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
Andrew Somerville was the grandfather of
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
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
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.
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
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
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
(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
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
(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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Athelstan. June 5th. The heavens continue like brass, giving no
sign of rain.
Athelstan. June 6th. At home all day, busy
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.
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.
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.
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
Athelstan. Aug. 1st. Barry called about Crown land lots advertised. He has been in Canada
40 years, came from nearby Kirkintilloch,
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
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
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.