©2003 Glenn F. Cartwright
In 1881, Jedediah Hubbell Dorwin published his reminiscences of what Montreal was like when he arrived in 1816. He had seen many changes in more than 60 years and one might suspect that his memory may have played tricks on him were it not for the fact that he had kept his journal faithfully, entering his observations on a daily basis. These later proved useful to him in recalling the facts that are the substance of his article though he made a few corrections (or was corrected) following the publication. The article was particularly insightful at the time, and perhaps even more so now, and caused a total sell out of the newspaper and a second printing. A rival paper, hearing that he was about to publish an article entitled "Montreal in 1816" promptly came out with their own competing artical on the same day entitled "Montreal in 1806". Dorwin cut out the article and dutifully pasted it into his diary. His own article is reproduced below.
Dorwin's correspondents and his reply
Montreal in 1816
Reminiscences of Mr. J.H. Dorwin.
It was on the 15th of June, 1815, said Mr Dorwin, that I first saw Montreal. I had reached the opposite side of the river the night before and stopped at Tavern kept by a man named Papineau. There was no St. Lambert then ; I do not know that the country around there had any particular name. There was an ordinary country road, with here and there a farm-house along its sides, running down the river from Laprarie, and a factory, Solomon’s tobacco factory, on the river bank just below where the bridge now ends, and that was all of it. It was called "Richmond" in 1819 by Edward Hartley, who bought a farm there and laid out lots for a village, but no one ever bought any of them and the name did not last. About twenty years afterwards Benjamin Brewster christened it "Brewsterville," but the few people then in it objected and that name dropped. Some years after it received its present name, “St. Lambert."
A TIN-ROOFED CITY
The appearance of the city from them south bank when I started to cross next morning was quite imposing. The large number of buildings, their roofs covered with tin, glittering in the sun, was something very new to me, and I remember particularly the appearance of a large unfinished house roofed in this way standing on the mountain a little below McTavish's monument just on the ground now occupied by Mr. Gault's residence. This was the house started by Simon McTavish before he died, but never completed. There were a good many vessels in the river, many of them belonging to the English navy, for it was just after the war. I was ferried across in a pine log canoe and landed in the mud and what is now the foot of Jacques Cartier square, and looking after short a narrow passage or street into a square then called the "New Market,” and not extending down to the river, I saw the Nelson monument built about six years before, and on its top the figure of the naval hero gazing, not on the water, but very earnestly up towards the mountain.
These few sentences describing some of Mr. Dorwin's first impressions of the place will serve to give a slight idea of the appearance of Montreal to a traveller approaching it from the south in 1815. In February, 1816, Mr. Dorwin took up his residence here and the greater part of the following description of the city as it then existed, and of the changes during the next few years has been drawn from his clear recollection of the place and the well-known journal he has kept.
The place was not incorporated until 1832, but what was known in 1816 is the "city," distinguishing it from the suburbs, was bounded by Bonsecours street on the north-east, St. James street on the north-west, McGill street on the south-west and the river on the south-east ; occupying about the same ground as was enclosed by the old fortifications. Within these limits the ground was all or nearly all built over.
SWAMPS, CREEKS AND HILLS WHERE NOW IS LEVEL GROUND.
Viger garden was then a swamp, and from this swamp a sluggish creek or ditch ran westerly along what is now Craig street, past the east end of St. Antoine street, making a turn at Dow's brewery, coming east to the "Priest's garden," across McGill Street at St. Ann's market and into the river, where the Custom House now stands. Its lower course was at least twenty feet deep, allowing canoes in times of high water to come up to McGill Street. Over its banks was thrown all the filth and refuse of the city, to be washed away once a year by the spring freshets. It was crossed by four bridges, over which ran roads into the country. In the bed of this creek is now Craig street tunnel, the main sewer of the city.
About where St. Louis street now is was a small deep pond, the resort of muskrats and waterfowl. Between Bonsecours street and St. Mary was "Citadell Hill," sixty feet high, occupied by the military, having on its summit a large block house where cannon were fired at sunrise and at noon, and a sentry paced, constantly. The eastern portion of this hill, where Dalhousie square is now, as was removed in 1812 to construct the plateau of the Champs de Mars, and in 1819 the remainder, between Bonsecours street and the square, was taken to fill up and level of the pond is mentioned. Mr. Dorwin was one of the contractors in the latter removal and earth to a depth of 55 feet was taken where the old Donagani Hotel stands, and St. Mary street thus joined with Notre Dame. There was a tradition among the old settlers that the Hill had originally been built with material dug from the pond, but this was disproved by the disclosure through it of the natural strata and layers of the earth. On the side of the hill next the pond were found several coffins, some of them well preserved. The coroner was notified, but instead of holding a long judicial and scientific investigation he ordered, them to be tumbled into the pond with the rest of the earth. Under the block house on the summit was found a human skeleton wrapped in the remains an old blanket.
Five roads, corresponding to St. Mary, St. Lawrence, St. Antoine, St. Joseph and Wellington streets, ran out of the city to the country, four of them passing through groups of houses forming small suburbs.
The Quebec suburbs, the most aristocratic locality outside the city limits, consisted of a score or two of buildings mostly small, scattered along both sides of St. Mary street from a gate at the end of St. Paul street to beyond Molson's brewery. There were a few side lanes, the outlines of the present cross streets, and the Papineau Road had just opened to which the habitants from the country to the north and east began to pass as the shortest way to market. On the right hand passing down were the three-fine stone residences of Bishop Mountain, Judge Reid, and Baron Grant, all now standing the last afterwards bought by William Molson, as Molson's Brewery stood then as now, and a short distance beyond was a foundry carried on by the large firm of Allison, Turner & Co. Between the two was a shipyard, the only one then in the place, where a shipbuilder name Johnson built vessels for Mr. James Miller, and below the foundry was the fine country residence of the Hon. John Richardson, the prime mover in the digging of the Lachine Canal. In Hochelaga were a few farm houses and a tavern or two.
ST. LAWRENCE SUBURBS.
St. Lawrence suburb, the most populous of the four, commenced at a bridge over the creek at the foot of St. Lawrence street. This street, as far up as where Ontario now intersects, was quite thickly lined with small low wooden buildings. Above Sherbrooke street, before reaching the Mile End tavern, there were but two houses, both of stone, and on the left side of the street, then belonging to John Clark, and now the property of the Bagg estate. Taylor's brewery was then occupied by Thomas French as a tannery and Geo. Wurtele kept the "Farmers Hotel" in the old house now standing opposite the St. Lawrence market and called the "Glasgow Hotel." Sherbrooke street was then opened from St. Lawrence street about as far west as Bleury. In 1819 two fine residences were built on this street, one by Jacob Hall, and the other by Thomas Torrance. They were both prominent objects to the citizens below, and the latter being the only cut stone structure outside the main city, was the admiration of every passerby. It is now the residence of the Molson family. To the west, "The Towers," still well preserved, had even then been standing for over a hundred years and are probably the oldest buildings in Montreal. A foot bridge crossed the creek at Bleury street, and the narrow lane ran up about as far as Dorchester street, along which straggled about a half-a-dozen small houses. This was called "Flirtation Lane" and was a favorite promenade for romantic couples during the long twilight of the summer evenings.
