The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), 2 Apr 1868

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The opening of navigation was made on Tuesday most nobly by the steamer Watertown, and this boat for a second time claims the distinction of being the pioneer of the season. The last to retire into her berth at the approach of winter, when navigation was no longer possible, so also true to her nature, she has been the first to open the ball on the advent of spring.

From the early and abrupt breaking up of the winter the opening of navigation was anticipated at an earlier date, but taking into account the time it requires to melt a vast field of ice of unusual thickness and solidity, bound constantly by night frosts, it will be found that the opening has not been behind the advance of an ordinary spring season. As a glance at the following table will show the date of opening is far earlier than the generalaverage of the past six years, and is the earliest on record within that period, with one exception -

In 1862 the harbor was opened on April 14th, and the steamer Pierrepont made a trip to the Cape on the following day. The first departure for the lake was the steamer Huron for Toronto, on the 16th. The barque Caroline Marsh was the first arrival from 'sea', having reached here on the 18th with grain, laden at Port Hope.

In 1863 the Pierrepont broke the channel, and towed out the British Lion, which left for Chicago with 300 tons of ice on April 16th; first arrival on the 21st.

In 1864 the harbor was rid of ice on April 2nd, and the str. Gazelle opened the navigation on the 5th. The barque John Breden was the first departure for the lake, on the 7th; the barque Arabia arrived from Chicago on the 15th with grain, the earliest arrival noted in any year from Lake Michigan.

In 1865 the Pierrepont made the first trip on March 27th, and the brig New York arrived from below on the 4th of April. The first departure was the barque S.A. March, for Chicago, on the 4th.

In 1866 the steamer Watertown made her first trip (reaching the Cape via the foot of the Island) on April 11th. The first arrival was reported on the 18th, and the first outward entry for the lake made on the 20th by the propeller North.

In 1867 the Watertown opened the navigation, crushing through a quarter mile of ice on April 6th, reaching Cape Vincent the next day, after detention in the ice. The brig Orkney Lass was the first departure for the lake, on the 11th.

Since the first harbinger of spring made its appearance the busy note of preparation has been incessantly heard along the harbor. The sailors, after a dull winter like the last on shore, rejoice at the welcome sight of the open water, and long to hasten the time when they can walk the planks again. Hence it is easy to account for the activity and hustle that is fast converting the worn and dismantled vessels in the harbor into clean and neatly rigged craft. The work has set in very generally on all classes of boats, and a few days will witness the departure of a large fleet to open the spring campaign. The prospects of a good season are very fair, and there is a strong hope that before it again closes the business of the past two years will be considerably improved upon.

Portsmouth - Beginning at Portsmouth to note the preparations being made we find about eight sailing vessels - including the schrs. Ellen, Lilly, Fleur de Marie and Two Brothers, all owned here - preparing for an early start up or across the lake. On the stocks there also stands the frame of a large ocean vessel of 1,200 tons, the last of the ships begun by Mr. Berry, and the only one not finished by him. The frame has passed into the hands of Messrs. Chaffey & Bros., and is offered for sale as part of the Insolvent's estate. The ship has lain idle for a full season. As the eight or nine ships which preceded it were considered a poor venture, enterprize is lacking for another experiment on ocean ship-building in inland waters. The suspension of work in the ship-yards at Portsmouth has been a severe blow to the industry of the thriving village.

Mortons Wharf - At the Distillery Wharf the barque John Breden is fitting out. The damage to the vessel caused by the great fire at the Distillery is being repaired, and new wire rigging is replacing the rope rigging that was burnt. The loss sustained was covered by insurance.

The Water Works - It is but fair to note as we go along any improvements that have been made in wharf property. The Water Works Company have during the past winter added about 60? feet to the length of their wharf, for general convenience, and Messrs. Davidson and Doran, of the Kingston Foundry, having purchased the old Cameron or City Brewery property, adjoining the Foundry, have also, in addition to the many small improvements made on the property, constructed a new wharf about 175 feet in length, which will be found a great convenience to boats having occasion to obtain repairs to their machinery during the season. Messrs. Davidson & Doran have been engaged in refitting and repairing the boilers and engines of many of the steam craft in port, being about the only firm on which steamboat owners have to depend for mechanical work. Messrs. Jas. H. Henderson & Co's Wharf - This firm has had two propellers the Georgian, Capt. J. Gaskin, and Brantford, Capt. Hanny, wintered here, both of which are ready as soon as navigation opens above and below to make a move. The Georgian will run on the same route as last year, that is between Port Stanley and Montreal, and the Brantford will trade as in past seasons, between Montreal and Hamilton. Extensive repairs have been made to the Brantford during the winter. The fleet of barges, with the powerful floating elevator, lying near the wharf, is being thoroughly overhauled, and a deal of extra labor is being spent on it. Last year the firm did a largely increased business over former seasons - transhipping and carrying to Montreal over 2,000,000 bushels of grain. They own 15? barges, having a carrying capacity each trip of 25,000 bushels. The prospect of business this season is encouraging, and it is to be hoped that their anticipations will be fully realized. The firm is in a great measure indebted to the efforts of their gentlemanly, obliging and popular agent, Mr. Stewart, for their past success.

