1862 diary excerpt of Andrew Somerville, second registrar of Huntingdon County, Quebec


This excerpt begins  with his arrival in North America aboard the ‘Catherine’  from Scotland.

His brother Robert referred to herein is Robert Brown Somerville, Member of Parliament for Huntingdon County 1854-1867.

Andrew Somerville was the grandfather of Alister Somerville. This excerpt was originally transcribed by Alister’s wife, Ollie Brock Somerville, for the 1963 Centennial Edition of The Huntingdon Gleaner. It has now been retranscribed by their grandaughter Sharon Somerville Mark for Internet publication, copyright February 27, 2003. This excerpt may not be used for any commercial purpose whatsoever.



Jan. 1st, 1862 Wednesday. Strait of Canso. Steep Creek. Asleep in bed when NewYear came in at Mr. McQuire’s. 'Catherine' laying at Pirates Cove. Sailing Master Muir and Mate McDonald came along. Weather fine.


2nd. Thursday. Strait of Canso. Steep Creek. Still at McGuire’s. Wind from N.W. and blowing a perfect hurricane this evening.


3rd. Friday. Strait of Canso. Steep Creek. An immense deal of damage done during past night to wharves and shipping. The sea rose higher than the oldest inhabitant remembered. ‘Stapleton’ schooner dragged from her moorings and 'Annie' from P.E.I, was driven ashore.


4th. Saturday. Strait of Canso. Sailed from Pirates Cove at 10 AM. Vessel went ashore just off lighthouse about 12 noon where she remained till 10 PM when a floe of ice came through the gut and carried her right off, the strangers on board assisting, having just time to jump into their boats when we slipped anchor and got out to sea. Weather fine.

The vessel finally docked at New York 8 AM on Monday 13th.


14th. Monday. New York. Malcolm McLeod taken to hospital this day ill of smallpox. 


16th. Thursday. New York. Discharged oats into Shaw Fanshawe and Co. stores by ‘elevator’ this day.  I wonder they have not such a convenience in every large port.  Malcolm McLeod died this day, much lamented by the Islanders of Prince Edward.


18th. Saturday. New York.  Attended the funeral of Malcolm McLeod from P.E.I. at Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn.  A large and splendid cemetery, both naturally and artificially laid out.  Weather cold and bleak.


25th. Saturday. New York.  Took up quarters Eastern Hotel, terms $1.00 per day or $5.00 per week if pre-arranged.  Slept on board of ‘Catherine’ till this time. 


(Then follow details of his stay in New York, making necessary repairs on vessel and the chartering of the ship to carry pork and flour to Newfoundland.)


February 7. Friday. New York.  The ‘Catherine’ left New York for St. John’s, Newfoundland.  I left for Montreal by rail at ¼ p 10 P.M.  Fare $10.50, sleeping car 50 cents, distance 410 miles.  Found the country here covered with snow, quite different climate from New York.


8th. Saturday. Albany.  When changing carriages at Albany missed the train and had to remain there till noon.  Breakfast on sucker fish, etc., at a Germans, charge 25 cents.  Walked through the Town, visited the Court House where New York State Representatives sit.  Left at 12 arriving at Burlington, Vermont, about 8 p.m. and took up quarters at Howard Hotel, being unable to get further, train remaining here all night.


10th. Monday.Burlington.  Left Burlington by rail at 10 a.m.  Arrived at Rouses Point about 3 where dined.  Passed the frontier line about a mile further on, entering Canada on my birthday.  Reached St. Lawrence about 8, being a slow train, crossed St. Lawrence on the ice with sleigh and 4 horses and took up quarters at Albion Hotel, Montreal, charge $1.50 p day.


