Schooner Days DCVI (606), 4 September 1943

Gone Port Chronicles – Callers of Long Ago

By C.H.J. Snider

Typical Grafton harbor patron of the 1830's,
Drawing by Lieut. Rowley Murphy, R.C.N.V.R.

Some of the ships which "entered" at the Customs House at long vanished Grafton Harbor. – And what they brought and took away. – And for whom.

THE earliest sailing vessel recorded as paying dues at Grafton Harbor was the schooner Nile, Capt. Hurlburt, in 1843, Later in that year the schooner Wallace, which afterwards disappeared on a voyage to Toronto, and the schooner Charlotte, possibly the one built at the mouth of the Rouge River in Rebellion times, and the Hibernia, Capt. Sutherland, paid their half-crowns or two-and-six-pences. This last vessel was an earlier Hibernia than the one built at the mouth of Black River in Prince Edward County.

Cobourg may have been her hailing port, for Hibernia street ran down to the old west pier in Cobourg, once the principal shipping place, and the three ancient divisions of the place, Cork Town, Kerry Town and Giddy Town bespeak the strength of the Hibernian population of Northumberland's "capital."

Other early customers of the new harbor were the Spry calling for Benjamin Clark's goods in 1843, the Empress for E. Perry in 1844.

Customs and harbor dues, wharfage and storage, were all in pounds, shillings and pence, Halifax currency, which was $4 to the pound.

There was one Morning Star, which carried goods for Henry Stanton (there were several, from Oakville, Port Credit and Whitby) and the Rose of Milton, Cape Hamilton, calling in 1844, and the Atlantic, Capt. Fowlic, pride of Cobourg where she had been built two years previously.

This Atlantic was later the command of Capt. David Sylvester, aged 18. She lies buried under the coal dock in Port Hope boneyard, in the west harbor, beside the Two Brothers and the Garibaldi. The west harbor was partially filled in by improvements twenty years ago, covering the hulks. The Atlantic was a topsail schooner, miscalled a brigantine and sometimes even a brig, as a term of esteem. She was black with a red bottom, and had a white band with painted ports, like a man-of-war or a whaler, then the height of fashion in ship painting, and she had yellow trailboards and a scroll head, with a cornucopia of painted fruits and flowers.

Contemporaries were the schooner Dragon, for A. G. Allan, 1845; the Brothers of Whitby, Capt. Fairfield, 1846; the Nightingale, 1847. Capt. Parker brought in the sloop Peru in 1848 and Capt. Braund the schooner Merchant, Capt. Patten the Belle of Chatham, and Capt. Stewell that thorough-going old-timer, the Moses and Elias, from old Port Whitby. There was the Waterwitch, too, bringing in millstones and castings for the local steam mill.

A later lot of schooners reporting at Grafton Harbor when trade flourished greatly with the United States in the Reciprocity decade, 1855-65, included the British Queen of South Bay, new in 1863. That was the year she was launched. There were three British Queen's in lake schoonerdom, but the South Bay one had a long flaring bow with a handsome cutwater knee, and rather wide stern, and was fast. She carried posts and lumber from Grafton Harbor. Sisters of her were the later Hibernia and another Morning Star, launched at her birthplace near the roller bridge over Black River in Prince Edward County.

Other callers recorded in the Reciprocity decade were the Catharine, built on Amherst Island, the Oddfellow of Oakville, an old timer built in 1846, Jenny Lind – either Robert McLean's little Toronto schooner, built in 1852, or Jacob Harris' Wolfe Island sloop of the same name, built in 1860 – Advance, Primrose, Lindsay, built at Niagara, 1857, and sailed by Wm. Wakeley, of Port Hope; Almina, Mary Adelaide of Consecon, Lord Nelson of Bronte, William John of Brighton, J. E. Hall, John J. Hill of Niagara. Antelope of Hamilton, Baltimore of Cobourg, Queen of the Bay, a scow schooner from Kingston; Jessie McDonald, Mary E. Burgoyne, Alma, Hannah Butler, Two Brothers, Octavia, Mary Taylor, Susan Seibel, Isabella, Enterprise, and W. T. Greenwood. These schooners traded to Grafton Harbor around 1867, the year the new Dominion of Canada was launched upon the sea of nations. With them were the Sweet Home of Jordan, built over near Port Dalhousie in 1852 and owned by Sylvester and Nichols in Toronto, and a little vessel named the Rainbow, of which we know nothing.

The W. T. Greenwood of Cobourg, built at Port Dalhousie, was new that year as the Dominion itself. Capt. Greenwood sailed the British Queen. He was a merchant as well as a shipmaster, and shipped quantities of fish in barrels from Grafton Harbor pier.

The Baltimore of Cobourg was one of the few square riggers trading to Grafton Harbor. She was a smallish flatbottomed brigantine, with three or four square yards on her foremast. Built in Kingston she was named for the little village still extant north of Cobourg, where they breed good horses and find Cambrian fossils of shellfish on the old Iroquois beach.

The Baltimore was a heavily built wood wagon, dating from 1856, loggy with long years of immersion. General alarm was felt for her when she was caught at the Grafton Harbor pier in a gale which came on suddenly from the westward. That day Joseph White's brother was with Jack Bryant, the fisherman, out twenty miles in the lake to his outermost gang of nets, and they were barely able to make Cobourg all in one piece. The boat could not have lived the remaining eight miles to Grafton. In Cobourg they were anxious about the Baltimore, square rigged, awkward, caught at the unsheltered pier in the bight formed by the projection of Proctor's Island and Presqu'isle Point. But Jack said not to worry, she would last as long as the harbor dock held.

And she did. Her lines out on all the timberheads on the dock, her square yards pointed to reduce the windage on her top hamper, she hung on to the lee side of the wharf like grim death. The seas swept over it in cascades and spattered against her black bulwarks and red bottom, but she neither rose nor fell, but took the same beating the wharf took, as steadily as the wharf itself, and considerably drier. When the gale subsided she finished loading her cargo of barley and sailed off to Oswego.

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