The Marine Railway - Capt. Gaskin's barque British Lion has been on the stocks of the Marine Railway all winter receiving a general overhauling. Some new timbers have been put in her hull, and her hull has been altered to full bow. Ahead of her on the same ways is the harbor steam tug Ellen Jeffers, receiving extra repairs. This tug is the most useful appendage that our harbor can boast of. A new schooner of about 250 tons is also on the ways fast approaching completion. She is being finished for John Carruthers, Esq., who bought the frame, and she will be employed in the grain trade on this lake. The railway itself has been greatly strengthened, and its ways can now receive the largest vessel on the lake. The propeller Georgian also made her winter quarters here.

United States Wharf - Lying at this wharf are the propellers Brantford, Avon, St. Lawrence, and steamers Bay of Quinte and Pierrepont.

The Avon and the St. Lawrence, together with the steamer Huron, also in this port, and the steamer Ottawa, lying at Hamilton, belong to the firm formerly known as Messrs. Jacques, Tracy & Co., but the title of which has been altered owing to the death of one of the partners. The arrangements of the firm for the season in consequence of this lamented occurrence have not been made. The boats, however, are receiving ordinary repairs and refittings, and will be ready to leave port in a week or so. The line has for many seasons given employment in the spring to numbers of mechanics. It is probable that the steamers will run as usual on the route between Montreal and Hamilton for the accommodation of shippers of freight.

The steamer Bay of Quinte is being generally overhauled. New main decks have been laid down, and the main saloon has been extended and enlarged. Her engines are being slightly repaired. She will be repainted before she leaves her winter quarters. It is expected that her trips up the Bay of Quinte will begin a fortnight hence. She will be commanded this year by Mr. F. Comer, the former purser. Capt. Carter, who commanded her most efficiently last season, receiving the command of the new steamer Norseman, now building at Montreal for Mr. Gildersleeve, to replace the splendid iron steamer Corinthian, purchased for the Royal Mail Line, on the route between Coburg, Port Hope and Rochester. The Norseman will be ready by the lst of May for the route - mean while the Rothesay Castle is carrying out the connection across the lake.

There are also lying adjacent to this wharf the schr. Jenny Rumball, of Goderich, rescued last December by the steamer Pierrepont out of the ice jam in South Bay, the American schooners Mariner and Saranac (lying in the stream), which were towed through the ice from St. John's Island just as navigation closed, and Capt. Taylor's vessels, the Annie Minnes and Annie Falconer, the former of which has a load of lumber on board, having been unable to make a late trip to Oswego last fall. All of these boats are being fitted out, and some of them will make a very early start.

Mr. Kinghorn has removed his entire business to his own wharf and premises, and the United States wharf is used by Messrs. John Carruthers & Co. exclusively for their own business.

G.T.R. Wharf - This wharf has been the calling place of the steamer Watertown.

St. Lawrence Wharf - There are fitting out here the steamers Grecian, Kingston, and Magnet, of the Royal Mail Line, the other steamers of the line having wintered at Montreal, where they also are all being refitted. The boats here have been generally overhauled in a very liberal manner, and they will be handsomely repainted before they are reported for service.

The steamer Bruce, which also lies here, is having alterations made to her engine, in order to increase her speed. She will run again this season between this city and Gananoque and Clayton.

The St. Lawrence wharf has been strengthened and repaired during the winter, new timbers being placed nearly all the length of one side and at all the corners. Messrs. Swift and Anderson have the promise of an exceedingly lucrative business. The wharf will be the stopping place of all the steamers of the Royal Mail Line, of the steamer Bruce, of the principal freight lines, and once more of the steamer Bay of Quinte, and probably again of the Rideau steamers. The firm also carry on at Baker's Wharf, adjoining, a large coal, wood and lumber trade. Last season about 2,000,000 feet of lumber from Brewer's Mills and other points on the Rideau Canal were transhipped from scows, and carried in vessels to Oswego. This season the business will be increased. The other trades are principally for local consumption. The firm have a coal yard and extensive warehouses. At Baker's wharf lay the steamer Huron, previously spoken of, and barque Water Witch, which is fitting out for an early trip to the upper lakes.

Canadian Navigation Company - The Canadian Inland Steam Navigation Company, during the present session of Parliament, obtained a new charter, and is now to be known as the Canadian Navigation Company, a more general title. The public have long ago been informed of the extensive purchases made by the Company, comprising the magnificent steamers Corinthian and Union, the latter boat having been owned in Quebec, and the entire American Express Line, composed of the steamers Ontario, Bay State, and Lady Elgin. The Company now owns thirteen steamers, and has a capital of two million dollars.The steamers have been divided into three distinct lines.

