formerly the Archives and Collections Society  

The Prince Edward: A "staunch good ship"

Shipbuilding in Prince Edward County began soon after the arrival of the United Empire Loyalists and flourished in the days of canvas and steam, when trade, transport, and travel were carried out predominantly on waterways, and local shipwrights like Tait, Hepburn, and Currie built many of the majestic vessels that filled County harbours and traversed Lake Ontario.

The earliest recorded ship built in the County was the schooner Prince Edward. Captain Henry Murney, who came to the Quinte region in 1797 at the request of Kingston-based merchant Joseph Forsyth, built the Prince Edward in Glenora which was then in the township of Marysburgh, for his own use. The precise year of her construction is uncertain; Metcalfe gives a date of 1798, while both Canniff and Mansfield claim that she was not built until 1800.

Henry Scadding in Chapter XXIX "The Harbour: its marine, 1793-99" quotes the Gazette of May 19, 1798: "At the same time the name of the commander of the vessel is given. "West Niagara: By the arrival of the schooner Simcoe, Capt. Murney, from Kingston, we are informed that upwards of a hundred houses in the Lower Province have been carried away by the ice this spring." The Capt. Murney here mentioned, as being in command of the Simcoe, was the father of the Hon. Edward Murney, of Belleville. He built and owned in 1801 another vessel named the Prince Edward, capable of carrying 700 barrels of flour in her hold. We are told of this vessel, that she was built wholly of red cedar."

Although no picture of the Prince Edward survives, Canniff reports that she was made of red cedar, then a common tree in the Quinte region, and was a durable vessel that could transport as much as seven hundred barrels of flour. John Clark, who was on board the schooner the year after her launching, described her as a "staunch good ship, with an able captain" (Canniff, 153).

The Prince Edward sailed the waters of Lake Ontario for many years, and was in good enough repair to be employed as an armed vessel in the war of 1812 (Canniff, 153); at this time she is given as being of 77 tons, but no other dimensions are stated (Records of Niagara, No. 43.) We next find possible traces of the early schooner in the custom entries for the Port of Picton from 1846-1855. J.H. Holmes, Registrar of Deeds, records a vessel called Prince Edward with a master named Allison at Port Milford (Metcalfe, 8). A schooner called the Prince Edward under the command of a Captain Young was the first ship to arrive at the Wellington pier following its erection, which while difficult to determine was probably in the late 1860s, shortly after Confederation. Whether the schooner in this account was Murney’s ship, or a later vessel of the same name and of 123 Gross Tons, built in Marysburgh by John Tait, registered in Picton on 24 April 1867 and lost on Cockburn Island, Ontario in November 1879 is uncertain. The only mention of the fate of the earlier Prince Edward is found in Mansfield, who writes simply that she was "broken up" without giving the date of her dismantling (Mansfield, 875).


Refs:

Bibliography:

  • Anonymous. "Early Shipping in Prince Edward County", 1936, Archives and Collections Society. Online.
  • Canniff, William. "The Settlement of Upper Canada", Toronto: Dudley & Burns, 1869. Reprint, Belleville: Mika Silk Screening Limited, 1971.
  • Mansfield, J.B. "History of the Great Lakes", Vol. 1. J.H. Beers & Co., 1899. Reprint, Cleveland: Freshwater Press, Inc., 1999.
  • McBurney, Margaret and Mary Byers, "Homesteads - Early Buildings and Families from Kingston to Toronto", University of Toronto Press, 1979
  • Metcalfe, Willis. "Canvas and Steam on Quinte Waters", Picton, Prince Edward Historical Society, 1965.
  • Scadding, Henry "Toronto of Old", Adam, Stevenson and Co, 1873, Chapter XXIX "The Harbour: its marine, 1793-99"
  • Tackaberry, Brian, and R. Arless Flint, "Pioneer Life on the Bay of Quinte", Toronto: Rolph and Clark Limited, 1904. Reprint, Milton: Global Heritage Press, 1999.

Revised: 31 March 2012