Jim Finds Lady Hamilton


Staff member
Feb 15, 2004
The Beach Strip
The Hamilton Sun
Sunday August 7th 2005
A ROUTINE dive turned into a great find for shipwreck hunter Jim Howlett.
Howlett is a history buff who every summer puts on his snorkeling gear and sets out in search of shipwrecks. Three weeks ago, as luck would have it, he swam directly into the wreckage of the old Lady Hamilton.
The Lady Hamilton was a harbour tour boat built in 1886, originally named the Nora H, that sank in the winter of 1959-60 in Fisherman's Pier near the Burlington lift bridge. The boat was used to transport passengers from the James Street pier to La Salle Park. Shortly before it sank, it had been stripped of much of its machinery and tied to the pier.
"They didn't store it very well," Howlett said. "It froze and they couldn't move it. The ice shifted and pierced the hull and it sank."
The 120-foot, 60 net tonne boat is mostly buried beneath the sand on the bottom of the lake, but rests only a couple hundred feet offshore. Howlett said the deck and the hull are visible underwater and in some places he was able to stand right on the deck.

"Some years it's showing and this year I was lucky," Howlett said. "I was swimming along and bumped right into it."
He called the find ironic.
"It's ice that sank it and it's ice that made it show up this year," he said.
A week ago Howlett managed to retrieve the brass hatch cover off the boat to show around to people who may have remembered being on the tour boat.
Howlett said the timing of the find was good since Hamilton has recently launched a brand new tour boat the Hamilton Harbour Queen.
"We're just getting a real tour boat in the harbour and here this old one was just discovered," he said.
Howlett plans to contact local diving clubs about the discovery and hopes it will bring more people out to the harbour for recreation and to take in a bit of Hamilton's history.
'We're just getting a
real tour boat in the
harbour and here this
old one was just
Jim Howlett



Staff member
Feb 15, 2004
The Beach Strip
Going way back to a post from 2005, while checking info with shipping historian Skip Gillham, I asked him about this particular vessel, the Lady Hamilton.
It seems that the steamer that Jim had found cannot be the Lady, Skip gave me the whole history of the ship and it was last seen being scraped in 1962.

I have condensed the in-depth article written by Skip and attached the full article, many thanks to him for allowing his work to be posted here.

The ship which the Hamilton Harbour Commissioners eventually decided to acquire was a rather unusual vessel, particularly as far as her appearance was concerned. She was the former Detroit River passenger and auto ferry CADILLAC, which was owned by T. J. McCarthy, Sr., and was lying idle at Detroit.

The name CADILLAC, however, was considered unsuitable for the steamer's new life, and so the Harbour Commissioners asked the public for suggestions for a new name. Much to their surprise, 30,000 submissions were received! A panel of judges then selected five of the submitted names and these appeared on ballots published for four consecutive days in the "Spectator". The winner was the name garnering the most public votes, and so in the spring of 1953, before she entered service, CADILLAC was renamed LADY HAMILTON.

The 1958 season was, again, much the same, with LADY HAMILTON running from Hamilton to Port Dalhousie every Sunday from June 1st through August 31st. Lakeside Park at Port Dalhousie was still a popular excursion destination then. But the days of excursions on the water seemed to be coming to an end then, mostly because of the improvements made to the highways and the proliferation of automobiles. Lake Ontario's other major passenger steamer, CAYUGA, had ceased operations at the close of the 1957 season, and 1958 would be the last year for the Muskoka steamboats, with only SAGAMO and SEGWUN surviving to finish out that service.
The 1958 season also proved to be the last for LADY HAMILTON. The Hamilton Harbour Commissioners, led by chairman Argue Martin, Q.C., decided that the Commission was "appointed to operate an efficient port business and not to run a travel agency - especially at a loss", and on January 8, 1959, announced that LADY HAMILTON was being listed for sale with city brokers. It was said that the necessary public support for the steamer's operation during the short summer season just was not there, and that continued operation could no longer be justified.

