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About Us

“Armour Township, Remembering the Past, Planning for the Future”


Welcome


On behalf of the Council of the Township of Armour, we would like to extend our warmest welcome and invite you to spend some time exploring our spectacular community. Although geographically small in size, whether you are a visitor or a potential future resident or investor, Armour is certain to provide countless opportunities for all to enjoy. 

By looking forward and working together for a better community, the Township - through its corporate team of professional staff, volunteers, and elected officials - constantly strives to design and deliver the highest quality of services and facilities. The residents of the Township of Armour have a great deal of pride in their Township. With its rural heritage, Armour offers ways to experience a taste of country while still maintaining thriving business communities and beautiful residential areas.

We recognize that the face of the municipal office is no longer the bricks and mortar building on Ontario Street, but rather the municipal website. Our new website forms a vital part of improving community engagement and getting you the information you need to stay informed.
       

History

Located in Ontario Canada, we are a two hour drive north of Toronto. Armour Township is a "single-tier" municipality located on the Canadian Shield in southeast Parry Sound District just north of Huntsville, Muskoka. The municipality is 164.44 square kilometres in size. TherJohn Douglas Armoure are numerous recreational lakes in Armour, the largest of which are Little Doe, Three Mile and Pickerel. The North and South Magnetawan Rivers are major natural features which also contribute to the recreational and rural character of the municipality. They flow out of their headwaters in Algonquin Park to the east and eventually meet in Armour within the Village of Burk's Falls, from which point the river is navigable for over 43 kilometres on its journey westerly to Georgian Bay.

Historically, Armour was created to facilitate new growth via the 1868 Free Grants and Homestead Act which brought farm families and forestry businesses to the southern precambrian shield area of Ontario. It was named after the Honourable Mr. Justice John Douglas Armour, Chief Justice of Ontario, who would eventually sit as a Judge on the Supreme Court of Canada.        

The Grand Trunk Railway came to the Township in 1885 and by 1916 Yonge Street / Highway 11 was open for the first automobiles travelling north from Toronto. During that period, Armour was served by a dozen passenger steam boats and steam tugs which plied the Magnetawan River westerly from Burk's Falls to Lake Cecebe and on to Magnetawan Village with its lift lock down to Ahmic Lake. The last and largest of the steamboats was the 191 ton steamboat Armour, built on the docks at Burk's Falls in 1906.

Statistics Canada Census Profile for Armour Township 
       
               

THE INCREDIBLE SAGA OF THE STEAMBOAT ARMOUR

by Robert J. Miller, Armour Township Planner

The steamboat Armour was named after Supreme Court Judge Armour and built in the winter of 1905/06 on the Burk's Falls dock by a crew of local men led by George Stickland. The Armour burned at the dock in Burk's Falls but its wrought iron Scottish frame and other remains were purchased by Percy Siddall and taken by rail to Port Maitland on Lake Erie where it was rebuilt and operated as a fishing boat for 40 years under the name "Earlee June". The original steam engine, valves, steam throttles, and propellor shaft were built in 1906 in Toronto by Poulson Iron Works. In 1990 these parts were brought back to Burk's Falls by Ed Finucan, Doug Boyes, Wilbert Stickland, Gerald Culbert and Ab Culbert (below) who has them in his possession. They were donated by Earl Siddall of Port Maitland. Also in 1990, Ab Culbert built a scale model of the S.S.Armour and launched it at the Burk's Falls docks to commemorate Canada's 125th Anniversary.     
       
The Armour was the largest passenger steamboat to ever ply the Magnetawan River, at 191 tons, 87.5 feet in length, and licensed in Toronto to carry 230 people. Financed by Robert J. Watson, constructed by George Stickland on the Burk’s Falls docks, and owned by A. A. Agar as part of his Magnetawan River and Lakes Steamboat Company fleet, the Armour was a completely local initiative and creation.

She was built with a state of the art “composite hull” which used wrought iron ribbing with wood planking bolted to the ribs and caulked water-tight. This was the same construction technique used in the Scottish shipyards at that time and employed in the most modern ships of the day including the famous Canadian schooner Cutty Sark. The Northern Railway was open as far as Burk’s Falls by 1885 but soon absorbed by the Grand Trunk in 1888. In 1901, twelve local investors incorporated the Magnetawan River Railway Company for the sole purpose of building a spur line from the Grand Trunk, located one mile east out of town, down to the docks at Burk’s Falls. With that spur line in place, it is most probable that Armour’s wrought iron frame and hull ribbing was imported from Clydebank Scotland to Canada and then transported to the Burk's Falls dock by rail.

