"American Tour 1871"

 Oct 8th to Oct 16th

8th Oct.

We were up and out of the house betimes, as at 6.30 we left by train 9 miles to La Chine where we took the steamer to shoot the rapids of La Chine.

On our way down the river, the engines were reversed full speed, but still we had plenty of way on her as she dashed thro the seething, boiling eddies with her bows several feet below her stern now diving thro the rapid currents dividing two frowning rocks and again passing thro unseen rocks but withstanding the tremor of excitement a feeling of quiet safety is experienced on watching how sharply and carefully, the pilot guides our quivering course. A few bullocks and cows look perfectly unconscious of the danger seen and unseen, we rapidly approach the tubular bridge and as we sweep swiftly between the abutments can admire the colossal proportions of this feat of engineering skill.

We landed at Montreal and after dinner embarked on one of Richlieu’s fine steamers the ‘Quebec’ for a sail up the St Lawrence. These steamers – floating palaces as they are surprised me by their immense accommodation as well as by the superb fittings of her tiers and staterooms, rising one above the other, brilliantly lighted by the large oil lamps in the shape of our gas lights but glass, there was however an unpleasant odour from these oil lamps. A ponderous outside steam engine with slow stately strokes propelled us on our journey. The night was cold each cheerless we turned in being sent to sleep by some brilliant pianoforte music given by a dashing young Canadian Belle.  

10th Oct.

On looking out of my stateroom found the weather wet and foggy we were steaming thro the shipping at anchor and along the rocky precipices, over which frowned the lofty citadel making one ponder on the courage and daring displayed by those who once strived and took it. As we drew up to the quay we were sorry to see the steamer ‘Lord Clyde’ start forth on her last trip up the famous Saqueny River, which we all strongly desired to see. We had a sharp aspect in our cabin to get to the St Louis Hotel at 7am. Quebec has rather a woe begone appearance as tho it had seen better days. We missed the bustling enterprise, everywhere so conspicuous in Montreal, but the town of Quebec on account of it’s abrupt ascent from the river makes it well nigh impossible to make it a regular city. Higher Quebec is however delightfully situated a splendid view is obtained of the lower city, the river with it’s shipping and the opposite shores are mountainous. Its distance from New York is 650 miles from Montreal 168 and 340 from the ocean. The city of Quebec was founded in 1608 and was taken possession of by the British in 1619, final possession was taken by Wolfe in 1754. The Citadel the American Gibraltar crowns the summit of Cape Diamond and covers 46 acres with its buildings. Access to it is gained from the upper town the walls of which are entered by 5 gates. We went over with a sergeant of the 60th rifles and shared his regret that the scenes of our glorious traditions should be abandoned by the Queen’s troops.

Our view was splendid, embracing the River that it commands, the streets of the City and the Plains of Abraham that we subsequently visited, after a delightful walk along the cliffs. We were soon standing by the column that marks the spot where Wolfe victoriously fell after his deadly conflict. We enquired from neighbouring cottage children for the well from which water was brought for the dying General and found that it had been filled up.

We drove this afternoon, along some good roads for 8 miles to see the Falls of Montgomery that are grand and beautiful. The river here is 60ft wide and the descent of the forest 250ft. The river at some distance seems suspended in the air in a sheet of billowy foam and contrasted with the black flowing abyss into which it falls is an object of great interest the spray is almost blinding the noise deafening, the surrounding scenery is beautiful.

11th Oct.

Visited the shops and had a long drive. Left at 7.20 pm for Montreal made our first acquaintance with Pullman’s sleeping cars. The berths are not unlike those on board steamers but narrower. The sight presented to our gaze on going to bed was ludicrous, a newly married couple, ladies and gentlemen all retiring at the same time. I did not secure a good night’s sleep, the constant jerks and rolls and the fitful slumbers I got were disturbed as the train stopped and started. Just before daylight were told by the conductor that we had better get up as we were approaching our destination, and as we drew up at Lambert station, we found that a passenger (a plate layer) roused suddenly out of slumber, had fallen underneath the wheels of our car and had his head completely severed from his body. The poor fellow was from Quebec and has left a large family.

12th Oct.

