Aeronaut Prof. Squires Provides an Exciting Dominion Day in Brockville – 1874

Union Flag

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The history of Brockville has seldom known the activity and excitement of one day which was celebrated here in Brockvllle over a century ago. On that day, July 1, 1874, the town was filled to capacity with citizens and visitors who had come to celebrate the Confederation of our country. It was estimated by the local press that perhaps 10,000 people were on the streets of Brockvllle on that Dominion Day in 1874. The organizers of this event had done themselves proud.

Large numbers of persons had arrived from Clayton, Alexandria Bay, Gananoque, Cornwall, Morrisburg, Prescott, Watertown, Ogdensburg, Ottawa, and many of the principal villages and towns in between.

The day’s programme was full. The morning began on the river with a regatta of sailboat races. At 11 o’clock a thrilling parade of local tradesmen stated off along Buell, Pearl, Perth, and then back along King Street. Most of the local industries had mounted elaborate floats. Represented were James Smarts Novelty Works, Cossitt Bros. Implement Factory, Brockville Agricultural Works, Tilley & Briggs Sash Factory, T. Gilmour & Co., and Wood Bros. Cigar Factory, along with others. King St. by this time was so clogged with people the procession had difficulty moving.

Brockvllle was also hosting several companies of visiting volunteer firemen. Firemen from Ottawa, Prescott, and Almonte were here to add to the festivities. It was reported that the Mississippi Fire Company of Almonte arrived by excursion train from Ottawa along with 33 car loads of people. The firemen, along with local bands and dignitaries led off on a procession through town at one o’clock. In the afternoon, the Almonte firemen worked hard in competition to throw a stream of water 202 feet 7 inches, more than 28 feet farther than their closest competitors, the Chaudiere Company from Ottawa.

But it was later in the afternoon that the event which has made this day famous in Brockville history was scheduled to take place. An American by the name of Herman D. Squires, a practitioner of the art of balloon flight, had been invited by the Dominion Day organizers to attempt an ascension from the centre of Brockville in one of his balloons. A reporter from the Evening Recorder described the event with all the thrills of the moment:

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from the Evening Recorder
July 2, 1874

Typical Balloon of the period

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The Balloon Ascension

At five o’clock p.m., Professor Squires [ Herman D. Squires] of New York, the daring aeronaut attempted to ascend with his famous balloon, the “Atlantic”. The starting point was Court House Square. The professor regarded the situation particularly dangerous in a high wind, as the square is flanked on each side by lofty buildings, including the Court House, Bank of Montreal and Wesleyan Methodist Church.

During the afternoon the balloon, which was being inflated with hydrogen gas, was the centre of attraction, and at the time of starting, fully ten thousand people had assembled to witness the voyage in mid-air.

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Map of Court House Square (w label) 1861

Brockville’s Court House Square. The site of the balloon launch

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The Atlantic is constructed of a peculiar quality of muslin, very thin and soft in texture, but when oiled, capable of holding the gas. The netting which envelops the balloon is double and twisted silk, and the ropes by which the netting is attached to the basket are about 3/8 of an inch in diameter. The basket is constructed of strong wicker work, being about three feet in diameter and two feet in depth. The ropes by which it is attached to the balloon are woven in so as to pass completely in under the same.

During the day several small balloons were sent up to show the direction of the wind. From experiments thus made, it was shown that the principal danger was the Bank of Montreal and the W.M. Church. Previous to starting, it was determined to remove the balloon from the place where it was inflated to a point nearer the Court House, with the expectation that the Atlantic would pass to the north of the spire.

The cargo in the basket consisted of three bags of sand, weighing each about fifty pounds, a grappling iron, to which was attached a strong rope, and Professor Squires, who was to start upon his 187th voyage amid the clouds. All being in readiness orders were given to cast off; there was a hush and the multitude grew silent as the unwieldy Atlantic, being freed, swayed backwards and forward, and slowly rose from its resting place to make another voyage in the ethereal blue.

 

Typical Gentleman Aeronaut

We have no pictures of Herman D. Squires, but he may have resembled this “Gentleman Aeronaut”.

