Maritime History of the Great Lakes
More Pacifics - Less Specific: Schooner Days DXVIII (518)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 25 Oct 1941
Full Text
More Pacifics - Less Specific
Schooner Days DXVIII (518)

by C. H. J. Snider


THE "three-and-after" Pacific, which went from Roblin's Cove in the Bay of Quinte to Liverpool and Brazil was 136 feet long, 25 feet 6 inches beam, 10 feet 6 inches deep in the hold, and 295 tons register. She may have been the largest, but she was not the only Canadian schooner to bear the name Pacific, nor was she the only lake-launched Pacific to plough the salt seas.

This Pacific from Roblin's Cove could not have been lost on the coast of Newfoundland, as has been stated, for Capt. John Williams, dean of lake sailors, was told by Capt. James Ewart, with whom he sailed, that she went down in the Atlantic, on a southern voyage. Capt. Ewart had been sent to New York to take her away from that port when she was tied up by sea lawyering, and he said he started out on another voyage to South America in her. They encountered bad weather and she lost her rudderhead and became unmanageable. In this condition she was tossed about and opened her seams, and had to be abandoned. Capt. Ewart and his crew left her in her boat in such-and-such latitude and longitude, Capt. Williams does not recall the position, and she sank. They were picked up soon afterwards.

NOT waiting for the parade on the Glorious Twelfth, the Toronto schooner Pacific sailed on July 11th, 1849, with this cargo: 339 barrels of flour, 22 barrels of potash, 25 barrels of oatmeal, 65 barrels of split peas and 920 bushels of wheat. The cargo was partly loaded in Toronto and was completed in Montreal. Capt. Robert Todd was advertising space for 200 barrels early in June, and the Toronto shipper was Thos. Clarkson. The British Colonist of this fair city sagely remarked that this was "only the commencement of a flourishing business between inland ports and the Maritimes." The new propeller Western Miller had begun a similar voyage when this was printed. It has been stated, perhaps erroneously, that this schooner Pacific went on from Halifax and crossed the ocean. She was apparently too small for a profitable ocean passage, and she or a namesake, was back on Lake Ontario in the 1850's.

The oldest list of lake vessels available is one the late Alexander Muir compiled, about 1890, giving the schooners on Lake Ontario when he came here in 1837. This contains the name of the Pacific, as a Toronto schooner sailed by a Captain Ross. No further details, as Jim Hunter says, available at present although Capt. Ross is known to have been master of the schooner Prescott, "the largest on the lake" a few years previously. This Pacific of 1837 might also be the Pacific of the next oldest list of lake vessels, compiled by the Globe in 1856. This one is described as a topsail schooner of 55 tons, built in 1836 at Amherstburg and owned by James Matthews, assumed to be of Toronto. A schooner of 55 tons burden would be able to carry the 95 tons deadweight in the cargo listed above, though it might be a tight fit. She would be perhaps 80 feet long, maybe less.

Again, the Pacific of 1856 might be the Pacific mentioned in Thomas' Marine Register of 1864, by far the best record of lake shipping compiled up to its time. It was an American publication, and used such information as it could obtain about the vessels of both nations on the Great Lakes. The Pacific here given is described as "formerly the Sir Robert Peel, of 65 tons burden, built in Whitby, 1839, owned by R. Mara, Toronto.

Discrepancies in tonnage, date of building, place of building and ownership are not as serious as they seem. American tonnage measurements were at this time larger than Canadian, and the schooner may have been built in Amherstburg as the Sir Robert Peel, and rebuilt in Whitby as the Pacific. Or, again, there may have been two Pacifies at the same time. There were thirty-seven vessels each named Olive Branch on the British Register of Shipping in 1884!

BUT was this Pacific, or were these Pacifics, the Pacific which figured in one of the late Tom Tinning's exploits, or was there still another? The episode in mind terminated the career of one Pacific, and it happened in December when the stormy winds do blow. Quoting an old newspaper account—the Globe's—

A few days ago the captain of the schooner Pacific, imagining that the mild weather in the beginning of last week would continue some time, fitted out his vessel and proceeded to Darlington, to procure a cargo of cordwood. He reached that port in safety, and having loaded the schooner to the top of the bulwarks, set sail for Toronto. He found, however, when he reached the Island on Sunday morning, that the bay was covered with ice, and he cast anchor opposite the Humber.

