Posted by: Cornwall Community Museum | December 3, 2014

Artifact of the Week – S.S. Filgate Steering Wheel



Steering wheel from the SS FILGATE, donated to the Cornwall Community Museum in 1972 by Dr. Simon Fraser.  At the time of the donation, the very old “…John Dunlop of South Lancaster recalled the FILGATE as a white paddle-wheeler of light draught, about 100 feet long and having a ‘nice’ whistle.  It carried a crew of five or six and ran between Montreal and Cornwall…The main cargo was cheese, grain, hay, lumber, livestock as well as passengers and general cargo.”

scan0033An 1879 coloured print form the CANADIAN ILLUSTRATED NEWS showing the FILGATE running the Lachine Rapids with officers and men of the 13th New York Regiment.

In 1899 the FILGATE  became part of the fleet of steamships operated by The Montreal and Cornwall Navigation Company.

On October 30, 1908 the Cornwall FREEHOLDER reported that she “…went aground in the fog about 1 1/2 miles east of Lancaster on Wednesday of last week, was released on Sunday and came to Cornwall.  Her cargo, over 100 tons, was moved to Lancaster by the steamer CHAFFEY, and the FILGATE was thereby floated.  She sprung a slight leak, which was repaired at the local drydock.


A blotter calendar card for The Montreal and Cornwall Navigation Co. Ltd., incorporated in 1896 with head office in Cornwall.

The Company operated the Steamers BRITANNIC from 1898 to 1901 and then from 1926 until is closed; the EMERALD aka GARNET; the FILGATE and the TRITON.  The firm was operated by Arnold Neilson Smith, who also served as president of the Cornwall Board of Trade, Cornwall Community Hotel Ltd., and MP for Stormont from 1926 to 1930.scan0036

The FILGATE’S career end in June, 1911.

The Cornwall FREEHOLDER reported that she burned at “Water’s Edge at Valleyfield.”

“The fire started through a match or cigar stub igniting a bale of oakum and spread so rapidly that none of the cargo could be saved and the passengers were glad to escape, in some cases with only the clothing they wore.”

“When the fire became uncontrollable the authorities and the men nearby released the ship from her moorings and set her adrift, to save the Montreal Cotton Mills where she was docked.  The hull sank the next day.”

“The FILGATE was built in Montreal by the late Captain Filgate, and was originally used as the CPR ferry between Caughnawaga and Lachine, later with the construction of the railway bridge a that spot, being transferred to carry passengers between the city and St. Helen’s Island, running this service for 10 to 15 years.  Twelve years ago it was sold to the Montreal and Cornwall Navigation Co…and traveled between Montreal and Cornwall…”

Dairy of A. J. McGillis, Glen Walter.  (original spelling and grammar maintained.)

December 3, 1909 – Sam McMaster bought Stubbie cow paid $25 for her.  M. & C  banked her house, a fine day.  (with snow)

Dec. 4 – the boys banked pig pen the last boats was on the river.

Dec. 6 – the boys began to draw out manure.

Dec. 8 – Peter went home for a holiday.  A & M began to lay new plank floor in pig pen.

Dec. 9 – finished pig pen and made new door for A hen house cold and stormy this morning.

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In The Wood House at the waterfront, Cornwall, Ontario, Canada

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