Memories of Long Ago, by Benjamin Bremner - Page 5
Honor to a P.E. Islander
(From the Examiner of December, 1864)
"We are gratified to observe that Sub- Lieut. Robert W. Davies, son
of Benj. Davies, Esq., of this city and the first cadet selected from this
Island for the Royal Navy, has been promoted to Lieutenant on Board H.M.S.
Duncan, in which ship he had previously served... He is now only 21 years
of age, and it may be assumed that he has a splendid career before him.
From his antecedents we have no doubt he will pursue it with advantage to
himself and gratified pride to his numerous relatives here".
Some years later Lieut. Davies became commander in the R.N. On a
visit here he brought his ship right into the dock, where his former
fellow-citizens were invited to inspect the ship under his command. He was
an elder brother of Sir L.H. Davies.
Here and There
The Town Pump!
In the picture of Queen Square of nearly ninety years ago, may be
seen many quaint and (to the present generation) amusing features, foremost
probably being the "Town Pump." this was not the only one of the kind in
the city. Within a few years of the time when the water system was
introduced, the pump was our only ready water supply, and there were two or
three on every principal street. In the picture may also be seen a man
within the circle of a hoop, with two pails, having just been replentished
from the time honored hydraulic machine. A few years before the
introduction of the present system, the water in most of the pump-wells was
declared to be unfit for drinking purposes, after which the water was
brought in by draymen, in large containers, from Spring Park, and sold to
householders at a cent per bucket. This custom is within the recollection
of most of our middle aged townspeople. Who, of the latter can forget the
well known old Johnny... who arrived at our back doors every
morning with the customary hail: - "Hey there! Bucket! Never mind the
rest?!" the latter word no doubt referring to the water (which was
precious) left over from the previous day.
Queen Square Generally
A splendid engraving already appears in the first half of this
booklet, of the Old Round Market House and buildings adjacent. In this
picture shewing the Town Pump, may be seen many other historic features,
such as the colonial Building (erected in 1843), Old St. Paul's church, the
Infant School (to the right of St. Paul's) surmounted by a cupola. At the
extreme right of the picture is Stamper's corner, hardly changed today, as
it stands on Grafton street east. Near the corner is the auction room and
commission store of James Niner Harris, a prominent citizen in the fifties
and a well known attendant, with his wife, of the old Wesleyan Chapel. In
the foreground of the picture is to be seen on horseback, Sir Donald
Campbell, a former governor of the colony, handing a coin to a beggar, also
some cattle being driven to market, a dray with cases of goods to be
delivered to one of the shops, in the vicinity, there is also a very fair
view of the "Cameron" property, with the tall tree in front on Richmond
street, the site of the present Cameron Block. The three-storey building
known as the "British Warehouse", occupied by the Browns, had not been
erected when this picture was drawn. A little further east can be seen what
was claimed to be the first brick house built in Charlottetown by John
Morris, the site of the present "Morris Block".
The Water Front
At the beginning of this series of "Memories", I endeavored to
describe the objects that a stranger entering Charlottetown Harbour from the
sea would be most likely to observe on passing the entrance of the harbour on
arriving at the town waterfront. Since then I have been greatly helped by
the aid of a picture by the late George Hubbard, executed in 1849, which I
have had engraved and divided into two parts, shewing the buildings and
structures, which would meet the eye of the visitor on the water-front in
the forties, and some of which remain until this day.
At the extreme left a portion of historic Government House appears,
next the Powder Magazine on the Barrack Square with the flag flying,
McLeod's cooper shop and dwelling. Pownal Wharf and near by the steam
packet with H.M. mails for Pictou. On the Wharf is to be seen A.H.Yates
Auction Sale of apples. Mr. Dalrymple, a prominent citizen leaning on a
post on the wharf. At the approach to the wharf, Purdie's Warehouse, left,
then Pownal Street.
On the east division of the picture, beginning from the left is
Pownal Wharf, following east is Lord's Wharf, at the approach to which is
the store and warehouse of the firm of W. W. Lord & Company., later known as
the Rankin House. Next east is "Paw's Store", then the dwelling of W. B. Dean
and family, then the brick dwelling of the Peake family, said to be built by
Judge Young, and now occupied by George Batt.
