No single event has had such a tremendous influence on the early development of the Eastern Townships, especially of the St. Francis Valley, as the construction of the Grand Trunk Railway.

Richmond County, being traversed by its main line along the river St. Francis and the Quebec division running northwards, naturally owes much of its later growth to its operations. In 1854, Richmond became a junction and took on increased activity.

The old methods of transportation by water carriage down the St. Francis and Nicolet Rivers, to the market towns of Quebec, Montreal and Three Rivers or by the tedious stage coach over badly constructed roads soon became a thing of the past.

The opening of the newly found markets on the American side for the different products of the settler and the easier access to the older ones were quickly translated into evidence of the increased prosperity – town and country adjacent to the lines were afforded opportunity for the utilization of the natural resources of forest, farm and mine: as a result Windsor Mills, Danville, Brompton Falls, Rockland, Kingsbury, Melbourne and other centers have taken on new and growing importance.

For a brief period, during which Richmond was the terminus of the railway, it became a great center of traffic and distribution point for Sherbrooke and the east generally.

The population, then about 300, increased rapidly, but fell off again as the line advanced eastwards.

The opening of the Quebec branch contributed to the growth of Danville, which at once acquired the trade of neighbouring places, St. George, Wotton and Tingwick.

During the building of the road, there was considerable activity, especially, around the old St. Francis Hotel, owned by Capt. Job Adams, which at that time was a famous old hostelry and market place for the surrounding country.

A not unusual sight was twenty or more loaded teams and droves of cattle quartered about the premises. When the construction parties had completed their work the population fell back again, and it was until the permanent location of the shops here from Sherbrooke in 1872 that definite increase became manifest.

A large number of navies were employed during the construction stage. They were housed in a number of small cabins erected along Craig’s Road which have long since disappeared.

These railroaders were a jolly, hard working, hard drinking lot; their occasional quarrels and bouts were usually settled by the Justice of the P{eace and it was quite the usual thing for Capt. D. Sloan, J. P., of Melbourne to sit on 15 or 20 cases every week.

Two American engineers, Messrs. Ripley and Vining made the first survey for the Atlantic and St. Lawrence in 1847. Mr. D. Stark was the first engineer on the survey from Montreal to Island Pond under Sir Casimir Gzowski who located this part of the line; Mr. Fosdick was the engineer in charge of the Quebec division.

Mr. Wilder Pierce of Stanstead. Uncle of Mr. George Pierce of Cleveland, was on e of the directors of the old St. Lawrence and Mr. G. K. Foster was a stockholder of the Quebec and Richmond line. Mr. Geo. Pierce worked on the survey of the latter line and was 3 years company’s engineer on the Victoria Bridge. A. M. Ross was the engineer in charge of this gigantic work. A. M. Ross, T. C. Keefer and Robt. Stephensen constituted the trio of great men to whom the Victoria Bridge owes its conception and erection.

Mr. J. C. Moore who lived in Danville for a time, kept a big establishment there and had charge of several sections of construction work.

The Quebec division was originally surveyed to the main line at the south end of town, where the first station was erected on the present site of the “Wood-yard”. Some of the foundations may be seen there to the present day (1909). A change of plan brought the junction to its present location in 1854 and the station was removed to the new site. Here the first station was built after the fashion of a gothic cottage; it was replaced by a larger one built by Mr. J. Gordon of Sherbrooke and the late N. Noel in 1863. This burned down, June 23rd, 1883 and replaced by the present building.

The first freight shed was located near where the water crane stands at the East end of the yard. After its destruction by fire, it was replaced by a larger on the same site. The latter was taken down a few years ago and the present freight shed erected on the Quebec crossing site. On the 12th and 13th November, 1856 great festivities and a ball were held in Montreal to celebrate the official opening of the G. T. Ry. Capt. J. Sloan of Melbourne, father of Mr. Jas. Sloan and C. B. Cleveland were the invited representatives.