"Yesterday morning it came on to blow a perfect gale of wind from the east, and the sails and ropes being frozen hard, the schooner and those on board of her were completely at the mercy of the winds and waves. Shortly before noon the schooner parted her cable and commenced to drift towards the shore, and took the ground about one hundred and fifty yards from the beach, opposite Sunnyside Villa. Captain Craw immediately hoisted a signal of distress, as the waves were making a clean breach over the vessel, and the crew were momentarily expecting to be washed overboard. The boat belonging to the schooner, they felt certain, could not live in such a sea, and they preferred clinging to the stranded vessel.

"Fortunately the signal of distress was observed a few minutes after it was hoisted, by Mr. Howard, architect, and he immediately got into his sleigh and proceeded to the city for assistance. He called on Mr. Thomas Tinning, who, on being informed of the circumstances, hastily got a crew together, and Captain Milloy kindly placed one of the best life-boats of the steamer Zimmerman at their disposal. The boat was placed on a sleigh, and the men were conveyed to the scene of the accident by Mr. Howard, who acted throughout in the most praiseworthy manner.

"About two o'clock they reached Sunnyside, when the life-boat was instantly launched in the surf, manned by Mr. Tinning and three others. With a long pull and a steady one, the waves breaking over the boat every moment, they succeeded in getting alongside of the schooner. With considerable difficulty the crew of the vessel, composed of the captain and three men, were got on board and her stem was turned shorewards. They got into the trough of the sea once or twice and were in imminent danger of being capsized.

"But the boat was staunch and gallantly withstood the action of the waves. When the boat got into the surf on the beach, the men had all to spring into the water, but fortunately they escaped without any mishap and the boat was drawn ashore, placed on the sleigh, and the whole party, after receiving some refreshment from Mr. Howard, returned to the city about four o'clock in the afternoon. The greatest praise is due to Mr. Tinning for the coolness and daring with which he acted and handled the little craft amid such great danger. He has been instrumental in saving the lives of a great many persons by the upsetting of boats and otherwise in the Bay. It is feared, as the vessel was laboring heavily when the crew left her, that she will go to pieces. She is owned by Mr. Mark Hutchinson, and the insurance policy on her ran out at the close of navigation.

"Mr. Howard, architect" was the late John G. Howard, who gave Victorian Toronto her finest buildings as well as High Park, where he lived and where he is buried. He was also this city's surveyor and its engineer, and had much to do with the laying out of the old waterfront. The point from which he saw the Pacific's distress was the lookout in his garden at Colborne Lodge, High Park, which is still marked by an ornamented brass signal gun.

There was a pleasantly Victorian sequel to the wreck next year, when admiring fellow citizens presented Mr. Thomas Tinning with a silver testimonial over which J. E. Ellis, the King street jeweler, had worked all winter. It is described as "a handsome plateau of rock-work in silver, surrounding a representation of water in glass. In the centre is a frosted figure in silver of a mermaid with hands uplifted, holding a Nautilus shell of frosted cut-glass for flowers. The base of the figure is seaweed and rock-work in silver. In front is a silver shield with, frosted border, and having engraved on it the following testimonial:

"Presented to Thomas Tinning by a few of his friends and fellow-citizens, for his gallant behaviour in rescuing the crew of the schooner Pacific, wrecked in Humber Bay, Dec., 1861: Toronto. May, 1862."

IT has been suggested that the "Captain Craw" mentioned might be a misprint for Capt. Robert Maw, who lost a vessel in Humber Bay. This vessel, however, is said to have been the "brig" or brigantine Bismark, which was left at anchor in charge of the mate while Capt. Maw came ashore on business. She dragged her anchors and drove in on the beach. Capt. Maw later had boathouses with launches, skiffs and canoes for hire, at Sunnyside and at the Humber.

The fact that the schooner was wrecked in 1861 would be against her appearing in a marine register of 1864, although some vessels survive on paper long after their demise.

Yet one more Pacific. This was a barquentine, owned by B. F. Gardiner in Chicago eighty years ago—a long narrow steamer hull, with the engines and cabins removed and three masts added. The forward one was square-rigged. She was 176 feet 10 inches long, 27 feet beam, 10 feet deep in the hold. She registered 462 tons, and could carry 1,000 tons of cargo. A very large vessel for her time, but apparently of small use, for her insurable valuation was only $3,000 in 1864. She had been built by J. L. Wolverton at Newport, in 1848, the year before the little Toronto schooner Pacific commenced the "flourishing business between inland ports and the Maritimes."

Snider, C. H. J.
Item Type
Date of Publication
25 Oct 1941
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.628611 Longitude: -79.453333
  • England, United Kingdom
    Latitude: 53.41058 Longitude: -2.97794
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.11389 Longitude: -77.08139
  • 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
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More Pacifics - Less Specific: Schooner Days DXVIII (518)