In the forefront of the picture can be seen the "Castalia" referred
to in the sketch of "Noah's Ark," and below the latter, the Brig "Fanny"
that carried the Islanders (the "forty niners") to the California gold diggings.
The extreme right of the picture shews the old Catholic Chapel
described in the sketch entitled "St. Dunstan's Cathedral of Old".
I am inserting the following rhyme for the benefit of some friends
who are fond of Mr. John Lepage's political satires. The cognomen
"Snatchers" was the epithet applied by the old-time liberals. This, a
parody on Thomas Hood's famous "Song of the Shirt" ("Stitch, stitch,
stitch") was written so long ago, that few will comprehend its drift.
However, there is a "go" to it that will appeal to very many. It is
taken from Vol. I of "The Island Minstrel" and entitled:--
Song of the Pen
With impudence ready to dare,
Whatever might him befall,
An editor sat in his 'easy chair',
And dipped his pen into gall:
Scrawl! Scrawl! Scrawl!
To crack up the Snatchers again,
And still, with a voice of dolorous drawl,
He sang this song of the pen.
"Scrawl! Scrawl! Scrawl!
From morning till darksome night !
And Srawl! Scrawl! Srawl!
Till I know not what to write!
'Tis useless attempting to cram
The people; they call me a fool.
And say that I'm only an editor sham,
or the frog in the fable school.
"Scrawl! scrawl! scrawl!
On my editorial seat,
Till my pants are worn! I could almost bawl.
Like a blubbering school-boy beat.
Fibs and gammon and fudge,
Fudge and gammon, and noise --
And then to be sponsor for all the rest
Of the green room editor's lies.
'O! ye of the fourth estate!
O! Whealan ! Pippy! and Rice!
You know, tho' its easy for me to prate,
This is anything rather than nice.
Fibs and gammon and spite, -
To make the best look like the worst,
And the wrong appear the right.
Scrawl! scrawl! scrawl!
And hardly a word of truth!
And what are the wages, after all?
A prospect fair, forsooth! A seat
in the House! I wish I was there,
Three hundred a year my lot--
To the de'il might go the editor's chair,
And the Snatchers all to pot!"
With impudence ready to swear
The Snatchers are fit to rule,
An editor sat on an "easy chair"
For an Editorial stool;
To prove that right is wrong-
That editor sang this dolorous song
Of the Archy-O-logical pen!
An Old Picture of the Duke of Connaught
"The picture on the opposite page was taken in the City of
Charlottetown in August, 1869, during Prince Arthur's visit here. The
gentleman sitting on the right side of the carriage is Sir Robert
Hodgson (now deceased), then the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of
Prince Edward Island. Owing to a vacancy in the office of
Lieutenant-Governorship of the Island, Sir Robert was the
Administrator, whose guest at Government House Prince Arthur then
As all are aware, "Prince Arthur" mentioned above is the present
Duke of Connaught, former governor General of Canada and uncle of King
George V. I well remember his first visit to Charlottetown in 1869,
and the splendid reception given him by the citizens. The torchlight
procession by the firemen, under the direction of the late Dr. C.L.
Strickland, formed the escort for the Prince, to the ball given in the
Colonial Building, and was, without doubt the most spectacular of
anything of the kind ever witnessed here. The display of fireworks
was also of the best, and a grand feature of the occasion.
The Hero of Kars
A very notable event in the history of Charlottetown took place on
the 5th of July, 1859, of which I was a spectator, being the reception
given General Sir. W. Fenwick Williams, the "Hero of Kars" as he was
called. He was prominent in the Russian War which ended in 1856. The
City was gaily decorated for the occasion. Several triumphal arches
were placed in different parts of the town, bearing various "Welcome"
mottoes. A large procession was formed, in which marched the free
Masons, Sons of Temperance, Benevolent Irish Society, St. Andrew's
Society, with officers of such local Militia as we had at the time.
It is to be noted that General Williams was Commander in chief of Her
Majesty's Forces in North America.
"The procession halted at the Colonial Building, where an address
was presented to the distinguished visitor, by the Mayor, the Hon. T. H.
