Steamboat Stories

A Close Shave for the Hampstead

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


On a beautiful summer morning in 1897 the steamer Hampstead, with about 50 passengers on-board was on her way down river. She made a boat stop at Watters Landing to pick up the parks people.

Captain Mabee writes, " I was at the small boat steps and rang the bell to go ahead. We were running perhaps two minutes when I heard the steamer David Weston blow one short blast. Our wheelsman Howard Belyea answered with one short blast. One look convinced me that the Hampstead could not cross the bow of the David Weston that was coming up close to Purdy's Point at a full 14 miles per hour. I expected nothing but a crash. I ran as fast as I could from the main deck for the wheel house. When I got to the saloon door on the starboard side and opened it, I saw the Weston going by at full speed in the opposite direction and not over two feet away. But for the speed of the two boats going in opposite directions I could easily have reached out and shaken hands with her passengers. One glance told me that the steamers were parallel and the Purdy's Point spar buoy was right between them. The real danger was past.

I went to the wheel house. There were too many of Howard's old friends in there with him. When he saw that he could not clear Purdy's Point and cross the bow of the Weston he turned hard to port. The Hampstead was very quick to respond to her helm and came around to save her life. A bad accident was narrowly averted. Quite likely I spoke sharply to Howard because he got "put out" at me and he left soon after. I was fully one week before I got over the shock."

It may interest readers to know there are good replicas of the steamers Hampstead and David Weston in the New Brunswick Museum.


A Crank, a Bear, but an Engingeer

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


The steamer Sincennes pronounced "Sin sens" was bought in Montreal by Mr. D.J.Purdy for the St. John River service.

Her name appeared in the Saint John papers before the public had heard the pronunciation and people reading the name pronounced it "Sin sen ease" and that is what she was called throughout her life on the St. John River.

Captain Mabee writes:

"A crank, a bear, but an engineer was Beverly Evans. It was my lot to spend two years with engineer Evans. There was fun right from the start. The year 1909 found a Mr. Jones as engineer fitting out the Sincennes for Mr. Purdy. Mr. Jones had an infected big toe which kept getting worse. It forced him to the hospital where he died. Mr. Purdy had to replace him with Evans who it seems was the only engineer available. Bev Evans felt at home right away. He had been on the tugboat Hope and the engines were much the same.

Bev worked alone for a few days when Mr. Purdy sent a big foreign looking man to me to introduce to Bev as his fireman. His name was Bill Marshall. I soon learned that he owed a grocery bill at Mr. Purdy's store. I took him to the engine room where Bev was working and introduced him to Bev as his new fireman. Bev went in the air at once. He put that wild eye on Marshall and shouted, "Get the hell out of here". In the end, Bev had to take him until the groceries were paid for. Then he got the man that he wanted, a Charles Coleman from Shannon.

The next two weeks went by quickly. Bev and Coleman were both good workers and knew their machinery well. I only went near the engine room when circumstances demanded and I was glad that Mr. Purdy did not come around. Those two men soon had the engine in good condition and I felt confident that they would be ready for the opening of navigation.

When Mr. Purdy heard that the ice was out at Grand Bay, he wanted to take the steamer out for a trial trip. He asked me to tell this to the engineer. I never thought that Mr. Purdy was afraid of anyone or anything but I believe that he was really a little timid about talking to Bev Evans.

I told Bev that Mr. Purdy wanted to take the Sincennes out for a trial trip and Bev flew into a tantrum. "Trial trip", said he, "What the hell do I want of a trial trip? I put this thing together and I know she will turn over". But in the end Mr. Purdy had his way.

One fine day we went to Grand Bay. Bev ran the boat about eight miles per hour and told me it was the best he could do. (He was ugly).

After our return Mr. Purdy came to me. He was feeling blue. "Captain", said he. "I am very much disappointed after spending so much money. Bev deceived me completely". I was blue also. All this time there was not a word from Bev.

Well, the river opened. The Sincennes was loaded and ready so we let the lines go and started. Mr. Purdy was there to see her away. Bev drove her very slowly until we were out of sight beyond the Point. Then I felt her come to life and surge ahead and I immediately felt much better. We made Browns Flat in one hour and 45 minutes. I went below and told Bev she was doing nicely. Said he, "What do I want of a trial trip. She will go alright. When I put an engine together I don't worry about her turning over."


I must take you back about three days after Bev started work. Mr. Purdy came to the boat one day to see what Bev wanted. When he showed up at the engine room door Bev said, "Mr. Purdy you are a very lucky man". Mr. Purdy asked what he meant. Bev answered, "Well, when that man Jones died he saved your boat, she would never have gone up river".


Now we jump to the fall. Mrs. Evans came on board before we left Coles Island. Our purser Will MacDonald asked for her fare and she said, "I am the wife of the chief engineer and he will pay my way." Will came and told me and I said do whatever you think is right. He went down to Bev for the money. As expected Bev went in the air. He said, "I have no wife - no money here - won't pay a cent".

Will returned to Mrs. Evans and got her promise to pay on her return trip. She had the money on the return trip.

One night a little later in the fall I was at West's store at Coles Island and saw some men reading a poster. I went up and read: Wanted. Man or men to cut 20 cords of hardwood on the property of Mrs. Bev Evans. No cash will be paid but the wages can be taken up in fire wood. No interference by Mr. Evans.

Well, no one would take her up on the deal. Mrs. Evans put up the poster and signed her name. I kept my ear to the ground and soon learned that the barn was being taken down piece by piece and burned for fire wood.

From the foot of Coles Island one could see the Evans place quite nicely. I had my binoculars and kept watching it every trip. When there was quite a hole showing I asked Bev if he had noticed the big hole in his barn. He said that he had not seen it and then he added: "It must be that woman burning it for fire wood." He notified her to stop but the barn kept going. Bit by bit she burned the whole barn.


I would like to take you back a few months to mid summer. The Scott Act to control liquor had become law and the inspector was aboard every week. Beverly used to have a vial in his room and one day the inspector found it and took it. Bev came to me. I told him I could do nothing. Bev said if he only had a little warning it could have been avoided. I went to Jim Hastings and made plans with him to wave a table cloth out his door every time the inspector was on the wharf at Hampstead. Bev did not lose any more.


Bev Evans had lost his good job as engineer on the David Weston. Beverly Evans was a fanatic about keeping a steamboat on time, a good trait to be sure, if not carried too far.

One trip when coming from Fredericton they had made only a few stops and were actually ahead of their regular time. Bev saw it as an opportunity for a record run. He watched the steam gauge in the engineer room very carefully but kept pacing the deck from there to the gangway.

A man stood on the wharf at Evandale frantically waving for the David Weston to stop but Bev thought otherwise. The big gong in the engine room sounded for the engine to stop but Bev did not make any move even to reduce speed. Very quick work in the wheelhouse averted what might have been a bad crash. Mr. George F. Baird, the General Manager replaced Bev the following trip.


One time when on the Sincennes we were coming down river in a northeaster and making good time. We were approaching Browns Flat and due to a little carelessness on my part the northeast wind caught her stern and blew it away from the wharf. The result was that we had to make a "round turn" and come again toward the wharf.

I did not go down on the main deck again until we were down at the foot of the Long Reach. Bev was walking back and forth between the gangways. I went up to him and remarked "Well, we are getting along nicely." He burst out with, "What the hell do you mean by losing eight minutes at Browns Flat. No use of me trying to make time if you are going to bungle it that way." He did not speak to me again for three days.


Bev and Mr. Purdy had a "falling out" and Bev went to work for the Saint John Iron Works. The next that I heard, he was boarding upstairs in the Pidgeon building (corner of Main and Bridge streets) and in poor health with cancer. I went to see him twice and I could see that he was a very sick man. Soon after that he was transferred to the Home for Incurables and died a few weeks later.

A Dark Night for the Hampstead

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


The steamer Hampstead on her way up river had just left Palmers Point.

Captain Fred Mabee writes:

"We had a passenger to land at J.O.VanWarts - a boat stop, now Evandale. It was the ebb tide so we kept close to the interval of the western shore to get the benefit of the slack water. Almost immediately we started giving one long blow of the whistle to call the required row boat to meet us and take the passenger ashore.

William Whelpley was at the wheel. I was on the main deck talking to H. Andrews, the engineer, when the crash occurred. I ran forward and saw the tugboat Nereid backing out of the hole she had made in our starboard side. She had smashed right into our firehold. On the bow of the Nereid was a length of the Hampstead's iron guard wrapped around her bow and fitted as well as a blacksmith could have done.

The water was pouring in the bilge where a seven inch plank just below the water had been broken in. The Hampstead had trimmers (barrels filled with sand or gravel) which we quickly rolled to the port side and thus brought the broken plank on the starboard side slightly above the surface of the inpouring river water.

I looked at once and saw that all lights on both boats were showing properly. Both boats were quite close to shore and in water about 40 feet deep. Captain Price of the Nereid accused us of keeping to port after giving one blast of the whistle, but our sounding of the whistle was a long blow calling for a row boat and not the short blast used in signalling direction being taken.

Slowly we made our way to Wickham. At 5 am Sunday I was up and at the job of removing the broken planks. With some spare lumber that we carried and the help of brothers Arn and Hal and deckhands we had the repairs completed and the Hampstead seaworthy by 9 pm.

On Monday as we approached the wharf in Saint John, we saw a number of people on the wharf who were waiting to see the hole in the Hampstead - but there was no hole. I reported the accident and repairs to Inspector Olive. He, after examining our work, told us to keep running and, after the close of navigation to add a couple of long planks to strengthen the weak spot.

About a week later we received a bill for $15 for repairs to the Nereid. Father did not think that we should pay anything but Capt. Price kept insisting. And father, being quite bad with heart trouble, told me to pay the bill. The repairs to the Hampstead amounted to about $100."

A Horse in the Stokehold

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


Around the turn of the century there were only dirt roads in the lower St. John River valley, no cars, no bridges, and no ferries as such. The steamboats would take a passenger across the river for twenty five cents.

For several years the steamer Hampstead ran a suburban service leaving Wickham early each morning and returning later the same day. Hampstead was one of her most important stops.

Captain Mabee writes:

"One day in the year 1900, the steamer Hampstead, enroute to Wickham, had stopped at Hampstead to discharge some cargo. A medicine man with a span of fiery light horses and a wagon wanted to go across the river to Wickham.

I saw the dance of those horses and I told the man it was risky but it was up to him. If he wanted to take the chance we would do the best that we could.

They were started aboard one behind the other. We just had them nicely up in the bow when one started backing and backed right through the preventer bar, which was 4" x 6", and down he went plunk into the fire hold. By good fortune the fireman was up on deck. When I looked down I could see that the horse pretty well filled the hold and was lying with his neck and head against the furnace door. The door was not hot enough to burn. The horse weighed around ten hundred.

"Well, well," said I, "How in the devil am I going to get you out of that hole?" We came to the conclusion that we would have to haul him out by the head. The hold was six feet deep. We slipped four deck planks to the fire hold floor. They stood nearly upright. We had lots of help. The farmers all agreed that his head and neck were good for it. We had a good line around his neck and the crowd started to haul which brought him to his feet.

Well Don, everyone roared when they looked at him standing in the hold. We put the strain on again and his neck held out and soon we had him standing on the main deck none the worse for caper.

Today after all these many years, I can still see him very much subdued standing quietly in the stoke hold.

Journeys end nears but how memory continues."

A Morning at the Beach

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor.

Ben Ken walked slowly across the sandy beach and out on Victoria Wharf to meet the steamer Oconee that was on her way from Wickham to Saint John. When the Oconee came to the wharf a man dressed in a business suit came ashore. He was a stranger so Ben did not take any further notice and resumed his usual spot on the beach.

Two girls in bathing suits strolling along the sandy shore took his attention for a few minutes but not for long. There was no wind to even ripple the surface of the beautiful river. The sun had warmed the sand where Ben was lying. He was quite comfortable and he dozed off.

He must have slept quite a while. He awakened to see the stranger standing near and smiling down at him. It did not take long for conversation to develop. The stranger was interested in how Ben spent his time and especially so when Ben mentioned fishing. Ben was very pleased to meet such an interesting fellow and proceeded to tell of his wonderful catches of salmon.

The stranger remarked that he thought that the salmon fishing season was over for the year but Ben proceeded to tell him how he outwitted the fish warden. He knew just about when to expect the fish warden to come around in his boat with a hook rigged over the stern that would hook a fish net, but Ben weighted his nets so that they would be a few feet below the surface and the warden's hook would pass over them.

Ben did not notice that the stranger was writing something in a little book. Then the stranger said, "I guess you don't know who I am. Well, I am James Belyea the Fish Warden for Long Reach and southern New Brunswick".

Suddenly Ben Ken jumped to his feet, his body trembling with emotion and his face red with rage. At first there was just a jumble of words and then he shouted, "I guess you don't know who I am either. Well, I'll tell you who I am. I am the damnedest biggest (blankety blank) liar on the whole St. John River or anywhere else".

A Purser's Early Lessons

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor from his book "From The Splash Of The Paddlewheel", 1985.


As a young purser I had much to learn. Jacob Mills a farmer from Victoria Wharf had traveled with us all spring and early summer and now and then had a few packages of freight. One morning he came to the Oconee at Victoria Wharf saying he expected a two wheel cart to come up on the boat that night and he would meet the boat and pay the freight charges. The cart arrived as expected and after seeing it I assessed $1.50 freight charges. Mills was not at the wharf but we landed the cart anyway thinking Mills would soon be around. The next morning on our down river trip we stopped at Victoria Wharf. The cart was gone and I didn't see Mills for over four years.

The company had lost $1.50 plus a customer for several years and I learned a very valuable lesson.

Another small time farmer, Harry Hinks, came aboard the boat at Glenwood that same spring with twelve bags of potatoes. We charged twenty-five cents per barrel freight on potatoes and other vegetables and trusted to the honesty of the farmer to tell us how many barrels were contained in the bags. When Harry told me there were four barrels I didn't believe him, so I told him I wanted to buy four barrels of potatoes, and asked him how much he wanted per barrel for them. He hesitated for a moment and mumbled something about their being "spoken for". I simply charged him freight on eight barrels (my estimate) and there was no argument.

A Race Between the Hampstead and Olivette

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


Captain Mabee writes:

"About the last of the reign of Geo F. Baird (as Manger) he placed the steamer Olivette on a daily trip between Colwell Creek and Saint John. The time of the Hampstead and the Olivette at various stops was much the same.

It was race, race every day. In the smooth water the Olivette was the faster boat but in rough water the Hampstead could take the lead.

The race I am about to describe was from Saint John to Hampstead running into a northeaster. The Olivette took the lead in leaving and she was still ahead at Boars Head. Of course I could not get by.

I remember well Capt. W.H.Watters asking Capt. Dingee to "give the little boat a show" but no, he held on. As we were getting close to the Island I had to stop or go ashore.

I stopped the Hampstead, steered to port and then full speed ahead. In no time we were along side and then ahead and took the lead.

When we turned the foot of the Long Reach it was all white water. Neither steamer had many stops. At Browns Flat the Hampstead was about three miles ahead. Making Wickham we were fifty minutes ahead of the Olivette.

I made up my mind to give an account of the race to the daily paper the "Sun". I wrote it out and took it to the office of the Sun the following day. I was assured that it would be published just as soon as space was available. Little did I know of the influence of Geo F. Baird. I kept asking the Sun office but the answer was always the same "No space". Such is politics.

Well Capt. Robert Dingee and I had a lot of races but he won most of them. I could beat him in a fog as I had the courses down pat and kept running them with the flood tide, the ebb tide, and also with slack water. Also in heavy weather, the Hampstead was a wonder in a gale. One time she made her trip when both the David Weston and the Star remained tied up, but she did roll down pretty well. In memory I can still see Esquire Palmer holding on to the windward rail as a northwest squall struck her off Oak Point and the late L.S.VanWart crying "Turn her about Captain or I will lose everything I am worth. Go back, go back to town." Mayhap I did not know the danger but we never turned back.

The performance of the steamer Hampstead was probably due to several things. In a head wind the superstructure of the Olivette together with her paddle wheels retarded her forward movement considerably. Secondly Fred Mabee was one of the best captains on the river. He recorded his compass reading from place to place and running time and did this with flood tide, ebb tide, and slack water. He also noted wind direction and strength. He practiced these continually until he had complete confidence in his boat and himself. Consequently in fog he could keep nearer to his schedule than some of his contemporaries.

There are many places that call for a gradual turn followed by a sharp change in direction. A half minute difference in time in shallow water could cause real trouble.

After the Hampstead was destroyed by fire her engine was salvaged, overhauled and placed in the Premier.

It was a fore and aft steeple compound. Really two compound engines placed one ahead of the other but each connected to its own crank and at the propeller shaft these cranks were placed at right angles to each other which made for a smooth running piece of machinery, with very little vibration. Each of the fore and aft engines were compound, the steam used twice, first in the high pressure cylinder (upright) above a larger low pressure cylinder (also upright) placed like a steeple. The piston rod connected to the piston in the high pressure cylinder above ran right through the piston and cylinder below and was connected to the crank extending to the propeller shaft. The after engine was of course the same. The whole assembly for its era was very efficient.

In 1921, Captain Fred Mabee bought a quarter interest in the Premier and took command and so he was again shipmates with the former engine of the Hampstead.

A Strange Bedfellow

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


For years Captain and Mrs. Mabee had enjoyed a cordial relationship with Mr. and Mrs. J.A. Dougan of Hampstead. Mrs. Dougan had a standing invitation to stay with the Mabees on her occasional trips to Saint John. One of these visits was in mid November, 1915.

It just happened that a Mrs. Conrad came to Saint John by steamboat the same day with three dressed pigs which she quickly sold to Slipp and Flewelling for $90.

Now Mrs. Conrad was quite unfamiliar with Saint John and city ways. Never before had she seen that much money, let alone have it in her hand as her own. She did not know anyone in Saint John but she decided it would be alright to visit Mrs. Mabee and tell of her great fortune.

This she did but as the evening advanced it became quite evident to Mrs. Mabee that Mrs. Conrad expected to stay the night. This presented a problem for Mrs. Mabee. Her two guests were really complete strangers but she diplomatically explained to the two women that she only had one "spare room" but they were both welcome if they would share the double bed. The answer was "yes" and it was decided that Mrs. Dougan would sleep on the inside next to the wall.

About 6am the following morning a very distraught Mrs. Dougan burst into the kitchen and said to Mrs. Mabee: "That women must take me for a thief. I was almost asleep when she got out of bed, turned on the light. opened her purse and counted money for quite awhile. That performance occurred three times during the night. I could not sleep at all. That woman must think that I intend to steal her $90. Well, I don't want any of her precious pig money and I can not think of any explanations for such antics."

Mrs. Mabee explained to Mrs. Dougan that Mrs. Conrad was quite unaccustomed to handling money and to suddenly have that much in her possession was just too much for her.

Mrs. Dougan seemed convinced and really relieved to know that the unusual performance was in no way directed at her.

Mrs. Mabee soon had breakfast ready and the three women sat down together. Mrs. Mabee kept the conversation going. With a good breakfast and plenty of coffee the whole situation improved immensely.

A Sunday Tow

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


Captain Fred Mabee writes:

"I must take you back to late in the summer of 1886 when I was a boy of 17 and the fireman of the tugboat Novelty.

The new dredge "New Dominion" had left Hatfield Point for the foot of Grand Lake to deepen the long dredge track at the foot of the lake. The tugboat Novelty of course went along to tow the mud scows. Each night and Sundays she tied up at Jemseg.

On a fine Sunday afternoon I walked up to Jemseg Corner, chiefly, I might say to watch the girls going by. A wagon from up the lake stopped at the corner. Three men got out and asked me where they could find the captain of the tugboat. They said that the steam yacht Dream was aground on a bar in Douglas Harbour and they wanted the tug to tow her off.

I made up my mind not to go on that trip. Maybe the girls had something to do with it. The three men found the captain and up he came to the corner looking for the fireman. "Come and raise steam", said he. "No, I guess I won't", I replied. "Oh, yes you will", said he. "These men are in trouble and they are willing to pay".

I said, "I don't believe I will work all day Sunday for fun". After some talk the men agreed to pay the tug $20 and the Captain Harry Lyons agreed that half of that would be for the crew thus making $3.33 for the fireman. We raised steam and with Captain Chip Colwell as pilot we headed for Douglas Harbour where the yacht was aground.

Some of her fuel (coal) had been taken ashore and the water drained from her boiler thus making the tow job an easy one for the Novelty. We placed her alongside the wharf. By this time it was good and dark. The engineer of the Dream wanted their boiler filled with water so our engineer, Archie Cook, a red headed Scotsman, made the connections and I operated the pump.

While the boiler was being filled our captain and engineer were invited below to the cabin of the yacht. By the time the boiler was full, two thirds of the crew of the Novelty could well be described with the same words and were unfit for duty. I might say that the party consisted of W.H.Thorne (the founder of the company that bore his name) and some of his gentlemen friends, no ladies.

It was decided that we should lie to for an hour or two and then Captain Chip Colwell took charge and away went the Novelty to Jemseg arriving there before daylight.

On Monday, Captain Lyon paid me $3.33 for my work and I felt quite elated. As my wages were only $16 per month that made a nice addition. Being so unusual I looked at it hard several times.

A Washington Pie Brings a Black Eye

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


Captain Mabee relates:

"The headquarters of the steamer Hampstead was Hampstead, Queens County. From there she made a trip to Saint John each morning and returned in the afternoon.

Mrs. L.S. VanWart of Wickham convinced Capt. Gillis Mabee that he could pick up more traffic by making Wickham the terminal point. The steamer Star was very popular with the people in that area and sometimes there was no one on the wharf that would hook our line. We would have to tie up the steamer ourselves. Also my brothers, Arn and Hal , were courting Wickham lassies and that did not help any.

One Saturday night there was a "pie social" at the Wickham school. The building was filled and all seemed to be enjoying themselves when suddenly SMASH went a soft pie in the face of brother Arn. In two jiffs he was on top of a desk and dared the man who threw the pie to come outside. No one answered. The evening was spoiled for the crew of the Hampstead and we left almost immediately.

One week went by and Arn got the name of the man that threw the pie. A week or two after, on our upward trip, we were approaching Wickham wharf. As usual, Arn held the line in his hand, ready to jump ashore and hook its hook in the ring bolt.

On the wharf there sat the man in a high wagon with his back to the steamer. Arn knew him to be the chap that threw the pie. Arn dropped the line and made a jump for the wharf. In seconds he had the man by the collar, hauled him out over the back of the wagon and smacked him two or three times in the face. He was no match for Arn so Otis Bostwick, who was on the wharf, started to help his friend. My good wife, who was the cook on the Hampstead, could not bear to see two men attacking her brother-in-law so she picked up a stick and brought it down on the back of Otis Bostwick.

Big William McCrea from Bald Hill took a hand and parted them but was willing to see fair play - one at a time. No one offered so the fight was over.

Bob Wilson kept in the house for three weeks. Poor eyesight. Year 1895.

Baptism

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor.


As there were quite a number of Baptists living in the area of Washademoak Lake it was a fairly common practice to have several new church members baptized at the one ceremony and with baptism by immersion in the water of Washademoak Lake. Occasionally these baptisms took place early in the spring when there was still ice in the lake and it was found necessary to cut quite a large hole in the ice in order to perform the ceremony which usually took place along the side of a wharf or where there was a gradual slope of the beach to the water.

Jim Stillman, a school boy, had witnessed a baptism of this nature at MacDonald's Point and a few days later, on his way home from school, saw a neighbor's cat on the road. He noticed that the ditch at the side of the road was full of water and coated with ice. He thought this would be an excellent opportunity for another baptism. Jim had not heard the minister's words clearly, nevertheless he picked up the cat , stomped a hole in the ice with his heel and very solemnly said, "I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and into the hole he goes."

The poor cat came out cold and wet, and I later heard that Jim was duly reprimanded for his treatment of the neighbor's pet, and also he was given further instructions regarding wording and the purpose of the Holy Sacrament of Baptism.


Beware the Sandbar

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor.

It was early summer 1913. A strong easterly wind was blowing down the Long Reach. The steamer Champlain was going toward Carters Point. As she neared the wharf the very strong easterly wind struck her broadside and carried her down river before she was even abreast of the wharf. This sort of thing did happen occasionally even with the best of captains.

Captain Wasson circled around to make another attempt. This time he kept closer to the shore and with the bow of the steamer heading a little more into the wind. He also came in a little faster so that the wind would have less opportunity to carry the Champlain sideways away from the wharf.

This time everything looked better and Captain Wasson was sure that he had control but just as the Champlain reached the critical point there was a sudden lull in the wind. The wind did not alter her direction as expected and the steamer Champlain headed straight into the sand beach off Carters Point. There she rested securely until a tugboat came to her aid. There was not any damage whatever only the delay of several hours.

Naturally Captain Wasson felt chagrined to have his steamer go aground on a prominent sand bar in the Long Reach and in full daylight. Of course some jokes were tossed his way, particularly by Capt. Odbur Flewelling of the steamer Oconee but Capt. Wasson was a good natured, genial soul and paid very little attention to Capt. Flewelling's witty jibes.

Even in 1913 many people had summer places along the lower part of the beautiful St. John River. From Saint John several steamers went up the river on Saturday but there was no transportation back to the city until Monday afternoon. To improve on this service it was decided to have the Oconee leave Wickham on Monday only, during July and August at 3:45 am , so that she could reach Saint John at 8:45 am.

This proved an immediate success. On the morning of July 14, with nearly 200 passengers, as the Oconee neared Belyeas Point three row boats loaded with passengers were waiting for her and nearly as many were standing on shore.

To save time Captain Flewelling brought the Oconee close to the shore on the upper side of the point. It took longer than expected to load the passengers. The strong ebb tide and the easterly wind carried the Oconee nearer and nearer the shore. A row boat full of people directly ahead and another astern hampered any quick movement of the steamer.

The Oconee drifted helplessly for half a minute and her full length touched on the sand and gravel of Belyeas Point. Both ahead and astern was the curving shoreline. The weight of another 50 people and the lower water of the ebbing tide really settled the matter.

The people that had just come on board were the first to leave. They knew that in an hour there would be a train through Westfield for Saint John. Most of the other passengers decided to follow. My father, as purser, manager and owner of the Oconee felt they were entitled to a rebate sufficient to cover their train fare - about 65 cents to Saint John.

With assistance the Oconee was in due course refloated and proceeded on her way. One disgruntled passenger had his thoughts plainly recorded on the white canvas seat of a folding camp stool. "S.S.Oconee aground on Belyeas Point July 14th, 1913. Capt. O.A.Flewelling."

When the Champlain arrived Capt. Wasson sauntered slowly over to the Oconee. On meeting Capt. Flewelling he leisurely knocked the dottle from his pipe and said, "Well Odbur. Did you think that the water was any deeper at Belyeas Point than it was at Carters Point?"

I was a boy having a few days aboard the Oconee with my father when this incident took place. I think that I was the only person aboard that really enjoyed it.


Billy Prince's Pumpkin

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor from his book "From The Splash Of The Paddlewheel", 1985.


The engineer on the Hampton was William Prince. We all liked Billy Prince but could never resist the temptation of having a little fun at his expense.

One Thanksgiving Monday we decided to have the Hampton leave Hatfield Point at noon in order to pick up passengers wishing to return to Saint John after the long weekend. During the morning Bill had gone down the road to visit Absolem Erb, a local farmer who had promised him a pumpkin, and he came back up the road before dinner with the largest pumpkin that I had ever seen. It was just about all he could do even with help to get it to the engine room. A short time later we started down the Belleisle Bay.

