When the struggling little hamlet of Amherst was made the County seat, it grew and thrived on the commerce that passed through it's active harbour. Cobourg was the principal port of the county, with Corktown, Kerry Town, and Giddy Town communities indicating it's strong Hibernian background. It was the hailing port of the early schooner Hibernia, where Hibernia street ran down to the old west pier. That was where the schooner Atlantic, Captain Fowlie, the pride of Cobourg, was built in 1842. Hundreds of Schooners, taking loads of up to 25,000 bushels of grain brought from as far away as Peterborough, contributed to the wealth and growth of the community.
During the major immigration of Europeans to Canada, starting about 1820, travel was by Durham boat from Montreal to Prescott, and then by steamer or schooner to Cobourg. Walter Riddel, who came to Cobourg from Scotland in 1823, recalled that William Weller ran a stage line from Kingston to Toronto. During the summer while boats were running, there was little business for the stage and the horses were turned out to pasture."
When immigration was at its height in the 1830s, rice Lake Road was a stirring highway. Immigrants landed in Cobourg and were carried over the road to Sully on Rice Lake, and from there in open boats to the country farther north. Before the railway was built large quantities of grain, flour lumber and other supplies were hauled over the same road to Cobourg for shipment, by schooner, to Kingston, or across Lake Ontario to the American market.
Captain Charles E. Redfern, was best known in Cobourg as master of the Ontario No 1, a car ferry built in Toronto in 1907 and the Ontario No.2, a car ferry steamer built in Toronto in 1914, both in service between Cobourg and Rochester until 1949. Captain Redfern was so well liked that he was the pilot for nearly every organization which chartered a boat to Canada from Rochester. The Shriners, Knights of Columbus, Ad Club, Bar Association and other local groups began their annual excursions to Canada because of the geniality of this Canadian Skipper .
A Durham Boat was about 30 feet long with an enclosed space at each end