The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 14 Sep 1895

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The Very Beginning Of Yachting In Kingston.

The yacht races this week have set some of the old-time yachtsmen of Kingston talking about the sport here in the early days. The Whig was fortunate enough to hear some of these enthusiasts who could carry their minds back to '37 and '38, and tell about the very beginning of yachting in Kingston. In those days Capt. Sandom and the officers of the Royal Navy did much to create and keep alive an interest in sailing and boatbuilding, and they, with the officers of the garrisons, had some very good yachts for those times, generally open boats. About this time Mr. Rutherford, a gentleman who came here from Ireland, set to work in the construction of the Inconstant, a clinker-built of about twenty tons. To the same period belongs the Sans Soucie, also built by Mr. Rutherford, and owned by J.J. Burrows, and these, with the boats belonging to the officers of the army and the navy, comprised the fleet. Two noted yachtsmen of these times were Louis Ives and Alex. Phillips. Their services were in great demand. Ives was not only a sailor of repute but he was a steamboat and vessel owner as well.

Then a syndicate was formed, composed of Richard Osborne, Wm. Leckie, Dr. Hickey and W.J. Dick, and under the direction of Mr. Osborne, a modeller of recognized ability, were built the Golden Arrow, the Glance, the Prima Donna and the Belle. Overton S. Gildersleeve was a partner in the last boat and afterwards became her owner. Of these boats the Golden Arrow was the most successful. She won a series of races on the lake in 1861, and at Hamilton was sailed by the Prince of Wales on the occasion of his visit to Canada, who pronounced her one of the handiest boats he had ever handled. She was afterwards sold to Anthony B. Hawke, emigration agent, Toronto, bringing her owners, between her winnings and her selling price, $1,960. The Golden Arrow and the Sans Soucie sailed a race around the Brothers islands in 1852, the latter winning.

James Wilson, manager of the Kingston dry-dock, was an enthusiastic yachtsman in those early days, and, indeed, is one still. As he says himself, it is his one weakness of which he cannot get rid. He was the owner of the Rough-and-Ready, a ten ton centre-board boat. She sailed in many a race, and although she did not always win it is Mr. Wilson's boast that he never hoisted the white flag. Other yachts of these early days, were the Nautilus, owned by William and Samuel Chambers; the Jessie, owned by S.D. Fowler, and the Mary Anne, owned by Wm. Rutherford, Capt. Griffin and W.G. Hinds. The Pigeon brothers, Thomas and Patrick, deserve to be mentioned among the enthusiastic yachtsmen of those early days. They built the Tempest and the Peril. And they were enthusiastic, these old-timers. They lived with their boats. Some of them helped with the building with their own hands. They cared for them constantly, keeping them bright and clean and always in good order. Drills were of daily occurrence.

A race, which is recalled with a good deal of interest, was one which was sailed between the Prima Donna and a yacht named the Hochelaga, which was brought around from Halifax by one Capt. De la Tour. The race was for $600 a side, over a ninety mile course around Timber Island. The Prima Donna won.

Other yachts belonging to this period were the Oddfellow, owned by Messrs. Offord, Beale and Ferguson; the Red Rover, owned by John George, of Wolfe Island; and the Sweepstakes, owned by Joseph Doyle. She was a boat twenty-five feet long and ten feet wide, and when she sailed a plank was rigged over her side on which a couple of men lay out to keep her from going over.

The John A. Macdonald was a yacht owned at first by Wm. Harty, uncle of the present commissioner of public works for Ontario. She was a clinker-built boat and also a daisy. Mr. Wilson says that she sailed like a basket. Yet in the race sailed off Toronto for the Prince of Wales' cup she was the first boat in out of eleven yachts that started. The race was won by the Mosquito, of Lachine, on time allowance. The Gorilla, of Cobourg, was third boat. The John A. had changed hands prior to this race, and at that time was the property of Capt. Dugmore.

Yachting in Kingston saw its best days, according to the opinion of these old timers, from 1840 to 1852. In the latter year an incident occurred which dealt a blow to yachting from which it has not yet, in the opinion of some of these older men, rightly recovered. The Jeannette was the name of a yacht built by Charles Jenkins, Garden Island. She was built, Mr. Wilson says, to beat creation. She was a boat of about forty tons. She was out on a pleasure trip with a party of about forty people on board. She was struck suddenly by a squall from the south channel, while from half to three-quarters of a mile off the foot of Wolfe Island, and she turned over. She was carrying an enormous spread of sail at the time, and her canvas getting into the water pulled her down and kept her from righting herself. In from five to ten minutes after she was struck the whole party were floundering in the water. Nineteen of them, mostly ladies and children, sank to rise no more in this life. For many years afterwards yachting was dead in Kingston. People could not be induced to take any more interest in the sport, and as for getting up a purse it was simply impossible. The Jeannette was raised and soon after took part in regattas at both Kingston and Toronto.

Among those who caught the yachting spirit of the fathers, and who have nobly endeavored to carry down to the present day, might be mentioned the names of H. Cunningham, Dr. Curtis, G. Offord, jr., Robert Makins, Thos. McK. Robertson, Dr. Clarke, of the asylum, and John Strange. Mr. Cunningham was long recognized as a smart man at the tiller. He always sailed an open boat, and usually came in ahead. The Offords' boat was the Emma. She covered the years '78, '79 and '80. She sailed in twenty-nine races while owned by the Offords and won nearly all of them. She was equally successful after she went to Toronto. Dr. Curtis, Dr. Clarke and John Strange are still enthusiastic yachtsmen. Other names might be mentioned and many interesting facts related, but to do justice to the story of latter-day yachting would require another article, which the Whig may print at some future time.

p.4 General Paragraphs - A tidal wave swept over Lake Superior and Chequamegon Bay late yesterday afternoon doing considerable damage. The water rose nearly six feet in a few minutes. The engines in the elevators at Washburn, Wis. were flooded and several waggon roads were washed out.


The str. Monteagle will bring corn to Kingston from Chicago.

The tugs Thomson and Walker cleared for Montreal last night with eight barges.

Arrivals: Str. Hamilton, Montreal; str. Spartan, Toronto; str. Algerian, Montreal.

The schr. Pilot, from Napanee, and sloop Idlewild, from Bath, have peas for Richardson & Sons.

The prop. Bannockburn and three consorts arrived in yesterday afternoon from Duluth with 215,000 bushels of wheat. They will clear again tonight for Duluth.

The prop. Shickluna lightened 7,500 bushels of wheat at the M.T. Co.'s dock and cleared for Montreal with the balance, and the prop. Arabian lightened a portion of her cargo of flour and proceeded to the same place.

Capt. E. Booth took the steambarge Jack as far as Port Colborne. Upon arriving there he handed her over to the captain of the Armenia. Crews were exchanged and Capt. Booth brought the Armenia and her consorts, Valencia and Norway, on down to Kingston. Capt. Booth says the Jack is working excellently since being repaired. She will go to Duluth and load grain for Kingston.

The schr. Trade Wind, from Toronto to Oswego, was caught in the storm on Wednesday night and had a lively experience. The little schooner could not stand the wind and the crew had to lower her sails and let her scud under bare poles, and still she was in danger. Boxes and ropes were thrown all over the craft but did no damage. Capt. Wilson said it was one of the worst encounters with a storm in his experience as a sailor. The Trade Wind was headed for the shore, and when abreast of Sheldon's Point the anchor was dropped with about forty fathoms of chain.

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14 Sep 1895
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
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pd [more details]
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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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British Whig (Kingston, ON), 14 Sep 1895