The Recall Of The Tugmen
Picturesque and Conspicuous Figures Here Years Ago.
Men Noted For Bravery and Daring When Life and Property Was Endangered In the Dark Blue Waters of Lake
Ontario - Peace to Their Ashes.
In the death of Captain William Scott by drowning from the tug Tonawanda while crossing Mexico Bay ten days ago, there was removed another of a long line of men made picturesque and conspicuous by reason of their calling and the chanced they took daily with life, when sail instead of steam craft was the most conspicuous thing on the lakes.
While Captain Scott was not the oldest of the tugmen at this port, either in age or point of service, he had been associated with and knew most of them intimately. As a boy he spent most of his time about the waterfront, rode most of the tugs about the harbor and admired the skill of the deck hands coiling or throwing lines. In time he became as skilled as the best.
But of all the old crowd only five or six remain, Commodore Thomas Crimmins, Captain Pat Tivnan, owner and manager of the tug Hershie, now doing government towing at Charlotte; Captain Lon Tiffany, of this city, who in the days that were piloted the Lady Franklyn; Frank Hoffman and Mike Glynn, who have never had peers in an engine-room, Captain Jack McMullin, who sailed the W. & J. Connell a couple of seasons, and who a few years ago lived in Thorold, Ont., is believed to be with us yet.
Commodore Crimmins was in a reminiscent mood about five o'clock this morning, as he stood on the stoop back of Parson's ship chandlery store gazing through the river fog. "Forty-eight years ago this Spring I went into the tug business," said the Commodore, reflectively, "and I have seen nearly everything that we have had here in the line of tugs, and we have had some good ones.
"Captain Scott didn't break into the business until sometime in the seventies. I remember him a boy decking on the tugs Quickstep and Joe Knight that did dredge towing in Toledo harbor. Then he went firing on the C.P. Morey, was made an engineer and was in charge of the engine-room in the F. D. Wheeler, when Captain Charley Ferris went out and rescued the schooner Wood Duck and her crew. It was a terrible day, but Captain 'Bill' was answering the bells and they came through all right. The Captain was also in the Major Dana, and in the Stephen H. Lyons, the John Navagh and the Tonawanda, the last three either as controlling owner or master.
"There was great business here in those days. When I began for Smith & Post it was at its height, and all boats were going independent. We had in those years the tugs O.H. Hastings, Captain J. Baltes; Major Dana, Captain Dan Manwarring, (her engines are now in a tug in Duncan City); the F.D. Wheeler, Captain Paddy Hart; Robert Reed, Captain C.W. Ferris; Dodge, Captain John Baltes; P.P. Pratt, Captain Tim Donovan; Jason Parker, Barney Carney; Fulton, Captain Jeff Richardson; Tornado, Captain Bill Manwaring; the latter boat was blown up in the lake in August, 1870; and Captain Lon Tiffany in the Lady Franklyn, picked up the stern grating upon which floated George Ferris, Feather Clark and Mary Stone, the stewardess; C.P. Morey, Captain Jim Pappa (the engines of the Morey are in a boat in Ashtabula); Maria Melvin (Mucket), Captain John Parsons; Crusader, Captain Hi Manwarring; William Avery, Captain Pat Tivnan; Steve Lyons, Captain Tim Donovan; May Queen, Captain Charlie Richardson and later Captain Thompson; J.S. Spinney, Captain Worden; (the Spinney is said to be alive in Toledo or near there); C.P. Morse, Captain John Baltes; Oneida, Captain George R. Ferris; W. & J. Connell, Captain John McMullin; M.J. Cummings, Captain Tim Donovan; E.E. Frost, Barney Carney; Eliza J. Redford, Captain John Redford; Charley Ferris, Captain Charley Ferris; John Navagh, Captain Scott.
"The Redford and Cummings were built side by side, launched the same day and lost the same night. The Redford went ashore under the Fort bank trying to save the schooner Flora Emma from going ashore and Captain Featherstonehaugh lost his life. The Cummings, with Captain Tim Donovan in command, burned the same night at Cape Vincent. There were two other tugs that were the pride of Oswego, the Alanson S. Sumner, the handsomest model towing model towing boat I ever saw, built by A. S. Page and Thomas Dobbie. Captain Dobbie was master, with Captain William Doran pilot. The Oswego was also owned by Page and Dobbie and Captain Tom Dixon was master.
"The Tonawanda is now the only tug doing business at this port. The reason is there is little to do, steam craft having driven sail vessels from the lake. At present there are only about twenty sailing vessels on Lake Ontario and some of these are nothing more than barges, consorts to small steamers that can do all of the towing necessary as a rule.
"The first tug association was formed here in 1870 and I was made manager and commodore of the fleet. There were sixteen tugs in the organization and I have seen Captain Charles Ferris make 150 tows in twenty-four hours, including canal boats. That business was done by only one tug and all were going night and day. That season the receipts of the association from all sources, raft towing, wrecking, etc., was $80,000 and in my official capacity I handled all of the money and never was obliged to give a bond.
"In 1878 Captain Charlie Ferris with the tug F. D. Wheeler earned $250 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., twenty five hours. That was the last big earning days we had. The business from that day has dwindled. The earnings from vessel and canal boat towing in 1870 was about $55,000. The commodore had a salary of $1,500 a year. During thirty years of active tug life I handled nearly a million dollars of other people's money."