Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Fort Havoc (Wallace Hale)

Info The language of the text is the original used by Wallace Hale. Records acquired by the Provincial Archives are not translated from the language in which they originate.

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Early Navigation on the Upper St. John




On another occasion, the "Antelope," having on board a company of troops that hd been sent from Fredericton to quell an incipient riot on the part of some railway navvies near Richmond, left Woodstock at the same moment as the "Highlander" and after a keen race arrived at her wharf in Fredericton about five miles in advance of her rival.

The steamboats did not succeed in driving the tow-boats off the river. In the year 1856, when the "Reindeer," "Richmond" and "Bonnie Doon" were on the route, a fleet of some twenty tow-boats found employment during the summer season. It appears from a communication to the "Head Quarters" Newspaper, by Thomas Dowling, wharfinger at Fredericton, in the autumn of 1856, that wharfage had been received during the season for 264 tow-boats that had loaded at Fredericton with freight for the Upper Country. Mr. Dowling says:—

"Each boat, I presume, at the lowest figure carried 140 bbls. in bulk, making in all 36,960 bbls." In addition to this, 42 boats arrived from [at?] Fredericton laden with country produce and sawed lumber from up the river.

At this period the steamers "Richmond," "Reindeer" and "Bonnie Doon" were controlled by the "Union Line," of which the late J. T. Allan was agent at Woodstock. We learn from an old copy of the "Carleton Sentinel" that during the season of 1856, 67 trips were made by these boats up the river and down. The "Richmond" made twenty trips to Woodstock and return; the "Reindeer" six; the "Doon" nineteen. To Tobique the "Richmond" made five trips, the "Reindeer" four and the "Doon" five. To Grand Falls three trips were mady by the "Richmond," two by the "Reindeer" and three by the "Doon." The season seems not to have been a particularly favorable one, as shown by the small number of trips of the "Reindeer."

To show the length of time the boats were able to run, it may be mentioned that the "Richmond" commenced running April 26; stopped June 17; commenced July 5; stopped August 22; commended Sept. 26; stopped Oct. 13. The "Bonnie Doon" commenced April 29; stopped June 22; commenced August 15; stopped August 22; commenced Sept. 27; stopped Oct. 14. The "Reindeer" commended May 10; stopped June 17; commenced Setp. 26; stopped Oct. 10.

During the season the "Richmond" carried 1075 passenters — an average of 38 per round trip; the "Doon" 1525, an average of 57 per trip; the "Reindeer" 900, an average of 75 per trip. The amount of freight carried by the three boats during the season to Woodstock, Tobique and Grand Falls was for the "Richmond" 5,300 bbls, "Doon" 3,400; "Reindeer" 900; total 9,600. The freight we may observe, was all reckoned in bbls, 250 lbs. being called a barrel (this did not include the way-freight, which must also have been considerable and the freight carried down the river must also have been considerable). A large portion of the freight was at this time carried by tow-boats.

The amount of river traffic continued yearly to increase, and the steamboats to do a correspondingly more profitable business until the completion of the Woodstock Branch Railway some ten years later. In the article from which our figures are quoted the Carleton Sentinel remarks:— "We consider that the present Commissioner for the improvement of the navigation of the river has been pursuing the duties of his office with considerable success. This is a subject in which most of our readers are interested. Until we have a railroad, we must depend entirely upon the river for a highway upon which to carry on our import trade; nor even when our railroads are all built will the navigation of the river cease to be of importance; therefore, it is a matter of public concern to have everything possible done to lessen the risk and increase the facilities for safe, comfortable, and lengthened steam travel up the St. John."

The steamer "Antelope," as already noted, took the place of the "Reindeer" and used her engines. She was a very popular and satisfactory boat for passenger travel. After the "Antelope" was worn out, her engines were placed in the tugboat "Admiral" still in existence, having proved a very valuable tug in her day. The "Highlander" was purchased by "The Peoples' Line" and the same company afterwards built other stern-wheel high pressure steamboats including the "Gazelle" and "Ida Whittier." For years these boats had an extensive business, frequently extending their trips to the Tobique and Grand Falls; but after the construction of the Woodstock Branch Railway and the line from Gibson to Woodstock on the eastern side of the river, business rapidly declined and "The Peoples' Line" retired from their enterprise. There has however usually been each season a single stern-wheel boat of light draft of water on the route. In addition to the boats already mentioned in this article the public will be familar with the names of the "Andover," "Florenceville" and "Aberdeen." The last named is still on the route, her owner being Geo. F. Baird of St. John.

A few years ago an ice freshet resulted in filling up the river channel to some extent at Grand Pass in the vicinity of Spring Hill and as a consequence the season of steamboat navigation has been somewhat shortened. It is not improbable that more attention may be paid to the encouragement of navigation in the future in view of the beautiful scenery our noble St. John affords to the tourist and also in view of its being the only competing route with the C. P. R. for freight to Woodstock.


W. O. Raymond


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[Published 19 May 1897]