Brockville by Gas Light … 1854

The text of two articles from the Brockville Recorder

26 January 1854  &  2 February 1854

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Brockville by Gas Light

26 January 1854:

Part one:

How speedily, in the new world, the solitude of the first gives way to the hum of many voices and the busy haunts of men. The spot where, a few years ago, the forest trees waved their leafy branches, has assumed a different aspect. The hardy pioneer penetrates the deep recesses of the woody wilderness, or fixes his abode on the margin of some solemn flowing river. A few years pass away, and other men seek his companionship and settle down beside him. Before the sturdy arms of these pioneers, the forest trees disappear and give place to smiling fields. Other settlers follow, and then again the fields give way to villages. Villages rise to towns, and towns grow to cities, and these important changes are but little noted, because in this, our noble country, they are of almost yearly occurrence.

Men are still living who remember when there was but one house in Brockville. There was little stir then; there is much stir now,   Brockville may not have grown so rapidly as some few other towns in the province, but it has increased greatly, and is becoming more important every year. The solitary one house of old has many companions now. In no town of its size are there so many elegant and substantial buildings to be found as in Brockville. Its stores, in extent, and in the quantity and quality of goods displayed, stand unrivalled. Its merchants are active, progressive men; its mechanics intelligent, and but for the spirit of Toryism (fast dying away), arising from “early associations,” we would almost feel inclined to set our beautifully located town down as the “model town” of Upper Canada.

But we are digressing. Our intention was to take a glimpse of Brockville by gaslight, and despite the snow storm raging around, (Friday and Saturday evenings), we will do so. Let us therefore begin at the Gas House, respecting which we note the following particulars:

The house was built at an expense of something over  1000. It was commenced about the 7th of October [1854] and on the 12th January inst., the gas was lighted for the first time   an evidence of energy with which the Directors carried forward the work. Mr. [William] Holmes was the contractor, but the brick work of the building was done, by Thomas Price;   James Perry, of Montreal, being the superintending spirit of the work. The gas-house is allowed to be a very fine one, being in size 46 by 100 feet. The works, we understand, are capable of supplying gas to a population of 30,000, with additional retorts to those already in operation. It was intended to have the streets lighted, but the directors were unable to procure posts. The lighting of the streets will be carried into effect as soon as possible. When the gas-works went into operation, upwards of 200 had contracted to use the gas. This number has been greatly increased since.

Leaving the gas house, the first glare of “the new light” is obtained from the residence of our esteemed townsman, Dr. [Robert] Edmondson. Passing on, it is next met with at friend W. [William] Gilmour‘s, but as we do not wish to obtrude on the privacy of families, we hurry onward through the drifting snow, till forced to seek shelter with our active and obliging friends, Hillyard and Griffin, who, under the auspices of the “Red Flag,” appear to be doing what the Yankees would call a “smart” business in dry goods and groceries. The stock being well shown off by the gas lights, crowned with chaste-looking white smoke bells edged with green, the appearance of which at a distance seem like inverted “lilies of the Nile”.

Onward a little farther and we step in to friend [Warren] Botsford‘s. Here the gas light forces, with good effect, the stock of hardware, heavy and light, full before the scrutinizing eye. Feeling satisfied of Botsford’s judgment in enlarging his store, and of the great improvement of gas light in displaying stock to advantage, we bid Botsford good night, and jump through the snow right into a bank of warm furs conveniently placed within the well-filled, gas lighted premises of our old friend [Andrew] Donaldson. From this comfortable retreat, we look around, and, imagination busy at work, conjure up the probable fate which might await us, were we surrounded by the living, original owners of Donaldson’s great fur establishment.
At length, remembering that there is no rest for us, we leave our comfortable quarters and enter leisurely the mammoth establishment of J. & S.[John and Samuel] Ross. To form a correct idea of the extent of this store it should be visited. Even with gas light, the length of the store is such, that a good telescope would be required to recognize an acquaintance at the extreme end of the dry goods range. When thoroughly completed, it will match any store in Canada. The various goods are divided into “departments,” each department being presided over by active, intelligent young men. In the chinaware department we observed three elegant dinner sets, two of them white, edged with gold, the third a rich Chinese pattern. In electro plate, we also saw several splendid specimens. We trust the Messrs. Ross will have no cause to regret the outlay ire rendering their store such as would do credit to any city in “the union”.