ST. ANTOINE SUBURBS.
St. Antoine suburbs began at a bridge crossing the creek at the east end of St. Antoine street and was a road with several cross lanes pretty closely built up as far west as Mountain street. There was only one first-class house, that of Norman A. McLeod, a rich "North Wester," or member of the North West Company. The chief man of this company, the Hon. William McGillivray, had a fine stone residence in Cote St. Antoine, about the end of Dorchester street, the most magnificent building in the whole city, afterwards owned by the Hon. Charles Wilson.
ST. ANN SUBURBS.
Over the creek in Dow’s brewery was a third bridge crossed by the Upper Lachine road; and at the foot of McGill street, near St. Ann's market, was a fourth, over which ran the lower Lachine road, both roads much travelled in those ante-canal days. The beyond the latter bridge Grey Nun road led down to the water. At Pointe Calliere the Grey Nunnery then stood, and a little farther west were three wind-mills. West of this, in what rejoiced in the name of "St. Ann suburbs," were seven buildings scattered confusedly over the common, and other than the Lachine road not even an attempt at street making. The nearest buildings where H. and R. Corse’s dwelling and linseed oil factory. Thomas McCord had a block house near the Canal Basin, and William Forbes lived in a two-story Yankee house near the corner of King and Wellington streets. Robert Griffin, from whom Griffintown took its name, had a soap factory near the latter street and away west the Gregory house was standing, called "Woodlands" then, a fine stone house with poplar trees around it, owned by Gregory, a "North-Wester." A little beyond with Chapman's brewery. Much of the land around was then a swamp, flooded during the spring freshets and wet seasons. It had been leased to Thomas McCord for ninety-nine years by the nuns and in about twenty years more this lease will expire, and all Griffintown will come under the control of the Grey Nunnery.
Point St. Charles was a common. Beaver Hall Hill was a field with a long low wooden building at its foot called "Frobisher’s" house. The mountain was covered with trees and had on it McTavish's monument and unfinished house. All the rest of the country round not before mentioned, now cut up by miles and miles of streets, lined with the best residences of the city was then orchards, gardens and open fields, dotted hear and there with farm houses.
THE STREETS, WHAT THEY WERE AND HOW THEY LOOKED.
Within the main city the streets were much the same as the present. St. Paul was the chief business Street, wholesale and retail. It was as irregular and narrow as now, though considered sufficiently wide then, partly owing, perhaps to the lowness of the houses. At its east end near Dalhousie square was a gate similar to the Quebec gates, with a guard house over the top, the only reminder of the old fortifications. Notre Dame was twenty-five or thirty feet wide and called the handsomest street in the place, though what little beauty it actually had must have been sadly marred by the prominence of the old French Parish Church which jutted out completely across the street at Place d’Armes compelling all the travel to pass around it through the square. On this street the buildings were mostly dwellings, the aristocracy of the city living in its east end, and many of the middle-class people in the west. In its whole length were but two or three shops. All the buildings on the north-west side have since been demolished, in order to widen the street, and of those on the other side only four now remain standing – the house then owned and occupied by the Hon. John Forsythe, near Bonsecours street, the old Government House opposite the City Hall, portions of the old Seminary building, near the Parish Church, and a house on the corner St. Peter Street, opposite John Murphy & Co.’s warehouse. On the north-west side of St. James Street, from St. Francois Xavier to Victoria square, there was only one house, built by Beniah Gibb, and afterwards "Dolly’s" chophouse. A French gentleman lived in a stone building on the ground where the Bank of Montreal now stands, and on the site of the Merchant Bank was a small brick house, owned by Samuel Hodge, and behind it was a blacksmith’s shop. At the east end of the street, or rather, on St. Gabriel street, were three buildings, all now standing -- St. Gabriel Street church and to dwelling houses facing the Champ de Mars, the residences of two prominent lawyers of the city, David Ross and Benjamin Beaubien, the former house now occupied by the museum of the Geological Survey of Canada, and the latter used as a restaurant. On the other side of St. James were a few straggling dwellings, none of which are now standing. An old French gentleman named De. Beaujeau lived on the corner of Francois Xavier where the old Post Office building stands. Fortification Lane had been opened, but was not built upon, and the strip of ground between it and the creek was a mud-flat. McGill street, opened up a short time before as far down as the creek in St. Ann's Market, had a few buildings along each side. Along the Upper Lachine Road, between McGill and the bridge, were a few small houses and the grounds and buildings of the new college or Petite Seminaire were on the creek in what is now College Street.
SQUARES AND MARKET PLACES.
Place d’Armes was the only square in the city used as such. Before 1812 it was serving for a wood and hay market. From 1812 to 1824 its only ornament was a pump, but to make a variety, when the old Parish Church was pulled down at the latter date, its tower was left standing for many years near the edge of the square. The Champ de Mars had been built up for a parade ground 1812 with material taken from Dalhousie square, and small trees were set out around it. Victoria square was a mud-flat, with a creek running through it. A few years after, it, with the upper part of McGill street, began to be used as a market. Dalhousie square had been formed in 1812, but was used by the government for military purposes, being covered with a low shed, in which were kept artillery and stores In 1818 this shed was moved to St. Helen's Island, and in 1821 the square received its present name after the then Governor. There were 4,600 troops stationed here in 1816, but shortly afterwards as the war feeling subsided the number was greatly reduced. The Barracks, the "Citadel," Dalhousie square, Champ de Mars, and other grounds were all used by the military. What are now Custom House and Jacques Cartier squares were in then, respectively, the "Old" and "New Markets," the only ones in the city. Neither were open quite down to the river, but were connected with it by short and narrow passages, the "New Market" extending from the monument only to St. Paul street. In the center of each square were the market buildings, low wooden sheds, with projecting caves, the meat compartments inside, the huster stalls outside and around the square. The new market had been opened a few years before to relieve the pressure at the old one, but the latter was the better selling ground, and, the habitants flocked to it in such crowds that the streets around were literally jammed with vehicles and people, and at times special constables had to sally out and in drive them down to the new market.
