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The launch of the OLIVER MOWAT

from the Daily British Whig of Kingston, July 16, 1873

Editor’s Note: The Oliver Mowat’s career was not a fortunate one as she was sliced in two by the steamer Keywest on September 1, 1921. The Captain and two of the crew went down with the ship. The wreck of the Oliver Mowat was discovered in 1996 in 120 feet of water by Rick Neilson, Barbara Carson, Spencer Shoniker and Tim Legateher, who kept the location confidential to avoid plundering. Note that Barbara Carson was an avid dive archaeologist; amongst other sites that she discovered was the City of Sheboygan in 1963. She is also the artist of the marvellous sketch of the schooner W.R. Taylor from a photograph by Rowley Murphy.



Bath, a town which has been making steady progress backwards, and has reached a point where such progression must cease, was once noted for its shipbuilding but its near neighbour, Millhaven, yesterday accomplished its first achievement in the nautical line of enterprise. The new schooner of Messrs. Fraser and George, of this city, was launched, and Millhaven and the country around made a gala occasion of it.

And the enterprising owners indulged in the luxury of an excursion from the city to the scene of the launch, inviting quite a number of their personal friends to accompany them. The day was so calm and bright, giving promise of an avoidance of the horrors of a rough passage of the lower gap, with a prospect of pleasant weather, that a very hopeful party left Carruther’s and Co. dock at 11:15 a.m. on what proved to be as enjoyable a trip as can be remembered by the most experienced excursionist on board, and he ought to be a judge! The freight steamer "Saxon" newly built and fitted out by Messrs. Fraser and George, carried the party. She afforded a clear deck for two-thirds of her length, over which was stretched an awning, forming a most agreeable shade. The "Saxon" is a fine substantial boat, and moves with a steadiness which makes a trip on her superior to that on a side-wheel steamer for real comfort. She is commanded by Captain Freel, and will ply on the Lake and the Bay of Quinte and from her ample capacity for freight must make a remunerative return for the outlay involved in her construction. On board were the Premier of Ontario, the Hon. Oliver Mowat, brother-in-law to Mr. Fraser, and Mr. William Robinson, M.P.P., with members of their families, Judge Burrowes, and other gentlemen together with the wives and daughters of several prominent citizens. Mr. Mowat won golden opinions, and especially so from the ladies, for his affability of manner. He is most agreeable company, and proves that it is not necessary to put on style to sustain the dignity of a Premier. Passing the Murney Tower, which recalls the early history of Kingston, with the visit that Tom Moore paid to this spot and under the inspiration of the cooling breezes wrote a part of Salla Rookh — and leaving astern the distillery (which is once more idle) and the penitentiary (which is fated not to be) the "Saxon" made a call at Portsmouth, where a pleasant addition was made to the party on board. The noble-looking Rockwood Asylum affords the last and most interesting land view and attention is diverted to the scenery of the Bay, and the prospect is indeed very fine particularly opposite "the Brothers". From this point the rafting operations in Collin’s Bay attract distant attention. Their importance is not sufficiently known to Kingstonians; vessels arrive almost daily with timber, which is rafted and sent to Quebec. The village receives a great deal of unwonted life from the presence of so many workmen, and the lively industry in which they are employed by Messrs. McArthur Brothers. An agreeable sail, indeed, ended with the arrival of the steamer at Millhaven, the shore of which presented a pretty sight, from the crowds assembled to witness the event of the day. A large number of Millhavenites were gathered on the wharf to welcome our small delegation. The whole country around seemed to have made a holiday: there were not less than 2,000 persons present at the appointed hour (2 o’clock) and the proportion of well dressed and bright looking country girls unmistakingly declared that the haven would be a most attractive spot as a summer resort for city beaux. No one in the Kingston party seemed to have been "struck", and there is no romance (more’s the pity) in the shape of an elopement to chronicle. The pretty bay was dotted over with small boats, filled with people, for the cool water had an attraction which those sweltering on the shore under a fierce sun could not exaggerate.

The new vessel as she sat on the ways was much admired, her model being very graceful indeed. A close examination of her did not detract in the least from the impression gained on first view, for she is perfect in structure and a credit to her builder, Mr. Beaupre, formerly of Portsmouth. Being as handsome a boat as ever sailed the Lakes, Messrs. Fraser and George may safely pride themselves upon her. She is a "success". They have fitted her as a three-masted schooner, after the fashion now prevailing with first-class vessels on the Lakes, and Mr. Oldrieve, of Kingston, has supplied the sails and rigging. Her dimensions are 130 ft. length, 26 ft. beam, 11 ft. in the hold, and will carry 15,000 bushels. Someone was favourably impressed with her, for he offered $30,000 for her in cash on the spot yesterday; but he was refused the bargain sought.

She is a perverse boat, though. She loved the ways fondly, and would not leave them, even to accommodate so large and admiring a crowd. The operations for launching were begun at 1:30 but the ordinary means employed were of no avail. Move she would not; perhaps it was not a good day for moving, was too warm for much exertion. The crowd was patient, however, and never ceased its interest in the expectant sight. Every method of hammering, leverage and ramming was employed to induce the vessel to act with propriety and a graceful acquiescence becoming the occasion, but they were shown to be tricks that were vain as the noted heathen. Chinese umbrellas were voted a prime invention, one of the luxuries. Millhaven must be farther south than Kingston, it is so warm. It would be a good spot to create soda water manufactory and ice-cream foundry. But we presume the July sun also was putting on style for the occasion, and it is generally a warm sun, you know. At 4:15 when just as the word was given to adopt the last resort - that of the steamer jerking the schooner off - the vessel, as if smarting under the intended indignity, began to move downward so neatly and gracefully that her former perverseness was overlooked. As she glided away to enter upon her natural element, the fair daughter of one of the owners, Miss Fraser, christened the new candidate for nautical honours, whose handsome new flag was unfurled, displaying the name "OLIVER MOWAT". A portion of the loud cheers which here arose from vessel and shore were a personal tribute to the popular and honourable gentleman whose name was displayed, and who stood on the platform. As handsome as the "Oliver Mowat" appeared on shore, she appeared to still greater advantage in the water. The "Saxon" went out and towed her about the bay, with quite a crowd of Millhavenites on board, they taking the full liberty of both vessels, reposing no doubt unlimited confidence in the hospitality of the owners. The towing of so large a boat, helpless as it was without steering apparatus in position, was attended with difficulty, and led to a series of mishaps, troublesome but resulting in no injuries. The boats were drifted twice ashore, but were easily worked off, and the vessel got into the dock. At 7:00 o’clock a start was made for home, and dinner, which was long delayed, was heartily relished by all on board. The trip home was splendid, the Lake being a dead calm, and the night very cool. The city was reached at ten o’clock, after touching at Garden Island and Portsmouth, and the excursion put down then and there as one of the best of this season’s pleasant trips.

The "Oliver Mowat" will complete her fitting out at Millhaven, and then go into service at once. May her career be a fortunate one.

One impression of Millhaven is that it possesses more "tight" young men on holiday occasions around its taverns than are creditable to an orderly village like it has always been.


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