Haviland, Sr., and replied to by General Williams, after which the
procession being put in order by City Marshal Evans, who gaily
appareled, and mounted on a gray charger, was not the least
conspicuous object in the cortege, made the circuit of the city to
Government House, where the General remained as the guest of the
Lieut-Governor and Mrs. Dundas."
"The next evening a grand Ball took place in the Legislative
Library, at which a temporary orchestra discoursed such music as the
devotees of Terpsichore most delighted in --quadrilles, polkas,
waltzes, shottisches, and reels--showing that the revelers determined
to -- ".....let joy be unconfined!' Nor sleep till morn, when youth
and pleasure meet To chase the glowing hours with flying feet."
"There was more than the average of very pretty girls, dressed in
the gayest and latest fashions, with all the advantages of expanded
skirts and hoops, and who, by their elaborate toilette, shewed that
they did not subscribe to the poet's theory, that 'Beauty unadorned's
adorned the most!"
'Of all that did chance, 'twere a long tale to tell,
Of dancers and dresses, and who was the belle;
But each was so happy and all were so fair,
That night stole away, and the dawn caught them there!"
The Banquet followed, at which Mr. Lobban's Amateur Band played the
music, as well as on the street, and Capt. Pollard's Volunteer
Artillery fired the Salute.
The following verses by Mr. John Lepage were written in honor
of the occasion:--
"Hail to the hero immortal in story!
Honor'd of Britain and favor'd of Mars,
On to Prince Edward he comes in his glory
Hail to the gallant defender of Kars!
Fame through the nation Bespeaks him ovation--
Loudly his merits and movements declares,
To do him honor, then,
Shout, all my countrymen,
Hail to the gallant defender of Kars!
"First of the brave, he, by heroes
surrounded Strong as a lion--undoubtedly bold,
Held a position where perils abounded--
Menaced by famine and threaten'd by cold.
Frankly his enemy Honor his bravery:
Writing despatches to him of the Czars,
What says the Russian Chief, General Mouravieff?
"Brave is the gallant defender of Kars!"
The picture shewn opposite is from an old woodcut engraved prior to
1855, and is copied from an advertisement appearing in the Islander
newspaper. The building stood, before the great fire of 1866, as
No.12 Queen Street (West side), and was occupied by William R. Watson,
Druggist, and James Romans, Hardware dealer, etc. After the fire, it
was replaced by a brick building and jointly by W.R. Watson and
Alexander McKenzie, confectioner. It is now occupied by Hyndman &
Company Insurance, and the Island Telephone Co.
A relic of the past was the hull of an old vessel named the Castalia
(nicknamed Noah's Ark) built and owned by Mr. Peake, senior, the
founder of the firm of Peake Bros.& co., in 1835. Not proving a
success as a sea-going vessel, the Castalia was hauled up and placed
on the bank of the river west of Peakes' wharf. It was quite a
prominent object in my younger days and was placed as described long
before I was born and not dismantled until sometime in the seventies.
It is stated in the P.E.I. Magazine, that in the spring of 1840 a
bazaar was held in the Castalia's upper deck, under the auspices of
the "Ladies Benevolent Society" of the Town, and under the supervision
of Lady Mary, wife of His Excellency, Sir Charles Fitzroy, Lieutenant
Governor. Lady Fitzroy is also credited with having started the first
bazaar in Charlottetown in 1838. This by the way.
A roof having been built on the condemned craft, the interior
was used as a sail and rigging loft, and served also as a home for an
old sailor in the employ of Mr. Peake. The vessel was rather a
picturesque object and was a species of wonderment to visitors who
happened to be in its vicinity. It might possibly cause one to think
of Nelson's flagship, the "Victory", of immortal fame, but not having
the latter's martial appearance. The Castalia would probably more
nearly resemble the "Shiplooking thing," so alluded to by young David
Copperfield, in Dickens novel of that name - the residence of the
"Peggoty" family. Several such dismantled vessels were to be seen
some years ago in England, similarly re - modeled and known as
"Bethels," where religious services were held for the benefit of
sailors whose ships were in the docks adjacent.
The approach to the interior of the ship was by steps in the form of
a ladder leading to a door in the side of the vessel and in this "Ark"
as it was sometimes called, dwelt Alex. Sorrall, (I am not sure of the
spelling of the name) a semi-retired mariner, who worked among the
ropes and rigging, using the place as his home, and doing his own
cooking and chores. The dwelling smelt of tar and the sea,
but scrupulously clean.
