Tag Archives: Rocky Point

“most suitable for an afternoon’s enjoyment” Excursions in the Bay – 1877

On hot summer days it is refreshing to think that for many of us getting to the beach is only a matter of jumping into a car and heading out. This ease of access to the sea shore is a relatively recent phenomena for Charlottetown. In spite of being a port the shoreline is remarkably inaccessible as there is not a really good beach within the city limits. There was bathing at Victoria Park and Kensington Beach and for the uninhibited there was always the attraction of swimming off the wharves. But this was hardly a family or social activity. Accessing a real beach meant a train ride to Hunter River or Bedford and then by wagon to Rustico or Tracadie where there were summer hotels, a round trip that could easily take all day.  Or one could take the Southport ferry and then go by carriage to Keppoch or Langly Beach.

What was accessible however, was a mini-ocean voyage or cruise to the mysterious Islands in Hillsborough Bay.  There was no regular steamer service but vessels were available and for a moderate expense a party could charter one of several boats to go beyond Charlottetown’s Pillars of Hercules (Blockhouse Point and Seatrout Point) to the Bay beyond, an area marked in the townsfolk’s mental map with the warning “here be dragons.”

The exotic realm beyond the Harbour’s Mouth was popular with groups of all sizes. Pooling of resources for a sports club, fraternal lodge, or Sunday school put the cost of a charter within almost everyone’s grasp and these sorts of excursions were a popular fund-raiser.

An article in the 25 August 1877 Semi-Weekly Patriot details the attractions of the islands of the bay. Of the two islands St. Peters was the more hospitable with four farmsteads and a fish stage (later a lobster factory). It would soon have  schoolhouse and a lighthouse.  Today it is uninhabited and slowly reverting to forest and marsh and the extensive reefs make landing difficult for all but shallow draft boats. The lighthouse had been decommissioned by 2020, but it still has an attraction. Venturing to the interior will expose you to significant danger from the champion mosquitos raised on the island.

St. Peter’s Island 1880. Meacham’s Atlas

Very few of our people  have ever been on either Governor’s or St. Peter’s Island, or know that the latter is well cultivated and contains over 400 acres of land, divided into four farms, has good water, diversity of scenery, sheltering trees, good beach, fine lookout on the strait, and is in every way most suitable for an afternoon’s enjoyment. If you wish to take a party over forty, get the Southport, with her fine deck for dancing; leave the city about 2 p.m.: Capt. Mutch will land you on the Island dry-footed, and unharmed in an hour and a half. Spread the cloths. “do” the Island; there are obliging residents who will boil the water for tea or coffee, and whose horse and cart you can get to haul the heavier baskets &c. to land from the boat.

St. Peter’s Island 2020. Google Earth.

Three hours can be pleasantly spent on the Island and should you have chose a moonlit night the steam home will be most enjoyable, the music on the water, fast flitting feet, happy faces and voices, and the perfect safety, thanks to the obliging captain and crew, will make one think that the landing at the pier at 9 p.m.is too early. Should you desire to go in a smaller party, say eight, fourteen or 25, then Batt’s Tub [sic] Boat will run down and back for about $10, or the Daisy, if not occupied by her owners, will do it for half the money but carries fewer people than the Tug. The Southport will cost you about $25, which is certainly very little for a boat capable of carrying 1,200 people.

More isolated and without a resident population Governor’s Island is even less visited although seal watching draws quite a few to the shores but few brave the rocks land on the beaches. The downwind stench of an extensive cormorant rookery which is gradually killing off any of the trees of the Island is a further deterrent to visits. The moaning of the hundreds of seals on the island’s eastern sand spit and reefs at low tide is  a bizarre accompaniment to the visual desolation.

Governor’s Island about 1970.

Governor’s Island is a little farther outside the harbour’s mouth, is unsettled, but cuts a good deal of hay. Along its shore is good snipe shooting and mackerel fishing. On the reef looms the fog alarm while over all rests a deep calm and hush unbroken by passing steamers that pass too far “on the other side” and everything tends to rest the eyes and ears, and soothe the weary mind.

Even more accessible and cheaper,  but still carrying the hint of an ocean adventure was the ferry to Rocky Point with its several attractions for the day visitor.

Perhaps you choose rather to take a basket of picnic varieties step on board the Rocky Point Ferry Boat, enjoy the ten minutes run across, spread and appreciate the lunch on the bluff overlooking the Elliott or West River, and return to town in the cool of the evening, having some hours study of the everchanging scenes upon our harbour, with spirits greatly lightened for city work and life, and purse almost untouched.

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.

 

 

 

Solving a Postcard History Mystery

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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.