“…to sell a steamer, not a wreck”- James Pope and the sale of the ferry Ino

Very soon after the appearance of the first steamboat on Northumberland Strait it was clear that steam would be well suited to propel the ferry across the Hillsborough River to Southport and in the next two decades a number of contractors sought to provide appropriate vessels. Not all of these early boats were successful and the service proceeded in fits and starts, sometimes with steam boats and sometimes reverting to the “teamboat” driven by horses on a turntable. As several of the early steamboats were small indeed they did not have to be registered with British authorities so we have few of their details. One of the early boats on the run was the Ino. The vessel had been built for, and was owned by William C. Bourke, was sold by him to a Charlottetown company for use as a ferry and was returned to him as it did not fit the purpose. Other than that we know little of the Ino at the beginning of its life but a great deal about it end.

Like many vessels of the time the Ino carried a name related to Greek mythology. Ino was the daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia and is credited by Homer with instructing Odysseus how to survive in the seas and reach land. There is a reference to a vessel of this name  as early as 1832 but it was more likely built in 1853 when an engine was imported from England for John R. Bourke.  In 1856 a court action resulted from Bourke running an unauthorized ferry service and failing to pay wharfage fees. As a result the Ino appears to have been used up and down the Hillsborough rather than across the harbour. Certainly by the mid to late 1850s it had been replaced by the ferry steamer Ora.

In 1864 the Ino was owned by James Pope and had been moved to Summerside. He may have placed her on the ferry service from Bedeque to Summerside but either because she was worn out or unsuitable he had removed the engines and boilers and intended to use the hull as a barge.

Detail of Pictou harbour chart 1850. Note ferry wharf on south side of harbour.

Detail of Pictou harbour chart 1850. Note ferry wharf on south side of harbour.

Pictou, like Charlottetown looked out on an estuary and was separated from the town of New Glasgow by the sea. A ferry across the harbour was certainly desirable if not essential for the town’s growth and in 1864 the Pictou Steamboat Company was looking for a boat. The pre-confederation grapevine suggested that a former Charlottetown ferry was available and in May 1864  the company posted an inquiry to Pope. Pope was reluctant to sell but offered the machinery. The Pictou Company persisted and Pope directed them to William C. Bourke, captain of the Heather Belle for further details. Bourke had been given authority to close the deal. He represented the Ino as having a zinc bottom in good order, that the hull and deck were perfectly fit, that the hull was well-built with strong knees and that the side of the boat was not really burnt but merely singed (!). The Ino, he concluded would suit the purpose and was just thing wanted for Pictou harbour. The deal was closed for $1360 to include the boat, engines and all materials belonging to her, payment due one month after Bourke took control of the boat in Summerside. The Pictou directors didn’t even bother to inspect the vessel but relied on Bourke’s assurances.  They instructed Bourke to bring the boat to Pictou  and he negotiated with the Island Steam Navigation Company steamer Princess of Wales to tow her to  Charlottetown.

That’s when the problems first became evident.  As the court record recounts the vessel arrived in Charlottetown in a sinking state and  “after remaining there submerged for ten or twelve days” she was towed to Pictou by Bourke using the Heather Belle. The time under water may have tipped the Pictonians off that all was not well with the Ino. On arrival the company finally got a look at what they had purchased sight unseen. She did not have a zinc bottom and was in other ways inferior and different from Bourke’s description. In short the Company judged her “worthless for the purpose for which she was required…”  and refused to take delivery. A local shipwright inspected her and declared her to be “a complete wreck.” Pope didn’t want her back and demanded payment.

In 1865 Pope’s suit for his payment was heard in the Nova Scotia court, his lawyers arguing that the Company had taken delivery in Summerside and since they had not returned the boat to Summerside they were duty bound to do so. Not surprisingly the Pictou Steamboat Company countered that Pope’s agent had used misrepresentation and fraud and that the contract was void.  The jury found for the company.

Citing extensive legal technicalities Pope appealed to the Supreme Court and the account of Pope v. the Pictou Steamboat Company occupies 53 pages in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court Reports.  The case report is long on legal argument and case-law and short on the facts of the case. We learn little more about the Ino but a great deal about the law of fraud, evidence and contract in Nova Scotia in 1865. In the end the five judges found that the fraud of Pope’s agent, Bourke, as to the condition of the vessel was sufficient to void the contract and four of the five agreed that it was not necessary to return the boat to Summerside to bring the matter to an end. Pictou kept their money.

The case is silent on what became of the Ino but the Report hints that at the time of the appeal the vessel could no longer be returned to Summerside and that it had lost all value. Given her evident condition it would not be surprising to find that the one-time Charlottetown ferry is currently resting somewhere in the mud at the bottom of Pictou harbour.     

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One thought on ““…to sell a steamer, not a wreck”- James Pope and the sale of the ferry Ino

  1. Pingback: Later ferries the Elfin and the Southport | Sailstrait

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