The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 13 Jul 1900

Full Text



Capt. John Donnelly Is Now At Peace.

After a storm tossed voyage the end of the journey at last arrived and the frail barque cast anchor in that happy harbor where gales and unrest are unknown, and where everlasting calm reigns. The end of life's voyage was reached this morning by Capt. John Donnelly, sr., when his spirit slipped anchor and found rest in the haven of peace beyond this vale of tears. Death came after an illness extending over several weeks, during which the ancient mariner bore his sufferings with calmness and fortitude. Death occurred at his residence, No. 118 Wellington street. He was surrounded by all of his family, and is deeply mourned by all classes of the community. Capt. Donnelly was president of the Donnelly wrecking and salvage company and was born in Armagh Ireland, on the 14th day of February, 1835, and came to Kingston with his father and mother on the 3rd of August, 1846. The family lived on Johnston street for one year, moving in 1847 to Wolfe Island, and thence in 1848 to Garden Island, where most of his life was spent in the employ of Calvin & Breck, Calvin & Son and the Calvin Co. Capt. Donnelly served as a sailor up to 1858, on the schooners Dexter Calvin, Lord Seaton, Sarah Ann, Cornelia, Annie Maria, Liverpool, London, and many other vessels, engaged for the most part in the timber trade from the upper lakes to Garden Island.

In 1858 Capt. Donnelly's wrecking operations began with the rescue of the steamer Hercules, a side wheel tug owned by Calvin & Breck, the boilers of which exploded on the 8th of October, 1858, while the tug was endeavoring to tow a vessel up the Rapide De Plat. Capt. Donnelly just before the accident remained off the boat a trip, and his place was taken by Dexter Calvin, brother of Hiram A. Calvin, of Garden Island, who with six others met death when the boilers exploded. From that time, until within the last few years, Capt. Donnelly has assisted, and has had charge of more wrecking operations than any other man on the inland waters with such signal success, that his name and fame is known on the inland waters for a quarter of a century past, as one who had never failed in any wrecking operations he had ever undertaken. It would be impossible to devote space enough, to give an account of the number of wrecked vessels he has assisted. He raised the propellor Brookes, sunk in eighty four feet of water, three miles from the Ducks, in Lake Ontario; all the crew of this propellor were lost at the time of the accident. He raised the propellor Magnet and cargo, commanded by Capt. Frank Patterson, formerly of this city, from where she was sunk in 108 feet of water, abreast of Howe Island. This propellor was sunk by collision with the steamer Bay State. He had taken all of the boats of the western division of the Richelieu line out of critical positions in the rapids several times, and among them, the Corsican, Magnet, Algerian, Corinthian, Passport, Bohemian and others, and his work was not confined to inland vessels alone, as he raised the steamer Vicksburg, of the Dominion line, sunk below Isle Verte, in the gulf of St. Lawrence, and the S.S. France, of the National line, sunk in the river below Montreal.

When Capt. Donnelly first started in the wrecking business, there were no such wrecking appliances as are to be found in use today. A good deal of his work was done with the crudest sort of tools, but he had such a thorough knowledge of his business, combined with immense energy and ability to handle men, that his work was always successful, and many inland insurance companies owe their prosperity, in marine business, to the results of his labors.

For very many years Capt. Donnelly had been a sufferer from a stricture of the stomach, caused originally by having becomed chilled in a leaky diving dress, while working under water, and this was the cause of his death. He was twice married, and is survived by his widow and seven children. Thomas, chief inspector for Lloyds; John, of the Donnelly salvage and wrecking company; Minnie, wife of Capt. E.A. Booth, jr.; Sandford, engineer of the Collingwood dry dock plant; Maggie, wife of C. McCormick, of Toronto; and Foster and Luther, of this city. The only other child, Robert, a child of sixteen years, was drowned at Port Stanley when the schooner Sweden was lost, of which Capt. Donnelly was part owner.

He was a member of Elysian lodge, No. 212, A.F. & A.M., Garden Island, and of Ancient Frontenac and Cataraqui chapter Royal Arch Masons, and also a member of the Royal Black preceptory of the Orange order. In politics he was a life-long conservative.

The late Capt. Donnelly was a man who always made friends, no matter where he went, and the proof of this is shown in the very many kind inquiries which have come from the marine men of the inland lakes since his illness. The funeral will take place to Wolfe Island.