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A steady gale had been blowing all day, but its strength was not apparent until the balloon struck the current of air above the house tops. This reached, it swayed with the breeze, and swept on at a rate of at least fifteen miles an hour. Its course was directly for the steeple of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. The Professor at once perceived the danger, and could have avoided it by throwing out a bag of ballast, which would have given him sufficient buoyancy to have passed over the steeple. But, unfortunately, the square below was crowded with thousands of spectators, and a bag of sand thrown out would have crushed some person below. The sand was thrown out in small quantities, and the balloon swept upward and onward, but, unfortunately, not swerving from its dangerous direction, it became apparent that the balloon would strike the spire.

The watching, anxious, breathless multitude awaited the shock with compressed lips and blanched cheeks. With a tremendous rush the Atlantic struck the apex of the spire, and in another instant parted in twain. At the same moment, the basket containing the daring aeronaut crashed against the spire some twenty feet below. Seeing as it were instant death before him, Prof. Squires threw one hand forward to avert as far as possible the shock, at the same time allowing his body to sway in the opposite direction.

The crash of the collision resounded over the square, now silent as the grave. As the balloon collapsed and the gas escaped it was seen that the netting had caught on the point of the spire. A moment of breathless suspense. Squires was not seen to move a muscle; a whisper ran round; the collision has killed him. Then a slight movement, and the basket began to slip; it was evident that the netting was giving away. Women grew white with terror, brave men trembled. There, at a height of eighty feet above the earth, was a fellow being hanging by a few slender threads, above and around him, the glittering steeple sheeted with tin, below the cold stone battlements of the tower, on which to fall was instant death.

A pause, and the basket had evidently been arrested in its downward course. Squires was seen to grasp the netting. Hope rose, he might be saved.

The moment he struck the spire there was a rush for ladders and ropes. Without number were the plans suggested to save him from death. But at this moment, brave men were clambering up the inside of the grim church tower, determined to save a human life.

Wall Street Methodist Church 1875

The Wesleyan Methodist Church, where the balloon was caught on the spire.

This is now the greatly-enlarged Wall St. United Church.

A small window directly below the eaves of the tower opens directly beneath where the basket was suspended, but, unfortunately, it was very contracted, and it did not seem possible for a man by any means to squeeze through the aperture. But in a few seconds a man thrust his head through the window, and a board was pushed out of the lower portion of the opening, the end on the inside being held by men within. Then began a struggle. It was apparent that a man was endeavouring to crawl through the narrow hole out upon the board. The clothes were torn from his person in the attempt, but inch by inch he gained, and at last was seated on the board directly below the basket.

The situation was one of great danger. Should the netting give way, the basket in its descent would catch the daring man and hurl him, together with Squires, into eternity.

At his appearance there was a cheer that made the firmament ring again. The heroic man who thus risked his life to save a fellow-being in distress was Arthur Osment. It was seen when Osment stood up that he could not assist Squires from his perilous position.

The main body of the net work had caught on the northern side of the spire, only two or three small cords having passed around the other side, and these when the basket slipped became slack. The least motion on the part of Squires would have precipitated him upon the stone steps below.

Osment spoke to Squires, who requested him to place his shoulder under the basket. This being done, Squires caught hold of a slight oval projection on the spire, which offered a slight hold, and thus helped to support the basket. At this instant, Mr. Andrew Stevenson appeared at an opening in the spire above Squires. The opening consists of a small trap door and was not discovered for some time.

Another cheer went up, as Stevenson came out upon the spire, reached down a hand and firmly grasped the aeronaut, and slowly drew him up to a place of safety. The suspense was over and Squires was saved.

Stevenson displayed great presence of mind and courage, and deserves well the praise that was showered upon him. On Squires perceiving a person above him, he enquired, “Can you hold me?” Stevenson replied, “I can lift you if you weigh a ton.” Evidently the right man was in the right place.

We learn from Professor Squires that when thrown against the spire he was rendered insensible for a moment or two, but recovered his senses on hearing some person shout to him from the inside of the steeple. His injuries consist of concussion of his side and a bruised knee. The professor is without doubt a brave man and displayed coolness, firmness and judgment while in his perilous position. The accident was caused solely by the current of air which could not be ascertained from the ground, and no discredit reflects on Mr. Squires.