11th. Tuesday. Montreal.  Left Montreal after breakfast by rail to Lachine at 8 a.m. fare 37 ½ cents, crossed St. Lawrence by steamer to Caughnawaga, about 3 miles, fare 20 cents.  This is an Indian Village where no white man allowed to reside permanently or trade, population 1,500.  Here the river keeps always open, but anchor ice forms at bottom, sometimes 10 feet thick.  This ice adheres firmly to the bottom, but a pole can be moved in it.  Took stage to Huntingdon where arrived about 5.  Took tea at Laird Anderson’s who drove me to Athelstan, 3 ½ miles to my brother Robert.


12th. Wednesday. Athelstan.  Arrived here last night.  Knocked at Robert’s door and was admitted by Jane, who showed me into Drawing room and then called ‘Papa’, who came, but did not recognize me, and neither would I him from recollection of his appearance 25 years since.  He introduced me to his wife Mary and children and talked over old Country matters.  Today visited Tannery, Flour and Oatmeal Mills with Robert, and after dinner drove with him and Johnnie (Robert’s son) to Dr. Sherriff at Huntingdon.  John and I returned to Athelstan, leaving Robert who was to leave for Montreal in the morning.


13th. Thursday. Athelstan. Mrs. ‘S.’, Johnnie and I sleighed to Mrs. Black’s, an old resident of Athelstaneford, she delighted to see me and I enjoyed much her old country tales accompanied by a most substantial tea.  Had a capsize on the way going.


14th. Friday. Athelstan.  Johnnie and I sleighed to Huntingdon.  Called on Dr. Sherriff and Laird Anderson.  The latter drove me to Hugh Graham, about ½ mile off.  Mrs. Graham a nice little woman, (Geo White’s sister) with 4 girls and 1 boy – Jane, Martha, Louisa, Beatrice and Kilgour.  Johnnie came to H.G.’s and we returned here.


16th. Sunday. Athelstan.  At church here and heard Mr. Watson, U.P. preach a good plain sensible discourse.  Took a short walk with Robert in the evening.


18th. Tuesday. Athelstan.  Called on Colonel Reid with Mrs. S., Annie and Robert and then went on in sleigh to Dr. Sherriff where spent this evening.  Hugh Graham and wife, William Shirriff and wife and Mrs. Anderson being present.  Dr. S. told me Thermometer stood at 22 below zero last Saturday.  The lowest he has ever seen it in Canada being 46 below zero, 3 years (1859) ago when it killed all his apple trees.


24th. Monday. Athelstan.  Weather looking stormy.  Robert and I started in sleigh for Hugh Graham but stuck in snow about 500 yards from his house.  Got assistance and had ponies sent back to Laird Anderson’s stable leaving sleigh amongst the snow.  Walked to Mr. Graham’s having been joined by Dr. Sheriff.  Laird Anderson and wife determined not to be beat, after great difficulty, arrived when dinner finishing, but all had to stay throughout the night, it snowing, drifting and blowing so.


 (The snow continued until the 18th March when we read that the storm abated and weather fine, men out breaking roads.  He sleighed with Robert to Huntingdon and stayed the night at Dr. Sherriff’s.)


19th. Wednesday. Huntingdon.  Started at 7 by Stage, reached Caughnawaga in time for Steamboat, crossed river to Lachine and took rail to Montreal where Robert, Hugh Graham and self took up quarters at National Hotel, about 6 p.m.


20th. Thursday. Montreal.  Robert left for Quebec early this morning – Parliament meeting today.  In the afternoon sleighed out to Hochelaga, about 5 miles and spent evening at Mr. Croil’s.  Walked back to Hotel at night.


(The following weeks mention storms of snow and wind and bad roads.  He is tormented with neuralgia which he cures with applications of hot salt and Rochelle Salts.  A Frenchman named Labaye has his arm caught in a Threshing Mill and Dr. Sherriff and another Doctor amputate it, giving chloroform.  Then the thaw sets in and rain comes.)


15th. April. Tuesday. Athelstan.  Very mild and dull looking this morning.  Snow going fast and birds singing.  George Walker came in and took dinner, he busy making Maple sugar, which required frosty nights and sunny days to make sap run.  On highland, one pailful of sap will make 1 lb. of sugar, whilst 3 pailfuls on lowland required.  Sugar 10 cents p. lb.  Chateauguay’ and ‘Hinchinbrook’ Rivers making a great noise this evening, said to be a sure sign of rain.