"Old Alec" as he was generally known, spent his Sunday in works of
good will and dressed in his best clothes, would emerge from the ark,
and often visit the old Methodist Sunday School, where I have seen him
going about among the scholars, and in the bible classes distributing
tracts. He was always a welcome visitor and was affectionately
remembered after he passed to his reward.
Among the objects seen in the cut of the water front will be observed the
celebrated "Castalia."This picture was drawn by the late Mr. George Hubbard in 1849.
He was also the artist of the original pictures of the water front,
showing the site of the old Barrack Square, Pownal and Lord's Wharfs,
etc., also Queen Square in the forties, cuts of all which may by seen
in appropriate places in this booklet---all painted in 1849.
The originals of the pictures just mentioned are to be seen on the
walls of the Protestant Orphanage at Mount Herbert, being part of a
bequest to that institution by the late Mr. R.K. Brace.
Mr. Hubbard has been particularly mentioned in the sketch of
the "Infant School."
Not many now living will remember the name of the block which
is bounded by Prince, Euston, Great George and Fitzroy Streets.
It was called - Holland Grove and in the year 1860 there were very
fine houses on it. At about the centre of the property there stood a
large and quaint-looking old Manor house, which was used as Government
House before I was born, but in my childhood days it was still
there - rather forsaken-looking and delapidated, in which, with other
boys, I have played - running up and down its old, rickety staircases
and playing hide and seek among the many oak and other trees which
covered a large part of the grounds. I believe that some time in the
sixties it was sold in lots. There are many nice residences covering
it today, especially those facing on Prince and Fitzroy streets.
The mansion on Holland grove was built and occupied by the first
Colonel Holland of Island history. It was later occupied by John
Grubb, Esquire (died 1784) a tablet to whose memory can be seen in St.
Paul's church. Mr. Grubb was a grandfather of Mrs. James Peake, Miss
Haviland and Mr. Eustace Haviland of this city. The grounds of
Holland Grove were, in the sixties occasionally used by the provincial
Exhibition commissioners for the annual fair.
On Euston Street and about the north-eastern corner of Holland Grove,
was a rather dismal spot in the eighteenth century, reminding one of
Tyburn in English history. It was called Gallows Hill, and was noted
as the place of execution for several so called criminals. Capital
punishment was here inflicted on these who were guilty of merely
petty larceny. Here, I have been told, a man was hanged for stealing
a loaf of bread, another for the theft of a shilling. How many, for
high crimes, I know not. Those were the "good old days," and it was
not until the seventies that "imprisonment for debt" was abolished
The name of Bagnall is a prominent one in Island History. The head
of the family in P.E. Island - Samuel Bagnall, U. E. Loyalist, came from
Staffordshire, England to Philadelphia, before the American
Revolution. He afterward came to Nova Scotia and from there to
P.E. Island. He was the father of James Bagnall, who published the
first Herald - the second newspaper of P.E. Island and grandfather of
James D. Haszard, who published the third newspaper - the "P.E. Island
Register." Mr. Bagnall's descendants are numerous on Prince Edward
island, and several emigrated to New Zealand years ago.
"There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar."
"Now, my co mates and brothers in exile,
Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
Than that of painted pomp?"
"And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones and good in everything."
--Shakespeare's As you like it.
I know not how "exile" would apply to us, but the last three lines from the
immortal Bard would fit our condition perfectly. In our numerous
pilgrimages our company had little to complain of. The recollection of
those old time excursions always left a good taste in the palates of those
of us who were accustomed to hunt and fish together.
"Who, with his angle and his books,
Can think the longest day well spent,
And praises God when back he looks,
And finds that all was innocent."
-- The Compleat Angler
Herb, Will, Darby, Sam and Ben composed the gang, and after the day's sport
was over and a good feed (often of sea trout) tucked away under our belts,
we would sit around in our tent, or about the camp fire, recounting the
day's experiences, the size of the fish caught and the weight of the one
that wasn't landed; then a sing song or perhaps a friendly game of cards, etc.
"Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds."
