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The Steamer Maple Leaf

January 4, 2022

Captain Elijah Bottum on his Maple Leaf

The Maple Leaf was a small steamer (43’2 long & 13.3 tons), it was never celebrated to the extent of some of the larger and more opulent steamers, but it was a versatile boat, that carried many people over the years… and it was a survivor. It was one of the first steamers in the Kawarthas to operate on a propeller, rather than a paddlewheel. Originally built for Captain Savage’s passenger service from Port Perry to Lindsay, it was best known as Bobcaygeon’s little steamer.

Elijah Bottum came from Ogdensburg, New York to start a hospitality and steamboat business. Operating several different steamers over the years, he also welcomed guests at Bobcaygeon’s Forest House and a dance hall at Oak Orchard.  

Over the years, the Maple Leaf had many other owners, serving in different capacities, including as a commercial shipping vessel, hauling logs and as a passenger vessel. While plying on the Bobcaygeon to Bridgenorth route, it took 2 ½ hours to make the trip one way, the same as a trip from Bobcaygeon to Lindsay. To its nineteenth century passengers, that was a lot faster than walking or taking the horses. In the 1890s, return fare from Bobcaygeon to Bridgenorth was $1.

In 1883 the Maple Leaf burned, but it could be repaired. It was often said that the charred hull of a wooden boat did not rot nearly as fast as new wood. Besides, a good coat of white lead paint hides a thousand sins, right? Though it sunk several times, being a small vessel, it was not that difficult to tow it off the bottom with a larger steamer. In 1887 the crew were caught in a squall, the boat was taking on water and they worried it would sink. So they deliberately ran it aground, but in so doing they hit a stone, causing it capsize. Everyone managed to escape, and the boat was once again salvaged, serving until Randolph McDonald’s lumber company scrapped it in 1911.

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