MACASSA carried on with her round-the-bay service, although even she operated at a loss of some $30,000 per year (and the Harbour Commissioners latterly relegated her to tug service and finally sold her in 1965). LADY HAMILTON, however, never again turned her wheel and lay idle at the James Street wharf until 1962. In May of that year, she was sold for something between $10,000 and $20,000 to the Steel Company of Canada Ltd., and she was scheduled to be towed from James Street to the Stelco scrapping berth on May 22nd. Due to weather conditions, the tow was not accomplished until May 26th but by May 30th, scrapping operations were well underway and the steamer soon was gone.

The Lady Hamilton at dock, https://www.facebook.com/HamiltonHistoricalPhotos/
Lady Hamilton Docked.jpg

The only vessel on the water, courtesy TPL

One more, no source.
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Staff member
Feb 15, 2004
The Beach Strip
Articles on the SS. Cadillac from the Spec (1952).

S.S. Cadillac Tonight Starts Winter
Journey From Detroit To Hamilton

By Bob Hanley

Detroit, Dec. 12 - The ss. Cadillac leaves the wharfage of ghost ships tonight, a new life waiting down river. She parts the company of once proud lake queens - the Cityof Cleveland, the City of Buffalo, the City of Detroit- no happy chatter from their weathered decks, no steam, no watch, no wheelsman. The ss. Cadillac, of course, is going back to work. The others, still restive on their rusting lines, await the scrap-man's torch.
In taking her leave of such celebrated company, the ss. Cadillac could never be proud. She's stronger and safer, but age and character are venerable in ships.
The ss. Cadillac's whistle will cry out tonight as she turns down river past the lonely wooden fleet whose sailing days are done. It will be signal, salute, tribute and farewell.
The ss. Cadillac is considerably younger than those to be left ailing astern, but it's her steel and power which is putting her back to work.
A Harbour Commission team had a look at a lot of ships - even the little Liberty which runs from Manhattan to the famous statue but they were all too big, too small, too slow, too wooden, or too costly.
The ss. Cadillac was not the prettiest but she was the safest fastest and most spacious of all. She would cost $500,000 to build today and with a coat of paint she'll be the finest day boat to work Lake Ontario.
She'll handle 2,500 people on decks and in lounges but she'll probably license at about 1,500 on the lake. Broad abeam and blunt in the bow, she's likely to ride flat with a bobble and rock in extremely heavy seas. Completely awash, though, not a drip should pass her doors and bulkheads.
How does she compare in size to the Hamiltonian?
She is 30 feet longer and eight feet wider. In her 11 rest rooms, according to the skipper, "we could lose more people than we ever packed onto the other boat."
A refit crew gave her another turnover today at her jetty near Grand Trunk station, a stone's throw from Cadillac Square in downtown Detroit.
Laid up for two years, the onetime ferry, lightship and icebreaker was anything but operable when the chief engineer and his marine dockyard crew arrived from Hamilton. Her big engine room was a wonder to see but it took days to know the valves and gauges, switches, plugs and levers. It took a long time, too, to close lines to the engines, pumps, winches and radiators, all of them "unplugged" to prevent freezing.
Wilbert "Bert" Smith, whose home is at 110 Ottawa Street South, is chief engineer. Earl Johnson is cook and steward. Floyd Day is General overseer and Capt. Goodwin Joshua "Win" Corson studies charts for the run to the locks and Hamilton.
The chief engineer has been in ships for 48 years and was a lieutenant engineer in the R.C.N. during World War II. He handled "refits" at Liverpool and Lunenburg. As a young man in fresh water "the chief" sailed in the Hamonic, the City of Ottawa, the City of Montreal, the City of Hamilton, and a host of freighters.
Floyd Day, now harbour superintendent, was mate on the Macassa under Capt. Corson and sailed in the Corona, Chippewa and many others.
The skipper 'is a great personality. He is a friendly man and a fine raconteur whose well-spun stories sparkle with Irish wit and charm. He has never lived permanently in Hamilton, but he has spent most of his life in her ships- Macassa, Modjeska and the late Hamiltonian.
He likes to talk of the Macassa and of the races to Toronto with the triple-screw, turbine Turbinia, fastest ship of her size to boil up a wake on the Great Lakes.
The Turbinia would "outlap" the others three to two on daily round trips to Toronto, but she was never very popular with passengers.
According to the captain, it was the fault of a newspaper editor. When the Eastland went over at a Chicago dock, taking 1,500 lives, the editor published a picture of the Turbinia to illustrate the similarity in lines. They never liked her afterwards.
he went back to Britain during World War I as a cross-Channel hospital ship, returning to Canada in 1919. Finally, her speed was her undoing. She outran Quebec night boats, struck at their business and was "bought" out of commission and scrapped.
Host of Stories
The captain has a host of stories out of the Macassa where he spent some of his happiest years. I mind one time at Toronto when they overloaded us with a shipment of coffee," he recalls. "They said they wanted this certain man's business so we laid the extra freight in the gangway. There was quite a blow as we ran for home and the wind knifed through us. It was the last we saw of the coffee or the man's business."
The captain says he has a good idea where Hamilton is and he figures to approach it by Lake Ontario. "Once we get to about Van Wagner's," he says, "we'll know right away where, we're at."
Before the Cadillac changes her home, however, the captain will have to break down an old association of place names which confuses and disturbs him.
Gravely, and in whispered confi¬dence, he asks this: "I keep gettin' mixed up between .the Desjardins and the Dardanelles, which one is ours?

