The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 1 Oct 1903

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Craigs' wharf: steamers Persia down, Ocean up.

Crawford's wharf: schooner Tradewind from Fairhaven with coal.

Capt. Allen took over command of the steamer New Island Wanderer today.

The schooner Sophia Luff is loading stone at the penitentiary wharf for Toronto.

The schooner Queen of the Lakes, from Charlotte, is at the penitentiary wharf with coal.

Swift's wharf: steamers Toronto on her last trip of the season; Corsican up tonight; Rideau King cleared for Ottawa.

The machinery of the Empire State is being dismantled and will be put in serviceable shape.



Capt. J.B. Estes Still Navigating The Stream.

Regular Central and Northern New York visitors to the Thousand Islands and St. Lawrence river for years past, says the Syracuse Post-Standard, have become familiar with the face and figure of Capt. J.B. Estes, the veteran navigator of the river and the man to whom the title, "The Old Man of the St. Lawrence," might well apply.

At the age of eighty-five years, after a life of over seventy years on the water, Capt. Estes is still active in the service as first officer of the popular passenger steamer St. Lawrence of the Thousand Island Steamboat company, of which his son, Milo D. Estes, is captain.

To the old captain the river channels are as familiar as the streets about his home, for he has known them since a lad when he first sailed the river. In those days all the Thousand Islands were covered with thick timber, where wolves, bear and deer abounded, and where white settlers or visitors were scarce. The region of today with its beautiful and costly homes and its thousands of summer residents he has seen develop from the primitive forest of years ago.

Capt. Estes is a man of dignified bearing and striking personality, known by sight to thousands of passengers who travel each season on the steamer St. Lawrence, and respected and honored universally by the people of the Thousand Islands who have made his personal acquaintance.

The experiences of his life, which are told to only a privileged few, are stories of the greatest interest and tell of a life honorably and successfully spent.

His sailing career began at thirteen years of age, when he went before the mast on the sailing vessel Horatio Gates, under Capt. Joshua Main, of Clayton. He next sailed in the schooner Washington, belonging to E.G. Merrick company, of Clayton, under Capt. Comstock, one of the best known of the early river and lake captains. In the schooner Webster, where he next sailed the lakes, he had his first command as mate at a salary of $25 a month and board. "Those were the days, too," the captain relates, "when seven pounds of fresh meat were all that we had during the entire season." His first command was in the schooner Niagara which navigated the lakes.

It was in the terrific gale of November 28th, 1842, when 400 lives were lost on Lake Erie in a single night, that Capt. Estes had the most trying and one of the most successful experiences of his life. Little more than a boy in years, yet he was captain of the schooner Pennsylvania which sailed the Great Lakes and had under him a crew of forty-five (sic) men. The day of the terrible storm was calm and warm and gave little evidence of the impending disaster. Toward night, as the sun grew low, the sailors became anxious as they saw the approaching storm. Within a short time the temperature dropped many degrees, until it was below zero, and then a terrific gale commenced to blow. The wind was so high that the water was swept to the foot of Lake Erie, so that canal boats floated a mile up Main street in Buffalo, and the water rose to the second floor of the stores and houses in the lower part of the city.

"As an almost Providential circumstance," relates Capt. Estes, "the Pennsylvania had been fitted seven days before with sails of new double Scotch canvas. When the storm commenced as the sun went down, I turned my ship against the wind and weathered through the night, the only ship on Lake Erie, save one, which did not perish in the gale. The other vessel was the schooner Favorite, in command of Capt. David Wilkinson, who had been a powder boy with Commodore Perry on Lake Erie."

The next year Capt. Estes was placed in command of the fast schooner Oneida, which sailed for five years between Buffalo and Chicago. In the first year of this command his vessel was capsized, but he righted it and proceeded again within four hours after the accident. In 1848 he was captain of the brig New York, sailing between Chicago, Buffalo and Oswego, and the following year he was in command of the fast new vessel, Oneida Chief.

The steamer Niagara, of which he next took command, was a vessel which cost $45,000 and was owned by the St. Lawrence & Lake Ontario Steamboat company. In the year he spent on her he netted for the company $39,000, without experiencing a single accident. The steamer Cataract was then his command for a year.

In 1856 Capt. Estes took the steamship Ontario, running from Lewiston to Ogdensburg, to connect with the boats for Montreal, and on this boat he was captain for eighteen years, with a crew of forty-five men. It was here that he had some of the most enjoyable experiences of his career. As he tells of his favorite boat now his eyes fill with tears at the thought of her. The handsome pair of marine glasses which the captain cherishes as one of his dearest possessions, was given to him by the passengers on the Ontario for bringing them safely through a severe storm.

Since 1874 Capt. Estes has been in command of the steamer Unique, and later has been associated with his son on the steamer St. Lawrence. In his present capacity he has the highest regard of the officials of the steamboat company which he well deserves for his efficient activity in their service, is unsurpassed by men of half his age.

p.8 The Schooner Delayed - The schooner Eliza Fisher has been lying in the harbor since Wednesday morning, the captain seeking a pilot to take the schooner to Ogdensburg, where her cargo of coal is consigned. The captain has offered $5 and expenses to pilots, but has been met with demands for $10 and expenses. Hence the schooner's detention here.

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1 Oct 1903
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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), 1 Oct 1903