by Bill Chapman
The headline of this particular article in the Millstone caught my attention because my former office was on Little Bridge Street.
Though I appreciate the facetious character of the headline in this instance, it reminded me of the intelligence shared with me years ago by one Mr. Michael Dunn. I’ve probably got the detail wrong but it goes something like this.
Bennett Rosamond wanted a rail line to service his burgeoning woollen industry in Almonte. There was already talk of building the B&O (Brockville and Ottawa) railway from the St. Lawrence northward. The most casual and uninitiated look at a map discloses that the ideal route northward from Brockville to Renfrew (which was the real site of the predominant lumber ambition then percolating – they simply used the Ottawa River to float the cut trees downward from Renfrew) was through Smiths Falls and Carleton Place (not Ottawa) then to Arnprior and Renfrew. In those days the territory was wide open.
Except for one thing: rivers and other waterways. Getting a railway to veer towards little Almonte would necessitate building bridges – at a considerable cost. Apparently however Rosamond was not without his connections in Montréal (which we all know was then the seat of money in Canada).
The Board of Directors of Canadian Pacific Railway (or whoever it was that then authorized the building of these extraordinary railways) acquiesced to Rosamond’s request. When the railway went through Almonte it had to cross the Mississippi River (where the Dupuis Flour Mill still stands); and this meant crossing Little Bridge Street (which even then extended off Bridge Street next to the Old Town Hall). And of course they would have to dig underground for the bridge to pass over Little Bridge Street. Looks like they didn’t dig deep enough to avoid the recent rental truck calamity.
My apologies to Michael for inaccuracies.
Editor’s note: I passed this information on to Bill after receiving his letter:
Bennett Rosamond did indeed have ties to the Montreal financial community. According to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, in 1866 he brought George Stephen, of CPR fame, into the business as an investor. This was several years after the railway reached Almonte, but it would certainly suggest a previous connection between the two. It seems quite plausible that Rosamond could have had some influence on the final route of the railway.
While the CPR itself wasn’t established at that time, Stephen and other Montreal financiers were early investors in various railway projects in the mid-19th century.