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The schooner Eliza Quinlan (1852/1870)

Built as the Sarah by George Ault, Kingston, 1852; rebuilt as the Eliza Quinlan 1870.

1. General

Name: Eliza QuinlanType: Schooner
Official Number: Tons: 131 Register
Where Rebuilt: Port HopePort of Registry / Hail: 1 in 1870 - Port Hope, Ont.
Rebuild Year: 1870Value: $3,000 (1882)
Builder’s Name & Date of Certification: George Ault, Kingston, 1852; 1870 unknown
Master’s Name: Subscribing Owners: Quinlan and Co., Port Hope (1870)
Length: 97.3 feetBreadth: 18.7 feet
Depth of Hold: 9 feetMasts: Two
Stern: SquareBowsprit:
How Built: CarvelHow Rigged: Schooner
Figure-head: Decks: One
Owners: S. & J. Collier and W. VanVlack (1881)


Schooner Sarah, later the ELIZA QUINLAN

The following notes cover the latter part of the career of the Eliza Quinlan, and her loss on the South Shore of Prince Edward County where she was locally owned, but still registered in Port Hope. Her earlier career will be the subject of further research.


Broken up. Registry closed 10th April, 1907. Certificate of Registry lost. Registrar N.J.W. Burton. Stamped "Registrar of shipping / Jan 4 1908 / Dept. of Marine"

See also the entry for the schooner Eliza Quinlan in our ships Database.

  1. Lloyd's Inland Register, supplement 1st June 1882:

    Steamers : Picton A 2 1/2 $23,000 ; City of Toronto, A 2 1/2

    Propellers : Europe A 2 $19,000 ; Bruno, A 1 1/2

    Schooners : British Queen B 1 $4,000 ; Cataract, A 2 1/2 ; Emerald, A 2 ; Flora Carveth A 2 $10,000 ; Forest Queen, B 1 1/2 ; S. & J. Collier, A 2 1/2 ; Eliza Quinlan B 1 $3,000 ; George Suffel, B 1 1/2 ; E.H. Rutherford A 1 1/2 $15,000 ; Clara White B 1 $3,000

    Barges : Glenora A 1 1/2 $33,000 ; Hiram Benson, A 2 1/2 ; Europe A 2 $6,000 ; Franz Russell, A 2 1/2 ; Senator A 2 $8,000 ; Victor, A 2 ; Winona A 2 $5,000