There were no public gardens in the place, no parks, no fountains, and excluding the McTavish pillar on the mountain, and Blake's monument in Quebec suburbs, near where St. Luke's church now is, only one monument or public statue -- we have not many more now -- the Nelson column, standing as now, except that the figures and inscriptions at its base were then distinct, and an iron railings surrounded it. There were two Public cemeteries, the Catholic and Protestant. The Catholic was then, and until not very many years ago, on ground now part of Dominion Square. Dufferin square has been lately laid out where the old Protestant Cemetery was. When Mount Royal Cemetery was opened very many of the bodies were left undisturbed in the old ground and five feet beneath the trend of passing horses pedestrians lie the bones of many of the people who were walking the streets in the city, engaged in its trade, and living its life in the very times in which we are writing.
The buildings of the city were small, of one or two stories in height, a few three stories, built mostly of small rough stones or rubble, loosely put together, the interstices filled with mortar, and the whole plastered over. Hammer-dressed stone was coming into use, but there were only two hewn-stone buildings in the main city, the dwellings of Ross and Beaubien on St Gabriel street. In 1818 a large hewn-stone store was put up by John Torrance on the corner of St. Nicholas and St Paul streets and became the wonder of everybody. There was only one all-wood house within the city limits, that of James Brown, proprietor of the Gazette at that time, standing at the corner of St. Francois Xavier and Notre Dame streets where the Exchange Bank now is. Most of those in the suburbs were wooden. Brick had been used in one or two buildings, but there was great prejudice among the stone-masons against its introduction. In 1817, Lady Bowes, the daughter of Sir John Johnson, built a country house of this material below the Papineau Road, and Jeremiah Perkins, the contractor, an American, owing somewhat, perhaps, to his nationality, was annoyed and persecuted in every possible way and had much difficulty in completing his contract, his workmen even capiasing him when he got a little behind in his payments. Most of the houses had heavy iron doors and shutters; many had vaulted cellars, and the attics floored with timbers eight or ten inches thick, covered with several inches of stone and earth, so that a roof might burn off and leave the square standing unharmed. The roofs were sloping, and most of them covered with tin as an additional protection against fire. There was little or no attempt at ornamental architecture. The windows of the shops were so small that a poor chance was given to show stock through them, but much was displayed outside. The signs over the doors , where there were any, were symbolical, for few of the habitants could read, and the silvered flagon or the burnished boot would be much better understood and remembered than the most flaring and most carefully gilded print. Those were times when the voice of the insurance agent was rarely heard on the land. There was but little public protection against fire and robbery, plenty of surface room, small traders, little individual wealth, and scanty education, and the buildings of the city with their equipments took their character accordingly. Good specimens may now be seen in the west end of Capital street. Some of the most important buildings besides those already mentioned were the “Hotel Dieu” on the corner of St. Paul and St. Sulpice (then St. Joseph) streets, the convent of Notre Dame, on the corner of Notre Dame and St. Jean Baptiste streets, the Recollet church, on Notre Dame street, near St. Helen, Bonsecours church, Christ church (Episcopal), between St. Lambert street and Place d’Armes on Crystal block, and St. Gabriel street church. All these, no doubt, served well the purpose for which they were built, but he points of difference in their construction form points of difference in their construction form the general class of buildings just described had reference mainly to their religious or public character and they do not merit any special description.
ARCHITECTURE, AND THE GENERAL APPEARANCE OF THE STREETS.
POPULATION, AND DISTRICT GOVERNMENT—NO POLICEMAN TO AWE THE SMALL BOY.
The population of Montreal in 1816 was about 15, 000 besides 4,000 soldier stationed here at that time, and about 1,000 sailors manning the vessels in the river, making 20,000 persons in all. The place not being incorporated, its affairs were administered in common with the rest of the district of Montreal. William Ermatinger was Sheriff or Chief Officer of the district, and under him were the usual civic functionaries and magistrates or justices of the peace. There were no Police or Recorder’s Courts, for there were no by-laws to infringe and no police. Thomas McCord held what nearly corresponding to a Police Court, and he was styled the “Chief Magistrate.” The heavier cases were tried as now before the higher courts and the light offences were dealt with by the magistrates. This rural system of government in so large a town was not productive of much order or regularity, and the roughs of the place did pretty much as they liked; but on the other hand the taxes were light. The want of a police force was much felt, for the streets were dark, and robberies common. The only officer of this kind was a Chief Constable appointed by the Government, who, however had power to appoint special constables, whose duties were to attend Court and act in any case of emergency when called upon by the Chief Constable. A meeting of the citizens was held in the summer of 1816, and the Government petitioned to appoint an efficient force of watchmen to patrol the streets at nights, and after much delay, in April, 1818, 24 watchmen began their rounds. Among their duties was to attend the lamps and call the hours. “Twelve o'clock and all's well” would be the midnight cry at the corner of the streets, and so on, through the night.
THE COURTS, THE BENCH AND THE BAR. THEY WERE KING’S COUNSEL IN 1816.
The jail at that time stood on the ground between the present City Hall and Court House. The old Court House stood where the present one stands, and within its walls was transacted all the judicial and public business of the place. The judges of the district were Chief-Justice Monk, and Judges Ogden, Reid and Foucher. Monk was an able judge, stern, and commanding; he could quiet the most excited lawyer by a mere word or motion of the hand. He and Chief Justice Sewell, of Quebec, were impeached about this time by the Quebec Legislature for their course in advising the Governor, Sir James Craig, to dissolve Parliament and imprison members, and for other alleged misdemeanors; but after a long struggle, the impeachment was abandoned. The lawyers of the city were Stephen Sewell, brother of Sewell, of Quebec, and David Ross, two K.C.’s (King’s Counsel), the only ones then in the city—it took a first-class man to make a K.C. in those days, said Mr. Dorwin; Benjamin Beaubien, C.R. Ogden, James Stewart, afterwards Chief-Justice Sir James Stewart, afterwards Chief Justice Sir James Stewart, J.C. Grant, D.B. Viger, L. M. Viger, John Boston, Michael O’ Sullivan, afterwards Chief Justice of the District of Montreal, Bedard, and others of less note complete the list. The physicians were Doctors Robertson, Sheldon, Stevenson, Trask, Caldwell, Green, Smythe, Holmes, Arnold; Nelson, Beaubien, Loedel, and several others.
The subject of lighting the streets had been first considered in 1811, and many ingenious arguments advanced in its favour, one of which was that the ladies would be induced to visit around among their friends much more frequently and society be benefited thereby. It was thought that lights during the fall and spring months, from the first of September to the end of November, and the first of March to the end of May would be sufficient, but the question of expense proved too powerful, and the matter dropped, the ladies continuing to stop at home and the gentlemen stumbling on through the narrow street as before, at the mercy of foot pads, or carrying a small lantern of their own. The subject was again discussed in the summer of 1816, when the procuring of watchmen was being considered, and at length in November of that year, 22 lamps, 54 feet apart, were placed along the west end of St. Paul street. The proprietors along the east of the street then became jealous, started a subscription, and in December lighted their end, and in a short time Notre Dame street followed. The lamps cost $7 apiece, and of course burned oil. Gas began to be used in a few shops in 1837.