Arrived (across the tubular bridge) on Bonaventure Station at 6 am feeling very ill from the cramped position of my night’s rest and the sad accident. At 7 am left for La Chine where we embarked on the steamer ‘Princess of Wales’ for a sail up the Ottawa River, with which we soon steamed out of the St Lawrence River. We went as far as Carillou where we took the train for Grenville then we embarked on the ‘Queen Victoria’ and continued our sail up this noble river. These steamers have excellent accommodation and this captain (Bowie) is a most intelligent and affable man, the passengers are a mixed and rough lot, settlers on distant station. Backwoodsmen of immense stature, rough garb and appearance, yet very courteous and affable in conversation, leading a life I imagine very different to that in which they have been nurtured. Some of them look men of education and culture, but who may have very few graces and probably been sent out by patient wearied parents, to rough it out in the backwoods, they seem delighted to meet and speak to us so recently from the old country to which they treasure up great affection and veneration. One or two of them, were returning from a ‘marrying expedition’ to one of the large cities and were bringing back to cheer them in their lonely homes – tenderly bred city maidens who as far as good looks go will adorn and I hope make happy their pine built dwellings.

The scenery on the Ottawa River is very wild, on each side of it are forests as ‘old as the hills’ here and there a patch cleared and a farmstead or steam sawmill erected showing the march of white enterprise. It required as the twilight closed rapidly a sharp deck promenade to keep up the circulation.

Amongst our fellow passengers was a drunken Irishman of the worst type, yet he was a magistrate in his own settlement. He had his coat nearly torn off his back in attempting to escape from the steamer without paying his fare and caused much amusement.

At 7 pm we drew up to the quay of the city of Ottawa and made our way to Russell House and after a cup of tea were glad to go to bed.

13th Oct.

After breakfast we made our way to the State House and Houses of Parliament. They are handsomely built, after the style of Westminster, tho the interiors are much superior each two members, being provided with a chair and desk, the Senate or Higher House being superbly fitted, fine statues of the Queen, Prince and Princess of Wales by Marshall Woods, at a cost of £2000 subscribed for by the members were placed there, in the corridors are portraits of former senators, there is a splendid library and museum of patents containing some very interesting models, visited the lower regions to inspect the ventilating and heating appliances. The extremes of summer and winter are very great in these Northern latitudes, the boilers are models of exquisite workmanship they serve to heat the house in winter and drive a superb pair of brass engines, which sends a refreshing current thro the rooms in summer.

On leaving the place we visited The Chaudian Falls, the rapid river plunges over a precipice 130 ft giving the appearance of boiling water hence the name Chaudiere or cauldron.

Visited several sawmills, the motive power is turbine for which there is ample and powerful supply. It was most interesting to see the huge trees of the forests floated within a few inches of the splendid machinery which saws them up and prepares them for house building in all varieties, for buckets and making matches. This last process amazed me the machinery is delicate intricate and beautiful, girls are mostly employed in the latter occupation (as they usually are) some were making the boxes others filling them with matches, such sharp fingers!

The bucket making is also highly ingenious tho I scarcely dare watch the men, so many of them nearly all had lost one or more of their fingers.

We then afterwards went to see the Rideaux or Curtain Falls, but the low state of the river disappointed us, so we went on to Rideaux Hall, the seat of the Governor General The Canadas. At one time each of the cities took it in turn to be the capital but squabblings were so numerous that the Queen was advised to elect the striving city of Ottawa as capital.

The amount of timber around here is simply appalling, the quantity of chips sent down river as waste is most wasteful to my eye, what a boon they would be in the cheerless houses of some of our poor in England.

On our way back we were amused by the antics of a grey horse that had bolted loose, it was caught at last by C L. who received the thanks of some young ladies.

14th Oct.

Left our quarters at Ottawa at 7 am for Prescott where we hoped to catch the steamer on her way between Montreal and Toronto but owing to a heavy gale of wind the steamer was several hours late. Promenading the station that is close to the river we were struck with the bustling activity of Ogdensburg a US town across the river. Prescott cannot compare at all favourably with it, things here seem stagnant. We regretfully decided to go by the 11 train to Toronto and missed seeing the magnificent river scenery and the ‘Thousand Isles about which we had heard so much.

The journey by rail was uninteresting as the track was laid thro endless woods and forests. Here and there, the squatters had begun to clear the land -  Government allows each adult 100 acres free, they clear the land by felling the trees sometimes patience wears out and they resort to the dangerous practice of setting fire to them. Some of them look awfully rough places. The squatters need have brave hearts and strong arms to battle with the hopelessly entangled trees and shrubs surrounded by swamps.

H, B and I are alone here L and J have gone for a trip up the Ottawa River and T W had to retrace his steps to Caldwell as he had left his watch under his pillows. Arrived at Toronto at 10.30 pm.

