Tag Archives: Ringwood

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

Solving a Postcard History Mystery


Three Miles From Charlottetown. Warwick Bros. & Rutter postcard #5248. Photo by W.S. Louson

The plain-looking sepia-coloured postcard is cryptic to say the least. The caption simply says “Three Miles from Charlottetown” but it doesn’t say where the photo was taken. There is a pond framed by trees and a rowboat with three aboard, and strangely what appears to be a fence in the water.  The card is simply one of what may have been as many as 500 different postcards depicting P.E.I. scenes that were published before the Great War. This card was from the Toronto firm of Warwick Bros & Rutter which created over 7000 postcards during the period – about 150 of which contained Prince Edward Island scenes.

We don’t know how many of the cards were published but an Island firm, Carter and Company boasted in 1907 that they had 500,000 cards in stock.  Postcards had become a mania. Changes in postal regulations in the late 1890s allowed for the cards with a scene on one side and address and message on the other, and people immediately began collecting. While some of the cards were used for postal communication thousands were gathered into albums.

Unlike most of the cards from the period we know the photographer for this one. The picture was taken by William S. Louson. a travelling sales agent for a Montreal dry-goods company who lived in Charlottetown. Louson played a very important role in P.E.I. history as he was one of the leading “boosters” of the Island as a tourism destination. His images appeared in leading American and Canadian magazines and his photographs were printed on hundreds of thousands of postcards. Louson has a habit of eschewing locating his images, instead he provided titles like “Rustic Scene.” “A Morning Walk,” and “Border of the woods.”

We know who. We can imagine why. But can we determine where?  There appears to be some sort of pond and my first thought was that it was one of the many creeks flowing into the rivers near the city. Several of these had been dammed to create millponds. If we look at the three mile distance from the city (or even somewhat beyond), we have Wrights (Bird Island) Creek, Gates Mills at Ellen’s Creek, Hermitage Creek and on the Southport side of the river there is the Hatchery Dam on the way to Keppoch but nothing seemes to fit the topography shown in the postcard .

The penny did not drop until I had another look at my recent posting on Range Lights and looked closely at the photo below:

Looking across Warren Pond to Warren Rear range light ca. 1910.

Looking across Warren Pond to Warren Rear range light. Raphael Tuck Postcard ca. 1910. photographer unidentified.

Here we have a lighthouse, a boat and a pond, and behind the boat what could be the rails of a fence in the water. This caused me to look much closer at the initial post card image. Although the cards are the product of two different publishers could they be taken in the same location and by the same photographer?

Enlarged detail of "Three Miles from Charlottetown" Lighthouse can be seen above boat bracketed by tree branches.

Enlarged detail of “Three Miles from Charlottetown” Lighthouse can be seen above boat bracketed by tree branches.

And then I spotted it! One tiny detail and the matter was resolved. Just above the horizon is a small dark rectangle and beneath it a barely perceptible shape that can only be a lighthouse.  When you know what you are looking at you can even see a window in the building. But this lighthouse is seen from the rear and it is definitely not the same as the one in the coloured postcard. What does look suspiciously the same is the boat and also the fence line in the water.  Both photos seem to be taken from the Ringwood side of the creek flowing into Warren Cove. The coloured postcard shows the rear light clearly and the sepia card positions the front range just behind the boat.

One thing that makes the photo difficult to locate is the fact that there is no pond at Warren Cove now, nor does it appear to have been one there for some time. A 1734 drawing shows a small pond behind the beach but it is not clear how long it lasted. None of the charts or maps of the area show a pond and yet it clearly exists in the photographs from about 1910. The 1935 aerial photograph of the area shows the place looking much as it does today with a small spring-fed creek barely trickling through a swampy area and seeping out onto the beach of Warren Cove.  One possible interpretation is that through winter storms or some other reason the outlet for the creek became blocked, or perhaps the cottagers at the Cove dammed it up  and this pond was temporarily created.  That would account for the fence line which appears in the pond. Under normal water conditions a lane may have followed the edge of the creek but as the water rose it overtopped the bank and captured the fence.

So “Three Miles from Charlottetown” is not along the banks of the Hillsborough or North River but instead the scene is across the harbour just below Fort Amherst. And it is not so surprising as Rocky Point and the Fort Lot was a popular day trip for ferry excursionists – one of whom took his camera along.

Location of Louson photo today.  Front range Light is not visible but lies behind trees on south shore of marsh.

Location of Louson photo today. Front Range Light is not visible but lies behind trees on south shore of marsh.

Today standing at the point from which the photos were taken one is greeted by a swampy marsh and a wall of White Spruce trees which block any sight of the range lights.  An area which was one of the first cleared of trees in the early settlement of the Island is reverting to the forest.

Parks Canada has elected to dismiss more than two hundred years of human habitation on this site which would have left this area cleared of trees. The early Acadians and English settlers soon used the trees on the site for fire wood and building materials and turned the land to agriculture uses. Rather than maintain the agricultural aspect of the site  the balance of convenience for Parks Canada appears to have been to ignore the human history and dismiss the impact of settlers on the land.

Robert L. Cotton’s Charlottetown Summer Resorts

The wharf for the Resorts ca. 1915

The wharf for the Resorts ca. 1915

As tourism developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries many entrepreneurs sought ways to take advantage of the interest in the Island. Farm tourist homes developed into larger summer resorts such as Shaw’s and Gregor’s on the north shore and Smith’s (later the Redcliff Inn) in Hampton and the Keppoch Beach Hotel near Charlottetown.

