p.2 Notes About Town
Portsmouth is a small aggregation of houses of all sizes and descriptions, situated on the border of an inlet of the bay south of the Penitentiary, about a mile from the city. The grounds surrounding it are high and rocky, and from the numerous excavations made in the hills for the purpose of procuring stone for building purposes, it presents a rugged and uncomely appearance. Before the River St. Lawrence became the highway for steamboats through to Montreal, the great western traffic was conducted via the Rideau Canal, and a great number of freight barges and small steamers were required for this channel. Portsmouth, from the security of its harbor, and other facilities, became the seat of a large business in the construction of vessels of this class, and almost threatened to rival Kingston by the rapid increase of its population, and the amount of business done there. But the discovery of a safe channel through the rapids of the St. Lawrence for ships and steamers of the largest class, and other subsequent improvements made by the Government to enable vessels to ascend, through canals, the most impetuous points of the river, changed the current of traffic from the Rideau Canal to the St. Lawrence, and almost put an end to the boat-building in Portsmouth. To the same circumstance may be attributed, in a great degree, the retrogression of old Kingston, which was, within our own recollection, the entrepot for all the traffic from the east and west. Portsmouth, however, did not "give up the ship;" some sterling characters still clung to the wreck, and the result proves the wisdom of their determination.
Without further allusion to the past, we proceed at once to remark that Mr. Ault's shipyard is the life and soul of the place. This gentleman enjoys the honor of having built on his premises as good steamers, schooners, and other craft, as ever floated on our inland seas. To particularize, we may mention a few just occurring to us, viz.: the steamers Banshee, Mayflower, Bowmanville, propellers Thomas Jefferson, William Nickall, which were all built under his supervision. Among the vessels which wintered and were fitted up here, were the Western Miller, propeller, Capt. Ryan, which took her departure on Tuesday. She is the property of Messrs. Holcomb & Henderson, and is, without exception, the largest and best looking of her kind on Lake Ontario. The New Era, owned by Mr. Gildersleeve, and commanded by Capt. Chrysler, was here on the ways for some time, undergoing repairs and beautification. She slid into her natural element on the 23rd, and sails on the 29th for Montreal. Holcomb & Henderson's freight steamer Scotland, the little Charlotte, steamer, the tug boat Otter, belonging to Messrs. Robinson & Jones, a new barge, not named, and last, though not least, the old steamer Beaver, belonging to the same firm, are all nearly ready to quit their snug quarters here, to be knocked and banged about in the rough struggles and competitions of their respective destinies. The Beaver will ply between this city and Ottawa, on the Rideau Canal, whose turbid waters have laved her old hull for some 16 years past. Her old pilot, Mr. Clifford, like a "true British sailor," who for the same long period has guided her through the most tortuous and difficult of navigable channels almost unscathed, will continue to direct her course this season. Mr. Clifford is one of the oldest navigators on the Rideau, having commenced his career on the opening of the Canal, about twenty-five years ago. It is said of him that, in darkness or fog he can "feel his way," and conduct his favored charge in safety through the most difficult passages. He and the Beaver are so identified with each other it is supposed that, when, in the natural course of events, she lies "a sheer hulk," unfit for service, Mr. Clifford will resign himself to the necessity of "laying up in ordinary." Capt. McLaughlin will command the Beaver this season. It is supposed Putnam's wharf will be her stopping place. She is not remarkable for speed, but has excellent accommodations, and is always well found in "creature comforts." Three or four fine schooners are lying in the neighboring slips, but we did not learn any particulars concerning them.