Through the exertions of Messrs. Osment, Stevenson, McDougall and Pyke, assisted by several others, the remains of the balloon were removed from the spire. A collection was taken up to defray in part the expense caused by the loss of the Atlantic. We understand about $75 was raised.

The professor departed for Troy this morning, where he is to ascend with another balloon on the 4th of July.

The day’s activities still went on in spite of this near tragedy. The regatta continued after supper time with numerous rowing events till almost darkness. Then a foot race through the downtown streets was witnessed by crowds of onlookers  A man named Loverin from Ottawa sprinted far ahead, and left his four competitors, far behind at the finish.

The day ended finally with a torch light procession, There were many who would be able to remember the events or that day for years afterward.

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British Coat of Arms (1816-37)

HOUSE OF HANOVER

 1714 – 1727

George I Kneller 1714

George I, son of Elector of Hanover and Sophia, granddaughter of James I

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1727 – 1760

King George II

George II, son of George I

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1760 – 1820

George III

George III, grandson of George II

 1820 – 1830

King George IV

George IV, son of George III

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1830 – 1837

King William IV

William IV, third son of George III

1837 – 1901

Queen Victoria 1887

Victoria, daughter of Edward, fourth son of George III

Queen Victoria with her family - 1894

The Family of Queen Victoria – picture taken in Germany 1894

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1901 – 1910

King Edward VIII

Edward VII, son of Victoria

King Edward VII & his familyThe Family of King George V & Queen Alexandra.

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(name adopted July 17, 1917)

1910 – 1936

King George V

George V, second son of Edward VII

George V & Queen Mary & family

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1936 – 1936 (abdicated)

King Edward VIII

Edward VIII, eldest son of George V

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Wallis & Edward

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1936 – 1952

King George VI

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1952 –

Queen Elizabeth II

Elizabeth II, daughter of George VI

Population of Brockville … from 1827

Brockville ca. 1840

Brockville ca.1840  –  from a drawing by Frederick Holloway

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Brockville Minstrels 1885

The Brockville Minstrels before performing in Ogdensburg    1885

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These population figures were compiled over the years, from various sources. I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the numbers.  Many years are missing at the moment.

1827 — 677

1830 — 954

1840 — 1500

1846 — 2111

1851 — 2757

1852 — 3236

1857 — 4000 (approx.)

1861 — 4111

1871 — 5500 (approx.)

1874 — 6054

1875 — 6170

1876 — 6496

1877 — 6868

1878 — 6941

1879 — 7467

1880 — 7441

1881 — 7374

1882 — 7575

1883 — 7504

1884 — 8141

1885 — 8499

1886 — 8414

1887 — 8284

1893 — 8631

1894 — 9013

1908 — 8500

1915 — about 10,000

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Workers at Laing Produce ca.1930

Workers at Laing Produce & Storage Co. Ltd, 39-41 Water St. E.    about 1930.

Group Photographs by A.C. McIntyre — 1866

26 December 1855 — from an advertisement placed in the Brockville Recorder.

A.C. McIntyre

Next door to Mr. Lothrop’s, Main Street.

Ambrotypes or Positive Pictures on Glass.

“They are not reversed”

This ad could be the earliest indication that Mr. Alexander C. McIntyre had come to Brockville to begin a very successful career in the pioneering field of photography. “Ambrotypes” were the next improvement in the field after “Daguerreotypes”..

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Five gents from Brockville

Five Gents from Brockville

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1866

31 January 1866 — from the Brockville newspaper, the British Central Canadian.

Previous to the adjournment of the County Council, and by invitation of Mr. McIntyre, the members in a body visited his gallery, and having formed in a group, had their photograph taken in first rate style.  We have seen the plates and the likenesses are extremely correct.

14 February 1866 — from the Brockville newspaper, the British Central Canadian.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Group photographs are now all the fashion, and our friend McIntyre is fully prepared to please the public.  His room is admirably fitted up for the purpose and he has lately imported from New York a beautiful architectural design for a background.  His group of the County and City Councils, and that of one of the classes of Victoria Common School are very generally admired.  Competent judges pronounce McIntyre’s photographs to be the best in the province.

