Tag Archives: Connolly’s Wharf

“The Night was Rather Dark…” The Incident at Connolly’s Wharf.

 

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Charlottetown Guardian 19 June 1907 p. 1

Even for the Guardian it was a decidedly strange way to present a front-page news story. Occupying the centre column of the 19 June 1907 issue was a story that named no names and provided few enough facts, although those that emerged were intriguing. In a city as small as turn of the century Charlottetown it is possible that the major players were already known to the people and the editor was simply being coy.

Even the style of the piece is a departure from the usual news reporting. The item begins with a bit of semi-poetic doggerel

It was the schooner Sea Slipper
That sailed the summer sea
And her skipper had gathered in Charlottetown
a “goodlie companie.”

They did devise a high enterprise –
A deed to make men laugh –
But one there was in the company
Who “blew away the gaff”

The scene opens with the schooner Sea Slipper stranded on the sands between the end of Richmond Street and Victoria Park, the victim of “a brilliantly conceived adventure which went astray.” The scene then shifts to the previous day when the skipper of the vessel secretly recruited a crew of eight or ten to recover goods purchased under a Bill of Sale which had subsequently been seized under a Warrant of Destraint.  The subject of the legal action was a load of lumber being held on Connolly’s Wharf.

The Guardian writer can hardly restrain himself as the plot (and the prose) begins to thicken; The night was rather dark, and the quiet waters of the harbor at midnight were gently ruffled by a growing breeze from the west, and on their broad bosom was reflected only the light of the blockhouse and the riding light of a solitary vessel riding at anchor, when the adventurers put forth to their task.  The Sea Slipper was quite empty, her hold having been cleared out to make room for her expected cargo, which was to be hurriedly loaded by the eight active members of her intrepid crew. But all concerned in the contemplated descent on the lumber piles reckoned without their host. 

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Early view of Connollys wharves. PARO photo

The Sea Slipper crept up to Connolly’s wharf and the skipper gave  a signal to someone waiting on the wharf that they were ready to start loading the lumber.  It immediately became obvious that the secrecy of the mission had not been complete as two bailiffs, one armed with a pistol and shotgun stood facing the crew.  Suddenly buckshot from the shotgun tore through the Sea Slipper’s mainsail and having turned away the crew the chief bailiff ordered the man on the wharf off the property.  The schooner drifted away from the wharf but caught by the wind and ill-served by the perplexed crew it fetched up on shoals just off the Park at about 3:00 a.m.   The crew was saved from a watery grave by the fact that the low tide left the vessel in about two feet of water. and they were able to walk ashore.

For those not in the “know” it was to be more than six months before more details of the incident were made public. The man on the wharf was a young Charlottetown lawyer, Edwin O. Brown, and the details of the Sea Slipper adventure were a small part of the trial of Brown for fraud.  On the night in question Brown had appeared a the Deputy Sheriff’s house between one and two in the morning complaining that he had been ordered off Connolly’s Wharf by a bailiff. The evidence was one of the small details that emerged in his January 1908 hearing which led to Brown’s being found to be insane and unfit to stand trial. One element of his paranoia was that the legal processes connected with the seizure of the lumber had been part of a plot against him and had directly led to his forging of mortgage documents.

Although Sea Slipper incident is barely a footnote to history there is a much more interesting story of the of the hospitalization of Brown at Falconwood Asylum, his escape and his eventual death in August 1917 in the Canadian assault on Hill 70 to be found in John Sutherland Bonnell’s article “The Case of E.O. Brown” in the spring/summer 1990 issue of The Island Magazine.

Of the schooner Sea Slipper little is known. There were several vessels of that name in the region, most out of Newfoundland ports.  The one most likely in Charlottetown on the dark June night was one built in 1858 in Mahone Bay Nova Scotia and owned by Frank Murphy in Montague P.E.I.  Although almost a half-century old it was still registered on the Mercantile Naval List in 1907.

 

 

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Paoli’s Wharf

There are few today who can recall Paoli’s wharf. Most of the evidence of the wharf is buried beneath a condominium and a military training facility at the western end of Water Street. At low tide the rubble of the wharf fingers is visible but the scene gives hardly a hint of how busy the place was years ago. Like other wharves in the harbour these jettys had different names over the years as they were associated with individuals or businesses.  The name Paoli was once synonymous with commerce on the waterfront. Today it has almost vanished along with the wharf itself.

