The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily News (Kingston, ON), April 17, 1854

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If "good old Kingston" cannot claim rank with the most progressive of Canadian cities and towns, its onward march is yet by no means so slow as some envious, ill-natured people "out west" choose to represent it. The last few years have witnessed a considerable extension of the city, a much improved style of building, both for purposes of business and pleasure, the introduction of new and important branches of business, and the infusion of a more active trading and enterprizing spirit among its people - and if all this has not been carried out and exhibited in so great a degree as in other more highly favored localities which we might name, we have at least no reason to be ashamed of "showing our hand."

It will be the business of the writer of these notes, following an excellent annual custom, almost exclusively Kingstonian, to point out with as much brevity as the multitudinous character of the subject will permit, in what this progression consists, what changes have taken place during the past year, what preparations have been made and are making for the business of the year upon which we may now be said to be entering, what degree of prosperity has been already attained, and what may be fairly anticipated as the result of another year's operations.

First, let us look at our ship-building and shipping. Kingston has always been largely dependent upon these. It has suffered much from a partial withdrawing of that business of transhipment which had for years been so advantageous to its interests. The creation of the St. Lawrence Canal - the facilities afforded by it to the largest class of lake vessels, enabling them, without any intermediate breaking of bulk, to deliver their cargoes at a sea-port, threatened seriously to do for the warehouses and wharves of our good city what the opening of the Rideau Canal had done for Prescott, and write "ruin and decay" upon them in apparently ineffaceable characters. But Kingston survives that shock, as it did the preceding one of the removal of the seat of Government, and now its wharves, warehouses and shipyards present a most gratifying picture of activity and enterprise.

In this connection let us visit the


Here is a bustling scene, but the first objects which strike the eye are as novel as they are imposing. Two large sea-going vessels, one all but completed, the other in frame, arrest the attention by their huge proportions. Lake vessels of the largest class are observed on all sides, but are dwarfed by the comparison, and one feels himself, for the moment, not at a small port of an inland fresh water lake, but at some Atlantic ship-building station, from which goes forth a portion of the commerce which traverses every sea.

If the construction of the St. Lawrence Canal proved injurious in its first effects to Kingston's interests, as already pointed out, it opened to us a new field of enterprize upon which we have not been slow to enter. The word "we" must be used here, because he is "one of us," but in fact to one of our citizens, Capt. Gaskin, is mainly due the credit of seizing upon the advantages offered here for ship-building and the facilities afforded by the canal for passing large sea-going vessels to tide-water. It is hardly necessary to add that the Marine Railway ship-yard under Mr. Counter's direction, has been made to carry these conceptions into effect in the most satisfactory manner. In our notes of last year reference was made to the three vessels then building in this yard, to their capacity, and the excellence of their construction. One of these, the Cherokee, was taken to Liverpool by Capt. Gaskin, sold there, and as our readers are aware, is now engaged in the African trade. Another, the Arabia, built for Messrs. Boyd & Co., has just been fitted out for sea, and is about to proceed to Glasgow with a cargo of produce, where it is not improbable she may be put upon the ( ? )th for a return cargo, and be the first vessel to realize the idea in which the St. Lawrence canals originated, of delivering a sea-borne freight at one of our inland ports without the breaking of bulk; and we have reason to believe that the third vessel, the John Hiseman, built for W. Meyers, Esq., is also destined for a transatlantic port. These facts speak for themselves, and fully bear out the anticipations in which the writer indulged this time twelve-months, when alluding to the facilities existing here for ship-building, and the importance of the trade to Kingston.

Back to the new vessels. These are of unusual dimensions: they are strictly sea-going ships, built with special reference to ocean navigation, and are too large to be employed on the lakes, the one now nearly ready for launching measures about 750 tons, and is bark-rigged; the other, in frame, will be ship-rigged, and having ( ? )teen feet greater length than the first one, will probably measure 850 tons. These vessels are building under the inspection of Lloyd's agent, of the best material, are copper-fastened, have ( ? )ps and top-gallant forecastles, are clipper-modelled, and it is not too much to say of them that they will be among the fine vessels extent. Indeed no expense has been or will be spared by either the owner or contractor to make them, in model, excellence and strength of workmanship and material, rank high among first rate ships. The launching of one of these fine vessels will take place about the 1st of May, and, we understand, she will at once proceed to Montreal, to take in cargo for Liverpool. The other will not be ready for launching until the latter end of July, in all probability, when we expect to see their present places occupied by the keels of similar vessels, to be succeeded by others of like kind. The example has been set. Who will follow it, and increase to an unlimited extent our operations in a branch of trade which, though in its infancy here, is productive of so much benefit to the city ?

