Age of Steamboats Begins
its Boom on Lake Scugog
By Paul Arculus
from the Sketches Of Scugog series
The story of transportation
over the waters of Lake Scugog began hundreds of
years ago when the Huron, then the Iroquois and
finally the Mississaugas made their way around the
broad meandering river which was later expanded
to become Lake Scugog.
The focus of this article and
the next is on more modern methods of water transportation;
firstly the oar and sail powered vessels and later
the steam powered ships which transported people
and goods from place to place on Lake Scugog, laying
the economic base for today's communities.
When William Purdy obtained government
encouragement to build a dam at Lindsay in 1827,
his primary purpose was to create power for a mill.
The eventual consequence of the dam was the increase
of seven feet of water all over Lake Scugog, thus
doubling its size. This increased depth, and the
larger surface of water made navigation much easier,
a factor not immediately accepted by the area residents.
Initially there was an outbreak
of opposition to the larger lake. Pioneers who had
settled on the land around the lake and had begun
to clear their acres on its shores were obviously
outraged by the Purdy dam, so much so that in 1838
a group of farmers went up to Lindsay and destroyed
the dam. But Purdy had the force of the government
behind him and built a smaller dam lower down the
river. The first lock was built
at Lindsay in 1844.
Peter Perry's vision for developing
Lake Scugog and drawing trade and commerce to the
south end of the lake and then overland to his harbor
at Whitby was gaining acceptance.
This began to draw settlers into
the area thus creating a need for adequate transportation.
A number of sail and oar powered
vessels moved people and goods around the lake,
but the first to move into a mechanical phase were
John Lasher and his neighbor Thomas Haywood. They
had settled at the southeastern end of the lake
and established a small settlement called Lasherville
later to become Caesarea.
In 1845, Lasher and Haywood built
a scow with a horse powered tread mill. It carried
freight and passengers from Lasherville (Caesarea)
to sites on the lake including Lindsay.
Around the same time Reuben Crandell,
in competition with the Lasher boat, built a crude
packet called the Firefly. It was propelled by oars
Reuben Crandell's son George
who had always shown an interest in boating helped
his father to build the Firefly. George's time
aboard this vessel was short because of his involvement
in the Markham Gang (see August and September
1995, Port Perry Star). For his part in the crime
spree, he was sentenced to five years in the penitentiary.
After he had served his sentence and was released
in 1850, he returned to his home in Borelia to
hear talk of the building of a steam vessel at
the waterfront of Scugog Village.
Peter Perry persuaded James
Rowe and Thomas Cotton to finance the building
of the first steamboat in the region.
James Rowe had become wealthy
as a grain buyer in the Whitby area. He became
reeve of Whitby in 1852.
In 1853, he joined with John
Watson to buy Peter Perry's road company which
owned the road from Whitby to Lake Scugog. He
formed the Port Whitby and Lake Huron Railway
Company. He was later to play an influential role
in bringing the railway to Port Perry.
Cotton was also involved in
Rowe and Cotton hired Hugh Chisolm
to build the steam powered vessel at Scugog Village.
The keel was laid in the spring of 1850 on the
waterfront. The vessel was to be called the Woodman.
George Crandell had more experience
in ships and ship building than most people in
the area. When he approached Chisolm and expressed
his desire to be involved in the building of the
Woodman, he was hired immediately.
No doubt, as he worked away,
he would have expressed a desire to own such a
vessel as the Woodman. Little did he realize how
soon that dream would come true.
As the huge hull began to take
shape, it would have attracted the rapt attention
of all the settlers in the area. It was an immense
vessel for this period even rivalling the steamers
on Lake Ontario. It was 96 feet long at the keel
and had an overall length of 110 feet. Its huge
14 foot side paddlewheels gave it a width of 30
The Woodman was launched on
August 29, 1850. After the launch, the huge steam
engine had to be installed. It was a 25 horsepower
unit built in New York. This enabled her to chug
along gracefully at over eight miles per hour.