16th. Wednesday. Athelstan.  Very mild and snow going fast.  Roads very bad.  Visited home built of stone by old Mr. Walker and saw the room he died in.


17th. Thursday. Athelstan.  Warm, south-west wind all night and today which will soon dissipate the snow.  Cut down to plane trees and took boards and earth from around the house – warm work.  A regular freshet which brought down water of Hinchinbrook in great volume, carrying away Bridge, Oatmeal Mill floor and filling Tannery up to centre of lower window.


18th. Good Friday. Athelstan.  A good deal of damage done at Tannery, but this morning the river has fallen about 3 feet and will continue to decrease should heavy rain not come, the snow being nearly gone.  Pruned all the Lilac trees around the house.


19th. Saturday. Athelstan.  Very windy from the S W all night.  River fell greatly today and men putting Tannery in order.  Geo Sandilands told men the water in his cellar deeper than it had been for 34 years.


23rd. Wednesday. Athelstan.  Sleet this morning, weather, sleet, rain, snow and frost with occasional sunshine.  Worked for a couple of hours in garden and read portion of John’s Journal – Tannery commenced in 1846.


24th. Thursday. Athelstan.  Took a walk in woods and fields.  Land here though stony, appears to be good and, in some places, rich.  Worked in garden for an hour or two and visited Tannery.  Tannery turns out 6,000 hides in one year.


25th. Friday. Athelstan.  Weather fine.  Worked in garden during forenoon, after dinner, Johnnie and I rode on ponies to Huntingdon.  Road bad being covered with mud.  Took tea at Dr. Sherriff’s, crossed the Chateauguay in a canoe at Dr. S. this the first time I have ever been in a canoe made of a single tree.


29th. Tuesday. Athelstan.  Fine day.  Laird and Mrs. Anderson here at dinner.  Mr. Jackson the Registrar at Huntingdon died today.  Post said to be worth $600. per annum.


30th. Wednesday. Athelstan.  Another fine day.  Mrs. S., Mrs. W. Gardner and Miss Walker drove in wagon to Burnbrae.  Worked an hour or two in garden.  Annie and I took tea with Mrs. Breadner.  Mr. B. going off tonight to Quebec to make application for the late Mr. Jackson’s office.


1st. May. Thursday. Athelstan.  Johnnie and I rode to Laird Anderson’s.  Rain commenced at noon and continued all day.  I remained all night at the Laird’s.


2nd. Friday. Huntingdon. Jackson burried today.  Rained till noon, river rose several feet preventing communication with Athelstan.  The Laird and I took tea at Dr. Whyte’s.  I remained at the Laird’s all night.


3rd. Saturday. Huntingdon.  Fine sunny day with river slowly sibsiding.  Colonel Reid and his son John came to village in canoe and arrived at the Laird’s.  I walked home to Athelstan in the evening, road covered with water and at some parts had to climb along the fences.  Left pony at the Laird’s it being impossible to get it through.  Heard that Beaudry, the registrar at St. Martine was drowned the same day as Jackson died, whilst crossing in a canoe from Caughnawaga to Lachine.


5th. Monday. Athelstan.  Rode with Johnnie to Huntingdon when took stage for Port Lewis and got on board Steamer ‘Salaberry’ about ½ p. 10.  Rev. and Mrs. Wallace, Ward and Morris and Mr. Morrison passengers.  The sail down the noble St. Lawrence very pleasant and its beauty not easily described, especially in shooting through the ‘rapids’, where the river boils and bubbles and runs with headlong violence.  The Canal not being yet open, landed at ‘Lachine’ and took rail for Montreal where arrived at ½ p. 6 and remained at the ‘Albion’.