Early view of Connollys wharves. PARO photo

Early view of Connollys wharves. PARO photo

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Connollys Wharves in 1878. Detail from Panoramic View of Charlottetown 1878.

When Charlottetown was laid out as the capital of the colony  a section of land on the waterfront was reserved for military uses and Water Street ended at the gates of a minor fortification grandly named George’s Battery with a collection of cannon overlooking and protecting the anchorage. For almost a century this was the main military base of the Colony with barracks, drill square and an ordnance ground. Over the years there was a gradual withdrawal of Imperial forces. The facility became redundant and in 1864, ignoring requests for the property to become a public park,  the Ordnance Grounds was given to the government of the colony,  divided up into twenty-one building lots and auctioned off, giving the colony a windfall profit of 5,000 pounds Island currency.  An impressive new  carriageway, Dundas Terrace, populated with the fine houses of the elite, ran curving along the harbour from Water Street to Sydney Street. Haviland Street passed through the eastern side of property accounting for the slight jog in the present street line near Connaught, or Jail Square. In addition to the prestigious town lots the sale also released an undeveloped section of the waterfront. This was acquired by a Charlottetown merchant, Owen Connolly, and by 1878 three wharves had been constructed, two of which enclosed a timber pond.

Advertisement for Bee Hive Lumber Company - Guardian 1898

Advertisement for Bee Hive Lumber Company – Guardian 1898

Although used for general shipping from an early date the wharves soon came to be used as one of the main lumber yards for the city. By the end of the century Connolly’s Wharf was the site of James Barrett’s Bee Hive Lumber Yard and a few years later the Aylward and Deegan Coal Company had a space on the wharf as well.  From early in the twentieth century the lumber firm of Poole and Lewis, later L.M. Poole and Company and which had originally been located on Peake’s wharf, was relocated and occupied the west side of the property which gradually became known as Poole’s Wharf. Into the twentieth century it was a busy place and was visited by both sail and steam freighters carrying lumber and other bulk cargos for the Island.

 

 

Poole's wharf ca. 1910. Note the sailboats on the wharf.

Poole’s wharf ca. 1910. Note the sailboats on the wharf.

The bookkeeper for Poole & Lewis was Simon Paoli, son of Paul Paoli who had come to the Island from Corsica in about 1863. Paul followed the sea for much of his life and at the time of his death in 1898 he was master and owner of the tug May Queen. Simon soon became an essential part of the lumber business and when L.M. Poole retired about 1910 Simon took over the operations of the company although the name of the firm continued unchanged until it was wound up in the late 1950s.  The business prospered and in 1913 it was reported that with increased demand from fox ranches for fox pen materials and keepers dwellings, the company was importing an average of a vessel-load of building materials a day. Simon purchased Connolly’s West Wharf in 1917 and the name gradually changed from Connolly’s to Poole’s to Paoli’s.

Insurance Plan Connolloys wharves ca. 1913

Insurance Plan Connolly wharves ca. 1913

The property consisted of the wharf with extensive water rights, a breastwork to the west, and a large work yard. By building up the property and filling in the shallows the property was increased from one to four acres by 1927.   In 1921 Simon admitted his son Simon Paoli Jr. as a partner in the firm.  A visiting newspaper reporter noted in 1927 that the wharf was a busy place with seventeen staff waiting on customers and unloading three schooners.  Four horse and wagon teams were engaged year-round in deliveries to customers. The wharf had seven sheds storing in excess of a million feet of lumber. Besides the shipments by water the firm also received from 150 to 200 rail car loads of building supplies annually.

Steamer unloading at Paolis Wharf. Public Archives and records Office photo

Steamer unloading at Paolis Wharf. Public Archives and records Office photo

Simon Paoli Sr. died in 1940 and in 1955 his son sold the property to the Department of National Defence for $27,500. The next year construction of the naval training facility, H.M.C.S. Queen Charlotte, was begun. L.M. Poole & Company moved to the four-story brick building on the corner of Queen and King street, later occupied by Kays Brothers but the business did not long survive being separated from its wharf.