Back In the early 1860s Mr. Oliver Robert learned the gentle art of cattle buying. His father, Stanislaus Robert, was then a cattle drover, and operated chiefly in the country between Ottawa and Perth, via Richmond. Prospect, Franktown and Perth.
Later, in the 1870s, Mr. Robert operated in this same country on his own behalf. Those were the days when country roads, even the main roads, were things of ruts, corduroy, mud and clay. It was, however, also the day when meat was cheap and farmers took the word of drovers as to current values of beef and lambs. Very few farmers took newspapers, and then certainly did not have telephones, or radios to tell them about ruling prices. But, as Mr. Robert says, most drovers were pretty honest fellows and they and the farmers got on well together. As a matter of fact the drovers had to be honest, as if they were caught In a misrepresentation of prices they might as well leave the country. Their connection would be gone.
Mr. Robert tells that when a drover went to sleep in a village hotel he never thought of locking the door or even putting a chair against it, even though he had hundreds of dollars in his pockets. Mr. Robert admits, however some drovers may have taken their trousers and put them under his pillow. Some did not even do that.
In the early 1870s when Mr. Oliver Robert started “droving” for himself, drovers paid the farmers from 3c to 4c per pound for stall fed cattle and $2.50 per lamb. Cattle were all “walked” to Ottawa. The usual practice In the case of the cattle stall was to walk them about 6 miles increasing the walk to 15 miles the next day. On the third day if they came from Perth they increased it even more on the third day.
Great postcard of a busy ByWard Market, circa 1909, looking toward Clarence St. Lost Ottawa
The stall fed cattle was to walk them about six miles the first day, increasing the walk to 15 miles the second day. On the third day (if they came from Perth) the walk was still further increased. On the other hand the cattle called ‘grassers” could be walked from Perth in two days. They were hardy, The stall fed cattle were bought from about the 15th of May to the 1st of July and the “grassers” from July. The herds brought In on each trip generally numbered from 25 to 30 head.
In the 1870s the cattle yard where the drovers sold their cattle to butchers was in the Byward market. But the cattle were comingiIn such numbers that they took up too much room on the market and the farmers and others began to kick. About 1880 the cattle market was moved to Cathcart Square. It didn’t stay there many years, however, as the residents put up a kick about the noise and selling got back to Byward market.
While the cattle yard was at Cathcart Square a man named De Rise kept a hotel there and also had charge of the yard. As years went on the railways began to gridiron the country and they changed the whole system of cattle buying and handling and the old-time drover became a thing of the past.
Mr. Robert recalls that bringing a herd of 25 or 30 cattle to town was very often a troublesome Job. They often “dragged” on the road, and often broke away into unfenced bush land or jumped low fences Into passing farms. A drover had to have a great stock of patience, and often had a large vocabulary of swear words.
Mayor Coleman said Carleton Place was an important market town with Bridge Street sees a parade of farm vehicles and animals on their way to market. Cattle had a hard enough time moving
down to the CPR station in those days–I can’t even imagine if that happened now.
Aug 8 1913
Fifteen head of cattle were killed on the C.P.R. Track about a mile south of Carleton Place after being struck by a train at an early hour this morning. A herd of 175 cattle had been driven into town by the Willow brothers yesterday and placed in the stock pen for shipment. Some time after midnight cattle broke through the fence ad proceeded to travel down different track routes.
A freight train traveling near the 10th and 11 th concessions of Beckwith struck the largest herd and before the locomotive could slow down fifteen cattle were killed or so maimed they had to be destroyed. Two head were also killed on the line west and three east of the station making for a total of 20.