Railways: Present 1860 - 1866
On the main line between Montreal and Toronto there are three passenger trains per day going east and another three going west. Four Montreal trains leave Morrisburg in the late afternoon (6:00 PM) early morning (6:30 AM) and at 1:00 PM. Four Toronto trains leave at 1:35 AM toward noon (1:10 PM) and mid-afternoon (3:10 PM) - (Times for summer 1865)
For you, rail travel is expensive considering your daily wages do not exceed $1.25 if a tradesman, and 75 cents if you are a labourer. In some ways the high cost is compensated by the convenience of being able to travel any day at any season of the year but many have no choice but to travel by horse or on foot.
The building of the railway has brought many advantages. During its construction the railway company was offering 90 cents a day for labouring work. This was an improvement on 65 to 75 cents for agricultural work and approximately 1,000 local men were hired. There were contracts for cutting timber for sleepers or ties. Presently there are contracts for supplying cord wood as all the locomotives are wood burners. This is a steady source of winter income for many neighbours with wood lots on the rear of their properties.
You remember the excitement caused by the arrival of the first train from Montreal to Brockville on November 19, 1855, and of the inaugural train from Montreal to Toronto in November 1856. In Montreal at that time there was a colourful parade with floats each carrying modern machinery to show off our progressive new industries.
You have noticed that particularly in winter the railway does not always live up to the advertising. There seem to be too many broken rails which derail the locomotives and passenger cars and several people have been injured. There is rumour that inferior materials have been used by the builders of the railway. The mail has also been destroyed or delayed in recent accidents.
The area is well supplied with stations - Cornwall, Moulinette, Dickinson's Landing, Aultsville, Williamsburgh (Morrisburg), Matilda (Iroquois), Edwardsburgh (rear of Cardinal), Prescott Junction, Prescott, Maitland and Brockville. Most of the stations and all the bridges are substantially built of stone which is very costly and as a result the province is in heavy debt.
The Grand Trunk Railway is presently advertising for fence timbers. They require 15,000 cedar rails 14' long and 5" at the small end, 7,500 stakes 7' long and 4" at the small end, also blocks and caps with dimensions provided. They also need 20,000 rail ties. This will be a source of winter work.
You remember the excitement in the 1860s caused by the visit of Albert the Prince of Wales who opened the Victoria Bridge at Montreal and then made a tour of the principal towns in the province. The newspapers carried a number of articles describing this tubular iron bridge across the St. Lawrence River the longest in the world. Most of it was prefabricated in England and the parts shipped to Canada, where it is a source of great pride.
Each summer there have been advertisements in the newspapers for excursion tickets for sea bathing in Portland, Maine. You can travel on the same train all the way if you wish, or get off at scenic places. Reboard and use the same ticket. Reduced rates are offered.
Excursions such as that from Brockville to Perth on the Brockville and Ottawa Railway have become popular. The return trip costs $1.00 and takes 2 hours and l5 minutes each way. In September l859 there was an excursion from Perth to Brockville , which included a visit to the Brockville Horticultural Show, a steamboat cruise on the Thousand Islands and return ticket to Perth on the same day for 6/3d (6 shillings and 7, pence) or about $1.25. On May 24, 1860, three thousand people from Almonte, Brockville, and other communities converged on Perth for Victoria Day celebrations, where they were entertained by fire engine trials, bands and fireworks. Such freedom and convenience of travel was inconceivable before the building of the railway.
The railway has had effects on local industry. Flour from the local mill is now shipped regularly to Montreal for export to England. Previously it went by boat in season and too often got damaged by water in transit. The mill can now ship everything it can produce and be assured of its safe arrival. Goods at the general store seem cheaper and more plentiful. The storekeeper attributes this to the regularity and cheapness of moving freight on the railway. A grain storage building is also going up at the Morrisburg station. This will no doubt help farmers who have a surplus of wheat and feed grains to sell their products in Montreal.
In 1850 there were 66 miles of track in all of British North America. By 1860s there were 1,800 miles in the province of Canada alone. The economic and social impact of this enormous outlay of capital and human energy was immediate and widespread. It increased economic activity throughout the province. It inflated land values wherever the railway passed. It raised prices of raw materials and wage levels due to the high demand. The construction of rails and rolling stock laid the foundations of heavy industries in Montreal, Kingston, Toronto and Hamilton.
