Brockville, by a visiting Journalist – March 1856

This newspaper article about Brockville was republished 24 April 1856

on the front page of the Brockville Recorder.

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Written by a correspondent of the Toronto Leader.

21 March 1856

Brockville Court House 1872

The Brockville Court House from an engraving based on a photograph by Geo. B. Murray – Canadian Illustrated News 1872..

The Court House and Jail are very justly the pride of the town.  I know of no county buildings in the province that surpass them.  Erected on the highest eminence in the town, they are possessed of much architectural beauty, and the details of the establishment exhibit great judgement.  From the cupola, I obtained a charming prospect of the town and surrounding country.

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Edgar Place, the Matthie House

Edgar Place, the Home of Hannah & William Matthie. William died in 1855.  Their 10-yr-old son, Edgar died in 1857.  At the time of this photograph ca.1890, the owner William J. Christie was standing outside his conservatory. His wife Mary was on the back porch.  Later this became the property of George T. Fulford and he replaced this house with his new home, Fulford Place.

There are several beautiful private residences here, situated at the east end of the town, among which may be mentioned those of Mrs. W. Matthie, Mrs. S. Jones, and Messrs  R.P. Colton, George Morton, and George Crawford, MPP.  These residences overlook the St. Lawrence, are surrounded by fine pleasure grounds, and have conservatories attached to them.

The churches, mercantile establishments, and indeed all the buildings of the town, betoken a liberal spirit.  There are few of those hovels here which are so frequently met with, even in smaller localities.  A Roman Catholic church of large proportions is being constructed of stone, on Church Street, and I understand that the Bank of Montreal will erect during the Summer, a building of the same material for their branch establishment.

The town being very compact, an agitation was commenced a few years since, to consolidate all the Common Schools, and to erect a suitable building in a central position, capable of containing all the scholars of the town.  It was urged that this would give greater facilities for the classification of scholars, and that the elementary and higher branches could thus be taught beneath the same roof, while the school would be essentially a common one.

David Wylie

David Wylie, Editor of the Brockville Recorder

The originators of this liberal movement – Mr. David Wylie and Dr. Thomas Reynolds – at first met with most inveterate opposition; but at length their efforts appear to have been appreciated, for a building upon that plan is now constructed, (at a cost of £ 3,000) and in use, which presents quite a collegiate appearance.  It contains five compartments – two above and two below, for the opposite sexes, and is designed for 400 scholars.  A Catholic Separate School is also in operation, the scholars in attendance numbering about one hundred.

Victoria Common School

Victoria Common School

I visited the extensive stove factory of R.P. Colton, here perhaps the largest in the province.  The moulding room is a large building, 160 x 80 feet, and contains a furnace with a capacity for melting from 15 to 20 tons of metal.  The building used as a warehousing and finishing department, is a four-storey one, and is 100 x 40 feet.

Mr. Colton confines himself exclusively to the manufacture of stoves and mill gearing; and you may form some idea of the extent of his operations in the former branch, when I assure you he turns out annually 4,000 stoves (Brockville Air-Tight), and keeps constantly employed in disposing of them from 20 to 40 pedlars.  The number of operatives employed within his establishment, when in full blast is about 85.  There is hardly a farm house between the Ottawa and St. Lawrence into which his stoves have not found their way.

The foundry is situated on the margin of the river, and the largest class of steamers receive and discharge their cargoes beneath its walls.

East end factories 1874 map

The 3 large factories on the east end of Water St.

The establishment of William McCullough is also deserving of notice.  He turns out annually about 6,000 sets of hames, 700 dozen of scythe snaths, 100 doz. Grain cradles, and about 300 doz. grain shovels, which he wholesales very readily to the hardware merchants of Toronto, Hamilton and London.

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(I omitted a long paragraph here on “Reciprocity”)

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The Brockville and Ottawa Railway is now in course of construction. The object in building this railway is to afford to the large and fertile country in the rear, access at all seasons to the markets of the United States, as well as to the various sections of our own province.

– population served is nearly 100,000.
– square timber trade.
– sawn lumber to the U.S.

Brockville aided construction with £ 100,000, Elizabethtown £ 50,000, and Lanark and Renfrew £ 200,000.  They hold the first lien on the railroad.

At that time, a preliminary contract was contemplated with Mr. Moore, railway contractor for completion of the road. The former contractors, Sykes, Debergue & Co. Were unable to carry out the contract they entered into.

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Willson House 1852

William H. Willson’s new hotel, the Willson House was opened 30 November 1849

5 – 13 King St. W., cor. Market Sq.

While here, I stay at Willson’s Hotel, which justly enjoys a high reputation.  Mr William H. Willson, proprietor, and Mr. John Brennan, assistant, are certainly most successful in making the house a real home to the traveller.

The sleeping apartments and drawing rooms are elegantly furnished, and the chief of the culinary department is certainly mistress of her profession, for I have fared sumptuously every day upon the most appetizing viands.  From its contiguity to the railway station and the steamboat landing, it is a most desirable stopping place to those in pursuit of pleasure or business.

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I copied this article out by hand in July 1977, from a copy of the Recorder  dated April 24th, 1856. Near the end, some of the trade description began to bore this scribe, and was left out. Other than that, this is generally complete and accurate.  You may notice that the practice of the day was to use long involved sentences, strung together by commas and “ands”.  These I have retained, but I have broken up some of the long paragraphs where appropriate for this format.

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