Someone suggested that when Billy went to dinner it would be a good idea to set the pumpkin on the moving crosshead and lash it on with a bit of cord. Billy went to dinner when we neared the mouth of the Belleisle. The engine had a four foot stroke and only turned up about eighteen revolutions per minute. Our speed would slow down as we made the sharp turn at Shamper's Bluff. That was the time to act.

I stepped into the engine room and closed the throttle just enough to slow the engine a little. I was quite sure that Billy wouldn't notice and if he did he would attribute the slower speed to the shallow water. I kept cutting back on the steam and as we made the turn I cut the steam even more and gave the two deckhands the nod. As the crosshead of the high pressure cylinder neared the end of its inward travel ready hands lifted the huge pumpkin to its surface and lashed it with cord. With the next stroke two more cords were in place and we were sure the pumpkin would not become dislodged. I gradually opened the throttle to normal and by that time we were rounding Gorham's Bluff and into the St. John River.

It was really a comical sight to see that immense pumpkin sitting on the crosshead and traveling majestically in and out of the engine room, sixteen or eighteen times a minute.

I wanted to watch but I didn't dare. It was just as well that I didn't. In a few minutes Billy came down and saw the unusual spectacle. He stopped the engine dead and rescued his precious pumpkin while we were still a good distance above Oak Point between Grassy Island and the Mistake. Having stowed his pumpkin safely below deck the irate engineer pursued scampering deckhands in a wild chase, squirting oil at every opportunity from a long spouted oil can. I also collected one squirt on my trousers.

Billy Prince was usually a good natured soul but he would always get his own back as soon as he got the chance. He blamed Harley MacLean, a deckhand, for the pumpkin episode, and found a novel way to pay him back that very night. The bunk room for the three deckhands and the fireman was entered from the engine room. When the deckhands wanted to wash they would use a "draw bucket" to get some river water that they would then pour into a washbasin and go to a steam jet in the engine room to bring it to the desired temperature. It was dark when we tied up that night and the oil lanterns in use gave only a dim light over a small area. Billy had concealed a can of graphite near the steam jet and when Harley entered Billy followed him, engaging in conversation. As the steam bubbled into the water in the washbasin Billy was able to dump in a liberal amount of graphite. In a short time Harley emerged from the bunk room, his face and neck liberally streaked with black. Puzzled, he told Billy he did not know how he got so black but that he would heat another basin of water and wash again. Billy again diverted Harley's attention and succeeded in dumping the rest of the can of graphite in the basin of water. After the second application it was quite apparent, even in the dim light, that Harley's face and towel were blacker than ever.

Everyone disappeared, leaving a frustrated Harley to ponder his plight alone. The next morning I noticed that Harley still had some black streaks and blotches on his face and neck. I also learned that Harley had been late for his date and not to well received. A signal vengeance!

Boats and Boyhood

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor from his book "From The Splash Of The Paddlewheel", 1985.


At age six or seven, in a pond back of our house formed by the spring freshet, I learned to row and handle a small boat in water never more than four feet deep. Later I was self-promoted to a larger, flat bottomed boat which I rowed on the river near the shore.

Father had constructed for my boat a set of paddle wheels, each of which could be turn independently by a crank like an old-fashioned grindstone. A light framework covered with cotton and canvas made a housing to represent a steamboat. In an old stove, its stovepipe extending above the "deck" of the housing, I burned driftwood and grass to give realistic and voluminous smoke whenever I decided to "get up steam". To all this were added sailing lights, anchor, lines for making "stops" and a dime-store compass.

I think I was the proudest and happiest boy on the St. John River. True, my "steamboat" was hard to handle in a wind. True also that a flat-bottomed rowboat is not as safe as a round-bottomed boat, but most of my steam boating was along the shore and although I had a wholesome respect for deep water I had little fear.

When I was a boy it was customary for Grandfather, wearing his boiled white shirt and black tie, to harness up the old horse and drive in the carriage the mile and a quarter to McGowan's Wharf (also known as Sheffield Wharf) to await the steamer coming up the river from Saint John with the mail.

The post office was in the general store right at the wharf, owned and operated by C.J. Burpee and only about 100 yards from the old store, which was later purchased by the G.E. Barbour Company, loaded on a scow and brought to Saint John as a Centennial Project to stand at the foot of King Street.

The high water wharf was on the upper side of the low water wharf and had a sloping side or "ice batter" to protect it from running ice and debris during the spring freshet, and both wharves, as was usual in those days, were made of timber with rock ballast.

Grandfather and I would sit in the carriage and watch for the smoke from the stack of the steamboat to appear over Bridges' Point announcing the steamer's arrival. Minutes later the steamer would appear by Bridges' Point lighthouse to disappear momentarily in the cove of Maugers Island. From then on it was thrilling to see the steamer reappear and head toward the wharf, sounding the usual two blows of the whistle for a wharf stop, followed a few seconds later by one short blow that warned the engineer to stand by the engine.

As the steamer neared the wharf her speed slackened, then the engine stopped. As the bow approached the wharf two strokes from the bell-pull in the wheelhouse sounded the gong in the engine room for the engineer to go astern on the engine and immediately the mighty paddle wheels would throw up a turbulent cascade of water and bring the steamer to a stop at the wharf. Two lines, a "spring" (to hold her from moving forward) and a "breast" (to hold her from moving back), were quickly thrown out and made fast.

Next gangplanks were thrown from the boat to wharf. Passengers were landed or taken aboard, then the mailbags and freight were brought ashore. In a short time the gangplanks were taken in, the lines let go, and the steamer started ahead.

If the steamers stern had drifted off and her bow headed too much toward shore it was common practice, after starting ahead for one or two revolutions of the paddle wheels, tp reverse the engine, thus sending a rush of water between the hull and the wharf which would force the bow out into the river, away from the shore.

Grandfather would wait fifteen or twenty minutes until the mail containing the daily paper from Saint John was sorted then we would drive home.


Bruce Palmer`s Straw

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


Competition between the opposing steamers on the St. John River was keen at any time but occasionally a large shipment of a bulky commodity caused a problem.

Bruce Palmer of Hampstead had a quantity of straw to ship to Saint John. Back in 1896 all the hay and straw was "loose pressed", which meant that the bales were large and bulky and occupied a lot of deck space and could shut out a better paying or perishable commodity.

The farmer however, once he had hired the old fashioned press and the men to operate it , did not want the additional work involved in stowing the large bales back in his barn only to remove them very soon for shipment. He would much rather take the shipment directly to the wharf as soon as the bales came from the press.

It seems that Mr. Palmer not only wanted to be sure that his straw would get to Saint John before the river froze over but he did not want the baled straw to stay on the wharf and be exposed to bad weather. He promised the straw to both the steamer Star and the steamer Hampstead.

The Star was owned by Captain J.E.Porter who was also her engineer. Captain Peatman was her master.

Captain Fred Mabee was in command of the Hampstead and his brother Arn was mate.

Captain Mabee writes:

"I kept looking toward the Washademoak Lake and caught sight of the Star at Al Belyeas wharf. I knew that the straw was on Hampstead wharf. It was a good sized shipment so we made for it and had half of it loaded when the Star came along side.

Captain Peatman jumped out of the wheelhouse and yelled at our deckhands to stop loading straw but no attention was paid. Our men just kept the straw coming aboard fast. I saw Capt. Peatman jump to the speaking tube (that ran to the engine room). He shouted to Captain Porter, "They won't stop loading our straw", and Captain Porter shouted back, "Make them stop".

There was no move by the crew of the Star to try to stop us from loading the straw. Capt. Porter went to the wheelhouse and talked it over with Capt. Peatman who jumped out again and made some nasty remarks about father (Capt. J.Gillis Mabee) and his tubs.

That set Arn off. He climbed on top of the pier and got as close as he could to Porter and Peatman, shook his fist at them and dared them to come on the wharf. By this time the straw was loaded on the Hampstead, we cast off and gave up the struggle. There were no black eyes this time.

Mr. Bruce Palmer was not on the wharf at all. Well, why should he stay and be drawn in to the controversy. His straw was on the way to Saint John and that was really what concerned him."


Captain-Engineer-Owner

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


Captain J.E. Porter not only held a master's certificate but also held a certificate that qualified him to act as the engineer of any of the St. John River steamers. He was also the owner or a major stockholder of the steamboats Soulanges, Star, Brittain, Springfield, Acadia, Oscar Wilde and David Weston. He was an astute businessman and a colourful character in the annals of the steamboats of the St. John River.

Captain Mabee writes:

"The spring of 1895 saw the (new 1894) steamer Hampstead ready for the river and waiting for the Long Reach to be clear of ice. As Captain of the Hampstead I was watching the other steamers very closely. On Saturday morning the steamer Star, with Captain Ike Worden in command and Captain J.E.Porter as engineer, sailed from her wharf for up river. "Well", said I, "if the Star can go through the ice, I am sure that the Hampstead will be able to get through."

We left in the early afternoon. When we reached the foot of the Reach there was no sign of the Star but when we reached Purdy's Point there was the Star docked at Watters Landing. In the distance I could see the line of solid white ice extending across the Long Reach.

There was nothing to do but tie up alongside the Star. Since we were an opposition steamer I did not know whether they would take our lines or let us drift, but Captain Worden told the deckhands to make our lines fast. After a bit I went aboard the Star and soon came across Captain Porter. I invited him to have a look at her (the Hampstead). He went through her from stem to stern without comment and then as he left he said, " umph-oh-very nice...very nice". When he returned to the Star he was heard to remark "A little tub - a little tub. Upset - upset."

We spent the night made fast to the Star. On Sunday we went up to the ice but could not get through so we turned and were able to get in to Public Landing. By Monday noon a strong south west wind had broken the ice and away we went up river. We could slide through the broken ice without damage but the Star could not for fear the floats of the paddle wheels would be cracked or broken when the rotating paddle wheel struck the cakes of ice.

We made Wickham and picked up a shipment of straw in bales that was waiting for the first boat."

Cold Comfort

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor.


Although the passenger steamers that plied the St. John River ceased operation some years ago we are very thankful that this beautiful river and its picturesque tributaries remain with little change.

The steamboats docked in the north end of Saint John above the famous Reversing Falls. Proceeding up the St. John River the first two miles lead through the Narrows. On either side are high rugged hills whose sheer limestone cliffs drop to the water.

Soon the scene changes to the large lake expansion of Grand Bay. This is followed by a ninety degree turn into the Long Reach where a sailing vessel can travel for thirty miles without changing sail.

One day in late November the steel hulled Majestic was on her way up the St. John River from Saint John to Fredericton, a distance of eighty four miles. All the steamboats with wooded hulls had been withdrawn a few days earlier because running through an inch of new ice would be the equivalent of a thousand chisels cutting through the two inch plank of the hull.

Although the beautiful autumn colors of the reflection in the water of the hardwood trees had disappeared in October, the river had now assumed a new beauty. The heavy easterly storm of the previous day, when meeting the flood tide, had created a river of white caps and the froth from these had blown ashore on the sandy beaches and encircled the Isle of Pines and Catons Island. This, as seen against the dark green of the spruce and hemlock, was akin to ermine once used to enhance the beauty of a velvet garment.

The heavy easterly was followed by a gale from the northwest which came howling out of Jones Creek and Glenwood. Wharf stops like Williams Wharf and The Cedars where the wind blew heavily on the wharf, called for considerable skill by the captain to avoid doing serious damage to the steamer.

In a heavy wind it was customary to have the steamer first touch the wharf at or near her forward gangway rather than have the wind cause her full weight to strike midships against the wharf.

Chris Clifford stood on Williams Wharf waiting to board the Majestic. He could see that she would touch the upper corner of the wharf first so he hurried across to that side. What he did not see was the thin film of ice on the slip (ramp) caused by the wind driven spray from the waves. Clifford stepped on the slip, his feet went forward and he shot down the slip, off the end of the wharf and splash into the frigid water of the St. John River. He surfaced and tried to climb the slippery face of the wharf just seconds before the steel plated guard of the Majestic was about to crush his head against the wharf.

A quick thinking deckhand, Dick Harris, literally threw himself on the deck and reaching over the guard, shoved Clifford back under water and withdrew his arm barely in time to prevent it from being crushed.

The steamer struck the wharf and rebounded a little. Captain Flewelling in the wheelhouse could not see what had taken place. Since Clifford was not on the wharf the captain believed him to have boarded the Majestic. The captain then sounded the engine room gong for full speed ahead so that the steamer would gain headway before being carried ashore by the heavy wind.

Dick Harris also heard the gong and again knew that quick action was imperative before the quickly revolving propeller blades mangled Clifford's body. Harris still flat on the deck, again in a flash reached over the guard, got his hand on Clifford's clothing and aided by the other deckhands, quickly pulled him aboard.

Chris Clifford did not know that Dick Harris had saved him from a horrible death, only that he had been pushed back in the water. He berated Harris loudly, but on being told exactly what had taken place his incrimination quickly turned to words of thanks and praise.

Some dry clothing was found for him. His wet clothes were hung near the boiler and were quite dry by the time the Majestic reached Fredericton.

Collision

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


Fortunately the history of steamboating on the St. John River does not record many serious collisions. No doubt there were from time to time collisions which were never reported. One of these Capt. Mabee describes under the title Collision; Capt. Al Peatman versus Capt. Fred Mabee.

This mishap took place in mid summer 1904 and involved the steamers Elaine and the stern wheel Beatrice E. Waring. Both steamers were on their way down river to Saint John.

Capt. Mabee writes:

"I was captain of the Elaine and this was on our regular trip. We made Belyeas Wharf (Glenwood) and were running down fairly close along the shore above Browns Flat Wharf. Capt. Alfred Peatman was on the Beatrice Waring. I do not know why she was coming down river at about the same time that day. She made a boat stop at Theodore Holders and was also bound for Browns Flat.

I kept the Elaine going at full speed because I considered that I had the right of way. Capt. Alfred kept his steamer at full speed, also he claimed that his steamer was 30 feet ahead of the Elaine. The Beatrice was actually a few feet ahead but was cutting across our bow.

Well. we came together CRASH. The Elaine carried away the steps and broke the bulwark on the starboard side of the Beatrice. There was hardly a scratch on the Elaine as her bow was high and strong.

I can still see Capt. Al jumping out of the wheelhouse and shaking his fist at me.

I was now in danger of having the Elaine go on shore so I rang the engine room gong to stop and reverse and Capt. Al went in to the wharf.

Lud Belyea the store keeper at Browns Flat was on the wharf and he got very angry at me for striking the Beatrice and for a long time had all his freight shipped on the Beatrice.

After the collision both of the steamers Elaine and Beatrice E. Waring proceeded on down the Long Reach making their usual stops and arriving at Indiantown only a few minutes apart.

I was standing on Pidgeons Corner (corner of Main and Bridge streets) waiting for a street car when Capt. Al walked up to the car stop. He said. "Capt. Mabee why did you run into me today?"

I answered, "Why Capt. Peatman, I did not run into you. You ran clear across the river from Holders to strike the Elaine."

He got wild and said, "You will have to pay for the damage you caused." "No, not one cent", said I. He said, "I shall go at once to lawyer Colonel McLean."

By this time quite a crowd had gathered around to hear the spat. Capt. Al took the street car over to the city and I took the next one over to Dr. Currey's office. I was only in his office a minute when Dr. Currey said, "Well, Capt. you were in a little trouble on the way down this morning".

"Yes Doctor", I said.

"Well who was right?"

"I think I was right", said I. He glared at me and fairly shouted, "You THINK you were right. Dam it man, don't you know you are right, even if you were wrong?"

I quoted the section of the Rules of Navigation which I was sure applied to the circumstance. "Well", said he, "that reads all right, but if you ever go to court never own up that you are wrong".

Capt. Peatman went to Col. McLean and was told that he was in the wrong and that he better keep quiet.

In the newspaper the next day their was quite a piece about the collision which said that the cause had been settled and that the Elaine was paying for the damage.

I went to see Dr. Currey about the article in the paper. He said, "Well, we may as well just let it drop. It is not going to cost you anything."

Col. McLean and Dr. Currey were the best of friends and I am sure that had something to do with the easy way the matter was settled."


Crystal Stream Burned

The following is an article from the Saint John newspaper "The Evening Times" on Friday, June 21, 1907.


S.S.CRYSTAL STREAM BURNED AND THREE LIVES

SACRIFICED AT COLE'S ISLAND EARLY TODAY

Most Awful Tragedy in the History of the St. John River


Number of Dead at First Reported as Three Was This Afternoon Increased to Four---Willard Logan, Allan Logan, Fred Smith and Edward Baxter the Victims--Caught While Asleep Beneath the Deck, They Were Roasted to Death---Grim Details of the Terrible Fatality


These few short sentences tell in a nutshell the grim story of the most awful tragedy ever recorded in the history of the beautiful St. John River.

Three souls went to eternity in the early hours of this morning.

Three homes are today plunged into poignant grief by the sudden visitation by death in awful guise, while the whole city is shocked by the terrible tragedy enacted at Cole's Island.

The steamer Crystal Stream was burned to the water's edge about one o'clock this morning.

Willard Logan and Allan Logan of Lands End, and Fred Smith of Shannon, Queens County were burned to death in the holocaust and Herbert McClary (McCleery), the mate of the little steamer, was so badly burned that he may not recover. Archibald Belyea, purser, and Mrs. Chase, stewardess of the streamer, were also slightly burned while all that remains of the steamer itself is some charred and blackened beams and a few tons of scrap iron.


Details of Tragedy Not Yet Known


The details of the tragedy are not yet definitely known, and probably will not be for some hours after the Times is published. Enough is known, however to show that the disaster is the worst ever recorded in the history of the lower river.

The Crystal Stream left her wharf at Indiantown yesterday morning about 10 o'clock for her route on the Washademoak of which Cole's Island is the terminal point. She arrived at Cole's Island about 6:30 and was tied up to her wharf at about one o'clock this morning when the tragedy occurred. It is believed there was very little cargo on board but she carried as far as known, eleven people, all of whom are believed to have been on board when the fire broke out.


List of Those on the Steamer


Fred S. Mabee, of Saint John, captain

Herbert McAlary, of Long Reach, mate

W.W. Roberts, of Saint John, engineer

William Logan, of Lands End, fireman

Archibald P. Belyea, of Saint John, purser

Mrs. Chase, of Saint John, stewardess

Mrs. Coleman, of Saint John, cook

Mrs. M. McCutcheon, of Saint John, waitress

Allan Logan, of Lands End, deckhand

Fred Smith, of Shannon, Q.C., deckhand

Edward Baxter, ------, deckhand


Caught Like Rats in Blazing Trap


As far as could be learned, all of these were on the steamer at the time, and it is believed they were asleep in their berths.

The fire is reported to have caught on the main deck and it probably spread with such rapidity that the victims were caught asleep and could not escape.

The deckhands and fireman William Logan had their sleeping apartments below the deck, just below where the fire broke out. They were probably caught like rats in a trap, and roasted to death before they could escape. Edward Baxter, deckhand was the only one of this party who escaped injury or death, and how he escaped is a mystery.

Wentworth Roberts, the engineer; Herbert McAlary, mate; Mrs. Chase and Mrs. McClutcheon and Mrs. Coleman had their berths on the main dack, while Captain Mabee's cabin was on the hurricane deck.

How the fire originated is not known. The first information the people of Coles Island had of it was when the little steamer was enveloped in flames and the cries of the burning men were heard. The members of the crew who escaped the first fierce onslaught of the flames fought hard first to rescue their comrades and then to save the steamer. All efforts to reach Fireman Logan, Deckhand Logan and Deckhand Smith were fruitless.

A wall of flame barred the path to their sleeping quarters, while that portion of the steamer was a literal furnace.

The men were eventually dragged out and Doctors Armstrong and Earle, the only physicians on Coles Island, were hastily summoned.

Before they arrived however the men were dead, probably having died before they were brought out.

Herbert McAlary, the mate was frightfully burned. What medical aid could be given him was hastily rendered and he was bought to the city on the steamer Aberdeen, which arrived here early this afternoon. A coach and the ambulance met the Aberdeen at Indiantown and McAlary was conveyed to the hospital, where he is reported to be in a critical condition.

Engineer Roberts was painfully burned while fighting the fire but his injuries are not serious. Mrs. Chase, the stewardess was also slightly burned.

Capt. Mabee remained at Coles Island to look after the bodies.


Steamer Burned to Water's Edge


At the time of the accident the Crystal Stream was tied up to the western wharf at Coles Island. As the fire gained headway so suddenly it was impossible to fight it effectively and the steamer was soon a roaring mass of flames. It was a spectacular fire but none of those who saw the tongues of flame sharply silhouetted against the sky and river dreamed of the fearful tragedy being enacted before their very eyes. As the steamer was moored close to the wharf it was of course supposed that all on board had made their escape.

It was reported that the passenger bridge at Coles Island had caught fire from the steamer and had been burned but at noon this could not be verified.


Something About the Three Victims


William Logan, fireman, and Allen Logan, deckhand, who were burned to death were the sons of the late Joseph Logan, of Lands End and were well known and were highly respected along the river and in this city where the numbered many friends.

Allan Logan has been living at Grand Lake. He leaves a widow and one child. Walter Logan of R.P.& W.F. Starr's is a relative of the Logan boys.

Fred Smith, the other deckhand who was burned to death, was a son of Allen Smith, of Shannon, Queens county. He had been on the boat but a short time.

Herbert McAlary, the mate, who was so badly burned that he may die from his injuries, is a nephew of Captain Peatman of the Elaine, and was formerly on that craft himself.

Wentworth Roberts, the engineer, who is slightly burned, is especially well known at Indiantown. He resides on Albert street. He has a wife and family, Mrs. Roberts, his mother, had received no details of the tragedy this morning beyond the rumor that her son had been burned to death. She was prostrated with grief until later she was assured that his injuries were slight and she had been spared the terrible bereavement of other mothers and wives.

Purser Archibald P. Belyea, who was slightly burned, lives in Indiantown, while the stewardess, Mrs. Chase, also slightly burned made her headquarters on the boat.


History of the Burned Steamer


The steamer Crystal Stream was a side wheeler and was built at Bull's Ferry, New Jersey in 1873. She was 132 feet long, 25 feet beam and had a draught of 9 feet 3 inches. She was purchased in New York about five years ago by the People's Steamship Company and was put on the Washademoak route from Saint John to Coles Island. She was a most satisfactory boat in every respect. Last spring she was elaborately painted and refitted and new staterooms added and when she went on the route this season was valued at $22,500.

In March, 1906 Daniel J. Purdy, MPP bought the controlling interest in the boat from the People's Steamship Company and , under a new charter formed the Crystal Stream S.S. Co. and put the boat on the route. Captain Fred Mabee her commander was formerly on the steamer Elaine, and this was his first season on the ill-fated Crystal Stream.


The Scene of the Tragedy


Coles Island, the scene of the tragedy, is on the Washademoak River, about 60 miles from this city and 33 miles form the junction of the Washademoak and the St. John. It is the terminus of the service and quite a trade of agricultural products is done with the farmers living on the Island.

Codys, five miles distant, on the Central Railway is the nearest point to Coles Island, and many anxious enquiries as to the details of the tragedy were made there this morning.

Details were meagre as no one at Codys knew the exact circumstances and Coles Island was inaccessible either by telephone or telegraph.


Mr. Purdy Talks of the Disaster


Daniel J. Purdy, owner of the Crystal Stream, was almost overcome with grief when seen this morning. He lives at Riverside during the summer months, and it was not until he arrived in the city on the 9 o'clock train this morning that he learned of the disaster. David H. Nase met him at the train and imparted the fateful details. Mr. Purdy was shocked when he learned of the accident. He was not so much concerned over the loss of his steamer, but was overcome at the terrible fatality which resulted from the fire. He said the Crystal Stream was insured in Lloyd's, in England, but the insurance would not half cover the loss. When she left her wharf yesterday she had the lightest cargo she had taken up river this season. She had in her cargo four bundles of processed hay, consigned to Coles Island, but this he thought had been discharged before the fire broke out.

He said at this season the blow was a hard one. He would get another boat "in fifteen minutes", if he could, but he had no idea where he could procure one.


How the Sad News Reached the City

As far as known the news of the disaster first reached the city in a telephone message to D.H. Nase from Capt. Mabee. As soon as the fire had spent its force Capt. Mabee hastened to get word of the awful occurrence to the city, and for that purpose went to Codys. He telephoned just the simple facts of the fatality, but those facts were more eloquent in their simplicity than any embellishment could make them. The story was sufficiently terrible. Three- and perhaps four- lives had been sacrificed and thousands of dollars worth of property destroyed.

Dr. Matthew L. MacFarlane, of Fairville was the first to communicate the news to the Evening Times, and the subsequent details were learned from Mr. Nase, Mr. Purdy and from Mrs. Roberts of Codys.

This was the first accident for most of the members of the Crystal Stream staff, although Mrs. Mary Coleman, the cook, who previous to her marriage was Miss Wilson, was on the steamer Star when that steamer was burned some years ago.


Other Steamers Lost on the River


The history of the river steamers ia indeed a tragic one, but the awful fatality of today is generally regarded as the worst. Others steamers which have been burned are the Belleisle, the Acadia, the David Weston and the Star. The tragic fate of most of these is still fresh in the minds of the readers, but in none of them was the loss of life and property so severe as in that grim happening of the early hours of this morning when the good steamer Crystal Stream was reduced to ashes and three brave men sent to eternity.

A telephone message received by D.J.Purdy at 1:40 o'clock, reported the Aberdeen passing Oak Point. She was expected at Indiantown about 3 o'clock.


LATER


List of Dead Is Now Four


The shocking news reached Indiantown this afternoon that the body of Edward Baxter was found in the hull of the burned steamer. This makes the list of dead four and proves conclusively that the fire overpowered the deckhands and firemen as they were asleep in their berths just beneath that portion of the main deck where the fire started.

It is now learned that McAlary had also slept last night in the quarters with the deckhand and the firemen. He barely escaped with his life but was terribly burned. Those who were asleep in other portions of the boat escaped with very slight burns or were uninjured.

Edward Baxter, the fourth victim was 21 years of age and was a son of Joseph Baxter of Days Landing. He was unmarried. About two years ago he was employed by F.H.J. Ruel in the capacity of man servant at Mr. Ruel's country house.

Mr. Ruel. when informed of Baxter's death expressed sincere sorrow. He said he was an honest, upright young man and a faithful employee.

Up to 1:15 the steamer Aberdeen with Herbert McAlary aboard had not reached Indiantown.

The steamer Champlain arrived about 1:15 but her captain said he had not seen the Aberdeen.


* As a side note Herbert McCleery survived and lived to be 89. He died in 1966 and is buried at Trinity Anglican Church in Kingston.



Engineer Oakley McCleery

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor from his book "From The Splash Of The Paddlewheel", 1985.


Oakley McCleery had been on the Oconee for some time prior to my joining the steamer as the freight purser. Of course I knew Oakley from the periods of my school holidays spent on the Oconee. He was a colorful character, perhaps a bit temperamental, but the type that in an emergency could be relied upon to take prompt action, as I learned when we were shipmates.

