Chicago Tribune, December 7, 1880
It will prove an item of interest as well as a source of gratification to Chicagoans generally that our English neighbors are sending hither for models of steam and sail vessels, besides ordering some built here, to do service on Lake Winnipeg. Somehow the fame of John Gregory as a marine architect reached the ears of the heads of the Hudson Bay Company some time since, and at their request he prepared the model of a steamer for a Lake Winnipeg route that proved in every way successful, both as to speed and sea-going qualities. Her average time upon a route 375 miles long has been but thirty-six hours. Recently Mr. Gregory received further orders from the same source, and in accordance with these orders he has just completed the model of a fore-and-aft schooner of 200 tons carrying capacity. She is to have 108 feet length of keel, 26 foot beam, and 8½ feet hold. Mr. Gregory will arrange all the preliminary details such as “laying down,” etc., here, and then send his foreman, Mr. John McCoy, to Fort Garry, to superintend the construction of the vessel. She is to be ready for service by the last day of June next.
Accompanying this order for a sail vessel were instructions to Mr. Gregory to prepare the model and arrange the preliminary details of a propeller to be 170 feet long, with 28 feet beam, and 10 feet hold, This propeller is also to be built at Fort Garry under the superintendence of Mr. McCoy, during the spring and summer months of 1881.
Mr. Gregory is also instructed to build, for service on Frazer River, a light draught side-wheel tug of sixty feet keel, sixteen feet beam, and five feet hold. This craft will be put together in Chicago, and afterward taken apart and shipped to Fort Garry in sections. The tug is to be supplied with a grouser or spur apparatus with which she can help herself over bars that exist in Frazer River.
It is altogether likely that when these several orders have been filled, Mr. Gregory will receive more of the same sort and from the same quarter.
The St. Paul Minneapolis & Manitoba Railway
Winnipeg to Chicago
About 875 Miles
Sessional Papers, Vol. XVI, No. 6 (1883). “Annual Report of the Minister of Public Works for the Fiscal Year 1881-82”, Mr. Guerin’s Report, 29 January 1882
The Hudson Bay Company decided to invest in a new steamboat specifically designed for use on Lake Winnipeg and Commissioner Grahame traveled to Chicago to consult a master ship builder, recommended to him by Norman Kittson. After Grahame explained the special needs of a vessel on Lake Winnipeg, this builder agreed to design a steamboat with specifications for the sum of $100. He would also make the moulds for the steamer and send them to Grand Forks, where Grahame planned to have the boat built in the yards of the Red River Transportation Company, under the supervision of Mr. Reeves, Kittson’s head carpenter, who had built the Northcote.
Sessional Papers, Vol. XV, No. 8 (1882). Annual Report of the Minister of the Interior for the Year Ended 30 June 1881
The plans submitted called for a screw steamer with a keel 110 ft. long and an eight-foot hold, with a six-inch draught and a capacity of about 160 tons. She was also to be fitted with a square sail and jib. She was to be a vessel sturdy enough for the stormy seas of Lake Winnipeg, but she would also require a light draught for the shallow waters of the Red, through which she would have to travel to and from her berth at Lower Fort Garry. The machinery from the Chief Commissioner could be adapted to the new steamboat. Some objections had been raised because the vertical cylinders caused great vibration and strain to the hull, but the HBC thought this could be overcome by placing the cylinders on strong frames.2
Built in Winnipeg, 1882, by Mr. Gregory for the Winnipeg and Western Transportation Company (WWTC). Cost over $50,000.
201 ft. by 33.5 ft. with depth of 5.3 ft. Gross tonnage of 453.76. Registered tonnage of 474.87.
Two horizontal high-pressure engines built in 1882 at Iowa Iron Works of Dubuque, Iowa. Cylinders’ diameter of 19 in. Six-foot stroke. Three boilers generating 125 lbs. steam per square inch. Horsepower of 83.74. Steered by four balanced rudders hung from the stern in front of the paddle wheel.
The Marquis, constructed at the foot of Bannatyne Avenue in Winnipeg in the spring of 1882, was expressly built by the WWTC for use on the Saskatchewan. The Marquis was named after the new Governor General the Marquis of Lorne (1847-1914) who visited the area with his consort, who were touring through the area a year earlier in August 1881 on there way to the North West Territories.
Designed by a noted Chicago builder, and modeled after the latest type of Missouri River steamboat, she was the largest (201 ft. by 33.5 ft.) steamboat to travel the Canadian prairies. Her hull was made of white oak, while her upper works were of white pine. She was equipped with the most up-todate machinery and furnished with carpets, piano, mirrors, and silverware. In fact, “she had everything except a draught adapted to the river she was built to navigate.”