The flag on the Young Irish Catholic benevolent association's hall is flying at half mast today out of respect to the memory of the late Capt. Donnelly, who has lived next door for so long, and who was always a warm friend of that association, though of a different faith from that of its members.


William Johnston Striken At Home of His Friend.

- sudden death of William Johnston, first engineer of the Royal Military college, at the home of John Donnelly; ..."Between the two deceased gentlemen there was a close friendship, and during the illness of Capt. Donnelly Mr. Johnston was a daily visitor at his bed side..."

"The deceased was aged about sixty years. For many years he had charge of the machine shops of the Calvin and Breck company, Garden Island. Under his supervision were constructed many fine marine engines, upon which he was considered an expert, in fact it is claimed for him by marine engineers and builders that he was the foremost authority in Canada on beam engines. His services were always in demand and his suggestions were acted upon with alacrity. His father was also an expert machinist, in the employment of the firm of Calvin and Breck, and the son inherited the father's fine qualities for mechanics. In 1878 the deceased was appointed first engineer at the Royal military college, a position he filled with every satisfaction.

He is survived by a wife and two children; the son, William, is now in Montreal, and was at one time in the employment of McKelvey and Birch; the daughter, Violet, is the wife of an electrical expert and resides in the southern states. Capt. Gilbert Johnston, mechanical superintendent for the R. & O. company, is a brother; so also, is James Johnston, ex-government steamboat inspector, Toronto. The deceased and the late Capt. Donnelly were brothers-in-law, having married sisters. Mrs. Johnston is at present in Montreal; Mrs. O'Reilly, sister of the deceased kept house for him....."

A Great Wrecking Feat - With reference to the release of the steamer Spartan from her dangerous position in the Lachine rapids, the Toronto Globe remarks: "The Calvin wrecking company did the work, which is considered the greatest wrecking feat ever accomplished on the river."



The S.S. Rosemount and consorts cleared last night for Chicago.

The steamer Melbourne from Montreal called at Craig's wharf this morning.

The tug Valencia left Garden Island this morning for Big Inlet to load deals.

The schooner Granger, from bay ports, unloaded grain at Richardsons' elevator this morning.

The tug Rival and raft of timber, from Collins Bay to Quebec, passed down this morning.

The tug Nellie Reid and grain-laden barge cleared from Richardsons'elevator to-day for Montreal.

The S.S. Bannockburn and consorts, from Fort William, are expected at the M.T. company elevator to-morrow.

Arrivals at Swift's wharf to-day: Steamer Toronto on both up and down trips; steamer Algerian, from Toronto.

The steamyacht Valetta, from the Rideau Canal, called at Swift's wharf this morning, en route for Alexandria Bay, with a party aboard.

A steamyacht ran aground near Belle's island yesterday afternoon. The young men aboard towed it to the city in the evening by means of a rowboat.

The steamers Unique and Empire State had a friendly run on the river, yesterday afternoon, from Point Frederick to the foot of Wolfe Island. The Unique was half a minute ahead when that distance was covered.

The schooner Fabiola left Charlotte on Wednesday with coal for Swift & Co., but when out some distance commenced to leak, and had to run back. The pumps were kept at work, but it was thought that the cargo would have to be unloaded.

Wants To Sail For Money - champion sailboat Genesee of Rochester Yacht Club wants to compete for money against Canadian challenger, rather than sail against combined Canadian fleet at L.Y.R.A. races at Cobourg.

p.6 Flags were at half-mast today on the steamers of the Lake Ontario navigation company and the R. & O. N. company out of respect to the memory of Capt. John Donnelly and William Johnston. The flag also floated at half-mast over the Orange Hall in respect to the memory of the first named.

B.W. Folger, jr., returned today from Buffalo, N.Y., where he arranged for the fitting up of the steamer Ramona, lately added to the White Squadron.

Media Type:
Item Type:
Date of Publication:
13 Jul 1900
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
Creative Commons licence:
pd [more details]
Copyright Statement:
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
WWW address
Powered by / Alimenté par VITA Toolkit

My favourites lets you save items you like, tag them and group them into collections for your own personal use. Viewing "My favourites" will open in a new tab. Login here or start a My favourites account.

British Whig (Kingston, ON), 13 Jul 1900