Fraser to witness - "If she had had her sails would the boat have been fit to go to sea?"

Witness - "No, she would not."

Witness could not tell exactly what amount would have been necessary to make the vessel seaworthy. She was worth repairing, and as vessel property he valued her at $1,500. He thought $400 or $500 would have made her fit for service for a season. She would, however, have required more repairs after the season's work. Nineteen years ago she was built and well put together, for there never was a vessel that came off Garden Island that was not well constructed. She carried square oak timber on the start, which cargo was very hard on the hull. Her life in this trade should have been sixteen or seventeen years.

In answer to Mr. Risley Mr. Taylor did not think that the vessel was used up and unfit for repairing at the time he made the survey. He considered that if she was repaired properly she would have been fit to sail.

Capt. W. Lewis, master mariner, said he had not sailed in twenty years. In 1885 the firm of W. Lewis & Son purchased the Oriental from Messrs. Calvin & Son. The purchasers repaired the hull to the extent of $500. From 40 to 50 feet of new covering board was put in the vessel, 14 new stancheons, one new set of main hatch combings, and hatches, and repairs generally. The reasons new stancheons and covering boards had to be put in was because they had been pulled away by a tug while moving her. The old stancheons were sound, and had been pulled out before the firm purchased the boat. The stancheons were left hanging with rail and stringers. The condition of the frames of the vessel and the deck frames from the starboard quarter to the main rigging, about fifty feet, was, when the repairs were made, as good as new and as blue as indigo. He owned the vessel one year, but didn't recollect what he gave for her, but thought she cost the firm $2,500, including purchase of vessel and repairs done to her for the year 1885. She was not insured. Insurance men would not have insured vessels of the same class as the Oriental. Witness never applied for insurance. The cargoes carried by the boat were insured at times. He remembered one cargo insured for $6,000. It consisted of square oak timber in the hold and hickory logs on the deck, a very laborious cargo. During the year he owned her she carried three cargoes of oak and hickory and two of pine. The vessel traded between Detroit, Georgian Bay and Kingston. The cargoes were all carried safely. While carrying one, a cargo of pine, the vessel struck a rock coming out of Byng Inlet, and had her forefoot knocked off. She was in tow at the time. After her forefoot was knocked off she waterlogged. Her repairs were done at Port Huron. The forefoot was replaced and bottom recaulked. She was thoroughly repaired below the light water mark. She received new plank in the bilge wherever it was thin. These repairs, cost of docking, and tow bill from Byng Inlet to Port Arthur, were included in the amount, $2,500, which witness had stated the vessel cost the firm. Witness knew the firm had given $1,000 for the vessel when it purchased her, and perhaps more, but he did not know exactly how much more. Vessels were not worth much at the time owned her, but he thought she cost Calvin & Son, when new, $28,000. Witness sold the Oriental to Capt. Fraser for $800, and later Mr. Lewis bought the Craftsman for $2,500. Had the Oriental been newer she would have sold for $3,000. He could not give any definite idea of what the vessel was really worth at the time he had her. Lewis & Son never carried on her anything but timber. She drew 12 feet of water when laden with oak timber. At the time the firm owned her she carried four men before the mast, and a captain, cook, and mate, seven of a crew, all told. She was out during October 1885, and was waterlogged. This season she was in service until November 15th, and perhaps later, and experienced no difficulty. Capt. Bates was master of the vessel. She passed through bad weathers, after she came off the dry dock, on Lake Erie. This was about Nov. 1st, to the best of witnesses knowledge. The crew mentioned were ample enough to handle the vessel. The firm sold the vessel to Capt. Fraser in the spring of 1886. She had no outfit. Had one anchor and chain; another anchor and chain belonging to her had been lost from her. After he had sold her to Capt. Fraser he commenced improving her. Four men worked at her. New planks were put into her topsides. She was thoroughly caulked over, eight bales of oakum being used in the work.

Capt. Fraser - Would the Oriental be able to take care of herself with a foresail and one mast?

Capt. Lewis - Yes, under ordinary circumstances one mast and foresail was all she needed. She had two centre boards. In heavy weather, with the rigging mentioned, she would be safe.

Capt. Fraser - Can a vessel with two centre boards be made to steer easily?

Capt. Lewis - Yes, a vessel like the Oriental, with two centre boards, can be made to steer better than a vessel with one centre board, and made to steer easily and well in all weather.

The court adjourned at 11 o'clock.

p.8 New Steamboat Company - A company has been formed with a capital of $30,000 to provide better facilities for the accommodation of tourists who may desire to have a trip about the Thousand Islands, and to establish another route from Clayton to Ogdensburg. To do this a steamer will be constructed. Capt. Visger gets $10,000 for his steamer Island Wanderer and good will of his route. The new craft will be 120 feet long, 20 ft. wide and draw 6 ft. of water. The new boat will take the place of the old Wanderer. It will be buillt at Buffalo.

Improving The Rideau Canal.

Pittsburgh, Dec. 27th - (To the Editor):

There is considerable controversy going on among the farmers living along the lines of the Rideau canal regarding a project, the accomplishment of which would be of certain benefit to them.

It is proposed to cut away several shallows on the canal, so as to admit the passage of barges drawing six feet of water, and thereby allow the grain to be taken from convenient points right out of the heart of the country and brought direct to Oswego and other American markets without the extra expense of transhipment at Kingston and other depots.

Your readers are well aware of the great expense of shipping grain by rail in comparison with that of navigation, and that many large tracts of beautiful and fertile land along the canal are much lessened in value in consequence of their inconvenience to the grain market. But if this scheme were carried out it would increase competition, break up monopoly, and raise prices. It is a worthy purpose, and only awaits the combined interest of the farmers and forwarders to petition the government and put the work into execution.

The canal would also, in this case, serve largely as a passage for the Ottawa lumber trade, and general traffic would be enormously increased.

It is to be hoped that interested and influential parties will, in due time, take steps to put the case favorably before parliament.

Yours, etc., Phoenix

Dec. 29, 1887


Dec. 30, 1887


Dec. 31, 1887


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Dec. 28, 1887
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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), Dec. 28, 1887