Although she ended her days in 1938 as a coal barge that was rammed and sunk by the steamer SPRUCE BAY near Kingston, Ontario, the WARRENKO participated in pivotal events in both the United States and Canada.
She was built one hundred and fifty years ago in February 1864 at Liverpool, England by C. W. Weller and Company (Miller) for the Confederate States of America to run the Union (USA) blockades and help supply the beleaguered South with arms and technology unobtainable elsewhere.
Named LET-HER-BE she was 221 feet long, 26 feed abeam with a depth of only 10.9 feet. She was built low to the water, with fine lines, and worked by two oscillating engines built by Fawcett and Preston, leading British engine builders. She was an iron-hulled side-wheeler and had six Scotch boilers, each served by four furnaces making her one of the fastest vessels afloat. She had two raked smoke stacks, a small pilot house between her wheel-boxes and no cabins. She ran between the Bahamas and ports like Charleston, SC and Wilmington, DE.
In 1868 after the war, the Confederacy brought her to Halifax, NS. She was bought by Canadian Capt. Donald Millroy, who rebuilt and remodeled her as a passenger vessel. He renamed her CHICORA after Francesca de Chicora, an Indian chief who had lived in Spain. She was cut in half at Quebec City and brought to the Lakes and rejoined at Buffalo, NY. Her boilers were reduced to two with one fire box. She was repainted and placed in the Collingwood-Lake Superior trade.
In 1870, just three years after confederation, Canada was faced with a major rebellion in the Red River region of Saskatchewan by French speaking Métis, (mixed French and Indian blood) led by the charismatic Louis Riel. The new country reacted by sending troops under Col. Garnet Wolseley brought on the CHICORA from Collingwood on the Georgian Bay to Prince Arthur’s Landing.
By 1876, things had settled down so that the CHICORA could be chartered by the Canadian government to take Lord Dufferin, Governor General of Canada, 1872-1878, on a tour of the Great Lakes, including a stop in Milwaukee.
The ship served on Lake Superior and the Georgian Bay until 1877, when she was brought east again. Having been cut in two to pass through the Welland Canal, she was re-joined and taken to Toronto for service on Lake Ontario for the Niagara Navigation Company. There she ran as a popular first-class passenger vessel between Toronto and Queenston, ON on the Niagara River until October 27, 1919, when she burned and sank at her Cherry Street dock in Toronto. Her iron hull survived.
The vessel was recovered, stripped of the remains of her cabins, converted to a barge, and renamed WARRENKO. She was put in the coal trade and lasted another nineteen years.