Owen Sound’s Role in Canadian and International History
Owen Sound played a major role in the development of Ontario and in the opening up of Western Canada. The city’s shipbuilders also played a serious role in WW II. The following timeline shows some of the city’s most significant marine/rail events and their contribution to the area, Ontario, Canada and the world.
- 1841 Schooner Fly brought settlers.
- 1842 Boyd’s wharf on site of current Bayshore Community Centre
- 1846-1848 The Ann McKenzie built – It didn’t stay in the area as the ship owner failed to pay one of the carpenters. Considered to be the first ship built in the village of Sydenham
- April 1867 – Frances Smith, a 181 foot Palace Steamer, was the first steamboat to be built on the Canadian Upper Lakes
- 1873 – Toronto Grey & Bruce Railroad arrived at Owen Sound
- 1877 – Dry-dock completed
- September 1882 – Owen Sound was the last port of call for the Asia. Its sinking was the greatest disaster on Georgian Bay when 100 persons drowned – many from this city.
- November 1884 – Three of the most modern passenger ships in the world (Alberta, Athabasca, and Algoma) sailed across the ocean, and were cut in half then reassembled above Niagara Falls. They sailed from the port of Owen Sound for four decades. They worked with the railway to return troops from the Riel Rebellion and later to transport tens of thousands of settlers to the west.
- June 22 1889 – Launch of the Manitoba at the Polson Iron Works. It was the first steel ship constructed in Canada and marked the start of the steel shipbuilding industry for Canada.
- 1894 – Extension of Grand Trunk Railway from Park Head to Owen Sound built
- 1931 – Canadian National Railway built the train station, to replace the original Grand Trunk Railway Station. Passenger service ended in 1970. It was used by the Owen Sound Transportation Company and later bought by the city. The Owen Sound Historical Society used the building to collect, catalogue and display artifacts that represented the story of Owen Sound. Their vision was to tell the story of our community and preserve its heritage.
- 1939 – 1945 – Approximately 90% of all propellers built for the Canadian navy in WW II were built at Kennedys in Owen Sound.
- 1959 – Last steam train to Owen Sound
- 1970 – Passenger service to Owen Sound discontinued
- June 3, 1974 and June 30, 1989 – About 3.4 billion one-dollar bills were printed between 1974 and 1989, when the paper dollar was discontinued. On the back of the bill was an image of the Ancaster built by the Owen Sound-based Russel Brothers – who incidentally also built the Maid of the Mist and Toronto’s Fireboat, the William Lyon Mackenzie. The Ancaster is on display in front of the museum. The company built mostly tugs and logging boats, but made diesel switching locomotives as well. In all, over 1,200 ships were built by the Russels and sold world-wide. During World War II, they made boats used in the D-Day landings. The city’s contribution to Canada’s maritime success in the war was directly related to our harbour industries
- 1983 – CNR station turned over to the City of Owen Sound
- 1987 – Last CNR freight train left Owen Sound
- 1995 – CNR Railway tracks removed except for 300 feet still in place in front of the former station now the Community Waterfront Heritage Centre.