Operated on the Saskatchewan River. Towed across Lake Winnipeg by the Princess and arrived at Grand Rapids on 25 July 1882, along with the aging Manitoba. Using the apparatus the mammoth boat managed to ascend the Grand Rapids successfully. Then the Marquis, with the aid of two lines to the shore and another to the Northcote, which came as far down the rapids as she could, managed to ascend the rest of the Grand Rapids. This was not without some excitement, however, when one of the lines broke and the marquis threatened to go down the Rapids in a hurry. The other lines held, however, and the Marquis was saved from damage.
At the upper end of the Rapids her machinery was installed and she was ready for use on the Saskatchewan River on 25 September 1882. Operated between Grand Rapids and Prince Albert but often hampered by low water or the cut-off of the Saskatchewan River. Used as General Middleton’s flagship and troop transport during Riel Rebellion.
When this was completed, the Marquis’s machinery was installed for her work on the Saskatchewan. There, her career was often interrupted by water too low for her size, or difficulties with her machinery. She served as General Middleton’s flagship in 1885 from Battleford to Fort Pitt but never saw violent action. After the Rebellion was over, she transported troops back to Grand Rapids.
In 1886, however, she was wrecked in Thorburn Rapids. The underwriters hired Peter McArthur to salvage her, for the sum of $20,000. McArthur chose 35 men to work on this project. He brought them with their equipment from Qu’Appelle to Prince Albert, then downriver by scows to where the Marquis lay. By the time they arrived, the river had fallen so much that the men could work on the boat dryshod. The quarryman, Jim Young, removed the boulder on which the boat had foundered. Then the huge wreck was hauled on slipways, with the use of horse capstans and rope falls, to a site about 9.1 m (30 ft.) above water level, secure from winter ice and spring floods. McArthur’s men had almost completed this task when one of the ropes snapped and then they all broke – and the great boat slipped back to the riverbed, in worse shape than before — and with the loss of six weeks of backbreaking labour. This fall broke the main steampipe and the hogchains of the Marquis. The men jacked her up to a position of relative safety and had to leaver her there for the winter.
The following spring, McArthur and a picked crew of 10 men returned to the Marquis. Among these men was a skilled blacksmith, who was able to repair the broken steampipe and most of the hogchain. He could not manage to fix a truss-rod (an iron bar 12.8 m [42 ft. long], two inches in diameter, weighing about 700 lbs.) and had to take it in by boat to Prince Albert, where it was repaired, On the way back to the Marquis, unfortunately, this rod broke again. The blacksmith was able to weld these parts together, just in time for the inspection of the boat.
The inspector approved the repairs and the regular steamboat crew took over the boat. The repair crew then traveled as passengers on the Marquis to Grand Rapids. Peter McArthur ended up with no profit at all from this contract.53 The repaired Marquis was prevented from running by low water in the river above Coles Falls in 1887, and was beached at Cumberland House. In 1890, she was hauled to Prince Albert, in hopes she could be used on the upper reaches of the river, but was beached permanently there. For some years she was used as a dancehall while she slowly disintegrated on the shore.
In 1887 low water prevented the Marquis from navigating above Cole’s Falls. From 1888-90 was beached at Cumberland House. Hauled to Prince Albert in 1890 by WWTC to use in 1891 season but was beached there and abandoned.
Demise: The Marquis deteriorated more and more as she lay unused at Prince Albert. The saloon was used as a dance hall for a number of years. A local resident then used the wood to construct his house. Parts of the hull were still visible in 1923 on the river bank but these were finally destroyed by a number of fires. Some of the fretwork of the Marquis was salvaged for the pilot house of the Saskatchewan. The boilers were hauled away to support power poles erect in the Northwest Territories. The anchor is now in The Pas museum. The bell and part of the flue are in the Prince Albert City Museum. The president of the Prince Albert Historical Society owns a gavel made of wood from the hull and the Peters Motor Company still uses a drive shaft from the machinery. The other drive shaft is in the Prince Albert Museum. A sternwheel hub from the steamer is kept at the Fort Battleford National Museum. The whistle was used by the Burns Meat Plant in Calgary until it shattered from vibration and age.
Built by Peter McArthur c. 1883 (or perhaps used by HBC before that). Said to be 100 ft. by 24 ft. with 6 ft. draught (or 125 ft. by 30 ft.). Sidewheeler, two engines and boiler, cost $30,000. Operated to tow lumber, carry freight and passengers around Lake Manitoba.
Demise: Burned two miles east of Manitoba House, 16 September 1893.