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Brockville Town Council 1866

Brockville Town Council — 1866

Sitting, ( high up in background) – William Fitzsimmons, Mayor

Standing, middle row – (left to right)  James Carron, Councillor, West Ward; Charles Stevenson, Chief Police Constable; Thomas Price, Councillor, West Ward.

Sitting, front row – (left to right)  R. Walker Grant, Councillor, West Ward; James J. Henderson, Councillor, Centre Ward; David Row, Councilor, Centre Ward; George S. McClean, Clerk and Treasurer; Christopher Fletcher, Councillor, East Ward; Edmund J. Senkler, Jr., Councillor, East Ward; John Stagg, Jr., Councilor, East Ward.
MissingRobert Fitzsimmons, Councillor, Centre Ward.

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Studends & Teachers of Victoria Common School

Students, teachers and Principal of Victoria Common School — 1866

Boys and girls were taught in separate classes at this time. This is most likely just two of the classes in Victoria Common School on Wall St. They all dressed up for this group shot and walked down to McIntyre’s studio at the corner of Victoria Ave. and King St. In the centre is Mr. William Bigg (P), the principal. He shows up in two pictures here. My guess is that at least two of these young women are the teachers (T).

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Common School Board 1866Staff and Trustees of Common School Board — 1866

(standing, back row) Herbert S. McDonald; William R. Bigg, principal, Victoria School; Christopher Fletcher.
(sitting, front row) James J. Henderson; Robert Kinney, teacher, Victoria School; William McCullough, Chairman of the Board; Thomas Price.

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Non-Com Militia Officers - 1866

Brockville Rifle Co. – Militia Officers & Non-Comms – 1866

During the lead-up to the anticipated invasion of Canada by the American Fenian Brotherhood, troops and officers of the area Militia Companies were assembled and stationed in Brockville during 1866. These were the officers, corporals and sergeants of the Brockville Rifle Company.  The Rifles wore dark green uniforms.

Beginnings of the Brockville Fire Department — 1832-35

Many of the details of this early firefighting history were found in a small minute book of the first Brockville Board of Police which I had access to when it was stored in Brockville City Hall in the 1980s.   Later, this book, along with a collection of other city documents and books, was deposited in the Archives of Ontario in Toronto.

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24 November 1831 — from the Brockville Recorder.

Through the spirited exertions of Mr. Norton and other individuals, means were lately raised, a fire engine purchased, and a fire company formed in the village of Prescott.  Brockville is thus outdone.

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9 April 1832 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.

Ordered that Alexander Grant be appointed Captain of the Fire Company and Engineer and that he be directed to raise such a company, which shall consist of forty-eight persons, who will be required to provide themselves with a proper fireman’s uniform at their own expense, and that the said Alexander Grant be instructed to report the names of such persons, as he may select to compose such company, to the Board for their approval.

11 April 1832 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.

Mr. Grant, having been appointed Captain of the Fire Company and Engineer, gave notice to the Board that he would not act.

21 April 1932 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.

Resolved that it is expedient to provide a suitable place for the erection of an engine house, and that an application be made to Daniel Jones, Esquire,  William Buell, Esquire,  and the Hon. Charles Jones, to ascertain whether they have any ground upon the King’s Highway which they will gratuitously lease or sell, and upon what terms, for the purpose, not exceeding twenty foot square.

12 February 1833 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.

Ordered that Mr. (Stephen) Richards be requested to proceed to Brattleborough in Vermont, or such other place as he may think proper, and make such arrangements as he shall thin advisable to procure the delivery of a fire engine at this place, for the corporation, at a price not exceeding £ 150, to be paid for on the delivery; and that his expenses will be paid and a reasonable allowance made for his time and trouble.

Stephen Richards, Sr., a native of Burlington, NY (1791-1863) was a young blacksmith who came to the village of Elizabethtown (later Brockville) about 1810.  He met and married Phoebe, the daughter of William Buell, Sr., the first settler in the village.  They had a family of 5 children. Their three boys, William, Stephen and Albert, became lawyers and leaders in the political life of this province. Following the first years of the Police Village founding, Stephen Richards, Sr. served as the official village street surveyor.

