The Settlers Days stagecoach ended the first day of its six-day mail run here Monday in 1978 when it stopped at the post office for hand-cancellation of special mail covers at 6 p.m. Tonight it will stop in Lanark Village, having come through Perth in mid-afternoon.
Wednesday will see the coach and its crew travelling through sparsely-populated northern Lanark County on its way to Pakenham. Thursday will be spent travelling towards Ottawa, were the coach’s passengers will meet with Canada Post officials Friday on Parliament Hill , before travelling on through Manotick to North Gower. Saturday will see completion of the 196-mile run at the Merrickville post office in mid-afternoon, before the coach returns to Smith Falls.
This is the second year the Smiths Falls Settlers Days committee has re-enacted the 1840s stagecoach mail run to promote its July 1-2-3 celebration and to bring alive part of Eastern Ontario’s history. Pulled by two horses, the coach includes, in addition to the driver, a military guard, two passengers and at least one outrider on horseback. Others will join the coach for part of the run. All will be in period costume. A total of 2,000 special editions will be hand-cancelled for each official post office stop on the route and will be made available to collectors later.– June 1978
James Copeland in 1855 made the travelling world talk about the speed of his stage. Some people today have an idea that over a century ago that things moved very slowly in these parts.
In a way they did, but it must be remembered that in this old world everything is relative, and therefore while the spec of vehicles, for instance, may today be great, that specs may not be as great as that of the past.
For example a fast moving car may reach Perth in an hour from Ottawa over very fine roads yet a stage coach took all day to reach Perth over roads that were little more than a trail. In other words the stage that went to Perth in a day, stopping here and there to load and unload passengers and their luggage, was driven through the ruts and mud and over corduroy roads with a greater amount of determination than the auto of today.
The stage driver of years ago had to exert the will to win over all sorts of physical objects and obstructions which impeded his progress, while the auto driver of, today, has only to exert a trifle more gas which has his foot on the accelerator.
But to get back to the Ottawa-Perth stage, it is interesting to note that there was a fast trip made to Perth, as we find an advertisement in the Bytown Gazette of 1855 which stated that passengers who travelled by James Copeland stage line would be “taken clear through to Perth the same day”.
A couple of years earlier passengers had to stop over at Richmond or Franktown, and the trip was not made in one day. It was the same way with the stage to Montreal in the same era. Passengers stopped for the night at Hawkesbury. But In August, 1855, we find James Copeland starting something new, a new era of speed as he tells the world that passengers who leave Ottawa at 6.30 a.m. via his stage will be rushed “clear through to Perth the same day.” And all the world wondered and marvelled at the speed of the Perth coach…