THE PEOPLE WALKED IN DARKNESS
THE WATER SUPPLY—HOW THEY PUT OUT FIRES
As early as 1801 a company with a large capital had been incorporated for the purpose of supplying the city with water. Wooden pipes were laid from a source behind the mounting but, the supply being small and the pipes liable to leak and burst, the scheme was almost a complete failure, and the citizens fell back on the old plan of carrying water from the wells of the place or carting it from the river. When a fire broke out the city was almost at its mercy. Incendiarism was common; there was a fire brigade, and thus, in spite of the partly fire proof nature of the buildings, the city suffered terrible at times. Every householder had no keep in his house two leather baskets and when the bell of the old French Church sounded an alarm he sallied out with them and two lines of men were formed from the fire to the river, one line passing down the empty buckets, and the other passing up full ones. In 1816 there was only one engine in the city, and of a very portable size too, for a man could almost carry it on his back. In a year or two a larger one was got, and each carter provided himself with a puncheon to draw water from the river to supply it. A certain sum was paid for each puncheon full and premium given to the carter who got the first puncheon full to the fire. All this shows the great difficulty in obtaining water, and one cannot help pitying the milkman of the time when thinking of the inconvenience they must have been put to. But this state of affairs at last changed. The Water Company affairs at last changed. The Water Company has sold out their rights to another set of men in 1816, but it was not until after 1821 that anything important was done. About that time Thomas Proteous established an engine on the river side below Bonsecours church which pumped up water into a large cistern in the second story of a house now standing opposite the old Donegani Hotel. The hollowed logs were taken up and replaced by iron or lead pipes, the main ones having four inches bore. The height of the cistern gave the water a head of less than 27 feet, so not a very large portion of the city could be supplied, and only the lower stories of the buildings at that. Besides, the place in the river from which it was taken gave it all the advantages of the city drainage and the bilge water from the ships, making it sometimes necessary to allow it to settle before imbibing; yet the water rates were fifty percent cheaper than now, and it was the boast of the time that the place was better supplied with water than any city on the continent, except Philadelphia.
There were no drains or sewers in the city except the great natural on the creek, and the water came down the spouts into the street, and stayed there or else ran off where it pleased. The most frequented streets were roughly paved, and had sidewalks laid with small round stones. There were no rows of trees as now, for over this whole continent, from the time of the earliest settlers almost to the present, trees were a species of vegetation to be exterminated, not reared.
THEY GOT ALONG WITHOUT SEWERS.
There were many nuisances on the streets, among which were dust—for there were no watering carts—and various kinds of roaming animals. Of the latter the pig was the most common. On August 24th, 1820, a pig sauntered into the Montreal Bank, and deliberately scratched himself against the partition. There was a curious law or regulation at that time concerning the strollings abroad of this enterprising animal, which read somewhat as follows. “Any person may seize any pig found roaming at large in any street of the city, and shall cause the same to be proclaimed by a crier in the city and suburbs, and (if the animal be not previously claimed) at the door of the parish church on the following Sunday. If it be found impossible to seize the pig, it shall be lawful to kill the same with any weapon not endangering the lives of the citizens and the same proclamation shall be make. In both cases, if the pig be claimed, the claimant must pay expenses and 5s besides, if not claimed the pig shall become the property of the seizer.
A PIG IN THE BANK
The vehicles then in use were ordinary carts and trucks, and, for driving, the caleche, clumsy one horse carriage with two wheels and a spring seat. In 1817 there were but two couches in the city, those of Lady Bowes and the Hon. John Forsythe. Previous to 1820, the mails for Upper Canada were carried to Lachine in a cart, or when the roads, were bad, on horseback. But Horace Dickenson, an American, was the supplier, and Yankee enterprise must come to the surface, so one fine morning in June, 1820, he drove out of the city along the Upper Lachine Road amid crowds of envious lookers-on, with two horses hitched to a large four-wheeled three- seated farmer’s wagon, painted red, the first vehicle of the kind seen in the neighorhood. In a few years, however, they became quite common, but Dickinson again forged ahead by coming out with a four-horse coach.
HOW THEY TRAVELLED
The mail system of that time was a part of the English Postal Service, and the Province had no voice in the matter. The Montreal Post Office was a room about twelve feet square in St. Sulpice street, near St. Paul. There were no letter-boxes; it was all “general delivery” in its crudest form. The few letters lay scattered about on a table, and had all to be looked over at each application at the door. Very few letters came or went; the mail to Upper Canada was weekly, and the seven days collection could be contained in one small mail-bag. That to Quebec was oftener and larger. The English mail carried in sailing vessels, arrived during the summer at periods of from a month and a half to three months apart. In winter it came by New York and was longer on the way. Postage was very dear, about 9d. to Quebec, 5d. to St. Johns, 1s 6p. to western part of Upper Canada, and 1s. 6d to the Lower Provinces. In 1820 there appeared in the various newspapers an official advertisement signed by a member of the English Postal Service, giving a list of reduced rates between Canada and many foreign countries, the postage on a letter to the various countries of Western Europe varying from 3s. 10d. to 4s. 4d. There were no money letters for indeed there was no money in a form convenient for sending this. The recipient of a letter paid all the postage except in cases where it crossed the United States boundary when the sender paid as far as the lines. There was much private mail carrying both for pay and free. Anyone travelling to the United States or Upper Canada was expected to fill half his baggage with letters and various articles for persons there.
WHAT IT COST TO SEND LETTERS
THE PORT AND SHIPPING OF MONTREAL THE RIVER, AND THE WAY THE SHIPS CAME AND WENT.
