Launched in Montreal in 1854 as the Kingston, she was one of the finest Canadian steamboats of her day on the Upper St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario. Indeed, when the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) toured Canada in 1860, she was chosen to be his ‘floating palace.’ Stained glass windows, pianos, and luxurious carpeting comprised part of her decor. In 1872 she was gutted by fire while off Grenadier Island in the St. Lawrence River. Rebuilt as the Bavarian, she burned a second time in the fall of 1873. The iron hull, rebuilt yet again, at Power’s shipyard at Kingston, was this time christened the Algerian. Under this name she served in the Royal Mail Line for the Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Company until the turn of the century, running between Toronto and Montreal. Renamed the Cornwall in 1905 she gradually assumed a stand-by role, filling in when one of her newer, faster line mates had a breakdown.
Near the end of 1911 she was purchased by the Calvin Company of Garden Island, opposite Kingston. In their hands she underwent a remarkable transformation. The Calvin’s weren’t interested in passengers, their business since the 1830’s had been the movement of lumber and ship building, with a towing and wrecking business on the side. They removed much of the upper works and added salvage equipment and a derrick for ‘lightening’ the cargo of stranded vessels. After two highly remunerative seasons the Cornwall was sold to the Donnelly Salvage and Wrecking Company, who used her for many more years as a wrecker. As late as 1928 they still considered her the flagship of their fleet. With her 40 ton derrick, clamshell outfit, 12 inch rotary steam pumps, diving equipment, air compressor lifting jacks, wrecking hawsers, syphons, steam connections and steel hose, she was well equipped to fulfill her role of rescuing vessels in trouble.
In the winter of 1928, the Donnelly Salvage & Wrecking Co. was one of several Great Lakes salvage outfits purchased and combined to form Sin Mac Lines, later Sincennes-McNaughton Tugs Ltd.
Shortly thereafter her owners decided that the Cornwall had finally outlived her usefulness. Her iron hull was tired after 75 years of continuous use. The late Vic Ruttle of Portsmouth, an old Donnelly hand, described her last voyage. About 1930, just before Christmas, they towed her out in a snow storm. Her engine had been removed but her boilers, paddle-wheels and cabins were intact. Not being anxious to hang around, the crew hurried her on her way by the generous use of dynamite. He wasn’t sure of her exact location but thought she was somewhere near Amherst Island.
Wreck Site Information
When found she was pretty much as Mr. Ruttle described her. Sitting upright on the bottom in 70 feet of water, the 176 foot long iron hull is split open in several places, either from the dynamite or impact with the bottom. The engine is missing from between the large a-frame, but the boilers are still in place, sticking some 20 feet off the bottom. The ten bladed feathering paddle wheels, 20 feet in diameter, are intact. The cabins are all gone but a great deal of wood-work lies on the bottom around the outside of the hull. Scattered throughout the wreckage are other items of interest; wooden barrels, tools, steam pipes, a bed, a ladder. At the bow a large piece of fore deck still has the windlass in place; a small engine and port-holes may also be seen here.
The sandy bottom and relatively shallow depth ensure that there is plenty of light; visibility during the summer is often in the 15-20 foot range. The lack of silt inside the hull allows divers to examine the construction methods used on what is only the fourth commercial iron vessel on the Great Lakes. A mooring was installed in the fall by Preserve Our Wrecks, Kingston to help protect this important piece of marine heritage.
Also known as: Bavarian (1872); Algerian; Cornwall Year of Build: 1855 CONSTRUCTION AND OWNERSHIP Built at: Montreal, Quebec POWER Propulsion: Sidewheel DIMENSIONS Tonnage (gross): -344 FINAL DISPOSITION How: Scuttled HISTORY First Rebuild: Propulsion: Sidewheel Dimensions: 176 x 27 – -427 tons Rebuilt: Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1872 Second Rebuild: Propulsion: Sidewheel Rebuilt: Kingston, Ontario, Canada Third Rebuild: Propulsion: Sidewheel 174x27x9 Owned by J. Hamilton, Kingston; to Canadian Lake & River Line 1857; to Canadian Inland Steam Navigation Co. 1860, 1869; Richelieu & Ontario Navigation Co.; to Calvin Company 1912; to Donnelly Wrecking Co., Kingston 1915. Built by Bartley & Dunbar, Montreal and launched 22/11/54. First engine 44×120 by builder; after 1874 43×120 by E. E. Gilbert, Montreal. Lake Ontario/St. Lawrence mail steamer. Grounded avoiding timber rafts 10/06/65 Cascades Rapids; aground for a month. Stern cabins cut away during salvage, extended when rebuilt. Back in service 18/08/65. Badly damaged by fire 11/06/72 Grenadier Island above Brockville, rebuilt and renamed. Badly damaged by fire again 05/11/73 off Whitby when walking beam broke; flailing shafts smashed barrels of “spirits” which ignited. Had been running as “Bavarian” only four months. Laid up 1909-11.
Steam paddle KINGSTON. Built at Montreal in 1855. Rebuilt Montreal 1872 and renamed BAVARIAN, rebuilt Kingston 1874 and renamed ALGERIAN, renamed CORNWALL in 1904. Official Canadian Number [in 1874], 71609. 176 x 27 x 10. DISPOSITION. – Scrapped in 1930
Preliminary List of Canadian Merchant Vessels Inland & Coastal, 1809 to 1930
Steamer ALGERIAN. Of 456 tons. Built Montreal in 1855 by Cantin. Home port, Montreal. Owned by R. & O. Nav. Co. Value $40,000. Class B 1. REMARKS. – Formerly KINGSTON, then BAVARIAN.
Inland Lloyds Vessel Classification Canadian Hulls, 1882
Steam paddle CORNWALL. Official Canadian No. 71609. Of 914 tons gross; 576 Tons Register. Built 1874 at Kingston, Ont. Home port, Montreal, Que. Owned by the Montreal Trust & Deposit Co. of Montreal, Que. 175.3 x 27.1 x 9.9, of 88 horse power List of Vessels on the Registry Books of the Dominion of Canada, December 31, 1905
CORNWALL. Official Canadian No. 71609. Home port, Montreal, Que. formerly ALGERIAN.
List of Canadian Vessels Whose Names Have Changed during Year ending Dec. 31, 1905
NOTE. – [a] KINGSTON, [b] BAVARIAN, [c] ALGERIAN, [d] CORNWALL.