Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Mid Rebels and Indians Pioneer Tar Plied Trade: Schooner Days CXCVIII (198)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 27 Jul 1935
Full Text
Mid Rebels and Indians
Pioneer Tar Plied Trade
Schooner Days CXCVIII (198)


Further Adventures of Alexander Muir, Drydock Founder, When He Sailed a Century Ago to Take Indian Presents Out and Bring Back Brass Six-pounders to Toronto


"I SAILED till we laid up. Dec. 8th, 1837,” wrote Alexander Muir, shipmaster, shipbuilder, and founder of Muir Brothers Drydock at Port Dalhousie.

“With three hundred other sailors I then enlisted for a soldier. We were quartered in four blockhouses that had been built near Kingston in 1812. These houses were built of square 16-inch pine timber, and although so old were still in good order. We got a suit of warm clothes and $12 a month. We had to buy our own sugar and tea, but we got it at first cost. We were now called the Queen’s Royal Marine Artillery; ready to fight what was called the enemy, but they were really the men who were fighting for the equal rights we are now enjoying."

Burning thus far and no farther with holy zeal against the Patriot rebels Alexander passed the winter with nothing more exciting than a prohibited attack upon the pigeons which began to fly over the blockhouses in swarms in March. The troops had strict orders not to shoot at them, but an appetite for pigeon pie to go with their "own sugar and tea” got some of the sentries into trouble. Then "I changed my clothes for civilians, slipped away and shipped with Capt. Donaldson on the schooner Granville lying at Garden Island.”

"I made several trips for timber in this vessel. My wages were $16 per month. We left for Stony Creek at the head of Lake Ontario to load oak timber from the beach. The weather was cold and stormy and we had a long trip.”

Young Alexander was going up in the marine world. He could only get $15 a month when he shipped in the Sir Francis Bond Head the year before.

"I then shipped on the schooner Adelaide of Brockville, Capt. John Atkinson, owners H. and S. Jones.

"We left Kingston for Toronto about midsummer, 1838, to load a full cargo of goods at Queen’s Wharf for the Indians on the Manitoulin Island in Georgian Bay. We had eighteen soldiers aboard for duty at the post and to guard the goods.

"We arrived at the island and found four thousand Indians waiting for their presents. They received these every year for quietly giving up their lands and moving back out of the way of the white man. These presents consisted of broadcloth, printed cotton goods, large and small blankets, thread, needles, combs, muskets, ammunition, brass kettles, corn and tallow. ‘This was the Adelaide’s cargo. The Indians pounded the corn in a hollow log and ate it mixed with tallow, which they used like butter. There were great swarms of children and they seemed very fond of the greasy mess.

"We had government officials from Penetanguishene to serve out the goods and to hear the complaints from the chiefs. These complaints were that they were driven back too far, it was difficult for them to hunt and fish and make a living. So the government had a number of carpenters building houses for them. We also had oxen, seed wheat, corn and oats, and the prairie was offered to them so that they could settle down and cultivate the soil and become as white men—drinking whisky and using tobacco excepted.”

(Will anyone say that the Scotch lack a sense of humor?)

"Three days after they received their presents their canoes were launched, their bark tents taken down, the squaws and dogs all shipped, and every family took its departure among the islands, each to provide for himself in the way of fishing and hunting.

"One chief with a family of good-looking daughters remained, and one of his (several) daughters was married to one of the mechanics that were building the houses, a white man.

'This chief remained, and, I think, intended with his son-in-law to cultivate the soil. They had a fine canvas tent, and all slept on grass mats and appeared to be happy. The squaws hauled out the tent, carried the wood, built the fires, and did the cooking. The men did the hunting and shooting.

"We were at Manitoulin Island for two weeks, and then sailed for Lake St. Clair.

“When Alexander Selkirk was on his way to the North West to fight the Hudson Bay Company about 1820 with his six hundred Highlanders he took sick and died at Penetanguishene. The Highlanders got back to Bear Creek (near Wallaceburg) and left there all his supplies of war. They were still there in 1838. For fear they would fall into the hands of the rebels (who were still active this year in Upper Canada) these stores, along with some other goods, were loaded by our schooner for Toronto, on our way back from Manitoulin. We took back to Toronto six brass six-pounders and several boxes of muskets, of these Selkirk stores.”

Who knows where these brass six-pounders are hidden away now?


TORONTO HARBOR IN 1838, when the ADELAIDE brought in the muskets and six-pounders from the Selkirk Settlement.

Snider, C. H. J.
Item Type
Date of Publication
27 Jul 1935
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 42.728611 Longitude: -82.351388
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.200555 Longitude: -76.465555
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 45.813055 Longitude: -82.405555
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.65011 Longitude: -79.3829
Richard Palmer
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Mid Rebels and Indians Pioneer Tar Plied Trade: Schooner Days CXCVIII (198)