Maritime History of the Great Lakes
How Heroes Ended Fuel Famine of 1902: Schooner Days MCCXII (1212)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 19 Mar 1955
Full Text
How Heroes Ended Fuel Famine of 1902
Schooner Days MCCXII (1212)

by C. H. J. Snider

"AN Old Captain from old Cat Hollow" - and Schooner Days would very much like to know which one, having friends from thence among the Kirks, Shaws, Keiths, Redfearns, McGlennons and more - writes from Stoney Creek:

"Being an old sailor and master mariner, I naturally look for your Schooner Days in Saturday's Telegram. I read those about the Str. Resolute, and I was wondering if you had the account of the trip she made towing the schooner Abbie L. Andrew. I just forget the year, but it was the last trip in the fall. They loaded coal I think in Charlotte for the Bay of Quinte and got caught in a northeast gale and snow before they got to Point Peter. Capt. John Gowan was captain of the Resolute. As I heard it he squared away and ran before it I don't know how long. The Andrews made Hamilton and the Resolute made Port Dalhousie, badly battered up."

This comes pat upon a promise (although our Stoney Creek friend could not have known of it when he wrote) to tell more about the tragedy of Donovan family with their steamer John E. Hall and barge, the ex-schooner John R. Noyes, at the end of the coal strike in 1902. That was when the Resolute-Andrews adventure occurred. We will have more to say about that after discussing the Hall and her barge.

The long-drawn coal strike of the year mentioned threatened Ontario with famine, for Pennsylvania was out regular fuel source. We were accustomed to get our winter's coal from the south shore ports of Lake Oswego, Fairhaven, Sodus, and Charlotte, by vessel, in the summer time. Yards which should have been full for the winter by November were still empty and swept clean at the end of October. When the strike broke at last everything that would float coal was rushed to the south shore. Import of coal by water lasted as long as any of the Ontario harbors were open.

The effect to relieve from famine was heroic. In several instances it cost the lives of ships and sailors, but it was still heroic.

The JOHN E. HALL looked like a "foreigner" among Lake Ontario propellers. So she was in a way, having been built at Manitowoc on Lake Michigan in 1889. We were used to propeller with high clifflike bows and forecastles, topped with birdcage pilot houses. The Hall's two-story superstructure was all aft, her square wheelhouse just forward of amidships, and nothing between it and her nose pole but the bare forward deck. She looked like a two-decker passenger and package freighter but down to the main deck forward; or the hull of a Spanish galleon. She had been rebuilt in 1899, and perhaps that accounted for it. She certainly seemed stanch and sturdy as a church.

At any rate, Capt. Timothy Donovan, enterprising Oswego sailor, had her and the hull of the schooner John B. Noyes in commission to break the coal famine as soon as the strike of 1902 was settled. He owned both vessels and valued them at $20,000 some said $35,000. But there was no insurance. It would run out normally by Dec. 15.

For years the Noyes had been the pride of Oswego, as a tall two-masted schooner. "The best that ever left the trestle," Marsh Spafford, of Prince Edward County, declared. It took a captain, mate, cook and four sailors to handle her then with her rig of eight big sails. Cut down to a barge with just one, wholly dependent on the towline, one sailor and the donkey engine was all the "crew" she got.

All the Donovan fortune was on the waves when the Hall and consort put out to sea. In the steamer was Timothy Donovan master; Jeremiah Donovan, mate, James Donovan, 1st engineer, John Donovan, 2nd; Daniel Bigelow and Thomas Corcoran, wheelsmen; John Dixon and Thomas Tyler, fireman, and Mrs. W. Brown of Buffalo, cook. In the tow was Capt. George Donovan, James Ryan, mate; George Premo, sailor, and Mrs. Ryan cook. Nearly all were Oswego people.

More of this in following numbers.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
19 Mar 1955
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 43.25506 Longitude: -77.61695
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 43.45535 Longitude: -76.5105
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.838888 Longitude: -77.155277
Richard Palmer
Creative Commons licence
by [more details]
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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How Heroes Ended Fuel Famine of 1902: Schooner Days MCCXII (1212)