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More About Packman's Port, 23 Dec 1950

Schooner Days CMLXXXIII (983)

By C.H.J. Snider

"No amount of Yankee inventiveness could have built up New England industry without the pedlar and his well stocked cart. Honesty, of necessity, became the pedlar's best policy, for the same customers were met year after year." So said the Christian Science Monitor recently. The same applied to Prince Edward County in early days, and Port Milford, where several vessels were built, sprang from one packman's enterprise, James Cooper's.

Cooper bought and sold for cash or barter. The credit system on which so many country stores flourished and so many more failed was in vogue in the county from an early date. Canniff's history says:

Credit – curse or cure?

"A credit system was initiated and carried on. Goods would be purchased to be paid for with wheat or potatoes, or something else at a certain time. Here and there along the bay were Indian fur traders. They, also, began to exchange with the settlers. While this was a great convenience, and gave immediate comfort to many a family, it at the same time, led to serious results with many. Bad crops and promissory notes could lead to loss of farms and homes.

"Indians traded deer skins for articles which could be parted with, and taught the settlers how to make fresh pelts pliable, by removing the hair and rubbing the pelt with the brains of some animal which made them soft and white."

It strikes us that the poor Indians were better off than whites who bought with promises and lost the little they had when their notes come due.

Port Milford became a settlement almost as large as the parent Milford three miles west when a cannery was added to the local industries. The cannery, a later development, did not operate continuously, and small houses, built to accommodate the seasonal workers, became vacant. Port Milford went "back to the farm" but has come forward again as a choice location for country homes. Its high bank has a grand view out over the sparkling bay.

A gold hunter

Milford and Port Milford were the home ports of over a dozen sloops and schooners, some of very good size, but I do not know how many of these were owned or registered there. Certainly the 13,000 bushel two-master Goldhunter, who left her name and her bones on the Goldhunter Rock in Georgian Bay, had "GOLDHUNTER of MILFORD" across her stern.

She was not built at Port Milford but a mile or two farther north and west, at the mouth of Black River, in 1861. The Hibernia was built in the same place in 1863.

That same year the Jessie Brown, schooner scow, was built at Cooper's Wharf, and the Jennie Lind, about the same time. The Marysburg was rebuilt there from the James Leslie, and one of the Ontario's (the other was built at Wellington) and the S. & J. Collier, and the fast C. Gearing, and the Huron, the county's first three-master.

In 1877 here was built the last Prince Edward three-master, the W.R. Taylor, which became the S.H. Dunn, when rebuilt at Port Robinson after being wrecked on the Ducks in Lake Huron. She followed the Speedwell, of 1875.

The Speedwell was a short, chunky vessel of great carrying capacity. Although she was very hard to steer she could be sailed by a smaller crew but carried as much as some of the three-masters. The latter had to carry two more men.

The W.R. Taylor was a three-masted canal size schooner, but the S.H. Dunn was over a hundred tons larger, for she was lengthened and raised upon and given more sheer and two centreboards and a square topsail. Jack Tait built nearly all of these. He was a wonderful master builder, keeping half a dozen vessels building at once in different parts of the county. Schooner building was then drawing to a close.

Earlier Milford vessels had been the Edith, Capt. Hume, the Anna Maria, built at Rednersville in 1852 and rebuilt at Milford in 1856; and the Flora Jane, round sterned of unknown birthplace. Her bones are under the high bank yet, south of the Fleetwing's. Another Milford vessel, a little one, was the sloop Tom Thumb, built by Capt. Davies or Davis on Wolfe Island in 1852.

What about Toronto?

But we started out to dodge the task of proving that Milford built more vessels than Toronto. We are still dodging it, but come up for air to gasp that in the earliest collected list of lake vessels we have seen – in The Globe, in 1856 – Toronto had forty schooners and "barques" and was down as the building place of thirteen of these. And in W.H. Smith's Canada, 1851, 31 schooners were named as owned in Toronto, and in 1874 this city owned 47.

Passing Hails

Merry Christmas to all who read Schooner Days

Wildwood and Waubuno

From Wildwood, Georgetown, under letterhead which makes one think of Moonstone Creek and the Owl Pen, H.E. Batkin sends a clipping from the Owen Sound Sun-Times, and says: "Knowing by reading your articles in Schooner Days how you enjoy items about the old timers, thought you would be interested in the enclosed about the Waubuno. I enjoy your articles very much and some of them recall vessels I myself remember."

Thanks, Mr. Batkin, we'll have something to say about the Waubuno ourselves when we can catch our voice and the time. W.M. Prentice and others have brought that subject up. We were quite a lad when she was lost, being then all of 6 months old.

Twin screw schooner

F.C. Irwin, 41 Heather road, Leaside, sends a clipping from the Orillia Packet and Times, which has spoken appreciatively of Schooner Days and gives O. Garnet Smith's paper before the Orillia Historical Society. In this Mr. Smith states that the steamer Enterprise, one of our childhood memories of Lake Simcoe, was originally a schooner, built at Rama in 1860, and that she was converted to steam in 1873 and given two propellers, being the only twin-screw steamer on the lake. A schooner's stern was so constructed that it was simpler to use propellers on either side of the rudder than to cut away enough deadwood and sternpost and rudder post for the single propeller-port. We wonder what was the schooner name of the Enterprise. The Lucille Bacon? Someone said she was built at Holland Landing in 1860, although that did not fit in with our information from the Dominion register.

Saint John seeks

George MacBeath, Curator Canadian History, the New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, New Brunswick, writes: "Your article entitled: 'Two Provinces Race Santa Claus' in the November 30, 1946, issue, has recently come to my attention . . . I should greatly appreciate your sending me a copy of the photograph of the barque Cedarcroft mentioned." The trail is four years cold, Mr. MacBeath, but for the sake of that great Canadian ship, Marco Polo, whose relics your museum cherishes, we'll try.

Schooner Days

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