Crossing the street in an oblique direction from the premises just noticed, we were almost inclined to give friend [Alonzo B.] Dana, a call, but remembering that although he had lately been called out as one of the “town lights,” he had been disappointed in getting his gas fixings fixed, we passed to the drug store of Mr. Allan Turner, chemist and druggist, where alleviates may be obtained: “For all the ills that flesh is heir to” besides “oils and colours,” medical instruments, and a host of other articles as friend [Fordyce] Lothrop would say, “too numerous to mention,” and all to be had “by the light of gas”.

Leaving Mr. Turner’s and again crossing the street, we saw that Mr. [William] Johnston had taken advantage of gas light, which gave his store quite a life-like and lively appearance.

Mr. W. [William] Buell comes next in turn, and what with the light of knowledge in the shape of books of all descriptions to be had at his store, and the light of gas, if darkness prevails, either mentally or physically, the fault will not lie at his door.

Next comes Mr. R. [Robert] Fitzsimmons. Light in the grocery business is of the utmost importance, and Mr. Fitzsimmons has provided his store with an ample supply in order that his customers may see that full justice is done them, both in quantity and quality of their purchases, and which, be the quantity large or small, is always made up with a kind word and a pleasing smile.

Winks and Hutcheson [George Winks & George Hutcheson] stand next on the list. Before entering their “bower,” let us take a look at the windows. These silk velvets, laces, flowers, etc., must have been arranged by some Blythe assistant, no novice at his business. The tout ensemble does the young gentlemen credit. But enter the store and the same neatness of arrangement is observable. Mr. Hutcheson, we know, is method itself, but unless aided by able assistants, the store would sometimes appear “out of order”, but this never happens, and we think the excellent stock of goods, silks, etc., are seen at no disadvantage by gas light.

Here we are at the extensive wholesale and retail establishment of Morton, McKee & Co. [George Morton & Andrew McKee]. These gentlemen have lately enlarged their premises to a considerable extent, and yet every inch is occupied by a large and well-assorted stock of goods dry goods, hardware, crockeryware, groceries, and we do not know how many other wares. When all the contemplated alterations are completed, this will be one of the stores, in which, at night, the gas light will have a fine effect. This establishment is also divided into departments, each having active and obliging clerks to superintend them.

Now for Mr. [Clarence] Ashley’s and “the Golden Key”. Here there is but one department, but that department comprehends almost everything made of iron, or iron and wood, from the finest bradawls up to seven foot saws; from improved mouse traps to patent straw cutters. What may be found at Ashley’s would be as difficult to mention as what may not be found. Whatever is wanted, however, there is gas light enough to search for it.

But we are exhausted, and must break off for the present; next week we will resume our walk.

.Brockville ca1852 (an engraving taken from a drawing by Owen Staples)

The Town of Brockville in the early 1850s.

An engraving based on a drawing by Owen Staples.

2 February 1854:

Part two:

In noticing a few facts connected with the Gas House, we mentioned that Mr. [James] Perry, of Montreal, was the ruling spirit. We meant this in its widest sense. But for the exertions of’ this gentleman and his brother, Mr. A. Perry, of this town, as we stated on a former occasion, there would have been no gas in Brockville. We make this statement in justice to the two gentlemen named.

Last week we left off at Ashley’s. Since then we believe our local contemporary has supplied himself with an extra quantity of gas. We felt inclined to visit the establishment and chronicle the fact, but there was such a leak last Saturday, we were compelled to “make tracks” for the use of a smelling bottled from the establishment of “Ralph and Converse,” under the impression that some nasty, ugly, ill-tempered skunk had taken up its abode near the sanctum of our contemporary.

Ralph and Converse have their premises well lighted, the variegated lights reflecting beautifully on the stock of fancy perfumery, chemical compounds, medicines, etc., placed around their store. In fact this is the best lighted building in town, especially when the Reading Room and the Recorder Office lights are in full blast.

[Edward] Lawless, till he enters his new store still rejoices in lamp-light. We trust to have it in our power to blazon him forth as one of the “new lights” soon.

Friend [Alexander] Starr has done the thing handsomely. His premises, from top to bottom, are splendidly lighted. A well cooked plate of oysters could always be obtained at Mr. Starr’s establishment, but such things will now be swallowed with a double relish in his neat and comfortable back parlour, especially when the quality of fixings are taken into account.