Newspaper transcriptions

  1. ELIZA QUINLAN Schooner of 160 tons (American tons) built Kingston 1852. Owned by Quinlan & Co. Home Port, Port Hope. Classed A 2, valued at $6,500. Surveyed Feb. 1874. Remarks – Built on bottom of SARAH. Association of Canadian lake Underwriters Lake Vessel Register for 1874
  2. Marine News : Four vessels are reported to be ashore on the head of Wolfe Island, but their names were unknown. Quite a number of vessels were observed this morning lying off Wolfe Island, sheltered from the gale. Nine vessels were anchored off four Mile Point, last night and yesterday, owing to the danger. The schooner Annie Minnes dragged her anchor into Macpherson's dock, and the Eliza Quinlan did the same to the Kingston Foundry dock. We believe these were unhurt. [by] George Halladay, The Oswego Daily Times, November 6, 1877
  3. The schr. Eliza Quinlan has been purchased by Collier & Van Black [sic], of South Bay, for $2,000. British Whig (Kingston, ON), April 21, 1881
  4. The schr. Eliza Quinlan arrived last night from Belleville. In entering the harbor she collided with the schr. Wave Crest, laden with iron ore for Big Sodus, and lying at anchor off Gunn's wharf. The former's topmast and boom were carried away. Repairs will have to be made at this port. British Whig (Kingston, ON), Nov. 10, 1881
  5. Mr. James Swift has upwards of 2,000 tons of coal on the way to this port [Kingston] from Charlotte and Oswego. He purchased the cargo of the Erie Belle. The Eliza Quinlan has arrived with another cargo from Oswego. British Whig (Kingston, ON), Dec. 2, 1881
  6. MARINE NOTES. The schr. Eliza Quinlan, which ran aground, was released by the tug F.A. Folger, little damaged by the accident. British Whig (Kingston, ON), Dec. 8, 1881
  7. The schr. Eliza Quinlan is lying windbound here. She has coal for Gananoque. British Whig (Kingston, ON), April 27, 1882
  8. The schr. Eliza Quinlan, with barley from Whitby for Oswego, had to run into Big Sodus on Monday for safety. She was leaking badly. The tug M.J. Cummings went to her rescue and towed her to Oswego. British Whig (Kingston, ON), May 17, 1882
  9. QUINLAN, ELIZA Schooner, Home port, Port Hope, Ont., of 131 Tons Reg. bound from Oswego N. Y., to Napanee, stranded December 4, 1882 on Poplar Bar, Prince Edward County, during snow and fog, and became a total loss. Property loss $1,500. Department of Marine & Fisheries Statement of Wreck & Casualty for 1882.
  10. The schooner QUINLAN went ashore on South bay point yesterday afternoon, loaded with coal. All hands saved. Owing to the distance from the telegraph office it is impossible to get any more particulars. J.W. Hall Great lakes Marine Scrapbook, No. 2, December 1882
  11. Picton, Ont., December 5. A special, received from Milford, announces that the schr. Eliza Quinlan went ashore at South Bay Point yesterday noon. All hands were saved. The Quinlan is owned by Mr. Van Zluk [sic]. She rates B-1 and was valued at $3,000. British Whig (Kingston, ON), Dec. 5, 1882
  12. Captain Ryan, of the schr. Anna M. Foster, reports a vessel ashore at the Main Ducks. She is lying broadside on the beach, heavily laden. She has a green bottom and white topsides. He could not get near enough to ascertain her name.
    The schooner Anna M. Foster arrived here last night, thus relieving many persons regarding her safety. She left this morning for South Bay Point in tow of the tug McArthur, and will act as a lighter to the schooner Eliza Quinlan, which ran ashore there with a cargo of coal while bound for Napanee.
    The steamer Quinte has been the last arrival of the season at Deseronto. The tug Sherwood broke a channel through the ice for ten miles to get her into port. The ice is now so strong in the Bay of Quinte that the mail teams crossed it yesterday. British Whig (Kingston, ON), Dec. 6, 1882
  13. The tug McArthur went to the assistance of the schr. Eliza Quinlan yesterday. The vessel was found on the shoal at Poplar Point, and pounding severely. The sea dashed over her, and yet she was not much damaged. The tug returned to the city last night, and as soon as the weather moderates will go back to the vessel with a steam pump, with which to empty her of water and enable her to be pulled off the shoals. The wind today blew unfavorably for the vessel's safety. British Whig (Kingston, ON), Dec. 7, 1882
  14. THE POOR SAILORS. – The tug McArthur is still at the rescue of the schr. Eliza Quinlan, ashore at Poplar Point. The vessel is owned by William Vankleek [sic] and Jacob Collier of South Marysburg. The Picton Gazette says that, before their rescue the crew were in a most perilous position for several hours but were eventually rescued through the gallant efforts of Mr. Jackson Bongard, of Long Point, and a picked crew, who heroically manned a fishing boat and brought them safely to shore. A lake captain expressed the belief that no other men could have accomplished the perilous undertaking. The Quinlan was unfortunately uninsured. The belief is pretty general that she is damaged beyond the possibility of repair.
    The McArthur could not go near the vessel yesterday, owing to a heavy sea. She is covered with ice so that it will be difficult to handle her. She may have to lay in the present position all winter; in that case, in the spring her pieces may be picked up. British Whig (Kingston, ON), Dec. 9, 1882
  15. The rescue of the schr. Eliza Quinlan has been abandoned until Spring. It is then hoped to save her, and that she will not suffer much damage in the meantime. British Whig (Kingston, ON), Dec. 11, 1882
  16. It has been ascertained that the Schooner E. QUINLAN, which went ashore last fall on the coast of South Marysburg, has wintered all right so far, and has sustained little damage since winter set in. Efforts will be made as early this spring as possible to get her off. Marine Record April 7, 1883
  17. Schr. Eliza Quinlan - Captain John Donnelly went up yesterday with the steamer Conqueror and scow Lorraine to the rescue of the schooner Eliza Quinlan, ashore three miles from South Bay Point. About 20 tons of coal were taken from the craft. She was abandoned as it was found that during the winter she had laid on a flat rock and had her whole bottom pounded out. The water entered as fast as it was pumped out. British Whig (Kingston, ON), May 4, 1883
  18. Another attempt is to be made to save the schr. Eliza Quinlan, ashore at Long Point with a cargo of coal. The coal is to be taken out and her hold filled with barrels, with the intention of raising her so she will float off the reef. ... [Note: the following reaction to this wreck and the safety aspects around Prince Edward County shores. Ed.] The Government have finally decided to erect one life-station at Wellington, in charge of Capt. Hugh McCullough; and another at Poplar Point, in charge of Capt. Leroy Spafford. At Salmon Point the cannon which is to be fired at intervals in snow-storms or foggy weather is to be placed in charge of Capt. L. Hudgin. British Whig (Kingston, ON), May 12, 1883. See also Maritime safety, the Ducks, Prince Edward County, 1883.
  19. The steamer Hastings had to leave the wrecked Eliza Quinlan ashore at South Bay Point owing to the wind blowing very fresh. Capt. VanBlack [sic] had not enough cedar to float the vessel, and although the Hastings drew the vessel some fifteen feet it was impossible to take her off. It is probable that another attempt will be made to rescue the craft. British Whig (Kingston, ON), June 25, 1883. Note: no other recorded attempt has be documented; the Eliza Quinlan broke up entirely over the following years.
  20. From Willis Metcalfe "Canvas & Steam on Quinte Waters", First edtion (1965):
    "This is the story of the wreck of the ELIZA QUINLAN as told many years ago by Captain William VanVlack of Cressy, to his grandson, Ross VanVlack.
    "My grandfather, Captain VanVlack, was half owner of the schooner ELIZA QUINLAN, and he was in command. The other partner was the late Jacob Collier of Picton. They loaded coal up through the bridge at Oswego, on the 3rd. December 1883 [sic. ee note below], bound for Napanee. It froze hard that night, and it was late the next morning when the tugs broke the ice to tow the vessel out into the lake. By that time it had become very foggy and within a short time it started to snow and blow from the southwest. About 2.30 o'clock in the afternoon the schooner ran aground on Poplar Bar, three miles west of the Point Traverse light. It was supposed that her compass, through some attraction, led her off her course. Captain Nathan McCrimmon, manned a fishing boat with some other men, and pushed out into the foaming breakers to rescue the crew".
    Efforts of a salvage tug the next spring, failed to release the ELIZA QUINLAN, and her hull remained on the shore for many years, before it was finally broken up by the elements.

