The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 1 Jan 1878

Full Text

not issued

Jan. 2-4, 1878


Jan. 5, 1878


To the Editor of the British Whig:

Sir, - Under the above heading a letter from Mr. O.H. Brown to the Oswego Times appeared in your issue of yesterday. Like all grievances discovered or felt by Americans as against Canadian enactments, our laws are always found to be "absurd," where the boot is on the wrong leg; and I can multiply instances in which American ship owners expect the law to be strained in their favor, when our ship owners asking similar favors from the American Government are treated to a taste of the strict letter of their regulations.

Some years since I was the owner of a tug which plied in the waters of this harbour. One night about ten o'clock two American schooners, bound for Ogdensburg, ran in here under stress of weather. The masters called upon the master of the tug, requesting him to take them at once to Ogdensburg, it being in the month of November, and they were afraid of being frozen in. When towing them between the foot of Wolfe Island and Ogdensburg a fair wind sprung up, sail was hoisted on both schooners, and they nearly swamped the tug, the master with great difficulty cast loose the ropes. The tugging fees were never paid, and on the arrival of the schooners at Ogdensburg, the masters gave notice to the Collector of Customs there, that the tug had committed a breach of the Navigation Laws, and notice was given that if she went into American waters she would be seized.

I had to write to the Secretary of State at Washington, and enclose affidavits of the circumstances of the case, before I could get the seizure abandoned.

This is one sample of the strict interpretation put by Collectors on the American side, as to their Navigation Laws.

It is a frequent thing for American tugs to take tows here and make a whine about the stringency of our laws, if refused permission to do so and so at being fined when caught.

It is an every day occurrence for American owners of vessels to ask for favors on this side, when the same thing asked by our owners is refused, and one would suppose by the tall talking done that they have the right to anything they think fit and we to nothing.

To ship goods from here to the other side requires a Consular Certificate, which costs $2.50. On the other side no such fee is required when shipping to Canada. A Canadian vessel going to the American side, for one trip, or for the season, has to pay a fee of 30 cents per ton, besides other charges. An American one coming here pays 50 cents in and 50 cents out, and no other charges whatever.

Everything connected with loading and entering goods is treated, in the same way, on the American side is exorbitant; on this side nothing.

I can easily imagine that Mr. Brown thinks the conduct of an officer who strains a point in his favor most judicious. Of course it is, as he looks on it, but do Canadian ship owners think so? That's the question.

It amounts to this, then, Americans must have all, Canadians nothing, but what they are pleased to permit them.

I am happy to see that the shoe is pinching somewhere, and that it will be the means of compelling the American Government to show a little more reciprocity towards this side of the line, by offering to have some treaty between the two countries entered into, with equal rights and privileges and charges to all. Were this done we should hear no more lamentations from Mr. Brown, and be no more reminded of the old fable of the wolf and the lamb.

Jan. 4th, 1878 Yours, White

p.3 W.W. - ferry still running regularly.

Tabular Statement - figures on grain imported to Kingston and shipped to Montreal for 1875-77.

Jan. 7, 1878


Jan. 8, 1878

p.3 The Ice - ice formed in harbor on Saturday night, Sunday and Monday; the ice bridge formed to Island, Pierrepont still running.

Jan. 9, 1878


The following is a full list of the steamers and vessels laid up in our harbour for the winter:

Kingston Harbour

Schooners - Bangalore, Annandale, Erie Belle, Dominion of Picton, Arabia, E.G. Benedict, Jessie Macdonald, White Oak, B.W. Folger, Annie Falconer, Fabiola, A.G. Ryan, Peerless, Acacia, Olive Branch, Wave Crest, Dundee, Morning Star, Dominion of Pt. Burwell, Fanny Campbell, Brooklyn, Ariadne, Julia.

Steamers - Corsican, Spartan, Algerian, Magnet, Hastings, Maud, Pierrepont, Geneva, Flight, D.C. West, City of Kingston. Propeller Africa. Steam barge Norman. Tugs -Wren, Glide, Franklin, Mixer, Bronson, Elfin, Jessie Hall.


Schooners - Pride of America, Katie Eccles, Foster, Oliver Mowat. Steam barge Saxon. Steamers - Crusoe, Marquis of Lorne, and Mr. Gilmour's handsome steam yacht Cruiser.

Garden Island

Schooners - Bavarian (sic) (new), Siberia, Norway, Jessie H. Breck, Bismarck, Oriental, London. Schooner Denmark and Calvin & Breck's elevator are rebuilding on the Marine Railway.

Steam Tugs - Traveller, Chieftain, H.A. Calvin, John A. Macdonald, Bay of Quinte, steam barge Indian and two grain barges.

Wolfe Island

Schooners - D.L. Bullock, Hattie Howard, R. Gaskin, H. Roney, Prince Alfred, Sweet Home, Mary Ann, Pilot, Vision, and scow Horne.

Jan. 10, 1878


Jan. 11, 1878


Now that the season of navigation for 1877 is closed, we can sum up the losses and accidents which have occurred during the year, and compare them with those of the previous year.

In 1876 the loss in tonnage on the chain of lakes were 9,990 tons, of the total value of $307,000; while, in 1877, the loss of tonnage was 17,761 tons, and value of $616,800, an excess of loss in 1877 of 7,771 tons, and of $309,800 over that of 1876.

The vessels built in 1876 made a total of 8,451 tons, of the value of $366,000; while in 1877 there was a decline in both tonnage and value, the figures being 6,092 tons, of the value of $311,260. There were therefore 2,359 tons less built in 1877 than in 1876, making a difference in value of $54,800.