There were two main decks. The
lower deck had a large lounge as well as separate
cabins for ladies and gentlemen, all fitted with
bunks. The upper deck was open except for the
wheel house where Captain Chisolm commanded his
Excitement ran throughout the
whole of Lake Scugog and the Scugog River all
the way to Lindsay when it was announced that
the Woodman was to have its maiden voyage on April
Dignitaries from Toronto, Whitby
and the small settlement of Oshawa came to Scugog
Village to board the vessel. To add an even more
festive air to the occasion, the Brooklin Brass
Band was also invited.
WOODMAN MAIDEN VOYAGE
The ship left her festooned moorings
at Scugog Village at noon. She proudly steamed her
way to Port Hoover and Washburn Island, the sound
of her steam horn reverberating all over the lake.
She finally wound her way up to the Scugog River
to Lindsay where a gala reception was planned at
Mitchell's hotel. She was scheduled to arrive in
Lindsay at 3 in the afternoon, but logs, branches
and all manner of debris in the river, delayed her
arrival until 5 p.m. As she made her way up the
last few miles of the river, excitement reached
the pandemonium stage as the noise of her horn,
the Brooklin Brass Band and the cheering of the
Lindsay townsfolk greeted her arrival. A huge banquet
in the hotel ballroom was accompanied by the usual
speeches. This was followed by singing and dancing,
led by what must have been a completely exhausted
Brooklin Brass Band. The festivities carried on
until the early hours of the morning.
After her maiden voyage, she made
the daily trip from Port Perry to Lindsay and then
return. Along the way, regular stops were made at
Port Hoover and Caesarea.
The route along the river proved
to be hazardous for many years. But there was a
more serious danger in all steamboats of that era;
fire. The potential for fire was always present
on board these wooden steam vessels.
The Woodman had her first major fire
in 1854 as she lay at her wharf in Port Perry. She
was so badly damaged that Rowe and Cotton decided
to sell her. Her new owner; George Crandell. He
immediately rebuilt her and in 1854 with her relaunching,
began to build what was to become a steamboat empire
on the Central Lakes. As soon
as he had acquired the vessel, Crandell rebuilt
it and started into the business of shipping people
and goods around Lake Scugog and Sturgeon Lake.
Three times a week, Captain Crandell proudly navigated
his steamship from Port Perry to Lindsay. On Lake
Scugog it stopped at Port Hoover, Washburn Island
and Caesarea. On Sturgeon Lake it made journeys
to Bobcaygeon and Bridgenorth.
In 1845 the road from Whitby to
Manchester, and then east to Prince Albert was planked.
Four years later it was extended to Scugog Village,
now Port Perry. In 1850 the Nonquon road from Oshawa
through Prince Albert to the Nonquon River was planked
and opened to the public. These accomplishments,
coupled with the Woodman, plying its regular route
to Lindsay, resulted in an economic boom for this
region. New mills opened and land values skyrocketed.
In the decade from 1851 to 1861,
Reach Township enjoyed its greatest 10 year population
growth for the entire century! Its population grew
from almost 3900 to over 6200, an increase of over
60 per cent! In the following decade it only increased
by 10 per cent and then the population actually
declined until after the turn of the century!
But it wasn't until the 1860s
that Port Perry finally began to outgrow its closest
rival community, Prince Albert.
In 1853, James Wallis at Fenelon
Falls launched a vessel, the Ogemah to tow lumber
from his sawmill at Fenelon Falls to Port Perry.
Wallis and Crandell shared the growing traffic from
Port Perry to Bobcaygeon, taking turns running on
alternate days from Port Perry to Lindsay. Wallis
captained the Ogemah for 20 years.
1857 was a landmark year for
shipping on the Central Lakes. As a result of the
phenomenal growth of the trade on these lakes, the
government agreed to rebuild the Bobcaygeon lock
out of stone. Thus the Ogemah and the Woodman could
venture into Buckhorn, Pigeon and Chemong Lakes.
But that journey was short-lived, for later that
year, a petition was presented to the government
requesting that (1) the Scugog River be dredged;
(2) that a new wharf be built at Lindsay and (3)
that the lock at Lindsay be improved.
