HUTTON, SAMUEL, fisherman, boat builder, oarsman, office holder, and yachtsman; b. 10 July 1845 in Coleraine (Northern Ireland); m.— Belyea; they had no children; d. 21 Aug. 1894 near Manawagonish Island, N.B.
Samuel Hutton was an infant when his parents immigrated to Saint John, N.B., to escape the Irish famine. He became a fisherman and boat builder as a young man, and his love of the water led him to rowing. His first race, and first victory, came in Saint John Harbour when he and three friends defeated four other local lads for a stake of “25 cents an oar.” Throughout the early 1860s Hutton figured prominently in a number of four-oared crews around Saint John.
In 1867 a regatta was planned as part of the international exposition in Paris. New Brunswick decided to display “no elaborate works of art, no specimen of ingenious handicraft” at the exposition, but the provincial government provided $2,000 and the citizens of Saint John raised a further $4,000 to send three fishermen and a lighthouse keeper (Hutton, George Price, Robert Fulton, and Elijah Ross) to the regatta as “an ‘exhibit’ of our energy, our hardihood and pluck.” The powerful Fulton was the stroke, with Hutton and Ross positioned between him and the experienced Price at the bow. During training in France, the North American crew was viewed as a curiosity. Rowing in an unfashionable, jerky manner without a coxswain, the “four sturdy New Brunswickers” slid up and down the Seine in their two heavy, home-made boats dressed in “flesh-colored jerseys, dark cloth trousers, leather braces, and bright pink caps.” At the close of racing on 8 July, however, they had defeated crack English, French, and German crews, winning both the in-rigged four and the out-rigged four. Word of these victories quickly made its way across the new Dominion of Canada and out to the Pacific coast. On their return to Saint John on 6 August the members of the now-famous Paris crew were greeted by large and enthusiastic crowds, bunting everywhere, artillery salutes, a brass band, a parade; following their appearance to three cheers at the theatre that evening, bonfires were lit and rockets fired.
Immediately after their victory in Paris, Hutton and his team-mates were challenged by the celebrated Ward brothers of Cornwall, N.Y., to row for the championship of the world. The race was finally held on 21 Oct. 1868 at Springfield, Mass., for a stake of $1,500 a side. After betters from Saint John had accepted every wager offered by backers of the American crew, the heroes of Paris handed the Wards “a most signal defeat.” Once again the four young men were fêted in style upon their return to Saint John. The following year the crew made a celebrity tour of Montreal, Toronto, and Niagara (Niagara-on-the-Lake), where they not only rowed successfully but were also wined and dined extensively. At some point in 1869 Hutton participated in the only single race he is known to have entered, defeating Fulton and Price for $50 a side in Saint John Harbour.
The next challenge for the Paris crew came on 15 Sept. 1870 when at Lachine, Que., they faced the Tyne crew from England headed by the great James Renforth (who had never lost a race). The stake for the six-mile event was set at $2,500 a side and the “men in pink” were supported by heavy betting. On the appointed day the weather was bad but after several postponements the race was held. The Tyne crew’s boat was better suited to the rough water and the Paris crew suffered its first defeat. One Saint John citizen claimed, “Saint John is dead. The race will take quite $100,000 out of this place. Many have lost their all. Everyone here, except Sons of Temperance, seemed to get intoxicated.” When the sheepish crew arrived back in Saint John on 20 September, they were surprised and heartened by yet another grand reception.
The circumstances of their defeat demanded a rematch, which was set for 23 Aug. 1871 on the Kennebecasis River in New Brunswick at £500 a side. On the morning of the race some 20,000 spectators jammed the six-mile course in expectation of a tremendous battle. Yet, before one mile had been completed, Renforth dropped his oar and slumped back in obvious distress. As the supporters of the Tyne crew screamed fraud, the Saint John men went on to an easy victory, which was marred greatly by the death of Renforth about an hour later. After this tragic event, the Paris crew went into semi-retirement. In their last appearance, at the Philadelphia exhibition in 1876, they were soundly defeated by a Halifax crew in “a very slow race.”
Samuel Hutton continued to work as a fisherman until 1881, when he was appointed a boatman for the customs department in Saint John. As his interest in rowing waned, he directed his energy toward yachting. On 21 Aug. 1894 he was competing in a race for the Corporation Cup when a squall sank his yacht, the Primrose, just outside Saint John Harbour. Hutton and seven of his crew were killed. An inquest was ordered and, although a fellow competitor (Paris crew member Elijah Ross) testified that Hutton had gone “too far and assumed risks that he should not have taken,” the jury ruled the deaths accidental.
At the time of his death Hutton, a friendly, popular man, was described as “the same grand specimen of manhood as 25 years ago, untainted by dissipation of any kind.” Though powerful and well built, he was nevertheless a poor swimmer, and he had reportedly remarked to the crew of the Primrose that “he would never sail another race, as he always had bad luck.” Hutton died just two days short of the 23rd anniversary of the death of Renforth in the last great victory for the Paris crew.
New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame (Fredericton), File information concerning Samuel Hutton and the Paris crew. British Columbian, 20 July 1867. Colonial Farmer (Fredericton), 10 Aug. 1867. Daily Telegraph (Saint John, N.B.), 19 Aug. 1876. Evening Times (Saint John), 3 March 1906. Morning Freeman (Saint John), 30 July, 6, 8 Aug. 1867. Morning News (Saint John), 19, 29, 31 July, 7, 9 Aug. 1867. Ottawa Citizen, 26 July 1867. St. John Daily Sun, 22 Aug.–1 Sept. 1894. S. F. Wise and Douglas Fisher, Canada’s sporting heroes (Don Mills [Toronto], 1974). Brian Flood, Saint John: a sporting tradition, 1785–1985 ([Saint John], 1985). R. S. Hunter, Rowing in Canada since 1848 . . . (Hamilton, Ont., 1933). Mac Trueman, “The great race of 1871: thousands thronged to watch epic rowing contest,” Telegraph-Journal (Saint John), 11 Aug. 1984: 13.