The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Vandalia (Propeller)

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"In the meantime the steam tonnage of the screw wheel system has become of immense magnitude. The propeller 'Vandalia," Capt. Rufus Hawkins, built by Sylvester doolittle and partners, about the year 1841, at oswego, was the pioneer of this useful and now important branch of our lake marine. This was the first screw wheel steamer ever built upon fresh waters, and her success was equal to the expectations of her owners. The 'Vandalia' ran between this port and Chicago, and did a large and successful business in carrying passengers and freight. She was finally sold to parties in Canada, and was lost by collision with a vessel."
      "The 'Oswego, built by the same parties, came out in the following spring, with such improvements as were suggested by experience. About the year 1853 she was rebuilt into a schooner called the 'Roman,' which was lost, last fall, on Lake Erie.
      "The 'Chicago' came out soon afterwarda, and in '45 was sold and went to Lake Superior.
      "The 'Racine' and 'New York' were the next propellers of the time. They were run upon the lakes for a number of years, and finally transferred to Lake Champlain."
      report of the trade and commerce of Oswego for the year 1858
      reported in the Oswego Commercial Times of March 11, 1859.

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      He Died At His Residence Last Evening
      Capt. John Trowell died last night at his residence, Wellington street. He had been in declining health for several years. He suffered from Bright's disease and had been confined to bed for eleven weeks. He was a bluff, but kind-hearted sailor, identified with the marine interests for over half a century, and a man who had no enemies. He was born in 1813 in Milford, Pembrokeshire, South Wales, and in 1827, when only a boy, he went on board the coasting brig Colstock, which sailed about the coast of England carrying ore, copper and other material between Swansea and Cornwall. He remained two years on this boat and then went aboard the schooner Maria and Eliza, of Cardiff. He was apprenticed on the vessel. The boat traded with different points in the Mediterranean. She called at Cork and at many points on the English and Irish coasts, and at ports in France, Germany and Spain. Mr. Trowell remained on the schooner four years as an apprenctice. He left her in Cardiff and went home. After an illness of several weeks he aboard the Erin-go-Bragh. She was a troller. He remained on her two months. He then went aboard a schooner called the Ebenezer and made a voyage around the English coast. He took small-pox and left the boat at Shields. He was then engaged on the brig Columbus, and on her sailed to Quebec. She had a general cargo, and on her way out experienced rough weather. He ran away from the boat at Quebec and came to Kingston.
His first vessel here was the schr. Kingston in the timber trade between here and Niagara. He was on her for several months without salary. He afterwards sailed on the schooners Farmers' Delight, Red Rover, John Watkins, Peacock and Matilda. This was between 1833 and 1838. He afterwards was sailing master or mate of the schooners Fanny, Toronto, Henrietta and Peacock.
In 1847 he was master of the schr. Clyde for one season. The year 1848 found him on a vessel called the schr. Thames, of Hamilton. He was master. The latter part of the season was spent by the captain in the sailmaking business. In 1849 Capt. Trowell shipped on the schooner Ottawa. He was captain. During a snow storm the boat sunk while going into Port Stanley. She struck the west pier and went ashore. In 1850 Capt. Trowell boarded the schooner General Wolfe, as captain. He stopped on her a season and a half. In the fall of 1851 he was master of the prop. Vandalia, of Hamilton, which, in a collision with a schooner, was sunk. The accident occurred near the head of Lake Erie. The Vandalia was the first propeller afloat on the lakes and was built in Oswego. Capt. Trowell spent part of two years in Hamilton in the sailmaking business, and in 1852 took charge of the schooner Laura Elgin. The year following the captain was on the prop. St. Lawrence. In 1854 he was master of the schooner Emblem, for part of a season, and then he was transferred to the prop. Banshee.
In 1855 he joined the steamer Passport, then owned by Hon. John Hamilton, and remained on her seven years. In 1862 Capt. Trowell was on the Shanley one season, when she was owned by O. Gildersleeve. This boat plied between Kingston and Cape Vincent and Kingston and Montreal. In 1863 Capt. Trowell was mate of the steamer Banshee, owned by Capt. Bowen & Co. She ran between Hamilton and Montreal. For eight years he sailed as chief mate on the steamer Magnet when she was owned by the Inland river navigation company. He was captain for short periods on the propellers City of Montreal, Chatham, Bristol, Hamilton, and R.W. Stanley, Hamilton. In 1874 he assumed command of the steamer Algerian, belonging to the Richelieu and Ontario navigation company. He held that position until the close of navigation in 1889, when he resigned and retired, after sixty-three years of life on the water. Capt. Trowell was attached to the Anglican church and a prominent member of St. John's Lodge, A.F. & A.M. He was twice married, to Miss Mary Jane Holmes, of Toronto, in 1836, and to Mrs. Jane Wilson, of Port Robinson, in 1855. Five daughters and one son survive, Capt. J.V. Trowell, Toronto; Mrs. W.A. Geddes, Toronto; Mrs. James Minnes, Hamilton; Mrs. John Parrott, Watertown, N.D.; Mrs. T. Richardson, Winnipeg, and Miss Belle Trowell, at home. Three children preceded the captain to the grave.
      British Whig, Kingston, Ont.
      October 17, 1891

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In the Law Reports of Queen's Bench for Upper Canada (Ontario) you'll find Crafford v. Browne et al. (11 UCQB 96). Browne and his partners were based in Hamilton. The report reads, in part:

"Case.--The plaintiff declared that defendants were owners of a schooner called the Vandalia, of which one Trowell was captain; that the plaintiff delivered to the defendants one hundred and one barrels of apples to be carried by the said schooner from the aqueduct to Windsor, to be there delivered to the plaintiff, for freight payable to the defendants; that it became the defendants' duty to take proper care of, and safely to carry and deliver the same goods to the plaintiff, yet defendants took such bad care and were so negligent in the carriage thereof, that the schooner was wrecked; and through the carelessness, negligence, and mismanagement of the defendants, the goods of the plaintiff were wholly lost.
...The cause was tried in March last, at Niagara, before McLean, J. For the plaintiff, it was proved that the apples were shipped on board the Vandalia, to be carried as stated in the declaration. The plaintiff was on board, and it seemed that, if he sold any of the apples at any intervening port, he was to pay the same rate of freight as if they had all been carried to Windsor. On the voyage up Lake Erie the Vandalia was run into by the schooner Fashion, and the vessel and cargo were lost. The bargain for the carriage was made by one Eastman for the plaintiff, and he swore that he did not recollect anything being said to him as to the apples being at the plaintiff's risk. For the defendants the captain of the schooner was called, who swore that the agreement was at 1s 3d per barrel, to be delivered at Windsor; that the vessel was to call at Port Stanley, and to go on to Chatham; that the plaintiff was at
liberty to sell at any port, or to take them on from Windsor to Chatham, --in either case the freight remaining at 1s 3d per barrel; and that he expressly told Eastman the owner of the apples must run the risk of the navigation,--a stipulation which he swore he was in the habit of making. No receipt or bill of lading was signed.
The jury found that the captain received the freight, but that the plaintiff was subject to the risks of the Navigation; and, by the direction of the learned judge, gave a verdict for the plaintiff, subject to the opinion of the court; a nonsuit to be entered if the cause of the loss was a danger of the navigation.

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William R. McNeil
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Vandalia (Propeller)