SS. Cadillac Is Canadian
Vessel Now​
By Bob Hartley
Detroit, Dec. 13 - Southerly, sleety, melting snow crests the Cadillac now as she "springs" stern line; and points for home.
From here in the weather looks fair. It's late, insurance people worry, and we slip out of the-Detroit River downbound for "Colborne" in damp and portentous calm.
Even as you read this-after we're gone-there is a gathering of ships for winter-time "weathering-down.'' There are 'a lot of stories-about things done on shipboard Friday, traffic in Detroit, "stick" davits, 4,000 outclassed life jackets-but each must wait on the mood and tenor of its proper telling.
It's fortunate that there's no paper tomorrow because in the middle of a lake, there are no telegraph offi¬ces, no phones, nowhere to "lay-off" copy. Unless there is a sudden blow which turns us into Cleveland, Erie or Sandusky, the next letter comes from Marine Dockyard, Hamilton.
Cadillac is now a Canadian. She assumed her new registry in springing that last line and casting off for Livingston Channel. Tons of paper in the bulging case of Ellis Corman-official documents from a dozen U.S. agencies-attest the fact. But only when that last line was free had Cadillac changed her citizenship.
Before casting off, her winch engines had to lift 10 tons of anchors, their value a considerable one on the scrap market alone. With Detroit to starboard she slipped down channel past Colchester Light and laid course from South-east Shoal to Long Point. After Long Point, it's a four-hour haul to Port Colborne.
When she gets to Hamilton, a lot of people will come down to see her and some will regard her, as a very large, streamlined tub.
These ugly first impressions are often the humble beginnings of true and lasting affection.
She is the "most boat" that Hamilton has ever had. You have to be in her to know how big and fast and powerful she is. She is not well dressed, right now, but then, clothing is not everything.
Not pretty, perhaps, but an awfully good cook.


Staff member
Feb 15, 2004
The Beach Strip
Snow Curtain Closes In
Weather Chases ss. Cadillac Across Lake Erie, Halts Her At Port Weller
By Robert J. Hanley
Weather chased the Cadillac across Lake Erie Saturday, caught up to her inside the Port Colborne pier Sunday, slowed her passage through the Welland Canal with a snow storm of 50 feet visibility, and halted her at Port Weller when north-west winds turned into a gale in Lake Ontario. Members of a Harbour Commission party, taking a trip down the locks, were caught aboard. A few brave persons set out on foot to find their way back to Hamilton.

