Pioneer Steamboats on the Great Lakes
Dr. W. K. Burr in the Picton Times
The first steamboat! Look; see how it moves on the water- the first steamboat on the Great Lakes. What a wold of thought is expressed in that one sentence the first steamboat.
The revival- the wonderful revival-of scientific learning in the 19th century was of incalculable benefit to the great world of mankind. And since then what great things have been accomplished. Steamship lines now thread the ocean, and the railway lines have drawn the continents together. All this has helped and will continue to help on the dawning of the great millennium of inventions which is already at our door.
The first pioneer steamboat on the Great Lakes was called the Ontario.: She made her first trip in 1817, She was 110 feet long 24 feet wide, and 8 feet depth, and measured 237 tons. Se was the first one that was built subject to a swell on water, and determined the interesting problem that steamboats were adapted to the navigation of the open seas, as well as on the sheltered rivers.
When the Ontario performed her first trip she was everywhere greeted with the most lively demonstrations of joy. The whole country was jubilant. Illuminations, bonfires, and them mutual congratulations of friends all proclaimed with a the great satisfaction with which this event was considered. And it was indeed widely spoken of, and heralded as one of the greatest achievements, ushering in, as it did, a new era in regard to the wonderful commerce of the lakes.
The next one to ply these waters was the Frontenac, She was built at Finkle's Point, in Ernesttown- a few miles from the city of Kingston She also was launched in 1816, the 7th of September, a little while after the launching of the Ontario. The work of building her however, began the previous year in October and the cost exceeded $80,000. At the time she was launched similar rejoicing took place as that which greeted the "Ontario." A very large company of people witnessed the event. The length of her keel was 150 feet, her deck 170 feet and the tonnage was 700.
The Martha Ogden was built in 1819 at Sacket's Harbor, and continued in use till 1832 when she was lost. The Sophia, Robbins, Black Hawk, Brownville, Charles Carroll and Paul Pry were seamers plying the waters of Lake Ontario and the River St. Lawrence all of them bing built at an early period and prior to 1834.
The first steamboat on Lake Erie was built at Buffalo N.Y. in 1816, about the same time that the Frontenac was built at Ernesttown, She was named Walk-in-the-Water -a peculiar name- and she immediately began to walk in the water-a walk she continued to perform for many years.
After the launching of the Frontenac at Ernesttown, the building of another steamboat immediately commenced. This steamboat was called the Queen Charlotte. She was built in 1817. And began running in 1818. She was the pioneer steamboat on the waters of the Bay of Quinte and the upper part of the river St. Lawrence She made her trips twice a week from Prescott to Wilkins' Wharf at the Carrying place, stopping at Kingston Bath, Hallowell, Adolphustown, Belleville and Trenton. The first season Queen Charlotte runt the fare from Kingston to the head of Bay of Quinte,, including meals, was $5.00.
It was said of the Charlotte here that she was a very acceptable improvement in the navigation of the Bay. And, furthermore, that a few sailing crafts suffered for patronage on account of her. But the general public regarded her as a great blessing, and one that had come to them in time of need. And during her trips, up and down the bay, she would stop at any convenient place to take on passengers or let them off.
The next steamboat which succeeded at Charlotte was called the Kingston. She was built at Finkle's Point. John G. Parker was the builder and John Grass was her captain. Then, after the Kingston, she was followed by the Sir James Kent. She also was built at Finkle's Point and during the time of the building she was superintended by Henry Gildersleeve. This was the last steamboat built at Finkle's Point.
In speaking of Mr. Gildersleeve Mr. Finkle says: "He come into Canada about a month before the Frontenac was launched, in August 1816. He was the sone of a shipbuilder who owned yards on the Connecticut River, and built vessels for the New York Market. Being a skillful shipwright, he assisted in finishing the Frontenac, and then as master builder assisted at the Charlotte. And during this time he also built a packet, which he named the Minerva. In building this vessel he brought to his assistance the knowledge that he had acquired in his father's shipyards. The result was that when she was taken to Kingston to receive her fittings, Captain Murney examined her inside and out, and particularly her mold, which he said exceeded anything he had seen and declared her to be the best craft that had ever floated in the Kingston harbor."
Another steamboat called the Barry was built at Kingston. She was a lake boat and she continued to run but a short time. During her third year she collided one night with the schooner Kingston ans sank immediately. Only the passengers were saved.
The steamboats-Prince of Wales, the New Era and the Bay of Quinte were also built at Kingston and were superintended by Mr. Gildersleeve, whose name is associated with most of the steamboats which have plied the waters of the Bay of Quinte. And after a very useful and eventful life. Mr. Gildersleeve's career was suddenly ended during the cholera epidemic of 1855.
Another steamboat, which was named the Prince Edward was built at Garden Island in 18(?) Her first-her trial trip was made to Bath. The steamer was intended mainly for the Bay of Quinte
And from that day to this what great progress and improvements have been made and all of which are due to honest and earnest endeavor. Due too, to the wonderful labor of faith, mingled with hope energy and perseverance. What a great contrast from the old batteaux which brought the pioneers to the shore of a dense and unexploded wilderness, and where very little was known of its geography.
Well might we say, all honor to the brave-to the heroic pioneers who have been instrumental in building up this far dominion and who had the fortitude, and courage to press onward. And stand firm amid every trial and difficulty. They are indeed worthy of all praise. Again we say all honor to those heroic pioneers.