One afternoon when the Oconee was halfway between Bedford and Browns Flat one of the steel floats of the feathering float paddle wheel became loose. Hearing an unusual noise Oakley quickly stopped the engine and opened the hatch leading to the paddle box. He called to the fireman to stand by and with the wrench in hand climbed in the paddle wheel. Discovering that the loose float was under water he stepped to the after paddle beam (one of the beams which support the paddle wheel) and called to the fireman to open the throttle just enough to permit one half revolution. The fireman got excited, opened the throttle too far and the paddle wheel churned throwing a blinding deluge of water over Oakley. Worst still, the loose float was skipping around and could easily have killed him. Oakley managed to stay on his precarious perch, wrench still in hand and this time when the wheel stopped, though drenched to the skin, he quickly made the repairs and in minutes we were on our way. His remarks to the fireman were as inventive as they were unprintable.

On another occasion, again on the Oconee, an inexperienced fireman using his slice bar to stir up a dying fire and lagging steam pressure, accidentally dislodged one of the grate bars. With burning coals falling around him Oakley crawled underneath and succeeded in replacing the fallen grate bar. He crawled back out, very hot but unscathed.

The year that I went on the Hampton, 1923, Oakley also went on her. A certain dry sense of humour made Oakley an amusing companion. Once on the Hampton a leaking boiler tube had been giving us some trouble so we decided to renew it on Friday while in Saint John. By late evening the boiler makers had finished and left, and we filled the boiler and started the fire in the furnace to heat it slowly so that the temperature of all parts would rise evenly and not produce undue strain on any of them.

About 2:00 am Oakley and I went to the galley to have the lunch the cook had left out for us. We discovered that the lunch consisted of bread and butter and some cold very tough roast beef. After a few minutes Oakley held up a piece of meat and in a sonorous voice intoned:


Old ox, old ox, how came you here?

You roamed the fields for many a year,

At last worn out by sad abuse

Gault sent you down for steamboat use.


It was about this time that good deckhands were very hard to obtain. We had four men who, though they always got the work done, were exceedingly slow. They had none of the Oakley jump and quick movement at wharf stops so necessary when trying to save time, and try as I might there seemed no way to make them realize we were losing minutes at every wharf. One morning after a particularly bad exhibition at Toole's Wharf, Oakley, who had been watching them from the engine room door, strode over to me and said, "I can't make this boat go any faster. We're losing time at every stop because of those deckeneers. They're dead I say, dead from the ass Both Ways."

Excursions and Scoldings

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


The dredge track at the lower end of Grand Lake is about a mile long. As soon as the dredge loaded a mud scow, the Novelty would tow it up the lake to deep water and dump it while the dredge would load a second scow.

The Novelty usually returned to Jemseg at night and for the weekend when she took on firewood for fuel for the coming week.

Captain Mabee writes:

"About mid summer the suppliers of wood in Jemseg decided to raise the price of wood so I began looking around. Black Jack Murphy, our tobacco chewing engineer told me he was sure that the furnace of the Novelty could burn coal. The next Sunday I decided to run up to Newcastle Creek and get enough coal to give it a try.

Now being a young man of insight, you can readily understand why I would like giving outings to the young people of Jemseg. One of these outings got me a severe reprimand from Rev. M. Springer of the Jemseg Baptist Church.

For the trip to Newcastle Creek I invited about 40 of the young people of Jemseg to come along and bring their own picnic lunches. It was a lovely day sailing up the beautiful Grand Lake. A light southwest wind was hardly noticeable as it helped us along. On reaching Newcastle Creek, we all went ashore and the girls opened their picnic baskets beneath some trees near the beach. Everyone was enjoying the free trip under the best weather conditions. All the boys helped load what coal we wanted but did not hurry.

Now I am not a hardened criminal and it was my intention to return the boys and girls to Jemseg in time for the evening church service but the southwest wind had increased considerably and the Novelty never could make time in a head wind. Perhaps we stayed too long at Newcastle Creek.

We reached Jemseg about the middle of the church service. Nearly all the young people went straight to the church and when they got seated nicely the Rev. Springer took them to task for "pleasure going" on the Sabbath Day and condemnation was also served to the young man on the Novelty.

Black Jack Murphy reported that the Newcastle coal seemed to be quite satisfactory as a fuel, there was less labour involved and the cost delivered to the wharf by Everett McMann or Rupert Sypher was only $2.65 per chaldron (in those days coal was sold by measurement, not by weight. A chaldron of coal was 36 bushels). Coal was cheaper than wood.

From that time on we went to Newcastle Creek every Saturday night, got our coal for the following week and returned at once to Jemseg so as to avoid any repetition of the delay of our first trip when the heavy wind had retarded our progress considerably.

My first impression of the wharf was that coal dominated in this area. There was coal on the wharf, coal on the land and also two wood boats nearby loaded.

I often took the young people of Jemseg to Gagetown or Upper Gagetown to attend a dance. I did not charge anything. Usually boys would scrounge enough wood for the short trip and there really was no other expense. I kept these excursions going until one day a letter came from the customs house warning me to stop. I did not know just what the customs had to do with it but the letter sounded pretty authoritative. At this time, Uncle Josh Colwell had the tugboat Martello. I was getting all the trade but not making any money. He had made a complaint that resulted in the letter.

When I came home in the fall my Uncle Drake took at me for running the girls around at the expense of the boat. He was bound to dock me some money but my father had something to say and I got my full pay.

After all, I had not done too badly for the company. I had earned $90 by towing wood boats through the dredge track. All were loaded with kiln wood and some would get stuck near the dredge and Captain McCordock of the dredge would light on me. Even now I have to laugh when I think of some of the incidents that took place that summer."

Fires and Other Incidents

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor from his book "From The Splash Of The Paddlewheel", 1985.


One day as we were crossing Grand Bay, we saw ahead a great cloud of smoke that was blowing from Westfield across the river. It was a forest fire and many Westfield homes were burned before the fire reached the river. After leaving Sand Point, we found the smoke so thick that we had to steer by compass from there to Westfield. Sparks were falling all around us onto the deck which caused us some concern. We made Westfield Wharf and picked up some passenger refugees, and took them to Public Landing. One woman carried quite a large chest of silverware which she guarded very closely, obviously suspicious of anyone who came close.

I remember we had a two gallon tub of ice-cream for Belyea's Point which did not get landed. We all ate ice-cream that weekend, and all chipped in to pay for it.

A year or two later, when I was on the Hampton, we were all startled as we approached Williams Wharf one fine morning to see smoke curling around the roof of Dick Seeley's home. The house was not far from the end of the wharf and in no time at all I had the four deckhands at the scene. There was absolutely nothing with which to fight the fire so we concentrated on saving as much as possible. I remember climbing a ladder to an upstairs window and passing furniture to waiting hands until the fire advanced to the point that I dare not stay any longer. Then we all returned to the Hampton and proceeded on our way to Saint John.

On rare occasions we were also called upon to aid a motorboat or sailboat in trouble but as a rule we had no time for any salvage work of any kind. Competition was keen and we could not dally along the way.

However, there were times on the down river trip that it was possible to lose business by being ahead of time.

One such morning, due to an ebb tide and little freight, the Oconee rounded the buoy at the foot of the Mistake and made the stop at Oak Point Wharf. As we were about to leave we saw Stan Patterson running down the hill toward the wharf. Stan was partly dressed and in his stockinged feet. He was carrying the rest of his clothes in his arms. Needless to say we waited for him.

Next, J.N.Inch, the store keeper hurried from his store to the boat. We were well away from the wharf when Mr. Inch rushed to father and said that he was going to Saint John to settle some of his accounts with the wholesalers but in his haste to catch the Oconee had neglected to pick up his wallet which contained a sizable amount of cash, cheques and other papers. Father hurried to the wheelhouse and promptly had the captain turn the Oconee around. We went back to the wharf and Mr. Inch ran up to the store and got his wallet.

For several years the tall, slim Cookson sisters, Ina and Sweetie, from Saint John, spent their summers at the Cedars. Like most summer residents they usually came to the wharf to watch when any of the river steamers were approaching.

One fine morning Ina and Sweetie accompanied a departing guest to the wharf. The guest boarded the Oconee and went quickly to the saloon deck to wave good-bye.

As the girls were looking upward and waving, Rex, Frank B. Gorham's collie, mistook Sweetie's leg for a tree and enthusiastically filled her white calf-length boot. There was a shriek as Sweetie squelched hurriedly off the wharf and across the beach.

It was several days before the Cookson sisters were again seen around the wharf, and I don't think I ever saw those boots again.

First Wharf Stop

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor from his book "From The Splash Of The Paddlewheel", 1985.


A "boat stop" was simply a matter of slowing down the steamer so that a rowboat approaching from the shore could be hooked with the boat hook and held securely alongside for the transfer of passengers or a small quantity of freight.

A "wharf stop" was quite different. It required a certain amount of natural ability plus practice to bring a shallow draft steamer, with a comparatively large superstructure that could catch a lot of wind, to a wharf under the varying conditions of weather and tide. It was an added problem that no two steamers handled in the same manner.

I spent considerable amount of time in the wheelhouse and it was not long before the captain thought I could judge the steamer's speed well enough to make boat stops. This was without his coming to the wheelhouse to supervise, but wharf stops were another matter.

On one up river trip the captain went to his supper at Public Landing. I took the wheel from there. The freshet was dropping rapidly due to a spell of fine weather and neap tides. On this particular night we knew that Victoria Wharf, a low water wharf, would be out of water. I had informed the captain that we had a half ton of feed and other freight to land, but as it turned out it had slipped his mind. I steered up river and as we rounded the buoy on the Devil's Back Bar, I blew the customary two whistles for a wharf stop. There was a southwest wind blowing up the Reach that would easily catch the steamer's stern, and as I was awaiting the captain and considering the best position for the approach, I suddenly saw the wharf looming up ahead of me. I was on my own - make it, miss it, or worse still hit it and do a lot of damage. I had already rung the "jingle bell" to reduce speed. I rang the gong to stop and suddenly I saw what appeared to be two wharfs, one about ten or fifteen feet outside the other. I steered for the outer one and it suddenly vanished! I had by this time rung the engine room gong, two bells to reverse the engine. The steamer stopped in front of the wharf all right but a good fifteen feet away. The deckhands got a line out and in spite of the southwest wind on her stern and broadside I was able to get the Oconee close enough to land the passengers and freight. I had made the first wharf stop unassisted in spite of the trick that my over excited eyes had played on me.

Years later I was to make a wharf stop at Browns Flat with the Majestic. By this time I had considerably more experience and confidence, so that we managed, without actually stopping to land four bags of feed at intervals along the wharf. It took us 56 seconds from the signal to reduce speed to the signal for full speed ahead.


Flewwelling Welding

The following story was provided by Chris White from the Kings County Historical and Archival Society.



Kings County Record, November 10, 1893:


"Hampton (Kings Co.) Nov.7

- Steamer "Clifton" left here Wednesday 7th inst. for Sheffield (Sunbury Co.). The steamer was chartered to take a number of guests there to attend the marriage of S.M. FLEWWELLING, Hampton to Miss (Annie) BRIDGES, Sheffield."


This must have been quite a journey down the Kennebecasis and then up the St. John River. The boat departed Hampton November 7th - the wedding took place on November 8th. Key participants arrived and the ceremony must have been successful as you can see from their family picture some years later.

Freshet of 1923

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor from his book "From The Splash Of The Paddlewheel", 1985.


The spring of 1923 was a memorable season. It had been a tough winter, cold, and more snow than usual in the upper St. John River valley and tributaries. It was quite evident that unless we had a slower run-off than usual we were in for a high freshet.

Ira Slipp, a farmer living about two miles above Wickham, contacted us during the freshet and asked if we would run up to his farm and land at a place where the contour of the land dropped off sharply toward a creek. As there was no unfavorable wind we complied. The creek was of course, completely flooded by the freshet. The Hampton only drew six feet of water so there was no great problem. We nudged her port bow against the bank and loaded some thirty barrels of potatoes and other produce. The farmer also came aboard and as we backed away from shore I asked him to tell me when we were over the normal shoreline. "Well", he said, "Right now we are over the place where these potatoes were grown", and a little later, "Now we're right over my strawberry patch."

As our warehouse in Indiantown was flooded and we were loading directly from Main Street everything had to be taken on board and for several trips we had been carrying a steel crankshaft for the Wilson Box Co. Mill at Westfield and five barrels of hen manure as fertilizer for Charles Parker at Public Landing with no way to land either. The crankshaft occupied valuable deck space and anyone will tell you that manure is not the most pleasant of travelling companions.

One day a man rowed out to us from Westfield and said he would take the crankshaft, but his boat was small and flat bottomed and I knew it would upset easily. I did not want to let him have the heavy shaft but he insisted that the risk was his and that the shaft was urgently required. The river was calm so by the use of the parbuckle we lowered the shaft to the rowboat and balanced it as best we could. I anxiously watched him row toward shore. He reached the beach safely and I heaved a sigh of relief.

The weather was still calm when we reached Public Landing. The level of the river had dropped slightly but the wharf was still under water. Miles of the valley railway track had been washed out. We cautiously maneuvered into the bank just above the wharf. The washout of the railway tracks was so bad that the rails were banked at 25 or 30 degrees. We had no difficulty in securing a spring line around the outer rail and consequently to everyone's relief were able to land the five barrels of stinking hen manure.

Nearing the height of the freshet, father, who was on the Oconee, became quite concerned about mother being alone in the house at Sheffield, totally surrounded by water, her nearest neighbor about a quarter mile away. Fortunately the telephone remained operational and he was able to communicate with her. One day while she was peeling an onion in the kitchen the phone rang. As mother in rubber boots started for the phone, the onion slipped from her fingers. She did not stop to pick it up but splashed through five inches of water from the kitchen, through the dining room and the length of the hall to the telephone. While still talking on the phone the half peeled onion drifted past her feet, carried there by the current passing through from the kitchen to the front hall. Father had a small round bottomed lapstrake boat and he took this aboard the D.J.Purdy and had them launch it opposite the house in Sheffield. He rowed to the house to see how mother was getting along. There was very little dry firewood, but she had plenty of food and was doing very well. Of course there were a number of inconveniences - the well could not be used and all drinking water had to be boiled.

During a freshet such as this, with water several inches deep in every home, there was simply no land in sight for miles. To the south, Maugers Island and Ox Island were completely inundated and to the north it was all water and trees in water until you reached the highest ground of French Island in French Lake. After the water receded, the residence of the flooded areas were left with a mammoth cleaning job. Silt was everywhere in the houses and driftwood littered the grasslands of the farms. Driftwood logs and trees had broken fences and, occasionally damaged buildings.

Although a diminutive woman, mother had plenty of nerve. While father and I were on the riverboats from early spring to late fall, she lived alone, saying that she wanted to keep the home open. She was awakened one night by a load crash of breaking glass. She was a bit frightened but decided to determine the cause and, if it were a burglar, to order him to leave. She got out of bed and lit the kerosene lamp. She made a tour of the large house but could not find any broken window or other sign of breakage. She finally went back to bed, more frightened than when she first heard the crash. In the morning while preparing breakfast, she had occasion to enter a dark unwindowed pantry off the dining room. A scene of devastation met her eyes; broken glass and china littered the floor. Then she remembered that the previous night she had had a stomach upset and had taken some sodium phosphate. She had poured too many granules out of the bottle and had put some back with a spoon, not realizing that it was wet. Drops of water combined with the phosphate in the tightly corked bottle had caused an explosion in the night, breaking practically all the glass and chinaware on the long shelf.

Getting Experience in the Falls

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


The steamboat and tugboat captains of the St. John River calculated the time to go through the Reversing Falls as so many hours and minutes before high water and a shorter time (about thirty minutes less) after high water. The time during which the Reversing Falls are navigable is greatest during the low run of tides and shortens with the high run of tides.

Occasionally a steamboat would have occasion to pick up a small shipment like ten puncheons of molasses and would go through the falls a few minutes early on the flood slack while it was still running down the falls. The shipment would be loaded as quickly as possible so that the steamer could be in the falls early on the flood tide.

Captain Mabee writes of two occasions in which he gained experience.

"In 1887 I was a young fellow of eighteen on the tugboat Novelty. The Flewelling Lumber Co. of Hampton sent me to get a light (not loaded) scow at Hilyards Flats. I wanted to find out what time to go through the falls so I tied up alongside a Jemseg woodboat and enquired. Someone told me to go over to the tugboat Captain and ask for Captain Gallagher. I did so. Said he, "Well young man, so you want to go through. I am taking a raft through soon. You follow about five minutes behind my trip." I explained to him that I wanted to return with a scow. I remember his instructions as if it were yesterday. "Wait for the ebb slack in about five hours or so. Go slowly up Carleton shore and away in the cove below the bridge you will see a water tower. Hang on there until the water gets smooth, then dig in." I did so and had a fine trip through.

It was my first trip through the falls and my first of many meetings with Capt. Pat Gallagher."


The height of the water in the St. John River had a lot to do with the time of slack water in the falls. Any year that the freshet is unusually high there could be a time when steamers might go down through the falls but even at high water would not be able to get back up again.

Captain Mabee writes:

"I was captain of the tugboat Serena E. owned by James Holly and Sons. We were doing towing above the falls. One day the tugboat W.H.Murray with Captain Pat Gallagher had more than she could do. Mr. Holly came along and told me to take a tow of logs to Warners Mill. "But Mr. Holly" , I said, "I have never had a raft in the falls." He answered, " Well this is a good time to start. Just follow Pat Gallagher." The two Taylor brothers and Fred Long were the raftsmen.

I watched Pat and his trip and made a grand entry but in Deep Cove was the tugboat G.D.Hunter (Capt. Urquhart) with eight scows of lumber and he dropped in just astern of my tow and a bit too early, and the G.D.Hunter could not hold her tow back. Dow she came and hit my raft and split it in two. By this time I was close to Capt. Gallagher's tow and could not do a thing. There were loose logs from the broken raft drifting all around. Below the bridge there were several "pot skimmers", like highway robbers waiting to take their toll. The whirlpool that forms below the bridge was known as the Pot. Men and boys who came in row boats used pike poles to take anything they could get from the Pot, and were known as "Pot skimmers". No one objected to their taking of ordinary driftwood but their practice of taking logs that had gotten loose from a raft was viewed quite differently.

I felt blue.

Our raftsmen were furious and shouted insults about tugboats and their captains, that they should go back to the woods where they came from, and some other insults that I will not put to paper. These same men however were smart on logs and we only lost a few pieces.

Just then Mr. Holly spoke to me and said, "No fault of yours." I felt better.

After that episode I had more confidence. The little Serena E. was a dandy for work in the falls, very steady and did not roll.

Good Times

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor from his book "From The Splash Of The Paddlewheel", 1985.


It was not uncommon for some of the river valley people travelling to Saint John and back to bring with them some musical instrument, usually a violin, accordion or mouth organ. The music, muted by the various steamboat sounds - the splash, splash of the paddle wheels, the swish of the bow swell or the soft hiss of steam entering the cylinder through the valves - added charm to the leisurely travel of the riverboats.

The Paisley men were farmers and traveled quite frequently on the Oconee. They could catch the steamer at Browns Flat in the morning, have the day in Saint John and return home in time to milk their cows at night. They were tall, quiet, soft spoken men, well liked by all who knew them. One of the Paisley brothers usually brought a violin (or borrowed mine) and played "The Soldiers Joy" and "Follow the Swallow Back Home", and there would soon be a crowd of other passengers surrounding him.

Those men played because they liked to play, and although lacking in formal training, as old time fiddlers they were superb. When the music was fast very often someone with a native sense of rhythm would come forward on deck and do a step dance. The applause which followed would often prompt someone else to try his skill and endeavor to show some new steps and surpass the previous performer.

The singing of hymns or old folk songs was another popular pastime on riverboat journeys. One particular favorite ran something like this:

One day when I was idle and nothing for to do

I went unto Haymarket Square to see the Horse Cars too;

I jumped aboard a Horse Car, my money did pay down

And met a pretty fair girl who's bound for Indiantown

I talked to her a little, we talked about the weather,

I said to her, she said to me. said we to one another,

Said she to me, "My, young man, these Horse Cars are but small,"

For she took up most all the room with her hoops and her waterfall.

We rode along together to the place we had to stop

We both got out together and went onto Nase's shop*

She called for cheese and biscuit, I called for a cigar,

Then we both rode home together, aboard the old Horse Car.


* (P.Nase and Son Ltd., a groceries and hardware shop that once stood on the corner of Main and Bridge Streets.)

Hampstead in a Fog on Mistake Bar

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


Captain Fred Mabee writes:

"It was Sept. 30, 1894 and very thick land fog. The steamer Hampstead with Captain Gillis Mabee in command was on her way to Saint John. I was mate.

Geo. Dunham Sr. had rowed across to the Mistake Interval and we picked him up. As we neared the foot of the Mistake the captain and Mr. Dunham were over on the bow deck on the look-out and I was at the wheel. We had left the last grass at the foot of the Mistake and were looking for the spar buoy above Oak Point wharf. The buoy did not show up and Dunham told the captain that he better haul a bit to the west. The captain listened to his advice and passed the word to me to steer one-quarter point more to the west. I did as commanded and 30 seconds later we slid right on to the bank perhaps 100 yards above the spar buoy. It was just after high water and the Hampstead could not back off. The water fell quite quickly and she was a sight for the other steamers to gaze upon as they passed by. The captain sent a message to the Tapley tugboat owners in Saint John and by 6 pm the tugboat Hercules came to tow us off.

The Hampstead returned to Wickham and the following morning made her regular trip to Saint John. When trying to dock in the bedroom a string of schooners was in our way and a howling southwest wind prevented our making the full turn needed and she cut a red raft boat in two. In came a bill for $75. I felt blue, no money - but we paid it in time and that was that.

Hard Times


This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor from his book "From The Splash Of The Paddlewheel", 1985.


A few of the country people were very poor, but even on the most rocky farms where there was little soil they could usually grow enough vegetables and fruit for their own needs. A cow, a pig and a few hens, and perhaps the occasional deer provided meat.

One poor woman, a Mrs. Sutherland, made a trip to Saint John once a month with a little butter, a few eggs, and berries when they were in season. I don't think that that poor woman saw forty dollars in cash in any twelve months. The left shaft of her glasses was broken off and, unable to afford the cost of repairs, she had wound some string around the stub and fashioned a loop to go around her ear. Before going back on the Oconee at night she would buy a few groceries - tea, sugar and flour - from one of the north end groceries. The grocer told me that she always asked him to wrap her purchases in a newspaper so that she could have it to read when she got home. How I hated to collect the sixty cent fare from her.

Another poor woman from the Belleisle worked hard and picked a few blueberries. She had no crate for them so she made one. She had an old weathered board, a few sticks and some alder bushes. After cutting the alder bushes the proper length she flattened the ends with an axe and fastened the materials together with some rusty nails of assorted sizes. A piece of paper on the cover gave the name of the shipper and consignee. On every flat surface that would show a chalk mark she had written in several places, "Please bring back this crate - back" or "Fetch back this crate".

Not quite so industrious was slow moving, slow talking and slow thinking Abe Anderson. He and his wife had several children and lived some distance back of Hatfield Point. In blueberry time he would hitch up the old horse to a rickety old wagon and bring a crate or two of berries to the Hampton. One day one of his neighbors met him on the road and having heard that there had been an addition to Abe's family, he stopped to enquire. Abe said yes, his wife did have another baby last week. When asked whether it was a boy or girl, Abe thought for a moment and then replied very, very slowly, "I don't know, it might be a boy and then again it might be a girl. I don't know yet."


He is Just Away

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


Captain Mabee writes:

"Many years ago I had charge of the little steamer Premier. One nice summer morning the steamer was at her wharf in Indiantown and ready to leave in a few minutes for up river when a tall gray haired Yankee man of about 60 years came looking around.

"Where is this boat going?" he asked.

"Up river" I answered.

"Any chance to go?"

"Why yes", I said, "but in a rough sort of way. There is a very small room where we can fix up a bunk but not much else."

"I will take passage." he said.

It was a beautiful trip up river that day. Up through the rock walls of the Narrows, across the expanse of Grand Bay and the beautiful stretch of the Long Reach.

Mr. Pilling sat in a deck chair the most of the day enjoying Grand Lake's long points, wide coves and sandy beaches.

The following day when we reached Indiantown he expressed his pleasure with the two day trip and said his good bye to each member of the crew. As he went ashore he called back, "I will see you when I come back again next year." He was anxious to get ashore as he had a ticket to return home on the Boston boat that night.

He came again the following year and several years afterward and usually stayed with us for two weeks.

One day when we were sailing down that beautiful river Mr. Pilling was standing beside me in the wheelhouse. the tranquility and beauty were impressive. We were just passing a church yard and I remarked in a low voice, "He is not here, he is just away."

Mr. Pilling looked at me and said "Captain I always feel better for my two weeks stay here in your company". While that sounded very pleasant to hear that remark I always felt that a fair share of his better feeling should be attributed to the fresh salmon. apple dumpling, and blueberry pie since he gained about 12 pounds in the two weeks he was here. Be that as it may, it is now history.


I Can`t Stand Those Whiskers

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


A letter written in May of 1939 by Captain Fred Mabee, relates that during the summer of 1895, Amos Sharpe, a farmer and shoe repairman at Wickham, made several trips on the steamer Hampstead to Saint John to obtain a divorce from his wife who had previously left his bed and board.

He obtained the divorce through the efforts of Alex Baird. He soon began looking about for a young wife and located one on the Belleisle, a Miss Bond. Amos Sharpe took his young bride to live on the little farm in Wickham.

"At that time my father was captain and manger of the Hampstead and my wife was stewardess. Sharpe gave Mrs. Mabee and I an invitation to visit them, which we accepted. This visit was followed by several other visits each on a Sunday evening. On our way back to the steamer after one of these visits, Mrs. Mabee told me that the married life of the couple was not going smoothly at all. It appears that Mr. Sharpe was endowed with a bristly gray whisker, very heavy and strong. The young bride did not enjoy the feel of those bristles in the twilight or - mayhap a little after dark.

In a quiet talk one Sunday eve she told Mrs. Mabee, "I just can't stand those whiskers" and that she would like to run away but how could she? She did not have any money and Sharpe would not give her any. "Can you help me?" Mrs. Mabee said that she would see what could be done. Captain Gillis Mabee said that he would give her a free trip from Wickham to Palmers Wharf.

One morning at five she was at the wharf with a parcel under her arm. We put her ashore at Palmer's Wharf and away she went for home. She never returned to Mr. Sharpe.

The lesson is: "We must be careful how we let our whiskers grow."

Immigrants

The steamboats brought many new citizens to the inner reaches of New Brunswick. The prospect of land ownership against the limitations in the old world, resulted in many people leaving their homes in Europe to seek out a better life.

One such example is well detailed in "Strangers from a Secret Land" by Peter Thomas where he describes the founding of the first Welsh Settlements in Canada. This included Cardigan, the small community ten miles north of Fredericton which was settled in 1819.


An early up river trip is described in the following:

"One week after their landfall, on June 7, Dafydd Phillips, William Richards, William Sansom, with Evan George and his family, boarded the steamship General Smyth at 7 am (the fare 5 dollars) to begin their journey up river to Fredericton, which they reached by 10 pm: "This is one of the most beautiful of places. Everything is so convenient. The worst part of the journey was the landing of us at night in a muddy place. We, the Welsh, were conducted by an Englishman to the house of a Welshman in the town. He was about retiring to bed and would not open the door to us until by happy forethought we talked to him in Welsh, and were then received with the greatest of kindness."


