Schooner Oliver Mowat

The stories of the Oliver Mowat are by far my favourite  because her journey from launch in 1873  to wreck in 1901 was so well documented and in such wonderfully descriptive language indicative of her era.

She was built in Millhaven by Edouard Beaupre and launched on 15 July 1873. Her specifications were a wooden 3 masted schooner measuring 116 ft. long by 26 ft. wide by 11 ft. deep in her hold, able to carry 341 tonnes with an 18,000 bushels capacity. Her owners were Messrs. Frazer & George.

The following are excerpts taken from the Daily British Whig, Kingston, 16 July 1873….” Bath, a town that has been making steady progress backwards, and has reached a point where progression must cease, [OUCH]was once noted for it’s shipbuilding but it’s near neighbour, Millhaven, yesterday accomplished it’s first achievement in the nautical line enterprise.   The new schooner of Messrs. Frazer & George of this city, was launched, and Millhaven and the country around made a gala occasion.”…

…..”there were not less than 2000 persons present at the appointed hour of 2 o’clock and the proportion of well dressed and bright looking country girls unmistakingly declared that the “Haven” would be a most attractive spot as a summer resort for city beaux.”

…..’The new vessel as she sat on the ways was much admired, her model being very graceful indeed, a close examination of her did not detract in the least from the impression gained on first view, for she is perfect in structure, and a credit to her builder, Mr. Beaupre of Portsmouth”…..

……She is a perverse boat, though, she loved the ways fondly, and would not leave them even to accommodate so large and admiring a crowd.  The operations for launching were begun at 1:30 but the ordinary means employed were to no avail. Move she would not; perhaps it was not a good day for moving, was too warm for much exertion.  The crowd was patient, however, and never ceased its interest in the expectant sight. Every method of hammering, levering and ramming was employed to induce the vessel to act with propriety and a graceful acquiescence becoming the occasion, but they were to be shown to be tricks that were vein as the noted heathen…. at 4:45, just as the word to adopt the last resort, that of the steamer jerking the schooner off, the vessel, as if smarting under the intended indignity, began to move downwards so neatly and gracefully that her former perverseness was overlooked.  As she glided away to enter upon her natural element, the fair daughter of the owners. Miss Frazer, christened the new candidate for nautical honors, whose handsome new flag was unfurled, displaying the name “OLIVER MOWAT”.

Attending the launching of the Oliver Mowat were the Premier of Ontario, the Hon. Oliver Mowat, brother-in-law to Mr. Fraser, and Mr. Wm Robinson, MPP with members of their families.  Judge Burrowes, and other gentlemen together with the wives and daughters of several prominent citizens.   …..”Mr. Mowat won several golden opinions, and especially so from the ladies, for his affability of manner, he is most agreeable company, and proved that it is not necessary to put on style to sustain the dignity of a Premier”.

And finally, the author of this piece who is unknown, could not help but give one last jab at Millhaven when he concluded article with…”One impression of Millhaven is that it possesses more “tight” young men on holiday occasions around its taverns than are creditable to an orderly village like it always has been”.  [In this case I am sure he means drunk rather than cheap. Sounds like a rivalry of some sort.]

The above extracts are from a much longer article.  I have a real soft spot for this style of writing, I find it poetic and very entertaining.  In those days, the newspapers and local gossip were not just the way to get the news but also they served as the foremost means of entertainment.

The Oliver Mowat enjoyed a mostly trouble free career. She did have a narrow escape according to an article in the Daily British Whig, Kingston 4 Dec 1876 which reads….”Narrowly Escaped Being Beached”- The schooner Oliver Mowat, Capt. Beaupre, which left port last night, narrowly escaped going ashore early this morning.  In a short time after she left port, the wind died away and the vessel drifted towards the west pier to the westward of the lighthouse. Just as she was in danger of being dashed on the west pier, the captain succeeded in getting a line to the beacon pier and vessel was held until this morning when the tug Morey  took her in tow and towed her enroute to Kingston. Light tenders Captains Munson and Budds were on hand and took the vessel’s lines. Had it not been for their assistance the vessel would have gone ashore as the crew could not get on the pier”.

In another article, source and date unknown, is the following…. “The Mowat was considered a very lucky boat by mariners and in only one instance can it be realized that she ever came to trouble. About 10 years ago she went ashore near Cobourg, but she was so  strong that all that was required after she had been raised was a little caulking and she was good as ever. Alas, her luck ran out on 1 Sept 1921, after nearly 50 years of sailing the Great Lakes. On the 1st of September 1921, near Pennicon Shoal off Main Duck Island, Lake Ontario she was rammed and sunk by the 1700 ton steel steamer Key West. The Captain and First Mate of the Key West were jailed for keeping such a poor lookout.  The Oliver Mowat was bound from Oswego to Picton carrying a load of coal.  She was always known as a fast sailor, and sadly was a total loss of $10,000.00.  Her master at the time of sinking was Captain Thomas Van Duesen. The Captain, the Mate J. Corby and the Cook all lost their lives, 2 other crew survived.

  1. A noted coincidence at the time of Edouard Beaupre’s death in Portsmouth 1908, the Oliver Mowat approached the  Portsmouth Harbour under full sail.  The boat he had built, loved and sailed so well was near when he passed away.

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