The railway ended the isolation of rural communities near the front and initiated the development of new towns at strategic market centres. Previously, harbours mill sites and fertile land had determined where people settled. Now the railway station set growth in motion. It was a process which would encourage people to congregate in those villages and towns with industries and which were served by a railway.
The first major railroad scheme was to provide Montreal with an ice free port on the Atlantic seaboard. Portland, Maine was selected and by 1853 the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railway was in operation between these two cities. A more ambitious project was the construction of the Grand Trunk Railway across the province of Canada from Montreal to Sarnia. The work commenced in 1854 and was largely completed by 1856.
Another ambitious scheme was the Great Western Railway. It provided links between Niagara and Detroit for the transportation of produce from the Western American frontier to the eastern seaboard across Canadian soil, and later between Niagara, Hamilton, Toronto and Windsor. Branch lines such as the Simcoe & Lake Huron R.R., the Brockville & Ottawa R.R. and the Prescott & Bytown R.R. were constructed shortly after to facilitate the removal of lumber from the inland saw mills to United States markets.
So in a period of about 10 years the province of Canada had acquired an extensive railway system. Its presence encouraged growth in those towns and cities served by it and greatly enhanced the importance of Hamilton, Toronto and Montreal as industrial and commercial centres.
Construction of the railway affected every community. Wealthy people and the municipalities invested heavily in these railway projects. The enterprises were awarded contracts to build the railbed. stations, and to supply cord wood, etc. Thousands of labourers provided the manpower, augmented by horsedrawn ploughs, scrappers wagons and carts and by the occasional steam power excavator, to level the railbed. The railway not only offered welcome employment for the many thousands of displaced Irish immigrants but also caused a shortage of agricultural labour particularly at harvest time.
Ships going east leave Cornwall daily (except Monday) and connect with transAtlantic shipping lines at Montreal and Quebec City. These passenger boats are between 175' and 200' in length, 25' in width, draw about 11' of water and weigh about 950 tons. They burn wood for fuel so stacks of cord wood on the wharves are a common sight.
The Canadian Inland Steam Navigation Company is interested in cornering the immigrant market. Their advertisements refer to the transporting of wagons horses, luggage, etc. at no extra charge for families moving westward. Many people, immigrants and young Canadian families are taking up these offers because of the promise of good land in Kansas, Illinois, Michigan and Iowa. Similar advertisements are being placed in newspapers by the Northern Transportation Company which operates out of Ogdensburg, N.Y. with a stop at Brockville. Canada West. This line runs boats daily to Cleveland, Toledo, Detroit to Chicago and promises large cabins with coating stoves, and comfortable accommodations.
There is also a regular steamboat run from Montreal and Quebec city to Glasgow Scotland. The 'Anchor' line operates the S.S. Caledonia and United Kingdom each of about 1,300 tons. For $60.00 you can travel in a saloon cabin, $30.00 second class and $25.00 for third class. Return tickets can be had at reduced rates. The line has agents in Brockville and Cornwall and advertises in all the local newspapers.
Locally there is a regular and hourly ferry boat between Morrisburg and Waddington, Prescott and Ogdensburg and Cornwall and Fort Covington.
There is shipbuilding at Prescott, Gananoque, Brockville and Kingston. Many of the steamboats on the river are constructed in these yards and their engines manufactured by local foundries. Benjamin Chaffey in his yard in Brockville has just completed tugs for towing rafts to Montreal and a steam operated floating grain elevator which is of interest to farmers and millers alike.
One of the concerns about steamboat travel has been the frequent fires on boats caused by boiler explosions. Many lives have been lost by unscrupulous owners or mechanics more interested in profit than public safety. In 1858 the 'Hercules' exploded and burned off Morrisburg.
The extensive use of steam engines in boats preceded their use in other forms by between ten and fifteen years. Thus, the first impact of steam driven boats was felt in the 1830 and 1840s though it continued for many decades thereafter. The steamboat, freed from dependence on wind fot direction, could make a trip directly between two points and did not have to 'tack' or 'go about'. Thus, it could operate in narrow waterways such as canals, work more strongly against currents found in the St. Lawrence, tow barges, and carry much heavier quantities of freight than the sail boat. Steamboats, therefore greatly facilitated the inland transportation of goods and passengers by water and permitted the regular scheduling of travel between ports. The commercial use of the Rideau Canal (completed in 1832) and the St. Lawrence Canals (completed in 1848) was only feasible when operated in conjunction with steam powered boats. Canals and steamboats provided the means by which the provincial economy could expand and grow.
