Awaiting the railway…
Two letters found in an attic in Sherbrooke…
July 15, 1820
My dear Elisabeth-Charlotte,
My little village of Hyatt’s Mills is now called Sherbrooke. Two years ago, Governor John Coape Sherbrooke allowed us to name the village in his honour. The village is slowly growing. We have two merchants, two blacksmiths, a tanner, wool carding mill, saw mill and a flour mill.
Even though the village is located on the St. Francis River, it is difficult to get to Québec or Montréal. There are several falls and rapids that require us to unload and then reload the boats five or six times, depending on the river level. In the winter, we take advantage of the fact that the rivers are frozen to transport wood, potash and flour between rivers to Québec. It takes almost a week to get there.
Video adapted into English under CC BY-NC-SA from original at
RECITUS – EN ATTENDANT LE CHEMIN DE FER…
In Montréal, communications are starting to improve. It is now possible to bypass the Lachine Rapids by a toll road. Soon, the new canal will be completed. The roads remain in very poor condition here. In 1810, Governor James Craig ordered soldiers to open a path from Saint-Gilles-de-Lotbinière to Richmond. The following year, I accompanied my neighbours to extend the road to Sherbrooke. Trees have already grown back on several sections of the path.
To really break our isolation, we would need one of those railways you described in your last letter.
My dear Elizabeth-Charlotte,
This year, now that the first railway has opened between Laprairie and Saint-Jean (on the Richelieu River), we’re starting to believe that the steel rails will soon extend all the way to Sherbrooke. The village merchants now dream of opening a railway between Montréal and Boston through Sherbrooke.
Author: Léon Robichaud