The figures for 1874 and 1875 show a much larger tonnage built than either of the former years named. In 1874 there were vessels and steamers built and commissioned that measured 74,496 tons, 1n 1875 18,958 tons, the falling off being probably caused by the stringency of the money market and the decline of the value of vessel property, caused by the low rate of freight and railway competition.

The shipments to the seaboard from the United States via the Welland Canal and Montreal have been about the same as those of last year, both being in excess of the shipments of 1875, the figures standing thus:

1875 ........12,016,000 bush.

1876 ........14,237,000 "

1877 ........14,233,000 "

Lake Disasters

There has been no single disaster during 1877 that involved a wholesale sacrifice of life, like some of the steamboat disasters of former years, but still there have been disasters, each in themselves horrible enough to shock those at all conversant with the particulars of various losses. Several of said vessels have foundered with all hands, and it is a noticeable fact that all of those thus taking their entire crews with them, were canal vessels. In the past few years nearly every vessel lost, without leaving a single trace of how lost or where, was a canaller. One of these cases of foundering the past season was the result of a collision, but others, like some in former years, left port with a fair wind and were never after heard of. In many cases it is not even known what lake they went down on. Among the total losses of vessels and crews may be mentioned on November 8th the schooner Magellan and eight persons. On the same date the schooner Kate L. Bruce and crew of eight persons. On the schr. Berlin the captain and cook were drowned, and the captain's son and a sailor (name unknown) perished from exposure. During the season 1877 there have been totally lost 77 vessels of all sizes, from the schooner Velocipede of eleven tons burden, and valued at $200, to the steamer R.N. Rice, measuring 1,096 tons, and valued at $65,000.

The number of deaths from drowning, by accident etc., during the season was 114, the deaths from all causes, 182 (this includes vessel owners, ship builders and retired captains.) Among the deaths from accident there resided at or near Kingston, or happened near Kingston, the following: June 8th - John Williams, mate schr. Bismarck, of Kingston, killed by a chock striking him on the head at Bay City. July 12th - Near Kingston, a sailor (name unknown) drowned off the schr. Lyman Casey. Oct. 8th - R. Donnelly washed overboard at the stranding of the bark Sweden at Port Stanley. Oct. 28th - Joseph Seebrock, killed on Lake Huron by vessel's tow line breaking. Dec. 1st - John and James McCarthy lost while going ashore from schr. Morning Star in Bateau Channel.

Fast Sailing

During the past season some very fast times were made by vessels. In August the schr. Thos. Sims made the run from Cleveland to Kingston in three and a half days. In September the schr. Oneida made the run from Cleveland to Port Stanley, unloaded her cargo of coal, and returned to Cleveland in 65 hours. The schr. John T. Mott took a cargo of grain from Chicago to Kingston, unloaded, went to Oswego, thence to Fairhaven, loaded coal and returned to Chicago, completing the whole business in 25 days.

Life Saving Stations

Of these there are several established on the shores of the lake, principally on the American side, being known as "full stations" and "half stations." At the full stations the crews of the life boat have to keep within a short distance from where the life boat is stationed, while in the half stations a man may ship on a vessel and make trips to the other lakes no matter how far away. When need arises for their services, say on Lake Huron, these men may be in Kingston or Duluth, and their places have to be supplied by other parties. For each rescue effected by the crew each one receives the sum of $10. In one case cited, a call was made for the crew at a "half station," and the enrolled crew could not be found. After several hours a crew was procured. Those men who actually performed the service were paid $3 each, while the balance of the $10 was saved for the enrolled crew, who were not in port when needed, and did not perform the least service.

The Storm Signal Service has stations at different places on the chain of lakes, here as well as it has elsewhere. We will only say in this connection, that each time the signal was ordered up here it was in reality the signal of a storm, which broke soon after with more or less violence.

The number of vessels laid up in Chicago is 160, having a corn carrying capacity of 5,125,000 bushels, of which 18 are chartered carrying 697,000 bushels. In Milwaukee 41 vessels are wintered, whose carrying capacity is 1,180,000 bushels wheat.

The American Congress some sessions ago provided for the bestowing of medals as a reward for gallantry at sea. This had an excellent effect on the lakes at the first. The neglect of the cases of Captain Burke, of the schooner Andrew Jackson, and Capt. Pat Langan, of the schr. C.J. Wells, is pointed at as a proof that the Government do not bestow these medals where they really belong. In order to get medals it is perhaps necessary that petitions should be sent to Congress, but this course neither captains Burke nor Langan will consent to. As far as the medals go they are considered a failure by vessel men at present, and will be so considered till they see merit properly rewarded without too much red tapeism.

W.W. - The Pierrepont ran to the Island today.

Jan. 12, 1878

p.3 Navigation Again - after being ice-bound for a week, the Pierrepont went to Garden Island and Cape Vincent.

Board of Trade - lake carrying trade discussed.

Jan. 14, 1878

p.3 W.W. - 77 vessels lost in St. Lawrence and lakes during 1877.

Jan. 15, 1878

p.3 Late Sailing - John Wall rowed Capt. Macdonald in a small boat to Wolfe Island.

City Council - Wharves and Harbours - Jas. Swift permitted to extend wharf at foot of Johnston St.]

NOTES[1878 British Whig

(available on microfilm at Kingston Public Library)

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1 Jan 1878
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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.
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British Whig (Kingston, ON), 1 Jan 1878