The government carried out the
first two items but when they removed the decrepit
lock they built a timber slide instead! This ridiculous
situation meant that goods and passengers from Port
Perry had to change vessels at Lindsay.
This did not discourage growth
on the isolated Lake Scugog. At the waterfront in
Port Perry, George Crandell commissioned the steamship
Lady Ida. It was built at the Port Perry waterfront
and launched there in 1861. (Three years later,
he sold the Lady Ida to W.J. Trounce in Port Perry). By
1863, traffic on Lake Scugog was undergoing astounding
growth. There was enough work in towing lumber to
keep at least one vessel occupied full time. Crandell
decided to assign this role to the Woodman. To handle
other goods and passenger traffic beyond Lindsay,
he commissioned his third vessel the Ranger, to
be built at Lindsay. It was launched in May 1864.
The Ranger was an 80 foot long side paddlewheeler
powered by a 26 horsepower engine.
The Crandell's growing shipping
business was carefully watched by all. Its success
and potential attracted the interest of that most
enterprising of entrepreneurs, Joseph Bigelow. Along
with W.J. Trounce, Bigelow commissioned a vessel
to be built for the Port Perry to Lindsay traffic.
They hired Elias Rogers to build the vessel at Port
Progress of the construction of
the new boat received constant press coverage. In
April, 1867, the Port Perry Standard reported:
"Elias Rogers of Port Hoover has
a new steamer on the stocks...She measures 70 feet
at the keel, has an 18 foot beam and is to be propelled
by a 35 horsepower engine from the establishment
of A.M. Gibson. She is expected to make her first
trip in early May."
On May 16, the Standard reported:
"The new steamer was launched
at Port Hoover on Tuesday last. (April 14, 1867).
The unfavorable weather prevented many from being
present. She was named the Anglo Saxon. We understand
that she will be towed to Port Perry on Saturday
next to receive her machinery."
On May 23:
"The boat recently launched at
Port Hoover, intending to ply between Lindsay and
Port Perry on Lake Scugog was towed to Sexton's
wharf by the Lady Ida on the 22nd instant. She is
a rather nice looking craft and reflects considerable
taste upon the man who got up her model."
The machinery of the Anglo Saxon
was designed and built at Gibson's Foundry in Port
Perry. In the fall of 1866, A.M. Gibson built a
huge foundry and factory on Perry Street. This was
on the east side of Perry Street opposite the end
of Paxton Street, the site of what was later to
become the Pure Springs Bottling works. Today a
lovely reproduction Victorian home, built by Peter
and Nancy Hvidsten occupies the site. Gibson's facility
occupied nearly an acre of ground. Here he built
an 18 by 36 foot engine shop, a 20 by 40 blacksmith
shop and two 36 by 60 factories. He employed 23
workers who fabricated agricultural implements as
well as machinery for mills and steamboats.
Another man who ventured into
the lucrative shipping business was the lengendary
lumber baron, Mossom Boyd. Boyd had settled in Bobcaygeon
in 1833 and bought a sawmill from Thomas Need in
1849. He enlarged the mill and expanded his lumber
business, but he had always hired ships to tow his
log booms. In 1864, Boyd bought his first vessel,
In 1867, Crandell launched his
third steamer, the Commodore, a 96 foot long paddlewheeler.
It was built by Thomas Walters in Lindsay.
At the time of Canada's Confederation,
the lumber trade had expanded to 10,000,000 feet
per year on Trent. However, most of this was still
shipped to Port Hope from Lindsay on the Port Hope
At Port Hoover, Elias Rogers,
not to be outdone by Crandell, Bigelow and others,
decided to build a steamship of his own. Up to this
point, all the steamboats on the Central Lakes had
been side paddlewheelers. Rogers decided to innovate.
He built a vessel with the paddlewheel at the back.
No doubt he had been influenced by the success of
the sternwheelers on the Mississippi. The Ontario,
built at Port Hoover, was the first sternwheeler
on the Central Lakes. It made its maiden voyage
to Lindsay and then to Port Perry in July 1868.