The late Mr. Thomas Hart who was Mayor of Richmond from 1872 to 1889 was prominently connected with the G. T. R. during its construction. Period. He was born in Hillmorton, Worwickshire, April 16th, 1821. He came to Canada in the interests of Messrs. Petto, Brassey & Betts, the contractors for the road, shipping with a large number of men and great equipment for the immediate operations on the construction work. A violent storm obliged the vessel to return to Liverpool, the men refused to sail again in the same vessel but embarked on the steamer “Sara Sands” which afterwards was needed as a military transport and finally burned at sea. Mr. hart supervised the laying of the track on the Quebec line and was afterward appointed first roadmaster over it; later he was roadmaster of the Montreal and Island Pond section and the track superintendent over the same division including the Levis branch. During his connection with the railway, he was captain of the Grand Trunk Rifle Brigade during the Fenian troubles of 1866. Mr. Hart retired that year to engage in private enterprises. The roadmasters on the Montreal- Island Pond division were Messrs. Thos. Hart, M. P. Murphy, Hugh Urquhart, Sam Pegg, T. Stack, and for a few months Chas. Wyatt, J. Slatterly, W. J. Shilling, and the present officer. On the Quebec division, Thos. Fogg, Geo. Hayward, Thos. Stack, Wm. Dearden, Denis Galvin since 1896 to the present. Mr. Urquhart served for a time on the Quebec branch and did similar service on the main line.

Another veteran of the pioneer days of the Grand Trunk Railway is Mr. Jas. Murphy. Collector of Customs here. Born in Ballauquile, Wiklow, Ireland, 24th July 1846, he came to this country while yet in his teens, sailing on the “Albatross” which was 47 days at sea during which time 17 succumbed to shipping fever. He entered the Grand Trunk Railway service in 1854 under the superintendent Grant and was stationed at Longueuil where the Victoria Bridge was built. He was transferred to the Quebec branch as soon as it was opened and was appointed agent at Richmond May 1, 1858, which position he held until 1890, when he was appointed Collectorship of Customs. He worked through the various stages of operator, dispatcher, freight agent and finally station agent. He has witnessed the Grand Trunk develop from a struggling road with all the difficulties that attended early railroading until its scope now stupendous. For half a century, he has been a resident of Richmond and was the recipient in 1868 of a handsome testimonial from his fellow employees and merchants of the town in appreciation of the many services he rendered to them. On one occasion by a timely signal, he saved the life of Hon. John Ross, first president of the Company. The president’s “special” was a standstill in the Richmond station yard, when an incoming tie train owing to defective brakes, all but telescoped it. Mr. Murphy, realizing the danger, gave a signal to the engineer to pull ahead; the latter’s prompt action cleared the danger. The car was badly damaged but the president escaped injury. Only two men are known to him now as having been employees of the road when he entered the service; Wm. Mackwood, chief of the car department and W. H. Rosevear. Mr. Murphy came here with J. S. Martin, 1st superintendent of the Quebec division. The first agent at Richmond was Wm. Atkins who afterward became superintendent of the Quebec division succeeding J. S. Martin. Crane Brush was the 2nd agent, then came Mr. Murphy who was followed in succession by J. Sclemmings, F. R. Sadler, H. A. Treen, M. Marshall, F. R. Jennings, D. J. Scully, J. Harrison- March 1st, 1906; W. A. Bunting-April 1, 1906, J. J. Anderson, November, 1906. At Danville, C. Brush who later came to Richmond was the first agent followed by Mr. Law, then J. Mackie for about 17 years up to 1882 when A. Poitras served for a few months. On August 7th, 1888, Mr. J. Blais was appointed and acted in that capacity to 1904 when the present agent Mr. J. E. Guillemette took charge.

The Windsor Mills agents have been John Reynolds Jr., Wm. M. Wells for between 25 to 30 years; J. H. Cassidy, Jas. Pender, the present representative since 1883.

At Brompton Falls, Jas. Dean was the first agent, then came J. P. Hogan, O. V. Norton, J. R. McDonnell, and M. McDonnell, acting official.

In the mechanical department the first foreman was R. Hazelton, then came T. King, J. Robb father of W. D. Robb, the present superintendent of motive power, J. Salisbury,C. Neil (now wood merchant in Stratford, Ontario) A. Mavor- Master Mechanic in the main shops at Pt. St. Charles, R. R. Noyes, P. Newton, Wm. Holt, Wm. Ball C. Pickering, A. G. McLennan, G. Blackbird, to April 1900, the acting foreman today.

Assistant Mechanical Superintendent P. Clark of Toronto was located here for a time and J. W. Harkom followed him. The latter was mayor of Melbourne in ’95 and ’96. J. Y. Lloyd, assistant engineer was for many years a resident of Melbourne and Mayor of the village from 1878 to 1880.

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