150 Years of Brockville History – 1867-1891

2017 marks 150 years of Confederation. In honour of Canada’s 150th, we look back on 150 years of Brockville history. The official countdown will take place on the Museum’s Facebook Page, where we will present 150 years in 150 days between February 1 and July 1, 2017, but we will compile all that history here as we move through it. Hope you enjoy this look back on 150 years of Brockville history.

Day 1 - 1867

Town Council, in a vote, refused a request for funds for fire crackers and whiskey to celebrate Confederation Day (July 1st). There was no “public display” to mark the occasion, but there was a “most disgraceful scene” from some who disagreed with the vote.

This is part of the Brockville Recorder report (from a 1967 reprint) that described the scene.

Day 2 - 1868

Around 1868, vice president of the Brockville & Ottawa Railway, Harry Braithwaite Abbott, arrived in Brockville.

The most famous local B. & O. landmark is the railway tunnel. Much of the cargo hauled through the tunnel in those years was lumber.

Abbott would go on to manage the construction of the CPR out west and coordinate the transportation of troops in an attempt to halt North-West Rebellion, and its leader Louis Riel.

Pictured here is a view of the south portal of the railway tunnel.

Day 3 - 1869

In 1869 Brockville Chemical & Super-Phosphate Company opened. The company mostly made fertilizers from locally-mined resources. They were the first in Canada to produce superphosphates, and the second to manufacture suphuric acid.

The road that once led to the mine was, until fairly recently, known as Chemical Road. It is now named Old Red Road.

The company closed in 1884 when the local supply of pyrites had been exhausted.

Shared here is an ad for the company from The Weekly Recorder.

Day 4 - 1870

In 1870, a main-stay of downtown Brockville opened its doors. Ritchie’s has mostly been known as a smoke shop or cigar store, but is much more than that. Now celebrating its 147th year in the same location, Ritchie’s has – at different times – been the place to go to for magazines, sporting goods and hard-to-find items. In the early 1900s, the business expanded to include a billiard and pool room and 2 bowling lanes in the basement.

This a photo of Ritchie’s storefront on King St. c1970.

Day 5 - 1871

1871 was a census year, so we have some interesting statistics to choose from. To begin, Brockville had a population of 5,120 and the largest employer in town was James Smart Manufacturing Co. Ltd. with 160 workers. Those workers earned an average of $23 per month.

Rounding out the top 3 employers were the Brockville & Ottawa Railway Car Factory (138 employees) and Peter B. Jamieson Ready Made Clothing (37 employees).

Pictured here is a trivet with the “Diamond G”- the mark of Smart’s.

Day 6 - 1872

In 1872, Chilion Jones returned to his hometown of Brockville and purchased ‘Belvedere’ house. Jones was an architect. He and his partner Thomas Fuller are best known for their design of the original Centre Block of Parliament in Ottawa – Chilion is credited with the design of the Parliamentary Library.

Chilion’s wife, Eliza was a very famous pioneer in the North American dairy industry.

Pictured here is Belvedere (located near County Road 2 and Belvedere Place).

Day 7 - 1873

In 1873, the Mayor of Brockville was Jacob Dockstader Buell.

Although not the Buell most often thought of, J.D. Buell was well-known in his time. He was a Captain with the local militia, organized to defend again the threat of Fenian invasion. He and his fife and drum corp were among those that held battalion drills on Court House Green every week.

J.D. Buell is pictured here on the far left with his fife and drum corp c.1860s.

Day 8 - 1874

On July 1st, 1874, 10,000 people gathered on Court House Green to see Professor Squires and his balloon, the Atlantic. Once the balloon got above the rooftops, the wind picked up and the balloon crashed into the spire of the Wesleyan Methodist Church!

The force of the crash knocked the professor unconscious and left the basket dangling 80 feet above the ground. He was rescued by being pulled through a trap door in the spire.

Pictured here is the Wesleyan Methodist Church (Wall St. United).

Day 9 - 1875

This 1875 ad from The Evening Recorder reminds us of how popular St. Lawrence Park has been for generations of local people. In the ad the Proprietor of the park (A. McDougall) outlines all the things to do at the park: a dance hall, dining room, bowling alley AND a saloon!

St. Lawrence Park may not have all these amenities today, but it is still a great place to visit any time of the year and has been for over a century.

Day 10 - 1876

One of the many spires of Brockville rose up in 1876. Trinity Anglican Church was constructed that year at a cost of $30,000. Over the years it hosted many events, weddings, funerals and even the Lions Music Festival.

Closed and deconsecrated in 2011, the future of the building is an on-going conversation for many Brockvillians. Many ideas have been suggested from a space for artists to condos to a brewery.

Picture here is an undated image of Trinity Anglican Church.

Day 11 - 1877

Built in 1877, the East Ward School was known by many names. Once located on the corner of Pearl and Bartholomew, it educated generations of children under many different names. Built as the East Ward School, it became Douglas Haig School, then John Knox Christian School and finally the Montessori School.

The building was one of many early schools in Brockville. In poor repair, it was torn down in 1999.

Pictured here is an exterior photo of the school.

Day 12 - 1878

On July 1st, 1878 Brockville hosted a soon-to-be-famous athlete. Ned Hanlan took part in a regatta at our well-established Rowing Club. Hanlan would be the first Canadian to become a world champion in an individual event – but that would be in two years. When he was here in Brockville, he was still working his way up.