Built as tow barge in 1882 by Wm. Robinson for North West Navigation Company. 125 ft. by 26 ft. Single deck, carvel build, square stern and plain head. Registered tonnage of 160. Converted to steamboat by Robinson in 1889 for use in fishing industry. Single high-pressure engine made in 1878 by Wilson and Company of Dundas, Ont. Cylinders diameter 12 in. 16 in. stroke. Horsepower 4.8. Operated on Lake Winnipeg as freighter. Slow speed ideal for hauling logs.
Demise: Wrecked on Lake Winnipeg October 1900. Crew in lifeboats landed safely at Warren’s Landing. Later salvaged hull of vessel.
Built in Winnipeg spring of 1881 by Cyril Girard of Quebec for North West Navigation Company. Renovated 1882 by Girard. Berths for 90 passengers. Six state rooms with accommodation for 24 passengers. Accommodation for 100 deck passengers – or 600 on single-day excursions. Capacity 400 tons of freight.
Single deck, round stern sidewheeler, carvel build. Oak from Wisconsin and Minnesota in framework. Two high-pressure engines made in 1881 by Gilbert and Sons of Montreal. Cylinders with diameter of 18 in. Six-foot stroke. Horsepower of 150. Boiler 11,000 lbs.
By 1897 hull cut, forward of the boilers, and extended to 160 ft. in order to become bulk cargo freighter for fishing industry. Machinery and paddlewheel assemblies removed. Steeple compound engine driving a single four-flanged propeller was installed. Main deck housing extended to bow and cut away aft for 30 ft. to allow the tow line freedom.
Operated on Lake Winnipeg. Launched 2 August 1881 by Governor General, Marquis of Lorne. Towed City of Winnipeg to Grand Rapids, but lost it near Grand Rapids. Passengers and freight carried to connect to Saskatchewan River steamers at Grand Rapids. Then used for Wm. Robinson’s fishing industry.
Demise: Sank in Lake Winnipeg 24 August 1906 near George’s Island in storm. Loss of six lives made this worst disaster of shipping on Lake Winnipeg.
SS Princess was a steamboat that operated on Lake Winnipeg in Canada from 1881 until 1906. The vessel was built in Winnipeg, Manitoba by the Jarvis & Burridge shipyard, and it was regarded as the pride of Lake Winnipeg and as the finest lake steamer west from the Great Lakes and east from the Rocky Mountains. The vessel has a total of 40 spacious passenger cabins, and outwardly it resembled many of the Mississippi River paddle steamers. The vessel had a top speed of approximately 25 knots.
In 1885, together with SS Colvile, Princess moved the thousand men that had participated the North West Rebellion from Grand Rapids, Manitoba to Winnipeg.
Soon after 1885 the vessel faced downgrading. The passenger cabins were removed and she was downgraded to a cargo vessel. The paddlewheels and the original steam engine were replaced with a new steam engine and a four-blade propeller. During the work the hull was also lengthened to 49 metres (161 ft). Only six cabins, a kitchen and a small dining room were left. After the work the vessel was primarily used to carry bulky goods and railroad ties, and often she was towing a barge.
Her career ended in an autumn storm in 1906. On 24 August Princess left from the Spider Islands and headed towards Little George Island carrying 1,600 boxes of fish. The weather was fine until, at about 6:00pm, a strong northeastern wind rose. After Princess had rounded the Little George Island, Captain Hawes turned her for the Berens Island. As the winds turned into a storm the crew urged the captain to seek shelter from George Island.
Finally, as the storm grew stronger Captain Hawes ordered to turn the vessel around and ordered “full speed ahead.” This double order proved to be her fate. As the vessel turned, and had turned about half-way around the hull was torn asunder by the fury of 8-metre (26 ft) waves, trapping three of crew below. The passengers and crew quickly moved into two small lifeboats, but Captain Hawes, 17-year-old cabin servant Flora McDonald of Selkirk, and 19-year-old cook Johanna Palsdottir never made the last boat. Also lost were 19-year-old sailor Johann Jonsson, Loftur Gudmundsson of Gimli, and Charles Greyeyes, native Canadian.
Both lifeboats survived the storm. The first one landed on Berens Island, and the other one made it the shore near the village of Berens River, where the survivors were picked up the next day by SS City of Selkirk.
Six people were lost in the accident, and only two bodies were ever found. One of the bodies was Captain Hawes, wearing nothing but the straps of the life preserver. Everything else was torn away.
(wiki – Russell, Frances (2000). Mistehay Sakahegan: The Great Lake. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: Heartland. pp. 100–102. ISBN 1-896150-10-1.)