The Armour proved to be very popular and carried passengers and supplies on a daily return basis for over twenty years from Burk’s Falls to Ahmic Harbour and back, a distance of 56 kilometres each way. A Purser's Ticket from 1928 shows that the steamboat Armour stopped at 55 settlements along her route which would have been almost inaccessible without her. The ticket cost was $1.70 for a return trip from Burk's Falls to a place called "Hemlock Cabin" on Ahmic Lake below the Village of Magnetawan.

The first captain was Joe Mortimer who was succeeded in 1912 by George A. Follows. But, as often happened to steamboats, calamity struck early in September 1928 when she caught fire at the wharves in Burk’s Falls and before the fire could be suppressed, her wheel house and decks had been burned off.

Faced with a new era of the family automobile, A. A. Agar decided to not rebuild the Armour but to dismantle and sell her carcass as salvage. Her outer hull planking was untouched by the fire and was therefore removed in wagon loads by the buyer, Jim Bushey, who had also carried out repairs to the vessel throughout much of her life. The wrought iron hull frame was in perfect condition as was the fore and aft compound steam engine and boiler by Polson Iron Works of Toronto. This part of the Armour was purchased around 1930 by Percy Siddall and shipped by rail to Port Maitland at the mouth of the Grand River on Lake Erie.

Hamiltonians, William A. Warnick, Brent B. Ellis and Earlene (Siddall) Corey, grand-daughter of Percy Siddall, have filled in the history of how Percy Siddall bought the boiler, engine, propeller, and wrought iron ribbing of the Armour and shipped it all to Port Maitland. A contract was signed with the Canadian Mead-Morrison Company of Welland to rebuild the Armour as a fishtug called the “Earlee June” named after Percy Siddall’s children Earl, Leo and June.

  


   

Once the hull was complete, the Earlee June was towed from Welland to Port Maitland to have the original Armour boiler and engine reinstalled. She was then towed back to Welland and fitted with decks, bulwarks and a new pilothouse made of one-quarter inch steel, much heavier than most other fishtugs. The hull was also sheathed with steel plating riveted to the original wrought iron ribbing, once the frame of the steamboat Armour.

The fishtug Earlee June was eventually sold to T. A. Ivey Greenhouses of Port Dover who removed her bulwarks and converted her into a tow tug. She was renamed the “IVEYROSE” and used to tow a barge named the “T. A. Ivey”, across Lake Erie from Pennsylvania loaded with coal to heat their greenhouses in Port Dover. She continued as a tug for Ivey Greenhouses for a number of years before she was purchased by the Harry Gamble Shipyards also of Port Dover. She was renamed the “Dover” and used among other things, for icebreaking in the St. Lawrence River between Kingston and Wolfe Island.

   

The Dover was then sold to Eddie Siddall, a cousin of Percy Siddall, who ran a marine business in the Port of Goderich. Finally in 1997 Captain Ian MacAdam of MacDonald Marine in Goderich purchased her to compliment a fleet of other tugs used primarily for guiding lake freighters into their berths in the small harbour at Goderich.

Still a vibrant vessel, she won within her class at the 1998 and 2006 tugboat races at the “International Freedom Festival” on the Detroit River at Windsor Ontario. The Dover is powered today by an 800 hp diesel engine - a far cry from the 16.6 hp compound Polson steam engine that originally powered the steamboat Armour.

Personal Reminiscences by William Warnick of Hamilton

Bill Warnick knew Earl Siddall very well. These notes are clipped/annotated by permission from The Grand Dispatch, Vol. 3 No. 2, June 2000 - a free distribution by Bill Warnick to the Beckley Beach Corporation at Port Maitland.
 
Portrait of Earl Siddal

"In 1907, many Port Maitland residents, including John and Henrietta Siddall, owned boarding houses. There were a variety of hotels to choose from on both sides of the river. Bill Warnick estimates that between the hotels and boarding houses there were more than one hundred and twenty rooms available to tourists who came primarily from Buffalo NY and Erie PA. Port Maitland was the summer home for some very well-known American artists, serious sports fishermen, and many wealthy members of the Buffalo Yacht Club.

