Maritime History of the Great Lakes
So Sets the Sun on 'Thirty-Eight: Schooner Days CCCLXXVIII (378)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 31 Dec 1938
Full Text
So Sets the Sun on 'Thirty-Eight
Schooner Days CCCLXXVIII (378)

by C. H. J. Snider


TALKING of late trips, Capt. John' Williams of Toronto, whose eighty-first Christmas hail came through as hearty as ever last week, told of one he made when in command of the big freighter, W. D. Matthews, of Toronto, in 1912.

He got orders to load at the head of the lakes, meaning Port Arthur in this instance, and get his cargo down to the Port Colborne elevator; and he was told to take his time, for he had the whole winter ahead of him. There was no insurance on ship or cargo and it was so late in the season the underwriters wouldn't quote rates.

So he loaded 200,000 bushels at the head on the 18th of December, and started the 800-mile lap of his race against the winter freeze-up.

There was not a buoy left on the five Great Lakes, and only one lighthouse lamp of the hundreds that mark their headlands was still burning. This was Whitefish, on the way down Lake Superior to the Soo. Capt. Williams caught a glint of it through a snow squall and altered course two points immediately. This horrified his mate, who had not recognized the one gleam in the darkened lake, and thought the changed course would pull the Matthews in on the land.

He was at the Soo on Dec. 19th. The ice was three feet thick in the St. Mary's River and there wasn't even a stake-buoy visible for the 65 miles of the passage. But tugs had been keeping the channel open, and one went ahead of the Matthews and another came along astern, to pull her out if she got jammed. There was no danger of getting out of the channel, for the unbroken ice was so solid on the sides it would have stopped her if she took a sheer.

The Matthews cleared the river and made a fine run down Lake Huron, reaching Sarnia at the foot of the lake on the 20th. Then she had to slow up, for snowstorms darkened the river and made the ditch across Lake St. Clair invisible. She was forty-eight hours in that lake. These were the days before wireless came into the lake ships and the radio telephone was also unknown. The owners had no report of the Matthews after she had passed Port Huron, and they got the Reid Wrecking Co. to go after her. The Reid tug couldn't find her in the snowstorm, but caught up to her somewhere near Sandwich, and got $500 for the effort.

The Matthews passed down into Lake Erie on Dec. 22nd. There had been a big drift of ice before a southwesterly gale, and this had shoved the Bar Point channel stakes away to leeward. Capt. Williams allowed for that and gave them a sufficiently wide berth. The storm was over, a mild spell had set in, and the Matthews steamed into Port Colborne on Christmas Eve, with Capt. Williams comfortable on the bridge in his shirt sleeves.

And were J. H. G. Hagarty and his St. Lawrence and Chicago Steam Navigation Company glad! They had half a million dollars at stake, in ship and cargo risks, and the freight netted $14,000. Seven cents a bushel was what they were getting then, although the trip before the steamer Agawa had picked up $20,000 for the same freight. Ten cents a bushel was paid before the insurance ran out on Dec. 12th. The Agawa, by the way, was the original name of the present steamer Robert P. Durham, in which Schooner Days made a last-of-the-season trip this year.

Capt. Williams paid off his deck crew and they were in Toronto for Christmas on Dec. 25th with the lake sailor's highest ambition—"a new hat and a Pullman ticket for home."



In the series of very interesting articles which you are publishing entitled Schooner Days you have referred to the steamer Rothesay. There seems to be some doubt expressed by the various correspondents in regard to this vessel.

The following facts in reference thereto are given you with the thought they may be of interest.

They are set down as given the writer as a young man by Capt. James Weston of Upper Gagetown, New Brunswick, who for some years commanded the Rothesay during her service on the St. John River.

The Rothesay was built in the early sixties by Isaac Olive 3rd to the order of Messrs. Hatheway and Small for service on the St. John River between St. John and Fredericton. She was the largest vessel ever built for this service, and was of wooden construction, oak timbers spruce planking and her houses were of white pine.

The motive power was supplied by two boilers supplying steam to a beam engine, which drove the paddle wheels.

The Rothesay had three decks, main, saloon and hurricane. The forward part of the main deck was reserved for freight as far aft as the paddle boxes, astern of this was the passenger entrance hall, purser's office then the ladies' cabin.

From the entrance hall one ascended the stairway to the saloon, which occupied the housing from the paddleboxes aft and gave exit to the after shelter deck. The forward part of the housing was devoted to the dining saloon with exits to the forward observation deck. The hurricane deck carried the pilot house and officers' rooms, boats and other gear.

The Rothesay was a wood burner, cordwood being loaded at each terminus.

After some years' service on the river she was sold to Montreal parties and left St. John, gradually becoming almost a legend among river men.

It may be of interest to know that the Rothesay was built to the plans of the Mary Powell, celebrated Hudson River liner, which she almost equalled in speed, reeling off twenty knots without being pushed.

In 1897 an effort was made to reproduce the Rothesay when the Victoria was built on the same lines by Edward Mcguiggan at Marsh Bridge, St. John, for the Star Line, but she never equalled in speed the earlier boat.

The picture you show does not correspond to the original one, which I have somewhere, of the Rothesay as she was. It may be her houses were cut down after leaving her home port.

Yours very truly,


Sir,—Mr. John Lockhead, 56 Loring road, Winthrop, Mass., has been trying to assist me to procure a photo of the steamer Rothesay, and he has forwarded to me a clipping from The Evening Telegram. I have been half a century steamboating on the Saint John River. When seven years of age, I had a sail on the Rothesay and have wished for a photo for a long while back. She made her last run on the river here September 10th, 1876, and that fall was taken to the St. Lawrence, soon after finding her way to Lake Ontario.

