Schooner Days CCXLII (242), 30 May 1936

Cat Hollow Craft II

By C.H.J. Snider

Cat Hollow's earliest recorded launching
The TRADE WIND, built in 1853.

Sixteen vessels belonged in Cat Hollow in the old days, and Cat Hollow sailors were to be found all over the lakes – and they are yet – from Soup Harbor in Prince Edward County to Sissiwa up Superior way. Cat Hollow craft were registered as hailing from the Port of Cramaha.

You may find Cat Hollow men in command of steamers this season, but you will not find Cat Hollow on the map, nor the Port of Cramaha in the charts, any more than you will find Sissiwa.

Sissiwa exists only in the speech of sailors; it is their translation of Seul Choix Point at the north end of Lake Michigan. The Port of Cramaha never had any existence except in the minds of registrars. It was their translation of the area in what natives of Northumberland County call "Crammy," south of the inland town of Colborne, and embracing Lead Creek and Keeler's Creek, and, when they were in existence, Cole's Dock and Keeler's Dock and Campbell's Dock and McCallum's Dock, some of which was in the adjoining Township of Haldimand.

Keeler's Creek runs through Haldimand township. Lead Creek is in the Township of Cramahe. Where the two came together they formed a gravel bar on reaching the lake. Here was the registrar's "Port of Cramaha," a misspelling of the name the township got from Hector Theophilus Cramahé (three syllables, with an acute accent on the final "e") long, long ago.

This English-born son of French parents served with Wolfe, became lieutenant-governor of Quebec in 1771, was appointed lieutenant-governor of Detroit in 1785, and died three years later, without ever reaching his western empire. Yet he bequeathed his name to the ancient township near the northeast angle of Lake Ontario, where Prince Edward County juts forth.

Cat Hollow's second recorded building
The JAMES LESLIE, built there in 1853
rebuilt in South Bay as the MARYSBURG, 1870.

But we have still to account for Cat Hollow.

Lakeport, Ont., a mile and a half southwest of Colborne, is the post-office address of that elusive home of ships and sailors. Ask the skipper of some big freighter or passenger steamer you may encounter between Montreal and Duluth where his home is, and don't be surprised if he tells you it's in Lakeport, Ontario, and commences to talk about old Cat Hollow! Lakeport is the present and surviving name of several that have been tagged on to the official but unused "Port of Cramaha," and the unofficial but oft-used village of Cat Hollow. It was "Keeler's Creek" when Joseph Keeler came with his forty settlers and his black slaves from Vermont in 1793 and built the sawmill, flour mill, woolen mill and a distillery at the creek mouth, and sank an oil well. It was "Colborne" when Joseph Keeler II laid out the town of Colborne around its central square, back on the Kingston road, far from the lake, and adorned it with the name of Sir John Colborne, hero of Waterloo, and Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada.

The Keeler's Creek settlement down at the lake shore, was content to share the name of the great man, and did so for a long time, although "Colborne" for business purposes and "Colborne" as a port were two separate places, and the people who lived in the latter called it Cat Hollow among themselves.

Cat Hollow, with one name for home use and another lent by the larger town on the Kingston road, sailed along very well as an outport for the metropolis of Colborne, capital of the Keeler dynasty, until the volume of mail became sufficiently great for it to require postal facilities. Then it had Lakeport wished on it, so that the confusion of Colborne with Port Colborne might be worse confounded with the similarity of Lakeport and Lockport. But the name Cat Hollow continued, as it does to this day, to the great satisfaction of all right-thinking mariners.

The Cat Hollow fleet included: – the Alice Grover, a brigantine, one of the few square riggers, and the Mary Grover, a schooner, and the Jane Armstrong, another schooner, all three built by or for J. M. Grover at Cole's Dock, which projected into the lake east of Keeler's Creek and has since vanished.

The two Grovers were built in 1855, following the James Leslie, built in the same place in 1854 by George Ault of Kingston, and the Trade Wind, built by Lummaree [Lamoree], of the Oswego firm of ship builders, Lee and Lummaree in 1853.

The Trade Wind is the earliest vessel of which we have a record as being built at Cat Hollow, and she had a long life. She was burned at Kingston in 1910.

The James Leslie when rebuilt in South Bay, in South Marysburg Township in 1870, was re-named the Marysburg, and was sailed by Captain Jim Collier, Captain John Allan, of Whitby and other masters. She wore green paint from rail to waterline, and came to grief through a green light. Her skipper mistook a semaphore lamp on the old Grand Trunk, where the line comes close to the water's edge at Port Union, for the light at Frenchman's Bay, which was at that time the only green light on the lake except the starboard lanterns of the schooners. So she struck on the point at Highland Creek, and some of her bones are still to be found in the marsh there or on the beach. An old picture of her, long owned by the late Capt. Byron Bongard, of Picton, bears the name "Maysburgh," a mistake for "Marysburgh," as the township name was originally spelled.

The Mary Grover measured 185 tons register, and was 111 feet 3 inches long, 22 feet 7 inches beam and 9 feet deep in the hold. The other vessels mentioned were similar in size. There were so many of them we shall have to make another effort at accounting for them next week, including the Blanche about which Mr. McGlennon wrote recently.

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