To keep up with the increase in
traffic on the lakes, response, Crandell commissioned
his fourth steamer. Again, Crandell hired Thomas
Walters of Lindsay to build his new sidewheeler,
a 73 ton, 95 foot long vessel which he named the
Champion. It was launched in the spring of 1869.
With the launching of the Champion,
George Crandell had the largest and busiest fleet
on the Central Lakes. But Crandell's empire had
THE JOY OF STEAMBOATING ON LAKE
SCUGOG IN THE 1800s
Beginning with the launch
of the Woodman in 1850, Lake Scugog enjoyed over
a half century of romance with the steamboat. It
began purely as a need to transport people and goods
around the lake. The main commodity being logs from
various sites, particularly in Victoria County.
They were towed in booms down to the mills at Port
Perry. Most of the finished lumber was then shipped
to Lindsay to be loaded on to trains and shipped
to Port Hope.
The railway from Port Hope to
Lindsay had been completed in 1857. The Port Whitby
and Port Perry Railroad was not operational until
Bigelow and Trounce's vessel the
Anglo Saxon set a record for towing on the Central
Lakes. On one journey from Lindsay in 1874 the Anglo
Saxon towed one scow-load of stave bolts, three
loaded scows of logs and three cribs of logs! The
steamship frequently towed booms containing 20,000
saw-logs to the mills at Port Perry.
By the early 1860s, Port Perry
was becoming a sizeable settlement. Although there
were two main roads linking the settlement to the
outside world, mud, swamps, fallen trees and the
discomfort of the corduroy surface, made any journey
a challenging experience. Port Perry's only reliable
and comfortable link with the outside world was
by the steamboat.
With Port Perry's growth, various
social groups began to be formed. Churches, Sunday
Schools, Lodges and sports clubs organized picnics
and other outings to fill the growing social needs
of the community. The steamboat was a logical and
pleasant way to organize excursions for various
occasions. A number of destinations around Lake
Scugog developed. The most popular resort was Washburn
Island. Beginning in 1864, a non-denominational
social committee was created to organize a steamboat
This event became an extremely
popular annual event.
The third annual excursion, took
place on Friday, July 19, 1867. This event was delightfully
reported in the Port Perry Standard of July 25,
1867 as follows:
"The third annual excursion on
Lake Scugog from this place, which came off on Friday
last, was, on the whole a very pleasant affair.
Some difficulty existed previous to the start, owing
to the fact that opposition was got up by the working
men, because the fare had been raised from 25c.
to 50c. a ticket this year; but when all got "underway"
everything passed off "as merry as a marriage bell."
The Lady Ida started first, with one scow and probably
100 or 125 on board, accompanied by the Prince Albert
band. She was followed by the Anglo Saxon with two
scows, and probably 300 on board, accompanied by
Freeman's and the Whitby bands. Nothing worthy of
note transpired during the trip on board either
boat, other than that some passed the time in dancing
while others participated in games and amusements
usual to such occasions.
The Anglo Saxon called at Port
Hoover and took quite a number on board, but the
Lady Ida went straight to her destination. Both
boats however reached the island within a few minutes
of each other; and immediately after the shore was
lined with the excursionists, their boxes, baskets,
parcels &c., &c., -- Groups wended their way here
and there, each selecting a suitable spot on which
to prepare their repast.
the cravings of the inner man, a number strolled
about the island in quest of Indian relics and curiosities,
some fine specimens of which were secured. Others
sang, some enjoyed swinging, some went fishing,
swimming, boating &c., & c. Meantime, the bands
did their part towards making the visit agreeable.
Freeman's Band was "the admired of all admirers."
We were delighted with their performance, as so
rare a musical treat is seldom in store for us.
Each one of the family is so proficient that comparisons
would be odious; and we question that they can be
beaten by the same number in the province.
At about four o'clock the whistling
of the boats indicated that the time had come for
returning. All hands having been safely embarked,
the Lady Ida backed out and started for home. In
a few minutes the Anglo Saxon followed, giving three
cheers for Messrs. Washburn, Unger and the Islanders
generally. She left passengers at Port Hoover and
reached Port Perry at eight o'clock, just a few
minutes after the Lady Ida.
