Now that the wonderful Nineteenth Century has gone with all its wonderful records of changes and progress, it may be of some interest to note the changes that have occurred in this county during that time. We have still living at least one respected and venerable citizen, Mrs. Hartman, at Ernesttown Station, who has lived during all the years of the past century in this County, and these many changes have occurred during one life time.
Not only has the growth of this county been very great during the past hundred years, but it has been truly marvellous over the whole world. It is said that the world’s population has increased more during the last century than during all the centuries that preceded it. These are some of the results of the blessings of greater peace, greater immunity from destructive wars, and better knowledge of the causes and preventatives of many destructive epidemics which formerly caused such a vast destruction of human life.
OUR OWN PROVINCE IN 1800
So far as our own Province is concerned, it may be said, in brief, that at the beginning of the late century there was only about 50,000 of white population in all Upper Canada. That was only sixteen years after the commencement of the U.E.L. pioneer settlements. It is estimated there were about 10,000 of them, all told, at first. At the time of the America War of 1813-15 there were less than 95,000 in the Province. It seems truly wonderful that such a mere handful of hardy settlers, scattered from below Prescott to Sandwich, and most of them without proper arms, should have been able to defend this province from its numerous invaders for a period of three years, and at the end of that time still maintain full possession of every acres of its territory.
At that time, the now City of Toronto had only just been established and consisted of but a few scattered houses. The seat of government had just been moved from Newark, - now Niagara – and established at York – now Toronto. The second Parliament of the Province was opened there in June, 1797, and Governor Simcoe, the first Lieut. Governor of the Province, had just returned to England. Peter Hunter was acting as Governor, and it is said that it was during his administration that the system of wholesale land granting to favorites began, which so hampered and retarded the progress of the country for many years later. In 1801, the entire population of Toronto was but 336; now it is more than 200,000.
THE EARLY MAILS
A weekly mail had been established between Canada and the United States at that time, but it was not till 1805 that even a monthly mail was established between Upper and Lower Canada. As late as 1807 the mail from Kingston to Montreal was carried on foot. Then came a time that it was carried on horseback, and it was not till several years later that wagons were introduced for that purpose. As late as 1824 there were but 42 post offices in all this Province, and until 1851 the mails and post offices were not under the control of the Canadian government. It was one of the grievances of Mackenzie and the other Reformers in the “thirties” that while the postage rates were enormously high, the revenue from them was the personal perquisites of the few officers appointed by the British Government. The postage rate from England yet in the thirties was $1.25 on a single letter. The smallest postage rate here in Canada was 1 ½ cents on a single letter for 60 miles distance or under, and it was at the rate of 15 cents on a single letter for 100 miles distance. During the twenties and even later the postage on weekly newspapers published in Canada was four shillings (80 cents) per quarter on each copy, payable in advance by the publisher. That was one reason why the early papers were so hampered in their success.
As late as 1828 the Kingston Gazette, published by Stephen Miles at that time, found it cheaper and better to employ a man to walk and carry and deliver the papers at stated places. It is said his route was, starting from Kingston up the Bay Shore through Ernesttown, Bath, Fredericksburgh and Adolphustown; then crossing the Bay at Glenora and up through Prince Edward to “Carrying Place,” around by Trenton, past “Myers Creek,” now Belleville, down through Tyendinaga, Richmond, and back to Kingston. Such a round, with such roads and trails as then existed represented a journey of a week.
The writer well remembers when the Canadian Government first got control of the mails in 1851, and postage stamps were introduced for the first time. Letter rates were then reduced to 5 cents uniform and newspaper postage to 1 cent a copy. It was not until 1868 that postage on letters was reduced to 3 cents, and on papers to 9 cents a quarter. Few of us then ever expected to see a uniform postage rate of but 2 cents on letters to any part of the British Empire. Such have been some of the changes of the century.
RAILWAYS AND CANALS
There was not a single mile of railways or canals in Canada in 1800, or for years later. None were even dreamed of. A vessel of any considerable size at Montreal could not possibly be got up the St. Lawrence to the Lakes. The small bateaux and some other open boats were pulled up through the St. Lawrence rapids by long ropes over the shoulders of men walking along the shores and waking the small creeks, aided by men with poles in the boats. A trip from Montreal to Kingston with a small open boat then represented a week or ten days of very hard labor for several persons.
In 1825 the first Canadian canal was opened, past the Lachine rapids, from Montreal to Lachine. The next link was the Rideau canal, from By-town, now Ottawa, to Kingston. That was opened in 1832 and enabled vessels for the time, to reach Lake Ontario from Montreal. The route was up the Ottawa River to where the City of Ottawa now stands, then through the new canal to Kingston. The next year, 1833, the Welland canal was finished, opening up navigation from Lake Ontario to the Upper Lakes, and thus from the ocean to the foot of lake Superior. But it was only vessels drawing a few feet of water that could pass even this circuitous route. Few ever dreamed as late as the forties of ever seeing the day when ocean vessels could load away back in the heart of our continent, and carry their freight of a thousand tons or more continuously through by our Canadian water-way and canal system to the ocean. And yet all this has been accomplished in the past century.