On one trip down to Saint John, Dafydd Phillips left Fredericton Monday, June 24, 1822.

"The Ministers and English brethren escorted me to the water's edge. Then came the signal and I had to embark without bidding them farewell, but did so, however, by signs. We had a pleasant time on deck viewing our surroundings in the morning. At noon came a downpour of rain and we had to go below. The forecastle berth in this boat is as comfortable as any kitchen I have seen in Wales. One may read, write, sew, or do anything here. In a word this is the quickest, pleasantest, and cheapest journey I have ever had on sea or land. During the heavy rain of the afternoon there came five Indians on board. They rose their bark canoes on deck. The Captain gave permission to the women and a child to come below into the cabin. Their appearance, strange habits, and the child interested us most. Between 7 and 8 o'clock we drew up to Indian Town about a mile from St. John's (Saint John)."

Inspection of the Hampstead

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


The annual inspection of the St. John River steamers was always done just prior to the opening of navigation. The owners and captains and in fact, the whole crew, were a little apprehensive for fear the inspector would find something not quite to his liking and would demand repairs or replacement involving delay and expense.

Inspector W.L.Waring was well aware of the importance of his position. He always wore a beaver hat whenever he had occasion to visit a steamer.

It was early May 1894 and the building of the steamer Hampstead had just been completed. she was now the object of close scrutiny by the inspectors. For some detail, Waring wanted to see the hull out of the water. This of course required a trip through the Reversing Falls and "grounding out" in Market Slip.

Captain Gillis Mabee, the owner-manager, was in command. Included in the crew were his three sons, Fred the mate and crew members Arn and Hal.

Captain Fred Mabee, in a later letter, writes that apparently it was intended to run a trial trip as far as Grand Bay or the foot of Long Reach, but since Inspector Waring wanted to see the hull and tide time in the falls served the purpose, very well. It was thought prudent to accede to his wishes.

All went well and just before low water, when the Hampstead was high and dry, Inspector Waring and his beaver hat arrived. He walked around the steamer, pausing occasionally to look upward at the hull.

The women of the crew had not been notified to stay away from the toilet while the inspector was around. As a result he received five gallons of discharging effluent full in the face. It carried off the beaver hat until it became stranded in the mud a few feet away. Inspector Waring had taken a few steps backward but it was to late. He stood there bare headed and dripping. Also, he was seething.

Profuse apologies poured from the lips of the Mabee men while several others stole away to snicker about the sopping Waring and the very unconventional way in which he, and not the Hampstead had received the "christening" on her maiden voyage.

A trip to the galley seemed to appease the irritated Waring. We are not told what was served, but probably tea and a slice of cake or pie. The beaver hat was accorded the attention it sadly needed.

The inspector agreed to an official trip to go the following day as far as Grand Bay.

Fred S.Mabee writes:

"All went well on that short trip. I was at the wheel when we met the steamer Springfield on her way from Belleisle to Saint John. I made a quick turn around and came up just astern of her. Almost before anyone knew about it, the race was on. The Hampstead was soon abreast of the Springfield. Being on our official trip and with the government inspector on board I was quite sure that we were carrying a good head of steam and it was quite possible that we caught the Springfield unexpectedly and quite possibly her steam was down a little.

We passed her quickly and by the time we reached Swift Point we were well ahead and there was no doubt that the Hampstead was the faster steamer by a good margin. I really felt good about it.

That was the fifth of May 1894 and the Hampstead was the first passenger steamer to turn a propeller on the St. John River.

The season of 1894 was not all smooth sailing for Capt Gillis Mabee and his Hampstead. He was unfortunate in the hiring of an engineer. Mr.Chute did not even have a certificate of any kind. Certified engineers were hard to find and you could not operate a passenger steamer without one. He eventually got an engineer that no one wanted. His name was Ed Perkins.

"Father had to keep Chute for a while to help Perkins as Perkins could not do much by himself. Even then there were a few minor accidents but nothing very serious. Father decided to let both of them go and hire Hugh Andrews, but Perkins claimed that he had a season's contract and would not go ashore. For two weeks we sailed with two engineers. Then Capt. Gillis Mabee went to lawyer Mont MacDonald, who told him to get the police. but the police were afraid to lay a hand on him. Then the lawyer said, "You have three husky sons. Watch your chance and run him ashore by the ass of the pants."

Somehow Perkins smelled a rat and whenever we went near him he made a dive for the hold and would stay there for hours with a monkey wrench in his hand. It all bothered father so much that he delegated me to make a deal with him. In the end I paid him $50 to go ashore and that was the last we saw of the pest Perkins"


It Pays to Advertise

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


In the year 1894 Fred S. Mabee was the mate and purser of the steamboat Hampstead which left Wickham early each morning for Saint John and returned later the same day.

He writes:

"One of the crew was a very attractive young woman of 23 and weighing 110 pounds. She had charge of the passenger saloon and dining room.

All went well during the summer. By early fall I began to notice an increase, during the morning, of people, chiefly women, coming aboard at Hampstead. After driving in the cool mountain air the five to eight miles from Hibernia, New Jerusalem, and surrounding area and over the not to smooth dirt road, they were glad to congregate in the comfortable dining room and enjoy a cup of tea. There were no telephones in those days and the inevitable chit chat with neighbours and friends that they did not see very often was very enjoyable.

Well, the little stewardess never thought about the loss of a little butter, a dozen eggs, a dish of bee's honey or other knick knacks, or what the end result might be.

One day I said to her, "You are selling quite a lot of tea lately."

She replied, "I am not selling any tea to those poor cold women that drive all the way to Hampstead in the cold wind to come to the boat."

"All right", said I.

Well, very soon their menfolk began to bring in pigs and potatoes and other farm produce. Soon we had a very nice business from the people that lived in the country back of Hampstead. I always gave the little stewardess the credit for getting this business started.

Her name became Mrs. Fred S. Mabee.

Joshua Black's Barrel of Flour


This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor from his book "From The Splash Of The Paddlewheel", 1985.


It was in late November, 1932. All the leaves had fallen and the sky was grey and sullen with cloud although the heavy rains seemed to be over. The Majestic was on her way to Fredericton with a full cargo, including a barrel of flour to be landed at Evandale for Joshua Black. The water had risen considerably as a result of the record rains and was now nearing the top of the low water wharf. Feeling sure that Josh would soon be along I directed the deckhands to stand the barrel on its end on a slight mound in the center of the wharf.

The following day on the down river trip a man stood on Evandale high water wharf waving frantically. We stopped to see what he wanted and discovered a very irritated and unfriendly Joshua Black. He pointed to the barrel of flour on the low water wharf which was now surrounded by water about two inches deep. "You take that damn barrel of flour back and bring me a good one!", he shouted. I tried to reason with him, explaining that it would be impossible to get a replacement overnight and that the next day would be the last trip of the season. I suggested that he take the barrel and let me know what damage had resulted and I would pay him whatever he considered it to be. "Young feller", he yelled, "you can't put that over on me. You can't get me to take damaged flour."

Giving up, I told the deckhands to bring the barrel aboard. As soon as I had a chance I took a hatchet and carefully opened the barrel. As I had thought only a few drops of water had seeped between the staves which had swelled together in contact with the water. I got a tablespoon from the galley and scooped out all the wet flour - just about a tablespoonful! Then I carefully covered the barrel for the night, and placed the damp barrel head on the boiler to dry. The next morning on the up trip I replaced the barrel head. The tag with the shipper's name, O.E.Campbell, had been water soaked and wrinkled so I discarded it and with blue chalk addressed the barrel to Joshua Black, Evandale. Mr. Black got his barrel of flour, minus one spoonful, on the final trip of the boat for that season, and was never any the wiser.

Just a Silver from the Log Book

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


In 1938 Captain Fred S. Mabee had a long and serious illness. Much of the summer he spent in a hammock on the veranda or the shade of the trees that surround the lawn of his home in Hampton, N.B.

Captain Mabee told me that during his lengthy convalescence naturally his thoughts drifted back to the days of the steamboats and the many incidents that took place. Though some were not of outstanding significance in themselves, they were a part of steamboating and added the interest to our everyday life.

On September 3rd of that year Captain Mabee wrote me a letter which he calls "Just a Sliver from the Log Book of Memory".

"The time was early in May 1907. We could see that the spring freshet was higher than usual because even the high water wharfs were completely inundated.

I was captain of the steamer Crystal Stream. The officers with me were Mate Herb McCleery, Engineer W.W.Roberts, and purser Archie Belyea.

As we neared Hampstead a row boat came out from shore with two men, one of which was a passenger for us. However as we came close he called to me asking if we could land him at Westfield. I dislike making promises but I said that I thought it could be done and I waved him aboard.

When we were getting pretty well down the Long Reach I called up the mate and said "Herb, there is not any boat tender at Westfield. We will have to lower a lifeboat and row that passenger ashore. There is a brisk northerly wind and with this high water there will be a very strong current running down at Westfield. I will make a turn with the Crystal Stream and head up into the current and wind and hold her there as long as possible. Get the port lifeboat ready for launching."

I brought the Crystal Stream as near the shore as I dared. I would say about 30 feet and well above the submerged wharf.

The lifeboat was dropped into the water , the passenger stepped in and Mate McCleery rowed him to the beach. McCleery then rowed back to the steamer, made the gear hooks fast, jumped aboard and we were away. It was just five minutes from the bell to stop the engine to the bell to start.

Looking back today I consider that to be pretty good time for what was accomplished."

Keen Competition

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


Captain Mabee writes:

"I cannot pass over my many years of service on the steamer Hampstead without mention of my good friend Captain Charles Wasson who was on the Majestic.

Although we were in keen competition for freight and passengers we always remained good freinds, but at times he must have been quite annoyed. In those days the Majestic still had her original compound engine and was quite a bit faster that the Hampstead.

Both steamers had their freinds but often the first boat would capture a good share of both passengers and freight. Quite often in the morning the Majestic would come tearing along and overtake us along the Mistake or below Oak Point.

One morning in thick land fog she passed us between Oak Point and Williams Wharf. She made the stop at Williams and went on her way to Glenwood. By this time the land fog had really thickened. We could not see Rocky Island or anything else.

We ran our course and time and then changed course for Glenwood Wharf. Both steamers were blowing their whistles at regular intervals as required in fog. We were running full speed ahead for only a few minutes when I heard the whistle of the Majestic at some distance to starboard.

Someone is wrong, I thought, so I checked my course and time and kept going. I stopped blowing the whistle so that the Majestic would not know our position. We made Glenwood but no sign of the Majestic.

The fog was very thick but we made our way to Browns Flat. The deckhands told people there that the Majestic was aground. We took everything on the wharf and headed down river for Pitts Landing (Victoria Wharf).

Now I did not think that Captain Wasson had the Majestic aground and I was right. He had run up to Jones Creek and found shallow water and had stopped his boat until the sun broke out and then came tearing down and overtook us just below Carters Point. We had taken all the freight and passengers from six wharfs but the Majestic reached Saint John ahead of the Hampstead.

For many years the fuel used by the steamboats was cordwood birch, maple and beech. It was customary to get this from the farmers along the river who would deliver a few cords to a wharf. We would pick it up a little at a time as required. There was always a pile of cordwood waiting for us at Browns Flat. On the way down river if we could see the Majestic following us, we would not take on wood but would do all possible to keep ahead of her as long as we could, but occasionally the Majestic would overtake us while we were taking on freight and passengers at Browns Flat wharf.

The Majestic would usually wait a minute for us to leave. I would tell the deckhands to start loading cordwood but be ready to leave in a hurry - that would give Captain Wasson the impression that we were short of fuel and might be there 15 minutes or more. I knew that he would be too impatient to wait for that and would bring the Majestic alongside the Hampstead expecting to take on his passengers and freight across the deck of the Hampstead.

I had also told the mate to be ready for a quick getaway. As soon as the Majestic was along side of the Hampstead we cast off and I rang full speed ahead and away we went down river for Pitts Landing and left the Majestic lying in front of Browns Flat about 30 feet off from the wharf. For the Majestic this would be an awkward position with a south west wind and an ebb tide, time would be lost. Often it would be better to make a full turn and again approach the wharf.

In any case we gained several valuable minutes to the chagrin of Captain Wasson. However it was all part of the game when you were in keen competition for freight and passengers. This little caper was actually repeated on several occasions during the years of intense rivalry for business.

One morning early in September we had a little land fog when leaving Wickham. It really did not amount to very much, but looking up river there appeared to be a thick bank of fog covering the area around the mouth of Washademoak Lake. The hint of fog on the lower river disappeared and what a beautiful morning it was. The river was perfectly calm and the reflection of the hills, trees and shoreline with their various colours created a wonderful , though ever changing, picture. Also there was another feature that helped complete this tranquility. Apparently we had the river to ourselves, there was no sign of the Majestic.

We took all the passengers and freight from the wharfs as we came along and this of course delayed us a little. As we left Bedford we could see the Majestic coming. She had indeed been held back by fog but was now doing her very best to make up for the delay and to get ahead of the Hampstead.

We crossed the river to Pitts and cleaned off the wharf. Since there was nothing for the Majestic I gave one of our passengers, Mel Erb, enough money to pay for his fare to Saint John and left him at Pitts and told him to take his white handkerchief and wave furiously for the Majestic.

The Majestic stopped at Bedford and then started down river. I felt blue. There was Mel Erb left on Pitts and no way to get to Saint John. But then Captain Wasson looked back and saw the one man waving furiously. He wheeled around and went back to Pitts. When leaving there he had to go around the Devils Back Bar while we stole the Public Landing and Carters Point. When we reached Indiantown and Captain Wasson found what had been done, he came to me, held out his hand and laughed.

Of course we both knew that the Majestic had passed the Hampstead many times in the past and would do so again, but things like that did not spoil our friendship."


Last Year for the Steamer Olivette

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


A letter from Captain Fred Mabee in 1942 recounts an Olivette incident.

"I take you back to 1897, the last year of the life of the steamer Olivette. She and the Hampstead were in keen competition for freight and passengers. I was laid up sick for a while and Captain Alex McClary, a woodboat man and falls pilot had taken over command of the Hampstead. Her schedule was to leave Wickham each weekday at 6am for Saint John and return in the evening. My brother Arn, who lived at Wickham, was mate and purser. One morning in early fall a thick land fog covered the St. John River. Thinking that the captain would wait a while for the fog to lift, Arn went out to the yard to split some wood. Suddenly the whistle blew so he dropped the axe and ran for the steamer. He asked the captain to remain at the wharf for a while but the captain ordered the lines cast off. Arn coiled his lines and rushed to the bow deck. He again advised Captain McClary to reduce speed or he would go head first into Long Island because he was running due west. Well, by this time the grass showed up and away she went into Long Island.

Just where she struck there was an old haystack bottom with some slippery logs. They rolled under her and helped her along. When she stopped her stern was almost out of water. It was not very long before the tugboat G.D.Hunter came along. She had a tow of scows. Arn called to her captain but he said that he could not haul her off alone. Then the Olivette came along. Her captain was Robert Dingee. Between the two of them, they soon had the Hampstead afloat again and the two steamers headed for down river.

The Olivette was in the lead but most of the farmers with shipments, as well as many passengers were loyal to the Hampstead. At Palmers Wharf where the Hampstead got the bulk of the goods, Arn heard Captain Dingee say "I wish I had left that damn thing on Long Island."


Life on the Hampstead

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


There were quite a number of wood boats and other craft with cargos of hay, cordwood and produce coming down river and returning with various supplies for the stores along the way. There were a number of large paddle wheel tugboats towing six or eight or more scows. These same large paddle wheel tugboats towed quantities of logs for the mills at Indiantown. Sometimes these logs were made up into rafts, at other times the logs remained loose but were surrounded by a boom.

Either way they were an obstruction to the passenger steamers, that being in very keen competition with each other, were extremely anxious to make the fastest time possible. Being caught in the circumstances of having to wait while a slow moving raft inched its way past a landing place was very frustrating.

Wheelsmen, though not certified men like captains and mates were often employed to spend some time steering to relieve the mate from long hours at the wheel.

In 1898, Captain Fred S. Mabee was the captain of the steamer Hampstead and William Whelpley was wheelsman.

In a letter written by Captain Mabee in 1939 he says: "We were on our way down river on a lovely summer morning. We made a stop a Belyeas Point, on the lower side of the point. A row boat with passengers for us had come out from John Conley's on the opposite side of the river right above Pancake Hill. Whelpley steered a beeline for the rowboat across the river.

"I was below on the main deck and I heard the whistle of the steamer Victoria give one short blast meaning her captain was directing his course to starboard. Whelpley never answered nor did he signal the engineer to stop or even reduce speed.

Then I saw the Victoria coming up river close to Pancake Point. That grand spin of spray up from her bow denoted speed. I made for the wheelhouse and when I got there we were in square position to be cut in two pieces.

Captain Starkey on the Victoria must have done some quick thinking. One stroke of the engine room gong to stop followed by two strokes to reverse and in very short time a few revolutions of those very large paddle wheels stopped the headway of the Victoria when we were about 100 feet apart.

When we got going again I asked Whelpley why he did it. He said, "Well, I thought were there was a small boat out with passengers that I had the right of way.""

Captain Mabee did not write anything more concerning what he may have said to Whelpley.

Fred Mabee was an excellent steamboat captain; very cool but fast in an emergency.

Love Letters to a Stranger

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


In the summer of 1898 the dredge Dominion was employed to do some dredging on the Oromocto shoals. The tugboat Novelty would tow a loaded scow to deep water and dump the "spoil" while the dredge was loading a second scow. The dredge had a crew of 14 men, two of which were scow men. These were Tom Williams of Long Reach, and Len Haines of Saint John, both were bachelors over 50.

Captain Fred Mabee who was on the Novelty writes that: "Unfortunately Mr. Haines could not read or write but he had been courting a lady in Saint John. One day he came to me with a letter and asked me to read it to him. I complied and then he said "Captain, I want you to answer that letter for me." I replied, "Why Mr. Haines I do not even know this lady."

This was something quite new to me, to write a love letter to a strange woman, but he begged pretty hard and so I kept the letter and that night at Bill Bryson's boarding house in the village of Oromocto, I went to work at it. I was just a young fellow then and suitable sweet sayings for a love letter did not flow freely, but I did manage a short formal letter which I read to him the next day. "That will do" said he, so I mailed it.

In a week or so an answer came, so all that season I wrote proxy love letters to the lady love of another man. When the ice made, we returned to Saint John for the winter and eventually Len Haines married the lady.

Several years later and after I was married, I just happened to meet Len Haines on Portland Street. He insisted that Mrs. Mabee and I call on him and meet Mrs. Haines. Soon after, we availed ourselves of his invitation and spent a pleasant hour with the couple of the proxy love letters.


Majestic Releases Purdy

The following article is from the Daily Gleaner, Nov 29, 1924 and contributed by Dorothy Wilson.


Majestic, With Steel Hull, Arrives as Ice Breaker to Release Purdy

New Oil Burner's Bow Damaged by Ice 2 Inches Thick


The motionless hulls of the steamers D.J.Purdy I and the Majestic secure in the ice in mid channel opposite the mouth of Shore Street this morning gave every appearance that the season's navigation of the St. John River had closed.

The Purdy arrived here last evening unescorted from Saint John although it was expected that the services of the Majestic would be required as an ice-breaker from Gagetown to this city for the heavily laden river steamer. Breaking her way through at least a mile and a half of ice the Purdy was halted opposite Shore St. unable to proceed to her berth at the Crystal Stream Steamship Company's wharf near the Highway Bridge. As a result of the last leg of the voyage the Purdy sustained damage to her bows which necessitated repairs before an attempt could be made to complete the last three-quarters of a mile in order to discharge her cargo.

In order to attack the last short stretch of ice which had formed to a thickness of two inches, as measured at the Regent Street wharf this morning, it was deemed advisable to procure the services of the Majestic which is equipped with a steel hull and has served as an ice-breaker during the latter portions of the navigation periods. The Purdy is handicapped for late season work on account of its wooden hull. Only the quantity of freight, which exceeded the Majestic's capacity for the run yesterday, caused the larger boat to be used in the attempt to reach Fredericton last evening. Following a telephone message to Saint John last evening the Majestic sailed from Indiantown about 8 o'clock last evening to the rescue of the stalled Purdy. The Majestic completed her run at about 8 o'clock this morning and hove to in the ice on the far side of the Purdy.

This morning repairs to the Purdy's bows were undertaken by the crew who were enabled to debark from the boat onto the ice and to go directly to work without the assistance of staging. The cargo was shifted last evening so as to allow the bow of the boat to rise higher from the water and to facilitate the work of repairs. The ice between the boat and the shore permitted the crew to travel back and forth and a life-boat was hauled out from the shore and placed on the ice near the Purdy in case of emergency or for the use in connection with the repairs. New planking is being added below the water-line where the wooden hull has sustained damage from the ice.

The proceedings attracted a large number of spectators who observed the two boats with interest from the river-bank along Waterloo Row during the day although few attempted to reach a closer observation point on the surface of the ice. As soon as the repairs were completed the Majestic preceded the Purdy to her berth after breaking out the ice which had formed about the motionless hull. The Majestic will also act as an ice-breaker on the return journey to Saint John, unless a change in the weather should carry out the ice in the meantime. -------------------------

Both the Purdy and the Majestic succeeded in reaching their wharf early this afternoon. Immediately following the discharge of cargo they will leave for Saint John.

Memories of the Past

Memories of the Past


The St. John River was a sight of beauty to be seen,

When all the big white steamboats went up and down the stream,

The wharves were thronged with people and the freight was piled high,

And what a sight it was to see those boats go gliding by!


The Champlain and the Clifton, Hampstead and Aberdeen.,

The Oconee, Majestic, David W. Weston and May Queen,

Victoria was the largest and pride of all the fleet,

The D.J.Purdy and Sincennes were slow but very neat.


When Captain Porter had the Star some fifty years or more,

There never was a better boat went up and down the shore,

The Crystal Stream was speedy and also pretty neat.

And when it came to making time she was pretty hard to beat.


At certain times each morning you would hear the whistles blow,

The Captain shouted "All aboard, cast off the lines, let's go!"

They made the trip to Fredericton or Grand Lake in fine style,

Some went up the Washademoak and some went up Belleisle.


The steamboats on the river are now forgotten past,

The one to close the service, the Majestic, was the last,

You can see her at Nauwigewauk fast going to decay,

But remember what she used to be when she was in her day.


There was the Pokanoket, the Hampton and Elaine,

But the good days on the river will never come again,

The Fawn, Olivette and Soulanges and Premier had their day,

But the boats are gone forever, yet forever they will stay.


Beatrice Waring and Springfield always looked their best,

They got their share of business along with all the rest,

But now it is all over and the river boats are done,

Yet I never will forget the boats or the St. John River run.


- Frank Hamm -

Published in The Telegraph Journal, June 1958

Man Overboard on the Hampstead

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


A letter from Captain Fred Mabee in February 1942 tells of a trip many year earlier when the Hampstead was discharging a small amount of cargo to a row boat to be taken ashore.

The usual procedure was for a deckhand using a pole with an iron hook on the end, to hook the bow of the row boat. The boat would then swing in against the side (steps) of the steamboat where the officer on deck (who was usually the purser or mate) using an iron hook on a short rod, held the stern of the row boat firmly against the side of the steamboat.

Captain Mabee writes:

"I take you back to the year 1896. The steamer Hampstead on her upriver trip was making a boat stop at Dunham's Landing. I was at the wheel and my father Captain Gillis Mabee was on the main deck with the iron boat hook tending the stern of the row boat. The small boat was loaded and cast off at the bow but father's hook caught and would not come loose. He held on firmly and out he went SPLASH into the river. Then there was a shout, "Man overboard! Man overboard!" My wife and sister Flo were sitting out on the after saloon deck. They heard the cry of "man overboard" and ran to the rail. It was then that Mrs. Mabee heard my sister shout, "Oh my! It's Pa!".

I also heard the call and the commotion and I looked over the rail and there was J. Gillis Mabee swimming right on top of the water. George Dunham quickly brought his row boat to the swimmer and we soon had him back on board the Hampstead. Wet, well and wiser."

Mel and the Oil Can

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor.


In 1912 the steamer Oconee began a daily service leaving Wickham at 5:45 am for Saint John, and returning she left the city at 3 pm. This proved to be a very popular service for people in this area. They could have about four hours in Saint John and get home in time to do the chores.

There were two stores at Wickham and three at Hampstead as well as others along the way whose owners found it necessary to make frequent business trips to the city.

Mel had a small store that provided a reasonable living. He was not a heavy drinker but on his trips to Saint John he usually found time to stop at a bar on his way back to the Oconee. Occasionally he would buy a "long neck" to take with him but really did not like carrying the conspicuous "long neck" in his pocket.

One day he thought of a novel way to overcome this difficulty. Before leaving home he slipped a small potato in his pocket. Hours later in Saint John as he walked by St. Lukes Church he noted that there was still nearly an hour before sailing time. A little further along he went in to A.M.Rowans Hardware store and bought a small oil can with a spout. This was the type of can used for small quantities of kerosene and probably held a gallon or less. Then Mel went on to the nearest bar and had the owner pour the contents of a "long neck" in the new oil can. Then out from his pocket came the potato and was pushed down firmly over the spout of the oil can. This gave it a very innocent and authentic appearance since using a potato as a cork for the spout of any oil can was a common practice in those days.

It just happened that there were three commercial travelers (today they are known as salesmen) on board that afternoon. They were very pleased to see Mel, their customer coming aboard.

There were a lot of passengers on board, good seats were all occupied and Mel was tired. He asked Captain Flewelling if he could use the captain's room for an hour or two. They had been friends for years and Odbur readily agreed.

The commercial travelers went in with Mel and it seems that the potato came off the spout of Mel's oil can. Mel had been sitting on the edge of the bed and after a while he simply leaned over backward and went to sleep.

Some time later the commercial travelers decided to go out on deck for a while but before going they thought that since Mel seemed to be "dead to the world", he should be "laid out" properly. They stretched him out full length, placed a large copper coin on each eye, put a white handkerchief over his face and walked out.

The stewardess had had a busy day. About tea time she remembered that one of her duties was to see if there was sufficient oil in the lamp in the captain's room and also clean the chimney. The captain's room was just across the dining saloon from the kitchen. She hurried across. The door to the captain's room opened inward and partially obscured the bed. She entered, stepped forward and removed the oil lamp from the wall bracket. As she turned she saw her well known friend and neighbor apparently lying dead in the captain's bed. With a shriek she fled from the room and fell to the floor. The oil lamp flew from her grasp and hit the floor with a crash. She called loudly for her husband the cook. Passengers gathered around and all tried to assist and calm her.

It was quite some time before the whole story became known. It was only when the frightened stewardess, a few hours later saw Mel walking around the deck that she could bring herself back to reality.


Murder! Murder!

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


It was mid summer 1896. A wonderful day on our ever beautiful St. John River. Early in the morning it was entirely calm. The kind of calm when hills, trees and shoreline are reflected perfectly in the mirror-like surface of the river.

The steamer Hampstead ran smoothly from wharf to wharf picking up passengers at each landing. She was nearing the foot of Long Reach when this serene and tranquil day was suddenly changed by a commotion in the main saloon. There were shrieks followed by a cry of murder!

The stewardess was present when the commotion began and could quickly see that the real trouble seemed to be in the ladies cabin at the end of the main saloon. She rushed in and saw one of the passengers, a Mrs. Bradford Hawkes on the floor and kicking and struggling, while her husband with his left hand in her face was extracting a large jack knife from his pocket.

