Tag Archives: Charles

A Narrow Escape in Charlottetown Harbour – 1843

Charlottetown harbour was – and continues to be – a dangerous place. For 250 years there have been reports of men falling from ships, boats overturning in high winds, children slipping from their play on the wharves, fishermen tangling in nets, teams and their owners crashing through the thin spring ice and men and boys who simply failed to return from the sea.. For most of the period the water was not the place of play that it has become in the last century. It was a place of peril and one had to respect the power of the water. Few of those who went out on the waters could actually swim. Today, thanks to organizations such as the Red Cross, almost all children are introduced to the water through swimming lessons. It was not always so.
Drownings were common and in the 19th century press they were hardly noted unless the victim was of high standing. It was not unusual for would-be rescuers to have to watch helplessly as none of them could swim to help a victim.

The exception was the rare but happy story of the narrow escape. Now that was news!  Even so it sometimes required a bit of a nudge for the newspapers to print something positive as far as the harbour was concerned. In June 1843 a correspondent signed as “Witness” sent the following to the Islander newspaper.

Sir: – On Monday the 19th inst. at ten a.m. the wind blowing fresh from the N.W., two of the Campbells of Nine Mile Creek, with their sister, left the Queens Wharf in a sail boat, without ballast, homeward bound, when a little below the three tides, the boat upset.

Morning News and Semi-Weekly Advertiser 14 October 1843 p. 43

Morning News and Semi-Weekly Advertiser 14 October 1843 p. 43

A few minutes after the Campbells left, Capt. Hubbard, in his superior boat Charles, left the wharf also, with Captain Cumberland and his lady; intending to land them at Ringwood, but having a boat in tow, proceeded rather tardily. When about half way to the place of the accident, Capt. Cumberland observed that he expected the Campbells would sooner or later be drowned in consequence of their impudence; and the words were scarcely out of his mouth when over went the boat. It was then as Capt. Hubbard observed to the writer of this letter, that Capt. Cumberland, with the presence of mind that ever characterizes that gentleman, deliberately and irresistibly played the man, instantly sprang into the boat then in tow, taking with him Capt. Hubbard’s son Edward; and saying “Now Hubbard, my dear fellow, which will be there first, you or I?”

1845 chart showing Cumberland's residence at Ringwood (lower left) and Three Tides (top)

1845 chart showing Cumberland’s residence at Ringwood (lower left) and Three Tides (top)

By this Capt. C. and Edward seated each with elastic oar in hand, plied with every nerve braced, determined to lead before the Charles; which being relieved from her after tow, glided like lightning through the water. Mrs. Cumberland, who, after the first shock at the sight of the upset boat, was all emotion to render herself useful on the trying occasion, eagerly eliciting instruction from the intrepid Captain Hubbard whose active skill  and wonted firmness enabled him calmly and deliberately to arrange  his anchor, cable and every line for bearing down on the objects before him without coming in contact so as  to frighten the Campbells or weaken the hold which they had on the boat, which was lying on her side.

In two or three minutes the Charles was under the lea of the upset boat, with the anchor let go . One of the poor fellows holding on cried out “Don’t run us down, Sir.” “Fear nothing! Hold on! you are all saved!” vociferated the master of the Charles, when the upset boat, her masts and sails, and the three persons drifted down on the Charles. Capt. Cumberland that instant coming up , as it were, disregarding the danger his own intrepidity exposed him to, with the aid of Capt. Hubbard, took up the poor suffers, who especially the poor girl, were all but exhausted after having the water flowing over them every moment for near half an hour – they themselves being to leaward. –  One of the lads indeed had but one hand holding by the boat, while his other arm was around his sister, but for which she must have been drowned, as she never had hold of the boat at all.

Now, Mr. Editor, does not such praiseworthy conduct deserve more than a passing remark. How often may Capt. Hubbard be in situations similar to the above, when as was the case that day, he may lose a whole day’s wages of himself, two men and a boat, a loss Capt. Hubbard is ill able to sustain.


The Three Tides is the area in Charlottetown Harbour where the waters of the three rivers, Hillsborough, York and Eliot meet. That coupled with the tidal flows make for unpredictable currents. Although well-recognized locally the name appears on no chart. Ringwood House stood on the west side of Warren Cove across the creek from Fort Amherst. Colonel H. Bentenik Cumberland was a retired British officer who acquired an estate which included most of the land in south-east lot 65, This extended from approximately Canoe Cove to the Harbour Mouth

Another last word on the Rocky Point Ferry

Morning News and Semi-Weekly Advertiser 14 October 1843 p. 43

Morning News and Semi-Weekly Advertiser 14 October 1843 p. 43

One of the problems with history is that there is just too much of it.  Just when you think you have got it sorted another little wrinkle appears in the fabric.

Such is the case with the Rocky Point Ferry. The wrinkle in this case is a listing of steamer services in the Daily Examiner for 7 July 1893. Amidst the listings for services to West River, Southport Ferry, the Steamer Jacques Cartier and the Steamer Electra is the service for the Rocky Point Sailboat. Leaving Charlottetown for Rocky Point on Monday and Thursday at 9am, 11am, 2pm, 4pm and 6pm  and on other days at  11 am, 4 pm and 6 pm.

That same year the good people of Rocky Point also had service from the Steamer Southport at least twice a day with four crossings on Saturday and Sunday. One presumes that the sailboat carried only passengers and small parcels while those wanting to transport livestock or waggons had to wait until the steam ferry called.

There had been some sort of sail ferry to the Rocky Point area at least since William Hubbard advertised the services of the Charles in 1843 as noted in above notice. It was certainly in place in 1850 when the ferry sank in a squall throwing the ferryman, his lad and two passengers into the water where one of them drowned inspite of the dispatching of Tremain’s steam boat Isla to the site of the disaster.  Although the wharf and roads connected Rocky Point to the south shore of Lot 65 and traffic increased, especially on market days, the service was probably less than satisfactory – especially since the crossing to Southport was by steam by the 1850s. This seems to have changed in 1874 as seen by the following note in the 30 May Semi-weekly Patriot. “The people of Rocky Point have now got what they desired in the shape of a steam ferry. The contract for the old sail boat having expired the steamer Eljin [sic] commenced to make trips between Connolly’s wharf and Rocky Point, yesterday.” 

Detail of Rocky Point area from 1869 edition of Bayfield's Chart of Charlottetown Harbour

Detail of Rocky Point area from 1869 edition of Bayfield’s Chart of Charlottetown Harbour

The trips to Rocky Pointy may have been incidental to the Eflin’s primary role of crossing between Charlottetown and Southport and it appears that the services of the sailboat were continued for a number of years.

Although Hubbard’s boat probably landed on the beach at Warren Cove and no wharf is shown on the 1839 George Wright Chart of Charlottetown harbour it was apparently not long before a wharf was built at Rocky Point.  The wharf extended into Canceaux Cove angled a little to the west of the later wharf now crumbling into ruins and its footprint on the bottom of the cove can be seen in some of the aerial photos taken in the 20th century. With the coming of steam service the Rocky Point wharf was kept dredged and the channel marked by buoys but keeping pace with the crumbling of the wharf the dredged channel is filling in. The ferry boats have long since gone and soon all that will remain will be a rockpile extending from the shore.