Tag Archives: Douse

Winter Pic Nic at Point Prim

Several times I have mentioned in these postings that once winter set in on Prince Edward Island the rivers and bays became highways. The ice roads, often marked by “bushing” the ice with spruce poles, were more effective for winter transport than the roads of the Island with their hills, woods and spring mud and a well-constructed sleigh gave a smoother and more efficient ride than any carriage or cart.

There was usually only a brief time between the closing of navigation and the opening of the winter roads and often the rivers and coves would freeze while the main channels were still open. Sleighs would stick to the shoreline and “portage” across points and headlands until the hard frosts made the bays safe for passage. Many surviving diaries faithfully give the dates of the first and last crossing of the ice by sleighs and teams.

One of the best examples of how significant the ice passage was can be seen in the following account dating from March 1848 which appears in the Islander in Charlottetown but was reprinted in the Liverpool Mercury in June of the same year.  The event may have seemed as strange and delightful to a Victorian Liverpudlian as it does to us today.

This 1846 chart of Hillsborough Bay was the first to show Prim light which had been first lit only a month earlier in December of 1845. The chart shows the light at a considerably distant set-back from the shore showing the extent of erosion at the point. 

The event celebrated the recent arrival in the Island of a new Governor, Donald Campbell, who was the first Highlander to fill the Governor’s role. It also celebrated the building of the Point Prim light which had been completed three years earlier.  The light did more than mark the dangerous reef at the point. Because the point extended well out in Northumberland Strait it was a major way-point for vessels coming up and down the Strait, even if they were not bound for Charlottetown. The sixty-eight foot elevation of the lantern meant that it was visible for many miles. The notice of the new lighthouse was publicized by the British Admiralty and was widely reported in British newspapers.  Then, as now the sight of the tall white light tower by day and the flashing light by night was a comfort to mariners in vessels large and small. The founder of the feast and organizer of the event, William Douse, was the Member of the House of Assembly for the Belfast district and the agent for the Selkirk Estate.

PIC NIC AT POINT PRIM.

On Thursday the 30th March past, a Pic Nic party consisting of His Excellency Sir Donald Campbell, Hon. T. H. Haviland, Hon. J. S. Smith, Hon. R. Hodgson William Campbell, Esq., His Excellency’s son, William Douse, Esq., M. P. P and several other members of the House of Assembly together with about 40 other of the private gentlemen of Charlottetown, on the invitation of Mr. Douse, was held at the Light House, Point Prim. About 9 o’clock, the party, in twenty sleighs, having assembled at the Queen’s Wharf, proceeded directly across the river, and thence by portage to Belle Vue, where they again took the ice, and drove thereon, a distance of 18 miles, to Prim, without stopping —passing the different points of land at a distance. When the party arrived off Belfast, the inhabitants, in parties—to the number of between two and three hundred—were observed proceeding towards Point Prim—some on foot, and others in sleighs—with a Piper at their head, for the purpose of giving His Excellency “A Highland welcome.” The party, on arriving at Point Prim in the first place inspected the Light House; they then sat down to Luncheon, outside, at a table erected for the occasion, of about 40 feet in length. Mr. Douse presided, with His Excellency on his right hand, and the Hon. Mr. Haviland on his left

After luncheon the worthy chairman proposed the Health of Her Majesty the Queen, which was received with every demonstration of loyalty and respect. F. Longworth, Esq., M. P. P. for Charlottetown, then proposed the health of His Excellency Sir Donald Campbell, which was received in the most complimentary and flattering manner. His Excellency acknowledged the compliment, in a short, but pertinent and happy speech; and then, turning to the people assembled as spectators and and to do him honour, addressed a few words to them which afforded them much satisfaction. When His Excellency ceased to speak the party, and his countrymen—the people of Belfast most especially —made the welkin ring with their enthusiastic cheers. The party spent about two hours, altogether at the Point in the most social and agreeable manner. When they were making ready to return to Charlottetown, the people would not allow His Excellency’s horses to be put to his sleigh, but drew him themselves for about a mile on the ice. His horses were then attached to his sleigh, and such of the people who had drawn and accompanied him on foot, loudly cheered him once more, and took their leave; but many of them in sleighs, together with the Piper—who all the continued playing National airs—accompanied His Excellency for four or five mile further on the ice; and then took their leave of him, directing their course towards the shore. His Excellency and party continued their way, on the sea ice, direct across the Bay to Belle Vue.

On arriving in Town, the party with Mr. Douse at their head, conducted His Excellency to Government House. Having arrived there, Sir Donald alighted on the colonnade, and the party drove past him in succession for the purpose of respectfully taking their leave, and received from His Excellency, in their turns, as they passed, the most courteous salutation.

