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Revealing A Portrait of “Valeria”

Steamboat Valeria at Gananoque, Ontario, Canada, about 1896-87.
A photograph of the “Valeria.”   Where did she ply the waterways?  When?  What is her history? 


The photo was published by the Kodak company as a 3.25 inch square sample-photo, to be used by retailers to show potential customers the quality and size of an image taken with the #2 Bullet and Bulls-Eye box cameras.

But this was not just a sample photo that caught my eye, it was the questions behind the photograph…

  • The who? ----The first part of the research was figuring out which “Valeria” was pictured. 
  • The when? ----What was the time period?
  • The where? ---- Then came the location.

Based on what I found about the “Valeria” every detail point in the information became a search object on Google.

“Valeria” and her builder

The location and dating of the photo of Valeria and Captain Dix was done from three points in history.

Point one : the #2 Bullet camera was first produced in 1896 but was preceded by the Bulls-Eye model, so either camera could have been used to take the picture.

Point two : in the photo, the largest building in the background has signage with the name: Thousand Islands Carriage Co. Limited. This company was incorporated in 1894, in Gananoque, and erected the building in 1895, the same year the Valeria launched. The company bankrupted and closed on Christmas Day, in 1898. They were allowed to briefly reopen through January or February, 1899 to finish current stock and fill the outstanding orders. The signage may have come down soon after their departure, due to the building becoming occupied by McLaughlin Carriage Co. of Oshawa, as temporary tenants, while their Oshawa works, after a fire, were being rebuilt. The McLaughlin Co. returned to Oshawa in 1900. Currently the building still exists at 185 Mill Street, and is part of a condominium project owned by Joe Pal and Joe Brennan. This gives us the location and a narrow window of years from 1896 to 1899.

However, point three narrows the years further.

Point three : At some point the Thousand Islands Steamboat Company acquired exclusive use of the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad docks, at Clayton and Cape Vincent. Plus the railroad tickets could also offer passage, of passengers or cargo, exclusively through the Thousand Islands Steamboat Company. To the Alexandria Steamboat Company, with only two steamers, the “Island Belle” and “New Island Wanderer”, this appeared to violate several laws by collusion to divert all the traffic, and they filed an anti-trust action against the railroad, seeking $20,000 in damages and equal access to the railroad docks.

Their proof proved inadequate and after two appeals, they lost on June 12, 1897. After this win in the courts, both companies could work exclusively together. On July 9, 1897, the St. Lawrence River and Thousand Islands Steamboat Company announced they were organizing an expansion of their fleet, which ran between Kingston, Clayton and Montreal, and as far away as Quebec City. In 1897 the Thousand Islands Steamboat Company was operating ten steamers that were being called the “White Squadron.”

In 1899, all their ships had painted on their smokestacks, the shield emblem of the New York Central Railroad. I cannot say exactly which year this practice began, but most likely it occurred in 1898, with the application being done during the 1897 to 98 winter lay-over period. Flaunting their success in the market, and after a difficult legal case, seems the best reason. So most likely the photo of “Valeria” was taken between 1896 and 1897, since there is no emblem showing on the “Valeria.” After 1897, the Valeria also should have sported the shield emblem on her smokestack.

In 1872, F.A. Folger and Henry S. Folger entered the steamboat business by buying the “John F. Maynard” and the “T. S. Faxton”, and the ships were the start of the American based “Thousand Island Steamboat Company“, with ran between Cape Vincent, Clayton and Alexandria Bay. In 1873, they purchased the St. Lawrence Steamboat Company from Kinghorn and Hinkley with three steamboats and routes. The early principle office was in Kingston, Ontario, but was eventually moved to Clayton, in Jefferson County, N.Y.

Background History

Many a steamboat and traveler have plied the expansive waters of the Thousand Islands and the St. Lawrence River. Here is a brief look at The Folger System and our particular steamboat.

Clayton was incorporated in 1872 as a village. Prior to this, in February, 1871, the Utica and Black River Railroad received a charter, and built the Clayton and Theresa Railroad between Lafargeville and Clayton. The completion of the tracks were accomplished by July 8, 1873, followed with other needed structures, and the line opened for business on September 30, 1873.