    Note: The date of 1883 is incorrect, this grounding taking place on 3 December 1882. The same error or typo re-appeared in the second edition of 1968 and subsequent reprints. In the author's notes (voluminous) for the second edition, we find no trace of a correction.
  21. Amongst the few references to the schooner Eliza Quinlan that appear in C.H.J Snider's work, see : Schooner Days CCXXXIX (239) "Five Ships Of Prince Edward County" and Schooner Days D (500 ) "Old Black Sal".
  22. Analysis of the loss of the Eliza Quinlan: This schooner was getting older (30 years in service), and this is reflected in her value of only $3,000. Her Inland Lloyds classification "B 1" strongly suggests that insurance, both hull and cargo, would be difficult to find (in fact she was not insured for this particular voyage.) The voyage was also very late in the season, and while most owners and captains (William VanVlack was both) truly apprciated the additional profit, they also recognized the additional risks. This voyage was undertaken in snow and fog, implying extremely limited visibility, where a safe landfall, presumably Prince Edward Point when bound from Oswego to Napanee, requires estimation of both distance travelled and course followed.

    Patent logs were used by some lake schooners, but no mention is made of one on this vessel, so distance could well have been Captain VanVlack's best estimation. The difference in compass course between a landfall at Poplar Point compared to Prince Edward Point on a voyage from Oswego is ~2°. It should be noted that the Eliza Quinlan was known as a "crank schooner" -- diffult to steer. It is highly unlikely that even a very experienced helmsman could have achieved such accuracy. Estimated leeway under such circumstances would possibly have been is some doubt. It should also be noted that Captain VanVlack would most probably have been taking depth soundings; however, there is very little in bottom depth variations to distinguish between his desired and his actual landfall. As to "it was supposed that her compass, through some attraction, led her off her course", this suggestion should most probably be dismissed, unless a pocket knife or tabacco tin had been inadvertently left next to the compass. For a factual examination of this region's magnetice anomalies, see North-eastern Lake Ontario; Background: Ship losses, causes and claims

    Conclusion: An unfortunate landfall, in near-zero visibility, after a very late-season voyage by an older vessel known to have helm difficulties.

References and source notes

(3-21) Many of the contemporary newspaper cuttings can be found at Maritime History of the Great Lakes, Newspaper Transcriptons
(22) Naval Marine Archive, Willis Metcalfe fonds
(23) C.H.J. Snider Schooner Days index, Naval Marine Archive.
(24) Naval Marine Archive, P.A., January 2023.


Ships in Prince Edward County

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