We now introduce our readers to Mr. Thomas Smart. He too has made the most of his premises. Sleek furs and winter garments seem all the smoother when seen by gas-light. One would almost imagine that Smart had the produce of every quarter of the world to show, and they are well shown too. The very idea of being surrounded with so many articles for wear, is almost sufficient to induce a warm feeling towards Smart. May his light never be less.

Friedenheimer’s ;  ah, we must shade our eyes here. That bright light reflected on silver surfaces is really dazzling. Here rich articles for use and ornament are so nicely arranged, that but for the excellent light, it might be difficult to point out the prettiest. Gold and silver watches, rings, chains etc., are here in profusion, and all who know Friedenheimer know that in his hands, whether by daylight or gaslight, they are safe.

Willson’s Hotel is a prominent building in Brockville. From what is known of its spirited proprietor, it will at once be granted that he is not the man to allow a real improvement to escape his notice. Any person visiting the hotel will see at a glance, that gaslight has added much to the comfort of this now celebrated hotel. We might write a whole column in praise of [William H.] Willson‘s establishment, but we know flattery only pains the worthy proprietor, and we therefore leave him to enjoy the popularity he has so justly earned as a kind obliging host.

McKenzie‘s well kept hotel, is the last public place lighted with gas on the river side of the Main street. Mr. [John] McKenzie‘s quiet, kind and unassuming manners have earned for him many patrons. So far as gas-light is concerned, we know few things of so much benefit to a hotel. Mr. McKenzie seems to have been aware of this, and we have no doubt the improved light will add to the many comforts to be found within the friendly domicile of Mr. McKenzie.

Crossing the Main street from Mr. McKenzie’s a little westward, the next store fitted up with gas is that of Mr. Thomas Webster. This gentleman has also considerably enlarged his premises, which are now fitted up in a neat and convenient style. Dry goods, groceries, and hardware are piled around in well-filled compartments, attended to by two active and obliging assistants. The gas-light has improved Mr. Webster’s premises in a very great degree; indeed from the light thrown towards the street, that part of the town seems much more lively at night than it was formerly.

The City Block” cannot he passed unnoticed. Here the Messrs Parr have separate saddlery establishments, although that of Mr. Arthur Parr is the only one as yet furnished with gas. Under Mr. A. Parr’s store, as we mentioned a week or more ago, Mr. [Elihu] Spencer has opened a [daguerreotype] saloon, fitted up in city style. The saloon is also well lighted with gas.

Buss and McClear are the next progressive men we find on our list. These gentlemen have but lately “opened store” in Flint’s building, with a large stock of groceries, etc. and from their having introduced gas into their premises, it would appear they are determined not to hide themselves under a bushel.

Mr. Cole also holds out the inducement of “shaving made easy” by the light of gas. Mr. Cole’s attending to business is well known, and there is no probability that his attention will be less than heretofore.

Ah, friend, [Thomas] Camm, do not be afraid; though last, you are by no means least in the list of improvers. Some philosophers profess to mend other people’s morals, others profess to mend the manners of their fellow man; but it is thy duty, as it is thy business, to make some men, and to mend others (in shape we mean.) In this thy useful, and therefore honourable vocation, gas-light is an object not to be lightly esteemed. While, therefore, you improve others, we trust the new light” will lead you in the path of improving your own fortune.

This concludes our walk through Brockville by gas-light If any gas-consumers are omitted in the list, we will willingly notice them next week, if informed of the omission.

P.S. – Since the above was written, we understand that Mr. Dana has lighted his premises with gas. Leather and light will now go hand in hand.

Gas Works

A later photo of the old Gas Works on St. Paul St.

The Brockville Railway Tunnel

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The Laying of the Foundation Stone

for the Brockville Railway Tunnel

September 1854

Copied from the original newspaper article in the Brockville Recorder of 21 September 1854.

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The Tunnel

The second important event of the week was that connected with laying the foundation stone of the Brockville Tunnel. This great event took place on Saturday, when the town was well filled by a great number of visitors from the country.

As the Free Masons had been requested to take charge of this important ceremony, according to ancient custom, a number of brethren from Perth and other places were in

attendance, with banners and other regalia. Invitations had also been sent to the Mayor and Corporation, the Ministers of the town, the members of the Bar, the Brockville Lodge of Oddfellows, the Sons of Temperance, the Knights of Jericho, and the Firemen; while the Brockville Amateur Band, like a band of noble fellows, headed by their leader, Mr. Gilbert, came forth gratuitously to cheer the march of the procession with their enlivening strains, and made the welkin ring again with “The Merry Masons. ”

At a little after twelve o’clock, the procession formed on the Court House Square, in the following order, No. 2 Fire Company taking the lead in their neat uniform, under the command of Capt. Amos Abbott; Fire Company No.1, we are sorry to say, having declined to take part in the proceedings, although several of the members joined themselves to other bodies in the procession.