Heavy Seas
The ship rode heavy seas through Saturday night, tossed a little with the wind to port quarter, but handled well. She tied up inside the pier at 9.40 a.m., heavy seas behind her, but all clear in the locks ahead.
Two hours later she was stalled outside Number Seven when, the wheelsman couldn't see the bow.
The blowup brought anxious hours to the party which boarded at Port Colborne and decided to ship straight through to Hamilton. Those who left her at Port Weller coal dock and set out for the nearest lights were hunting taxi, bus, and train service for home.
Children had been in the party but two came off at Lock Seven, two more farther down, and one was bunked aboard.
For the children, who ventured occasionally on to the middle deck to throw snowballs or to try to discern the huge gates springing them down the locks, it was the enactment of a great sea drama.
Homecoming Story
This beginning of the chronology of the Cadillac's homecoming is written on the chart table in the wheelhouse, the floor is damp with melted snow which swirled in through the open windows as Capt. Carson directed his wheelsmen from the bridge. Cadillac outran a storm around the Port Colborne pier but is tied up here below Lock No. 7 of the Well-and Canal, a south-west gale howling outside. Visibility is about 50 feet and they won't "lock" us until the weather lifts. It's 11.40 a.m., Sunday. She had a fair crossing from Detroit and acted well on heavy running sea. A crew of 12 — under Capt. Carson, Harbour Superintendent Floyd Day and Mate Henry Tupper —- worked six hours on, six hours off, through the run. The ship was new, everybody was anxious and there was little sleep off watch. With rudder a port, engines slow ahead, she, sprang out on a forward line into the Detroit River Saturday, turned hard to starboard and started down river past a fleet of work ships, ghost ships and ferries, blowing one long and two short in abbreviated salutes.
It was sunny and crisp with little sea.
The salute drew many responses including those of a fine tug, the C.N.R. car ferry Lansdowne, the William Wolf and others. They "revved" up her engines in the seven-mile downstream current and she just about doubled its speed. She slipped along to the light at South-east Shoal and took her cross-lake course to Long Point.
Winds were north-west, 35 miles an hour off the - port quarter, but they freshened, turned westerly astern and churned up some heavy seas. She rocked about 10 degrees when they came at her amidships but she tied down as she started to run with the gathering storm.
I shared the lonely night with captain, mate, superintendent and wheelsmen in the unlighted, unheated wheelhouse, a faint glow from the binnacle and lighted cigarettes. Scale from her long lay-up had plugged the steam lines to the wheel-house. There was no radio, no radar, no fathometer — just the compass.
I was there again to watch day-light come up and see the crest of rolling seas take shape out of the grey.
At 6 a.m. breakfast we were by Tecumseh Reef, headed for Port Maitland and Mohawk lights.
The gulls came out to greet us and the scavenger and at 8 a.m. we sighted Port Colborne stacks about 20 miles down. We lost shore for about 15 minutes in a sudden snow flurry, but it lifted in time for Port Colborne pier.
She turned nicely in the "trough" broadside with very little bobbling. Just ahead, an oil boat was awash as she turned for the river.
It was clear when we tied up at Lanner Bunkers at 9.40, but an hour: later we had a thunder storm with; snow, and then the gale which pinned us below Lock 7.
It was at Lanner Bunkers that a party arrived from Hamilton to ride down the locks. Peter McCuIIoch, harbour commissioner; Ellis Corman, harbour manager; and members of the commission staff were in the party.
The demands of the guests of the galley left the crew just three dozen eggs away from home.
At 2.15, the snow curtain lifted briefly but it was blowing again when she got inside Number 7. As the lock drained and the ship settled down you could scarcely see 100 feet to the gates ahead.
A member of the party who served as a commander in corvettes and frigates during World War II described the blow as "real North Atlantic weather."
Extra Men
It was particularly rough work for Captain Corson, standing out on the wind-swept bridge, for Floyd Day, wheeling and trying to pick out the way, for the "Chief” in the engine room, and the men on winches and the ice-encrusted heaving and mooring lines. For the latter job four extra men were dispatched from the Marine Dockyard at Hamilton.
The way was clear and while visibility continued poor she cleared the flight docks — Nos. 6, 5, and 4 — in pretty good time. She Cleared Number 3, the snow easing slightly, at 6:45.
"It's not very good,” said the captain, "but guess we can smell our way to Port Weller."
Darkness came on and the light in the ship's telegraph went off, adding to the problems on the cold bridge and in the wheel house.
She went under the Queen Elizabeth Bridge at St. Catharines at 6.40 and was through the remaining two locks and down to the coal dock at: 8:30.
There she sets until the weather clears.


