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From the Clyde to California
Chapter I.—Queenstown—Sandy Hook—Montreal---Quebec


QUEENSTOWN—IRREPRESSIBLE BEGGARS AND THEIR WITTY OBSERVATIONS—THE "BANKS"—SUNDAY WORSHIP ON BOARD—SANDY HOOK—DECORATION DAY—MY FIRST "COCKTAIL"—THE BAY, A FAIRY-LIKE PICTURE—SOMETHING LIKE A STEAMER—MONTREAL—RUN THROUGH THE RAPIDS—THE WHARVES AND ELECTRIC LIGHT-QUEBEC—NOVEL HAY PRESS.

HAVING a strong desire to see the New World and its many wonders, its people, and how they manage matters in the States and in the Dominion of Canada, I, along with a friend, took passage for New York in the latter part of May, 1881, in the good ship "Gallia," one of the Cunard Line of steamers, and became members of its floating population for the time being. In giving a description of our rambles (which were pretty extensive, stretching away to Salt Lake City and San Francisco) over the American Continent, I do not intend to give a dull diary of our proceedings—the miles we travelled, all the places we visited, and so on; but merely to note those occurrences that took place and the things I saw which were of most interest to me, and different from what I may have observed at home.

After leaving Liverpool, Queenstown was soon reached, where two hundred and eleven mail bags were tumbled on board. The mail service between Britain and America must be something enormous, and shows the intimate relationship that exists between the two countries. Having a few hours at disposal, a number of the passengers went ashore, and on landing were immediately surrounded by a multitude of female lace merchants selling handkerchiefs, sprigs of shamrock, broom, &c., the articles of merchandise being a mere pretence for begging. These irrepressible beggars were very jocular in their way, and one of our party being annoyed at the importuning of one old wizened-looking dame, sent her to "Old Nick," which was a mistake on his part; for she gave him her blessing in most choice Irish language, ending her flowery oration by seriously cautioning us all to avoid him for the future, for there was not the least doubt that he had a close and intimate relationship with his satanic majesty himself.

Another old dame among the plentiful crop, a professor in the art of begging, was told by one of our party that he had no small money. "Och," says she, "don't be after minding though it is not small, for sure I'll take any money but matrimony!"—and on his giving her a small donation, she deluged him with such a shower of blessings on his saintly head, that it induced an elderly-looking passenger to look into his purse for a small coin too, since blessings were going so cheap. He hooked out a penny, and was searching for another, when the blessing vendor exclaimed with a wicked, fun-loving leer in her eyes, "Och, my dear Mr Smith, I was sartin I had met yes before." "How is Mrs Smith and all the family ?sure my prayers for their happiness have never ceased and having got all she could get from our party, she went off skipping for joy like an ancient "Cutty Sark," to make an attack on another party of passengers. The general appearance of Queenstown reminded me of Mill- port on a gigantic scale, with forts on each side of the channel, and another fort right ahead, while the convict island is situated behind.

We leave this city of forts, and steam on, and are soon passing Cape Clear, the most seaward point of old Ireland, and enjoy our voyage and the company till we reach the Banks,"

"Where sailors gang tae fish for cod."

We saw these hardy toilers of the deep hard at work, for we passed through a large fleet of two-masted fishing boats, each boat having a number of skiffs with a man on board busy fishing for cod. Some of these frail- looking skiffs were several miles distant from their ships, and one of them came quite close to our steamer, and its occupant holding up a huge cod, newly caught, made a bold effort to wave it round his head. More than sailors fish for cod, for several whales were seen in the distance coming to the surface to blow and spout, and then diving down out of sight. This part of the ocean seemed pretty much thronged with living things—whales, pellocks, dockers, and Mother Carey's chickens, flocks of which would rise in front of the vessel, and perform strange evolutions on the surface of the sea. We had also an occasional glimpse of passing vessels in the distance, which set us wondering what they were, and where they were going. The Queen's birth-day was loyally held on board. A concert was got up in the evening, the singers being supplied from volunteers amongst the passengers. Nor was our piety left at home, for we had divine service conducted in the saloon, in the Church of England form, by the doctor of the ship. The service consisted of a morning hymn, reading of prayers, and a chapter from the New Testament, winding-up with the hundredth Psalm, to the tune of "Old Hundred." We had no sermon. If a minister had been aboard, it is likely he would have been put to use. As it was, the service was conducted with simplicity and decorum.