Meanwhile the other women in the ladies cabin were nearly frantic and were screeching for the stewardess to do something.

Now it turned out that Mrs. Hawkes was subject to fits. These seizures came on suddenly. Usually she fell or threw herself on the floor. Brad had followed her to the ladies' cabin and was barely inside the door when it happened. His immediate concern was to prevent his wife from biting her tongue. He dropped to her side and placed his left fore knuckle between her teeth. With his right hand he reached for the folded jack knife to replace his knuckle which was between her teeth and was receiving rough treatment.

The women passengers were still screaming "Murder! Murder! He is going to cut her throat with that jack knife."

The cool headed stewardess had previously seen Mrs. Hawkes in a similar state. A quick explanation to the passengers soon restored the situation to a near normal condition.

Conversation flowed freely all the way to Saint John. There were at least three versions of the murder and two women declared that the blade of the knife was open and was snatched away by the pretty stewardess.

Mrs. Bradford Hawkes recovered.

Navigation Dates

The following navigational dates are from "St. John and the Province of New Brunswick - A Handbook for Travellers, Tourists and Business Men" , printed 1884.


Year Opened Closed

1825 April 15 November 20

1826 April 17 November 14

1827 April 6 December 3

1828 April 20 November 19

1829 April 17 December 15

1830 April 18 November 29

1831 April 10 December 1

1832 May 3 November 15

1833 April 10 November 5

1834 April 11 November 17

1835 May 1 November 28

1836 April 28 November 14

1837 April 17 November 9

1838 May 1 November 25

1839 April 23 November 23

1840 April 16 November 23

1841 April 27 November 27

1842 April 24 November 22

1843 April 26 November 14

1844 April 14 November 22

1845 April 23 December 4

1846 April 6 November 28

1847 May 2 November 20

1848 April 19 November 13

1849 April 8 December 1

1850 April 30 November 27

1851 April 26 November 21

1852 April 30 December 12

1853 April 18 November 25

1854 May 7 December 10

1855 April 27 November 20

1856 April 25 November 25

1857 April 17 November 26

1858 April 22 November 11

1859 April 15 November 23

1860 April 25 November 26

1861 April 18 December 2

1862 April 24 November 25

1863 April 26 November 26

1864 April 21 November 25

1865 April 1 November 27

1866 April 10 November 20

1867 April 24 November 16

1868 April 26 November 16

1869 April 21 November 25

1870 April 11 November 27

1871 April 10 November 20

1872 April 28 November 26

1873 April 26 November 11

1874 April 24 November 17

1875 May 2 November 17

1876 April 24 November 29

1877 April 15 November 23

1878 April 20 December 18

1879 April 29 November 21

1880 April 24 November 22

1881 April 2 November 21

1882 May 1 November 26

1883 April 22 November 28

1884 April 21

New Brunswick Steamboat Act

During the New Brunswick Legislative session of 1812, the first piece of legislation pertaining to organized transportation on the St. John River was passed. Its object was to encourage the building of a Passage Boat to be worked by steam, to facilitate river communication between Saint John and Fredericton. This act was passed March 7,1812 as follows;


Whereas a petition has been presented to the general assembly of this Province, from John Ward, Robert Smith, George D. Berton, James C.F. Bremner, Esquires, and James Fraser, and Lauchlin Donaldson, praying for an exclusive privilege for the term of ten years, to be granted to them by an Act of the General Assembly of this Province, as an encouragement to the erection of a Passage Boat, to be worked by Steam, for the accommodation and conveyance of passengers between the City of Saint John and Fredericton, and whereas a convenient Passage Boat, for the accommodation and conveyance of passengers between the City of Saint John and Fredericton is much wanted, and if worked by Steam will add greatly to the facility of communication.

(I) Be it further enacted by the President, Council and Assembly,-------that the said John Ward, Robert Smith, George D. Berton, and James C.F. Bremner; Esquires, and James Fraser and Laughlin Donaldson, upon good and sufficient security being given to his Majesty, His Heirs, and Successors, by Bond, from the said John Ward, Robert Smith, George D. Berton, and James C.F. Bremner; Esquires, and James Fraser and Laughlin Donaldson, in the penal sum of five hundred pounds, conditioned to be void upon erection of a good sufficient and convenient Boat, to be worked by Steam, and competent to the accommodation of sixty passengers, within two years of the passing of this Act, shall, as soon as such Boat shall be completed and finished, have, possess and enjoy to themselves, their executors, administrators and assigns, the sole right of carrying passengers, and transporting freight of different kinds, in a Boat so to be worked by Steam, upon the River Saint John between the City of Saint John and Fredericton, for the term of ten years; and no other persons, or persons whomsoever other than the said John Ward, Robert Smith, George D. Berton, and James C.F. Bremner; Esquires, and James Fraser and Laughlin Donaldson, their executors, administrators or assigns, shall use or employ any Boat, or Boats, to be worked by Steam, upon the said River Saint John,for any purpose whatsoever, during the said term of ten years.


(II) And be it further enacted; that nothing in this Act, contained shall extend or be construed to extend to restrain, or in any manner effect the right of any person or persons, to carry passengers and transport freight, in Boats or Vessels of any description whatsoever, not worked by Steam, in like manner of such person or persons, might of done if this Act had not been made.


(III) Provided always, and be it further enacted; That if the said John Ward, Robert Smith, George D. Berton, and James C.F. Bremner; Esquires, and James Fraser and Laughlin Donaldson, shall neglect to enter and duly execute the said bond as required by the first section of this Act, within one month from the passing of this Act, the same shall cease to be of any force or effect,


(IV) Provided also and be it further enacted, that whereas such Steam Boat can be made use of during the summer season only, a list of the rates of passage money and freight intended to be received and taken during the then next ensuing season, shall, within two months before such Boat shall be actually used for the transportation of passengers and freight as aforesaid, be published in the Royal Gazette; and in case any alterations of such rates to be taken in any subsequent season shall be thought expedient to be made during the enjoyment of the right herein-be-fore granted, such alteration shall be in like manner published three months, at the least, before the commencement of such season, and that no higher or greater rates shall be taken in any season than such as shall be published to be taken during such season as aforesaid, and that in case such Steam Boat, shall be unfit for use,or shall not be ready to be employed for the purpose aforesaid, agreeably to the true intent and meaning of this Act, during the space of three months in any season after such Steam Boat, shall be completed and finished as aforesaid, unless in case of an accident by which the necessary repairs of such Boat shall require longer time to complete the same, then and from thenceforth the said right, secured as aforesaid by this Act, shall cease, determine, and become null and void,------


Due to the declaration of war by the United States against Great Britain in June, 1812, the promoters asked for an extension on the project. This was granted in a second act in March, 1813, and the Passage Boat was not constructed until after the end of the war. The keel was laid during the summer of 1815 in Portland, near what is today, Long Wharf in Saint John and she was launched on April 11, 1816. Her first trials were in the harbor on May 10, and she passed through the falls the following day tying up at Indiantown. Her first trip up river began on May 20,1816.

Oconee Breaks a Crank

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor from his book "From The Splash Of The Paddlewheel", 1985.


The Oconee had just left Victoria Wharf one afternoon and was on the up-river trip when the engine suddenly stopped. Engineer Oakley MacCleery came rushing to the wheelhouse to say that one of the cranks of the compound engine had suddenly broken and there was nothing he could do.

There was a strong northwest wind blowing so Captain Day immediately ordered the anchor dropped. After a few seconds to everyone's dismay the anchor chain disappeared. Whoever installed the chain had not made the end fast to the bitts. Anchor, chain and all, had gone overboard. By this time we were nearing mid river and as we had neither power nor anchor the wind was taking us in the general direction of Bedford Wharf. It was soon evident that we would be blown ashore a few yards above the wharf, but a motorboat came out to meet us and the owner offered to try to tow us down river so that we could make the wharf. He was able to do just that. We were thankful to be tied up at Bedford Wharf and not on the beach, although any damage would probably have been no more than a dished paddle wheel. There was, however, quite an argument with the owner of the motorboat, since he claimed it was a salvage job and wanted quite a lot of money for his part.

A tugboat towed the Oconee on to Saint John where a new crank was turned out by the J.Fred Williamson Machine Shop. A few anxious moments occurred at the time of installation. The crank had to be shrunk on the shaft which entailed heating it in the shop forge, taking it by hand truck to the steamer, slinging it in line with the shaft, and then driving it on the shaft with sledgehammers before it cooled. Halfway on it seemed to stick but the men with the sledgehammers increased their efforts and managed to get the crank in place before it had cooled and contracted so much as to become immovable on the shaft.

As far as I know that old anchor and chain are still on the bottom of the river, a short distance above Victoria Wharf, with the anchor chain leading out toward the opposite shore. We sailed without an anchor for a few trips without incident. Fortunately it was seldom that a river steamer found it necessary to anchor.

Oconee Start 1921

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor from his book "From The Splash Of The Paddlewheel", 1985.


I started work on the Oconee in 1921, as purser under father's guidance. The engineer usually worked all winter on repairs to the Oconee (those feathering float paddle wheels usually needed plenty). About the first of March I came to work and Engineer Oakley McCleery said, "You can tell your father the starboard side is ready for sea, it can go anytime."

I was perplexed, but when I told father he just laughed and said he guessed he wouldn't start up river with the starboard side of the Oconee unless the port side could go along too.

At about this time all officers and others desiring work were employed overhauling equipment: lifeboats, lifebelts and all other gear used, lines, anchors, chains, all block and tackle, steering gear, and the bell-pull system signals to the engine room. Along with these were the cleaning and washing jobs. Soon a faint smell of tar and oakum pervaded the air and then the smell of paint being mixed in large tubs under the careful supervision of the captain.

By early April the larger shippers in Saint John began hauling various commodities to the warehouse by team and sloven wagon. Usually the first to arrive were a few loads of chemical fertilizer. The smell, though pungent, was in no way offensive but gave promise that we would soon be finished with the labour of getting ready.

A critical time was the steamboat inspection. As usual the Inspector was particular and exacting, as of course he had to be. Nevertheless it was always a relief when he departed, with only a few minor changes to be made. The boiler inspection was quite another matter. A cold water test was made with a special pump to raise the pressure to a point well above the steam pressure allowed, in order to provide a margin of safety. This cold water test was also designed to show up any small leaks in the tubes, crown sheet, stay bolts, etc. If the test was not satisfactory any amount of delay might occur before the inspector would issue a certificate permitting the boat to operate for the coming year. Although there was seldom any difficulty, everyone was glad when that cold water test was over.

By this time the river ice had started to run and the milling companies and the wholesale grocers were also "hauling in". When you walked through the warehouse your nostrils were assailed by the mixed aromas from bundles of salt cod, chests of tea and boxes of smoked herring. Digby chicks, spices and other commodities. Although any conversation usually pertained to the work at hand, all these things, even going to work at seven in the morning instead of eight, quickened the pulse and raised the spirits. We kept an anxious eye out for news of the ice conditions. When the ice had disappeared from Marble Cove we knew that in five or six days, give or take a day or two, depending on the weather and the height of water, the Long Reach ice would probably be out and we could get under way.

Events now moved swiftly, the firemen had started a fire in the furnace and as the temperature neared boiling point the boiler would sing like a giant tea kettle as it raised steam. The engineer had opened the throttle slightly and permitted the engine to turn slowly while we still had plenty of lines fast to the wharf. Heavy winter moorings were taken in.

The steward had ordered supplies and the cook was now regularly preparing meals. The deckhands were busy trucking freight aboard.

We soon got word that the Long Reach was practically clear of ice and very little ice running that would damage our paddle wheels. Reasonable care would of course have to be taken.

The scene was suddenly transformed. An air of excitement prevailed. Ordinary work clothes were changed for uniforms. Passengers were notified, the whistle sounded the normal fifteen minute warning, I gathered up bills of lading and rushed last minute shipments on board. Then with the usual three blows of the whistle we let go all lines and we were under way.

The steamboats, dormant through the long winter months, had suddenly come to life. We all knew that many days of long hours and tiresome work lay ahead, now that we had started. Except for illness or an emergency the officers and most of the crew would not have a day off until the boat tied up in November or December, but with the life of the river surging through us all we could think of was the thrill of the first trip of the season.


Poor Cooking

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


As can well be imagined there was a great difference in the meals served on the different steamers and at different times. This was to a certain extent dictated by the travelling public.

In the early 1900's on many of the steamboats a good three course dinner was 50 cents and supper was 40 or 45 cents.

Eventually the steamers running to Fredericton which really catered to the tourists charged 75 cents for dinner and what a dinner it was. Everything in season, fiddle heads, picked the afternoon before, pies cooked on board and still warm seemed to have a flavour of there own.

This was in sharp contrast to meals served on some of the tugboats that were poorly reimbursed for the service they performed.

Captain Mabee writes:

"I know that you, Don, do not have to worry about poorly cooked meals but times and conditions have changed a lot since then."

During the summer of 1893 the tug Novelty was towing mud scows from the dredge operating near Perry Point on the Kennebecasis River. The job did not pay enough to allow for the hiring of a cook so twice a week we went up to Hampton and got enough cooked food to last us for three days. We soon tired of running the eight miles twice a week and decided to look around for a place to board.

We found a man by the name of Boxald who with his wife said he would give it a try. We were more pleased then than we were later. We went ashore on the appointed day at 6 am.

The smell of fresh bread just out of the oven filled the room. I clamped my eye on a loaf and from the outside it looked ok but when Mrs. Boxald sliced it, in appearance it could easily pass for marble cake. Where she picked up the grease we did not know. The bread was plainly full of greasy black streaks. We made a sudden switch and finished the meal with pancakes.

In my log book it is recorded as a hasty mistake.

Brother Arn and I did not return for dinner but the chief (engineer) Alex Todd did and he "fixed up" for our breakfasts.

We resumed our twice a week trips up to Hampton for food.


Late in the summer of 1893 the dredge that had been digging near Perry Point on the Kennebecasis was ordered to the Grimross Canal that connects the upper end of Gagetown Creek with the St. John River.

This is the only canal on the St. John River system. Before this canal was dug (1860's) all the steamers running from Saint John to Fredericton and wishing to stop at Gagetown had to go up Gagetown Creek to the river and proceed up "No Man's Friend". The canal reduced this procedure by quite a distance and the time of turning.

Captain Mabee continues:

"The Novelty went along with the dredge to take the mud scows away and dump them in deep water. For this the Novelty was paid $12 per day. That slim amount had to pay brother Arn and I and the engineer who also did the work of a fireman, and also pay for fuel and food. You can see there was not any money to pay a cook.

Well, we made our quarters at the Huestis Hotel (Flea House) in Lower Jemseg. There was plenty of food but rather poorly cooked.We carried our dinners with us. We left Lower Jemseg at 6:30 am and went up through the Raft Channel to the river and Grimross Canal.

Brother Arn got the tea hot and set the table. One day he was cutting a white cake when the knife brought up on a knot of brown hair about the size of a small rubber ball. Arn called and brought it up for me to see. I could hardly believe my eyes. Apparently it had fallen in the dough while the mixing was being done. We saved it to show the hotel keeper that night but Arn made the mistake of showing it to the chief (engineer) who was paying some attention to the cook. When Arn was busy with something else the engineer found it and threw it overboard, and thus destroyed the evidence. He should have been prosecuted but we let the matter drop and we went to the Porter Hotel where we fared much better, but engineer Todd stayed on and later married the girl of the lovely brown hair.

Purser on the Majestic

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor from his book "From The Splash Of The Paddlewheel", 1985.


In 1929 I transferred to the Majestic as mate, purser and spare captain with Captain Major C. McMurtry and engineer Charlie Tapley. I had been associated for a number of years with captains and engineers considerably older than me, and although I respected the knowledge and experience of the older men, I was very pleased this time to be with men nearer my own age.

Major and I were together on the Majestic for eight years. We had many good trips and of course a few anxious ones; the hours were long and all weekends were away from home, but they were pleasant years to remember.

During the early part of the season the purser was fairly busy on the up river trip only. Travellers were few since the holiday season had not started, and it did not take long to collect the fares from the passengers. There was a good quantity of freight moving up river. May was the heavy fertilizer month, and although the acrid smell of the phosphates was not at all objectionable, for a few trips late in the month the smell of bonemeal seemed to permeate every saloon and cabin. As the season advanced we began to pick up a few crates of rhubarb on the down river trip.

Suddenly it was June. June and strawberries. Just the occasional crate at first but by the height of the season we were carrying hundreds of crates on the Majestic. This was before the time of the standard 32-box crate and these crates varied in size containing 24,36,45 or even 54 boxes of strawberries.

Now, on the down river trip the purser suddenly became very busy. There were no bills of lading accompanying the shipments and the purser was fortunate if the shipper addressed an envelope to the consignee and also remembered to mark on it the number and sizes of the crates. The freight charged on each crate depended on its size. The smell of strawberries was everywhere and what a good smell it was! This was soon followed by shipments of fresh garden vegetables the very sight of which sharpened our appetites because we knew that our good cook would soon be serving the best greens with young beets, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, string beans, and green peas along with the veal and lamb which the farmers were shipping to the merchants in Saint John.

The purser was kept busier than ever taking account of the freight. It had to be entered in the freight book and freight bills made out assessing the proper freight charges on the various commodities often packed in crates or bags of different sixes. Following this a manifest was prepared before reaching Saint John, showing all the freight for the various consignees.

By this time too, people travelling to their summer cottages, tourists, canoe parties, and Sunday school picnics had greatly swelled the volume of passenger traffic.

Once each summer the steamers on the lower endof the river made a Sunday trip to the Beulah Camp Meetings at Browns Flat. The Majestic left Coles Island at 6:00 am picking up passengers along the way. We were no sooner tied up at Browns Flat and had the passengers ashore than we were invaded by an army of sightseers. The adults tramped around and the children raced the decks. As a few got tired and left, as many or more came to look around the steamer. We could hardly believe that all those people came to Browns Flat just to attend the camp meeting. To be sure there was no freight to handle but by the time we reached Coles Island about 8:30 pm we were convinced that the Sabbath had been anything but a day of rest.

Occasionally river steamers with a free afternoon and evening, on a lay over day, were also chartered to entertain a convention. One time the Majestic was chartered by a society for an afternoon and evening excursion. It happened that my purser's office was the only place available to lock up their beer and liquor, and I was not very happy about this as the four officials kept making many visits to my small office. Eventually one fellow tired of the bottle opener, and began to open the quart bottles of beer with his teeth. While sitting in my chair he got into an argument with one of the others and leaning back he planted his wet heels on the white vest of the other and sent him flying against the office door. He fell to the floor but was soon on his feet again. He then opened another quart of beer with his teeth and proposing a toast waved it around at arm's length and promptly dropped it on the plate glass top of the desk with shattering results. That sobered them enough for me to get rid of them.

In the meantime two fellows and their girlfriends had somehow succeeded in getting into my room. The fellows, as I learned afterwards, had a bottle of gin with them which one of the girls had taken quite a few drinks. The other girl refused so they held her and tried to make her take a drink from the bottle. As might be expected the bottle upset on my bed. The smell was overpowering, but I thought I had the remedy. A few days earlier a young sister of one of the deckhands had come aboard selling small bottle of cheap perfume, and of course I bought one. Hoping now that the perfume might nullify the smell of the gin I opened the bottle and poured it around. I could not have been more mistaken. The smell of the gin was bad enough, the cheap perfume was worse and the two together created such a vile stench that at first I doubted that I could spend the night in my room. I had no choice however as there was nowhere else, but it was several days before the room lost that terrible smell.

Not all charters were like these. Mostly they were quiet and caused no trouble whatsoever, but occasionally we would have a gang of bad actors who would pose a few problems, doing something that would endanger their own lives and the lives of others.

Racing at Midnight

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


The captains and officers of the steamboats usually stayed the full season. In many cases the entire crew not only stayed the entire season but returned year after year.

Occasionally did real illness necessitate that a person go ashore. One such occasion arose on the Hampstead.

Captain Mabee writes:

"It was mid summer 1896. The stewardess became quite ill during the night while the steamer was at Wickham and there was no time to get a girl even for a waitress on such short notice.

It so happened that our fireman had some restaurant experience and offered to help if a deck hand could assist him in maintaining the steam at its usual pressure. Very soon after leaving Saint John the fireman came to the wheelhouse and told me that there was a young lady on board that would make the trip up just to help out. "Very well", said I, "you may tell her to go to work".

The girl seemed to do very well. I told her that she could occupy the room used by the stewardess. In the middle of the night I was awakened by someone running around and around the saloon deck. It really sounded like two people having a race. After they went by my door twice I thought that I had better see what was going on. I opened my door and lo and behold the fireman was chasing the new table girl around the saloon deck outside the cabin in the moonlight. It was quite evident that both were nearly naked.

I shouted and spoke quite sharply to them. I told them that we were not going to have such antics going on and that a lot of unnecessary noise when others were trying to sleep must stop immediately. The turmoil was over and the performers disappeared very quickly and quietly. Needless to say when we reached Saint John that girl "walked the plank".


Robert Wood Recalls

Robert M. Wood of Carters Point was 87 and a retired farmer when he contributed to the "Memories" column of "The Kings County Record" beginning June 27, 1979. His recollections give an excellent account of the steam boats and the impact that they had on those living along their routes. At the time he still enjoyed his hobby as a carpenter in turning out his well finished articles such as doll cradles, trays and planters. In his earlier years he was a sometimes builder of small boats and had a deep interest in the vessels that plied river and lake waters of southern New Brunswick.

Memories -June 27, 1979


Having been entertained as a child with bedtime stories about old river boats, and grown up in this rather salty atmosphere, and lived out my three score and ten years on a place where river boats were and ferry boats still are a vital link in our transportation, I naturally acquired an early and lasting interest in boats of all kinds, but more especially the river steamers that passed our home; and as all but those on the Kennebecasis passed by on every trip they made, I knew them all by sight or by sound of whistle.

As the following notes about them are written almost entirely from my memories of the boats, there may be some errors, but where I use dates I have checked with old newspaper clippings and notes from the New Brunswick Museum, etc. and I think they are fairly accurate.


OLIVETTE - The first boat I can remember was the Olivette and my memory of her is pretty dim. She was a small side wheeler. I can remember two trips on her , one to Saint John and one to Uncle Theodore Holder's, who tended boats at Long Reach. I distinctly remember the crank that turned the wheels. I think the Olivette ran as a daily boat, but am not certain.


HAMPSTEAD - The Hampstead was a small screw propeller driven boat that made the round trip daily between Wickham and Saint John. Though the sound of her whistle has not been heard in these parts for many years I would still know it as far as I could hear it. There was none other just like it on the river. She burned in 1916.


MAJESTIC - About the beginning of this century, people began coming to the country for the summer in numbers. To cater to this growing trade, a group of men formed a company and brought in the Majestic in 1901. She had been built for similar trade on the Richelieu River and Lake Champlain. Fast and easily handled she was a fine boat for this work.

One night after stopping here she ran full tilt on the gravel bar that juts out on the end of Carters Point. The tugboat Admiral was lying at Browns Flat , directly across the river, and after the Majestic had blown her whistle a couple of hours for help, the Admiral came over and pulled her off the bar. It seems the Admiral was tied up on account of engine trouble and came as soon as she was patched up. There was no telephone here, and perhaps none on the other side of the river at that time. The engine of the Admiral was the original compound engine invented by Benjamin Tibbets. It had served in the Reindeer, Antelope and lastly in the Admiral. In any other country it would have been given a place of honor in a museum. Here it was broken up and sold as scrap during the First World War.

After a few years the Majestic had alterations made to both power plant and deck house that made a better general purpose boat but greatly reduced her speed. She ran to Fredericton for a short time and was later put on the Washademoak run, continuing there until 1945, one of the longest periods of service ever given on the river. She was the first steel hulled vessel and the last steamer on the river service.


ELAINE - The Majestic soon cut into the Hampstead's trade, being a larger, speedier boat, so the owners of the Hampstead brought in the Elaine and put her on in opposition to the Majestic. She was a very fine boat, built for the passenger trade, and was a little larger and about as fast as the Majestic. The rivalry between these boats was keen. Every trip was a race. Later on the Elaine ran for a short time to Fredericton and then to Chipman. She was finally sold and went up around Guysboro.


"As beautiful as a wooden shoe"


OCONEE - For a few years after the Elaine was taken off the Wickham route we had no daily boat. Then Captain Charles Taylor obtained a small paddle wheel tugboat, rebuilt here, christened her Oconee and put her in service. After a year or two she was cut in two, and about 25 feet built into her mid ship section and, thus enlarged, she operated for many years. Getting into Saint John about 9:30 or 10 am and leaving again at 4 pm, her passengers had a fairly long day to do shopping or other business and return home without the necessity of staying overnight in the city. She was a very popular boat. About as beautiful as a wooden shoe, she had the distinction of being the last side wheeler to operate on the river. She was condemned about 1928 and beached at South Bay.


GENEVA - About the same time that the Oconee was put in service, a small motor vessel the Geneva was put on the river to carry passengers. I do not recall whether she went beyond Browns Flat. She operated only a very short time.


CLIFTON - The first boat I remember on the Kennebecasis River run was the stern wheeler Clifton. We had two or three trips on this steamer from Saint John to Clifton where my grandmother lived.


HAMPTON - This boat built in 1906, replaced the Clifton on the Kennebecasis River. After the Champlain burned in 1922, the Hampton was placed on the Belleisle run and continued there until her hull was condemned in 1930. She was the last of the stern wheel or "wheel barrow" boats on the river.


SPRINGFIELD - This stern wheeler was the first I remember on the Belleisle river route. Before the Long Reach ice would run out in the spring she would make a trip or two as far up as Carters Point. All the farmers within sound of her whistle would bring eggs, butter, Easter veal, etc., to get into market before the glut from up river points, that came when the river was fully opened, brought the prices down.

BEATRICE WARING - Was built in 1903 to replace the old Springfield. She was also a stern wheeler with the wheel boxed in. She was the largest of her type that I can remember, but proved to be slow. I have read that she was the first boat to be lighted by electricity. Her lights were so arranged that she was a beautiful sight when they were turned on. She was also fitted with a powerful search-light. In those days, the Royal Kennebecasis Yacht Club held an annual service at Carters Point, and the Beatrice brought a crowd up from Saint John to one of them. As there was no wharf then, she ran in close enough to the beach that planks could reach the shore, and tied up. When the time came to return, the tide had gone down, and Beatrice was hard and fast aground but finally managed to back off. She burned in 1906.


QUEEN (CHAMPLAIN) - I do not remember for what route the Queen was bought but she made only a few trips, and burned. She was then rebuilt and renamed Champlain and was put on the Belleisle run. Her Saturday trip from Saint John was timed to suit those who wished to make a weekend trip up river, and she was well patronized for this service. She burned at Glenwood in 1922.


HAMPTON - I have already described her. She was put on this run after the Champlain burned. There is a beautiful scale model of this boat in the New Brunswick Museum, at Saint John - its upper decks crowded with excursionists and the main deck loaded with merchandise bearing the brand names of many articles that were manufactured in Saint John at the time but are no longer produced. It is a very interesting exhibit.


STAR - The Star was a side wheel boat on Washademoak Lake. I do not remember much about her. She burned at Indiantown in 1902.