The first will be the Royal Mail Through Line, between Montreal and Hamilton, calling at Kingston daily both ways, comprises the following steamers. The Spartan, Capt. T. Howard; Grecian, Capt. Kelley; Corinthian, Capt. Dunlop; Passport, Capt. D. Sinclair; Kingston, Capt. P. Farrell; and the Magnet, Capt. J. Simpson. It will be seen that under the new arrangements, with the exception of the Spartan, there is an entire re-distribution of captains.

The Second Line, to run between Ogdensburg and Lewiston, under arrangements similar to those of the old American Express Line, will comprise the steamers Bay State and Ontario, under the old and popular commanders, Capts. Morley and Estes. The Champion, Capt. Carmichael, and Banshee, Capt. M. Bailey, will connect and compose the River Line from Ogdensburg to Montreal.

The strs. Union, Capt. Fairgrieve, and Cataract, Capt. Simpson, wooden boats, will form a daily line between Quebec and the River Saguenay, touching at Murray Bay, River du Loup, Cacouna, Tadoussac, and Ha-ha Bay. The boats of the Richelieu Company fill the link between Montreal And Quebec. The thirteenth steamer, the Lady Elgin, will be kept as a reserve boat in case of accident, and will be put in order so as to be available at any moment in case of need.

The Hon. John Hamilton will still continue manager at this port, and Mr. C.H. Hatch officiates as agent. The offices are situated on the St. Lawrence wharf.

Kinghorn's Wharf - The ferry steamer Gazelle is the only boat lying here. The new wharf (formerly Scobell's) will be used by Kinghorn & Co. as the future stopping, shipping and landing place of their own steamers, the Watertown, Pierrepont and Gazelle, the ferry boats to Cape Vincent, Gananoque and the Islands.

The wharf will also be used for the lumber business of Mr. Kinghorn, and the extensive warehouses adjoining have been for some time in use for the storage of grain etc. The whole of Mr. Kinghorn's business is transacted here.

Atlantic Wharf - At this wharf, where the extensive business of Chaffey & Bros. has been carried on in past seasons, lay the propellers Bristol and East, and tugs Glide and Wales, besides a large fleet of barges, all being a part of the estate of the firm. Owing to the recent failure, changes have been made in the management of the immense flotilla of boats which annually plied from this wharf, and the following new arrangements have been announced:-

A new and strong forwarding company has been formed, the head office of which will be in Montreal, with a branch in Kingston. The members of the firm will consist of Messrs. John McLennan, H. McLennan, J.B. Auger, and M. Laing, of Montreal, and Geo. Chaffey and G.M. Kinghorn, of Kingston. The floating stock will consist of between twenty and thirty grain-carrying barges, and a line of propellers to run between Montreal and Chicago. The number of steam vessels which the company will employ, and their names, is not yet decided on, but the intention is to make the company the strongest Canadian company ever yet got together for the transaction of business on this route. Mr. Kinghorn will have charge of the Kingston branch.

Independently of their connection with the above company, Messrs. George and W. Chaffey will conduct a general business of their own, apart from the forwarding branch, at the present Chaffey place of business, foot of Princess street.

The general freight business of the Rideau Canal, formerly conducted by Geo. Chaffey & Bro., has been taken charge of by Messrs. Gurney & Glidden, whose office will be at the Atlantic wharf.

The owner of the wharf, Mr. Jas. Harty, is having it entirely replanked with new heavy planking stuff, which will make it the best, as it is now the most capacious wharf in the city.

Gildersleeve's Wharf - A portion of the Rideau fleet lies here, and preparations will soon be made to start it. The wreck of the steamer Empress also lies here, in the same position in which it was left after the fire.

Berry's Wharf - This wharf and elevator, which were under lease by George Chaffey Bros., will probably be used by the new firm.

Glassford, Jones & Co. -This forwarding firm commence business on the same basis as formerly. Three of their boats now lying here - the prop. Colonist, brig Baltimore, and sch. Princess Alexandra - are fitting out or the summer's work. The tug Ottawa and the large fleet of barges belonging to the firm have wintered in Gananoque. The firm has very good prospects for the season.

Above The Bridge - A large number of barges and small schooners have wintered here. Preparations are more backward than in the harbor proper.

The Rideau Canal - The lumber and wood business on this canal promises to be as extensive as ever. Messrs. Chaffey & Bros. kept a large fleet of tugs and barges constantly on the move, and the business will probably be carried on as usual under the new arrangements. Barges will still ply to the Newboro mines for iron ore. The passenger line between Ottawa and Kingston has passed from the hands of Mr. Dickinson into those of a Montreal Company. We are unable yet to make any announcement on their behalf.

In a future issue the repairs and preparations going on at Garden Island will be noted.

The Season - The final opening of navigation on the lake will probably take place next week, when we hope to see a large and tidy fleet take its departure to open the summer campaign. The general repairs and improvements we have noted are creditable alike to the owners and to the shipping of Kingston.

-The Navigation - str. Watertown reached Cape Vincent.

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2 Apr 1868
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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), 2 Apr 1868