May 14, 1859 – A Day In Georgetown
(From a Correspondent)
As Parliamentary news does not fill your columns, and it is likely your valuable sheet will not be as crowded as heretofore, I take the opportunity of giving you a description of a recent visit to Georgetown.
Leaving home on Saturday morning last, I arrived, after a pleasant drive of three hours, at the above-named village. The appearance of the crops in the county is generally of the most cheering description. Vegetation is fully three weeks earlier than last year. The wheat, with few exceptions, looks extremely well. Spring seeding is rapidly getting through. A large breadth of spring wheat has been tilled, many fields already show the rapidity of vegetation, and if the season ends as well as it has begun, it will cause our farmers to be satisfied and contented with their honorable calling.
Twenty years since, the writer of this article first visited Georgetown, and considered it then one of the roughest and out-of-the-way places that man could select to make his home. Hills and ravines, stumps and trees, and a very small opening in the wilderness was the place selected by the now well-known firm of Williams Barber and Bros. Twenty years ago, I first received the hearty shake of William Barber’s hand. I need not tell you the rapid strides Canada has made in that time, but I can say that Georgetown has not been an idler in the race. The tall pines are gone; the great, mighty black stumps have disappeared also; and nice stores and houses mark the spot.
The town is not well laid out, therefore it does not look to advantage. The streets have good sidewalks stretching along, and the population numbers about 1,200 souls. There are five churches of various denominations, to two of which – the English and Congregational – a liberal gentleman lately gave £300 each. I forget the name of the kind donor, but an esteemed friend who accompanied me in my rambles (a prominent resident of the place) spoke in warm terms of his kindness.
Having a few hours’ leisure, I willingly accepted the proposal of my friend to visit the paper mills of Messrs. Barber and Brothers, and also to view the iron structure that spans the river Credit at that place, for the use of the Grand Trunk Railway. Arriving at the mills, we were kindly received by James Barber, Esq., one of the firm, and shown through the establishment, crowded with excellent and ingenious machinery. First we were shown where the rags were picked, then cut, whitened, and reduced into a pulp, and the various processes that are taken to reduce them to a thin, whitish liquid, and the many contrivances by which the paper was produced show what the ingenuity of man can contrive, and is far above my ability to give your readers any accurate idea of; suffice it to say, that after passing over and under sundry, heated cylinders, the paper came through ready for use, and cut off at the end of the machinery two sheets at a clip, as fast your steam press throws off copies of the Spectator.
At the time of my visit they were making paper for the Daily Leader. In another apartment of the building a similar kind of machinery was at work, to fill an order from Messrs. Debishire & Debirais, on which we shall soon find the laws made by our “assembled wisdom” in the past Session of Parliament.
Bidding farewell to the gentleman who superintends the works, we wended our way to the Iron Bridge of the Grand Trunk Railway. In expressing my gratification and delight at what I had seen to my friend, and the satisfaction that Government at length was endeavoring to do those enterprising people justice, and that the fallacy of Free Trade notions was quietly passing away, my friend replied “they have invested in those mills one hundred thousand dollars, over two hundred individuals are maintained by those works; they pay a large sum monthly for freight to the Grand Trunk Railway, and one hundred such establishments introduced into our Province would cause the debt of the Grand Trunk to sit lightly upon us.” In these remarks I fully coincided.
I should perhaps remark, that this enterprising firm has one of the largest Woollen Factories in the province (situated on the same river, the Credit) in the village of Streetsville, where excellent cloth of all kinds is made, and about the same number of hands kept employed as in the Paper Mills in Georgetown. Such men are truly a benefit to their race.
But, here we are at the Railroad. See that frail looking structure in the distance, 150 feet from the ground, resting on seven pillars, and spanning a chasm 850 feet across. As we come near its strength begins to manifest itself; it is a square hollow tube, the cars run on the top. (I believe the cars are to run through the tube over the Victoria Bridge.) We entered at one end and wended our way through it to the other; a workman is using a hammer on the bridge above, the sound is deafening, and we at length get through.
Speaking of its splendour and apparent strength, the following observation was made by my friend. “This bridge cost $300,000, and during the time of building the road the Company spent in the neighborhood of Georgetown about a million of dollars. The road is excellent, the Station houses are of cut stone, covered with slate. Everything is of the most permanent description, and the time will come when those who cavil at this truly useful road, will have cause to hide their heads in shame.”