Hackett, Alfred (1819-1895)
“Captain Hackett was a man of good judgment and wide information as might be expected of one who has seen so much of the world as has seen so much of the world as he and being of an observant turn of mind benefited by his travels. His death is deeply regretted and the bereave family have sympathy of all.” Obituary, Wiarton Canadian May 8, 1895
Captain Alfred Hackett was known to have been one of the greatest shipbuilders and captains established in Bruce County. He was born in 1819 in Montrose, Scotland and he served as an apprentice as a ship-builder carpenter. Alfred went to sea as a mate on a bark that was trading with Australia and New Zealand. He then continued to sail and met with having been shipwrecked off the coast of Saint John, New Brunswick and twice in 1854 and 1855 on the Great Lakes.
In the early 1850’s, Alfred made his way westward from the Atlantic coast to Bruce County. He was engaged at carpentering under a millwright erected a mill and putting in machinery for Col. Valentine at Mud River, that being the initial name of Paisley. Col. Valentine was a fellow Scotsmen from Montrose. Alfred married Elizabeth Cameron (Betsy) in 1857 and they established their homestead on Lot 50 Lake Range on the southern edge of Southampton. They had a family of two daughters and four sons.
In the 1861 and 1871 census of Saugeen Township, it listed Alfred as a farmer. However, records demonstrate that Alfred was building schooners as early as 1858 and into the 1870’s and 1880’s. Alfred built his first schooner, “Britannia” with his only known building partner, John Murray in 1858. The Hackett family continued to live in for years in Southampton and moved to Wiarton in 1883. Alfred and his company built nine Great Lakes schooners, four propeller ships and one dredge. Alfred was also attuned to the need of new technology as found in the prospect of getting a telegraph line from Wiarton to Tobermory. In the Wiarton Echo dated November 14, 1884, Alfred writes:’ It would certainly be a great boon to the people north of this, and also to captains and owners of vessels trading in the Georgian Bay. Every season numbers of vessels are lost in the vicinity of Cove Island and Tobermory were telegraphic communication established to the point proposed some at least of these vessels might be saved as a message could be sent to owners and to wrecking tugs at once.’
Alfred passed away on May 6, 1895 in Wiarton. It appears that the Hackett yard continued to flourish under the leadership of A.A. Hackett, junior. As of 1904, there were twenty men engaged in repairing boats. His intention was to build a marine railway however, in May of 1905, he leaves Wiarton and moves to Winnipeg with his family. Betsy Hackett passed away on October 13, 1903.
Alfred Hackett was an “Explorer” of Bruce County in the great ship-building skills and strong sense of citizenship that he contributed. As noted in Alfred’s obituary,” It is about twelve years since the Captain came to live in Wiarton, and here as elsewhere, he had many friends, who admired his sturdy manliness and upright character.” (Wiarton Canadian, May 9, 1895)
FO’C’S’LE No. 29 January, 1994
FO’C’S’LE No. 21 Aug 4, 1993
Wiarton Echo, November 14, 1984
Personal file of Great-Granddaughter Elizabeth MacKay, Southampton