The river margin was almost lined with rafts and logs, but otherwise was in its natural state. There were no wharves; passengers walked ashore on planks, goods were landed on the beach, whether it was muddy or dry. In some places carts were driven into the river to obtain loads of drift wood. A little island covered with water casks belonging to the ships stood off the old market, where the Island Wharf now is. Between this island and the beach was very good anchorage, and vessels drawing 14 or 15 feet water could lie close to the shore at the old market. The river had its periodical changes then about as now, for the climate of Montreal, at least, is pretty stable. On Christmas Day, 1817, the river was open but before New Year’s teams crossed from Hochelaga to Longeuil on the ice, which was chronicled as an extraordinary circumstance by the old settlers. In April, 1820, the ice piled up 20 or 80 feet high at the new market, and staved in a livery stable there kept by a man named Sharp. There was only 11 or 12 feet of water on Lake St. Peter, and the size of vessels in the harbour rarely exceeded 200 tons. On the 26th of September, 1825, a meeting of citizens was held, and Parliament petitioned to deepen Lake St. Peter, so that vessels of 250 tons could pass fully laden. But the greatest disadvantage to the harbour was St. Mary’s current. Vessels sometimes waited a month or six weeks at Hochelaga for a favorable wind to blow them up to port. Often two vessels would pass at the foot of the current, one go to Quebec and back, and both reach Montreal at the same time, and stories are told of two ships meeting there, the one outward bound making a round trip to England, and sailing up the rapid by the same wind as the other. The steamboats landed their passengers at Molson’s brewery, and were towed up by carts or horses. In 1824, the “Hurcules,” a tug boat of 100 horse power made her way up by the aid of steam alone, and partially solved the difficulty of navigating the current, which would have been obviated by a proper course of the Lachine canal. It will be completely solved when Mr. Shearer’s scheme is carried out, even if our wharves should be left partly dry and more damage done on the opposite side of the river than good on this. Montreal was not made a port of entry until it was incorporated, but the Canadian Courant, of which paper Mr. Dorwin has several files, gives lists of the arrivals and clearness of sailing vessels for 1820, all, of course, from or for foreign or lower ports. The arrivals during the spring and early summer were about 12 or 15 small vessels a week, the clearances very few; in the autumn the clearances were abut a dozen vessels a week, the arrivals very few or none. Besides there these were the few steamboats then plying to Quebec, and about 50 “ Durham boats” a weeks from above, most of them coming no further down than Lachine. The most important vessel in port in those days was the “Eweretta,” a small ship belonging to the North-West Company, which arrived here London every spring, usually about the first of June, bringing out supplies for the company and all kinds of fancy goods, silks and ribbons, with the next year’s fashions for the citizens who were then always a year or two behind their leaders in Paris and London. She remained in port all summer and left for London about the end of October when her cargo of furs had come down form the interior. The fact of her departure was in every one’s mouth as a sign of winter.
STEAMBOATING ON THE ST. LAWRENCE.
In 1807 Robert Fulton had launched the first steamboat in the world on the Hudson. In 1807 John and Henry Winans built a small barge shaped steamboat on lake Champlain, called the “Vermont,” which was wrecked near St. Johns in the full of 1815. In November, 1809, the “Accommodation,” built by John Molson, the first steamboat ever seen on the St. Lawrence, made her trial trip from Montreal to Quebec in 66 hours, including 30 hours stoppage on the way. She was not a success, however, and next year he built the “Malsham,” and in 1813 the “Swiftsure,” which made her first trip to Quebec on May 4. In 1815 the “Car of Commerce” was built by an association of merchants in opposition to Molson, and was, perhaps, a little swifter boat than any of those preceding her. But in the spring of 1817 John Molson launched the “Lady Sherbrooke,” which being the largest and swiftest at once became the most popular boat on the river. She once made a trip to Quebec in 16 hours, which was heralded all over the country and often boasted of by her commander, Captain Consit. He had formerly been a Lieutenant in the English Navy and was a regular old salt. He was famous for his dinners on board, which were got up in John Bull style, with plenty of roast beef and plum pudding. A passage to Quebec in the “Lady Sherbrooke” cost $8 down and $10 up. All these steamboats were heavy, full-bowed vessels, sloop-rigged, with flush decks, berths below, side wheels, and low pressure engines, of about 45 or 50 horse-power. In the passage up from Quebec they needed to take every advantage of wind and tide, and the manner of their being towed up St Mary’s current has been spoken of. Such a think as stemming the rapids above the city was not thought of. In 1818, John D. Ward, and American, a quiet, sober-faced young man, arrived in this city and went to work in Allison, Turner & Co.’s foundry, and being very enterprising established the next year the “Eagle” foundry for himself. He spent a week in sounding the channel above the city and declared a boat could be built which would go to Laprairie. He got a few capitalists interested in the matter and a steamboat was built under his directions, he himself constructing the engine. One fine afternoon in; the summer of 1819 it was announced that the steamboat “Montreal” would make a trip to Laprairie and back, and a great crowd assembled on the river bank, everyone, even old John Molson, saying she would never make the passage. She started, however and after two or three hours watching by the incredulous crowd it was seen that she had passed the “Trios Roche” and reached her destination. It was then said that she would strand on her downward passage, but she arrived safely and steamboats have run regularly to Laprairie during the summer season ever since.
Montreal more then than now owed its importance to its advantageous position on a great river at the head of navigation—literally so in 1816—making it the place of entry for the foreign commodities used in vast regions of back country such as the townships and Upper Canada, and at he point of departure for all their surplus product. Railroads, canals, tariffs and other influences have since much changed and diverted the currents of trade, and proportionately altered their volumes. A large trade from northern New York then passed through this city, but was lost to us by the opening of the Eric Canal. Three times as much wheat was then raised for export in Terrebonne, and in the country about Chambly and Laprairie as at any time after 1830. The fur trade from the North-West is comparatively dead. These are instances of Montreal's losses; her gaips by the immense development of her trade with Upper Canada and beyond, and in other directions, are too well-known to require notice.
THE HEAD OF NAVIGATION
THREE STREAMS OF TRADE.
Three considerable streams of trade then passed through the city, the fur trade, the Upper Canada and New York State trade, and what might be called the New England and Townships trade.
The fur trade was small but valuable. It was controlled by McGillivray, Thain & Co., otherwise called the “North-West Company,” perhaps the most important trading establishment in the city, having its headquarters in St. Gabriel street, where the Canada Hotel now is. Its strife with the Hudson’s Bay Company until the amalgamation of the two in 1824, is a matter of history. Most of the furs were brought in canoes from the North-West , down Lakes Superior and Huron to the mouth of French River, up this river to Lake Nipissing, and down the Mattawan and Ottawa to Montreal. They were then shipped to England by the “Eweretta.” Mackinaw was a way station of the Company, and Port William, at the head of Lake Superior, named after the Hon. William McGillivray, one of their most important trading posts. Their canoemen were the voyageurs so famous in Canadian story.
The lumber exports of Montreal at the time were mostly oak and pine square timber, and oak staves. These came down the river in rafts from Upper Canada to the foot of the current and were there shipped to England and Scotland. About 20 vessels loaded there during the summer of 1818. From Upper Canada and the Genesee and Black River country in New York State, were brought large quantities of potash and pearlash, wheat, corn, flour, beef, pork and butter. These came in “Durham boats” and small sloops to Lachine, were carted there to the city and exported to Britain and the West Indies. Ships to the West Indies brought back Leeward Island rum, sugar, and molasses.
