Back Index Next
Municipal Financial Support (or the Lack of)

By the 1880's the public had become very skeptical of railway promoters.  Municipal support for a railway was not a foregone conclusion - particularly when it came to putting up money.  The towns of Prescott and Bytown (renamed Ottawa in 1855) had faced financial ruin for their investment in the Bytown & Prescott Railway in 1850 and had to be rescued by the Provincial government .  The voters in the townships northwest of Brockville had become very wary of granting bonuses to the Brockville & Westport.
On Tuesday, May 5th, 1885, the electorate in Front of Elizabethtown township were to vote on a by-law to give the Brockville, Westport & Sault Ste Marie Railway $11,000 - a very considerable sum of money.  The grant was conditional on the railway establishing two stations within the township - one within a half mile of the village of Lyn and the other within the same distance of Unionville (subsequently renamed Forthton).
Several weeks before, a similar by-law was defeated in the two townships of South Crosby, and Rear of Leeds & Lansdowne.  The local weekly newspaper, the Farmersville Reporter, urged the friends of the railroad to do all that they could to have the by-law resubmitted to the voters of South Crosby and Rear of Leeds & Lansdowne - a  variation on the "If at first you don't succeed...." theme.


To give the voters of Front of Elizabethtown township a push, the general contractor, Eugene M. Cole, wrote to G.T. Fulford of New York, Secretary of the B&W, asking how soon the railway company would be ready to allow him to start construction work under the contract.  He threatened to have his construction company transfer all of its energies to the railway building contracts in Western Canada if the voters kept him waiting and caused him to lose valuable time.
Cole warned it would be the fault of the municipalities if any delays occurred.  His construction company was ready to go.  He couldn't keep his capital idle for any great length of time.  The Farmersville Reporter dutifully published Cole's letter with an emphatic editorial plea to the Front of Elizabethtown voters for their support in passing the bonus by-law. 
Cole's efforts must have had some effect as South Crosby and Rear of Leeds & Lansdowne were taking steps to have the by-laws resubmitted to the voters.  North Crosby was prepared to vote as soon as satisfactory assurance was given that the railway company meant business. 
Despite Cole's warnings and the pleas of the Farmersville Reporter, the voters of Elizabethtown township defeated the bylaw.
Optimism still prevailed as the rumour was that, despite the defeat of the by-law, Cole was prepared to start construction and trusted the townships to again submit their by-laws to another vote which, this time, would be successful. 
But you have to ask yourself, was this all smoke and mirrors?  Cole was also one of the promoters of the BW&SSM!  Did he really have any contracts in Western Canada?  As later events would prove, did really have any capital of his own, or would the railway line be built on borrowed money?  The life of a railway promoter was not an easy one during the 1880's. 

Through perserverance and promotion, the BW&SSM prevailed and managed to get over $128,000 in federal and provincial bonuses and $116,000 in municipal grants from the following municipalities: 
City of Brockville   $36,000
Township of Elizabethtown     $7,000
Township of Rear of Yonge & Escott   $15,000
Township of Rear of Lansdowne     $5,000
Township of Bastard & Burgess   $28,000
Township of South Crosby     $6,000
Village of Newboro     $4,000
Township of North Crosby   $15,000
   Total Municipal Grants $116,000
This didn't include the deferral of property taxes, in some cases, for over 21 years.  No grant money would be paid until the railway was completed between Brockville and Westport.  Considering the value of money in the 1880's, these were substantial sums.  How these monies were paid before the line was completed is a story we'll relate a little later on.

Brockville, Westport & Sault Ste Marie 4-4-0 #3 (or is it the first #2) "R.G. Hervey" somewhere around Westport, circa 1890.  Robert G. Hervey was the major promoter of the BW&SSM.  The large "balloon-type" smokestack was required for of wood burning locomotives.  Note the location of the bell atop the cowcather at the front. The fill and debris beside the locomotive would indicate that the line has been recently constructed. 
The locomotive was bought used from the Grand Trunk Railway in November 1887.  Information on the origins of this locomotive is very scarce.  We suspect it was built for the Great Western Railway by Birkenhead of England in December 1855 as 2-4-0 #54 "Titan" - part of an order of 11 passenger locomotives with 16" x 24" cylinders and 66" drivers. 
These 2-4-0s were subsequently rebuilt as 4-4-0s for the GWR by Norris of Boston during the period 1859-1861 and were renumbered 155 - 165.  It was subsequently renumbered GWR #360, then GTR #856 when GTR acquired the GWR in 1882.  The remainder of this series of locos were renumbered GTR 728 - 733 with the first GTR general renumbering of its locomotives. 
In late November 1887, the steam barge "Freemason" took the "R.G. Hervey" and one used flatcar (purchased from the Napanee, Tamworth & Quebec Railway) to Newboro via Kingston and the Rideau Canal.  Here, it was unloaded and used to build the line from Newboro to Westport. 
The locomotive was sold for scrap in June 1905 - almost 50 years after it was built.  Photo courtesy National Archives, Andrew Merrilees Collection, PA-204249. 
Back Index Next