Naval Marine Archive - The Canadian Collection
Library Catalogue Ships database Research Collections Bibliography About us Donate

The steamer Varuna (1880)

1. General

Name: VARUNA Type: Steam screw
Official Number: 72967 Registered: 1880-05-20
Tons (gross): 134.04 Tons (net): 85.20
Where Built: Wolfe Island, Ontario Port of Registry: Picton, Ontario
Build Year: 1880 Value: $6,200
Builder’s Name & Date of Certification: Robert Davis
Master’s Name: Jonathan A. PorteSubscribing Owners: Jonathan A. Porte
Length: 94.40 feet Breadth: 17.00 feet
Depth of Hold: 5.1 feet Masts: None
Stern: round Bowsprit: None
How Built: carvelHow Rigged: Unrigged
Figure-head: NoneDecks: Two

See also the entry for the steam screw VARUNA in our ships Database.

Some of the Hepburn fleet in Picton harbour. The Varuna is in the foreground. Click image to enlarge. (Metcalfe fonds.).


2. Registry entries

3. History

Newspaper and other transcriptions

  1. British Whig (Kingston, ON), March 30, 1880: The new steamer Varuna is to be towed from Wolfe Island to Kingston to have her engine put in her.
  2. British Whig (Kingston, ON), May 3, 1880: Things In General - Capt. Porte's new steamer, the Varuna (Queen of the Sea), will make her trial trip on the 10th of May. She is being finished up at Kingston, and is said to be first class.
  3. British Whig (Kingston, ON), May 18, 1880: The steamers Varuna and Alexandra had a lively race on Saturday from Picton to Belleville. For a time it was very exciting. The Alexandra won, but the captain of the Varuna had to make 3 calls more than its competitor for speed.
  4. British Whig (Kingston, ON), May 21, 1880: The Varuna's Speed - The new passenger steamer, built on Wolfe Island by Capt. Davis, and for which the Kingston Foundry made the engine, is running between Trenton, Belleville and Picton. The Intelligencer calls her handsome, says she is fitted up in a highly convenient manner, and has her driven up to 14 m.p.h.
  5. British Whig (Kingston, ON), Sept. 20, 1880: Letters patent have been issued to Jonathan Porte of Trenton, master of the str. Varuna and James Anderson, Philip Robbins, William Stafford and John Howell, of Ameliasburg, as the Trenton and Bay of Quinte Navigation Company Ltd. with a total capital stock of $8,500.
  6. British Whig (Kingston, ON), Nov. 4, 1880: The bay steamer Varuna has been unfortunate, having again broken her wheel. [Note: the 'wheel' is the propellor. This appears to have been a recurring incident in Varuna's career. Ed.] She was towed to Trenton, there to be fitted out with a new wheel.
  7. British Whig (Kingston, ON), April 3, 1882: The str. Varuna, having lost her wheel, will be towed down from Trenton and a new one put on her.
  8. British Whig (Kingston, ON), Aug. 28, 1882: The steamer Veruna [sic Varuna), with a large passenger list, went up the Bay this morning. The party enjoyed their Sunday at the Thousand Island Park.
  9. British Whig (Kingston, ON), Dec. 11, 1882: Here & There - It is not the steamer Varuna that has been sold to Messrs. Rathbun, but the steamer Armenia, known as the Little Armenia.
  10. British Whig (Kingston, ON), May 17, 1884: 1884 The steamer Varuna broke her shaft while leaving Picton yesterday.
  11. 1884: Directory of the Marine Interests of the Great Lakes: Comprising A Complete List ... shows J A Porte as owner, and the vessel classed as A 2
  12. British Whig (Kingston, ON), 15 Aug 1895: p.1 General Paragraphs - The str. Varuna took the Hero's place on the Bay of Quinte, today, and brought a large number of passengers to the city.
  13. British Whig (Kingston, ON), 5 Feb 1903: p.5 Many Improvements - The improvements to the steamer Varuna will consist of a new boiler, which will carry about 125 pounds of steam more than hitherto; she will be lengthened about five feet, and her bow rebuilt; a new and larger shaft will also be provided. She will be able to steam perhaps a couple of miles more per hour; and also carry a greater number of passengers. Altogether her improvements will be of a very substantial nature. [Picton Gazette]
  14. British Whig (Kingston, ON), 8 Nov 1905 : Day's Episodes - Capt. Hicks, owner of the steamer Varuna, who has recently had the second cancer removed from his chin, is said to be improving.
  15. British Whig (Kingston, ON), 1 Jul 1907: Had A Mishap - The Varuna met with a mishap at Northport, when going down the bay. When in the act of backing out from the dock the engine failed to work, and the vessel drifted on a point near by, with the result that a hole was stove in her bottom, on the starboard side, despite the fact that the anchor was out, but would not hold. She was towed to Deseronto and hauled out for repairs.
