The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 25 Jul 1896

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Capt. Pierce Has Had Many Stirring Experiences.

How many citizens travelling to and from Portsmouth have failed to notice the tall, erect form of Capt. J.W. Pierce, as that veteran sailor labored at his pastime, boat-building? Persons giving the grey wiskered, weather beaten old sailor a second glance have decided within themselves that he is a man with a history. This decision would be confirmed by a few minutes conversation with the captain, who lives alone on the shore of the bay in a modest shanty which is work shop, studio, kitchen, parlor, dining-room, with one end screened off for a bed-room. This quiet, unostentatious person has travelled over most of the world and a narrative of his travels is more interesting than any thrilling story ever penned by that lucid marine writer, Capt. Marryat. Born near Boston seventy-five years ago he early showed a decided fondness for the water, and at an early age was found almost continually with yachting parties sailing out of Boston and vicinity for pleasure. His first yachting experiences were gained on the river Weir, at a point about fourteen miles from the hub. Being endowed with artistic instincts he took up the profession of an artist, which he followed for many years at Boston with gratifying success. Naturally, his work was confined to his liking, and it is no wonder his efforts at painting were directed in the line of marine. Today marine paintings, the work of his brush, occupy an honored place in many homes of rich Americans, as well as in galleries of the old countries. Painting was too confining an occupation, however, and his physicians ordered him to give it up. Having a practical knowledge of marine designing and draughting, Capt. Pierce turned his attention to that work. Here again he met with success, and while following this line of work designed and supervised in building some of the costliest and finest boats on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Some of these steamers, side and stern wheelers, measured 250 feet in length, and in their day were unsurpassed in point of design and speed. Since coming to Kingston he made known his handicraft by designing the strs. St. Lawrence and America. He also drew up plans for the remodelling of the str. Empire State.

The longest ocean voyage Captain Pierce ever experienced was of ninety-nine days duration. He sailed from New York in the brigantine Reveller for the island of Penang, in the straits of Malaca. The steamer was ninety days out without sighting land. Capt. Pierce went out there in the interest of a company for the purpose of supervising the erection of a large saw mill. He was there nearly two years, 1859-60. He has several very fine paintings of the scenery surrounding the spot where the mill was erected. He stopped for some time at the town of Angier, Java, which was destroyed by an earthquake some three years ago.

Some years ago he built the yacht Wildflower, now owned by Reeve Fisher, Portsmouth. In this yacht Capt. Pierce made many excursions around this locality. In company with two men whom he picked up to help him, he made the run over from Sackett's Harbor and tied up at Portsmouth in four and a half hours. There was a heavy wind, about half a gale, blowing from the south-west at the time. As a reminder of the trip Capt. Pierce painted a picture representing the Wildflower in the gale off the Pigeon light, and which he still has in his possession.

He still does a little painting for pastime and has now a collection of beautiful paintings, ink sketches and water colors. These are mostly marine views, in which he excels. He has two very fine sketches of the yacht Wildflower, one showing her tied up at Howe Island, being particularly good. He has besides several views of Portsmouth, one of Collins Bay, White Island light, coast of Maine, fishing smacks running for shelter; moonlight scene with house boat, Ohio river, very fine; scene of Camden Bay, Maine, showing village in distance; the steamship Worcester under way, bearing relief to the Parisians after the siege in 1871. He has still in his possession an india ink sketch of this steamer which he made to have photographed. The original painting he donated to a fair, held to provide funds for the relief. This painting was raffled and brought a large sum. There was a great demand for copies of the picture, and to supply this demand Capt. Pierce made the sketch he still possesses, which was photographed and prints sold at three dollars each. He has also a drawing of the ship Morning Star, purchased by the Sunday school children of New England by popular subscription, and donated for missionary purposes.

Capt. Pierce is at present engaged in building a small yacht, 24 x 8 x 3 feet. It will be entirely new in design in these parts, having a movable cabin, which can be taken off or replaced at pleasure. For an old man of seventy-five years he shows considerable activity and is remarkably well preserved for one who has knocked about so much. He gives promise of seeing many more fine seasons in which to enjoy his popular pastime, yachting.


The str. Niagara cleared last night for Oswego to load coal for up the lakes.

The schr. Loretta Rooney will be in from Oswego tonight with coal for Booth & Co.

Capt. Ira Folger will go on the str. King Ben again. Capt. Hurley is at present in command of the steamer.

The str. Algerian, down this morning, will turn around at Cornwall so as to be here for the Monday trip.

Both the str. King Ben and the schr. Fabiola are loading lumber at the spile dock for Oswego. They will bring back coal.

The schr. Fabiola carried twenty-eight cargoes of lumber over to Oswego last year, and brought back thirty-three cargoes of coal.

The str. Columbian has seventeen excursions booked out of Toronto, which will keep her busy the remainder of the season.

The schr. Annie Falconer presented a pretty sight last night, making in under full sail. The moonlight set her off nicely. She has coal for R. Crawford.

p.4 General Paragraphs - Nearly all the M.T. Co.'s tugs and barges are now engaged in grain trade between Prescott and Montreal. There is very little for them to do at this port.

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25 Jul 1896
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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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British Whig (Kingston, ON), 25 Jul 1896