In 1886, several separate railroad lines were consolidated under the U&B RR, the same year the Ughnott Lumber & Butternox Mining Companies U&B RR, merged into the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburg RR. On March 14, 1891, the RW&O RR leased for 99 years, all of their lines to the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad. This brought about a dramatic improvement in service including sleeping-cars for the long distance travelers. Everything was in place for Clayton to become an important hub for tourists traveling into the region and the Thousand Islands.

Captain Joseph Dix looking out the window of steamboat Valeria, At Gananoque, Ontario, Canada, circa 1896-97.

Can you see an image.  Is this gentleman, Captain Joseph Dix, looking out the lower deck window?

By 1888 the Thousand Islands Steamboat Co. was operating three steam vessels: two side-wheelers, and a screw-driven ship. Increasing regional tourism, forced the company to keep adding ships, destinations, and island excursions.

In 1891, F.A. Folger commissioned the construction of a new vessel, by R. Davis in Kingston, Ontario, with an 8x8 engine, made by the Davidson & Doran Company, also in Kingston. The official registration number was 96907 and she was named Lorelei, 62 feet in length, 14.5 feet wide, 44 tons, and screw-driven. Records of her service in the company have not been seen. One can guess she serviced the route between Clayton, N.Y., the Thousand Islands, and Gananoque, Ontario.

However, it is known that the vessel, under her later 1895 name of Valeria, was routinely contracted-out by the Rathbun Company and whose dock the ship berthed at in Gananoque. It was common for the ship to handle a lot of the traffic from the American Canoe Association annual August meet in the Thousand Islands, especially at Sugar Island, and other 50 mile excursions around the islands.

Captain Joseph Dix

Captain Joseph Dix Sr. was born on April 15, 1815 at Swansea, Wales, and his father was a woolen manufacturer there. Mr. Dix Sr. circumnavigated the world several times, and married in England to a woman named Margaret before emigrating to Canada, in 1840. In 1841 he became a sail maker and rigger to a series of companies, and to the ships of Garden Island. Joseph Dix Jr. was born in 1842.

On February 23, 1872, Mr. Dix Sr. purchased for $8,000, the schooner “Olive Branch”. He lived on Darden Island, but passed at Garden Island on Wednesday, December 19, 1888, and was buried at Wolfe Island Cemetery on December 21. Long before this sad event, the elder Dix was to see his son follow in his footsteps, and also become a captain, but this date has not been found. On March 4, 1873, Captain Joseph Dix Jr. married Martha Ann Jones, 21(25?), 1852(48?)-May 21, 1905, of Ottawa, Ontario. Her parents were Thomas and Elizabeth (Keyes) Jones. The happy couple resided in Kingston, and had two daughters, Bertha Josephine Dix, Kingston (March 11, 1880 - March 16, 1967), and Alda Dix.

Captain Dix owned and operated the schooner “White Oak” for several years, at least in the 1880s until he sold her for about $2,000+, in 1893. With this capital in hand, I believe he was looking for a newer ship to own and operate. It is a high probability that Captain Dix eventually came to purchase the “Lorelei” from F.A. Folger, between 1893 to 1895, for Captain Dix is named the seller of her in 1905.

In early 1895 the “Lorelei” was rebuilt to a length of 75 feet, a weight of 52 tons, and a draught of 4 feet. This is when the “Lorelei” was renamed to “Valeria“. Captain Dix ran the ship from 1895 to 1905. I suspect he subcontracted himself and the “Valeria” to provide service in the Thousand Islands Steamboat Company’s operations.

In 1895 the “Valeria,” commanded by Captain Joseph Dix, began her ten-year service, on the seven-mile trips between Clayton, N.Y., and Gananoque, Ontario. A few special events in the ordinary operations of the “Valeria” have emerged.

Up to the middle of the 1890s, all of the ships burned wood to heat the boilers. This resulted in a lot of forest clear-cutting, in the Clayton area. A change-over occurred when the railroads began using soft coal for their engines. This change also came to the ships, as well. In April 1900, Captain Dix had the “Valeria” in dry dock, for the refitting of the 8x8 engine to a 10x10 boiler and engine, probably coal burning. This was in preparation for the restart of the run on May 1st, between Clayton and Gananoque. The next incidents are noteworthy because radio communications had not yet been invented. If a nautical accident occurred, there was no calling for help.