After the Grand Marshall had his arrangements completed, the procession started in the following order:

Grand Marshall, Hiram Fulford,

Queen Fire Company, No.2,

The Knights of Jericho,

The Sons of Temperance,

The Bar and Medical Faculty,

The Clergymen of all Denominations,

The Mayor and Town Council,

Independent Order of Oddfellows, juniors walking first,

The Masonic Lodges, according to rank and seniority, juniors first,

The Band,

Two Tylers with Drawn Swords,

Brethren not members of any Lodge, two and two,

Brethren of the Lodge, two and two, juniors going first,

Architect and Builder, with plans,

Contractors,

Directors of the Railroad,

Cornucopia with corn, borne by a Master, supported by two Stewards,

Silver Vessels with corn and wine, borne by two Masters,

Grand Director of Ceremonies, Dr. Ashton of Bath,

Grand Superintendent of Works, with plate to be deposited in the stone,

Sword Bearers,

Deputy Grand Marshal,

Grand Secretary, with Book of Constitution,

Grand Register, with his bag,

Grand Treasurer, bearing box containing coin, records, &c. &c. , to be deposited in the stone,

Visitors of Distinction, two and two

The Corinthian Light, by the Master of a Lodge,

The J. G. Warden with plumb rule,

Steward    –    Banner   –    Steward

The Doric Light, by the Master of a Lodge,

The S. G. Warden with Level,

The J. G. Deacon,

Steward,

Grand Chaplain, with Holy Bible,

Steward,

Deputy Grand Master with Square, William B. Simpson

The Ionic Light, borne by the Master of a Lodge,

Brother of Eminence, bearing a Mallet,

Steward   –   Standard    –   Steward

Grand Sword Bearer,

Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Adiel Sherwood,

The Senior Grand Deacon,

Two Grand Stewards,

Grand Tyler.

The procession walked along Church Street to Perth St.   down Perth St. to the Main St.   along Main Street to Park Street   down Park Street to Water Street, and along Water Street to the site of the Tunnel where the foundation stone was to be laid.

Along the whole line of Procession the streets were filled with gay and happy people, but the scene which met the eye on arriving at what will be the mouth of the Tunnel, was of the most interesting nature. The banks of earth thrown up on each side of the opening were crowded by a dense mass of ladies and gentlemen   all eager to witness the solemn Masonic ceremonies connected with laying the foundation stone. As these ceremonies, however, took place in a spot where those engaged in the Holy Work could not be seen, the masses were unable to witness the performance.

When the acting Grand Master, Adiel Sherwood, Esq., reached the spot, he was met by the contractors, John and David Booth, Esq., to whom the various officers who were to take part in the ceremony were introduced. The Grand Chaplain, the Rev. William Smart, then offered up an impressive prayer, asking God’s blessing on the work, and desiring that the workmen employed in constructing the Tunnel might be guarded from hurt either in life or limb.

The acting Deputy Grand Master, William B. Simpson, Esq., then read a list of the various documents to be deposited in the stone   among which were a parchment stating by whom the stone was laid, and for what purpose, with the names of the Masonic officers officiating, and those of the Committee of Management; a copy of the Act of Incorporation of the Railway Company; another parchment containing the date of organization and the names of the present officers of the Oddfellows Lodge; also a copy of the Recorder and one of the Monitor, also several coins, and a plate bearing the following inscription, being laid over the whole:

Chief Corner Stone of the Brockville and Ottawa R.R. Tunnel, in the Town of Brockville, was laid with due Masonic Honours, by Acting Deputy Grand Master, Adiel Sherwood, this 16th day of September, A.D. 1854, in the year of Masonry, 5854.

These articles, being placed in a tin box, were then deposited in a cavity beneath the Stone; the stone was then lowered into its position, when the Level, the Square and Plumb Rule were applied to it, and the Corn, the Wine, and the Oil poured upon it, the Master of the Ceremonies, Dr. Ashton, of Bath, repeating after each pouring, the appropriate Masonic prayer, the brethren responding, “So mote it be.”

Mr. Sherwood then took the mall and gave the Stone three knocks, invoking while doing so, the blessing of the Grand Architect of the Universe, to which the brethren again responded   “So mote it be.”