Once I can well remember, we gathered at a farm house where we were put up
for the night. We had some songs, while Sam drummed the accompaniment on
the table with his fingers. Herb and Ben sang the solos. The latter sang a
comic song which tickled the risibilities of the host and his family. They
laughed heartily while the old man slapped his knees with delight. Then
Herb took the stage and, with splendid voice, sang the famous song "The
Newfoundland Dog." It was descriptive of a child who had fallen overboard
from a ship and was rescued by a dog. It was a fine song and well sung.
When it was finished, the old couple sat solemn and silent for some moments.
It was evident that it was the words and not the music that interested the
listeners. Finally, the old man exclaimed: "Well! Well! My! My ! so the dog
saved the child!"
On another occasion while resting our horses on our homeward journey, we
dropped into a farm house in the evening and Sam espying, a cabinet organ in
the room, seated himself at it and, accompanying himself, sang a negro
ditty, a few lines which ran something like this:--
"Oh my! She looked so sweet,
And dressed so neat
With her tilting hoops and her
pretty little feet,
As she went skipping along
Oh! My heart went skipping along
As she stepped across the gutter,
For the yaller gal that winked at me!"
When Sam was told after we had retired, that the ladies of the house
that were present when he sang his song, were really "Yaller Gals"
themselves, you could have knocked him down with a feather!
The Fishing trip to Morell river was made, generally in about three
hours. There were no cars then, but Herb always was proficient in handling
horses. He invariably had a good horse with good harness and comfortable
"rig". Not like Petruchio, in Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew," whose nag
is thus described:-
"His horse hipped with an old mothy saddle, the stirrups no kindred:
besides, possessed with glanders, and lie to mose in the chine:... full of
wind-galls, sped with spavins, raised with the yellows, past cure of the
fives, stark spoiled with the staggers, begnawn with the bots; swayed in the
back and shoulder-shotten; with a half checked bit and a head-stall of
sheep's leather; which being restrained to keep him from stumbling hath been
often burst, and now repaired with knots; one girth six times pieced....and
here and there pieced with pack thread."
I think I have seen almost as had even in our day.
On one of our fishing trips we "stood on the bridge at daylight."
It doesn't signify what bridge. Suffice it that Ben was casting out when
suddenly his rod broke in the middle. On seeking the cause he found his fly
caught in a telephone post behind him. It was somewhat annoying, as the
prospect seemed good. However having some old line at hand, he quickly
bound three casts, he was rewarded by hooking the big fellow, who described
an arc in the air, when he felt the barb. After maneuvering to keep the
fish from getting under the arch of the bridge and without the aid of a
landing net, he was finally landed on the beach. He was a beauty and the
largest trout any of the boys had ever seen taken with a fly. Next, the
guessing of the weight. The biggest guess was four pounds. We weighted him
next day on Beer & Goff's computing scales, with the result that he weighed
four pounds and ten ounces! Some fish, and probably some would say - "a
fish story," but it is perfectly true one.
"The jealous trout, that low did lie,
Rose at a well-dissembled fly:
there stood my friend, with patient skill
Attending of his trembling quill.
-- The Compleat Angler
However, the yarn does not end here. the sequel happened in the
same place some twenty years later, when Art, Harry, and Ben were fishing.
Here is where the coincidence comes in. Art was casting, about the same way
as was Ben, just recorded, when "crack" went Art's rod, identically as Ben's
of yore-the fly being caught in the same old telephone pole. Ben then
helped Art to mend his rod, and when the job was completed, said - "Art, go
ahead and get a four pounder as I did twenty years ago." And he did! The
big fellow-weighed within a fraction of four pounds. "Another fish story,"
some would, say but it is also true.
"And when the timorous trout I wait
To take, and he devours my bait,
How poor a thing, sometimes I find,
Will captivate a greedy mind;
And when none bite, I praise the wise,
Whom vain allurements ne'er surprise."