The time during the return was
occupied by amusements similar to those which had
absorbed the attention of passengers on the outward
trip. Large numbers were present from all parts
of the county; and we doubt not that many enjoyed
This annual excursion continued
to hold for many years.
In the summer of 1868, eight such
excursions from Port Perry to Washburn Island were
reported in the Observer and the Standard.
That same year another excursion
began. The Port Perry Standard of July 30, 1868
reported it as follows:
"An excursion from Lindsay. The
steamer Anglo Saxon brought an excursion party from
Lindsay to this place on Tuesday last. There were
about a 100 on board, of whom the principal number
dined at Shaw's Hotel. Dinner over, 'a look at the
place' was decided upon, after which the company
retraced their steps to the boat at 3 p.m.
On their arrival they were received
by a number of our residents, and also escorted
to the boat on their return. The excursionists seemed
to enjoy themselves exceedingly well and we hope
it may not be the last interview we shall have of
As a pathetic post script, after
a glorious career of shipping on Lake Scugog, the
Anglo Saxon met a somewhat ignominious fate. In
1888, it made its way to the foot of the lock under
construction at Fenelon Falls. The Anglo Saxon was
to be the first vessel through the new locks.
Unfortunately someone overlooked
the fact that the railway bridge at the top of the
lock was too low to allow such vessels through.
The Anglo Saxon waited patiently at the foot of
the Fenelon Falls lock until this was rectified.
Unfortunately the conversion of
the railway bridge into a swing bridge was not completed
until 1894. By this time the poor Anglo Saxon had
rotted beyond redemption. The Anglo Saxon was stripped
of all useful machinery and decorations and then
towed through the locks. The hull was taken out
into Cameron Lake and sunk. Somewhere at the bottom
of Cameron Lake, the rotten hull of the once proud
Anglo Saxon remains to be relocated by fearless
GEORGE CRANDELL'S EMPIRE GROWS
The Steamboat "Woodman" was
launched on August 29, 1850. It was the first
steamboat on Lake Scugog and it was the first
steamboat to be launched on the "Back Lakes" (Balsam,
Scugog, Sturgeon, Chemung and Buckhorn Lakes).
George Crandell was one of several men who helped
to build this vessel for Cotton and Rowe at the
Port Perry waterfront. After it was seriously
damaged by fire in 1854, Crandell purchased the
remains and promptly rebuilt it and began to establish
himself in the shipping business. He carried people
and commodities all over Lake Scugog and Sturgeon
In 1857, as a result of the
increased water traffic, a petition was presented
to the government requesting that the Board of
Works dredge and straighten the Scugog River,
improve the lock at Lindsay and build a new wharf
there. That year the government workers removed
the decrepit timber lock which had been completed
in 1844. Surprisingly they built a timber slide
in its place. This meant that goods and passengers
had to change at Lindsay.
In spite of this dilemma, Crandell
could see that shipping business on the Port Perry,
Lindsay, Fenelon Falls and Bobcaygeon routes held
considerable potential. He moved to Lindsay and
built a house there so that he could be at the
heart of his expanding operations.
Crandell then increased his
fleet thus allowing him to maintain vessels on
Lake Scugog and Sturgeon Lake. Each vessel he
built was bigger than the previous one, always
bearing in mind that he had to build vessels which
permitted maneuverability through the locks. The
original lock at Lindsay was one of the longest
at 131 ft.
his second steam vessel in 1861, a side paddlewheeler,
the Lady Ida. It was built at the waterfront in
Port Perry. In May 1864, The Ranger was launched
at Lindsay. This was also a side paddlewheeler
80 feet long.
George Crandell launched his
fourth steamer in 1867. This was the Commodore,
a 96 foot long paddlewheeler, built by Thomas
Walters at Lindsay.