The large firm of Horatio Gates & Co. almost monopolized the trade in potash and flour, and kept $20,000 or $30,000 – large sums in those days—in constant circulation between this city and the United States. Gates was himself an American, and on of the most enterprising men of his time. Says Mr. Dorwin:--“The very much faster growth of Montreal as compared with that of Quebec is largely due to the greater enterprise of many of the merchants of the former city at about the time we are writing—to John Molson for the introduction of steam navigation on the river, to Horatio Gates for opening up the immense flour trade with the West, to the North-West Company for bringing a large portion of the fur trade through the city in spite of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and to many other merchants for bringing from Upper Canada and elsewhere the supplies for the lumberman of the Province which should have been done by Quebec.”
BUILDING LACHINE CANAL
The great increase of trade with the West and the enormous labor and expense in carting everything to and from Lachine, led to the digging of the Lachine Canal. The attention of the Government had been directed to the importance of this work by the difficulty of transporting the army stores for Upper Canada during the war, and in March, 1815, £25,000 was voted towards its construction but peace came and beyond a few levels being taken nothing was done. But trade increased and many Montreal merchants, chief among whom was the Hon. John Richardson, strongly agitated the undertaking. In April 1819 a Bill passed the legislature, incorporating a joint stock company to dig the canal with a capital of £150,000 but it was afterwards broken up and the work undertaken by the Province on the conditions that the subscribers to the stock of the company should relinquish all their rights on their receiving back the money they had advanced on shares, and that on the contribution of £10,000 towards the work by the English Government, all stores and effects belonging to His Majesty, should pass through the canal free. The route originally proposed for the canal was along the river at Lachine to the commencement of the turnpike road, then by the foot of Cote St. Paul and on until it arrive at a point between the Upper Lachine road and S. Antoine suburbs, then along the creek though Craig street, across the Quebec suburbs and into the river below the current.
OLD TIME PREJUCDICES
The Hon. John Richardson, the Chairman of the Committee of Management of the canal, owned a farm near Hochelaga; and the French party in the House cried out that his purpose was to greatly enhance its value by running the canal through it and opposed the whole scheme on the ground that it would ruin the carters who carried the merchandise to and from Lachine. Besides, the French proprietors of lands along the lower part of this route objected to the passing of the canal through them. Richardson was, of course, strongly in favor of putting it though to its proper ending at the foot of the current, but seeing that false motives would be imputed to him if he persisted, he said that the city should have the canal anyway, and ran it through to the river at its present terminus at Wind Mill Point. On July 18, 1821, he turned the first sod and made a great speech, describing the benefits which the city would derive from its construction. Thomas Brunett was the engineer; the contractors were Mackay and Redpath, Phillips and White and Bagg and Wait. It was opened in August, 1824, and vessels passed through it in 1825. The first attempt to utilize the great water power of the St. Lawrencerapids was that made by Baron Grant, who some years before 1816 extended a wing-dam into the current on the north-west side of St. Helen’s Island, and drove a gristmill with the 4 to 6 feet head of water thus obtained.
Large quantities of pot and pearl ashes, and farm produce from Vermont and the Eastern Townships came down Lake Champlain and the Richelieu to St. John’s, was carted to Laprairie, brought from there down to the city in flat bottomed boats called “bateaux,” and shipped to England. This was the third stream of trade which passed through the city and its channel has since 1816 been much changed and improved.
THE FIRST CANADIAN RAILWAY
The establishment of a steamboat line to Laprairie in 1819 has been spoken of. The Champlain and St. Lawrence Railroad between Laprairie and St. Johns, the first railroad built in Canada, was commenced in 1835 and opened in 1836, Austin Cuvillier, the member for Huntingdon at the time, on the floor of the House strongly opposed its construction, on the ground that it would ruin the carters along the route---the same objection urged by the French party against the building of the Lachine Canal. Shortly after the railroad was built, the Chambly Canal was opened in opposition to it by the Quebec people, who wished to divert the trade to their city.
There are no reliable statistics concerning the trade of Montreal at that time, but the following account of the imports and exports of the whole Province for the year 1817 will be instructive. There arrived in the ports of Lower Canada in 1817, 332 vessels, with an aggregate tonnage of 77,115 tons and cleared from them 335 vessels, of 76,828 tons. The imports were 231,436 gallons wine, 44,660 do brandy, 12646 do gin, 536 do arrack, 1,125,842 do rum, 60,547 do molasses, 609,170 lbs refined sugar, 2,2310,965 lbs Muscovado sugar, 35,995 lbs coffee. 376, 634 lbs leaf tobacco, 277 lbs manufactured do, 18 lbs snuff, 5,724 packs playing cards, 186,247 minots salt, 254,248 lbs tea, mostly green, and merchandise to the value of £672,876 17s 11½d, paying 2½ per cent duty. Many of the above enumerated articles paid what would amount to more than 2½ per cent. The peculiar nature of some of the articles, with the proportion they bear to the rest of the imports, is significant and shows how a large part of the surplus products of the country were then wasted. Among the exports may be noticed immense quantities of furs, pine and oak timber, oak staves, all kinds of spars, pot and pearl ashes, 145,660 bushels wheat and 38,047 barrels flour. In 1818,401,791 bushels wheat and 30,543 barrels flour were exported. Of course, in both these imports and exports was involved the greater part of the foreign trade of Upper Canada. On the other hand, there was a great deal of smuggling across the American line in those days as well as now.
WHAT GOODS USED TO COST.
As another matter for comparison, we give the prices of a few staple articles taken from the market price list in the Canadian Courant of May 20, 1820, which are: Beef, £2 10s per bbl; pork, £4 to £5 do; flour, £1 5s to £1 10s do; coffee, £8 to £9 per cwt; sugar, £3 to £3 10s do; butter, best quality, 10d per lb; tea, 4s to 8s 6d do; tobacco, 6d to 1s 3d do; brandy, 4s to 5s per gal; coal, £1 10s to £1 15s per chaldron. All these articles sold at a much higher rate during and shortly after the war.
THE MERCHANT PRINCES OF 1816
The principal wholesale firms doing business in Montreal in 1816 were: McGillivray, Thain & Co., otherwise called the “North-West Company;” Forsythe, Richardson & Co., who were agents East India Company; Maitlands, Garden & Aulajo; Gerard, Gillespie, Moffatt & Co., then agents Phoenix Fire Insurance Co. of London, and now existing as Gillespie, Moffatt & Co.; H. Gates & Co.; Allison, Turner & Co.; Desrivieres, Blackwood & Co,; Blackwood, LaRoque & Co.; Robinson, Masson & Co.; Hector Russel & Co., also retailing fancy dress goods the great retail dry goods house of that time; Miller, Parlane & Co. James Miller left the firm in 1819 and engaged exclusively in shipbuilding, and was really the founder of the Allan line of steamships; James McDougall & Co, merchants and brokers; Hart, Logan & co; Geo Platt & Co, hardware; J & J M. Frothingham and workman; J.T. Barret, Frothingham & Workman; J T Barrett, hardware; Jacob DeWitt, hardware; Lewis Lynian, druggist, the founder of the present house of Lyman, Sons & Co.: Day, Gelston & Co., druggists Mr. Day being the father of the present Judge Day; and Wadsworth & Nichols, also druggist; Thomas Torrance and John Torrance, both wholesale and retail grocers; Bowman & Smith, grocers; Zabdiel Thayer, crockery; Toussaint Peltier, grain merchant; Felix Soutigny do; McNider, Aird & White, auctioneers; M C Cuvillier & Co, do, and Bridge & Penn, do. Most of these firms did what would even now be called a very large business, and many of the men composing them were reputed wealthy. The possession of $25,000 in those days made a rich man, and $100, 000 a very wealthy man.