I am gathering data, etc., of steamboating on the Saint John River and have photos of many boats, but the beautiful Rothesay is missing.

One of the steamers that I had charge of was the Victoria, built thirty years later than the Rothesay and built off the same model, which came from Jersey City. The same man who designed the upper structure of the Rothesay erected that of the Victoria. This second steamer was the same size and practically same power and speed as the former.

In 1884 the Rothesay was sold at auction in the city of Kingston, but do not know who bid her in. In 1888 she was run into by a powerful tug and off Prescott sank.

A river survey party located the hull last fall, 1937. I note what Mr. R. B. Clarke, of 169 Keele street, states, also remarks of W. Q. Phillips, of Sarnia.

What I am anxious to get is as near a full side view as possible, showing full name on paddle box. There was a good one of her here in West Saint John about 20 years ago, also one in Salem, Mass., but both evidently have disappeared. I fear destroyed. All my efforts for the past ten years in search for one has been without success.


161 Douglas ave.,

Saint John, N.B.

That will be all about the Rothesay unless someone has an authentic picture of her.


Sir,—Through the kindness of my cousin, Dr. Annie Carveth Higbee, 595 St. Clair avenue, Toronto, I received a clipping from your issue of Nov. 5, 1938, entitled "The Carveth and the Bullock." Dr. Annie was present at the launching of the Flora Carveth at Port Hope. The boat was built for my father, Joseph Carveth, and named after my only sister, then two years old or so. Another boat was named the Two Brothers-—after my brother Charlie and myself. My father had quite a bit of business with schooners until the trade was killed by railway competition.

May I ask who wrote the article to which I have made reference above? His article is interesting, and he shows that he is writing about something he liked quite well. Some time I might have the chance to meet the writer, and some time he might write a real story-—have you ever read one?-—which had as its core, the roarin' life of the schooner period on the Great Lakes during the 60's and 70's.

Very truly yours,


352 Buffalo avenue,

Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Thank you for the kind words, and the information, Mr. Carveth, and come up and see me some time you are in Toronto and The Telegram office.

When you come you will see the very kind inscription Schooner Days treasures from Angus Mowat, in the latter's new novel, "Then I'll Look Up," published by Saunders, 1938. At the risk of the wrath of The Telegram's advertising manager, we may quote the publisher's assurance that this is a novel set the magnificent background of the Great Lakes, which answers your question whether we have read one. We have. Lake life is the background, not the middle distance, of this study in conscience, and the foreground is full of local references which it seems to us a pity to disguise. The Bay of Quinte, Kingston and Prince Edward County and the hills of Northumberland are so easily recognizable that one would like them to have their proper names. As a matter of fact, Schooner Days is grateful for Mr. Mowat's forbearance, for there are so many grand place names in Prince Edward County, from Christian Street to Gomorrah, that he would like to use them himself sometime, when this long series takes book form. Meantime, it is a great lift to be so honored by the author of "Then I'll Look Up."


Sir,—In your Saturday's paper you mentioned Captain Oliver as being captain of the Queen of the Lakes. This is wrong, as Captain Chauncey Daryaw was the skipper and his son, Frank, was mate.

I enjoy reading Schooner Days very much. I was sailing with Captain Daryaw's son, Henry, on the Lizzie Metzer the same fall. Thanking you,


73 Ordnance st., Kingston.

Stand corrected, Mr. Crawford, with thanks. Some day, it seems to us, a story on Chauncey Daryaw and his vessels would be good. Could you help in that regard?

Sending Christmas greetings and thanks for a picture of the Annie Falconer for Schooner Days esteemed friend, T. W. Rose, the "Doghouse Boy" contributor to Picton papers, Stephen E. Dulmage, of Picton R.R. 3, says:

"My father sailed on her as mate with Capt. Wyatt Welbanks in the year 1890, and that is the year the picture was drawn. Father sailed in many schooners before going in steamers. Some of the schooners he sailed in were the Herbert Dudley, Two Brothers, White Oak, Wm. Jamieson, Nellie Hunter, Oliver Mowat, Julia, Acacia, Annie Falconer and Straubenzee. He had a rough trip in her coming down Lake Ontario from the Canal to Oswego lumber loaded from Algoma Mills, then a lumbering centre north of Manitoulin Island. Her deck load shifted and when picked up by an Oswego tug she was badly listed and leaking.

Perhaps Capt. John Williams, who had the Straubenzee about this time, will tell us more about that trip soon. Or maybe this was before he got her. Anyway, it sounds promising.

This is all intended, as is pretty obvious, to clear the decks of 1938 of all loose ends and used gear, so as to start the season of 1939 with a clean ship alow and aloft and a full cargo of good stories; sailing ones preferred. Perhaps during that year we'll get around to the oft-inquired date of publishing "the" book. Even if it is as bad as that Schooner Days wishes all good sail lovers a happy and prosperous 1939.

And so ends the year, all well on board the good ship Schooner Days.


Winter Fleet in the Ship Channel -Not a Schooner among the lot.

Snider, C. H. J.
Item Type
Date of Publication
31 Dec 1938
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.9444354350774 Longitude: -78.2913833325195
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.65011 Longitude: -79.3829
Richard Palmer
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
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.


So Sets the Sun on 'Thirty-Eight: Schooner Days CCCLXXVIII (378)