By this time serious efforts
were finally underway to build the railway from
Whitby to Port Perry. Beginning in the spring
of 1868, Joseph Bigelow of Port Perry began an
extensive letter writing campaign to the government's
Board of Works trying to convince them of the
need to rebuild the lock at Lindsay. Aiding Bigelow
in applying pressure was the M.P.P. for Ontario
North, Thomas Paxton. Bigelow was the provisional
director for the proposed Port Whitby and Port
They argued that the success
of the proposed railway was largely dependent
upon moving goods, particularly lumber, rapidly
from Sturgeon Lake and Lindsay, down to Port Perry
where it would be loaded on to the train. Their
campaign led them to meet with the Premier of
the newly established province of Ontario, Sandfield
MacDonald. Their ability to argue successfully
was no doubt due in part to the fact that Paxton
was also a Railway board member as well as being
In February 1870, master shipbuilder
Thomas Walters, who had built Crandell's prize
steamship, the Commodore, was awarded the contract
to build a new lock and a swing bridge at Lindsay.
Walters completed the construction
ahead of schedule and in the spring of 1871, the
lock was completely operational. Sadly, George
Crandell's father Reuben passed away in September
of that year.
The completion of the lock brought
to an end the fourteen years of loading and unloading
goods at Lindsay for the traffic between Lake
Scugog and Sturgeon Lake. In its peak year of
1876, 456 steamers, 867 scows and 521 cribs of
timer passed through the lock at Lindsay.
Steamboat traffic and rival
companies continued to increase on the Central
Lakes. In 1873, in response to the competition,
George Crandell decided to build the finest vessel
on the Central Lakes. He hired Thomas Walters
to build the Vanderbilt at Lindsay. It was not
only the finest vessel on the Central lakes, it
was also the largest at 112 feet and 180 tons.
The Vanderbilt was built primarily as a passenger
It carried passengers and some
goods between Port Perry, Port Hoover, Caesarea,
Lindsay and Bobcaygeon.
Economic difficulties plagued
the ninteenth century just as much as they do
in our times. In 1873, the bottom fell out of
the lumber market in the U.S. This triggered an
economic depression as serious as the 1929 crash.
By 1860, the lumber industry had become the major
employer in the industrial economy of Upper Canada.
It provided the major source of revenue for the
province. Shipping and railway businesses were
almost entirely dependent upon lumber for their
existence. The majority of this lumber was shipped
to the northern United States.
In 1871, there were 44 sawmills
in operation employing 409 workers in the northern
riding of Ontario County. This included the townships
of Reach and those to the north. There were several
sawmills in operation in and around the Port Perry
Daniel Way purchased lots 126
and 127 on New Year's day, 1846. This was the
property directly to the north of the present
library. Here he built the first sawmill in the
settlement. He sold the mill and the property
to Thomas Paxton 11 months later.
Samuel Hill bought the property
across the road on Water Street in June 1848 and
erected another mill. This was later purchased
by W. Sexton. Stephen Doty's mill, which had been
purchased by Joseph Bigelow was located just south
of the present baseball diamond on Water Street.
Across from that was a stave factory established
by J.C. Bowerman and later also purchased by Bigelow.
Other area sawmills include
Daniel Hoover's at Port Hoover, Beare's mill which
was located east of Utica and Deans on the first
concession of Cartwright. At Cadmus there were
the Fallis and Brown mills. There were three sawmills
at Greenbank and one at Seagrave. All were drastically
affected by the 1873 depression. Even in 1875,
cash sales for any form of lumber were non-existent.
The economy did not revive until
1878 and many went bankrupt. Crandell had to tie
up the Ranger and the Samson for two years. The
Ranger never sailed again.
George Crandell, however was
never without ambition and ideas. In 1875, he
decided to drum up business by building a summer
hotel at Sturgeon Point. He launched a stock company
to finance the venture. Crandell's previous economic
record was beyond reproach. In spite of the severe
economic conditions, Crandell had little difficulty
in raising the necessary capital.
He purchased a 100 acre property
at Sturgeon Point. A hundred yards from the water's
edge, in the middle of a stand of trees, he built
a stately 40 roomed three storey frame palace
with a two storey verandah running around three
sides and an elegant mansard roof. It was officially
opened on June 15, 1876. Later the hotel complex
was expanded to include a dance hall, shuffle
board courts and bath houses.
