The Coming Of
By Samuel Farmer
On The Shores of Scugog
Those early times were palmy
days for Prince Albert; but changes were coming.
There were now three rival villages in Reach - Prince
Albert, Port Perry and Manchester. Each place had
its strong men who studied and fought to secure
advantages for their respective villages. In Manchester
there was Adam Gordon a man of quiet determination,
who had considerable influence, as he at one time
represented the riding in Parliament. At Prince
Albert, Joshua Wright was the champion at first,
but later he transferred his allegiance to Port
Perry. He was a great fighter, fond of a debate,
and often able to carry his point by sheer force
of personality. There are many unwritten stories
told of the prowess of Joshua Wright in debate.
In Port Perry Messrs. Bigelow and Paxton were the
men who looked after the municipal interests. These
men stood out prominently as champions for their
Up to 1867 all the grain and lumber
that had been taken to the front had been teamed
there. There was no railway along this route. Often
there had been talk of one, but no definite effort
had been made for its construction. Had it not been
for the rivalry of the villages; it is quite possible
that the railway would not have been built until
some years later. But Prince Albert was quite sure
that Prince Albert would have to take a second place
before many years.
Thinking men knew that none of
these places could amount to much until there was
railway communication with the Front. The old days
were passing and new conditions had to be met.
In 1867 application was made to
the Local Legislature for a charter to build a railway
from Port Whitby to Port Perry. Messrs. Joseph Bigelow
and Thomas paxton were the men who started the project.
Associated with them and forming the Provisional
Board of Directors were the following gentlemen:
W.S. Sexton, Chester Draper, John Ham Perry, James
Holden and Sheriff Reynolds.
After the charter was secured,
meetings were held in Whitby Town, Whitby Township,
and Reach Township to secure bonuses from these
various municipalities. In this manner $100,000
were raised, divided as follows - Whitby Town $50,000;
Whitby Township $20,000; Reach Township $30,000.
Stock was subscribed to the amount of $100,000;
and with this capital the work of construction was
begun. During this time and until the completion
of the railway, Joseph Bigelow was president of
The contract for building the
road was let to J. H. Drumble, of Cobourg, who worked
at the job for a while and then sold out to C. E.
English, of Toronto. This latter gentleman did not
complete the work, but a dispute arose between himself
and the company,and the result was that the company
finished the building of the road themselves.
In deciding the route of the railway,
many conflicting interests had to be studied. Reach
Township had voted a bonus of $30,000 but the voters
were not all agreed as to the route of the proposed
railway. Adam Gordon and his friends wanted the
road to pass through Manchester. Joshua Wright and
his friends worked to get the railway to pass by
the tannery a little West of Prince Albert. Had
either of these routes been followed there would
have been endless trouble, because Prince Albert
and Manchester were rival grain buying centres,
and the railway would have meant business success
to the place that secured it, and failure to the
other place. What finally resulted was that neither
place secured the advantage. Stations were built
south of Manchester and east of Prince Albert; but
the terminus of the railway was at Port Perry. As
things turned out the terminus was much more valuable
than the stations. Grain which before had been marketed
in Prince Albert and Manchester from the north was
hauled to Port Perry after the railway was completed,
and Aaron Ross moved his grain buying business from
the former to the latter place. That year he built
the elevator at present operated by James Lucas.
Adam Gordon, of Manchester, also put up a big elevator,
which was later destroyed by fire.
It was not all plain sailing in
building the road. There was the usual difficulty
in raising money, and after a while funds became
low. Joseph Bigelow had money which he was willing
to lend to the company, but so long as he was president
of that organization, he could not legally do this.
Accordingly he resigned his position, and loaned
the company $40,000. James Dryden became president.
In 1873 the company sold out.
The following extract from the Port Perry Standard,
dated May 23, 1873, gives details as to the transaction:
"T. Paxton, Jos. Bigelow, C.E.
English and J. Dryden, Esqs., have disposed of their
interest in the Port Whitby and Port Perry Railway
by a transfer of seventy thousand dollars of the
stock, and some eighty-three thousand dollars of
the bonds of the Company to James Austin, President
of the Dominion Bank, James Michie, wholesale merchant
of Toronto, and James Holden, of the Town of Whitby.
Mr. Dryden, the late President, and Mr. C. Marsh
have retired from the board, and have been succeeded
by James Austin as President, James Michie as Vice-President,
and James Holden as Managing Director.
"We understand that the gentlemen
associated with Mr. Holden in the purchase are among
the wealthiest capitalists of Toronto. With the
exception of the changes referred to, the personnel
of the Board is the same as heretofore - Messrs.