OUR ROAD DEVELOPMENT
At the beginning of the late century there was scarcely a passable road in all Upper Canada. It was not possible to get even a lumber wagon through from Kingston to Toronto. It was not till about 1840 that the first steel spring carriage ever reached this county. Previous to 1800 Governor Simcoe had the soldiers opening out “Yonge street” from Toronto north to Lake Simcoe, following trails and cattle paths, but it was not until years later that it became even a passable wagon road. It was not until 1817 that the first line of stages was established from Kingston to Toronto. It then represented a journey of three days, and a terrible journey it was. The fare was $18.00. There was one stage a week, and the whole week was spent in the round trip between Kingston and Toronto, with frequent relays of horses and drivers. The writer can well remember as late as the early fifties, when it was a tedious stage journey of from 15 to 18 hours from Cobourg to Napanee. At that time there would be but one stage a day on the road from Toronto to Montreal, and during the winter time there would be seldom one through passenger for that whole trip. Little did we think the end of the century would see Canada with 18,000 miles of railways, with regular schedule time of a mile a minute through this county; with six trains a day over the road and some of these with hundreds of passengers, with two well established lines between these now great cities, and with daily trains from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans, every mile in Canadian territory, and with these large and powerful trains frequently overloaded with passengers and freight. Yet such has been the progress of the past century.
OUR OWN COUNTY
In 1800 there were few counties in Upper Canada so thickly populated as our own county. The settlers then were without roads, and those who could secure homes and farms on the water’s edge were fortunate. The Bay of Quinte is so long, so narrow, and so circuitous that with hay Bay and the Napanee River, a larger number of farms could be had bordering on a navigable water than perhaps any other county in all Upper Canada. The ten townships first laid out by the Government surveyors all had more or less settlers by 1800. Nearly every available farm lot of Ernesttown, Fredericksburgh, and Adolphustown, had been taken up. So far as Adolphustown was concerned, as it had four front concessions on one or other bay, the lots had all been appropriated at that time. There was in that small township of about 11,000 acres at that time, 90 families, aggregating in all 499 persons. We have no record available of the number of families in the other townships of the county, but we know that Fredericksburgh and Ernesttown were both pretty largely populated, even in some of the “back concessions” up to the third and fourth ranges.
There were yet no roads of any consequence. The log canoes and other small boats were the only means of convenient travelling in the summer season. The only grist mill in the county was at Napanee, where there was also a saw mill. Peter Vanalstine had a saw mill and grist mill at what is now Glenora, which were a good deal used by many of the people of the front townships.
The only ministers in the county up to that time were John Langhorn, Church of England, at Bath, who was the only one yet legally authorized to solemnize marriages, which he would only do at the churches at Bath, or Fredericksburgh; and the Methodist preachers, William Losee, the first Methodist missionary, who came in 1790, and Darius Dunham, the first ordained Methodist minister, who came in 1792, and had that year located on his farm in Fredericksburgh, after eight years itinerating. Samuel Coates was then the Methodist preacher of the Bay circuit, and Joseph Jewell the presiding elder of the district. There were 412 members of the church reported on the circuit, the largest number of any of the four circuits in which the Province was then divided, and more than one-half of the then entire membership of the whole Province. Rev. Robt. McDowall, the first Presbyterian missionary, came that year, and remained in the country until the time of his death.
The only churches in the county, of any importance at that time, were the Adolphustown Methodist Church, built in 1792, and the “Parrott” Church, in the fourth concession of Ernesttown, completed the following year. The old St. John’s Church, at Bath – still standing and used – was built and first used in 1793, and the first St. Paul’s at Sandhurst, S. Fredericksburgh, first used in 1791. It was, however, but a small log building and was burned some years later.
The early Quarter Sessions were established before 1800, and were for the whole Midland district, including all the territory from Gananoque to Trent River, and they were held alternately at Adolphustown and Kingston. These were then the only courts in existence in the country, but the “Court of Requests,” for the collecting of small accounts and other debts.
About the only school of any importance yet established in this section was that of Rev. John Stuart, at Kingston.
No steamboats had yet and existence in Canada. The first one on Canadian waters at all was the “Accommodation,” built by the Molsons, of Montreal, for the route from there to Quebec. It was not till 1816 that the first steamer, the “Frontenac,” sailed on Upper Canadian waters. That was built in this county at Finkle’s Point, Bath, in 1815. The first steamer on the Bay of Quinte, the “Charlotte,” was also built at Finkle’s in 1817. Many of the old inhabitants yet remember that steamer.
What progress and changes have been made in the late century! None of us may know whether the new century will surpass it in these respects. The general impression is that it will.