The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 17 Dec 1908

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Ottawa, Dec. 17th - At the marine enquiry on Wednesday afternoon, with J.B. Miller, principal owner of the Polson Iron Works, Toronto, in the stand, Mr. Watson plunged into details of repairs made by the works to the Petrel, but did not elicit any startling information beyond the fact that they ran into many thousand dollars. Work done by the company without contract he was informed would run into twenty thousand dollars. For this witness declared the company got only ordinary rates.

"The company charged nothing in excess of what was charged others?"

"Not that I know of."

"Would you care to say what profits were charged on the labor of the men employed?"


Outside of government work what gratuities were given?" interrogated the judge.

"It may be that some were given, but not many," said the witness.

"You could shorten matters by saying what gratuities were given the employees of the marine department," pursued the judge.

"I don't know that they got a cent; if anything of that kind was done it was done by Mr. Polson," declared the witness.

The charges for repairs done to the steamer Aberdeen were then taken up. Mr. Watson wanted to know why the original tenders called for an expenditure of only seventeen thousand dollars, while the accounts showed that $45,423 had been paid for the work. Mr. Miller explained that the original tenders did not include everything. A lengthy reference to the record followed but neither counsel nor the witness seemed to be able to decide just what had been included in the original tenders, and what were supplementary orders. At the Halifax investigation it was stated that a propeller, a condenser and a stoker had been ordered from the Polson Iron Works for Aberdeen and had not been delivered. Mr. Watson explained that there was confusion because there was no contract in regard to the Aberdeen and general items were passed without the details on the order of Mr. Schmidt, of the department at Halifax. He called attention to this in order to show how business had been conducted.

Mr. Miller, after being some time to consult his books, again took the stand and said that the propeller belonged to the Vigilant and not to the Aberdeen. During the last three years, he said, the company had done business with the department to the extent of $296,000. It had lost money on a good deal of the work and would not average a fair profit for the three years.

Van R. Marshall, of the Brockville Lumber company, examined in respect to the sale of lumber to the value of $4,421, mostly to the Prescott agency, said that he had signed only one contract although tenders had been asked for. He had sold $54 worth of lumber to J.F. Fraser, the suspended superintendent of lights. Mr. Fraser wanted it for a summer cottage and had paid him for it.

R.O. Mackay, Hamilton, was examined by Mr. Perron, as to the chartering of the steamer Golspie by the department to take supplies to the lighthouses. He was asked why $7,500 was paid for the service when he had written to the department offering the boat for $5,800. Mr. McKay said the letter referred to another and smaller boat. The work had been gotten for him by Mr. Zimmerman, M.P. Witness was asked to produce the books.



The Whig's Ottawa correspondent says an interesting witness was John McKelvey, of McKelvey & Birch, a hardware and plumbing firm of Kingston. During the three years, from the middle of 1904 to the middle of 1907, the firm did business with the department to the extent of $27,204 for goods, sold and delivered, and labor. The firm carries on a retail business in hardware and a wholesale in plumbing. The department was not charged more than ordinary retail prices for hardware as all goods had the price marked on them. In December 1904, the firm commenced to fit up a house, in Ottawa, for J.F. Fraser, supplying in all goods to the value of $2,410. It developed that the books of the firm did not give the details of the transactions with Mr. Fraser. Witness explained this by saying that the entries had been made on a job blotter and, by some means, the book-keeper had neglected to transfer the details into the ledger. This was a frequent occurrence, he said, but it had not happened before in connection with marine department accounts. McKelvey produced what he declared to be an exact copy of the job blotter, made a couple of days ago. Witness promised to produce both the blotter and the ledger. Witness had not made any comparison between the charges made for goods sold to Mr. Fraser and to the department. Mr. Fraser had paid the account in full.

John Davis, of the Davis dry dock company, was examined in respect to repairs done to the steamer Scout. For work and material the department paid $6,745. Witness said that, practically, all the records of the firm's business up to the end of 1906 had been destroyed. A payment was made on account at the time the contract was signed. The work had already been started, as it was a rush job. Witness could not explain why his bookkeeper had charged one account with the department up to J.F. Fraser, but it was doubtless a mistake. The bookkeeper was not at present in the employ of the company. He understood she lived in Toronto. The stubs of the check books and the correspondence had been destroyed but the letter book, of which the witness produced a few leaves, was intact. Witness agreed to produce the letter book and the books of the firm for the last three years.

p.5 Tried at Watertown - The Nash Bros. Win Their Suit - Nash Bros. vs Thousand Island Steamboat Co. - had concession on steamer New York which did not run during 1905 and but a part of year previous

News of the World - The steamer James Davidson, ashore at Kettle Point, lightered about 50,000 bushels of her oats cargo and was released.

p.6 Considering The Evidence - In Montreal Justice Dunlop, sitting as justice in the admiralty court, has before him the case of the Montreal Transportation company vs. the steambarge Norwalk. The case is on a claim of $40,000 for damages to the barge Jet, being towed by the plaintiff's tug Glide down Lake St. Louis, on September 23rd, 1907, and when trying to pass the Norwalk, near a lightship, it is alleged that the Norwalk took the wrong side of the lightship, and a collision with one barge resulted, destroying the cargo and causing the beaching of the barge.

p.8 Were Never Pleasant - Ottawa, Dec. 17th - first witness before marine enquiry was James Halliday (Holliday ?) of Quebec, questioned over leasing contract of steamer King Edward.

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17 Dec 1908
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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), 17 Dec 1908