On August 26th, 1901, Captain Joseph Dix had a letter published in the British Whig (newspaper) of Kingston, to correct an article published the prior Saturday:


Steamer “Valeria's” Boiler Did Not Burst

Gananoque, Aug. 26th - (To the Editor) - Would you kindly correct a statement in Saturday's Whig, saying that the steamer “Valeria” had burst her boiler? The engineer, a Kingston man, through gross carelessness, allowed the water in the boiler to get low, and melted out the fusible plug. He had to put the fire out, and, as we had no steam, we had to be towed in. That was all the damage done. The “Valeria” was on her route next morning. The engineer was discharged.



Then in 1902:

The Troy Daily Times, Saturday, June 28, 1902”.


Shipwrecked on a St. Lawrence Islet 

[Clayton, June 28.] In one of the fiercest north-westerly storms which has raged on the St. Lawrence River in years Rev. Dr. Risely Ullman of New York and a Canadian boatman were shipwrecked Thursday afternoon upon a rocky islet, just west of Stave Island, in Canadian waters.

When the storm was at its height the power in Dr. Ullman's thirty-five foot naphtha launch gave out, and the craft was thrown upon the rock by the waves. As Dr. Ullman jumped into the water to make an effort to save the boat, he broke one of his legs above the knee. He was rescued by the boatman and pulled on the island. For five hours the two men remained upon the rock sheltered only by the few scrubby bushes which grew upon it. Every wave broke just a few feet from them and the spray was hurled over their heads. Capt. Joseph Dix of the steamer Valeria sighted the men just before dark and a lifeboat was launched and Dr. Ullman was brought on board the steamer with difficulty.


And an excerpt from an August 15, 1903 story about the Thousand Islands:


A party from Gen. H. C. Kessler’s Summer home on Bluff Island, consisting of Gen, Kessler’s son and three young ladies, were tipped over in a sailboat Wednesday morning and had to remain in the water for some time, clinging to the edge of the boat, until they were rescued by Capt. Joseph Dix in the steamer Valeria, which happened to be passing.


In December 8, 1903, the British Whig of Kingston reported that Kingston resident, Captain Joseph Dix had sold the steamer Valeria for about $2,200, to “Luke Mallen” [sometimes spelled Mallan but his actually name was Mallon] of Morrisburg. The ship was destined for a ferry route between Morrisburg, Ont., and Waddington, N.Y. Luke Mallon of Cardinal, Ontario, received his Master’s certificate, #1593, on January 26, 1895, after passing an examination in Ottawa. The 1909 edition of Beeson’s Marine Directory of the Northwestern Lakes shows the Valeria still owned by him. It is not known if the ship was still in use in 1910, for as of March 7, 1910, Captain Mallon and Engineer George Dennison were commanding the steamer Bartlett for the Montreal Transportation Company. For many years after this he captained many different vessels, for this company and others. He was still active in 1933.


In March 1911, The Railway and Marine World of Toronto, reported that the Folger family had sold both of the steamer lines to a syndicate, headed by E. B. Osler, President of Niagara Navigation, and W. D. Matthews, President of the St. Lawrence and Chicago Steam Navigation Co., and including also B. W. Folger, General Manager of the Niagara Navigation Co. At the time of the sale, the St Lawrence River Steamboat Company and the three steamers named “America“, “Pierrepont“, and “Jessie Bain“. The Thousand Islands Steamboat Company ran three ships, the “St. Lawrence“, “Ramona“, and “New Island Wanderer“. The fourth, named the “Ottawa“, was lost in a fire and was to be replaced. Then on June 1, 1912, the lines were sold to the Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Company, of Montreal, Quebec.

In 1914 the “Valeria” was broken-up. Her valuable engine was sold by Luke Mallon, like a heart transplant, and in 1915, it was installed in the newly built “Richelieu”. The “Richelieu,” official #134370, was built in Sorel, Quebec, with a length of 96 feet, width of 23 feet, weight of 194 tons, and screw-driven. The “Valeria’s” heart and the “Richelieu” were lost in a fire in September, 1922.