"Four of crew die as vessel burns"


CRYSTAL STREAM - A neat side wheeler she was brought here from the United States to replace the Star. She had been used there as an excursion boat. She caught fire in the night and burned at Coles Island. Four of her crew were trapped in their quarters by the flames and lost their lives. Three of them were men from the Lands End school district. This was in 1907.


SINCENNES - After the Crystal Stream burned her owners bought a large steel hulled side wheel tug named Sincennes on the St. Lawrence, and brought her here. She was converted into a passenger and freight boat and was on this route for several years until she was damaged by fire in 1911. As the steel hull was not damaged she was rebuilt and renamed D.J.Purdy and put on the Fredericton route.


LILY GLASIER - Was a very large side wheel tugboat. When one of the above boats was being fitted out she was put on this run for a short time.


ABERDEEN - This was an old stern wheel boat that had been built for use on the upper river between Fredericton and Woodstock. While on that run we would see her only as she passed by on her way up in the spring or came back when the water got too low to float her. Her bow deck was then open. Later on it was housed in, and the boat was put on the Washademoak route. She burned at Coles Island in 1908. None of these boats stopped regularly at Carters Point so I was never aboard any of them.


MAJESTIC - This fine boat mentioned above, succeeded the Sincennes and continued on this run until she was retired in 1945. She was taken up near Nauwigewauk and beached. The Majestic and probably others on this run came down the narrow eastern channel from Sterrit's to The Cedars, thus serving a part of the river not reached by other boats.

MAY QUEEN - This fine old side wheeler ran from Saint John to Chipman. She was built in Saint John in 1869 and ran until 1916, probably the longest period of any boat that was ever on the river. The Grand Lake run was the longest and toughest of any. Though Chipman is not as far from Saint John as Fredericton, the boat had to cross the lake several times, as she served the villages on both sides, so the total mileage covered in a trip was greater than the distance from Saint John to Fredericton. At times too the lake was very rough. It lay in some of the best farming areas of the province and in the fall the May Queen would carry tremendous loads of farm produce. On a still fall evening the thud-thud-thud-thud of her paddle wheels when striking the water would carry a surprising distance as she made her belated way down the Long Reach. The Grand Lake boats made only two round trips a week, going up on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and down Thursdays and Mondays. On Tuesdays and Fridays she was idle unless chartered to carry picnics or excursions. She burned in winter quarters in Saint John. So many of these boats burned that it seemed almost to be the natural end of them.


PREMIER - A group of people in Clifton, Kings County proposed to build a resort hotel at that point, and built the Premier there to furnish transportation for their guests between rothesay and their hotel. With the ferry built and the foundation of the hotel put in, the scheme was dropped because of the outbreak of World War 1, and the boat was laid up. Later she had a regular steam boat bow built on her, and the old Hampstead engine installed. She ran for a short time to Fredericton and afterwards was put on the Grand Lake run. Though small she could carry a huge load of farm produce. I do not know her ultimate fate.


ELAINE - The Elaine mentioned above was put on this run for some time in opposition to the May Queen.


WESTCHESTER - This twin screw, oil burning steamer was brought here as a picnic and excursion vessel. A pavilion was built at Caters Point in 1932 and for a year or two picnics and dances were held here. The grounds were small and treeless and not well suited for the purpose, and a high freshet wrecked the pavilion. The Westchester served the Grand Lake area for a short time and then was sold off the river.


BAY OF FUNDY BOATS - After the regular boats had left this route, the Bay of Fundy boats "Grand Manan", "Bruce Cann" and "Robert Cann" were each used here for a short while at various times during busy periods such as a berry season.


Memories -July 4, 1979


DREAM - The Dream was Senator W.H.Thorne's steam yacht converted into a passenger-freight boat. Overloaded with freight she careened in a squall of wind and sank off the Mistake in October 1922. Five passengers lost their lives in this disaster. The Dream was on the Saint John - Jemseg route when she capsized.


DAVID WESTON - This old aristocrat was built back in 1866 in the heyday of steam boating on the St. John River, and through the years had built up a fine record of reliable service. Old timers have told me, "you can set your clock by the Weston". In 1879 she carried the Marquis of Lorne and Princess Louise from Saint John to Fredericton. I have heard too, of races between boats in the old days when competition was keen and passengers and freight went to which vessel got there first, and in this the Weston could hold her own with the best. The boat named the Fawn seemed to be her greatest rival. The Fawn was off the river before I can remember. One old chap told me that he was on the Fawn when the two boats left Fredericton at the same time on their last trip of the season. Neither was able to gain any advantage over the other until they got into the Long Reach. Here the fireman on the Fawn soused his fuel with kerosene and she came down the Reach with flames shooting 10 feet out of her smokestack and soon left the Weston behind.

It was a good yarn but a younger fellow who worked on the boats and had talked with many old steam boat men told me that most of them agreed that the Weston was a little the faster. My father said the Fawn was as sharp as a knife and could go like a streak when they could keep her on her bottom, but she was "cranky", meaning she tipped easily to one side or the other. Ballast in the form of casks of gravel was carried on these boats. These could be easily rolled from one side of the deck to the other as required to put the boat on an even keel.

To me the most exciting steam boat stories I ever heard was of a race between the old David Weston and the Majestic when she first came on the river.

The favorite picnic ground at the time was at Waters Landing, just above Purdys Point. It had a fine beach, a spacious shed, a grove of large trees among which were fixed several high swings, and a level field with ample room for softball and field and track sports; in fact an ideal site for a picnic. The owners of the new boat had brought out a party of their friends to show off their vessel and enjoy a picnic dinner at this popular spot.

At this time the Star Line had the Fredericton run to itself, and as the railways had cut a large swath in their carrying trade the boats were not driven as they had been in more prosperous times; reduced speed resulted in more economical operation.

On this afternoon, as the Weston was coming down through the Reach, the engineer was on the top deck, oiling the upper parts of the old walking beam engine, when the captain called him to the wheel house, passed him the glasses and directed him to take a look down river.

He took a quick look and then raced the shortest route to the stoke hold and told the fireman: Boys, if you have any dry wood hid away, dig it out. The Majestic is waiting for us at Waters Wharf. Nothing would suit them better than a tilt with the new speeder. Up went the dampers - clang! clang! - and the boys laid the wood to her. Speed required steam, more steam than they were in the habit of carrying, and 15 minutes or 20 at the outside would bring them to where the Majestic lay in wait. They had no time to lose.

As the Weston came abreast of Waters, the Majestic cast off her lines, just as they had foreseen, and a race was on.

As I had known both boats, I could picture the scene just as if I had actually beheld it. The Majestic, small, low in the water, rolling a tremendous bow wave and giving forth volume of black coal smoke, the very picture of speed and power; the David Weston a sedate old wood burning side wheeler. A light feather of spray at her prow and a small break in the water just below her forward gangway did not give much indication of her speed, but the huge seas kicked up by the paddle wheel showed that she was really tramping.

The pitch and toss of the walking beam on these old boats gave them the appearance of being actually alive.


"The walking beam"


As there has not been one of this type of boat on the river for many years, perhaps I had better explain what the walking beam was. The power plant in these large paddle wheelers was enormous compared to the compact internal combustion engine of today. In the large boats, two boilers placed side by side supplied the steam. Mostly they burned wood and did not develop very high pressure. One man described them by saying that the water in these boilers was just right to shave with.

The upright cylinder stood on its head, with the connecting rod from the piston reaching high above the hurricane deck, where it was coupled with the forward end of the walking beam - a large diamond shaped iron frame that was balanced on an A-frame much as a child's teeter is. Another connecting rod on the other end was attached to the crank shaft on which were the paddle wheels. In this manner the reciprocal motion of the piston was transformed into the rotary motion of the wheels.

The rotary motion was not just steady, there being a slight pause at the end of each stroke of the piston as the crank passed over "dead center". In starting the engine manual assistance was given by means of a lever or bar that in some way gave enough of a boost to keep the crank from stopping on center until sufficient momentum had been reached to carry it over without assistance. To try and "bar" an engine after speed was picked up was a highly dangerous practice but was sometimes done when one boat was racing to try and get to a wharf before another.

The Oconee was the only side wheel passenger boat I recall in which the piston or pistons were directly connected to the crank shaft. All the others had this old type engine.

Now back to our race. In the engine room of the Weston, Herm Allen, the engineer was enjoying a quiet smoke. Like the old steamer he was a veteran in the river service, and until the "boys" in the stoke hold had time to get the old kettle boiling he was content to let the Majestic set the pace, and quite a lively pace it was. Past Woodmans Point, around Gregory Point at the foot of the Reach, past Westfield, Brandy Point and Lands End they went, the Majestic pouring on the coal and the Weston just keeping abreast of her. But the watchful eye of the engineer noted that the needle of the steam gauge had been slowly rising as the dry hardwood in the furnaces did its work, and now entering Grand Bay, steam was beginning to sizzle from the safety valve. The old girl was ready to pick up her skirts and run. Now was the time to show what his boat could do, so he gave her the steam and proceeded to put into practice every trick of the trade that his long experience at just this sort of thing had taught him.

Responding to his touch, the Weston soon began to forge ahead. By the time Boars Head had been reached she had quite a comfortable lead, and from Boars Head to Indiantown "Herm" barred the engine! Through the Narrows she tore, the steep cliffs echoing the dub-dub-dub-dub of her paddles. Around the blind turn at Robertsons Point, where the whistle warned raft boats that she was coming; past Pokiok, where the men always seem to have time to lean out of the windows and wave at passing steamers, the logs in the boom at the mill jumping wildly in the waves caused by her passing. And on into Indiantown, where she was docked and the passengers all ashore before the Majestic came foaming in.

What a race it must have been! One of the best of the old type against the best that this century had put on the river - and the old boat won!

On an afternoon in the summer of 1903 we youngsters were playing in front of our house when the Weston came in sight bound for Saint John. As we looked my brother Leslie, noticed flames shooting from her stern. Even as he spoke of it, her course was changed and she was beached on Craigs Point, where she burned to the water's edge. As her superstructure fell, something caught the whistle, causing it to give out a final blast - a farewell to the river valley she had served so long.

Three people - a passenger, a stewardess, and a deckhand - panicking at the first cry of "Fire" - jumped overboard and were drowned. The rest got safely ashore but many were slightly injured by jumping from the deck to land.

The boat was closer to Carters Point than Craigs when the fire broke out, and the wheel man was criticized for going the greater distance to beach the boat. He explained that the fire was in the stern; quite a strong breeze was blowing up river at the time. To put her on Carters Point, from where she was at the time, it would have been necessary to turn her stern to the wind, and that would blow the fire forward, through the full length of the boat. He held her bow to the wind and by so doing was able to reach the shore in time to save everyone except the three who did not have presence of mind enough to wait a few minutes before jumping overboard.

The machinery of the Weston was removed shortly after she burned but her boilers remained there for several years until they too were sold for scrap iron. I was told that it cost more to cut them up than they brought as scrap.


"For Queen Victoria's jubilee"


VICTORIA - One of my earliest recollections of river boats is the talk that accompanied the building of the Victoria. Her size, expected speed and the splendor of her furnishings were main topics of conversation in our home for weeks before she came up river. She was built in 1897, the year of the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria's reign, as a running mate for the David Weston. She was the largest boat on the river in my memory, and the finest and perhaps the fastest ever to ply those waters.

As far as I have ever been able to find out, the highest speed for any river boat was recorded by the Rothesay away back in 1867, but the Victoria, built I believe from the same plans, came so near to tying the Rothesay's time that some slight difference in wind or tide could have been responsible for her failure to break the record. If any other river boat approached their speed I never heard of it: Indiantown to McAlpine's, halfway to Fredericton, in just less than two and one half hours.

There was a brisk tourist trade when she came on the river and the Star Line's Victoria and David Weston were fitted to cater to that trade. One left Saint John and the other left Fredericton each morning except Sunday, so there was a boat each way every day.

Their dining salons and dining service were on par with those of a first class hotel. The traveler who wanted privacy could get a state room; the promenade decks and cabins were roomy and furnished in every way necessary for the comfort of the passengers. The trip between the two cities took about seven hours, more or less, depending on the number of stops and the amount of freight to be handled.

The hotel at Evandale, now the Eveleigh, was then run by John O. VanWart, who was widely known as a genial host. A person or party wanting a river trip but having to return to Saint John the same day could board the up bound boat, go as far as Evandale, and there have one of "John O's" famous dinners, and an hour or two at that beauty spot, and return to Saint John on the other boat. The Star Line featured this trip in their advertising, guaranteeing that the boats would stop at the wharf so that the passengers would not have to get off in or be put on board from a small boat. This was a very popular outing with Saint John residents.

At the time the cities drew most of their supply of vegetables from New Brunswick farms, not from Texas, Florida and California as is done today. The Maugerville - Sheffield area was the market garden of the province so in the late summer and fall these boats, like the May Queen, would carry hundreds of barrels of all kinds of farm produce every trip. They were large boats, the Victoria being 200 feet in length, and the David Weston about 176.5 feet. The Victoria burned in winter quarters in 1915.


POCANOCKET - From the United States. She was a twin screw coal burning steamer of good size and was speedy but proved too expensive to operate and was sold back to United Sates interests. She only ran one season.


D.J.PURDY (steamer) - As mentioned earlier after the steel hulled Sincennes was damaged by fire she was rebuilt and renamed D.J. Purdy by her owner. She was much smaller than the other paddle wheelers but by this time the valley railroad had been built, and as travel by boat was falling off rapidly she seemed to provide adequate service for the times. She was the last paddle wheel steamer on this run. My own first trip to Fredericton was on this steamer, on Labor Day, 1913. She was replaced in about 1922 by a motor vessel of the same name.


D.J. PURDY (motor vessel) - She was built in Meteghan, N.S. She was driven by two internal combustion engines and though she was not nearly as fast as expected she was a worthy successor to former boats on this route. She was about 150 feet in length, and absence of steam boilers made her very much roomier than a steam boat of the same size. She offered passengers the privilege of engaging a stateroom and living aboard for days as she went about her regular business. I can think of no more delightful way of spending a week's vacation than in traveling up and down this beautiful river in such a floating home, arriving at her destination each afternoon in time to do some sightseeing or shopping or perhaps taking in a show in the evening. she was laid off in 1946, the last regular river boat on the St. John.


LADY LATOUR - In 1951 the Lady Latour, a wartime submarine chaser that had been converted into a luxury passenger boat, was put on the river. She made regular trips between Saint John and Fredericton and between runs was available for short cruises. She exploded and burned in Marble Cove while laid up for the winter.


BLUEWATER III - was a large motor boat available for charter as a cruise boat. I don't think she had any regular run and she was around only a short time.

ABERDEEN - The only boat I can remember on the Fredericton - Woodstock route was the Aberdeen. Before the railroads were built this route must have been about as important as the Saint John - Fredericton run. We read of many famous old paddle wheelers that ran on it, but they could only operate when the river was quite high and this gave them too short a season to be profitable after the railway took so much of their business. I think the Aberdeen must have quit about 1905 or 1906 as she was on the Washademoak route a year or two before she burned at Coles Island in 1908.


That completes the list of river boats which I can remember. Some of them had a long life of usefulness, others made merely a few trips.

Memories -August 29, 1979


"Tending the steam boats"


Where there were no wharves, passengers and freight were transferred from "ship to shore", or vice versa by means of rowboats. The steamer companies would employ a man to do this chore, giving him transportation for himself and his family in return for the service rendered.

In going aboard, the passenger was rowed out well beyond the buoy that marks the gravel bar at the end of the point. As the steamer drew near a short blast of the whistle sent the crew to their stations; the engine was stopped; steps that were securely hinged to the deck at the top end were let down, and as the boat came alongside it was caught by the bow with a boat hook in the hands of a husky deckhand; it swung against the steps, and the passenger climbed aboard; the boat was let go again, the steps pulled up, and the steamer resumed her trip without ever having lost steerage way. Docking one of the large side wheelers at a wharf took considerable time, so when there were only a few passengers to go on or off, the rowboat was used; and so we had the Star Line's guarantee that their boats would stop at Evandale Wharf to pick up people even when there were only one or two passengers and no freight.

It was rather frightening to sit in a small boat and watch the steamer bearing down on you. The boatman required a cool head and skill at the oars. If, in his judgement the steamer was approaching to fast for safety, he could keep out of reach of the boat hook and so cause the steamer to stop and wait until he rowed up, but this was very seldom done. I do not remember any fatal accidents, but there was a story going around of how a city dandy refused to be seated in the rowboat. When caught by the boat hook the boat gave a sudden jump forward that caused him to do a neat back dive over the stern without pausing to remove his beaver hat!

The larger boats would only stop at designated places but the smaller ones like the Champlain, Majestic and Oconee would pick up passengers anywhere a boat rowed out, or stop at any wharf when flagged in almost any wind.

The rowboats most commonly used for this purpose were the flat bottomed "sturgeon boats" generally used for tending nets along the river. They were steady and seaworthy, would carry a large load and still draw so little water that they could be beached almost anywhere to allow passengers to step ashore.

If passengers were to be landed, the boat tender would be notified by a blast or series of blasts on the steamer whistle. A code, much like that on a party telephone line, let them know where the steamers wanted to stop, and the tender was rowed out. No two whistles were exactly alike so it was possible for us to know what boat was coming and where she was stopping even if we could not see the river.

Grandfather James R. Wood tended the Fredericton boats here at Carters Point as long as he was able. Grandmother told us that before steam whistles were in use the boat tender was called by ringing the ship's bell. There was a night boat on at that time, and in the darkness they would hear the bell calling its ding, dong, ding translated into "come, Jim, come", and Grandfather would row out for the passengers.

I have already mentioned the huge cargoes of farm produce carried by the boats on the Fredericton and Grand Lake routes. They would be made up of just about everything the farm produced - live animals, dairy and poultry products, apples and all kinds of vegetables. The latter was mostly shipped in barrels and would be consigned to the various commission merchants in Saint John.

Pretty much the same kind of produce came down on the Washademoak and Belleisle boats. These picked up most of the freight on the lower river. They arrived at Indiantown soon after noon and were met by crowds of grocers and others who were looking for fresh meat or vegetables. Many of the farmers on the lower river accompanied their produce as they could do better by selling directly to the store keepers than through commission men. They would return on the Oconee leaving at 4 pm.

On the up trips the boats carried about everything that mankind required, from cradles to tombstones - farm machinery of all kinds, feeds, flour, molasses, kerosene and all the other items needed to stock country stores; in fact about anything you could mention helped make up the cargo. Sometimes after the last passenger carrying trip of the season, some of the boats would be sent to Fredericton with full cargoes of heavy provisions such as molasses, vinegar and kerosene in hogsheads and casks. It was on the return trip with their year's work done, that arguments about which boat was the fastest were settled, and I have been told there were some wildly exciting races. This was in the palmy days of steam boating when there was bitter rivalry between steam boat companies. I have heard that the Majestic and Pokanocket had one such tilt. They left Fredericton together and when the Majestic got to the head of the Long Reach the Pockanocket was out of sight around the foot of it. This would brand the latter as a fast boat, for the Majestic was no ways slow at the time.

Leaving Saint John, I used to like to get aboard early and watch the preparations for leaving. A half hour before the time, one long blast of the whistle announced that the boat would be leaving 30 minutes later. Freight would be rushed aboard and passengers would arrive by street car or on foot. At 15 minutes to the starting time, two long blasts were sounded. Freight handling was speeded up, the last of it being rushed aboard and stowed. The boat itself seemed to be alive as the engineer warmed up the engine for the coming run. Finally three short toots announced that the time to start had arrived. There was a sudden quiet as the engine was stopped and gang planks and lines were taken in. Then with one short blast of the whistle followed by the sound of a gong in the engine room, the boat came to life again and we were off. Another jangle of the bells and the engine was revved up to normal cruising speed. We were homeward bound, watching the varied scenery of the lower river slip by or visiting with friends or acquaintances we might find aboard.


"The spring break up"


Prior to the building of the Valley Railway we had to get up a sufficient supply of foodstuffs for man and beast, oil for our lamps, and other provisions to last from the time the ice stopped the boats until the ice was fit to travel on, for there was a period of some weeks "between ice and water" when we were just about isolated. We had no telephone then and about our only connection with the outside world was a tri-weekly mail service.

As soon as the ice was strong enough a road would be staked out from the head of Milkish Creek to Millidgeville, and that was our route to Saint John. Roads were also staked across the St. John River at Carters Point and Holderville, connecting roads on the other side of the river with those leading to Milkish and so to the city. On fine winter days, travel over this route , the shortest way to Saint John, was heavy as supplies had to be replenished to last until the steamers were able to run again.

Sometimes the uncertainties of the weather would break up the winter travel unexpectedly, and people would be running short of the necessities of life before the river ice ran out. Then eager eyes would be watching for signs of the spring break up.

Here in the Long Reach, where the river is wide and the current slow, it is a process of slow wearing away of the ice rather than a spectacular smash up, and it usually follows a definite pattern known to all old residents. From the time open water first shows between Belyeas Point and Purdys Point until the channel is open to a point just above Public Landing wharf may be a few days or a month, depending on weather and ice conditions, but after the river is open that far the last and toughest half mile opposite Public Landing school will not continue more than three days. When the ice in the Reach broke we knew that spring was here and that the steam boats would soon be running. Indeed sometimes the Springfield or Hampstead made a trip or two as far as Carters Point before the Reach was clear of ice.

The coming of the Valley Railway put an end to most of the travel across the rivers to Saint John, but we, on the Peninsula still had to cross the St. John River to get to the train, sometimes by boat and sometimes on pretty thin ice. One man said after such a crossing, "I got across. I walked light. Sometimes out there I thought, gosh, I don't weigh more than 25 pounds". We all knew that feeling.

In 1929 the cable ferry was put into operation. Now in winter instead of the musical sound of sleigh bells we hear trucks and cars grinding up Theall's Hill in low gear over the snow plowed roads, and in spring children and old folks too no longer keep a lookout for each steamer on her first trip up river. A welcome and thrilling sight she was, in her new paint and with all flags flying, and once more we felt in touch with the world.

As work horses, the steamers served the river valleys well. Today's transportation can furnish no sight seeing outing to compare with a trip on one of them, with nothing to do and plenty of room to relax and watch the scenery glide by. One had time to really take it all in. The boats did not run on as tight a schedule as trains do, but their coming and going regulated the lives of those living along the river to some extent, just as those living in railway towns are more or less adjusted to railway time tables.

Let us see ourselves making a trip up river to Carters Point:

First, as we leave Indiantown - Saint John's north end - the harbor above the falls where the river boats docked, we pass four large saw mills, Baker's and King's on the Milford side, Stetson's (the big mill at Indiantown) and Miller's at Pokiok. There seemed to be just room for this mill and its wharves between the cliff and the river. Rafts of logs to be sawn by these mills left just a narrow passage for river traffic to pass through. There were also several lime kilns. High cliffs border the Narrows, and at several places there were arches built of stone - relics of some forgotten lime kilns, I suppose - but they could be haunted castles if one was young and had an active imagination.

Where the Kennebecasis flows into the St. John, we pass the Boars Head and enter Grand Bay. The former is a rocky headland, its profile as much like that of a wild boar that there is no mistaking it. A nice old lady, with the Victorian notion that it was indelicate to mention any male animal , once asked the stewardess on the Hampton if that was not the Swine's Head. Crossing Grand Bay we pass so close to the foot of Kennebecasis Island that we wonder if the boat won't strike a rock. Here another cliff of rock rises steeply from the water, and the shallow cave on its face has often been peopled with smugglers and pirates in the dreams of youthful passengers.

Lands End is the next headland, and here the river narrows again. Banks though quite high are not cliffs as in the Narrows and here and there we can see a small farm. Brandy Point is the first of the long gravelly points that are a feature of the river from here up to Oak Point, at the head of Long Reach. At Hardings Point stood the "Princes Feather", the beautiful elm tree admired by the Prince of Wales (later to be King Edward VII) and so named because the three large branches that were its crown formed a perfect replica of the three ostrich plumes that made up his own personal crest. That was in 1861, but the tree still stands through ice storms, and the ice run in the freshet of '36 damaged it greatly. Here one can look far up the valley of the Nerepis squeezed in between steep, rocky hills. Now we enter the Long Reach of the river and pass in turn, Woodmans Point, Purdys Point, Belyeas Point, and Craigs Point where the Weston burned, and finally arrive at Carters Point, our stopping place.


"Exchange of courtesies"


If on our way up river we should meet a steamer going downstream, it would salute our boat with a long blast of its whistle, and the boat we were on would reply in the same manner. The down bound boat would always "speak" first. I think this must have been just an act of courtesy as tugboats were never saluted this way, only passenger boats. If this imaginary trip were on a Saturday about 1914 or thereabouts, and the steamer was the Champlain, there might be 20 or more passengers get off here (Carters Point) and there would be representatives from all the summer houses on the wharf to meet them - the Morgans, Greggs, Lorne Whelpleys, Frodshams, Jordans, Hendersons, Livingstones, Dohertys, and Roberts, with perhaps a party of Girl Guides who were camping on one of the beaches. The old wharf was a busy place in those days. For one or two years there was a canteen there, and soft drinks, candies, nut bars, etc were sold. The only car on the Point was Lorne Whelpley's; everyone else came and went in the boats. The fare was 25 cents one way or 40 cents return ticket. Later it was 25 cents each way, no return tickets, and still later 40 cents each way. This was the minimum fare and would take one as far as Public Landing.

The schedule of the Majestic when she first came on the river called for her to be at Carters Point 60 minutes after leaving Saint John with stops at Brundage's (Westfield wharf) and Belyeas Point, but it took about an hour and a half for any of the last boats on the river to make the trip. But fast or slow, I always enjoyed every minute of the trip.

The old steamers served the river valleys well and though modern transportation may be faster there is no way one can enjoy the beauties of the "Rhine of America" as from the upper deck of one of the old steam boats.


Memories -September 5, 1979


On an October evening many years ago, a youth had an errand down to the wharf. It had been a beautiful day; the river calm as a mirror, reflected the autumn tints that adorned the hillsides, but potato digging had not given him much time to enjoy the beauty of the day. Now with his errand done he could relax. He slowly made his way up around the shore to the Big Rock and there sat down on the beach to watch the sunset and the night come.

It was a still evening, such as is not known in these days, when everything is run by a noisy motor. The only sound to be heard might be a dog barking across the river or the whistle of a train down at Westfield.

He had been sitting there for some time, resting from the labors of the day and letting the witchery of the night work its spell, when he noticed a light far up on the river, the head light of some steamer. As it gradually came nearer, his ears caught a faint sound. This sound was somewhat like the first stroke of a partridge drumming, and quickened and slowed with a measured beat - the sound of a steamers paddle wheels coming far across the water. It could only be the May Queen, and she must have a tremendous load to be this late coming. Musing thus he watched her approach and pass by. The tumult and noise of her waves breaking on the beach made a jarring noise in an otherwise quiet night. So, he got up and started homeward, loitering along to make this wonderful evening last as long as possible. At the top of the hill he stopped to watch the lights of the steamer pass out of sight around Purdys Point.

As he turned to go on, a rustle in the turnip leaves brought his wool gathering wits back to earth and a skunk bounced into the road almost under his feet. He gave it the right-of-way, in a little less than no time, and the skunk, always polite when treated with a little respect, acknowledged the courtesy with a wave of its tail and continued its moonlight stroll. But the enchantment of the evening was gone, so the youth went home quickly to rest up for another days work in the potato field.