  16. British Whig (Kingston, ON), 21 Feb 1908: Capt. Hicks has sold the steamer Varuna, well known on the Bay of Quinte, to Capts. Cooper and Rathbun.
  17. Marine Review (Cleveland, OH), 28 May 1908, p. 23, gives J.E. Rathbun, Trenton, Ontario as owner and captain, and J.E. Eldridge as engineer.
  18. Great Lakes Register 1908 : confirms dimensions, etc, but also gives "builder" as "Davis, Picton, Ontario, and "Owners or managers" as "W.B. Cooper."
  19. British Whig (Kingston, ON), 4 Aug 1908: Amid the 1000 Islands - Travel Not Heavy This Season - Thousand Island Park still won't allow boats to land there on Sundays; rivalry between Folger and Visger boats still exists; steamer America had race with Castanet of the Visger line from Kingston to Clayton; Varuna began making her trips from Belleville and Bay ports to Thousand Island Park.
  20. British Whig (Kingston, ON), 20 Aug 1908: Collided With a Steamer - Belleville, Ont., Aug. 20th - While coming to this port, this morning, the schooner Dundee, when two miles down the bay, was run into by the steamer Varuna and had her port bow stove in. A passenger on the Varuna, R. Smith, had his leg broken. The Varuna was somewhat damaged, but left on her course. The Dundee's damage was about $500.
  21. Buffalo Evening News; Belleville, Ont., Aug. 21, 1908. -- While coming to this port yesterday, the schooner DUNDEE, about two miles from here down the bay was run into by the steamer Varuna, and had her bow stove in. A passenger on the Varuna, Mrs. R. Smith, had a leg broken. The Varuna was somewhat damaged, but left on her course. The damage to the DUNDEE was about $500.
  22. British Whig (Kingston, ON), 2 Jan 1909 : Death of Capt. Hicks - Picton, Ont., Jan. 4th - Capt. Alfred Hicks, one of the best known navigators of the Bay of Quinte district, died on Saturday, aged 59 years. For nearly 25 years he was master of the steamer Varuna, of which he was part owner. He was a native of Prince Edward county and of U.E.I. parentage. A widow survives.
  23. British Whig (Kingston, ON), 5 Jan 1909 : The Funeral of Capt. Hicks - Picton, Jan. 5th - The funeral takes place this afternoon, with Masonic ritual, of the late Capt. Alfred Hicks, one of the best known navigators of the Bay of Quinte, in command of the steamer Varuna for nearly a quarter of a century, who died at his Queen street home on Saturday, after an illness of two years from cancer. The late Capt. Hicks was born on May 22nd, 1849, the youngest of a family of twelve, son of Joseph Hicks and May Minaker. He was born on the old Hicks homestead in North Marysburg, just across from Waupoos Island where first landed his United Empire Loyalist grandparents, who built their home just near the tree under which they camped the first night they spent in Canada, when they left New York state, and whose stump is still to be seen today. Receiving a liberal education, Alfred Hicks qualified for a teacher and for five years taught the school in his home neighborhood and in Wellington.
    His career as a sailor first began in 1881, when he went on the steamer Varuna under the late Capt. Porte. He left the Varuna for a few years to take control of the ferry Mary Ethel, which plied between the Ameliasburg shore and Belleville. With the building of the bay bridge the ferry was discontinued and then he went on the steamer Spartan for a season. Capt. Hicks became master of the Varuna with the death of Capt. Porte, and also bought an interest in the boat. He continued on the Varuna until his health failed him, two years ago. Then he retired, also selling his West Lake farm to come to Picton to reside. Capt. Hicks is survived by his widow, but no family, his two sons having died when young. He also leaves one brother, Capt. Calvin Hicks, of Toronto, and one sister, Mrs. Charles Lacey, of Richford, N.Y.
  24. British Whig (Kingston, ON), 26 Apr 1912 : I.M.C. - scarcity of medium sized passenger vessels - the old Reindeer is no more and the Quinte Queen was sold; the Varuna going on Trenton, Deseronto and Picton route.
  25. Great Lakes Register 1912, p. 173 : Owners or managers - J.E. Rathbun [Given that registered owners were Ontario and Quebec Navigation Company Ltd., Picton, this was a 'Manager' annotation.

References and source notes

(2) Registry: folio 26, folio 86, folio 94, folio 95, from folio 95, folio 124
(3) Gillham, Bascom, Great Lakes Collection, Patrick Labadie, et al.
(4- ... ) As cited in text.

Picton built ships

The research and preparation of many of these data sheets was carried out by K.C. We extend our thanks to him.

Back to the regional search index.

Back to the top of this page.

Source notes are listed at the end of the data.


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 © 2024
Naval Marine Archive
The Canadian Collection

Revised: 8 March 2020