The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 8 Jul 1899

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p.1 There Will Be Rivalry - Capt. R.J.J. Newman, Cape Vincent, who last summer and the season previous commanded the steamers Vision and Oclemena respectively, has chartered the steamer Cyclone, owned by Oswego parties, and will conduct excursions out of this city to river points. The steamer is about the same size as the New Island Wanderer and has a guaranteed speed of sixteen miles an hour. She is now being fitted out at Oswego. Capt. Newman was in the city yesterday making arrangements for the summer trade.



The schooner Acacia cleared this afternoon for Oswego.

The tug Thomson left with three grain-laden barges for Montreal.

The schooner Pilot cleared today for Trenton to load grain for this port.

The schooner Oliver Mowat cleared today for Oswego to load coal for this port.

The steamer Columbian is undergoing renovation prior to being put on the run between Montreal and Quebec.

The tug Bronson was today hauled out on the M.T. company's marine railway. The tug Walker was shoved to one side on a temporary built ways.

The schooner Oliver Mowat arrived this morning at the M.T. company's elevator from Port Darlington with 14,000 bushels of wheat. The schooner Jamieson from Port Hope, unloaded 8,000 bushels of wheat at this elevator yesterday and cleared last night.



The Past and Present Is Told In Fine Fashion.

Reminiscences of Interest

As Observed and Related by A Citizen of Many Years Sojourn in Kingston.

Arriving here in the fall of 1845, from the beautiful and picturesque county of Cornwall in dear old England, the place of my nativity, as it was of my beloved parents, long since called hence from labor to rest, I early in life became much interested in and infatuated with the leading features of this good old town, which, at that time, and for many years afterwards, were the military, the marine and the shipbuilding industries. Each of these had its attractions, and peculiarly (sic) so for the small boy, including the writer, who has forgotten very little of what was then so deeply impressed on the youthful mind, and each of which was the cause of the loss of many a day's valuable and necessary schooling, never to be recalled, as I now, to my sorrow and regret, forcibly realize, for it is in after years that we feel the loss of the benefits wasted in youth, which, in those days especially, we could ill afford to spare, as the facilities then existing for securing requisite education were altogether too limited without further diminishing them by truant-playing; but boys then, as now, took no time to consider what was better for themselves. Many of them, consequently, have had to trudge along through life at laborious occupations and for small pay, while a little more and very essential learning would have qualified them for something better and to command more renumerative wages, and which, but for their folly, they might have secured. Kingston was then an important garrison town, and the perfect manoeuvring and beautiful review movements of the splendidly drilled soldiers of the line regiments and artillery corps of the imperial army, uniformed in their neatly fitting suits of red and blue, headed by their natty, jaunty and dandy drab-coated bandsmen, dispensing the finest music the world could produce, fairly captivated the hearts of the girls of the town, and made it difficult for the more quiet and less attractively-dressed citizen to get a show at all as a competitor in the flirtation race with the more gaudy sons of Mars.