Yes, you guessed right. The youth was your Uncle Robert (writer of this article)and as the years go by the more strongly he believes that there was something uncanny about the evening, or why would its spell last so long? Why else should it be remembered when far more exciting things have been long since forgotten? Just mention paddle wheels and he can close his eyes and almost think he can see the lights of the boat as she went down the river and hear again the dud-dud-dud-dud-dud-dud-dud-dud of her floats striking the water. It brings back many memories - memories of a trip when the steamer companies map of the river, handed to a group of tourists who were wondering what wharf we were stopping at, led to a long and interesting talk about other rivers they had travelled on; memories of a trip on which one of the passengers was a lady with a little dog of the Manchester type. At the first stop they rushed off the boat almost before the gang planks were down. We were surprised because everyone heard her tell the purser that Gagetown was her destination, so we watched to see what happened. They wandered up the wharf and when the freight was all loaded the purser had to hunt her up and get her back aboard.

This happened at every stop. She was so full of vigor, vim and vitality that the boat could not hold her, and she and the little dog would get off and she would bounce around with the exuberance of a 12 year old. You could see she was going to enjoy every minute of this trip to the utmost, or break a leg trying. And at every wharf the boat was held up until the purser got her and the dog back on board. Then at one wharf she did not show up, and when this happened again we did a little quiet investigating. The small dog we found tied to a stanchion on the promenade deck, looking very forlorn so we continued to look around. In the cabin was his mistress, lying asleep on the settee and snoring like a wood chopper. Vigor, vim and grim determination had succumbed to fatigue, and Morpheus had her in his power, but apparently she was still enjoying every minute to the utmost! Oh yes the purser got her off at Gagetown.

And there was the trip from Leslie's wedding when George and I sat down to the dinner table long before Stan but did not get waited on until he was nearly through eating. We reckon it was because he had a mustache and we didn't; the waitress must have liked mustaches.

Also the time we went to Saint John to see the Prince of Wales. Captain Odbur Flewelling brought the clumsy old Oconee in to the wharf - bows on. There were only the three of us going aboard and we did not wait for him to get the boat in properly, but grabbed the rail and hopped across it to the upper deck. How Odbur's eyes stuck out when he saw his boat boarded in that fashion.

Still another time, when we all went to have the family photograph taken, the only one we ever had. The purser, Captain Charles Taylor, an old friend of the family, counted us on and off the boat as if he were loading and unloading a lot of sheep. He told my sister later that he went to the photographer's and got one of the pictures for himself.

Then there was the time on the Viking. The owners of the Premier got this small steamer as a running mate for the Premier on the Fredericton route. I do not think she ran more than a short time one fall and I do not know what became of her. I had one trip on her. That was enough; when the cook drew a pail of water from the river and announced dinner was served, I lost my appetite!

As we lived half a mile from the river, we did not get to know the tug boats as well as we did the passenger boats.

In those days the logs from the upper part of the river were stream driven down to Douglas (N.B.) and Fredericton, where they were collected in booms to be sorted and rafted to be towed down to the Saint John mills. We would see the small side wheeler Hero on her way up to Fredericton to place the booms as soon as the ice left the river; and her work, helping to prepare the huge rafts, kept her around Fredericton all summer.

When a raft was ready, one of the larger boats would bring it down. There were four side wheelers, Hope, Lily Glasier, Admiral and Champion, and the propeller driven Sea King, Flushing and W.H.Murray engaged in this part of the work. The work of the last mentioned was usually to gather up the small lots of logs that had been cut along the lower part of the river and were known as "bank logs".

The southwest wind that prevails here in the summer would make the Long Reach pretty rough at times and Carters Point was a good place to tie up a raft until the wind died down, so we got to recognize pretty well the boats that towed the logs.

Once when my brother, a neighbor's son and I were playing around the shore in an old rowboat , the captain of the Hope, which was tied up there with a raft, called us to come out aboard. He let us roam all over the tug. It was a wonderful experience for us, young lads, to see at close range the working of one of these tow boats, of which the Hope was the largest. Father told us that the captain was Steven Appt of Morrisdale, or Roses Point as it was called at that time.

In earlier days the sawn lumber from the mills in Fredericton, Chipman, Oromocto etc, was brought down river on the two sailed wood boats, but by the time I can remember, the deal scows towed by steam tugs had taken their place. The Sea King, Hunter and a number of smaller tugs whose names were not familiar to us had taken over this work.

Still later the steam tugboats were about all gone, and a fleet of diesel driven tugs engaged in towing booms of pulpwood were all that were working on the river. Today its a rare thing to see a working boat of any kind as most of the pulp wood is hauled in by truck.The same holds true of long logs and sawn lumber. The beautiful river is just a place for pleasure boats; it is not fit to swim in. I have seen only one barge load of pulpwood chips being towed down river this season, although there may have been others.

Now the old steam boats are all gone, and something of the picturesqueness of the river has gone with them. Something, too, has gone from the lives of those who travelled on them, for they gave the people from the different communities they served an opportunity to get acquainted and to exchange views on any subject under the sun in a way that is impossible in today's cars, trucks and buses.

Perhaps this little account of those days will help younger folks understand just what the river boats meant to us, and why we speak of this bygone era as "good old steam boat days"; and there may be a touch of sadness in our voices as we do so.

Steamer Hampstead Gets Into Trouble

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.

Considering the ice and freshet conditions sometimes encountered on the St. John River this letter written by Captain Mabee is quite appropriate.

"A lovely spring day in April 1885. The Hampstead was the first boat to go up river. There was no ice running and we made Wickham, our destination, nicely before dark. I was quite sure the upriver ice was still to come. Before turning in, I took a good look up river and it looked like summer, not a thing in sight but the water was rising rapidly. We lay at the low water wharf and had four lines out.

About midnight I was awakened by a crushing sound. I was up quick but by the time I was out on deck the steamer had nearly a 45-degree list and I thought she would keep right on going over.

Then the lines began to break and soon all of them had parted. The Hampstead righted herself immediately and started to slide down river.

My brother Arn, and the engineer were on the job. One jumped on the lower pier and as the steamer slipped by, a line was thrown from the bow and the end made fast to the pier and the current then forced the Hampstead to swing in against the soft bank where the wharf gave her good protection from the running ice. There she stayed until Monday morning while the ice ran for 54 hours. In all my time on steamboats it was the greatest run of ice I had ever seen.

By mid-morning the water had risen well over the wharf. There was still ice running but quite a lot of open water. We had a little difficulty as far as Oak Point. From there on down to Long Reach was clear.

While I live I shall never forget that crushing ice against the steamer Hampstead"

Undoubtedly there had been a big ice jam somewhere up river. Captain Mabee did not say where and it is doubtful if he ever knew since it was 10 years after this when telephones were established in the Sheffield-Maugerville area. Mails were carried by the steamboats in summer and in winter on the frozen river by horse and sled.

Steamers on the Upper St. John

The Carleton County Historical Society has published on their web site an article by Carolyn L. Chase which was presented October 25, 1966 entitled "Steamers on the Upper St. John".

The paper can be viewed at:

http://www.cchs-nb.ca/html/Steamers.html


Stern Wheel Steamer Aberdeen

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


The steamer Aberdeen was built by Richard Retallick at the Hilyard Ship Building Yard in Saint John in the spring of 1894. She was a well built stern wheeler, length 140 feet, beam 22 feet and depth of hold 4 feet. The engine of the Florenceville had been thoroughly overhauled and installed in her.

She began service on the Fredericton-Woodstock route the same year with Captain Thomas Duncan in command. Her pilot was Lance Lockwood and John Johnson was the engineer. The crew included three women: a cook, a stewardess, and a waitress.

The Aberdeen made three trips a week. Her schedule called for a trip leaving Fredericton each Tuesday and Saturday at 6 am. This was after taking on freight and passengers from the steamer that had arrived from Saint John the previous day.

Ordinarily about eighteen stops were made on the way to Woodstock. Since there were not many wharfs many stops were made by having the shallow draught steamer come against the bank or by having her bow run up a little on the shore. When leaving the engine would be reversed and the rudders moved from side to side. This would swing the steamers stern back and forth and loosen it from the shore and enable the steamer to back into deep water.

The steamer Hampton drew six feet of water: had three rudders so we may conclude that the stern wheel steamers that drew only three or four feet would also require three rudders.

An item from the writings of Capt. C.C.Taylor:

"On April 25,1895, the Aberdeen with Capt. Norwood in command was fouled by a log getting in her paddle wheel. This happened near Eel River. Unable to move her paddle wheel she drifted down river and her smoke stack came into contact with the overhead cable of the ferry and caused enough damage that she was forced to lay up for repairs." (The Aberdeen had a tall pipe near the smoke stack to carry off steam from the safety valves. It is quite possible that the connections of this pipe were also torn loose.)


Due to low water in mid summer the upper river boats often ran on the lower river for a few weeks. One year the Aberdeen ran on the Gagetown-Fredericton route as an opposition steamer. Also she ran on the Washademoak route in opposition to the Crystal Stream and the following year to the Sincennes.

In 1943 Captain Fred Mabee wrote telling about the steamer Aberdeen being taken off the Fredericton-Woodstock route because of the low water. For the time being she was placed on the Washademoac Lake route in opposition to the steamer Sincennes where Capt. Mabee was in command.

Following are extracts from his letter:

"I shall take you back to a fine day and night in June 1908.

The two steamers Sincennes and Aberdeen had a hard race from Saint John to Coles Island. The Sincennes was a little ahead of the Aberdeen so I took the face of the wharf and the Aberdeen coming later made fast to the trees on the bank just below the wharf. She did not appear to have very much freight to discharge since the storekeepers and lumbermen seemed to prefer the steamer that had been giving them regular and uninterrupted service.

I turned in (to bed) as usual and was sound asleep when the cry of "Fire" could be heard. In no time I was wide awake and dressing. In a minute the purser was at my door pounding the door and shouting. We could look across and see that the Aberdeen was afire about the stack. The flames were rising six or eight feet above the deck. In a matter of minutes I had our crew awake and on deck. We cast off our lines from the wharf and pulled the Sincennes over to the western shore.

With our deck pump and fire hose we played a stream of water on the port side of the Aberdeen but in a very short time she was all ablaze. The flames had spread very quickly the full length of the steamer.

For me it was a sad sight to see that old river boat burn. It did not take very long for the superstructure to disappear in flames and smoke. There was not much left but the bottom "to sail the beautiful river no more".

Stern Wheelers

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor from his book "From The Splash Of The Paddlewheel", 1985.


Stern wheel steamboats not only looked different from side wheel boats but had quite different capabilities and shortcomings. They were usually very shallow draft which gave them the advantage of being able to run in shallow water, and in some places could actually land freight right on the beach. On the other hand, their shallow draft and considerable superstructure made them very ungainly in a heavy wind and at times they simply would not respond to the rudders. Stern wheelers were also notorious poor backers as the stern wheel, when reversed, threw a rush of water against the square stern of the steamer which pushed her ahead.

One day in freshet time, with a heavy southwest wind blowing up the river, we headed for Oak Point high water wharf. We got our large stern line hooked to a ring bolt on the wharf but the Hampton kept surging ahead. The lines and bitts held but the line split the wooden chock and became so tightly wedged in that we had to use wedges and crowbars to free it. To get away from the wharf again we had to back up enough to slacken and unhook the line. As we pulled out from the wharf in a heavy wind the Hampton failed to respond to her three rudders and instead of heading up river along the Mistake, she went straight across the river toward Grassy Island. Before reaching the island the captain put the steering wheel over and headed down river thinking to have enough turning motion to turn starboard and head back up river, but it was no use, the Hampton headed right back to Oak Point Wharf. Before getting to close to shore the captain turned to port, down river. Again the Hampton headed for Grassy Island but this time just before reaching the shore a slight lull in the wind enabled her to head up river and we were on our way.

At Jenkin's Cove a gust of wind caught the steamer broadside and threw her against the corner of the wharf. The freshet conditions allowed the guard of the steamer to ride over the corner pier and the wooden hull of the Hampton smashed full force against the corner of the wharf. It broke two of the Hampton's planks near the waterline and water came pouring into the bilge. Deckhands worked frantically shifting bags of feed, flour, oats and fertilizer from port to starboard until the steamer was listing enough to bring the broken planks above water. An old quilt was used as a quick temporary temporary plug to slow the in-flowing water but soon we were able to nail a piece of heavy canvas on the outside and proceeded on up the Belleisle to Hatfield Point. On reaching Saint John the next trip down we went through the Reversing Falls, grounded out on Market Slip, and replaced the broken planks.

One weekend at Hatfield Point deckhand Burt Blizzard, tired of doing his own washing, decided to tie his heavy work shirt to the stern wheel and take it off Monday morning when we reached Long Point, about a half hour run. When we stopped at Long Point, Burt walked onto the outrigger to get his shirt but found only his collar band, one cuff, and the heavy cord he had used for tying the shirt to the float. Burt had learned the meaning of "positive agitation".

There is a short cut from Oak Point to Glenwood that saves going around the Isle of Pines and Rocky Island. The channel is narrow, crooked and shallow but saves several minutes and was used quite often with shallow draft steamboats like the Hampton if the tide was high enough and the wind not too heavy. It was common practice for farmers to pasture their cattle on the small low lying grassy islands along this route. One morning after coming through the channel and reaching Glenwood Wharf, we discovered that we had a cattle fence - barbed wire, posts and all - wound around the stern wheel. In rounding a bend our stern had swung close enough to the bank to pick up the outer end of the cattle fence and had pulled it loose and in a few revolutions of the stern wheel had wound it all up tighter than it probably had ever been tightened before. It required a hammer, a cold chisel and hacksaw to clear it from the paddle wheel.

Tater Jones

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


Captain Fred Mabee writes:

In the early days of the steamer Hampstead and while I was getting to know the people it came to my attention that there were quite a number of families by the name of Jones who were living between Gerows Wharf and Beaulah.

There was one James Jones who was generally known as Tater Jones. I often wondered how he got that nickname, so one day I asked my friend George Gerow. He told me that James Jones acquired the name when quite a young lad. It seems that he was making a call on a young lady and she had occasion to go to the cellar for potatoes. The cellar was quite dark. Said he, "I may as well go along and help you." In the process of picking up the potatoes he grabbed the young lady by the foot. She hit him a crack with the potato pot. He said, "Oh my, I thought I was picking up a tater".

Her girl friends took up the story and from that time on he was known as Tater Jones and even when he died the word was, "that Tater Jones had passed on".


Ten Dollars for a Glass of Ale

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


The picnic season of the summer of 1894 was in full swing. The weather had been hot and dry, really ideal for picnics. The Knights of Columbus had made arrangements with the Star Line Steam Ship Company to make several trips between Indiantown and Watters Landing. The blistering sun shone down on the steamer as she waited for the last few stragglers to come on board.

Three very thirsty men already on board thought they had time to run up to John McCann's for a glass of ale, so leaving their wives on the steamer, up they got for a drink of ale. While having their drink at the bar, their steamer had pulled out. When they came to the door they could see that she was halfway to the point and going full speed up river. And with their wives on board, there would be the devil to pay.

Needless to say, the three thirsty men returned to the bar where John McCann Sr. was tending. He said "Go and see Captain Gillis Mabee of the steamer Hampstead. He might run you up."

Down they came to "the bedroom" (a wharf a little nearer Marble Cove). Captain Mabee said "Yes, I'll run you up for $10". The money was paid quickly as they thought the captain might change his mind. The steamer Hampstead delivered the three men to Watters Landing and arrived back at Indiantown at 3:30pm and left at 4pm for Wickham.

Afterward the captain said two thoughts struck him at the time. Those men had lots of money and Captain Mabee did not get enough of it.

The Engine Room

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor from his book "From The Splash Of The Paddlewheel", 1985.


Another of the charms of my boyhood was the Victoria's big "walking beam" steam engine. I knew all the engineers and they would let me sit in the engine room watching the engine and listening to the slow, soft huff-huff of the steam passing through the valves to the single cylinder. The Victoria had a cylinder forty inches in diameter with an eleven foot stroke, and turned up about sixteen to eighteen revolutions per minute. The engine room was large and when you first looked in, the eighteen-foot high engine front seemed to be covered with innumerable levers, bars, wheels with handles, and cranks. One or two were brass but most were polished steel. Also on the forward part of the engine were mounted five brass-encircled faces about ten inches in diameter. The lower row consisted of a clock, a steam gauge and a vacuum gauge. Above these were a revolution counter and I believe, a trip counter. A near-sighted woman passenger one day asked the engineer why he had so many clocks.

An eccentric on the main shaft was connected to a rocker arm that ran across the forward part of the engine and four cams were attached to the rocker arm. These cams were about fourteen inches long and resembled lower jaws opening and closing. When closing they lifted the upper jaws which in turn operated the ports permitting steam to enter the cylinder. Those jaws had to be greased quite frequently by the off-duty fireman. Using a paint brush he moved quickly as the lower jaw opened, taking care to have his hands and brush well out of the way before the jaws closed.

The Victoria carried two firemen. One would raise steam in the morning and maintain proper pressure by firing the furnaces with cord wood, or coal in later years, until the steamer had reached the "Half-Way Bunch" (a clump of trees on the hill near McAlpine's Wharf). The other fireman, who had been off duty, then took over for the rest of the day. The off-duty fireman, although relieved of the arduous work of firing, was then required to perform the work of an oiler and to assist the engineer. When making a wharf stop the off-duty fireman always came to the engine room. On getting the jingle bell to ease speed, it was his duty partly to close the throttle, reduce the amount of cooling water going to the condenser and, by means of a level and a crank for fine adjustments, lengthen the stroke. This meant that live steam would enter the cylinder at the beginning of the stroke and follow the piston all the way to the other end of the cylinder. This was very necessary, because when the engine was to be stopped it was thrown out of gear which meant that the valve gear was no longer operated by the eccentrics but was controlled entirely by the engineer operating a starting bar by hand.

When the steamer was approaching a wharf even with the engine stopped there was still considerable pressure on the floats of the paddle wheels. When the engineer got the bell to reverse, it required perfect timing as well as good reflex action on his part to ensure that the engine did not stop on center, and therefore not move either way. To assist him there was an engine room "tell-tale" operated directly from the shaft which showed the exact position of the crank. The centers were indicated by small brass markers.

Joe Williams, engineer on the Victoria, seemed to appreciate my interest in his department. One day he said to the off-duty fireman. "Let Don try his hand at handling that".

I was fourteen and pretty pleased. I had watched so many times that I knew exactly what to do. A few months later Joe Williams let me start the engine after making a boat stop (a rowboat had rowed out to the steamer and as the steamer was still under way there was no risk of the engine stopping on center).

In 1915 I was attending Fredericton High School. One Saturday night in November I boarded the Victoria at Barker's Wharf for Fredericton. Darkness had come early along with snow squalls. As usual I went to the engine room. After leaving Oromocto, Joe Williams said, "I'm just going across to the galley to get some supper. If you hear the jingle bell to slow down you know what to do, just shut down the steam".

With that he left and I was on my own. Suddenly, without any alarm, whistle or jingle bell to ease speed, there was a "bong" on the big gong to stop, and then "bong-bong" to reverse. I knew that an emergency had arisen. I lept for the throttle, shut down the steam, threw the engine out of gear, shut off the water to the condenser, raised the lever to lengthen the stroke and had the engine stopped as the off-duty fireman Ferris Reicker and Joe Williams appeared on opposite sides of the engine room. I had lost count of the gong signals but at least I had the big engine stopped and ready to go ahead or astern and won approving comments from the engineer, the fireman, and most importantly, from my father. It was a proud day for me.

I learned soon after that while going over the Oromocto Shoals in a snow squall and darkness a motorboat had suddenly appeared dead ahead of the Victoria, hence the emergency.

The Girl Waiting at Erbs Cove

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


In 1886, a harmless escapade happened in the life of Fred Mabee, first fireman on the tugboat Novelty, towing mud scows from the dredge at Hatfield Point. Since most of the crew came from Hampton, Erbs Cove on Belleisle Bay was a logical place for the Novelty on Sunday.

Captain Mabee relates: "I was alone on board. A beautiful Sabbath day about 10am. I was routed out by a boy of some 12 years. When I got out on deck I saw in a small boat a beautiful young lady in white and the boy, and both wanted to come aboard. Of course you could not hear me saying "no" so aboard they came. Time soon passed. At noon the boy said "we must go home for dinner", but the young lady told the boy to "go along" and that she was "staying for the day". Well, she did.

Along about 5pm the boy returned for the girl. "No", she "could not go yet. It was too nice on the water". The boy left again as he had to help milk the cows.

We had a lunch and talked on until dusk. I was getting uneasy and I suggested that I take her home. "Well - all right - but first you must row me across the bay and back". So away we went and I don't remember hurrying much. When we returned it was dark. Landing at the beach we were met by two elderly ladies who appeared to be in charge of the young woman. They started in on me for keeping the girl away all day, but they did not attempt to beat me up. Well I started to leave for the Novelty but the girl had me by the arm and I had to go home with her (she was staying at Ed Peters). The two ladies were close behind and kept a line of talk going at me the whole time. By the time we reached the Peter's gate I felt none too good. The girl held on and said that I must go in the house for a bit. I would not go so we parted there but made a date for the next Sunday.

When the Sunday arrived, about 2pm I went ashore to look for her but there was no life anywhere. On my way to the Peter's home I met a young man who guessed my purpose (our courtship it appears, had been noised abroad). He said, "They sent your girl back to Saint John on the Belleisle steamboat".

Well sir it was true and that little girl I never saw again. Her name was Louise Chipman, she was just 16. With care I recovered."

The High Freshet During 1887

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


Around May 1, the little side wheel tugboat Novelty was tied up at the wharf in Hampton, her captain having passed away during the winter.

Her owner J.D. and J.G. Mabee had received an offer from Hayford and Stetson of Indiantown to tow logs from Little River and French Lake to Indian Point on Grand Lake.

Captain Fred Mabee writes, "They asked me, "Will you try it?" I was only 18 but I said yes. So with a tin box of grub put up by my wonderful mother I started for Jemseg to pick up a pilot and then to proceed to the job. On reaching Jemseg I was very fortunate to get hold of Uncle Joshua Colwell. Away from Jemseg for Lakeville Corner (we crossed the foot of Grand Lake and on up Maquapit Lake to the thoroughfare leading to French Lake) and landing about 100 yards below the highway bridge. There we were met by a howling Yankee foreman of Hayford and Stetson. "Where is the captain?" he bellowed. I was at a loss whether to step out or not but I came forward. "You, what in H... do you know about towing lumber?" Not much, I said. Then he caught sight of Uncle Joshua. "Oh well, we will see what we can do." So away we go across the highway (covered with water by the freshet) through the two lakes (French and Indian) to Little River.

I can see the Novelty now on her way back with a trip of logs, through the Narrows, down past Apple Island then over the flooded highway, through alders bushes, over stumps until we got below the highway bridge and were able to cut back in to the deep water of the thoroughfare and on down to Indian Point, there to hand over our tow of logs to a large white tugboat the Champion.

We got along with the Yankee foreman and I enjoyed the 10 days mostly lying out on deck watching Uncle Joshua do the work. This episode in my life stands out clearly as the little tugboat Novelty was my first command"

The Judge that Took a Tumble

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


Captain Mabee's letter of 1941 tells of an excursion:

"During the summer of 1898 the Bank of Montreal had a convention in Saint John. Colonel H.H.McLean came to the Hampstead looking for a steamer to take a party for a sail on the St. John River and Belleisle Bay. It was to be a Sunday trip. My brother, who was manager at the time, made all of the arrangements. It was to be purely a stag party.

We arrived at the Star wharf at 9 am. On the wharf was a French chef with all his help, lots of food and plenty to drink. The chef was soon at work getting set up in the main saloon and everything did look very good.

In memory I'd say there was about 20 in the party. We got away about 10 am. We stopped at the Cedars but it was too public a place and I was ordered on to the Belleisle. On entering the bay we picked up a lot of eel grass in our propeller which cut our speed down to about four miles per hour. By backing and filling we were able to shake the grass loose and proceeded on to Hatfield Point.

It was very nice and quiet there so the party went ashore for awhile. When they came back aboard I slipped away quietly and made Indiantown about 7 pm. It was about an hour too early for them as their condition was excellent. As they were disembarking I stood on the starboard bow just forward of the wheelhouse. I cast an eye forward and saw the judge looking for the stairway.

There was a small open hatch on the port bow with a ladder to the main deck for the use of deckhands. There was no rail around the hatch and the cover was off and the judge saw the ladder.

I heard the crash and ran to see the judge being picked up by willing hands. I heard him groan and thought that he was all broken up. He was led ashore and up to the north end (outside) warehouse and there he leaked for five minutes, ladies and gents all looking on.

The judge never complained. We were soon on our way to Wickham with $75 for the day.

The Midnight Shirttail Parade

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


Captain Fred Mabee writes:

"I must again take you back to the high freshet of 1887 and the tugboat Novelty. The Merritt Brothers of Moss Glen had a large water power sawmill and they engaged the Novelty to tow a large raft of spruce logs from Kingston Creek on the Belleisle Bay to their mill at Moss Glen. May 16 was a beautiful day, not even a breeze to ruffle the placid river. The strong current of the high freshet was helping us along but it had broken several booms in the upper St. John River and the Long Reach was covered with drifting logs and debris.

Despite the annoyance of avoiding a drifting log that might get caught in our paddle wheel, we made good time and made the foot of Long Reach about dusk. By this time a strong northwest wind was blowing out of the Nerepis and taking us along even faster. I planned to round up under Land's End but we did not have enough power. The strong ebb tide and the increasing wind carried us by, so away we went for the end of Kennebecasis Island. This time I was more careful. Having just learned one lesson I steered the Novelty right for a birch tree that was just below the shallow cave in the end of the island. We touched shore and lost no time in running a line from the tugboat to the birch tree and watched the raft swing into place nicely. We felt pleased and safe but we neglected or thought it unnecessary to run a line from the raft to the shore. We were all very tired and soon all fell asleep. The northwest wind kept increasing in strength and the strain on the line was too much for the little tree and it started stripping its branches. Ed Merritt, who was acting for his firm, was lying on the open deck and was awakened by the noise. He "hollered like a loon". Well, we were all on our feet in seconds. There was no time to dress at all. If the raft broke loose it would surely break and be lost. Seconds counted.

I can still see the whole crew in their shirttails (or less) scampering around that raft in the moonlight. trying to run a large tow rope from the raft to another birch tree. The logs of the raft were wet and slippery, the rope was wet and heavy. We held on until the gale blew out. What a sight Grand Bay was the following day. The Nerepis bridge had been carried away and pieces floated down by us. I made a firm resolution to be more careful when towing logs. Many times since then as I passed those birch trees and the shallow cave on the island, I vividly recalled that wild night and the ghostly shirttail parade.


The Novelty Strikes a Snag

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


Captain Mabee writes:

"In September 1888 the Novelty was tending the dredge "New Dominion" which was dredging near the foot of Grand Lake. As soon as the dredge loaded a mud scow, the Novelty towed it up the lake to deep water and dumped the load of mud. I was only 20 but felt quite capable of taking command of the tugboat. However, one day while making a turn to take hold of a scow, we ran into the trunk of an old sunken tree and stove in a plank between the timbers about 15 feet from the stem (starboard bilge). I was quite sure that we had broken a plank in the hull and sent the fireman below to look for damage or a leak. He reported back, "No water". It had not shown immediately.

