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Steamboats of Victoria County, Ontario Canada

Apart from the log dug outs of the pioneers, the first vessel on local waters was the packet boat "Firefly," operated by Reuben Crandell of Port Perry and his son George.

This craft was a roomy sailing skiff, with oars, which, from 1835 to 1845, had a monopoly of the freight and passenger traffic between Port Perry and Lindsay. In 1845 two men, Lasher and Haywood, built a horse boat and ran between "Lasher's" (now Caesarea) and Lindsay. In this way they sought to establish a trade route between Lindsay and Bowmanville. This opposition stirred George Crandell up to building at Port Perry the first steamboat on these inland waters. With the cooperation of Messrs. Chisholm, Rowe, and Cotton, the S. S. "Woodman," a 100-foot side wheeler, was launched on May 24, 1851. The "Woodman" devoured cordwood as fuel and traveled at the rate of eight miles an hour. The horse boat went out of business next day. As a sample of the difficulties encountered by these early ship builders, it might be mentioned that when in 1853 some of the "Woodman's" boiler flues gave way no new flues could be obtained in Toronto and Charles Britton had to send all the way to New York for them.

Between 1853 and 1896 the following additional steamboats were built locally:
1853, S. S. "Ogemah" at Fenelon Falls by Captain Wallis;
1885, S. S. "Firefly" at Bridgenorth by Captain Sawyers;
1860, S. S. "Scugog" at Mud Lake by Capt. Kelly;
1861, S. S. "Lady Ida" at Port Perry;
1863, S. S. "Ranger" at Lindsay by Capt. Geo. Crandell;
1863, S. S. "Novelty" at Ball Lake by Mr. Henry;
1864, S. S. "Anglo-Saxon" at Lindsay by Capt. Crandon;
1867, S. S. Victoria"; 1867, S. S.. "Commodore" by Capt. Crandell;
1868, S. S. "Champion" by Capt. Crandell;
1870, S. S. "Coboconk" at Coboconk by Hay and Treleavin;
1870, S. S. "Sampson No. 1," a side wheeler built by Mr. McFadden at Coboconk and hauled down over the Fenelon Falls dam by Capt. Crandell;
1870, S. S. "Sampson No. 2," at Ball Lake by Scott and Son;
1872, S. S. "Mary Ellen" at Lindsay by Capt. Crandell;
1872, S. S. "Victoria," later the "Historian," by Tate and Hall;
1873, S. S. "Vanderbilt," a 130-foot vessel with the first walking beam engine seen on these waters, built at Lindsay by Capt. Crandell;
1880, S. S. "Eva," by Capt. Crandell;
1880, S. S. "Beaubocage";
1884, S. S. "Esturion," by Mossom Boyd, of Bobcaygeon;
1884, S. S. "Maple Leaf" built by Parker Davis, later owned by Capt. Bottum;
1884, S. S. "Dominion," a stern wheeler built at Port Hoover by Capt. Savage;
1885, S. S. "Stranger," at Lindsay by Capt. Crandell;
1885, S. S. "Dominion" at Lindsay by Burk Bros.;
1886, S. S. "Water Witch" at Lindsay by H. Dunsford;
1886, S. S. "Alice-Ethel" at Lindsay by Thos. Sadler;
1888, S. S. "Louise" at Port Perry by Mr. Bowman;
1891, S. S. "Crandella" at Lindsay by Capt. Crandell;
1893, S. S. "Marie Louise" at Lindsay by Jos. Parkin;
1893, S. S. "Columbian" at Lindsay by Capt. McCamus;
1896, S. S. "Greyhound (later the "Kathleen") at Lindsay by Thomas Sadler.

Later boats have been the "City of Lindsay," "Kenosha," "Manita," "Alexandra," (later the "Arthur C.") "Bessie Butler, "Wacouta," and "Lintonia."

It was an amazing fact that until 1898 Port Hope, on Lake Ontario, was the nearest port of registration for vessels. In other words all boats built at Lindsay and elsewhere on the Kawartha waters had to be marked "of Port Hope." In 1898 this absurdity was abolished by making Lindsay a port of registration.

Steamboats on local waters have performed two functions; first, that of assisting in the timber trade; and second, that of carrying passengers and freight. From 1850 to 1880 the exploitation of the forests of the districts was at its height and the steamers' chief work lay in the towing of immense cribs of logs and a multitude of lumber barges. From 1880 to 1910, passenger traffic grew in importance. The two chief steamship companies during this period were the Trent Valley Navigation Company, organized in 1883 with M. M. Boyd as its first president, and the Kawartha Lakes Excursion Company, founded in 1902 by Joseph Parkin and John Carew.

The steamboat traffic has dwindled away, however. One by one the older boats have been destroyed by fire, and the recent advent of power launches has reduced passenger traffic to a minimum and rendered steamers almost superfluous. Only one steamboat, the "Lintonia," now runs on the Scugog, where navigation was once so active. The first local power launch was G. H. Grantham's "Put Put," brought in during the nineties. By 1909 there were 75 motor boats in Lindsay.

Future of Trent Valley Canal

The only possible justification of the twenty million dollars spent on the Trent Valley Canal will come from
(1) water power supplied;
(2) through traffic that may develop and
(3) a carefully planned revival of lumbering through reforestration.

The importance of using the back lakes of the Trent watershed as reservoirs by which to regulate water flow and maintain ample water supplies for lumbering, navigation, and electric power generation is now fully recognized. The Ontario government built a few scattered dams among these headwaters in the sixties in order to assist lumbering operations. It was not until 1905, however, when the Federal Government was ceded control of all such works, that systematic management of water flow was set up by the construction of an extensive system of concrete dams. This eliminates the destructive spring freshets and guarantees a steady flow of water through out the year.

The development of any extensive trans-provincial traffic through the Trent System is very problematical. Provision is being made for navigation by barges of 500 tons burden. The multiplicity of locks and the circuitousness of the channel, however, will make it but little quicker than the Welland Canal route, by which tran-shipment is unnecessary; while if speed is desired, the C.P.R. grain line from Port McNicholl has the canal far outpaced.

When we consider the question of local freight, we find the canal built fifty years too late. Timber would have been the only considerable freight and until 1918 the canal system had no outlet to the main water systems of Ontario. If such a canal, worked on a basis of cheap transportation, had been in existence from 1850 on, it would have made possible more conservative logging, closer utilization of material by mills along the route, greater profit for all, and the management of the lumbering business in perpetuity. As it was, the timber was cut in a wasteful manner owing to the cost of transportation, and today the forests are practically exhausted. Only careful re-forestration under responsible control can redeem the situation.

About 1878, the late George Laidlaw of Bexley prophesied that the Trent Canal would ultimately cost $20,000,000 and suggested that far more profit would result from spending that amount on the scientific improvement of live stock in Ontario. His estimate was greeted with universal laughter and incredulity. Today he stands absolutely vindicated, and many would likewise agree completely as to the wisdom of his recommendations.

Kawartha Navigation

Victoria County


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