4 March 1833 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.

Mr. Richards, having reported that in pursuance of the order of the Board, passed on the 12 Feb. last, he proceeded to Watertown, and afterwards to Albany and elsewhere, and having examined and procured information from the best sources in his power, on the subject of fire engines, he is of the opinion that the largest of “Rogers’ Patent” engines — one of those designed for 24 men, and discharging 200 gallons of water per minute, would be the most proper and advantageous for the purposes of the corporation.

Resolved, therefore, that Mr. Richards be authorized to write to the manufacturer immediately to order such an engine at the price of  £ 125 to be delivered at Troy in the State of New York.

5 March 1833 — from the Brockville newspaper, the Antidote.

FIRE  COMPANY  MEETING

At a meeting on the 27th ultimo., at David Mair’s Inn, of the members of the newly-formed Fire Company of this town, Captain Grant in the chair, and Mr. Thornhill, secretary, it was …

Resolved  first, that the members present highly approve of the appointment made by the President and Board of Police of the town, of Alexander Grant, Esq., as the senior Captain of the Company.

Second, that the name of the company shall be “The Brockville Volunteer Fire Company”.

Third, that the uniform of the company shall be a coat of scarlet, or bright red, with dark blue cuffs and collars, light blue pantaloons with scarlet stripes, blue belts, and a leather cap with canvas flap and leather peak.

Fourth, that John Bogert, Doctor Edmondson, Dr. McQueen, Ephraim Dunham, Daniel Jones, and Henry Thornhill, be a committee to draw up the by-laws of the company.

Fifth, that the company shall be commanded by four officers, to wit, a senior and junior Captain, and a senior and junior Lieutenant.

The Company then proceeded to elect the junior Captain and Lieutenants, when George Glasford was unanimously elected junior Captain; Doctor Edmondson, senior Lieutenant and John Welsh, junior Lieutenant.

A. Grant, chairman

Henry Thornhill, secretary

A meeting of the company will take place on Friday evening at 7 o’clock at the inn of Mr. D. Mair.

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6 April 1833 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.

Resolved that tenders be received at the Police Office until Monday 15th of April at 10 o’clock in the afternoon from any person or persons that may be desirous of erecting a framed engine house — having at the same time and plan and specification of the building proposed to be erected.

Alexander Grant was replaced by William Hervey as Captain of the Fire Company.

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Rogers' Patent Fire Engin 1830s

A typical hand-pumped Fire Engine, as made by the John F. Rogers Company of  Waterford, New York.  This was the design known as the “Rogers’ Patent” and was produced in the early 1830s.

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27 April 1833 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.

The President, having presented to the Board a plan and specification of the Fire Engine House proposed to be erected by the corporation:

Ordered that the same be enclosed to Mr. Francis Hackett, house carpenter, with a proposal to allow him £ 22 for the completion of the whole work, and that he either accept or reject the same by Saturday the 4th of May next

17 June 1833 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.

Ordered that the Treasurer be requested to procure a draft on New York, in favour of John F. Rogers & Co. for £ 125 in payment of the fire engine.

20 July 1833 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.

Francis Hackett submitted to the Board his account for extra work done to the Fire Engine House.

Ordered that the same be allowed to remain before the Board for further consideration.

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Ordered that the balance of Mr. Francis Hackett’s account for erecting the Fire Engine House be approved, agreeable to his estimate, and that the Clerk give an order upon the Treasurer for the same.

19 October 1833 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.

Ordered that the Clerk inform Mr. Francis Hackett to complete the Engine House according to estimate, it having been ascertained that the shingles on the rook were not sufficiently laid on.

The Captain of the Fire Company, having made a return of the members of the said company to the Board,

Ordered that the same is approved of by the Board, except that the members of the Board shall not form any of the members of the said company.

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Brockville Map 1833

This map shows the layout of the village of Brockville in 1833.  It is unlikely we will know exactly where the new Fire Engine House was located. I based the map on copies of other survey maps done at the time.

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15 March 1834 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.

The account of Mr. Philip Clement for repairing Fire Engine  __?__  amounting to £ 2.7.6 was allowed and an order for the amount was directed to be given upon the Treasurer.

23 July 1834 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.

The account of John Gereau (sometimes given as Gero) was presented to the Board and allowed, being for drawing the Engine to the Engine House, 2 different times, it was, therefore, ordered that an order be granted on the Treasurer for the amount, being 2/6 p.