In 1913 another model for tourism  was developed. Managing partner Robert Lawson Cotton along with shareholders  J.O. Hyndman, W.R. Aitken, A. MacKinnon and J.P. Gordon incorporated  Charlottetown Summer Resorts Limited located, not as the name suggests, in Charlottetown, but across the harbour in Holland Cove. The Cove had been the site of a number of private cottages for some years but the new company embarked on an ambitious development, or rather developments, as notices for the site noted Holland Cove, Holland Heights and Holland Hall. A series of cottages with a centrally located dining hall was be operated on the American plan. This building must have been quite large as shortly after the Resorts opened some fifty people sat down for supper there – meals $.50. The resort would also have other shared facilities. A tennis court was opened in July of 1913 and a landing pier was built at the Cove giving five feet of water at high tide and plans were made to extend the wharf so that gasoline motor boats could also land passengers when the tide was low. A carriage service was in place to meet the Rocky Point Ferry and convey passengers to the resort (fare 15 cents). By August a direct boat service, using the motor launch Holland Girl, was in place with three departures from Charlottetown each day. In addition to the Holland Cove compound, the company also held property at nearby Ringwood where additional cottages were constructed.

Holland HallThe Resort was an early success. At the end of the 1913 season the Guardian editorialized that the company had realized 30% on investment. Cotton was quick to respond that while the company was “much gratified”  the figure was not correct. He said that the business had proven that tourism could be profitable but that it was still not as profitable as the booming fox business. By 1915 some thirty cottages had been built on the Summer Resorts property including five-room house for Colonel Ings built on the point to the west of the Cove. These buildings appear to have been a mix of private family  dwellings and units for rental. Generally, for both the cottages occupied by Charlottetown families and those occupied by visitors (many of whom were from the English families of Montreal, often with Island connections), the period of occupation was the entire summer season. Often wives and children were sent to the Cove as soon as schools allowed and husbands followed as work allowed.

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Detail from Cummins Atlas 1926 showing Resort properties at both Warren Cove and Holland Cove as well as other Cotton holdings.

In 1921 the Guardian noted that by mid-June all but four of the forty cottages at Holland Cove and Ringwood had been engaged, several of the Charlottetown families had already moved in for the summer and that the first visitors from outside the province were expected during the week.

When the Official Motor Guide for Prince Edward Island was published in the early 1930s Charlottetown Summer Resorts had 27 cottages available for rental. A three-room cottage furnished was $65.00, a four-room furnished was $80.00 and $100 would get you a five-room cottage – all prices for the entire season! All cottages had a veranda and an open-front heating stove for cool evenings. Board was available at the dining room for $8.00 per week. In addition to the resort residents the dining room also catered to casual diners who arrived directly by boat or via the Rocky Point ferry.

Holland Cove looking East ca.1915

Holland Cove looking East ca.1915

Within a few years the Resort had become quite a summer colony. Cotton was a master at publicity and ensured that social notices included information about the comings and goings around Holland Cove.  For example following is the information supplied to the Charlottetown Guardian for their 10 June 1926 edition:

The Charlottetown Summer Resort Cottages at Holland Cove have filled up earlier this season than ever before and the residents there have already settled down to the summer’s enjoyment, the first tennis tournament of the season having been played yesterday. Amongst the new people at Holland Cove for the first time this year are Mrs. C. Bancroft Fraser with her three children and Mrs. Martin of Montreal who is occupying one of the cottages at the shore. Also Mrs. Fred McKay and two children and Miss Wright and little daughter Molly who are in one of the cottages on the Middle Cove. Colonel and Mrs. Campbell and two boys from Kingston, Ontario  who were here several years ago are back again and Dean H.M. MacKay, Mrs. MacKay, and Ian and Betty are spending their sixth consecutive summer in one of the hill cottages. Mrs. Morrison and two daughters from Keene N.H. are again in the same cottage as last year. Mr. and Mrs. L.C. DesBrisay and daughter from Montreal are expected a little later on and several other arrivals are expected. Miss Florence Pope is in her cottage again. Miss Green of Summerside has been with her and she is expecting Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Pope and son from Ottawa. Miss Morson, Miss DesBrisay, and Miss Simpson are in the cottage adjoining the dining hall. Mr. C.L. Miles and family are again in the same cottage as last year. On the opposite side of the cove Mrs. Bartlett, Mr. and Mrs. Cosh and Master Pete and Mrs. J.O. Hyndman and daughter Constance are again in residence and Mr. and Mrs. J.P. Gordon are back again as usual in their large cottage below the orchard.   

Over the years more and more of the cottages were purchased from the company and the pattern of summer-long invasion from Montreal and beyond did not fare well in the depression years. By the Second World War the Resorts had ceased operation although the area remained (and still remains) a summer colony. Some of the resort cottages built by Cotton are still in use today while others were removed from the site or torn down. After the war the dining room and much of the land had became the property of the Charlottetown Y.M.C.A. and was used for the “Y” Camp.  A series of bunkhouses was constructed in 1946 YMCA by volunteers and was used for many years for both boy’s and girl’s camps.

In the course of researching this posting I have discovered three more postcards of the Holland Cove area which show or mention the Resorts and which appear above and also have been posted to the Holland Cove photo gallery here. That brings the number of postcards and views of the area to over a dozen. Not bad for a small summer community on P.E.I.