The shipping of the port was quite extensive in those days, the harbor and docks being almost always crowded by sailing vessels and steam freight and passenger craft, the former being only slightly less popular with the youth of the city than the latter, and so familiar to the boys were most of the schooners trading here that they could all be named on sight when making for their mooring grounds and docks, one of the most striking and best known being the Eleanora, as she was one of the very largest, fastest and most attractive boats coming here, on account of her being a three-master, square-sailed, and ship-rigged; while the steamers were identified by the distinctive sounds of their bells, whistles in those days being unknown. There were several lines of these steamers, namely, that between Montreal and Kingston, composed of three or four sidewheelers, one of the pioneers and chief of which was the beautiful and celebrated old favorite, the Passport, who always proved herself more than a match in speed, comfort and appointments to all competitors who attempted to excel or vie with her, and she has held that proud position from that day almost to the present time. These ran in connection with a fine line of fast and beautiful steamers which plied between Quebec and Montreal. Then there was the old mail line, which ran to Toronto and Hamilton from Kingston, taking in the lake ports along the route, composed of the Sovereign, Princess Royal and City of Toronto, whose black and grim-looking hulls and gold figureheads and other ornaments, forcibly reminded one of armed, government revenue cutters, as they had a rakish, warlike appearance. They were very popular and well patronized by the travelling public, there then being no other means of conveyance between the points named. They finally gave way to the more modernized and gaudily equipped steamers now run by the Richelieu and Ontario navigation company, trading between Montreal and Toronto, so well known to your readers without requiring further enlargement from me, and now so ably managed by our old and popular townsman, C.F. Gildersleeve. A very fine line of American steamers, composed of the Cataract, Ontario and Bay State, ran between Rochester and Ogdensburg, but being too large to pass through the St. Lawrence canals, could not reach Montreal. They were very commodious boats, cut considerably into the trade of our old "mail liners" and played a conspicuous part in the carriage of passengers chiefly. They ran along the south shore of the lake, calling at Kingston and Brockville en route. Then there was the old and miserable line of "puffers", or small, high-pressure propellers, plying between Lachine and Bytown, on the Ottawa river, and thence to Kingston via "the raging Rideau canal," on which boats many a poor gullible emigrant from the British islands, the parents of the writer among them, was beguiled by designing and unscrupulous agents to embark for this city, but who found out how they had been imposed upon from those who a little later came up on the fine river boats, on which they too should have been placed at Montreal, instead of being led astray and carted out to Lachine, thence to be sent by the properly called "back route," the former and better one being scrupulously kept from the knowledge of the poor duped ones. It took about two weeks to crawl over this course, owing to the slowness of the miserable craft, on which people were huddled as if they were dumb brutes, and the numerous locks to be passed through on this boisterous waterway. To break the monotony the younger passengers took to the river banks and utilized "shanks mare" between one set of locks and another, the writer being one of these. Somewhere about this time much needed and suitable accommodation in the steamboat line became much felt on the Bay of Quinte, on which an inferior and very unsuitable small boat took an occasional run to Picton and "intermediate ports," and once in a while going as far as Belleville and Trenton, when the late, much-lamented, highly-respected and then well-known citizen, Henry Gildersleeve, father of ex-mayors Overton S., Charles F. and James P., realizing the urgent needs of the people having occasion to use that beautiful bay, came forward ? effectually and satisfactorily ? the bill, by placing a suitable daily boat on that picturesque sheet of water, which has been regularly ? up to the present time by his enterprising sons, nothwithstanding the many uncalled-for and unnecessary but futile interruptions and attempts to drive them off the route by envious and begrudging discontents living along the line of travel, who, first from one town and then from another, at different periods, thrust insignificant and unsuitable little steamers on the scene, with the view of diminishing the already too limited business of the regular Gildersleeve boat, hoping thereby to cripple and ultimately ruin those sturdy, redoubtable and reliable pioneers in steamboating on those waters, but without avail. These tantalizing and shameful attempts to ruin these worthy people recoiled on the perpetrators, who instead themselves were driven to the wall and vanished as the early dew before the morning sun, thanks to the better judgement and calm discrimination of the fairer and less biased people of Kingston, surrounding country and adjacent islands, and those living in the towns, villages, and country parts bordering on the bay, who stood faithfully by the old reliables, thus enabling them to tenaciously hold out, to "stem the tide" and "weather the storm," notwithstanding all the unfavorable circumstances, embarrassments, petty annoyances, and unceasing persecutions they had so long been subjected to, and they, for all this, gradually added new and finer boats to their original ones, as growing requirements suggested, most of them being built in Kingston with their own money, thanks to their enterprise and push, to the great benefit to our city, whose artizans were thereby given much needed and constant employment. Well do I remember when that beautiful and speedy steamer Bay of Quinte was being constructed, when many a bag and basketful of fine firewood the writer and other children living in the neighborhood of the shipyard, where she was built, gathered as the chips were hewn from the timbers being prepared for the construction of this and other boats, as they flew from the axes of the kind and dexterous ship-carpenters, who often had difficulty in preventing accidents, so near and numerous were the youngsters to them when performing their work. The marine railway yard was then a busy hive of industry, owing, in great part, to those noble citizens, who also built the steamers Corinthian and Norseman, and who always had the repairs and other work required by their boats done in this, their native city. Shortly after the steamer Quinte was completed and put in commission a desperate effort was made by a few envious people still anxious to give annoyance and to destroy her trade, who put a fast steamer named the City of Hamilton on the bay route as an opposition boat, when a fierce struggle ensued between them, the fares being reduced to merely nominal figures. This lasted for some time, but finally terminated, to the great relief of both parties, who were quite badly battered in the encounter, which ended, as all previous ones to kill the Gildersleeves had, in failure, for the new innovators were compelled to cry "hold, enough," and "beat a hasty retreat" from the hot contest and coveted route, and their boat was never heard of more in those parts, while the old reliables still held the fort, giving better satisfaction year after year. While C.F. Gildersleeve has left us, only temporarily, it is to be hoped, and gone from this, his former busy scene, where he was of such great benefit to us all, to a larger and more important field of usefulness, where his ability and worth as a steamboat manager seem to be highly appreciated, as they were also here, his mantle in the meantime has fallen on the shoulders of his popular son, Harry, who is also turning out to be quite an able steamboat superintendent. Now, taking all the buffetings these good people have so long and effectually withstood, the Gildersleeve family, in my humble estimation, are more entitled to the admiration, gratitude, commendation and patronage of this community and that of the Bay of Quinte route than any other family who ever resided in our midst, for none other has shown within the last sixty years the constant enterprise and benefit to the city and this section of Canada that they have. This is verily true, and no empty flattery, and is merely the praise due them. Lately they have further extended their usefulness and provided further accommodation, for they now have a regular daily boat running to Rochester across the lake, to the great advantage and convenience of the people of Kingston, the counties of Frontenac, Lennox, Prince Edward, Hastings, Northumberland and Durham, and central Ontario generally.

The last competitors they have had to encounter on the bay route are none other than the Richelieu company, who, powerful and wealthy as they are said to be, to their shame be it stated, have not scrupled to go out of their old lake route to get a portion of that trade which of right belongs to the Gildersleeve boats, on the plea that it is not so tempestuous a course as the lake one is known to be, another instance of the fact that rich corporations have no souls or feelings.


p.8 Incidents of the Day - The steamer Lake Michigan arrived at Craig's wharf this evening.

The schooner Emery, from Charlotte, is at Swift's wharf with coal.

At Swift's wharf today - steamer Corsican down; steamer Spartan up.

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8 Jul 1899
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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), 8 Jul 1899