The number of vessels about us increased. It was evident we were nearing our destination, and, at ten o'clock on Monday morning, land became visible. We passed Sandy Hook, and, as we sailed up the bay to the pier, the view around us was like some exquisite picture, or a scene from fairyland. It was "Decoration Day," the day on which the graves of the soldiers who perished in the late civil war are decorated with a profusion of flowers and flags, and it is held as a national holiday. There was a regatta in full swing, and the water was quite alive with palace steamers, with their many tiers of decks towering aloft. Pleasure excursions by the dozen—crowds of beautiful, swift-gliding yachts—made up a panorama, for the splendour and ever-changing beauty of which I never saw anything before like it. On we sail through this crowd of holiday pleasure-seekers, and reach the pier. There was a multitude of on-lookers, amongst whom we did not expect to see a known face; but great was my surprise and pleasure on observing my brother-in-law and his son, who had that morning arrived from Boston (230 miles), having learned that I was coming by the "Gallia," and so confident were they that she would be up to time, they had engaged our state-room to proceed with them that night to Boston. The health doctor passes us, and the Customs officials check and pass our belongings, and we speedily get bundled on board the "Bristol," a floating palace steamer bound for Boston. She would not sail for a couple of hours, so we step on shore, and a sign over a cafe attracts our attention. It is the tail, legs and heels of a retreating "rooster." On the right there is in full pursuit the head and neck of another very infuriated-looking bird, with its feathers bristling on end. This we presumed to be a Yankee cafe-keeper's mode of advertising the invigorating qualities of his blend, so we enter and experience our first New World sensation, in the shape of a cooling drink—in Yankee phrase, "a cocktail"—sucked through straws from a tumbler. I said it was good, and so did my neighbour, having in our school days had many a suck at milk barrels through straws.

We get on board of our floating palace, a vessel very much larger than our famed "Columba," broader and higher also, and though looking grand and stately, yet lacking the firm, substantial appearance of our own favourite river boat. Still this wonderful production, sailing between New York and Fall River, is a complete scene in itself, a veritable four-storey floating palace, with dining saloons sumptuously and luxuriously furnished, one of which accommodates one hundred and thirty to dinner at one time, with thirty black waiters in attendance. Those who wish to dine enter by one stair and retire by another, while no one is allowed to enter the saloon until room is provided for him at the table, intimation of that being passed from a waiter in the saloon to another in the stair-case, who passes him on to another who conducts him to his seat.