On Thursday, January 12, 1922, the last figure in this story, Captain Joseph Dix, of Kingston, Ontario, passed at age 80 into history.


It was the building with the words "nds Carriage -- Limited" that was the key. The woman at the Arthur Child Heritage Museum mentioned there, had been at Gananoque Carriage Works. But the “nds” in the name was not a right word fit.

Eventually I tried Thousand Islands Carriage and got a hit that showed the recent survey of the building, plus the important dates and occupiers of the structure. Any name and business entity became a search object. In the case of the Captain, the name alone turned-up references to his father too. Also Captain had to be checked by its abbreviations of Cpt. and Capt.

It took a few days but the details could be found--mostly due to Google scanning all of the old books in libraries, and to include the newspaper and magazines that have been scanned and online. It all adds-up. Luckily I was able to do this fairly quickly.

During digital restoration of the scanned photo, it was found that Captain Joseph Dix, with his hand resting on the sill, is looking out the second lower window, from the bow.

Photos and text © May 18, 2015 by Mathew D. Hargreaves.


Matthew D. Hargreaves was born, raised and continues to live near Seattle, Washington. After graduating with a degree in Law Enforcement, he decided this was not his calling. Instead, he trained as an apprentice printing pressman, moving up to the grade of journeyman. Before leaving the trade after 30 years - as a printer, writer, and publisher. Matthew developed an interest in photography. This article for “TI Life” demonstrates his ability to not only discover interesting old photographs, but providing in-depth research about the 1000 Islands.

Please feel free to leave comments about this article using the form below. Comments are moderated and we do not accept comments that contain links. As per our privacy policy, your email address will not be shared and is inaccessible even to us. For general comments, please email the editor.


Wm. Hale
Comment by: Wm. Hale ( )
Left at: 7:16 PM Wednesday, July 8, 2015


You might try talking to Don Harding of Gananoque who is over one hundred years old, to see if he can add to your history of the craft.

Wm. Hale from Isle 24 of the 1864 islands.
Bernie Schraw
Comment by: Bernie Schraw
Left at: 10:43 PM Friday, July 10, 2015
Thank you for this article. Captain Dix was my 2nd great grandfather. I have read much about his life. He was an incredibly interesting man. I wish the photo of him was clearer.
Mathew Hargreaves
Comment by: Mathew Hargreaves
Left at: 7:52 PM Saturday, July 11, 2015
Hi Bernie,

Well I hope added a little more of his history to your family's archives. I gather from your comment that your family does not have a photo of him. I had hoped to search online the Kingston museums but there were way too many for it be successful. Since he lived there, and his address is listed online in vintage documents, it was hoped that his photo could be found there. However, there night a be a photo of him in a Clayton museum, or the Canadian maritime national archives--since he had to be registered and a photo could have been required at some point. Another historian in the Gananoque area has a photo from the other side of the ship and the Valeria sported a sign across the roof edge stating it to be the Clayton to Gananogue ferry. Sincerely, Mathew Hargreaves
Brad Duke
Comment by: Brad Duke
Left at: 6:50 PM Saturday, August 6, 2016
Hi Matt.

Strange question, but would you happen to be the same Matt Hargreaves that once worked on a few Tangerine Dream recordings for Silva?

If so, could you please email me at this address?

Many thanks,
Mathew Hargreaves
Comment by: Mathew Hargreaves
Left at: 6:42 PM Monday, May 8, 2017
Hi Brad,

Yes, it is me. I drifted away from T.D. after completion of the discography. The band's music style drifted away from what I liked. I thought Quantum Key by Edgar was a great ending to his life in music.

Bernie Schraw
Comment by: Bernie Schraw
Left at: 8:49 AM Saturday, February 17, 2018
On July 10, 2015 I left a comment referring to Captain Dix as my 2nd great grandfather. This was in errors because Joseph was in reality my 2nd great uncle. He was the son of Joseph Dix, born in Swansea Wales about 1815. He was a sailmaker trained in London and he circumnavigated the globe in his early years.