4 August 1834 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.

Ordered that Christopher Leggo be requested to examine the Fire Engin and cause it to be repaired fit for actual service.

Ordered that the appointment of Alexander Grant, Esquire, as Captain of the Fire Company be rescinded and that David Fairbairn be appointed in his place, and that he be requested to raise such a company to consist of not less than 48 persons, who will be required to provide themselves with a proper fireman’s uniform, and that the said David Fairbairn be instructed to report the names of such person, as may compose such company, to the Board for their approval next Monday morning.

Mr. Fairbairn accepted the office of Captain of the Fire Company and Engineer.

18 August 1834 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.

An account was presented to the Board of Police for freight and other charges connected with the forwarding of the Fire Engine to this place, presented on behalf of Bronson & Crocker, by Mr. Hervey, whereupon the Board ordered that the amount of £ 2.18 be allowed, and that an order be given on the Treasurer for that amount.

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1 May 1835 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.

Alexander Grant was nominated and appointed Captain of the Fire Company.

5 May 1835 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.

Moved and adopted that Alexander Grant‘s resignation as Street Surveyor be accepted.

Moved and adopted that Stephen Richards be appointed as the Street Surveyor.

8 May 1835 — from the Brockville Board of Police Minutes.

Ordered that Asa W. Graves‘ tender, offering to make 35 buckets at 9 shillings each, be accepted, subject to the inspection of Alexander Grant, Captain of the Fire Company.

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Button & Blake Fire Engine ca.1845

Brockville later acquired more refined Fire Engines for the volunteer Fire Companies. This is a typical hand-pumper made by the Button & Blake Co. of Waterford , NY, successors to the Rogers company. This may have been used around 1845

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Queen fire engine & Revere Hotel Stage Coach

The “Queen” Fire Engine was apparently used in Brockville, before being acquired by a private owner.  It was donated to Upper Canada Village, where it remains today in their collection.

Brockville & Ottawa Railway ………. 1860 Train Schedule

The following details were taken from a notice placed in the Brockville newspaper “The Monitor” on 23 June 1860.

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Brockville & Ottawa Railway Depot

The B&O RR locomotive “Renfrew” standing at the depot on the Brockville waterfront

BROCKVILLE  &  OTTAWA  RAILWAY

Change of Time

On or after Monday, May 5th, and until further notice, trains will run as follows: —

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MAIN LINE

Going South

Leave Almonte at     8:00 am

Leave Carleton Place at     8:30 am

Leave Franktown at     9:15 am

Leave Smith’s Falls at     9:50 am

Leave Irish Creek at     10:25 am

Leave Bellamy’s at     11:20 am

Arriving at Brockville at     12:00 noon

Going North

Leave Brockville at     4:00 pm

Leave Bellamy’s at     4:45 pm

Leave Irish Creek at      5:35 pm

Leave Smith’s Falls at     6:10 pm

Leave Franktown at     6:45 pm

Leave Carleton Place at     7:25 pm

Arrive at Almonte at     7:50 pm

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PERTH BRANCH

Going East

Leave Perth for Smith’s Falls     8:50 am

Leave Perth for Smith’s Falls     5:00 pm

Going West

Leave Smith’s Falls for Perth     10:00 am

Leave Smith’s Falls for Perth     6:05 pm

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Passengers for Montreal and Toronto take the (Grand Trunk Railway) express trains at Brockville, which cross each other at the station at 2:05 pm.

Passengers for Ottawa, taking the train leaving Brockville at 2:05 pm, will connect at Prescott with the Prescott & Ottawa Railway, reaching Ottawa the same evening.

Brockville GTR Depot

The gardens at the Grand Trunk Railway station in Brockville about 1855

A stage leaves Arnprior every morning, and returns in the evening, connecting with the train leaving and arriving at Almonte.  Passengers by this route, from and to the upper Ottawa (valley), reach Montreal and Toronto the same evening; being the only route by which this can be done.

Trains run by Montreal time, which is 8 1/2 minutes faster than Brockville time.

Brockville, May 1st, 1860

Robert Watson

Managing Director,

B. & O. R.R.

An early wood-burning locomotive 1870s

A typical wood-burning locomotive in the 1870s

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.