A trip to Montreal in 1841


Perth Courier, April 3, 1891

Fifty Years Ago 1841


Photo- Ville de Montreal On top of Mount Royal


The boy of today scarcely realizes the situation of 50 years ago.  Few had seen a steam boat and as for the railroad they were only known as wonders of foreign lands.  Occasionally one impatient of parental controls would ship on the Jolly Bower” or “British Queen” and after a voyage of from four to six weeks would return and recite with embellishments the wonders of the city.

The steamers of Montreal, the sailors from distant climes, the cathedral of Nelson’s monument were set forth in magic description.  The perils of the early traveler were many.  The Hon. Roderick Matheson thought himself fortunate if he could reach Montreal in 48 hours and then was obliged to ride in eight different conveyances.  It was, therefore, an event of a lifetime of the writer—then a lad of 13—when a trip to the commercial metropolis was suggested.



Photo from Perth & District Historical Society -Tay Canal


The preparations for the journey were by no means meager and was the talk of the school for several weeks previous.  On a fine morning in September as the day was dawning the rude vehicle which conveyed the tri-weekly mail from Brockville to Perth drove up to the door of my parents residence.  The postman’s horn called us from an unfinished breakfast and as speedily as possible I was in the seat with the driver then well known in Perth and whose gilt ear rings will likely be remembered by some of our readers of this article.


After driving around our town our load was completed and consisted of a lawyer going to attend the assizes at Brockville, a merchant making his semi-annual trip to Montreal, an axeman bound to the same place, a young man of Dalhousie 20 years of age on his way to western Canada to look up a future home, a young lady of Scotch descent from Pennsylvania who had been visiting relatives in the neighborhood of Perth and the driver.


After the stage drove up to the post office door the postmaster appeared in “dishabille” and threw the bag into the street.  The driver lobbed it over the seat, blew his horn, and we were cheered on our departure with a bass solo from one of the “Rana Pipers” troupe who gave daily concerts at the old Tay Canal basin.  The stage vehicle was little better than a lumbering wagon and an eight hour ride in it would not be endured by the traveler of the present day.


A quite speedy drive up “Job’s Creek” hill, round by the head of Ottay Lake, winding round hill and over swamp brought us to Oliver’s Ferry. Here the steamer “Beaver” appeared with a load of soldiers and a fine band that treated us to a serenade.  The approach to the old scow that ferried us over were humble and the passengers had to get a ride or run the risk of being thrown out.  It was forest from the ferry to Lombardy.  At Kitley Corners we had a rest of about 30 minutes while the horses were changed.


Photo– Kitley Township 


The last half of the trip was made more speedily, the roads were better. From the Tin Cap school house to Brockville was a good macadamized road probably about 6 miles and the only piece of good road in the two counties.  Some things are always remembered and there was a public house in Kitley that attracted my attention.  It had a rebus on the sign and meant “The Best Liquor Under the Sun” by Septimus Soper the first three words over a picture representing the sun.


We arrived at Brockville in about eight hours from Perth and had to wait until the next morning for the regular steamer.  As we waited in Brockville in the evening a smaller steamer arrived, the “Pioneer”.  Capt. Hilliard and some of the guests of the hotel at which we stopped took passage on her.  We only made Prescott that night and had to stay there so as to have daylight to run the rapids.

097 View of the harbour, Montreal, QC, 1884.jpg

View of the harbour, Montreal, QC, 1884-The photographs from the Notman Photographics Archives .



The next night we laid to at Coteau du Lac and 39 hours from Brockville arrived at Montreal.  Abler pens than mine have described this majestic city.  There are nobler rivers in the world but the St. Lawrence from Kingston surpasses them all for beauty and grandeur.  The wonders of the city, the view from the mountain, the great Quebec steamers, the vessels “Atlantic”, “Tam O Shanter” and “Souter Johnnie”, were a continual feast to my eyes.  After a two week stay in the city we returned to Perth with a feeling that I had seen more of the world than fell to the ordinary mortal.


Township of Elizabethtown-Kitley

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.

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