Rowing regattas were popular spectator sports in Brockville for many years.

Pictured here is a postcard from the old Rowing Club on Ferry St.

Day 13 - 1879

Thaddeus Leavitt published “The History of Leeds & Grenville” in 1879. It contained stories, engravings and historical happenings from the entire region.

Leavitt became the co-owner and editor of the Brockville Recorder in 1875. He went on to found a rival paper, the Brockville Times, in 1881. In addition to writing The History of Leeds & Grenville, he also wrote novels. The most well-known is “The Witch of Plum Hollow” in which the famous local clairvoyant Mother Barnes is featured.

Day 14 - 1880

In 1880, Brockville’s first official lacrosse team was organised. It is important to remember, this was definitely not the first time lacrosse was played here. In 1868 Brockville hosted a lacrosse game, but there was no official field or park on which to play. Instead, the game was played by the Court House in an area that the Brockville Recorder said was a “spot of ground well suited for a public park…and which the Council would do well to secure for that purpose”.

Day 15 - 1881

This year marked the opening of Brockville’s first telephone exchange- but only 12 people had a telephone in 1881! Popularity grew and by 1883, there were 45 subscribers.

Pictured here is an image from the museum’s Recorder and Times Collection from the 1960s.

Day 16 - 1882

One of the big news items for 1882 was the fire at Starr, Gill and Company. Located on Church Street, they were known for confectioneries and biscuits. The fire destroyed the business.

Pictured is an advertising post card from the business.

Day 17 - 1883

1883 marked the beginnings of one of Canada’s oldest cycling clubs. Brockville’s club was established in 1883 and cycling continues to be popular today. This being said, having a bicycle was still novel in the 1880s. In fact, the newspaper reported how one local man just returned from a trip to Montreal with a handsome new bicycle.

Pictured is a photograph of Brockville’s early cycling club.

Day 18 - 1884

On September 10, 1884 it was reported that a fisherman had recently returned from a four-day trip with two others. Together they caught 230 pike as well as a number of bass – this was the best fishing anyone had reported that year. The fisherman was none other than Mr. M. Sauve, a well-known boat builder.

The Sauve Brothers became internationally renowned for their racing skiffs and sailing canoes. They operated in Brockville until 1898.

Pictured is a Sauve skiff, on display at the museum

Day 19 - 1885

By 1885 Brockville’s snowshoe club, which had been organized a couple of years earlier, was growing in popularity.

An item in the local paper in 1885 mentioned one man on snowshoes: “Valentines are flying today,” they report, “and one of our snowshoers tramped through deep snow this morning all the way to Ogdensburg [to deliver his Valentine message].”

Pictured here is an early photograph of the Brockville Snowshoe Club (circa 1890s).

Day 20 - 1886

It was in 1886, after many years of building that the new post office and customs house was completed on Court House Avenue. It was built under the direction of Thomas Fuller (Chief Architect for the Dominion of Canada).

The building has also housed the Catholic Cultural Centre (1965) and a conference centre/market (1992). It is now the home of Service Canada and remains a focal point of downtown Brockville.

Pictured here are a post card of the post office (circa 1912).

Day 21 - 1887

November 1887 saw the beginnings of St. Vincent de Paul Hospital. Originally, the hospital operated out of Schofield House (between Schofield & Lancaster St. – now an apartment building).

In 1892, the hospital was moved to the corner of Garden and Pine Streets. The east wing was added in 1896 and by 1924 the nurses’ residence was part of the hospital complex.

Further expansion in 1968 meant demolishing some of the hospital’s older buildings. It is now part of BGH’s Garden St. site.

Day 22 - 1888

William Quarrier founded Orphan Homes of Scotland in Glasgow around 1870. Soon, some of these children were being sent to new homes, often to work as farm hands, in Canada. In 1888, he opened a receiving home in Brockville known as “Fairknowe.” This was where all the children arrived before being reassigned to homes across the country.

Between 1871 and 1935 seven thousand of these ‘Home Children’ came to Canada through the Quarrier organisation.

The building is now used as apartments.

Day 23 - 1889

1889 saw the construction of Brockville Collegiate Institute (BCI) on the corner of Pearl and Ormond Streets. Replacing the old Brockville High School, BCI added vocational facilities around 1927 to become Brockville Collegiate Institute and Vocational School.

The school was destroyed by fire in 1929. After a complete rebuild, the new BCIVS reopened the next year with 15 teachers, 13 classrooms a library, assembly hall, gymnasium, office, lunch room, art room and at least 3 laboratories.

Day 24 - 1890

Construction was completed on the new West Ward School in 1890 (the old West Ward School later became known as Brock School). It is now known as Prince of Wales Public School. The school was expanded in 1958 with the addition of a new wing.

Last school year, Prince of Wales celebrated its 125th anniversary.
Currently the future of the school – is under discussion as enrollment decreases throughout the local area.

Day 25 - 1891

From the Recorder and Times, January 10, 1891:

“A great many of our citizens are at present employed harvesting the ice crop. Ice 18 inches thick is being cut at Clayton. It is not over 11 inches here.”

Ice cutting was once a large industry – and not just for the companies supplying ice to hotels and restaurants. Many folks cut ice along the river to store in their own ice sheds to use throughout the year to keep food cold in their ice boxes.

An ad for ice from The Evening Reporter (1888)