Besides these ships, six barges of large dimensions are in course of construction at this yard, we believe for the purposes of the Grand Trunk Railway. On the railway, the steamers Hibernia and Free Trader, belonging to Messrs. Hooker, Pridham & Co., are being fitted out for the season's business, and at the western slip lies the St. Helen, steamer, which has just been fitted with upper cabins, for the accommodation of passengers, and we suppose will run for the season between the head of the Bay and Montreal, with Capt. Chrysler on board to see that everything goes right, and every passenger makes himself at home. Close by, lies the Arabia, fitting out as we have already mentioned, for her sea voyage, and below her the Briton and Ocean, all but ready to get under weigh.

The Railway establishment has itself undergone a wonderful change since our last annual visit. Steam has been introduced for a number of purposes connected with the business of the yard, and ranges of iron-covered stone buildings have taken the place of the old wooden workshops and encroached upon an additional section of the yard. The value of an establishment of this sort to the city and surrounding country, may in some degree be estimated from the fact that during the past year it has consumed upwards of 150,000 cubic feet of timber and about 4000 crooks, being nearly three times the amount used the preceding year. The greater part of this timber and all the crooks were drawn from the country around Kingston, and the labor of getting out and transportation, afforded winter employment to hundreds of men and teams. Nearly 200 persons are employed in the yard chiefly shipwrights and carpenters, and the wages paid average nearly 400 pounds per week. The improvements alluded to will still further facilitate, and thus tend to the increase of business. Within the same period of time, the entire premises belonging to this establishment have been rebuilt. Extensive stone buildings for workshops have been constructed; an office 150 feet long by 30 feet wide with moulding lofts, etc., over head. A saw mill has been introduced 130 feet long and 25 feet wide, propelled by a steam engine of 30 horsepower. This steam power is also used in hauling up vessels on the ways. It propels a planing machine for dressing timber and crooks. There is a turning out saw used for cutting whatever crooked timber is required, together with turning lathes, circular saws, etc., etc., besides which, more machinery will be introduced whenever it is ready, which will perfect this department of the establishment in everything essential.

These notes have already extended to a greater length than anticipated, but we have by no means done with the ship-building business.

Ault's Ship-Yard, Portsmouth

Claims next our attention. Mr. Ault had for some time been engaged in directing the establishment of a Marine Railway at Ogdensburg, and could give but little of his personal attention to the ship-yard at Portsmouth, but now, we are happy to say, he is among us again, and in the language used across the line, has "concluded to hold on" in this neighborhood. In this yard a propeller, for Mr. Morton, is nearly ready for launching; it is strongly built, nicely modelled, will have a light draught of water, and is to be employed, we understand, in the lumber trade. The keel of a first-class river steamer has been laid, and this boat will be brought out in the spring of next year. She is to be of the largest size permitted by the locks, and the fine lines exhibited by the model, which we have seen, taken together with the large propelling power to be put in, give promise of a very high rate of speed. The tug steamer Charlevoix is on the railway, undergoing repairs, and fitting out to resume service on the river.

At the adjoining establishment of Messrs. Macpherson & Crane, several steamers and schooners belonging to the new firm of Holcomb & Henderson are being put in order, and two new barges have been built. The Western Miller has had her upper works renewed, and the fine lake steamer Champion is ready for service under the command of her former and popular master, Capt. Marshall.

Calvin & Cook's,Garden Island

We have not personally visited, but there is quite a fleet at this establishment ready for the timber and stave-carrying trade of the season, and each succeeding year has seen some addition to it of new vessels. Just now a fine bark of about 400 tons is nearly ready for launching, and is built in a manner fitted either for lake or ocean navigation.

Imports - Port of Kingston - April 12th - Str. John Counter, (general cargo).

April 13th - Str. John Counter, (general cargo)

Exports - April 13th - Str. John Counter, Cape Vincent - 5 cases sundries, 1 horse and buggy.

Notice - The steamer Passport, Captain Harbottle, will leave the Commercial Wharf, foot of Princess Street, for Toronto and Hamilton, calling (weather permitting) at intermediate ports on Monday the 17th inst., at 3 o'clock p.m.

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April 17, 1854
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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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Daily News (Kingston, ON), April 17, 1854