Crandell's Sturgeon Point Hotel
Point Hotel was extremely popular for picnics,
dances and, of course, boating regattas. Prospects
improved further when the closet rival hotel,
the Couchiching Hotel near Orillia burned down.
As with all of Crandell's previous
ventures the Sturgeon Point Hotel was a phenomenal
success. Boating regattas of various types were
held regularly. On one occasion in 1878, special
trains ran from Port Hope and Toronto, bringing
2,000 to Lindsay. They were then taken by boat
to the hotel. An Oddfellow's excursion in 1881
drew 3,000 visitors. This occasion was climaxed
by the production of Gilbert and Sullivan's new
operetta, Pirates of Penzance.
Boyed by the success of the
Sturgeon Point Hotel, he built another hotel at
Fenelon Falls, but it burned to the ground in
Crandell sold the Sturgeon Point
Hotel after seven seasons to J. "Ebe" Dunham of
Cobourg, but, ever the canny businessma,. Crandell
kept much of the waterfront acreage which he sold
off as lots to the wealthy.
The status of Crandell's boats
was as follows: the Ranger had rotted away while
out of commission as a result of the depression
of 1873; in 1879, the Champion was stripped of
her machinery and allowed to rot in the Scugog.
Shortly afterwards same with the Commodore. Crandell
kept the Samson and built the Stranger to replace
the other two. The Stranger was the first screw
steamer owned by Crandell. It was a smaller vessel
at a length of only 60 feet. It weighed 19 tons
and had a 35 h.p. engine. The Stranger was later
sold to the Carnegies in Port Perry.
September 23, 1881 Vanderbilt
caught fire at her dock at Lindsay. The Canadian
Post of Lindsay (later to become the Lindsay Post)
reported: "...Fire broke out between four and
five o'clock and burnt to the water's edge in
an incredibly short time...What caused the fire
is a mystery... the loss to Captain Crandell was
heavy as he only had $25,000 insurance on her."
The remains of the Vanderbilt
lay at the bottom of the Scugog River for nine
GEORGE CRANDELL'S STEAMSHIP CRANDELLA
Last month's article chronicled the rise
of George Crandell's steamboat empire and ended
with the loss of his prize steamship, the Vanderbilt.
The Vanderbilt burned at its berth at Lindsay in
To replace the Vanderbilt in the
spring of 1885, George's sons Frank and Fremont
bought Eva from Captain Elijah Bottum. Eva had been
launched in 1881. It was a 71 foot screw steamer
of 11.6 tons. Eva continued Vanderbilt's route,
from Lindsay to Fenelon Falls and Bobcaygeon with
regular stops at Sturgeon Point.
Eva was remodelled, the boiler
was moved forward, a new lounge was built amidships
to hold 75 passengers to keep the rains out. A Palace
scow also built. Palace scows were huge flat bottomed
barges to be towed by the steamers. Palace scows
started out as mere flat bottomed barges used to
carry cargo during the week and then seats were
placed on board for the weekend and holiday traffic.
Later they became used exclusively for passengers
and some were improved by adding an enclosed lower
deck and an open upper deck.
The Palace scow, Paragon was built
for the steamer Dominion. These vessels were owned
by the Burke brothers. The scow was 90 feet by 20,
and licensed for 400 passengers. In 1887 a new upper
deck was added and later enclosed to create cabins.
In 1888, Crandell, sensing that travel by steamboat
held more potential bought the Dominion and Paragon.
As usual, his judgement was correct and business
continued to grow.
