Outsmarting Ottawa

The first raft of logs ever to come out from the French River for the Saginaw Lumber Co. of Saginaw, Michigan, was wrecked in the North Channel near Little Current in the late fall of 1886.

The American company had secured timber limits from the Ontario government on the Wahnapitei and Spanish Rivers. After the logs were cut and made into rafts, they were towed through the North Channel and down Lake Huron to Saginaw where they were manufactured into building lumber.

The first raft was being towed by the powerful tug Mocking Bird and another tug. The Mocking Bird‘s propeller struck a rock and was smashed. The other tug let the raft go and proceeded to pull the Mocking Bird into the dock at Little Current.

Word was sent to Ottawa that an American tug was “wrecking” in Canadian waters, and Ottawa lost no time in dispatching officers to apprehend the offenders.

“Cap” Sullivan, of Minnie M. fame, hunted up D.L. White, who was in charge of rafting, and told him trouble was brewing. “The sooner you get to h___ out of here, the better,” he advised.

Taking Cap’s advice, Mr. White ordered his two tugs to make for the American port of Bay City. By the time the government officers arrived from Owen Sound, the wreckers were nowhere to be found.

The following spring Mr. White returned to the North Channel, picked up the lost raft and had it towed it to Midland where the logs were sawed at Andrew Miscampell’s mill.

This anecdote was collected by Juanita Rourke in 1980, and contributed to The Water Rat, a short-lived newsletter by Ancient Islander.

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