Rolling down the Rapids –Journey to Lanark Part 5


The settlers first experience of land travel in Canada was the voyage from Montreal down the St. Lawrence to Kingston. The first nine miles was overland to Lachine, where most would embark on flat-bottomed durham boats for the river trip.

They had to carry their luggage from the ship to a steamboat and wait at Lachine for over 4 days for the next part of their journey. Rich people could hire a carriage, which was pleasant. Poorer people piled themselves and their luggage in a diligence (stage-coach) or a large wagon.


While most of the tired travellers continued down the St. Lawrence in the durham boats, many did make the journey by coach or even walked. One man whose dog was not allowed on the boat in 1819 walked from Lachine to Kingston faster than his luggage which travelled on a boat.

Len Langill
Hi Linda…if I may suggest a correction going from Montreal to Kingston…they would be going up the St Lawrence R…and not as down river you had mentioned…love all your very informative work..!!!

After the long voyage across the sea, most emigrants found the stop-and-start trip on the inland river exhausting. By the time they were firmly on land they must have felt as if they had been travelling for months. The current of the St. Lawrence was strong, and the river bed was  shallow and stoney, so sometimes the boats became grounded. They were forced to jump out of the boats wading up to the middle of their bodies and sometimes deeper. Women and children had to come out and walk. In several places the rapids ran with such force they were compelled to get two horses to haul each boat.

At night, they sometimes found shelter in barns, but most times they had to rough it  in the woods, kindling a fire for food and laying on top of their clothes that were used as bedding. The journey from Lachine to Prescott was over 120 miles and it began to take it toll. Some became every sick with fevers and died after a few days of illness, and several families were left with orphans.


After that final boat ride the journey to New Lanark began. The roads became so bad that the horses became unfit to proceed. The animals became stuck in the muddy roads, and sometimes teams of oxen and the horses and wagons had to be pulled out. As they approached New Perth the roads gradually improved. Perth was now becoming a thriving place and increasing daily in population. There were a long list of names affixed to the local Post Office door mentioning those who had letters lying there awaiting them. The next available Post Office would be at the King’s Store in Franktown.

Leaving Perth the next morning they had to ferry across the Little Mississippi and the health of the new settlers was getting worse. Local observers found the new arrivals looking sick and tired. The pioneer land agent (and medical man) Tiger Dunlop recommended a dose of calomine as a preventative and pick-me-up. It doesn’t sound like a good idea if you ask me.

Author’s Note.. There seems to be some discrepancy as to whether you go up or down the St. Lawrence. Decisions are to be personally made by those who are reading it.:)
Someone commented. “You travel “up” the St. Lawrence from Montreal to Kingston not “down”. It look’s downhill on a map as a child may note. You go “up” stream to Upper Canada and “down” stream to Lower Canada from Upper Canada”

It is what it is my friends.

Rock the Boat! Lanark County or Bust! Part 1

It Wasn’t the Sloop John B — Do’s and Don’t in an Immigrant Ship -Part 2

Riders on the Storm– Journey to Lanark County — Part 3

ROCKIN’ Cholera On the Trek to the New World — Part 4

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

3 responses »

  1. Hi Linda…if I may suggest a correction going from Montreal to Kingston…they would be going up the St Lawrence R…and not as down river you had mentioned…love all your very informative work..!!!


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