Montreal. May 6th.  Left by rail at 7:45 for Quebec, fare 2nd class $2. first, $3, distance 161 miles, the cheapest ride I have yet had.  Very few passengers till reaching ‘Richmond’, 75 miles, where passengers have half an hour for dinner.  The population nearly all French along the line, and the country apparently requiring much improvement, much of it being desolate, half burned forests.  Crossed from Port Lewis in steamboat and found Robert at Rupert Hotel about ¼ p. 6, just in time for dinner.


Quebec. May 7th.  This is a city, once seen never forgot, it makes an impression upon a visitor that no other place I have yet seen has made.  Its steep, picturesque streets and fine views, are unrivalled, besides the historic association, connected with what has been termed the ‘Gibraltar of America’.  Last evening visited the House of Assembly and heard the Hon. John Rose, (a native of Banffshire, whose father emigrated to Huntingdon about 30 years ago), speak upon the Militia Bill on the Ministerial side.  Mr. Toby, a member of the Opposition, annoyed Rose a good deal by referring to 1849, when Mr. R. desired annexation with the United States.


Quebec. May 8th.  Before breakfast took a walk on ‘Dunbar Terrace’, view magnificent, also visited Wolfe’s and Montcalm’s monument on which both names are written.


Quebec. May 9th.  Hanging about House of Assembly all afternoon, visited the room where members who subscribe $1. each are furnished with tobacco and pipes and where, I am told, more political questions are argued and decided upon than in the House, especially by the French members.  Weather cold.


Quebec. May 10th.  After lunch got order from the Town Mayor to visit the Citadel, went in company with Robert and upon entering the gate, a sergeant was instructed to act as guide.  About 900 of the 66th Rifles stationed here, who came out in the ‘Great Eastern’ last July.  The officers quarters in the centre and the privates close to the water, 5 wells within the gates.


Quebec. May 12th.  Hart and I drove in ‘Caleche’ to Montmorency, 8 miles.  The road good, being well macadamized.  The ‘Falls’ was magnificent, the river very high and a great volume of water pouring over a few years ago a suspension bridge was erected but suddenly gave way when three people were suddenly launched into the boiling flood. 


Quebec. May 13th.  Called on Donald McLeod and walked with him to his residence 3 miles out on Beauport road.  Weather fine.  Remained all night.


Beauport. May 14th.  Boated to town with McLeod.  Lovely morning.  About ‘House’ all forenoon.


Beauport. May 15th. Remained at McLeod’s till 2, then walked into city.  Weather very warm and roads dusty.  Attended Historical Society’s Conversazione in the evening.


Quebec. May 19th. Weather cold this morning.  Commenced raining about 12.  This morning bought ½ cord of hard wood for G.H. at 6/6 (six shillings and six pence) cartage 10d, and cutting up 1/8.


Quebec. May 20th.  Ministry defeated on Militia Bill by a majority of 7.  Robert voted with Ministers – 14 majority of ? against and 7 of U.C. in favour. 


Quebec. May 21st. Fine morning and at “House” all day.  Went to Speaker’s Gallery at 3 when Mr. Cartier stated he had handed resignation of the Ministers to the Governor and moved adjournment till tomorrow.


Quebec. May28th. At “House” in the evening, when Robert moved an amendment to a motion for taking 50 farms from this county, which he carries with difficulty by a majority of 4.  Sicotte promised to give me the Registrarship provided I got the leading men of Huntingdon to sign in my favour.


Quebec. May 29th. Ascension Day. At market in morning. Only one butcher’s stall open, he is the only protestant in the market. Wrote out Petition for Registrarship. Dined at one with the Harts. Left on ‘Napoleon’ steamer for Montreal at 4. Sat up till 12 listening to fine music performed with voice and on piano by one lady and two gents. Scenery on river magnificent, several ships and barques up by steam to Montreal and a number of schooners lying at anchor.