To capitalize on this economic
boom, Captain George Crandell took an even wilder
gamble. The Canadian Post of Lindsay reported the
following on Friday, Nov. 20, 1890:
"Captain Crandell is proceeding
vigorously in his preparations for building a steamer
this winter. Thinking that the hull of the old Vanderbilt
might be utilized, he has had a force of men at
work for some timepast extricating it from the muddy
bed where it has reposed for years, and when drawn
out upon the ways below Rathbun's mill and cleaned,
the bottom was found to be as sound as ever. Accordingly
a new vessel will be built on the same lines in
the main and will have an extreme length of 120
feet and a beam of 32 or 33 feet...The craft will
be ready for her trial at the beginning of navigation
On June 5, 1891, the Lindsay Post
"Captain Crandell's new steamer,
'Lindsay Chief' was launched Thursday afternoon
last, that is partially so, for a hitch took place
somewhere and it was not until next day that the
craft floated proudly on Scugog's bosom. The machinery
is now being placed in her and it will not be long
before a trial trip is made."
Whether the hitch in her launching
aroused a sailor's superstition or not, we have
no way of knowing, but the name of the vessel was
changed. The new vessel was by far the finest steamship
of her day on the central lakes. As the crowning
glory of George Crandell's steamboat empire, he
chose his own name to grace its hull. It was renamed
The Crandella was finally a little
short of the newspaper report's projected measurements.
The finished vessel was 112 feet long, and had a
20 foot beam. The engine of the old Commodore was
rebuilt and installed in her.
On July 8, 1891, The Lindsay newspaper
"Steamboat in-spectors Donnelly
and Adams visited Lindsay on Tuesday to look over
the 'Crandella' as Captain Crandell's new vessel
is to be called. They pronounced her a light and
well built craft and rated her capable of carrying
450 passengers with safety." Captain
George Crandell gave way to his feelings of charity
for the Crandella's first voyage. After he had moved
to Lindsay, he made a firm commitment to his community,
becoming a pillar of the Presbyterian Church there.
For the Crandella's maiden voyage, on July 16, he
organized a free excursion to Sturgeon Point for
senior citizens and other needy people in the community.
On July 23, 1891, the North Ontario
Observer reported the following in Port Perry:
"The new commodious and magnificent
steamer 'Crandella,' built and owned by the most
popular and affable steamboat captain on the inland
waters - Captain George Crandell of Lindsay, visited
our wharf on Saturday last. She is the largest and
best appointed steamer on this chain of lakes and
is a credit to the enterprise of her owner and Lindsay
has every reason to be proud of so fine a craft.
An extensive patronage awaits her wherever she may
The Crandella was strictly an
excursion steamer, running on a regular schedule
from Lindsay to Sturgeon Point and Bobcaygeon. Initially,
there was no roof over the upper deck. As a result,
a number of ladies complained after sparks had burned
holes in their hats. Over the winter of 1891-92,
the vessel was again refitted with a roof or hurricane
deck, a new dining salon and larger cabins.
In 1899 the Crandella was the
busiest and most successful steamship on the Central
Lakes. That year it carried 40,000 passengers and
100 tons of freight. Its closest rival was the Esturion
which that same year carried only 27,000 passengers
and 500 tons of freight.
In 1898, Charles Stewart along
with Reeve W.H. Bottum, son of the late Captain
Elijah Bottum decided to give the central lakes
a new collective name. Hitherto they had been known
variously as the Trent Lakes, The Back Lakes, the
Midland Lakes, the Newcastle Lakes, or the Peterborough
Lakes. Bottum and Stewart went to the Curve Lake
Reserve to get suggestions. The Indians there suggested
the Mississauga name KAWATHA meaning "bright waters
and happy lands." Bottum and Stewart campaigned
throughout the region for the acceptance of the
name. Councils of Bobcaygeon, Fenelon Falls, Lindsay,
Peterborough and Lakefield agreed. The newspapers
and the Grand Trunk Railway began to use it but
somehow an "r" got into it. By 1900, the name KAWARTHA
The year 1890 marked the height
of passenger steamboat traffic on the central Lakes.
That year there were 21 steam vessels in active
service on the lakes between Port Perry and Bridgenorth.
This was the golden age of steamboats on the Kawarthas.
Unfortunately, Port Perry's role in this boom was
a minor one. The extension of the Port Whitby and
Port Perry Railway to Lindsay in 1876 began the
rapid demise of the importance of Port Perry as
a significant port.
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