Possible route of the Governor’s party from Belle Vue cove to Point Prim. For safety they would have travelled from major headland to headland. Detail from 1846 chart of Hillsborough Bay

Advertisements

Memories of the Charlottetown waterfront in the 1840s

Early in 1900 Elizabeth J. Macdonald, wife of Senator A.A. MacDonald, sat down to write her reminiscences of the Charlottetown she remembered from half a century earlier.  Titled “Charlottetown Fifty Years Ago” and published in a series of 9 installments in the original Prince Edward Island Magazine in 1900 and 1901, her account provides a glimpse of the town at mid-century.  This excerpt concerning the harbour was published in the June 1901 issue of the magazine.

Charlottetown waterfront from the south west by Robert Harris (undated) collection of the Confederation Centre Art Gallery

Charlottetown waterfront from the south-west by Robert Harris (undated) collection of the Confederation Centre Art Gallery

And what are we to remember this time, what is there interesting to record? Is it the appearance Charlottetown presented to a stranger coming up the harbour, and what are we to imagine some of the many immigrants coming here from Scotland and Ireland in the early forties, and later on, thought of it?  Some probably would see it very flat and unattractive, others look upon it as well-protected from the encroachment of any enemy, and others again would think it a comparatively busy place; that is if its numerous shipyards, with generally two or three vessels under construction, were any indication, and would decide there was plenty of work for all who were able or willing to do it.

The Douse shipyard being on the Douse property near the west end of Richmond Street was the first to meet the eye, as it showed up from the harbour, and there Mr. Douse built several vessels.  The next to be seen was close by where the Stream Navigation Wharf now is, and where the second Gulnare was built in 1845 by Peake & Duncan. The first Gulnare was built in Quebec and came to Charlottetown in 1841, the same year that Captain Bayfield, Commander Bedford, Lieutenant Orlebar, and the other officers of the surveying staff came to take up their residence here. The second Gulnare not being quite up to their expectation, they had the third one built in Quebec. She proving a failure, the late Mr. Longworth undertook to build the forth. All were topsail schooners and we understand the fourth Gulnare was more satisfactory. After that they had their first steamer, the Margaretta Stephenson, built by and belonging to a firm in Quebec by the name of Stephenson.

Further along and almost directly below where the Duncan House now stands, was the Duncan shipyard where the ring of the workman’s hammer was constantly heard and there the largest ship ever built on this Island, registering 1791 tons, was launched in the year 1858, by the firm of Duncan. Mason & Co. and named the “Ethel” after Mr. Duncan’s only child. Mr. Heard’s shipyard was about where the railway yard now is, only nearer where the railway wharf is  built. On the shore not far from the Kensington shooting range of today was McGill’s shipyard, where there appeared to be always a vessel on the stocks. Some of the old ship-builders used to say, was that ship building was like making patchwork quilts, that when one was finished there was almost enough material left to make another, and in that way they were induced to go on building. But the wooden ships of P.E. Island are almost among the things of the past and it is only now and again that we hear of a ship being built.     

Charlottetown 1863. Detail from D.J. Lake Map 1863

Charlottetown 1863. Detail from D.J. Lake Map 1863

By 1863 when the map above was drawn the number of wharves had grown. Besides the municipal government wharves at Queen and Pownal streets additional wharves had been built:  From west to east these were Lord’s Wharf (the stub of which forms the east wharf of the Charlottetown Yacht Club), the first of several Peake’s Wharves (later to be called the Plant Line wharf, then Poole & Lewis, and still later, Pickard’s),  Bourke’s (also known as Tremaine’s and the ferry wharf before 1856) Reddin’s Wharf at the foot of Great George Street (which was later named the Steam Navigation Wharf) and then the Duncan shipyard. Furthest east was the Colonial government ferry wharf at Prince Street. Both Borque and Tremaine had been holders of the ferry contract in the 1840s and 1850s.

Lake map waterfront 001 (2)

Wharf detail – Lake Map 1863

In an earlier article in the series which was published in June 1900, Ellen MacDonald had recalled the wharves and ferry service of her youth:

As far as we can remember there were only three wharves, Queen’s Wharf at the end of Queen Street, Peake’s Wharf on the west side of Queens, and Tremaines, or the Ferry Wharf on the east side of Queen’s. All the wharves were much shorter than now; Tremaine’s was only a few blocks or piles long, quite long enough for the sail and team boats that crossed to Southport. A sailboat crossed on Mondays and a team-boat on other days of the week. The team-boat was run by two or sometimes three horses. There was a large wheel in the middle of the boat, (just such a one as is used in a tannery to grind bark) to which the horses were attached; the horses going round and round in a circle, turned the wheel and propelled the boat. Passengers came from the Southport side and returned again about four times a day, twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon.  

A story is told of a middle-aged lady who came across the ferry to do some shopping She had not taken into consideration that the tide was falling when she left home; it was one of the sail-boat days and when she  got to the Charlottetown side the tide was low, and she being very stout and heavy, could not climb the wharf, neither could her friends lift her up so she had to remain in the boat for some hours, until the tide fell lower and then rose sufficiently high for her to reach a proper stepping place. That was one of the inconveniences of long ago.