The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Rochester Union (Rochester, NY), April 5, 1854

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Come To A Base Use. -- An eventful History. - We notice in the Democrat of this morning a statement that the propeller Ontario has recently landed a cargo of slaves on the coast of Cuba. The Ontario is a Rochester vessel, and has run an eventful career thus far. She was built at the Upper Landing in this city some ten years or more ago, by George Steers, the famous architect of the yacht America, for a company of citizens, and was a companion of the Genesee Chief, also constructed by Mr. Steers.

The Ontario was put up in a very few weeks, and as ship building was a new enterprise here thousands flocked to the landing to see her launched. We sat upon the hill-side and saw her glide gracefully into the water, amid the cheers of thousands; while Captain Adam's band played a lively air. As soon after the launch after the launch as the Ontario could be brought to the dock, a suit of colors was presented by the merchants of Rochester; after which, Dr. Kelsey, on behalf of the owners of the Ontario, presented to Mr. Steers a silver pitcher, in token of their appreciation of his skill as a ship builder and worth as a gentleman. Dr. K. stated in his speech the precise number of days that had elapsed since the keel of the Ontario was laid. Our impression is that less than seven weeks had elapsed since the work was commenced.

The Ontario was put into the trade of the lakes, but was in some respects unfortunate, having met with two collisions with other vessels, involving the owners in litigation, which continued for some years. When the California gold fever broke out, an attempt was made to get stock taken to purchase this propeller to take a party to California. The enterprise failed, and the owners finding her to be of no profit in the Lake trade, took her to the Atlantic by the St. Lawrence. She was run past the Quebec Custom House by some hocuspocus arrangement, and particular care was taken that the fact of her departure from Lake Ontario should not be published until her arrival at New York was announced.

We next heard of the Ontario running between New Orleans and Chagres, and still later between Boston and some Southern ports. She now turns up a slaver. To what a base use she has come at last. How little thought the citizens of Rochester when they saw her launched, that she would ever come to this. How little thought the merchants when they presented her with the proud stars and stripes, that they would ever float from the mast - of an accursed slave-ship. But so it be.

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April 5, 1854
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Richard Palmer
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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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Rochester Union (Rochester, NY), April 5, 1854