River St. Lawrence. May 30th. Awoke on board ‘Napoleon’ steamer at 5 between Quebec and Montreal. Arrived at latter place at ½ past 6 and took railway for Lachine, crossed to Caughnawaga and staged for Huntingdon where arrived about ½ p 4. Weather fine for travelling but dry and cold for crops. The ground quite parched up for want of rain and everything backward. Took tea at Laird Anderson’s and spent evening getting 24 signatures for Registership. Johnnie drove me to Athelstan where arrived at ½ p 11 and found all gone to sleep.


Athelstan. May 31st. Saw Breadner, who somewhat disappointed, but agreed to sign petition in my favour for Registrarship and get other signatures.  Johnnie and I drove to Laird Anderson who went with me to Colonel Reid and Mr. Rose who both signed.  Took dinner at the Colonel’s and then came to Athelstan.  Found Mr. Breadner (in consequence of Miss W. having been along) quite changed and regretted he had signed.  I told him I wanted none to sign unless they did so frankly and that he could still withdraw his signature, which he did.  Johnnie took the paper and got 28 signatures.  The Laird and I called on sundries and got 82 signatures in all.  Weather fine but too dry.


Athelstan. June 1st. Sunday.  Fine day but rain much wanted.  Heard Mr. Watson preach from “Wherein we stand” and Mr. Wallace from 2 Peter, 3C. 18V.


Athelstan. June 4th.  David Sherriff here all night, paying visit before going to St. Martine where he intends residing one year to gain a knowledge of French.  Mrs. S. and I drove to Huntingdon, dined and teaed at the Doctor’s.  Went with him to visit a sick black woman, she was married to a white man and living in extreme poverty, not a chair in the house and only two bowls.  Passed through Teafields and picked up some Labrador tea and India Cup, the latter said to be a cure for smallpox.  Received from Mr. Copeland printed petition against my appointment as Registrar.  Got up by disappointed people.


Athelstan. June 5th.  The heavens continue like brass, giving no sign of rain.


Athelstan. June 6th.   At home all day, busy stumping.


Athelstan. June 7th.  A few drops fell this morning and then rain appeared to go off again.  Busy stumping in forenoon.  Johnnie went to village and met Robert who came by Port Lewis from Quebec this morning, he joined us at the Reid’s and we walked home together.


Athelstan. June 15th. Sunday.  Very cold for the season.  Stove lighted.


Athelstan. June 16th. Exceedingly cold during past night.  Dr. Sherriff called during breakfast on his way from Bank, stated he had made a snowball from hoar frost early this morning and that he was afraid a good deal of damage would result to crops.  Drove with Johnnie to Chateaugay (N.Y.), 10 miles from here, when took cars at 3.52 for New York via Rouses Point, through fare $9.50.  Took supper at St. Alban’s for 40 cents. 


New York. June 17th.  Arrived here at ½ p 10.  Past night very cold. ‘Catherine’ had arrived with 217 tons of coal last Wednesday.  Walked to 21st Street where she had discharged coal.  Went to sleep at ‘Eastern Hotel’ at 9 feeling very tired.  A great change here since February, then streets full of soldiers, now none but sick and wounded to be seen.


New York. June 19th.  Very pleasant weather after last night’s rain.  Running about all day to procure berths for ship.  In the evening walked up to Hudson River station and found Cars started for the North at ¼ p 10.  Had a talk with Luggage Master who told me all in authority were scoundrels and said if McLellan was repulsed the Northern States would raise 500,000 men more for the war.


New York. June 20th.  Left New York at ¼ p. 10 by cars, fare to Rouses Point $8.50.


Chateaugay. June 21st.  Breakfasted at Troy for 25c. where spent an hour.  This depot and a whole neighbourhood of houses burned down a couple of months since.  Reached Rutland at 11, where remained for 4 hours, walked through this place which has risen in about 8 years, a number of well-built, brick houses faced with marble.  Marble Works the support of the place, about 4 miles off, the best marble in the State is found.  Arrived Chateaugay at 11, Johnnie waiting me with carriage.


Athelstan. June 24th.  Fine showery day, first rate for the crops.  Heard report of McLellan army being cut to pieces and dispersed before Richmond.