Local River Traffic - Present 1860 - 1866
The local customs officials are a great fund of information about local travel and traffic both legal and illegal on and across the St. Lawrence River. Their task of policing the river traffic has become more complicated following the tariff regulations changes in 1859.
Much of the Commercial traffic up and down the river consists of steam ships, passenger boats and steam tugs towing grain barges and rafts of timber moving eastward to Montreal and returning with immigrants, manufactured items, hardware, drygoods and groceries. There is also a lively local and cross river traffic. Apart from the steam ferry boats, this traffic is carried in skiffs and other small sailing boats.
Customs officials of late have been most concerned with travelers bringing rifles and revolvers from the United States. With Fenian activities on the south side their importation has been prohibited and the sale in Canada of such weapons is restricted. They are also concerned about Canadians who have fought with the North returning with their arms and with republican sentiments.
Many local people crossing the river by ferry or in their own ferry have run into trouble with the customs officials on their return. Usually their troubles arise from taking some product to a conveniently located American mill without notifying Canadian customs. There the produce if wool may be carded, dyed or woven or if lumber planed, or tongued and grooved. On their return their goods are seized and they are charged with smuggling. For want of notifying the authorities they lose all instead of paying duty on the want performed by the American mill.
Customs officials have been particularly suspicious of peddlers who bring their goods across the river. They try to evade paying duty on their goods or obtaining a license to peddle in the province. Local merchants encourage their officer's vigilance as they say that peddlers are unfair competition since they pay for no building, evade the duties and licenses and perform no statutory labour on the roads.
During the winter the customs officials are hardest pressed to maintain the law. Show roads are established across the ice above Aultsville, below Waddington and wherever the ice is thick enough to support a sleigh. Pork, flour and oats are regularly smuggled and transported to the lumber camps on the Ottawa River. Whiskey is often run across the river to taverns and inns or even to distilleries where it is passed off as a Canadian product.
Manufacturers and merchants are also not beyond smuggling goods across the river. Rather than declare the full value of the materials shipped from the United States, they produce false invoices showing lower values of the goods, this way they pay less duty. Chair parts from Fort Covington, stoves from Brasher Falls's foundry, medicines from New York City, pianos and melodians from Battleboro, Vermont, books, stationery tea, wool, felt hats, cigars, school books. jewellery, printing paper, threshing machines, elm barrel staves and sill, for dressmaking have all been recently presented at below market value to Customs Officials along the river.
Customs officials are located at Cornwall, Dickenson's Landing, Aultsville, Morrisburg, Iroquois, Edwardsburg, Johnstown, Prescott, Maitland and Brockville.
Stage Lines - Present 1860 - 1866
Since the opening of the Grand Trunk Railway, the local stage coach business has been changing. No longer do you see them on the Kingston and Montreal roads. They cannot compete with the speed and the reliability of the railway. Instead the stage lines are establishing new routes radiating out from the main railway stations into the surrounding countryside, and connecting towns not served by the railway.
For example, the stage from Morrisburg runs northward to West Winchester and Dunbar, and another from Iroquois runs to Dixon's Corners, South Mountain and Inkerman. Once more you can see that travelling is costly - a day's way to travel 18 miles by stage coach. The stage coaches are usually brightly coloured with the name of the owner or line prominently painted on the upper part of coach work. Red or yellow are especially popular colours. If the stage carries the local mail then it will have Post Office Mail inscribed in large letters on the door.
Stage Coach Lines Background l860 - 1866
The two decades between l846 and 1866 were a period of reorganization for the stage coach line business. At beginning of the period the lines had the inland traffic themselves. As the road systems developed and improved, stage coach became the link between the steamboat landings on front and the towns in the interior. They also made heavy use of the Montreal/Kingston road between Toronto and Montreal which provides an east-west service not only in the summer but also in winter when the steamboats were restricted by ice. Also before completion of the St. Lawrence canals (in l848) stage lines filled in the gaps in the water routes around the rapids especially between Cornwall and Prescott.
The establishment of the railway network provided serious competition. Not only did the railways provide an alternate to the Montreal/Kingston road but also offered a number of north-south links between important centres such as Prescott, Arnprior, Brockville, Bytown, Port Hope, Peterborough, etc. The rail was less affected by the winter than the stage lines, and did suffer from the pot holed and muddy roads in spring and fall. Reorganization of the stage line business was therefore inevitable.