The manufactures of the city in 1816 were unimportant of the city in 1816 were unimportant. Allison, Turner & Co.’s foundry, Miller’s shipyard, Molson’s Dunn’s and Chapman’s breweries, and a few other small factories have been spoken of. Jabez DeWitt and Abner Bagg were hatters. Shey & Bent and John Try, carpenters and contractors, and Delorme & Phillips, Andrew White and Redpath and McKay, first-class masons and contractors.
THE MONEY OF OUR FATHERS,
Most of the money then in use was silver. The coins were Spanish dollars, French half-crowns valued at two shillings and nine pence, pistareens, valued at one shilling, and seven-pence half-penny pieces. The only paper money ever seen in the country were army bills which had been issued by the Government during the war, and were most of them redeemed shortly after. The habitants, not being able to read, would not take paper money and preferred silver coin, perhaps, to another. Consequently all kind of silver coins, depreciated and otherwise, poured into the county from all quarters, and passed at par and sometimes above it. Half-crowns and pistareens were worth only half a dollar and 17 cts., respectively, in Boston, but were brought over here by the boxful and passed at the above quoted values. Speculators brought over large quantities of American half-dollars and exchanged them army bills, which were at a heavy discount here, took the army bills over the border and sold them at a high premium.
THE FIRST CANADIAN BANK.
In the summer of 1817 a number of prominent merchants of the city after holding several meetings, formed a company with a capital of $1,000,000 and started the Bank of Montreal. They had no charter, for in those days the obtaining of rights for private companies was a very difficult and tedious undertaking as after the necessary legislation had passed the Provincial Government, the whole matter had to be sent to the British Government for sanction. It was a great puzzle to the Bank how to issue bills for circulation without making each stockholder personally liable for their payment, but at last the following form for the reading of their notes was adopted.
“The President and Directors of the Bank of Montreal promise to pay A.B. , or bearer, the sum of five dollars (or other amount) out of the joint funds of the Association, and no other.”
This form was, of course, dropped when the charter was obtained. Several years ago, one of these old notes was presented as payment to the Metropolitan Bank of this city. John Grey, a retired dry goods merchant, was the first President of the Bank, Robert Griffin, the first cashier. The directors were some of the most prominent business men of the city. They war Hon. John Richardson, Samuel Gerard, Thomas Thain, Horatio Gates, George Auldjo, John Molson, Thomas A. Turner, William Ermantinger, Zabdiel Thayer and David David. On the 1st of October, 1817, the first bank note ever issued in Canada was issued by the Montreal Bank. Notwithstanding the prejudice of the habitants against paper money, the Banks prospered until 1824, when Samuel Gerard was made President. He, by his mismanagement, had lost the one-third of its capital by 1827. John Molson then became President, and the losses were redeemed in a few years, but for five years at that time the Banks paid no dividend. It occupied for the first few years of its existence a small building in St. Paul street, and then moved into a much larger one where the present Post Office stands. Forged $5 notes appeared in 1820.
In 1818 the Bank of Canada was started by a few wealthy individuals, who were dissatisfied with the directorship of the Bank of Montreal. Thomas H. Turner was President, and Robert Armour, Cashier. There was not room for two banks, however, and the influence of its rival was too powerful, so it died in a few years, and fell into the hands of two firms—H. Gates & Co. and William Peddie & Co., who wound up its affairs without any loss to the stockholders. Many persons have a belief that such an institution as the “Bank of Canada” never excited, so for their better convincement the following business notice has been clipped the Canadian Courant of May 13, 1820:
BANK OF CANADA.Director for following week—Abner Bagg, Esq. Days of Discount—Wednesday and Saturday. Opens at the ten and shuts at three o'clock. Exchange on Quebec, New York and London for sale.These advertisements occur weekly through the Canadian Courant for 1820, side by side with similar announcements of the Bank of Montreal.
ROBERT ARMOUR, CASHIER.
THE NEWSPAPER PRESS.
There were three English newspapers published in Montreal in 1816, the Gazette, Herald and Canadian Courant. There was not French paper. The Gazette, started in 1778, was at the time of which we are writing owned and printed by James Broron in a small wooden building which has been spoken of, standing on the corner of St. Francois Xavier and Notre Dame streets. The Herald had been stared in 1809 by a man named Kay. The Canadian Courant, established in 1807 by Nahum Mower, was still conducted by him in a small building in St. Paul street in 1820, and was perhaps then the most influential and widely read of the three. Mower, however, was the life of it, for when he died it died shortly after him, in 1833. A glance at its pages for 1820 shows that it was conducted with considerable ability. The local columns were well filled and well written; the many abuses of the time were denounced, and necessary improvements advocated. The European intelligence, the most important part of which in 1820 concerned the trial of Queen Caroline, was about two months behind time. The Canadian Courant was published twice a week in 1829, and its advertising columns were well patronized. Many of the insertions there would now be called unique and amusing. Here is a sample:--A PERSON IN THIS CITY has in his possession a good SILK UMBRELLA known not to be his own; he is desired to examine its folds on which he will find the owner’s name marked in several places with a pen, and to be kind enough to return it.
In our day an umbrella once “borrowed” is never expected to be returned. We have grown more off-handed.
THE HOTELS OF THE DAY.