You go on board the steamer on the second deck, which is nearly on a level with the wharf, and is used exclusively for cargo, with the exception of a portion set apart for embarking and landing of passengers, and where all the officials have their offices. From here a stair descends to the dining saloons under, and another ascends to the upper deck and saloon. Going up these stairs one is impressed with the idea that he is entering a grand stately church. Just fancy the proportions of the saloon. It is 140 feet in length, about 30 feet in width, and 30 feet in height, with an opening or gallery So feet long by 20 feet wide, circular at the one end, and a stair-case at the other, by which ascent is had to a passage about 44 feet broad, running all round above the saloon, and opening into a range of state-rooms on each side, each room being seven feet square, and accommodating two sleepers. These sleeping rooms are draped with fine lace curtains, and have all the requisite toilet conveniences. This boat can accommodate in the state-room 800 sleepers at one time, and when the extra beds are all laid out in the saloons and passages, there is sufficient accommodation for 1,500 sleepers. In fact, there is scarcely a limit to this boat's carrying capacity, as on one of her excursion trips there were 3,500 people on board! Saloons, state-rooms, everywhere that passengers congregate, are finished in gold, and tastefully painted in rich colours, and beautiful gasaliers are fitted-up where needed—as they make their own gas on board. But, if by accident fire gets hold of such boats, there is no hope; up she flares, like a box of matches, and Heaven help the passengers, for help or escape there is none, except from the life-buoys, two of which are in each state-room, and printed instruction how to use them. The upper deck or roof is very high, and no passengers are allowed on it. There are spaces on each deck at the bow and stern, beyond the extremities of the saloons and state-rooms, which are set apart for the musicians, and for the passengers to enjoy the view; but these spaces are far too limited for the number of passengers. The saloons are wholly surrounded by state-rooms, which deprive one of the pleasant look-out that one has on board the "Columba," and that class of steamers so famed on the Clyde, which, though not so large as the American floating palaces, are yet more comfortable and secure looking, more fitted to stand a little rough usage from the elements as experienced in Scotland. These floating castles would not do for Clyde river traffic, being too unwieldy, but they are admirably suited for American habits and American waters in the summer time, when Jonathan and family are in perpetual motion.

Landing at Fall River, we take the train to Boston— the "hub" of the universe around which all nature revolves, as the Yankees describe it. At this city we make our stay short, as we intend, on our return, to spend a few days in it, so we proceed to Wells River, a thriving little village in the State of Vermont (Green Mountain), situated about one hundred and sixty miles north of Boston. Here we were very hospitably received by Scotch relatives, three generations of whom had been born on American soil; and it added much to our pleasure to meet such a long line of descendants, all hale and healthy—only sorry that we never had the pleasure of meeting with the original settlers, who, a few years since, had gone the way of all living, after having spent over half a century in their adopted country, in the midst of their family and descendants, some of whom now hold honourable and responsible positions in various American cities.

Some of our friends drove with us into the country, to introduce us to others of our relatives, who are farmers, and from whom we got some hints on American farming. However, we were not very favourably impressed with what we saw in that line. The district was so hilly, and the roads steep, so that we had almost concluded that there was not much in American farming after all. On stating my opinion to one of the farmers, and saying that I would prefer a farm in the Highlands of Scotland to one in the Green Mountains of America, he replied—"Well, that may be so, but if I hae read Burns' 'Twa Dugs' richt, I think we hae the best o't. The farms you see here belong to ourselves, and we dinna need to fear a factor's snash; and, although we hae gae severe, lang winters, we get aye guid weather for our harvest. But, since you're going further west, don't form your opinion about American farming frae what you see here, as you will see things very different as you go west." We took his advice, and found he was pretty correct.

This district could not be called mountainous, although the hills are very bold, and the summits are covered with either growing timber or green pasture, forming a great contrast to our heath-covered hills at home. Heather will not grow there, and a sprig of it is very much prized. It was the request of a friend on parting that when writing I should enclose a sprig of the heather in full bloom. Owing to the steepness, the ground is in general much better adapted for grazing than for raising crops.

The village, though small, is central, and well suited for the farmers in the surrounding district, who meet there to do their banking and general business. There is a considerable trade done in farm implements, and in the manufacture of furniture, and also in lumber; the trees being cut in the uplands are tumbled into the river, and floated down to the mills.

Here we observed what was new to us, a wood shed erected over the bridge crossing the river. This is done to the greater number of American bridges, the object being to protect them from exposure to the climate, it being more economical to renew the shed occasionally than to reconstruct the bridge.

We now part from our friends, and proceed to Montreal, and when about thirty miles distant from it, a Customhouse officer joined the train, and accompanied it during the remainder of the journey, employing his time in examining and passing the baggage of passengers for the Canadian side, so as to save their time on arrival.

