The Antelope

The side wheeler, the Antelope, was built in a shipyard near the location of old Fort Frederick at the foot of King Street West, Carleton, Saint John in 1860. She was built for Small and Hatheway (Union Line) to take the place of the famous steamer, the Reindeer, on the upper river. Launched in April 1861, she was 146 feet long, with a beam of 20 feet long and a capacity of 77 tons. The Tibbets compound engine, having been removed from the Reindeer and thoroughly overhauled, was installed in the new steamer.

The Antelope ran initially between Fredericton and Woodstock. When the water level dropped, she started running from Saint John to Grand Lake and Salmon River. The following spring, when the Antelope returned for a few weeks to the upper river route to Woodstock, she met a rival, the new steamer the Tobique. Both steamers were quite speedy. A race was inevitable. The two rivals left Fredericton one morning at the same time. The Antelope reached Woodstock, forty minutes ahead of the challenger.

On one trip from Fredericton, the Antelope reached Woodstock in five hours and forty minutes and returned in three hours and forty-five minutes. Another time, the Antelope ran from Saint John to Fredericton in five hours and fifty-five minutes and in this time made three wharf stops and twenty-one stops for small boats. Her speed was largely attributable to the Tibbets engine.

With the increase in both population and river traffic practically every settlement of any size had its landing, with the inevitable loungers mixing with those on business to greet the steamboat as she neared the wharf. Where wharves were lacking, people simply used a sturdy rowboat and met the steamer offshore. The captains were noted for their consideration and would stop almost anywhere to pick up an isolated passenger, or a small amount of freight. The late George Gilbert recalled being on a trip down river when just below Oak Point, a large dugout put off from shore to meet the steamer. A deck hand stood near the paddle box and caught the canoe with a boat hook as it drew near. It was then maneuvered against the guard at the gangway on the lower deck where the transfer of a barrel, some parcels, and a portly lady passenger was made to the canoe. It was then cast off and left to toss in the waves sent back by the paddle wheels as the steamboat continued her journey. Unfortunately, the canoe was so low in the water that some of the waves splashed over the gunwales into the lady's lap, and her howls of indignation were heard for some time after.

For this kind of service, the steamboat would sound her whistle well before the stop was made, and a small boat would dart into the river. Once in position, the boat man would rest on his oars with his bow pointing in the direction of the course of the steamer. By then the steamer's engine was stopped, but she continued underway, and the boat slipped past the paddle box where it was seized by boat hooks at bow and stern and pulled against the gang plank which had been let down for convenience. Passengers and freight were transferred quickly, and the boat released to drop astern and be rowed ashore. The steamer's engines had started up almost immediately and only a very few minutes had been required for the stop.

The Antelope maintained the service to Grand Lake and Salmon River until 1869, when the new steamer May Queen took over the route. The Antelope was then sold to D.D.Glasier & Sons who used her for towing lumber and for special excursions and picnic parties. At the close of the 1875 season, she was taken out of service and the famous Tibbets compound engine and other machinery was installed in Glasier's new tugboat Admiral.

In May 1876, the Antelope (engine removed) was towed to South Bay and used as a boarding house by the boom company handling logs. Later, she was taken to Glasiers Landing in Lincoln, below Fredericton and used for the same purpose. A few years later, during the spring freshet, she broke away from her mooring, drifted down river and grounded on the shore at Upper Sheffield. When the high water receded, the owner ordered the Antelope burned, thinking this the easiest way to recover any iron she contained.