Toronto Telegram, August 11, 1945
Schooner Days DCCIV (704)
By C.H.J. Snider


EVEN past the end of last century the green bluff-bowed steam-barge D. D. Calvin would appear punctually in Toronto every April when the ice had left Kingston harbor, sometimes with one barge, sometimes with a fleet that would fill the wharf space in the old northern docks between Spadina avenue and Bathurst street.  There would be the big black Augustus round-sterned for greater ease in canalling, and the Valencia, smaller but similarly built, and usually with black topsides, but lead-color trim and bottom.

That was the favorite color scheme for the Calvin sailing or towing vessels.  The steamers were green with white upper works, or white with red at the waterline, but the schooners were usually black and grey.

One exception was the Ceylon, a long large three-masted tow barge with topmasts and jibboom and a full set of lower sails.  She was black with a yellow beading in her bulwarks.  She had a clipper bow, and the square transom of a regular timber-drogher, and should have been a grand sailer, like the Minnedosa, but she wasn't. Either she had not enough rig, or she was too full in the quarters, for she was very hard to steer, and used up many rudderstocks.  But she was a good carrier and soundly and solidly built, so that after being abandoned by her crew she crossed the lake by herself and came in on the south shore of Prince Edward County and was salvaged with only minor damage.

From D. D. Calvin's "A Saga of the St. Lawrence," aided by references in such memoirs as the diary of Alexander Muir, the Port Dalhousie drydock founder who sailed ships for the Garden Island firm before he and his brothers built their drydock and their own vessels, let us attempt to compile a list of the Calvin sailing vessels, first absolving the author of the Saga from responsibility for errors which may be made by including vessels or incidents which he does not mention.  The steamers and towbarges, of which there were also many, have already been dealt with.

QUEEN VICTORIA is mentioned as an early one by Mr. Calvin, along with the "Aurora Bora Ellis" and "Prince of Wails" in an amusing example of the orthography of the old shipyard.  These latter may have been customers, for the Garden Island yard did a large repair business, apart from its own requirements, and built one saltwater barque for sale abroad.

HARRIET CALVIN was contemporary with the Queen Victoria.  Built in Sackett's Harbor in 1839 she was sailed by Alexander Muir, founder of Muir Bros', drydock at Port Dalhousie.  He sailed the Hariet Calvin in her first year for the firm of Calvin, Cook and Counter, bringing timber from Black River, west of Cleveland, on Lake Erie.  She probably bore the name of Delano Dexter Calvin's first wife, Harriet Webb.

LAURA E. CALVIN was a later schooner, named for a daughter.  A model of this vessel, beautifully executed, was in existence at Garden Island until recently.

DEXTER CALVIN, a small schooner named after the son of "The Governor" who died early.  All recalled of her is that in a gale between Port Dalhousie and Kingston, on Nov. 30th, 1850, she lost her deckload of flour in barrels, but her master, Simon Johnston, saved the twenty-seven hogs also carried on deck.

HANNAH COUNTER, mentioned in the Saga as in the firm before 1841, indicates another schooner named for the wife or daughter of one of the partners.  John Counter, mayor of Kingston, was a member of the firm for five years, withdrawing in 1843.

MARION COOK represents the third partner, Hiram Cook of Clayton, N.Y., who joined the firm in 1838.  The vessel is recorded in Thomas' Registry, 1864, as built at Garden Island in 1840 by L. Goler, one of the firm's shipwrights, and rebuilt in 1854.  She had a tragic t history.

LAFAYETTE COOK commemorates the son of Hiram Cook, who opened a Hamilton branch of the Calvin business as Hiram Cook & Co., and continued in this after leaving the Garden Island firm in 1854.  The Lafayette Cook was a brigantine, built by Shickluna at St. Catharines in 1851, and recorded in Thomas' Register as, hailing from Hamilton and owned by Calvin and Breck of Kingston.  This was the firm name after 1855.

The Lafayette Cook was elaborately fitted out for a lake vessel, having such conveniences as brass taps for running water in the galley.  She was rebuilt and became the schooner Herbert Dudley of Kingston, about 1880.  Well remembered on the Toronto waterfront, where she delivered coal for P. Burns and Co.  Blown up at the Exhibition in 1898, to represent the destruction of the USS Maine in Havana harbor, the current fireworks attraction.

MARION L. BRECK represents a new partner.  The name is that of the sister of Ira Allen Breck, chief clerk for Calvin and Cook, who took Cook's place when he retired.  Miss Breck became Delano Dexter Calvin's second wife.  The vessel named for her was not new, having been built at Garden Island for the firm in 1840 or 1842 – both dates are given – by H. Honey, who built many of the Island vessels.  She was a brigantine, like the Lafayette Cook, and was first named the WILLIAM PENN.  As such she was registered as of 224 tons burden and of $2,500 value, but the same record contains her new registration as of 396 tons burthen and $15,500 value, having been built in 1840 but "thoroughly rebuilt in 1863."  When renamed she was rerigged as a schooner.

Roney's second work lasted well.  She continued in service forty-four years longer, and although wrecked on the Bear's Rump in Georgian Bay in 1907, when laden with a cargo of brick, fragments of her were still discernible there in 1930.  She was 127 feet long, 23.5 beam and 11.9 depth; 298 tons register according to the new Dominion register.

JESSIE BRECK also bore the new partner's name, although when she became the property of the firm is not known.  She may have been chartered. She was certainly not built at the Island.  She was a tail-sparred white hulled three-masted schooner with a square-sail yard, built at Port Dalhousie in 1873, length 133.6, beam 23.4, depth 11, 364 tons register.  She also, figured in tragedy, drowning all her crew by capsizing, May 17th, 1890.  She was then reported as owned by Calvin and Booth, of Kingston.  Whether there was such a firm, or whether this is in error for Booth and Breck, is not known.  She returned to service as the towbarge H. M. Stanley and was afloat in 1914, being then owned by the Morden Transit Co., Midland.

Mr. Calvin's book mentions many, but not all, of the schooners in the Garden Island fleet.  They deserve, and will have, another chapter of Schooner Days.

(Caption) "AUGUSTUS" and "CEYLON" were two biggest barges and had sails.

(Caption) THE JESSIE BRECK (above the arrow) in her birthplace, Port Dalhousie.

Schooner Days

. . . you can easily

Consult Rowley W. Murphy's subject index, or ...

jump to the top of the page, or to "Schooner days" number 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, 700, 800, 900, 1,000, 1,100, 1,200, or ...

Return to the regional search index.


Naval Marine ArchiveThe Canadian Collection
205 Main Street, Picton, Ontario, K0K2T0, Canada
Telephone: 1 613 476 1177
E-mail: for comments, queries and suggestions.

Copyright © 2023
Naval Marine Archive
The Canadian Collection

Revised: 8 July 2022