The stage lines found that their business now lay in providing networks radiating out from the railway stations into surrounding countryside. They continued to do business by this means. However because the bulk of the province's rapidly increasing population settled in the urban centres already served by the railways, the business coming to the stage did not increase as rapidly as might otherwise have been case. Their business now lay in short rather than long distance service.
Roads - Present 1860 - 1866
Road travel whether by stage or other vehicle has become more pleasant than in former times. Private road companies have undertaken to build improved roads for which you have to pay a toll. The improvement usually consists of macadamizing the road surface. This is the name given to the use of crushed stone spread on the road. Coarse material is used in the base with finer stone used on top to fill the cracks and provide a smooth surface. Plank roads covered with sand are also considered "improved" but are less popular than a decade ago, due to the high cost of maintaining them.
Most of the roads, however, remain in an unimproved state. So in spring and fall mud and potholes are the order of the day. Their avoidance makes travel slow, rough and uncomfortable. The newspapers are full of travellers' complaints regarding the conditions of the road both in town and out. Merchants complain that poor roads reduce business, discourage settlement, and depress land values. They say that municipalities are too often delinquent in getting the road work performed, accepting payment instead of the statutory three days labour required of every householder.
The following description of the roads appeared recently in the Cornwall Freeholder:
"It is no exaggeration to say the sidewalks are in worse state than any other town in Canada. In broad day light it requires constant watchfulness to avoid being tripped Lip and then one does not always succeed. The process of getting along after dark is not to be described. It is most surprising we have not had broken limbs....
The main street is in an equally wretched condition. It has lost all appearance of a turnpike and the narrow strip of stone in the centre is now so thoroughly mixed with mud from the sides that the whole is anything but a respectable roadway.
In the Suburbs no person would entertain a delusion that hogs were not free commoners for there the citizens have to be very civil to the hogs. One gentleman having treated a hoggish visitor with rudeness awoke next morning to find a detachment had entered his garden and carried off his celery and accomplished other acts of destruction...."
This draws attention to the fact that the old practice of letting animals run on the road is still common even in town. The damage to gardens and the inconvenience to travellers of having pigs rooting around in a semi-wild state is not hard to imagine. It also makes an unfavourable impression on settlers, who might speculate that this is a backward area and decide to take up land elsewhere.
Due to the continuing neglect of the roads it is usual to find farmers waiting for winter to move their heavy loads of timber, stone and grain to market. But even then as another article shows this is not often accomplished without danger.
"The winter is the season in which the farming community do the bulk of their heavy teaming. Ten probably twenty loaded vehicles pass over their principal avenue to the town (Eamer's Corners to Cornwall) during the sleighing season for one that travels it in the summer. The cahots (ruts) through which the farmers have had to drive their heavy loads to town for the past month are in some instances frightening. Broken shafts and other tackling are no novelty and indeed it is surprising that serious damages have not been reported."
With such conditions on the roads it can be expected that there will be much complaining in the newspapers and at municipal council meetings. Stage coach lines have to travel these roads and make living thereby and it is hardly surprising that passengers pay dearly for the use of their coaches.
The traffic on the roads consists of several types. Often forgotten but exceedingly important is pedestrian traffic: people walk great distances as it is the cheapest form of transportation. Travellers on horse back can be seen at any time of the year but most common during spring and fall when road conditions make travel by any vehicle difficult. When possible vehicles are the preferred method of travel since a wagon or cart provide not only transportation for people but additional loading space. By far the most common vehicle on roads is the common farm wagon with a box and one or two seats. Carts are also quite common. While oxen are occasionally used to draw this class of vehicle horses are much preferred. Not all vehicles, however are crude farm wagons.
A fancier class of vehicles kept for it "pleasure only" is making its appearance on more prosperous farms and especially in the growing villages and towns. Buggies, gigs ' . plaetons and democrats ornately furnished and painted lend variety to the traffic on the roads. Needless to say as the vehicles become fancier there is a growing interest in special carriage horses.
Roads - Background 1860 - 1866
The condition of the roads throughout the province worked against land transportation of any kind, and particularly the stage lines which had a regular schedule to keep. Macadamizing and planking improved some roads but the majority remain unimproved. Inadequate drainage by culverts and ditches meant that the water lay on the road which was composed more often of clay or sand than stone. The traffic turned it to mud and pot holes every spring and fall. The system of road labour, by which householders were required to work three days a year on the roads (or pay an equivalent amount in cash) was falling apart. The system did not generate enough labour or money to keep the roads and the municipalities were unable to meet the challenge of this enormous task.