We made fast to the scow and started for the dumping area. The fireman went again and immediately returned shouting "Captain! Captain, she's filling with water!" The two siphons were started immediately but the water was gaining. I quickly dumped the scow and headed back to the dredge.

Captain McCordock of the dredge loaned a 4" Niagara hand pump and sent three of his men along to help operate it. We soon had the pump working and were just able to keep the water in the bilge from gaining.

The next problem was whether to try to make it to Saint John or to run her ashore. I decided to run her full speed for shore just above the wharf at Upper Jemseg. The Jemseg River is not very wide but I did the best that I could. Going full speed ahead we struck the shore at a right angle. When we stopped, her stem was well out of the water but no sign of the hole in her hull.

I had an odd character as engineer, Black Jack Murphy, who was noted for his excessive use of Black Jack tobacco and gin. He never had his shirt tail tucked in and enjoyed having the girls laugh at him. He had left the David Weston to be engineer on the Novelty.

"Well", said Murphy, "take a horn of this gin, it will keep you from catching cold". "No", I said. Murphy took enough for two. We got in a small boat and the engineer could just reach the break full length of his arm under water. We abandoned that plan and went to work inside the hull. We had to remove a lot of fire wood (fuel for the furnace), cut away the ceiling and look right at the water rushing in. The hull of the Novelty was of pine one-and-a-half inches thick. With a sledge hammer and a piece of board we drove the plank gently back to place, then a piece of blue shirt with plenty of tallow, by nailing on a heavy piece of board.

The job was done. The leak stopped but now we could not back off. Next I tried a strategy that could be used only on a side wheel tugboat. Using the rowboat we took the Novelty's anchor away out astern nearly across the Jemseg River and then wound the free end of the anchor chain around the shaft of one paddle wheel so that when the engine was started in reverse the chain would tighten on the shaft and assist the paddle wheels in getting the tugboat afloat again.

Well, nothing happened. There were at least 25 men around. Someone said try a pry under the stem. A hole was dug to allow the end of a log in under the bow and then a cross piece. Then a log about 8 inches in diameter and over 20 feet long for a pry and the Jemseg people called "Ready". They lifted the bow of the tugboat right out of the water and with the help of the engine and anchor she slid right off. I ran the three men back to the dredge and thanked the captain.

Though young, I was getting experience fast. The dull days on the Novelty were few.

The Oconee Strikes a Snag

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor.


In 1921 I went on the side wheeler Oconee as the freight purser and with the intention of spending as much time as possible in the wheelhouse.

We left Wickham each day at 5:45 am. Capt. Frank Day took the wheel until he made the wharf at Hampstead and then went down to breakfast. I took the Oconee away from Hampstead Wharf, made the turn to cross the river between Long Island and Spoon Island. Capt. Day always returned to the wheelhouse in time to make the stop at Gerows Wharf.

A menace to the side wheel steamers were drifting logs and even worse were the half sunken logs called snags with one end resting on the river bed and the other end floating but barely breaking the surface.

One dark windy morning I rounded the head of Spoon Island, a path of pale moonlight for an instant showed the end of a snag in the trough between the waves. It was dead ahead perhaps fifty feet away.

I rang the engine room gong to stop, a short blast of the whistle to signal an emergency and tried to steer clear. The engineer had gone to the dining room for his breakfast and had left the fireman in charge of the engine room and he had gone forward to throw some coal in the furnace. The Oconee kept going full speed ahead.

Our port bow just slid by the snag but the rotating paddle wheel struck it with a terrific thud and crash. My room, the engineer's room and the ladies cabin were directly above the paddle wheel. The wheel with its steel feathering floats picked up the snag and forced it up through the deck (floor) of the three rooms. It carried away the partitions, the engineer's bed, and couch in the ladies cabin.

The steel wheel and mechanism that controlled the feathering floats was badly bent. It took well over an hour with cross cut saw and axe to take the snag out in pieces. The engineer Oakley McCleery lost all his clothing. My good suit was caught in the paddle wheel under water. I fished it out with a pike pole.

We limped down to Saint John. Machinists and carpenters worked all day and night. We sailed the following afternoon just twenty four hours late.

The Only Cow I ever Owned

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


Another story from "The Waters Wide of New Brunswick Pride".

Captain Mabee writes:

"One beautiful summer morning in the year 1900 the steamer Hampstead was lying at Wickham Wharf awaiting her time to sail to Saint John. On descending from my room to the main deck, I found a man from Bald Hill standing on deck beside a small red and white cow. The man, John Cowan Smith by name, informed me he was on his way to New York, needed a little money and was selling his cow. After getting down river a bit, I went to him for his fare and the freight on the scrawny cow. He told me he had no money but he would pay when he sold the cow. I left him at that. Farther down river he came back to me and tried to get me to buy the cow. He said I could take the freight and passage money out of what I was to pay him. I refused but it set me thinking since I knew that John's name and reputation did not stand very high in the financial world. About the time we got to the foot of Long Reach I asked John what money he wanted for the cow and his answer was $15.

Well, thought I, my friend Tom Beamish will handle her for me and I will be sure to get the $1.50 he owed me, so I bought the cow. I had quite a time getting word to Tom Beamish but it was after 2 pm when he arrived and we had to sail again at 3 pm. I showed him the cow. The minute he saw her he said "John Cowan Smith". I believe Beamish knew every cow in the country. Well he said, "Do you know that a woman in Bald Hill has a lien on that animal?" No, said I. I never heard of it. What is to be done?

"What did you pay for her?", said he. I told him $15. Tom Beamish counted out $16 for me and said "I will look after her. I will keep her on the go."

A few days later I saw Beamish again and when I asked, "Where is the cow?", he said "I don't know. she is on the go." Beamish had her for two hours. I had her for four hours. John Cowan Smith disappeared and I never saw him again.

There were some Bald Hill inquiries about the cow going away. Yes, I said, Smith did take a cow on the Hampstead. And that was that.

The Paddle Wheel

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor from his book "From The Splash Of The Paddlewheel", 1985.


As a boy the mighty paddle wheel of the Victoria held great fascination for me. It was a very high wheel extending in a twenty-six foot diameter from well below the water line up through the main deck, the saloon deck, and well above the hurricane deck.

This high, rather narrow wheel was so designed that the floats (or paddles) would enter the water almost at right angles thus using a minimum of energy, whereas the float of a small wheel would strike the water at an acute angle thereby losing much potential power then and when the floats emerged.

After the advent of the feathering float wheel this difficulty was overcome by a mechanical device which controlled the entry and emergence angle of the float. This permitted the use of a much smaller paddle wheel, but proved to be a mixed blessing as the mechanical device controlling the floats was easily damaged or thrown out of line by driftwood logs, or if the guard of the boat rode over the wharf, when the wheel could be crushed between the hull of the steamer and the wharf.

The paddle box encased the paddle wheel and on the Victoria rose from the main deck to some six or eight feet above the hurricane deck. It contained several hatches or trap doors and occasionally, a fireman would have some reason for opening one. The sight thus revealed was fascinating and the sound deafening. When we travelled at full speed the floats struck and emerged from the water with such force that the flying spray impressed me as a miniature Niagara Falls, with a noise not unlike that made by the mighty waterfall.

When father was captain of the Victoria, the engineer was Mr. William I. Barton. One morning before leaving Fredericton one of the firemen heard some strange sounds emanating from the paddle box. He told Mr. Barton and together they opened the hatch. To their amazement on the paddle beam stood a wildcat, snarling and growling at them, drenched, frightened and enraged by the few revolutions of the paddle wheel. Apparently during the night the wildcat had either gotten into the water and had swum to the wheel, or had jumped to the paddle wheel from a drifting log. Mr. Barton procured a rifle and put an abrupt end to the animal's distress. He took the corpse to a taxidermist and kept it for many years in his living room.

The Premier on Grand Lake

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


The Premier was well suited for the Grand Lake-Chipman route. There was a steady business for Jemseg and various places along the lake. There was a good steady freight traffic for the stores in Minto and Chipman. Once shipments of farm produce began in the spring, the Premier was pretty well loaded both ways for the rest of the season. There was also a passenger business, not large but steady. Both freight and passenger rates were a little higher than those on the river.

The Premier, like the Hampstead seldom held up for bad weather. Once however in Grand Lake, October 1, 1923, she was caught in a northeast gale and had to seek shelter under Cumberland Point. Captain Mabee placed her bow against the shore and for 16 hours by keeping the faithful little engine running was able to hold her there until the wind slackened a little and he backed away and made a run for shelter in Douglas Harbour.

On October 13, 1926 when off Wiggins Point in the Grand Lake the crank of the forward steeple compound engine broke. Capt. Mabee was able to get the Premier in to Youngs Cove and engineer Birdsell C. Estabrooks disconnected the forward engine . The Premier then proceeded on to Chipman and returned to Saint John though with only one engine her speed was greatly reduced.

It was only a short time previous to this, September 25 that Edith J. White and I were married at Long Reach and began our life of nearly 60 years together. We boarded the steamer Premier at Whites Bluff wharf and were welcomed aboard by Capt. Fred S. Mabee. He was the first person to address my wife as Mrs. Taylor. It was a beautiful day sailing up the St. John River, Grand Lake and the Salmon River. We spent a few days in Chipman and returned via Canadian Pacific Railway to Saint John.

On May 5, 1927, the Premier left Chipman as usual at 5 am and reached Saint John at 3:30 pm. This was a record time for the Premier. There were not many stops and needless to say not much business.

On October 1, 1929, from The Range wharf the Premier loaded 460 barrels of potatoes (in bags) and had a total of 950 barrels (in bags) when she reached Saint John. Though she had a very heavy load her time from Wickham to Saint John was three hours and forty minutes.

The Steamboat that was Built in 36 Days

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


The Novelty was a side wheel tugboat owned and operated by Captain Gillis Mabee of Hampton. Gillis Mabee had three sons, Fred, Arn and Hal, all of whom eventually became captains of passenger steamers.

Hal served many years as captain of the Saint John harbor ferry, while Fred spent the greater part of his life on the St. John River and its tributaries.

Although designed as a tugboat, it was soon found that a few extra dollars could be made by the Novelty carrying an occasional passenger on many of her trips. Alterations were made to provide some shelter and comfort.

Fred Mabee was quite young when he persuaded his father to take him on a trip to Saint John in 1883. A strong west wind against the ebb tide caused the Novelty to bob around and he says that, "soon I did not feel very well. We reached Saint John and went into Leonard Slip head first. Instead of going ashore I crawled up in the bow over the cordwood to be used as fuel. The Novelty bobbed up and down badly and soon I was good and seasick. In a short time I was missed. I can hear them shouting now. I crawled out and was taken ashore where I soon came around.

Now the thing that stands out in my mind the most was the stoning of the little steamboat as she left the wharf at 4 pm. Lots of those stones were as large as one's fist. Indiantown at that time was full of bar rooms and bums. Now at the writing of this note in 1941, the bar rooms are closed, the bums scattered and the little steamboat that was built in 36 days has gone forever."

Some time after retiring to his home in Hampton, Captain Arnold made a very good replica of the Novelty which was donated to the New Brunswick Museum and is, I believe, the only likeness of this steamboat in existence.


Thieves in the Night

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor.


In 1912, the steamer Oconee began operating under the ownership of the Suburban Steamship Company Ltd. The intention was to provide a suburban service by leaving Wickham each weekday at 5:45 am for Saint John and returning by leaving Saint John at 3 pm for Wickham.

Both Wickham and Hampstead were thriving communities. The stores at Wickham were operated by T.M. (Mel) Carpenter and A.D. (Dunc) Case while the three in Hampstead were owned by J.Arthur VanWart, George Watson and A.C. (Abe) Thompson.

These store keepers or some member of their families usually met the Oconee and took possession of the cargo as soon as it was landed. Occasionally however some large or heavy piece would be left on the wharf until the following day when help could be obtained for loading the heavy object on a sloven wagon.

In 1921, I was on the Oconee as purser. I remember that along with some other shipments we had a puncheon of molasses for Abe Thompson. Abe was not in any rush to get the molasses as there was still a little left in the puncheon in his back shop. The puncheon of molasses remained on the wharf exactly where our deckhands had left it.

Eventually Abe hired a man with a horse and sloven and another man to help load the puncheon but to their dismay they found that the puncheon was empty or nearly so. Puncheons held about 100 gallons and there was only perhaps a pail full of molasses left.

The puncheon had been landed in good order. If it had been leaking, as purser, I would have noticed and made a note of it. Then someone remembered having seen two tents pitched on Long Island and several canoes on the shore but by this time the campers had departed.

It was generally known that a cheap alcoholic drink commonly known as "Bees Beer" could be made quite easily from molasses. It was hard to believe that a puncheon of molasses could be drained in the middle of the night or perhaps several nights without spilling a bit or leaving the slightest trace. It still remains as "The Mystery of the Missing Molasses".

Towing in the High, High Freshet of 1887

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


Captain Fred Mabee was very young and lacking in experience when he first assumed command of the side wheel tugboat Novelty. His letter describing one experience gives the time of early May 1887, the year of the record high freshet which was even higher than the one of 1932. It was also the year of "The Midnight Shirttail Parade" described in a previous story.

This time on the Novelty, coming down the Kennebecasis with a large raft of logs in tow he thought it prudent to stop at Big Indian Island for the night.

Captain Mabee writes:

"This time I made sure there were sufficient lines out to hold both raft and Novelty against wind and current. Early in the morning we cast off and started for Saint John.

We did very well until we were nearing Boars Head when our progress slowed down considerable. I noted that our engine seemed to be working perfectly. Our paddle wheels were throwing a good backwash but soon our forward movement had stopped entirely.

I was forced to realize that I did not know much about tides, currents and eddies. I had allowed the Novelty and her raft to slip into an eddy. We were digging away as hard as we could but making absolutely no headway whatever. It was not long before I saw a blue boat approaching.

The boat had three men in it, all were waving and shouting at me to keep off shore. They were Mr. Ike Cowan, the boss, and Will and Abbey Taylor. They were all good raft and tugboat men and knew the water and tides much better than I did.

Mr. Cowan tried to direct me where to go but of course I kept a little to close to Swift Point and around went the raft and took the tugboat with it. Mr. Cowan came on board and stood by while the raft was placed in the Kelly Eddy below the mill on Robertsons Point. The river in The Narrows was full of shingle bolts, loose logs and driftwood.

A great feeling of relief settled over this young man as Mr. Cowan said, "That will do boy ... you can go home."

Two Boys Seeking Adventure

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


Captain Fred Mabee was very young and lacking in experience when he first assumed command of the side wheel tugboat Novelty. His letter describing one experience gives the time of early May 1887, the year of the record high freshet which was even higher than the one of 1932. It was also the year of "The Midnight Shirttail Parade" described in a previous story.

This time on the Novelty, coming down the Kennebecasis with a large raft of logs in tow he thought it prudent to stop at Big Indian Island for the night.

Captain Mabee writes:

"This time I made sure there were sufficient lines out to hold both raft and Novelty against wind and current. Early in the morning we cast off and started for Saint John.

We did very well until we were nearing Boars Head when our progress slowed down considerable. I noted that our engine seemed to be working perfectly. Our paddle wheels were throwing a good backwash but soon our forward movement had stopped entirely.

I was forced to realize that I did not know much about tides, currents and eddies. I had allowed the Novelty and her raft to slip into an eddy. We were digging away as hard as we could but making absolutely no headway whatever. It was not long before I saw a blue boat approaching.

The boat had three men in it, all were waving and shouting at me to keep off shore. They were Mr. Ike Cowan, the boss, and Will and Abbey Taylor. They were all good raft and tugboat men and knew the water and tides much better than I did.

Mr. Cowan tried to direct me where to go but of course I kept a little to close to Swift Point and around went the raft and took the tugboat with it. Mr. Cowan came on board and stood by while the raft was placed in the Kelly Eddy below the mill on Robertsons Point. The river in The Narrows was full of shingle bolts, loose logs and driftwood.

A great feeling of relief settled over this young man as Mr. Cowan said, "That will do boy ... you can go home."

Wallace Hale's Fort Havoc

Wallace Hale is a researcher and historian originally from Woodstock. He has compiled an extensive set of documents under the title of Wallace Hale's Fort Havoc which are available through the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick. These documents cover a wide variety of information on New Brunswick's people and history.

In particular there are several published articles by W.O.Raymond from the Woodstock Dispatch between 1894 and 1896 which describe early navigation on the upper St. John River.

The following articles may be of interest.


Early navigation on the Upper St. John (part 1)

http://archives.gnb.ca/Exhibits/FortHavoc/html/Raymond90.aspx?culture=en-CA


Early navigation on the Upper St. John (part 2)

http://archives.gnb.ca/Exhibits/FortHavoc/html/Raymond91.aspx?culture=en-CA


Early navigation on the Upper St. John (part 3)

http://archives.gnb.ca/Exhibits/FortHavoc/html/Raymond92.aspx?culture=en-CA

In addition there is a letter to the editor of the New Brunswick Courier regarding navigation of the upper part of the River St. John from 1833.

http://archives.gnb.ca/Exhibits/FortHavoc/html/River-Navigation.aspx?culture=en-CA

Water War

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor from his book "From The Splash Of The Paddlewheel", 1985.


The large river steamers usually carried good cooks as part of their crew and on the Saint John to Fredericton steamers, or on steamers catering to tourists, there were always first class meals to be had. On the Oconee supper usually consisted of baked beans, fried potatoes, pickles, mild cheddar cheese, cake and of course bread, tea, coffee, etc. - a very good meal for forty cents.

One fine July evening we finished this meal as usual while making our way up through the Long Reach. By the time we left Oak Point the southwest wind had practically died out but a strong flood tide still helped us along the Mistake Interval. We were a little early and I thought we would reach Wickham in time to watch the sunset across low lying Long Island and see the clouds reflected in the river.

But it was not to be on this trip, for at this point Herb Pilley decided to get a drink. Herb was our fireman and good at his job, but full of mischief. He was quenching his thirst at the creamer of water which stood on a shelf aft of the engine room, when he saw Harley MacLean, a deck hand walking towards him. Herb immediately took a full mouth of water and squirted it right in Harley's face. In a very short time there was a full scale water war going with Harley in possession of the fire hose and Herb in full flight to the fire hold. Herb had intended to go under deck and work his way aft to the engine room to shut off the pump supplying water to the fire hose. When he found his way barred by the water tank he came back up on deck and ran for the mid ship gangway, to walk the guard which extended along each side of the steamer to the gangway near the stern where steps were lowered for rowboats. In this manner he hoped to reach the engine room and shut off the pump. Unfortunately he had only made it halfway along the guard before he was discovered by Harley.

Harley ran for the fire hose, and Herb knew that the force of the water from the hose would take him off the guard and into the river. He was directly ahead of the paddle wheel so he decided to dive quickly and deeply. Fortunately he was a good swimmer and he succeeded diving deep enough to clear the paddle wheel, but as he came up he was caught in the churning backwash, turned over several times and eventually surfaced just astern of the rudder. The Oconee, her crew unaware of what was happening, kept going, so Herb decided to swim to the Mistake Interval. About the time he reached shore he heard the Oconee blow and saw her stop and turn to look for him, so he dove again and repeated this several times only surfacing long enough to breathe, thus keeping the crew of the Oconee anxiously looking for him.

By this time, since there was no fireman to add fuel, the fire in the furnace had died to some glowing coals and steam pressure had dropped correspondingly. The engine gradually slowed down until the Oconee was barely moving. A deckhand was dispatched to the fire hold to shovel coal and raise steam. When Herb was finally located he was taken aboard to receive a severe reprimand from my father and an unprintable tongue lashing from the captain.

Herb later told me that if the Oconee had not found him, he had intended to cross the Mistake Interval, swim the Mistake to the mainland, walk home to Oak Point and join the Oconee on her down river trip the next morning.

We Kept Her from Sinking in the Bedroom

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


Fred Mabee writes:

"It was to be the last trip of the year 1900. The Hampstead was fully loaded and within a few minutes of sailing, when the fireman reported that water was running freely in the stockhold. The water was pouring in much too fast for the syphons to keep clear so we immediately began unloading the cargo out on the wharf with all possible speed. In half an hour, enough cargo had been unloaded to lighten the steamer so the leak could be controlled. I made a hasty inspection and saw there was nothing we could do but go below the falls and install a new piece of plank. Since there was no warehouse on the wharf, I got Mr. Wagner of Sand Point to watch the cargo and paid him $2 for the night.

I contacted our ships carpenter George Estey who said that he could do the job. We went through the falls about 7:30 pm to Gregory's deep water blocks at the foot of Portland Street.

As soon as she dried, Estey went to work and soon had the short piece of plank installed. Now what worried Estey was the caulking job. He didn't want to get in bad with the union for doing the caulker's work, but the flood tide was coming in barely an hour and we wanted to go back up through the falls on that flood tide. It was 3 am and Estey started up the street looking for a caulker, but of course there was none.

I said, "George, you'll have to do that little bit of caulking." He did, and we were in hopes that we could get away before a caulker showed up, but no such luck.

George saw him coming and met him and gave him the devil for not being around when he was needed. I could see that the caulker didn't believe everything Estey said, but we bluffed it through. I paid him $1. We floated and made it up through the falls about 9 am.

It was a cold miserable morning, part rain and part snow. As we neared the wharf in the Bedroom (The Bedroom was a wharf partially protected from running ice and debris but did not have a warehouse) we could see poor Mr. Wagner still standing and guarding the large pile of freight on the wharf. I am sure that he was very glad to see us because he was cold, wet and hungry.

The deckhands rushed the loading and in about an hour's time we were ready to start up river for Hampstead and Wickham. We were a bit surprised and very pleased to see that we also had a very good number of passengers on this final trip.

We had not gone very far before we could see that what had been rain and snow in Saint John, a few miles inland was all snow and still falling. Apparently the snow storm was considerably heavier a few miles inland. Soon after passing Boars Head, the river was full of slush that appeared to be quite thick. I really felt quite blue. I had never been in such thick slush before. The weather right then was a little above freezing, but if it turned much colder and the wind came howling out of the northwest, we could certainly be in real trouble. New ice would form very quickly and in no time that new ice would cut through the wooden hull like a thousand chisels.

It was the Sabbath day. The weather did not change and by the time we reached the head of Long Reach, the slush had disappeared.

We discharged our cargo for Hampstead and then over to Wickham to discharge the balance of our cargo and passengers and then away to Saint John.

I remember that trip so well. A Baptist minister was aboard whose destination was Hampstead. Before going ashore, he congratulated me on handling the situation so nicely, but it was all a matter of weather and making the trip before the ice formed on the surface of the Saint John River.

When the Rudder Unshipped

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


Captain Mabee writes:

"A beautiful summer morning in the year 1899, the steamer Hampstead on her way down the St. John River had just left Watters Landing and headed out in the river to clear Purdy's Point.

Quite suddenly I realized that although I had the steering wheel hard over it did not seem to have any effect whatever.

By this time we were in mid river so I rang the engine room gong to stop the engine. I climbed on the hurricane deck and hurried aft and looked down over the stern and there was the rudder lying on the surface just as flat as a pancake and being towed along by the two rudder chains. It was an old rudder from the tugboat Bertha. The rudder stock came under the main deck and the weight was carried by a plate placed on the timbers. It had unshipped. I worried the Hampstead slowly down and got a line on the Day Wharf (Crystal Beach).

We lowered a life boat and set to work. My brother Arn was a good swimmer and diver. His first job was to see if the shoe (on which the rudder rested) was ok. It was.

The next thing was to ship the rudder (back to its place). We straightened it up and began feeling around trying to get the stock in its place on the shoe. Arn made quite a number of dives to see it.

Well, in about an hour we succeeded and Arn reported that it was in place. We did without the holding pin but I got it under deck and made it secure so that it could not jump out.

There were about 20 passengers aboard and we were delayed about an hour and a half. The temporary work held alright and we ran with it that way until we had occasion to go below the falls and complete repairs.

Wreck and Salvage of the Hampstead

This is a story by steamboat captain and historian Capt. Donald F.Taylor based on letters from Captain Fred Mabee.


Captain Mabee writes:

"In some weather the Bedroom (wharf on Bridge Street) was really a difficult place from which to take a boat of any kind. With schooners, tugboats and other craft everywhere and a strong northwest wind blowing it was very hard to maneuver at all.

One day in trying to turn the Hampstead, our propeller struck a sunken log and broke off one of the blades. It was nearly high tide. My father Captain Gillis Mabee went at once to Hilyards Blocks to see a Mr. Carson that had the blocks rented. He told father that if the Hampstead could start immediately and fight the last of the flood tide in the falls she would be in time to be placed on the deep water blocks.

I had the wheel. With one blade off our propeller we were only limping along. We went into the tide abreast the pulp mill still running up very strong but we fought it until we got through. When we came opposite the blocks I saw Mr. Carson standing on the wharf waving us to come in. To follow his orders we had to pass directly over Round Reef. I was still at the wheel. Father was standing on the bow deck giving orders. The Hampstead was moving very slowly and about 100 feet from the pier when she struck the reef. To tell you the truth I did not know she was on the reef but one look at Captain Mabee's face told me all. I blew the whistle calling a tugboat for help but by the time the Neptune reached us it was too late. The Hampstead was caught firmly on top of the ledge and the swiftly ebbing tide left no chance to get her off her precarious perch.

Father and I and deckhands made for the hurricane deck to lower a life boat and while at that job we heard a tremendous snap that told us her back was broken, and she would probably separate at midships and break in two. We soon got the lifeboat in the water and took Captain Mabee and the stewardess ashore. Father gave out and I had to take over. As a precautionary measure our engineer, Hugh Andrews had closed all steam valves and disconnected all steam joints to prevent a rupture due to the unusual strain.

We stood on the wharf watching what would happen. As the water receded would she break in two or would she roll over and fall off the ledge and smash up on the rocks. But to our amazement she stood like a barrel on a sawhorse, with only a slight list to starboard.

When she dried we used the life planks to build piers under both bow and stern to carry her weight. (This was before the advent of the cork life preserver and short pieces of pine planks were used to keep people from sinking). A man could easily walk beneath her bow or stern.

The Hampstead had a 94 foot keel and only about half of that was resting on the ledge. The starboard bilge planks were in pretty good condition but the planks on the port side were sprung off so that a person could run his arm inside the opening.

We now come to the time I first met ships carpenter George Estey. He had been working for the Star Line Steamship Co. and had recently been laid off. One quick look at the sickening predicament and George ordered a caulker, canvas, lath and some other essentials. A junk dealer by the name of Rooney was very kind. He said to me "Just take any of my gear that you need."

Now the oakum was tucked in place, then the canvas was spread over and held in place with the lath and we were ready for the incoming flood tide. I had engaged four extra men to bail water if necessary.

By this time it was the middle of the night but we could see the incoming tide creeping up around her. Eventually she began to lift and although her back was broken she began to take her original shape. I stayed in the hold for awhile watching to see if any water was forcing its way in but there was none.

Estey was as pleased as I was. The minute the Hampstead floated a dozen men drew her to the blocks. Estey had capped the blocks so as to bring the keel back to shape (when she settled on them at the next low water). Estey got jack-screws to help replace the warped plank. Stanton, the caulker was on the job and when the tide came in again she was ready for up river. A broken back and a slight drop off in her starboard stern was the only damage which she carried the rest of her life.

The next edition of the Daily Sun carried the head line : "The S.S.Hampstead made of rubber"

Note: Hilyards Reef or Round Reef at low water is visible from Chesley Drive.