The Victoria Bridge being reached, forms a connecting link between Montreal and the States. Here the engine that brought us to this point has to give place to another engine, kept exclusively for crossing the bridge—its qualification being that it emits no smoke, which would be injurious to the bridge, which is a large iron tube over one and three-fourths miles long, supported on twenty- three stone piers about twenty-five feet above the surface of the river, this being sufficiently high to allow steamers descending the rapids to pass under. A strong current in the river is quite apparent for a short distance below the bridge. The river is not affected by the tide for many miles further down. Any vessel going further up the river than the bridge must pass through the canal, the locks of which are two hundred feet long by forty-five feet wide, admitting vessels of pretty heavy tonnage.

We put up at the Ottawa Hotel, a gigantic establishment for the lodging and entertainment of travellers. In taking an early morning stroll, I was struck with the novelty of observing on the pavement opposite every door blocks of ice of about ten or twelve inches square, and opposite the various hotels whole cart-loads of it shot down on the pavement, like cart-loads of coal at home. Went to Lachine, a distance of about nine miles from the city, and came back to Montreal by way of the rapids. Opposite Lachine there is an Indian settlement, and the Indians seem to be in a well-to-do, contented. condition. The river St Lawrence at this point is narrow, being one and a half miles broad, and in going out into the rapids the water has the appearance of a huge boiling pot for a few miles of the journey, and when we get into the swift part the river is divided into three channels by two islands that block the combined flow of the waters. At this critical part of our water journey the steamer is piloted by an Indian through the central channel, where the commotion is somewhat startling, and on one side of the channel the river appears to be falling over a ledge of rock about eighteen inches or two feet above the water in the channel. The most rapid part of this river race is about two miles long, and it is said there is a fall or incline in that distance of forty feet. It does not appear so much when coming racing down, but on looking back the incline is more visible, and rather dangerous looking, though we got down safely. We would not be surprised to learn of a grand smash there some day.

At Montreal, between the buildings and the river there is a broad esplanade along the front line, on which there is a stone parapet wall, surmounted by an iron railing on top. The wharfs, which are on a much lower level, are of great breadth, extending from the esplanade into the river. They are constructed of wood, and are approached from the esplanade by stairs for passengers, and by inclines for the goods traffic. The sheds on the wharfs are of wood and iron, and are removed during winter and re-erected in summer. Some of the wharfs have the electric light fitted up to illuminate the sheds and river frontage, and it is said that the lamps are removed in winter, and fitted up anew when the ice disappears. The grain elevators are objects of interest to the uninitiated, and the speed with which a ship is loaded with grain is extraordinary. Barges with these elevators take their stations alongside of ships to be loaded, and the boat loaded with grain, which has come down through the canal, takes its place on the other side of the elevator barge. The elevator, by means of a jib, is dropped into the grain boat, and men keep shovelling the grain into the elevator, which runs the grain to the barge, where it is dropped into a hopper and weighed. It is then dropped into another hopper, and is again raised so high as to discharge into the ship. Before the grain is weighed a fanner is so arranged as to clear it of all dust. The grain boats are both wide and deep, carrying from five hundred to seven hundred tons, and each elevator discharges, dusted and weighed, four thousand bushels of grain per hour, thus rendering the loading of a ship comparatively quickly and easily done.

We took a run down to Quebec, which is built at the junction of the St Lawrence and the St Charles Rivers; built, too, in a very irregular manner, badly constructed wharfs and streets, some of the footpaths being from one to two feet above the level of the roadway, and the only stone wharfs they can boast of being along the St Charles River. Those on the St Lawrence are all constructed of timber. The town is divided into what is known as the upper and lower towns. The upper town has a very imposing appearance, as seen from the river, though there is but a comparatively small portion of it in view, the greater part of it being concealed by a very prominent elevation, extending several, miles along the river, and surmounted by an impregnable-looking fortress, so situated as to he a safe protection to the town, the surrounding district, and the entrance to both rivers.