The best hotel in the city was the “Maison House,” kept by Dyde & Martinent, in a house formerly the residence of John Johnson, on ground where is now the eastern end of Bonsecours market. Its style of management would compare favorable with that of our present best hotels. The building was burned down on the morning of March 16, 1821, after a large ball or “assembly” had been held in it the night before. Martinent shortly afterwards started a hotel under the same name near the corner of McGill and College streets, in which was held a grand Masonic dinner at eh laying go the corner stone of the Montreal General Hospital. June 6, 1821. The next best hotel was “Clamp’s Coffee House,” kept by Benjamin Clamp, on the east end of Capital street, the resort of the “Beaver Club,” a society of aristocratic “North-Westers” and gentry of the city. Transient travellers and Upper Canada merchants put up at the “City Tavern,” kept by Robert Tesseyman, in a court yard near the corner of St. Paul and St. Peter streets. It was afterwards the “Exchange Coffee House.” Eastern Townships merchants and Americans went to the “Brock Tavern,” on the corner of McGill and College streets, kept by Deacon Lyman, or to the “Commercial Hotel,” kept by Samuel Pomeroy, on the grounds where now stands Frothingham & Workman’s back ware house. The latter was also a first-class boarding house. The charges at these best hotels varied from 2s. 6d., to 5s. a day. An Irishman kept what he called the “Belfast Hotel,” in Capital street near “Clamps,” and received many of the Irish immigrants who came to this country in large numbers about that time. The Les Trois Rois of Joseph Donegani a drinking house on the same street owed its name to its sign which bore a rough painting of three figures representing the “three Kings of the East.” “Joe” kept looking glasses for sale and was a small money lender of the Jewish type. He lent out small sums to persons wishing them, at the legal rate of interest, but compelled each of them to take a looking-glass at his own price; and it was the custom for hard-ups “go over to Joe Donegani’s and buy a looking glass.” Thomas Delvecchio, and Italian, kept a large drinking house facing the old market from the east side, with a clock on which stood small figures that struck the hours and quarters. The only place in the city where oysters were properly served was at “Moses Hadyen’s,” near “Clamps.” Except the houses already mentioned as standing there, the east end of Capital street was filled with low drinking places for voyageurs and raftsmen. Along St. Paul street, near the barracks and Quebec gate, was a succession of low grog -shops for soldiers and market people, making that neighbourhood very rough in those days.
HOW THEY CRITICISED WIDOWS AND WIDOWERS WHO MARRIED AGAIN.
The keeper of the “Farmer’s Hotel,” at his time was a widower, but married in 1816 a very young wife, and his many friends assembled to do him honor by giving him a glorious charivri. They demanded a large sum of money as the price of their departure, but the old man was stubborn when such matters were mentioned, and the performance lasted nightly, a fortnight, until Sheriff Ermatinger, with a large gold chain around his neck as his badge of office, interfered and drove them away, leaving the landlord’s money pile unbroken. Not so ended a like affair in the Quebec suburbs a few year after. A rich widow was married to a handsome young man, and the usual crowd came together making the customary demand for a sum of money. But the assemblage lacked dash and enterprise, and on the second or third night the lady thrust her head out of an upper story window and told them that, having married a beau garcon, she felt pretty liberal, but at the same time they must make a better show than that and do the thing up decently if they expected her to make it all right with them. Accordingly, the next night they came on in style, with flags and torched, a splendid illuminated coffin, ornamented with various devices, drums, tin pans, horns, and a band playing the Dead March, and other lively airs. The lady was evidently satisfied, for a present of £50 was handed out and divided among the masqueraders. When ever a widow or widower got married a charivari followed as a matter of necessity. The custom lasted for years afterwards until one night a man was shot dead in an affair of this kind is St. Ann suburbs.
THE CHURCHES OF THE DAY.
About nine-tenths of the people of Montreal in 1816 were Catholics. There were three Catholic churches, all of which have been before mentioned, Bonsecours church, the Recollet church, and the French Parish church. The latter was pulled down in 1824 to make room for the present one, which was opened in 1828. Besides these the Hotel Dieu, the Convent of Notre Dame, and the Grey Nunnery, all had chapels. There were three Protestant churches in the city, Christ Church (Episcopal) stood on Crystal Block, and was officiated in by Rev. John Leeds, until 1817 when he exchanged with the Rev. John Bethune, who afterwards became Dean of Montreal. A tower was erected on this church in 1820 and in it was placed a splendid four dialled clock, a gift of John Shuter of London, formerly a merchant of the city. The whole building was burned down in 1856. The Rev. Mr. Somerville was pastor of the St. Gabriel street church, which had bee built in 1792. The St. Andrew’s Church in St. Peter street had been built for the Americans with money collected in the United States, most of its members were Americans, and its pastor, Rev. Robert Easton, was a native of Hebron, New York. About that time a large number of Scotch joined the church and outvoted the Americans, and a great strife sprung up between the two national elements. The Scotch wanted to bring a minister from Scotland to take charge of the church, and a meeting was held to discuss the matter, when Deacon Samuel Hedge, one of the pillars of the church, arose and remarked in his sober, Presbyterian style that he had no objection to getting to Heaven, but he saw no necessity for going by way of Scotland. The contest resulted in the withdrawal of the Americans and the establishment by them of the American Presbyterian Church on Morgan’s corner. The few Methodists then in the city worshipped in a small room in St. Sulpice street. The Rev. Mr. Lusher was then pastor. On the 18th of February, 1821, they opened the first Methodist church in the city on the corner of St. Francois Xavier and St. James streets. The Baptists built their first church in 1831. Lucy Hedge, the daughter of Samuel Hedge opened the first Sunday school in Canada in her father’s house in 1816. A Bible Society was started in Montreal by a meeting held for that purpose in Mansion House August 28, 1820.
The only institution for the reception and treatment of diseased poor at that time was the Hotel Dieu. The Montreal Dispensary was founded in 1819 mainly for the reception of sick immigrants. The foundations stone of the Montreal General Hospital was laid, with, Masonic honors, June 6, 1821, by Sir John Johnson. Hon. John Richardson, Rev. John Bethune,. Dr. Robertson, John Molson, David Ross, John Try and A. Skakel, were appointed the building Committee, and the plan of Thomas Phillips was adopted. The building was erected by voluntary subscriptions.
Nine-tenths of the French population of the city in 1816 could neither read nor write. The remaining tenth received more or less instruction at the three Catholic educational institutions of the place, the males at the Seminary of St. Sulpice and the new college, both of which were controlled by the Seminary, the females at the Convent of Notre Dame. Some English girls also were educated at the last institution, but besides these the English speaking people, the greater part of which received some little instruction, depended altogether on private schools. In 1816 what was called a “National School” was founded in Bonsecours street, under the patronage of the Montreal District Committee of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. In 1820 a royal charter was granted, incorporating McGill College, and that institution began to exist on paper. In 1822 the British and Canadian School society founded a school in the city, under the patronage of Lord and Lady Dalhousie, which was attended by Protestants and Catholics of both sexes. In 1824 an Act passed the Legislature for the establishment of an elementary school in each parish of the Province. The condition of the city at that time in respect to education, as shown by these statements, was truly lamentable, but putting our progress since then against that of neighboring cities and countries, we have little to boast of, and the slow advancement in importance of the city of Montreal as compared with what her main advantages would seem to entitle her to, in duty more than most people imagine to the dense ignorance of a large number of her inhabitants.
The Montreal Daily Star, February 5, 1881
Dorwin's correspondents and his reply
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