Shipbuilding in Queens County 1760 – 1925 – Part 2

Published on January 14, 2008

The names of Pattillo, McNutt, Kitchen, Sponagle, DeWolfe, Campbell, Millard, Inness, Hemeon, Bartling, Hendry, Dexter, MacLeod, Morton, Mulhall, Snow, Godfrey, Moren, Hutt, Kempton, Ritchie, Harrington and Harlow were all very closely connected with shipping in the county.

Among the Master builders of the county were: Ichabod Darrow, George A. Gardner, Mathias MacLeod, Alexander McLaughlin, Jason Leslie, John MacLeod, Elizah Dolliver, Jason Gardner, Edward Gardner, Martin Rhynard, Joseph H. Dexter, Thos Harrington, Allan Gardner, Matthew MacLeod, Joseph Dexter, A. Boucher, J. Stedman Gardner and Robie MacLeod.

Queens County can claim around the early eighties because of the tonnage built and registered here, one of the foremost positions in the Maritime life of Canada.

During the life of shipbuilding in Queens County Hector MacLeod's grandfather, John MacLeod and his father, Robie MacLeod played an important role. In his early life John MacLeod built, on Shipyard Point, small schooners which he took chiefly to Newfoundland and sold. In the year 1854 he built a barque off 444 tons called the Invincible, which is credited with many fast passages, one from the Mirimichi Bay to Liverpool England with a load of lumber in less than 11 days. Between the years 1850 and 1873 when he was lost on a voyage to Newfoundland he built upwards of 35 vessels. At this date Hector's father Robie MacLeod then a very young man followed in the foot steps of his father as Master builder. His first vessel was the Flash, the keel of which had already been laid by his father and which he finished.

From 1873 until the year 1919 when he retired from shipbuilding and entered the service of the American Bureau of Shipping in the capacity of Surveyor of Wooden Ships for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, he built and designed upwards of 150 vessels of various tonnage from 80 to 500 tons. He built his own models of practically every type of vessels used during these periods in which we find barkentines, brigs, brigantines, top schooners, tern schooners, fishing schooners, tug boats and small steamers. His models were also used by many shipyards in Nova Scotia by other builders. In the year 1893 in competition with 30 other designers and builders throughout Canada, he won the Dominion Government prize of $400 for the finest model including specifications, and working details of fishing and freight carrying schooners. He also designed and built the famous Pilot Boat, Howard D. Troop, credited with being one of the finest and fastest boats of this type on the Atlantic Coast.

This type of boat was the one that all builders strove to turn out to be as fast as possible as it was the days of competitive piloting and naturally the first boat to place a pilot aboard the incoming vessel brought her into port. She was built for Howard D. Troop of St. John, owner of the largest fleets of square rigged ships out of Canada.

Articles have appeared in various magazines and papers on vessels which my father built and in the Rudder Magazine of April 1901 we find one of the topsail schooner Atrato used in the fruit trade between New York and West Indian and Caribbean sea ports.

His vessels were noted for their beauty of design, and fastest passages. Large financial returns were realized by the ship owners.

Vessels built under his supervision had nothing but the best material and workmanship in them. During his building career he was asked by a German firm to take the position of Superintendent of a large shipyard in that country. He had offers to take charge of several large yards in the United States but declined all, preferring to carry on his work in his native town of Liverpool and County of Queens.

With Hooks For Hands

This is a gripping story about two men and a cold, angry sea. The fishing vessel (mother ship) was the "Grace L Fears," a Banks sea-going, two-master out of Liverpool, N.S., captained by Johnny Griffin. The two men involved were Harold Blackburn of Dock Cove, Port Medway and his dory partner, Tom Welch, a Newfoundlander.

The time was Jan. 25, 1883, and it was so dark the two young men could only see outlines of their dory's thwarts and the gun'les through the driving snow. Frozen sleet slashed at their faces and spray-ice glazed their 20-foot dory. Every few minutes the dory shipped water and they had great difficulty keeping afloat. The seriousness of the moment kept them from thinking too much about the fact that they were 30 miles off shore, out of sight of the Grace L. Fears, in a howling mid-winter gale, and completely lost.

The fact that they had lost sight of the Grace L. was not unusual in the days when hardy men set trawl from dories dispatched from a large ship and long before trawlers, seiners and other equipment came into use. There were no portable radios to call the men back or even a weather forecast to tell them they were in danger in the first place. Sudden squalls or fog banks often separated the ships from the men in their dories; and the hand-powered fog horn was, in some cases, "not enough for the mother hen to call her chickens home to roost."

The gale was a nor'wester and the seas were raging. Blackburn, who had signed on at Port Medway to take the place of a sick man, began to wonder what he had gotten himself into...

It is a good thing he didn't know!

Blackburn and Welch were blown further off-shore with every bitterly cold minute. To leeward was 300 miles of raging North Atlantic. To the best of their knowledge, there was no schooner on the Grand Banks within 200 miles, except their own vessel where they should have been hours before. By now they doubtless thought of their bad luck that kept them away from the cozy, warm steamy smell of fish oil, wet wool and warm rum they should have been enjoying instead of battling high seas and the icy spray of the open sea.