Athelstan. June 26th.  Fine morning, ‘stoning’ in the field all forenoon for road making, hard work.


Athelstan. July 17th. Weather fine, dry and cool.  Went with Miss Jane Walker, Annie and Johnnie to the Reid’s in full dress about 40 present.  Reid showed me closed carriage which he bought in Montreal for $100 and waggon which he bought here for $50. and old waggon.  Dance kept up till 4 o’clock.  Felt tired and won’t go to such parties again.


Athelstan. Aug. 1st.  Barry called about Crown land lots advertised.  He has been in Canada 40 years, came from nearby Kirkintilloch, Scotland, put up the stonework of Tannery here for £110. thinks about 30 feet of the wall on North side is subsiding.


Athelstan. Aug. 2nd.  Robert arrived from Quebec, having come round by Hemmingford and obtained J. Scriver’s signature to my application for Registership.  Drove to Huntingdon and called on the Laird who also signed it and then went with me to the Catholic Priest and got his certificate.  Also saw Branchard, remained at the Laird’s all night.


Huntingdon. Aug. 3rd.  The Laird and I drove to Annicette, 13 miles, and got Dupuis the Mayor to sign, then to Dundee, 13 miles, and saw Olney, who declined to sign until he consulted the council – then to P. Brody of Godmanchester (10 mi.) who signed.  Supper at ______ & lost way & did not arrive at Athelstan till about 2 this morning.


Athelstan Aug. 4  After breakfast Robert and I drove to Scriver, mayor of Elgin who signed.

Went to Hochelaga 16 – On Aug. 29 – walked to Montreal & found Robert at the “Albion”.  Call at Delly’s & saw Keith McDonald.  Called & saw the Laird at 14 St. Urban St.  he had been very sick, but was recovering.  Robert telegraphed to Montreal to Abbot about Registership but no reply came.


Hochelaga Sept. 8 walked & carred (?) to Montreal after breakfast , saw my appointment to Registership in Saturday’s Official Gazette.

Montreal Sept. 12. Spent a sleepless night at Exchange Hotel, Robert, Johnnie, Geo. Walker & I being crowded into one room.  Went with Geo. Walker to St. Ann’s & Bonsecours Markets & then Robert, James Croil (?), G.W. & I went to Court house.  I signed & took oaths of Allegiance & of Office.  Robert & G.W. signed Bonds of Security for me.  Afterward met Solicitor General Wilson & Abbot who said there was a doubt about an M.P. being a security so had to get new bond written out which G.W. & I signed.  Left by railway at 5 for Lachine.


Sept. 13 (Saturday) Crossed St. Lawrence on Steamer de Salaberry & arrived at Port Lewis at 3 and no stage starting till daylight .  Walked to Huntingdon a distance of 8 miles & got to Dr. Sherriff’s about ½ p 5.  Robert, Johnnie, & Geo Walker arriving by stage an hour after.  Breakfasted at the Dr.’s then called at the Laird’s who had just gone from home.  Called on Morrison C. of C. who went with Robert & I to Registry Office   - saw  the Deputy who promised to have an inventory of books & documents ready for 8 a.m. on Monday when he would hand all over to me.  Robert & I walked to Athelstan.  After dinner I visited A. Lumsden who agreed to go to Montreal on Monday & sign security bonds.  I gave him ($?)6  to pay expenses.


Sept. 15 – Athelstan – Beautiful morning.  Walked to Huntingdon.  Called on Mr. Morrison who went with me to Registry Office where Worly the Deputy handed to me all books & the Inventory.  Remained there till 3.


Athelstan, Sept. 17 . Walked with Robert to Alex Lumsden from whom received Bonds & Oaths he had brought from Montreal.


Athelstan Sept. 18. Walked to Office.  Wrote L. Beaudry clerk of the Peace, Beauharnois with duplicate security bond & deputy’s Oaths of Allegiance – also A.A. Dorion, Secretary Quebec with Bond in duplicate.