The stone having been laid, the bank struck up God Save the Queen, after which Lieut. Kincaid brought the Artillery Ordinance into play and fired a Salute of fifteen rounds. The Rev. William Smart, in consequence of the illness of Mr. Sherwood, who unfortunately was compelled to retire as soon as the stone was laid, addressed the assembly as follows:

(The speech Itself Is omitted from this copy. It is a long, and rambling effort and would require almost four pages to reproduce it here.)

After Mr. Smart concluded, three cheers were given for the Queen; three for Mr. Sykes; three for the Tunnel; three for the Sheriff; and three for Mr. Smart An invitation was then given to all persons who joined in the procession to retire to Mr. Willson’s in order to partake of a dejeuner.

Having been requested by the Railway Directors to act as a steward on the occasion, the writer was prevented from taking notes, consequently our readers must be content with a few random recollections of what occurred at the Hotel.

When we entered the room, we were more than astonished at the appearance of all things around. Mr.Willson, it is well known, never does things by halves. When he puts his best foot foremost, people generally know what the result is likely to be, and in all his undertakings of this nature, he is well and ably sustained by Mr.Brennan. On the present occasion, everything was prepared in the most superb, yet substantial style, and when we state that about 250 persons partook of the good things provided, some idea may be formed of the extent of the preparations required for as large an assembly of able men with good appetites. The only regret felt by Willson was that after the first company was satisfied, sufficient time was not given for properly loading the tables with a second supply, consequently the articles for the second company had to be sent up in the order of Brockville lampposts  – one here and one there – without regularity.

The Mayor (John Crawford) presided for some time, after which Ormond Jones, Esq., took the chair. The first toast proposed was given by the Mayor. It was “Mr. Sykes, and good health to him. This toast was rapturously received, and to which Mr. Sykes appropriately replied in a few brief sentences. On the conclusion of his speech, he gave The health of Sheriff Sherwood,” and regretted that from indisposition the worthy Sheriff had been forced to retire so soon to his home.

The Mayor then gave “The Masons and Oddfellows,” Dr. Thomas Reynolds, the Provincial Grand Master, replying for the Oddfellows, and William B. Simpson, Esq., Acting Deputy Master, returning thanks on behalf of the Free and Accepted Masons.

Many other toasts were given, but we were unable to note them from the arduous duties the writer was compelled to perform as a steward. Suffice it to say   the proceedings terminated about five o’clock p.m., in the most harmonious manner, not one ,jarring or angry word having escaped a single person present.

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In the evening we had the pleasure of attending another very interesting party at Willson’s. This was a dinner given to the workmen employed on the tunnel by the contractors   Messrs. John and David Booth. At this party there were upwards of thirty, the chair being occupied by Mr. John Booth.

If the public wish to know the character of an employer, he will best gain his object by talking with the employed. The Messrs. Booth are strangers to Canada, yet they have recognized the building of a very important __?__and character they bore elsewhere is, therefore, of some importance to the community. Being present on the occasion referred to, we derived some knowledge of the estimation in which the Messrs. Booth are held by their workmen, many of whom were employed by them in England, and have, at the invitation of their employers, left “Old England on the lee” in order to try their fortunes “in this here Canada.”

One of the workmen, Mr. George Scott, a very intelligent man, and a really good speaker, toasted the health of the Messrs. Booth. In doing this, he laid down in a clear manner, how important it was for employers and employed to understand each other. Like those around him, he said he was a son of toil, and as such it was his duty, as it was the duty of each of them, to render a day’s labour for a fair day’s wages. Their present employers were men whom they know, and knowing could trust, and he hoped they would excercise the same justice towards their workmen as they had ever done. The toast was then done amid great applause.

Mr. Booth returned thanks and stated that many of them had left their wives and families behind them, he thought they ought in their rejoicings to remember them. He gave a statement in accordance with the spirit of that remark, which was replied with __?__ three and one more.

Mr. Scott then proposed “The Press” concluding it with the name of Mr. Wylie. In doing he passed a few excellent remarks on its __?__ power. Mr. Wylie returned thanks, and gave Mr. Scott, and the sons of toil,” to which Mr. Scott responded.

After enjoying themselves for an hour or so in the greatest harmony, the party separated, and so ended the public proceedings connected with laying the Foundation Stone of the Brockville Tunnel.

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Brockville Railway Tunnel

Brockville Railway Tunnel – ca. 1895