Port Maitland "On the Grand" Historical Association

Port Maitland, Ontario, Canada

Car Carrier Maitland No. 1 is Catalyst, creating Beckley Beach -  Part 1

By William A. Warnick

Published April 12, 2000
in The Dunnville Chronicle

With this article we begin what I hope will be a regular history column about the communities surrounding Port Maitland. I will recount items of interest that took place in the former townships of Dunn and Sherbrooke, primarily dealing with the cottage area where I grew up. We know it as Beckley Beach. On occasion we will take a trip up the Grand River to Dunnville.

These articles are not designed to stand the test of documented accuracy. However, I do attempt to be as accurate as possible! The information comes mostly from peoples' memories and different people remember the same thing in a different way. Much of my information comes to me by scouring the microfilms of old Chronicles and other newspapers, books and articles as I put together a chronology of my chosen subject. Many but not all of the articles I will use in this column will have already been published in a historyletter I started in 1998 called The Grand Dispatch.

I will unashamedly use this column to solicit information and photos of the area. If you have items you wish written about or pictures you would be willing to loan, or better yet donate; please drop me a note. Let me know how you feel about these articles.

William (Bill) Arthur Warnick
180 Rosslyn Ave. South
E-mail wwarnick@netinc.ca
Phone 905 549-6086

Car Carrier, AMaitland No.1, is Catalyst, creating Beckley Beach

The Maitland No. 1, began service from Ashtabula Ohio to Port Maitland on Saturday, October 21, 1916, one year and ten months after the TH&B Railway began rail service to Dunnville. The three hundred and fifty foot steel railway car ferry, which sometimes sported the name ASS Maitland No. 1, was better known as AMaitland No. 1. It would on this day, become the largest ship to have entered the mouth of the Grand River, [sic] a record it would hold for many years.

On the evening of this historic day, when she was about to berth at the dock built especially for her, Lake Erie, with gale forced winds churning it, was whipped into a frenzy. This stormy night would come to be known as ABlack Friday. It was the worse storm Lake Erie mariners had experienced in over thirty years. The violent gale which raged across the lake took the lives of sixty-nine sailors and sent several freighters to the shallow depths of the angry lake. Newspaper
stories describe rescues such as you might expect to take place on the high seas. They describe horror stories of men clinging to life rafts for as many as three days and then slipping into the bowels of the lake as the rescue ships came into sight.

It was 7 a.m. Saturday, and though she was a big ship with a draft of eighteen feet and a beam of sixty feet she was forced to seek shelter. Her Captain headed for Long Point Bay in the lee of Long Point. The ship was most seaworthy, as she rode the heavy seas like an ocean liner. She was equipped, with the latest in electrical lighting throughout, with locking devices for each car, separately secured and enclosed under the hurricane deck. Captain P. T. Haagenson, had never entered the recently dredged harbour at Port Maitland. He was nervous about bringing his new ship through the narrow channel afforded him by the wooden piers on either side of the Grand. Having just crossed the lake, where they were in site of Port Maitland, the order was given to seek shelter.

Captain Haagenson, instructed his wireless operator to send a message to the Government wireless station at Port Burwell, notifying the TH&B officials at Port Maitland that he was laying in calm water and had a full cargo of thirty-two standard freight cars for the Canadian Port. By 2 p.m. the great ship was again headed for her new port. To the rousing reception of whistles from the fleet in port, she entered the harbour. Ss if she had done so a thousand times before, she turned around in the basin and slipped into her berth, within inches of the place where the rails on the boat and those on the dock connect, without a line being cast or any assistance given by the crew.

This was the Maiden voyage for the new TH&B Navigation Company, a subsidiary of the TH&B Railway. Port Maitland hosted several railway officials, among them being John Newton Beckley of Rochester NY, President of the railway.

Only ship sailed by TH&B

The Maitland No. 1 would make a round trip from Port Maitland to Ashtabula every fourteen hours for the next sixteen years. She would be the only ship the navigation company ever sailed. She was built in 1916 by the Great Lakes Engineering Works at Ecorse, Michigan and launched that spring. The Maitland No. 1 spent that summer working on Lake Michigan for the Ann Arbor Railway before being assigned to Port Maitland. Plans had been made to build three ships and contracts were let. They were to be known as Maitland No. 1, Maitland No. 2, and Maitland No. 3. Maitland No. 2 was completed but would never sail for the TH&B. While awaiting completion of the docks at Port Maitland, the Maitland No. 1 had been leased to the Ann Arbor Railroad. So impressed with her, and in need of additional ferries they purchased the Maitland No. 2 while still under construction and renamed her Ann Arbor No. 6. In the meantime the TH&B had changed and modified their plans downward and cancelled construction of Maitland No. 3.

Maitland No. 1 entering Port Maitland

Maitland No. 1 entering Port Maitland

Maitland No. 1 at Port Maitland

Maitland No. 1 at Port Maitland

Maitland No. 1 at Port Maitland

Maitland No. 1 at Port Maitland

If you have items you wish written about or pictures you would be willing to loan, please drop me a note. Let me know how you feel about these articles.

William (Bill) Arthur Warnick