We took a run over the scene of the great fire which, on the morning of our visit, had destroyed upwards of eight hundred buildings, a fine Cathedral, and an Orphanage which had accommodated eight hundred children. It was a pitiable sight. Thousands of unfortunate people were encamped on the Commons, in the midst of what little property they had saved from the devouring elements, amongst which we observed live stock, such as cows, pigs, and poultry. Anxious mothers were tending their poor children, who in their turn were taking special care of their little trinkets, pet-birds, rabbits, &c., and waiting till the return of some member of the family with the glad tidings of having secured some place to shelter them. This calamitous scene, apart from its extent, was very different from what in this country we are accustomed to see after a conflagration. The houses being wholly constructed of wood, there was little or no debris to be seen, except smouldering embers, American stoves, and isolated brick chimneys, which, when seen from the Plains of Abraham behind, resembled very much a distant view of a cemetery, with its tall monuments and snapped columns. Where the buildings are all or nearly all of wood, when fire catches them they soon blaze up with fierce intensity, as in this fire whose work we were looking at, for even the rails that were laid along the streets were turned and twisted by the intense heat, some of them bent up in the form of an arch three feet above the sleepers. With our stone buildings at home, we have but a faint idea of the devastating power of a fire in an American city. This explains the extreme anxiety of the citizens to meet promptly, with their splendid fire brigades, any outbreak of fire.

We returned to Montreal, and took passage for Toronto on board the s.s. "Algeron." There were only twenty saloon passengers, but further on in the season it is said the numbers will increase from six hundred to seven hundred. Passed through the canal to Lachine, a distance of nine miles, with five locks, and a rise of forty-five feet. Then through the Cornwall Canal, eleven and a half miles, with seven locks, rising an additional forty-eight feet, and then through another canal with nine locks, with another rise of eighty-two feet, so that we found ourselves rising in the world--rising towards the level of the immense lake region of North America.

We stopped at Prescot to receive passengers from Ottawa, and while there we saw at work an American portable hay press, which was placed on four wheels. When it is being removed from one place to another, it is drawn behind a four-wheeled lorry and two horses—the lorry and horses being an indispensable part of the press, not only for removing it, but for giving it motion when at work. They are, in fact, the engine that works the press. The lorry is constructed with a roller at each end the full width of its bottom; round these rollers are flexible bands, across which are fixed strong, narrow pieces of wood which form the bottom of the lorry. When work is to be commenced, the hind wheels are taken off the lorry and the back-end let down to rest on the ground, thus giving a great incline to the bottom, on to which the horses are put, their weight on the incline causing the bottom to revolve, and setting in motion a large pulley on the side of the lorry. A belt passes round the pulley, and also round a small pulley on the side of the press, which stands a little a-head. The whole now works easily. A rail, about three feet high, is supported round the lorry to enclose the horses. The bottom revolves, the horses, as if ascending a steep hill, keep moving, but never get out of the spot. In the course of our travels we observed this horse tread power applied to various other purposes, such as mixing lime and cutting timber into lengths for stove use. It is a very novel labour-saving arrangement. Indeed, the more that I saw of America, the more numerous did I find adaptations of all kinds to save manual labour.

We continue our pleasant voyage up the St Lawrence, with the Dominion on our right and the United States on our left, a splendid waterway for the two great countries' and also a clearly defined boundary between them.

We arrive at Brockville, which is a thriving village. Just now it boasts of five churches, each having a beautiful spire and minerettes; also, some public works, where a considerable trade is done in tanning, lumber, grindstones, &c.

One of Sir Hugh Allan's sons has a fine residence here; there are also many nice private buildings; and here Nature is again laid under contribution to do manual work, for nearly every private building has attached to it a wind-mill (resembling a gigantic Chinese umbrella), set on a high frame, which is used for pumping water to the cistern on the house top.


 

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