The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), 10 Dec 1852

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p.2 The Georgian Bay and the Neighbouring Country

Of the great inland waters of Canada, the Georgian Bay has been among the latest to attract a growing commerce over its surface. The greater part of the country adjacent to the bay, indeed almost all but that which lies on its southern border, is still unsettled. Penetanguishene, which occupies a south-eastern position on the Georgian Bay, is, we believe, the oldest settlement on its borders. It has been a military station between thirty and forty years. Nottawasaga has been settled some seventeen years. But it was not till about eight years ago that the trade of this bay began to assume any sort of importance, or that any considerable number of vessels began to navigate its waters. Indeed it is only from that period that we can date the commencement of what is destined to become a great and important trade. The opening sources of the future commerce of this bay are various. There is the trade in timber, which has for some time been opening on Nottawasaga river to American ports, but principally to Buffalo. This trade, on the eastern margin of the bay, is capable of very great extension; and we believe some government surveys have been made on the north, with a view of granting timber licenses. The French river, to which, if we mistake not, the survey extended, will afford facilities for the prosecution of the trade. Another source of commerce is to be found in the fishing islands off Cape Hurd, on the western portion of the bay. White fish and salmon are caught here; but this branch of industry, which is we believed to be capable of indefinite extension, has not yet been pursued on any considerable scale. Probably some 3,000 or 4,000 brls. are taken in a season. The fish are salted down in barrels on the spot; and shipped to market. We observe that white fish is now commanding an unusual price in the United States; having risen as high as 25s. a barrel in some cases, the usual price having theretofore often been not over 15s. These fisheries are doubtless destined to become a source of considerable profit in future. The settlement of the country surrounding the Georgian bay will open up another source of trade in the products of the soil, and the supplying of the producers with such imported articles as necessity and convenience require. Already there is some commerce between such ports as Owen Sound and the mines of Lake Superior. Beef, pork, and other provisions are supplied to the miners, both on the British and the American sides; but not to any great extent. But the greatest source of the future commerce on the bay will undoubtedly be found in the opening up of the vast country lying to the east, and which is likely soon to be placed under survey.

Previous to this - or must we now call it last - season, we do not recollect and cannot learn that a single vessel was lost on the Georgian Bay for eight years. Last season, however, was a fatal exception to this hitherto continuous immunity from danger. Whether it was owing to the imperfect knowledge of the mariners, or to whatever cause, no less than eight vessels have been wrecked on the Georgian Bay last season. Let us recount them. First, there was the steamer Belle, running on what is called the northern route, from the Sault Ste. Marie to the Lake Superior mines, Owen Sound, and Penetanguishene. She was wrecked off Cape Croker, in a dense fog, on her first trip. Under the circumstances, the Captain's familiar knowledge of the bay was of no avail. The schooner Sophia, which had been to Manitowaning with Indian presents, came to Nottawasaga river for a load of lumber to take to Buffalo. She got aground at the mouth of the river, where it appears the water was less than its usual depth. She was, however, got off, and has been fitted up anew. She was insured in the Provincial Mutual for £500. We may here remark that this river is navigable for a distance of about three miles; and that there are two mills for preparing lumber situated at not a very great distance from its mouth. The Sophia was in ballast at the time she struck. The river has not since gained its accustomed depth of water. Another large schooner, the Bishop, from Buffalo was afterwards wrecked at the same place. She got up the river without difficulty; obtained her loading of lumber, but struck on the bar as she was going out into the bay. She was however lightened and got off; but was afterwards driven back on the bar and wrecked. She lies there still. She has been sold to Mr. Boyce, the owner of the steam mills about two miles up the river for $2000. The fourth wreck was the schooner Eliza Penn, owned by Mr. Hamilton of Saugeen. She was laden with lumber which she had obtained at Nottawasaga river. Her destination was Saugeen; but she was driven out of her course by stress of weather, and wrecked at a branch of the French River, on the north east of the bay. She still lies there a complete wreck, nothing but her rigging having been saved. She was insured in the Ontario Marine for some £350. The fifth vessel wrecked on the Georgian Bay last season was the Ottawa, a small fishing schooner owned at Owen Sound. She was wrecked among the fishing islands, where these small vessels sometimes venture for fishing purposes into places respecting the safety of which they have very imperfect knowledge. She was insured. The Spy, another large vessel going to Chicago with railroad iron, was driven out of her course during a storm and wrecked on the Isle of Cove, where she now lies in nine feet of water. Another American vessel, the name of which we do not recollect, has since been wrecked near the same place. The eighth vessel, owned at Penetanguishene, and laden with salt for the fishing islands, ran on a concealed rock near the north channel and was lost. She was uninsured. Amid all these disasters there is one gratifying circumstance: no lives were lost. These are the marine disasters of one season, on the Georgian Bay, and as we have already stated, they are entirely unprecedented.

Of all the harbors on this bay where there are settlements, Owen Sound is the most capacious. It is about fourteen miles long, and nine wide at the mouth. The water is deep. Vessels winter here with perfect safety. In stormy weather they are quite safe when they once get well into the bay. Owen Sound was first settled no longer since than 1840; and for two or three years it was considered as all but out of the world. It has now 900 inhabitants, and is increasing every year in an accelerated ratio. A road is now opened from this point to Saugeen, on Lake Huron. It was mainly a government work. There are now seven vessels owned at Owen Sound. Their names are: The Owen Sound, Sydenham, Christiana, Jane of Leith, Eliza White, Ann Jane, and the Sophia. The Sydenham river which empties into Owen Sound affords one of the best water powers in Upper Canada. The fall is not so great just near the Sound as it is about a mile and a half higher up. From that point upwards there is in about a mile's distance an aggregate fall of 700 feet. At one point the fall is fifty feet. The water power may in fact be said to be inexhaustible; a fact of great future importance to the prosperity of Owen Sound. Trout is abundant in this river.

It takes about three or four weeks for a vessel to come from Owen Sound or the neighbouring ports, in Toronto (sic). It has not yet been announced what port on the Georgian Bay, is to be the northern terminus of the Toronto and Lake Huron Railroad....

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10 Dec 1852
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
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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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Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), 10 Dec 1852