C. Draper, A. Ross, E. Major and John Dryden being
the Directors. We hope the new blood and capital
that has been brought into the concern will be of
advantage to all concerned, and to the interests
of the public generally.
"If the men who now control will
do what they promise, in the way of fully equipping
the road with rolling stock, which is at present
insufficient to meet the demands for traffic, and
the road is otherwise put into first-class condition,
we shall not regret the change. In referring to
the condition of the roadbed, we may say that there
is no better in the Province; and in condition to
run over it is superior to the Grand Trunk. With
a change of gauge of that road, which we would be
glad to see, trains could run from Port Perry to
Toronto without change or transshipment at Whitby.
With proper management in the Company's interest,
this will be one of best paying roads in the country.
"In reference to the parties
who have had control in the past, we can assuredly
say that notwithstanding all the obstacles that
have been thrown in their way to embarrass and annoy
them in the completion of the road, they succeeded
and carried it to its present state, and have established
a large and paying traffic. For so doing no men
have been so vindictively, persistently and wantonly
abused and misrepresented as Mr. Bigelow, Mr. Paxton
and Mr. Dryden, and all through their honest endeavors
to secure the completion of a railway to this section
of the country.
"Knowing well the importance of
the work to the country and the country generally,
Mr. Bigelow and Mr. Paxton have been the moving
spirits in this enterprise from its first inception,
and they deserve credit for their determined and
persistent efforts in its behalf; and, without fear
of successful contradiction, we affirm that the
county is more largely indebted to these gentlemen
for the completion of the road than all the other
parties connected with it.
"These gentlemen have been charged
with desiring to stop the road at Port Perry in
order to serve the interests of Port Perry alone,
regardless of the Town of Whitby and other sections
of the county, but such statements are by no means
true. They were made with a special object in view
- that of hurting the credit of those they were
aimed at, and to injure the prosperity of this place.
These gentlemen have only been actuated by one motive,
and that simply the completion of the road. They
were willing to hand over the road, or their interests
in it, and did so, as soon as a bona fide proposition
was made to them, by which they could obtain re-payment
of their large advances. It was hardly to be expected
that while Mr. Bigelow held so large an interest
in the Company, both as a stockholder and a creditor,
that he and the gentlemen with whom he was associated,
would give up control and allow a ring of manipulators
to endanger his interests, and those of his friends,
without due consideration to security. When those
desirous of managing the affairs of the company
found this was the case, a combination was formed
for purchasing the interests of the gentlemen to
whom we have referred.
"The advance made by Mr. Bigelow
amounted to $49,110, of which he received $42,000
in legal tender from the Bank of Montreal on Monday,
a nice little sum in hard cash. We hope the croakers
will now end their abuse, as these gentlemen have
shown by their willingness to retire, what we have
always contended for, that it was not the control
they wanted, but that they were actuated wholly
and solely by the desire, first to secure the road
and then to secure themselves, and we don't blame
them for it."
In spite of the continuous efforts
of the Directorate to make the railway a profitable
project, and in spite of the optimistic spirit of
the press of that day, profits were small if they
existed at all.
It was plain that profits could
not be attained so long as the railway was a stub
line having no direct connection with any of the
larger railways. When a passenger wished to travel
to Toronto, he did not buy a ticket straight through
to his destination, but paid his passage to Whitby,
where he bought another ticket to Toronto. In the
same way freight was shipped to Whitby and then
transshipped to Toronto and other points. Various
efforts were made to dispose of the road to some
of the larger companies, but without success.
Finally it was thought advisable
to extend the road to Lindsay, so that its earnings
could be increased. Another campaign for bonuses
was begun, the money raised, and the road extended.
Since the time of extension there
have been various views of the advisability of this
movement. It is certain that Port Perry lost considerable
trade eventually; and some have considered that
the bonus of $20,000 given by Port Perry for the
extension of the road was worse than wasted. In
fact most people agree that the amount of the bonus
was too large.
Those who advocated the extension
claimed that eventually the road must have failed
had it not been extended. There was not enough business
to warrant the upkeep of the railway, and the probability
was that trade would decrease instead of increase,
as the lumber was gradually being cut away. In any
case larger railways would not buy the railway as
it stood. After the railway was extended, close
watch was kept on the earnings of the road until
the company was able to show a margin of profit.
Then it was that the Midland Railway bought the
road,and it finally became a branch of the G.T.R.
The early locomotives used wood
for fuel, and along the east side of the track were
immense piles of cordwood. At that time the engines
on the Grand Trunk also burned wood; but it was
plentiful all along the track, so that no difficulty
was experienced in obtaining fuel.
The rolling stock was rented from
a man in Montreal, except in the case of the passenger
car which was bought in the United States.
Return to the
Top | Return
to Town History Index