Staff member
Feb 15, 2004
The Beach Strip
More info from Skip;
Talking with Jim about his wreak that he found in the lake and talking with Skip, I have a hunch the vessel Jim has found is the Nora H.

The NORA H. was a barge rebuilt from the wooden passenger steamer BROCKVILLE. It had been built in 1898 and operated out of Brockville. It later ran out of Picton for the Ontario & Quebec Navigation Co. and joined Canada Steamship Lines in 1916. It should be in my book Early Ships of Canada Steamship Lines. The hull was abandoned at Burlington in 1944 and, at times, the remains can be seen from the Skyway.

Attached are two donations from Skip of the Brockville (Nora H), the first courtesy James Studio, Owen Sound, Ontario, the second a postcard of the Brockville.

Brockville1 - James Studio - Poss. O.Sd.jpg
Brockville1 - Lg Sault - P'card.jpg
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Staff member
Feb 15, 2004
The Beach Strip
To make this thread even more confusing, I have corrected my picture of the Lady Hamilton (above) and started another posts on the ship that was pictured originally, the Hamiltonian.

From Skip Gillham.
Late on the evening of Friday, August 29, 1952, Captain Goodwin Joshua ("Win") Corson, of Toronto, brought his vessel, the excursion steamer HAMILTONIAN, to her dock at the foot of James Street in Hamilton at the conclusion of a charter by 85 members of a building trade union. The HAMILTONIAN (C.103975) was an iron-hulled sidewheeler built in 1897 at Levis, Quebec, as (a) CHAMPION. She was 143.5 x 25.6 x 7.8, 482 Gross Tons and 304 Net. She served for many years as a ferry in the Quebec City area and then ran between Gananoque, Ontario, and Clayton, New York, for the Thousand Islands Navigation Company Ltd., of Kingston. Retired from that run in 1939, she was acquired in 1944 by the Hamilton Harbour Commissioners for the excursion service from downtown Hamilton to Burlington Beach and La Salle Park.

Captain Corson was a veteran of passenger ship service in the area, having been the last master of the Canada Steamship Lines passenger steamer MACASSA on the Toronto - Hamilton route before she was sold in 1928 to the Owen Sound Transportation Company Ltd. for conversion into the ill-fated overnight passenger and freight carrier (b) MANASOO, lost later the same year.

The last passenger went ashore from HAMILTONIAN at about 11:45 p.m. on that fateful evening and most of the crew, having finished their duties and believing that all was well aboard their ship, followed suit. The last three persons aboard, Capt. Corson, James Newell and the night watchman, Albert Cole, were in the captain's cabin at about 12:45 a.m., August 30th, when peculiar noises were heard. They discovered that the steamer was afire, but managed to escape to shore and turn in the alarm. The flames were fought through the ensuing hours and eventually were extinguished, primarily as a result of the efforts of Hamilton's then new fireboat JUDGE McCOMBS.

HAMILTONIAN's wooden superstructure remained standing, although charring was extensive and the damage was estimated at $300,000. The cause of the fire was believed to have been a cigarette carelessly discarded in the women's washroom. Before the fire, the Harbour Commissioners had been considering a major refit for HAMILTONIAN, but the damage was so extensive and the vessel herself was 55 years of age, and so the decision was made to scrap her and to seek a replacement.

The Hamiltonian before being renamed.
Champion, copyright Helmut Ostermann
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