Operating a motor launch at the beginning of the twentieth century was a lucrative and fascinating business. John Percy Siddall owned a beautiful river launch named the Silver Spray in which he carried passengers up and down the river for the purpose of tourism as well as transportation. In 1907, his cousin, George Little also had a launch and catered to the same crowd. These early days of sailing the Grand River would steer the cousins to a fishing alliance which would lead them to ownership of a number of fish-tugs they owned jointly, as well as individually. At age fifteen, Percy established the Percy Siddall Fisheries with only a few gill-nets and a row boat. Some of the boats that they owned over the years were named Saida, Kaiser, Caldera, Our Colleen, J. P. Siddall, and of course Earlee June.

In 1931, the Port Maitland Fish Company, which was located on the north side of the historic Welland Feeder Canal, was owned by a consortium of fishing partnerships. They were Percy Siddall & George Little, John McKee & Steve McKeown, and Charles Crumb & John Crawford. By this time Percy also owned the Earlee June. There is some confusion about when the Earlee June was built. We know from records of gill-net licenses issued, that Percy Siddall had a license for both her and the Caldera in 1925. Yet Carroll Kenney, who worked for the Canada Coal Company when it came to Port Maitland in 1927, says it was the Canada Coal crane that removed her from a railway car at Port Maitland. We know from the Bluebook, a record of ownership and registration of commercial craft, that the Earlee June was registered as new in 1931.

As mentioned, Percy Siddall purchased the Earlee June [Armour] and shipped the boiler, engine, propeller, and iron ribs to Port Maitland by train. The parts were removed from the freight car and placed across the tracks from the Port Maitland fish-house. After much hemming and hawing he decided what should be done and signed a contract with Canadian Mead-Morrison Company in Welland to rebuild the tug. He loaded the ribs on some trucks and shipped them to Welland. Once the hull was complete, it was towed to Port Maitland to have the original boiler and engine put in it. With the engine and boiler installed, she was towed back to Welland to be fitted, decked, and have her bulwarks and pilothouse built. The bulwarks and pilothouse made of one-quarter inch steel were much heavier than most tugs which would be built using no more than one-eighth inch steel. This would in the end cause some problems as it made her top heavy and susceptible to rolling and pitching. To reduce some of this, it was necessary to lower the boiler and set it directly on the boat’s frame. There had been a drip pan installed under the boiler creating a high centre of gravity due to the height of the boiler. With the boiler lowered, this reduced the rolling and pitching, but still the Earlee June was a bit of a bouncy boat.

Another boat joined the Percy Siddall fleet - the Our Colleen. Wally Clark operated the Our Colleen for a number of years before she was purchased by Eddie Siddall of Goderich who fished with her for some time. Eddie eventually sold Our Colleen and I have been told that she is renamed, rebuilt, and is presently a tour boat on Georgian Bay. If anyone knows anything more about her, I would appreciate hearing from you.

In March 1940, the Percy Siddall Fisheries became the Earlee June Fisheries. By 1946 it was time to modernize the fleet, so Percy decided to have Northern Marine of Bronte build him a new boat. Only a year before, another of his cousins, Maitland McKeown, had a boat built by the same builder. Percy liked the new and sleek James B. and decided to contract Northern Marine to build his newest boat. She would be named the J. P. Siddall, after himself.

My memories of the Earlee June Fisheries take me back only to the J. P. Siddall and the Our Colleen. Though I never sailed on her, it is the J. P. Siddall I remember most fondly. She was powered by a General Motors diesel engine, which tended to be noisy, and Earl did not like a noisy boat. He had a special muffler built for her (which by the way is still in her today) rendering her almost silent. I recently wrote in my column in the Dunnville Chronicle that I could tell by the sound of its engine which boat was entering the harbour long before it arrived at the river’s mouth. Not so, with the J. P. Siddall. It was not uncommon to have her enter the harbour, pull up to the dock and I would not have heard a sound. It was always spotless and seemingly painted the whitest white of all the tugs in Port.

Years passed and with only the J. P. Siddall left, Earl disbanded the Earlee June Fisheries in March 1980. After being sold and resold again she is now owned by Steve Vary of Kingsville and can often be seen in either Kingsville or Port Stanley.