15th Oct.

Toronto is the largest and most populous city in Canada, some 60 years ago the present marsh was occupied by two Indian families only, in 1793 General Simcoe (?) began the settlement under the name of York, changed when it was incorporated in 1834 to Toronto meaning in the Indian tongue ‘the place of meeting’. Some of the churches are very fine, the streets are well and broadly laid out and when fully built will make a splendid city. The beautiful bells of the English cathedral summoned us to service they played the familiar hymn tunes and the well known ritual made us feel at home. In the afternoon we had a walk and enjoyed the bracing air. Our hotel is on the banks of Lake Ontario which is 200 miles long and 70 wide.

16th Oct.

At 7 am we left Toronto by steamer ‘City of Toronto’ for Niagra, the sail across the lake being very enjoyable as we were favoured with a charming day. As we approached Niagra village the bright blue of the lake was sullied by a huge semicircle of a muddy colour, showing the effect of the mixing of the Niagra river as it rushes on its terrible career into the calm of the lake. The steamer soon entered the ‘Narrow Straits’ which divide the possessions pf Mother England and her rebellious son Jonathan, the latter defiantly flouts the ‘stars and stripes’ but the authorities of our dominions do not display the ‘blood red flag of old England’.

We landed at Niagra village, and a ruined and deserted place it is, only a few of the many wooden houses tenanted and kept in repair, the rest left to decay, rarely we could we hear the merry laugh of children and scarce a lonely dog prowled about the devastated streets recalling Goldsmiths ‘ deserted village to mind’. The port on the US side is kept in smart repair and fully garrisoned, but ours is like the village, left to time’s decay.

Our train at last came up and along a most interesting route, soon by the riverside itself, when the distant roar of the Niagra Falls could be heard. We shortly arrived at the depot, arriving at Clifton House I was disappointed to find it closed as I was anxious for letters, so had to take a carriage across the splendid suspension bridge to the ‘International Hotel on the Yankee side.

Our entry into Uncle Sam’s territory was welcomed in the usual manner by the customs officials who kindly placed our garments on the grass during their search, rendering no assistance in the repacking. We arrived at the Catarach House at 3pm and found to our delight several letters awaiting us.

The town of the falls is very extensive and thriving rapidly, the stores are mostly furnished with fancy work, curiosities etc. Were delighted to find Tom walker again and gad a quick sortie towards the ‘rapids.

What a mighty never ceasing thundering roar proceeds from these mighty falls words fail to express the emotions felt in gazing on this great marvel of the Almighty Hand. The Great Lakes of N America, Superior, Michigan, Huron and Eerie, pour the flood of their accumulated waters thro a channel 36 miles in length into Lake Ontario, this channel is called Niagra River and is part of the boundary between Canada and State of New York, the falls are divided into two by an island.

The American falls are 900 ft wide and 164 ft high, the Horseshoe (Canadian) are 200ft wide and 158 high. Over this magnificent precipice the turbulent boiling tide rushes at the rate of 100,000,000 tons of water every hour! In 1820 a condemned lake ship the ‘Detroit’ drawing 18ft of water was sent over the falls she did not touch the rocks in passing over the brink! The roar is deafening and the spray almost blinding which assumes the appearance of dense volumes of steam, this spray acted on by the sun shows wonderful rainbows.

We afterwards went to the place of descent to the ‘Cave of Winds’, but the exorbitant charge for waterproofs drove us to fetch our own, which put on we descended the winding staircase in a round tower to the entrance of the cave and found it locked, but we were amply repaid by the view of the long column of sparkling water, descending as it seems to an immeasurable depth, and the bright sea green curve above, has the appearance of being set in the sky. There is a small ferryboat to the other side from here.

On our ascent we met a lady and gentleman the former causing us much amusement by the grotesque appearance she cut in her oilskins, which consist of souwester, short jacket and tight fitting unmentionables with felt shoes! We joked her afterwards at a distance on her strange appearance, she is a Spanish lady, lately married to a Cuban.

The Catarack House seems to be the place where newly married couples most do congregate, people look upon us as a young married looking couple, but I am sure that we should look quite venerable near some that are here.

Another ramble towards the suspension bridge gave us in our walk along the cliffs an opportunity of seeing the beautiful little fall called the ‘Bridge Veil’and the two bridges the tubular one has the foot passengers way underneath the railway.

Made several purchases feather fans, pincushions etc the work of  Indian squaws which I have dispatched by … and co.  

 October 16th to October 31st

 

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