-- The Compleat Angler
A word or two, in reference to the "Fish Hog," might here be said,
on the ethical side of the question. As regards one who uses a net or spear
to take trout he would not be regarded as a sportsman at all and should be
handed over to the tender mercies of the law. But it is of those who take
fish in a lawful manner that I refer to. Many of the latter are not
satisfied with the quantity or weight of trout taken lawfully, but still
continue fishing till they cannot use. Surely these latter should have some
regard for others who desire a little sport and find the streams fished out
by the "hogs". And this can also be said of many who hold "reservations" in
different parts of the country. To all such there would apply these lines
from Izaak Walton's "Compleat Angler".
"Angler! woulds't thou be guiltless? then forbear;
For these are sacred fishes that swim here."
A few more gems from the Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton. (I.W.
died at the good old age of ninety, in the year 1683).
"The world the river is; both you and I,
And all mankind, are either fish or fry:
If we pretend to reason, first or last
His baits will tempt us, and his hooks hold fast."
"Man's life is but vain, for 'tis subject to pain
And sorrow, and short as a bubble;
'Tis a hodgepoge of business, and money and care
and care and money and trouble.
But we'll take no care when the weather proves fair;
Nor will we vex now, though it rain;
We'll banish all sorrow and sing till to morrow
and angle, and angle again."
"The first men that our Saviour dear
Did choose to wait upon Him here,
Bless'd fishers were, and fish the last
Food was that He on earth did taste:
I therefore strive to follow those
Whom He to follow Him hath chose."
The Steamship "Prince Edward"
[Ships and Shipbuilding]
The Steamship "Prince Edward" will be remembered by many of our present-day
citizens. This was an iron screw steamship owned by the "Ocean Steamship Company"
of Charlottetown, and was the only steam ocean liner ever-owned by an Island Company.
I am indebted to Mr. George W. Wakeford, of this City, long
identified with Island shipping interests, for the following selections from
an interesting sketch by him of Island vessels built and owned here in
former times. The only exception is the "Prince Edward, " which was built
"In 1872 the iron screw steamer Prince Edward, 1300 tons gross, 900
net, was built in Scotland for the newly formed Ocean Steamship Company,
Charlottetown. She took up the service between Liverpool and Charlottetown,
replacing several of the sailing vessels, and continued therein for about
twelve years, when she was sold. The improved service between Liverpool and
Halifax enabled our importers to order their requirements via that port more
frequently and in lesser quantities than by the direct service."
"The earliest data by the archives in existence regarding
shipbuilding here was in 1833, but I have sighted a Certificate of
Admeasurement, dated May 30, 1822,.....of the new schooner Stranger, 421/2
tons; it is signed by G. R. Goodman, Surveyor and names Simon Dodd as the
owner and master."
The decline in shipbuilding began in 1878 some little time after
iron steamships began to displace wooden vessels.
"The largest vessels built in this Province were the ship Gertrude,
1361 tons, in 1853, and the Ethel, 1759 tons, in 1853, both owned by Andrew
and James Duncan. During the Indian Mutiny, in 1857, the Gertrude was
engaged as a Liverpool transport."
"There is another, though much smaller, vessel worthy of notice. It
is the Thirza, 204 tons, built in 1865 for Robert Longworth. In a newspaper
clipping under the caption of 'Pressed into Service,' I read: 'The Prize
along with several other sailing vessels, was pressed into service by the
British Navy. There was the Thirza, an old veteran of the sea, built as far
back in 1865, at Prince Edward Island. In the course of her long career as
a merchant vessel she had been sold to English owners and her name changed
to the Ready. Under the official name Q-30 this old ship did splendid work
(in the great world war,) and stayed afloat until the Armistice."
"Compare the advantages of the merchant today with those of the
sixth and part of the seventh decade of the last century. There was a
fortnightly mail from England via Halifax. They had to buy sufficient goods
in England in the month of September to meet the requirements of the public
to the following May, when the regular trader would arrive. The stores were
more in line of general stores; you could buy a yard of cotton or a pound of
tenpenny nails, a pair of stockings or a pint of molasses, a pair of boots
or a ploughshare, and in many of them wines, whisky and rum were obtainable.
In one advertisement of 1839, I noticed under the head of Groceries: 'Rum,
Brandy, Gin, Wine, Confectionary, Tea, Sugar, Tobacco, prime Havana Segars,
candles, Soap, Molasses, Lamp Oil, Digby Herrings, Allspice, Pickles,
Pepper, etc. This is only one of a number of like advertisements.