Tag Archives: City of London

The Paddle-steamer Jacques Cartier

Jacques Cartier passing through harbour mouth.

Jacques Cartier passing through harbour mouth.

Following the sinking of the Heather Belle after a collision with the steamer Fastnet in 1891 the Inland Steam Navigation Company was forced to find another ship. While Island shipbuilders had, in the past, shown themselves capable of producing fine vessels time had passed them by and the Directors of the Company lost no time in looking elsewhere. They temporarily put the Halifax-owned M.A. Starr on the route but ships of the right size and price were hard to come by. More importantly they had to secure continued access to the subsidy which the province had pad for the service and by early April a grant of $2,300 per year for three years was in place. They chased after a screw steamer called the Blue Hill which was then in Yarmouth but their offer of $15,000 was refused. Another vessel, the Egertine, was leased but was unable to get a seaworthiness certificate.  Finally in July company director L.C. Owen traveled to Quebec where he was able to secure the purchase of the paddle steamer Jacques Cartier for $13,000. The ship arrived in Charlottetown on 29 July 1892.

The Jacques Cartier had been built by T. Paradis at his Lévis shipyard in 1888 and had been employed up and down the St. Lawrence river including overnight excursions between Quebec and Malbaie. The wooden vessel was 122 feet long by 23 feet wide and a depth of hold of 7 1/2 feet. With her 150 horsepower steam engine she was said to be able to sustain a speed of 11 knots.

Guardian 8 August 1892

Guardian 8 August 1892

The ship was described by the Charlottetown Guardian as a “commodious steamer” and was immediately put on the company’s routes up and down the Hillsborough and Eliott Rivers stopping at the several wharves along the way and through the mouth of the harbour and across the bay to China Point, Brush Wharf Orwell, Hallidays and up the Strait to the rising village of Victoria. In addition to the commercial links provided a most important and popular revenue source was the many excursion charters, the first of which took place only a few days after the arrival on the ship in Charlottetown when the Jacques Cartier carried the participants to the Masonic Picnic at Halliday’s Wharf, Belfast. With registered capacity of 300 passengers there was room for everyone and a band or orchestra as well. Excursions on the Jacques Cartier and her successors continued to be a feature of the inland steamers for an entire generation.

Although satisfactory for the St. Lawrence River the ship had issues in P.E.I. waters.  Company records noted that she drew too much water and did not meet public expectations. She was unable to go up the East River farther than Appletree Wharf. Late in the year there were complaints to the government that passengers could not keep warm and the Commissioner of Public Works directed that proper fires be kept in the heating stoves aboard.  The government addressed these shortcomings by running one of their own harbour ferries up the east river.  Business fell off and by the end of 1893 the Company was losing money.

Left -Jacques Cartier at Steam Navigation Wharf. Right - Plant Line wharf with Boston Boat and DGS Brant

Left -Jacques Cartier at Steam Navigation Wharf. Right – Plant Line wharf with Boston Boat and DGS Brant

There were squabbles between the Inland Steam Navigation Company and the government after the initial subsidy contract came to an end and the Company threatened to stop the service. They put their vessel up for public auction early in 1897 but the government caved in to what may well have been a bluff and the service continued.  Financial problems regarding the subsidy continued and in 1901 it was noted that the Jacques Cartier would be on her old route but that the company would receive only $1200, half the old subsidy, and the ship would perform a third less service. Late in the following year the Jacques Cartier was wrecked – luckily without loss of life – at Cape John on the other side of Northumberland Strait.  Her loss mean another scramble for replacement and the appearance in the harbour of the City of London. Aside from the paddle-wheel ferries the Jacques Cartier was the last of the side-wheelers  to regularly be seen in Charlottetown.


There are a few surviving records of the Inland Steam Navigation Company (note – Inland, not Island) in the Welsh and Owen Papers at the Public Archives and Records Office. Other references are from P.E.I and Quebec newspapers. Details of the sinking of the Heather Belle and the wreck of the Jacques Cartier can be found in other postings on this site.




The City of London and the Acadia

West River tuckAlthough the S.S. Harland may be the best-remembered steamship on the run up and down the East and West Rivers  and across the Bay to the Brush Wharf at Orwell it was only one in a long series of vessels serving these communities.

Immediately preceding the Harland, and often mistaken for it, was the City of London which was on the run from 1903 until the building of the Harland in 1908.

The City of London was the replacement for the ill-fated Inland Steam Navigation Company ship, Jacques Cartier, which was carried onto the rocks and wrecked at Cape John Nova Scotia late in 1902.

At 120 feet in length and with a beam of 27 feet the City of London was the largest vessel to have made the regular stops  at the several wharves on the rivers cutting into the interior of the Island.  The City of London had been built in Kingston Ontario in 1888 and re-built in 1892 and was registered in Montreal Quebec, from which port she was leased by the P.E.I. operators.  She carried a crew of nine and had capacity to up to 500 passengers although she had only two small lifeboats.

westriver1The City of London was considered luxurious. It had a carpeted cabin complete with a piano.  Her regular service took her to Orwell Brush Wharf , stopping at Halliday’s Wharf near Eldon and China Point Wharf as required every Tuesday and Wednesday; up the West River stopping at Westville and West River Bridge on Thursday; up the East River as far as Mt. Stewart every Friday and to Victoria on Saturday. Fares ranged from 20 cents for the East and West Rivers, to 25 cents to Orwell and 40 cents to Victoria.

On the completion of her lease the City of London  she was returned to Quebec.  She appears to have been broken up before 1921. Although the City of London and the Harland share the same general appearance the latter vessel has an open stern on the lower deck, windows and not ports on the lower deck and more lifeboats.

The City of London was not the only vessel serving the city and the river ports. In April 1904 George and Frank Batt, who operated several tug boats out of Charlottetown,  purchased the S.S. Acadia from Capt. Farquhar of Nova Scotia. The ship had previously operated out of Pictou and had visited Charlottetown a number of times. Described by the Guardian as the “trim little river steamer”  the boat had been built in Hantsport N.S. in 1887 and served as a ferry between Windsor and Parrsborough and later in Sydney. At 74 feet by 21 feet the Acadia was a little more than half the size of the City of London.  Her regular schedule in 1904 saw her leaving Peake’s # 1 wharf early Tuesday mornings for the East River, returning to Charlottetown and then heading up the West river at supper time.  On Fridays (when the City of London went to Victoria) she went up the West River in both morning and afternoon and enabled the West River population to reach Charlottetown on market day.

Although the Acadia, like most other steamers, carried excursionists from time to time to several destinations near Charlottetown, the business faced strong competition from the City of London and did not appear to be a success. By 1907 the Acadia had new owners and was back in Nova Scotia waters sailing from Pictou to Cape Breton ports.

I have not been able to find a photo of the ship either in her short-lived P.E.I. service or in other ports.