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Steamboat Connections

Steamboat Connections: Montreal to Upper Canada, 1816-1843

Frank Mackey
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    Steamboat Connections
    Book Description:

    He shows how, starting in 1841, small steamers ran "the circuit" - down the rapids of the St Lawrence to Montreal and then back up to Kingston and other Great Lakes ports via the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal. Mackey introduces the entrepreneurs who forged this important link between Montreal and the nation's interior and chronicles the course of their industry, correcting previous misinterpretations. He sheds light not only on steamboats but also on the social, commercial, and geographical development that they made possible. He shows that the history of this country, a land with vast expanses and a harsh climate, cannot be fully appreciated without looking at the different modes of transportation that made it possible.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6846-4
    Subjects: Transportation Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Dead in the Water
    (pp. 3-23)

    When Robert Fulton successfully tried hisSteamboat(later called theClermont) on the Hudson River of New York in August 1807, he launched the steamboat era in North America. Early the next year theSteamboat’spilot, James Winans, and his older brother, ship carpenter John Winans, who had helped build Fulton’s boat, moved from Poughkeepsie, New York, to Vermont, where they established a shipyard in association with British expatriate Joseph Lough,¹ a founder by trade. At Burlington they set to building the first steamer on Lake Champlain. Their 125-footVermont,powered by a second-hand engine of 20 horsepower - and...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Years of Perseverance
    (pp. 24-51)

    For any disillusioned shareholder in theOttawawho might have read it, Robert Gourlay’sStatistical Account of Upper Canada,published in London in 1822, contained a cruelly ironic statement. “There is, at the extremity of that part of Ottawa river, called the lake of Two Mountains, a considerable current, but not such as to impede navigation,” Gourlay wrote, “and when I left Canada, it was said that a small steam boat was established, to ply regularly from La Chine, near Montreal, to the lower part of Hawkesbury township.”¹ Gourlay had left Canada in August 1819. By the time his book appeared,...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Horace Dickinson and the “Yankee Swarm”
    (pp. 52-71)

    The cholera of 1832, carried from the British Isles to the St Lawrence aboard jam-packed immigrant ships, raced up the St Lawrence slaying thousands in its path from 8 June, when the first case appeared at Quebec, until the epidemic petered out in the fall.¹ It was a quick killer. Benjamin Thatcher, for example, an innkeeper and stage owner, left Montreal for the United States on Saturday, 16 June, thinking to outrun the scourge. He made it to St John’s, all of twenty miles away, where he died the next day.²

    Horace Dickinson had not counted on the cholera, but...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR New Beginnings
    (pp. 72-93)

    At the time when theOttawabegan plying on Lake St Louis and John Ward’s first Canadian-made engine propelled theMontrealacross the St Lawrence to La Prairie, Horace Dickinson had yet to make the jump from land to water transport. But like his brother, who had introduced a two-horse carriage and passenger service on his New York mail run, he too innovated. In the published digest of his reminiscences, Jedediah Dorwin says:

    The vehicles then in use were ordinary carts and trucks, and, for driving, the calèche, a clumsy one horse carriage with two wheels and a spring seat....

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Coming to Grips
    (pp. 94-105)

    Drawn by the potential of the Ottawa-Rideau route, the moneyed men of Montreal left Horace Dickinson in peace on the St Lawrence. He did encounter some competition on Lake St Louis in 1828-29. Strangely enough, two of his American cousins were involved. Though mostly of a small, local nature, the challenges were sufficiently important in his eyes to call for special measures.

    Some of the more active residents of Châteauguay and the seigneury of Beauharnois, seeking to improve trade and transportation links with Montreal, had been exploring the possibility of acquiring a boat to provide ferry service between Châteauguay and...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Swan Song, 1832
    (pp. 106-119)

    In 1831 Horace Dickinson was taking the first steps in a plan to revamp his steamboat service and extend it to a part of the river previously thought out of bounds. But as far as the public was concerned, nothing much changed on the line that year. The horse boatExperimentfound a buyer in James Wait, who held the ferry rights between Longueuil and the foot of the St Mary’s Current, as the shore of the St Mary suburb of Montreal was called. On 6 April, Dickinson sold Wait his 84½ shares in the boat and its equipment -...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN The Rideau Jitters
    (pp. 120-147)

    To some a promise, to others a threat, the Rideau Canal officially opened at the end of May 1832, just before the cholera struck. Colonel John By and a select party, including Robert Drummond, inaugurated the new waterway, sailing from Kingston to Bytown in Drummond’s steamerRideaubetween 24 and 29 May. At Smiths Falls the inhabitants saluted her passage by firing a cannon until it burst. TheRideau, which had served as a work boat on the canal since 1829, reached Bytown the same day that theUnionentered the locks, headed in the opposite direction.¹

    A timely endorsement...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT A Clearing of the Decks
    (pp. 148-165)

    Cholera epidemics, political tensions, business competition, and the rivalry between St Lawrence and Ottawa-Rideau interests, all capped by the Rebellions of 1837-38, combined to make the 1830s a tumultuous time of attrition. By the end of the decade, such pioneers of inland steam as Horace Dickinson, Emery Gushing, Thomas Mears, James Greenfield, William McMaster, Robert Drummond, and Thomas Turner had all passed away. Even John Molson had died of old age in January 1836, his passing, perhaps more than any other, symbolizing a changing of the guard.

    It was not just individuals who vanished. Samuel Crane testified before a parliamentary...

  13. CHAPTER NINE Miniature Steamers and Short Circuits
    (pp. 166-196)

    TheOntario’ssuccessful run down to Montreal overshadowed her equally significant failure: she never ran up and down the Long Sault as she was meant to do. She marked the last serious - and futile - effort to introduce two-way steamboat traffic through a major rapid of the St Lawrence. The fact that John Hamilton made - and abandoned - the effort is indicative of the spirit that prevailed as the gloom of the late 1830s began to lift. After several years of stunted progress and eruptive discontents, there was an impatient determination to break down, or circumvent, long-standing barriers...

  14. Appendix A: THE VAUDREUIL LOCK
    (pp. 197-199)
  15. Appendix B: INVENTORY OF THE SWAN, 1832
    (pp. 200-204)
    (pp. 205-206)
    (pp. 207-207)
    (pp. 208-210)
  19. Abbreviations Used in the Sources
    (pp. 211-212)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 213-344)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 345-366)
  22. Index
    (pp. 367-383)