Schooner Days CMLXXXII (982)

Packmans Port, 16 Dec 1950

Pedlar King's castle. This fine old red brick mansion was built by James Cooper,
the successful packman whose enterprises gave Port Milford life. It has long
been the home of Earl Collier, farmer successor to line of lake shipowners.
Click for enlargement.

"Sometimes too, would the foreign Chapmen come
"And beach their dromond in the sandy bay."
      — Morris, Earthly Paradise.

That, as well as the ambitions of the little village of Milford in Prince Edward County a hundred years ago to be a freshwater seaport, was among the reasons for Port Milford, facing the sunrise over South Bay.

Coming into being

The quotation is supplied by an ardent admirer of Prince Edward and most helpful friend of Schooner Days, Helen Merrill Egerton, whose own verses have often illuminated our otherwise dour and forbidding explorations.

A dromond, Mrs. Egerton also quotes, in ancient times was a ship with rowers and only one sail. Our own fancy is that dromond and dromedary both come from the Greeks, the one being a swift vehicle of passage by water, the other swift beast of transport by land. The dromonds of Milford ranged from little scow sloops to three-masted schooners.

Before going on with Port Milford let me express further gratitude to Mrs. Egerton for making available her notes on chapmen, who, as much as the village ambitions, had a part in the port's progress.

Ye chapman!

The chapman has vanished from the language – except of poetry – and from being a traveling merchant of old has become the pedlar and door-bell ringer of today. Mrs. Egerton points out that in Upper Canada, as early as 1798, an effort was made to license Chapmen by a Bill presented to Parliament, at York (Toronto), under the title "A Bill for licensing Hawkers, Pedlars and Petty Chapmen," which, after having been read several times and sent up to the Legislative Council for their concurrence in passing it, was dropped.

In 1807, an attempt in the same direction was successful, and Bill entitled: "An Act for granting to His Majesty Duties on Licenses to Hawkers, Pedlars and Petty Chap-men and other trading persons therein mentioned," received the Royal Assent.

At first, says Mrs. Egerton, quoting Canniff, there was little money in circulation in Upper Canada. But few of the refugees, or disbanded soldiers had any when they entered the wilderness. The Government was constantly paying a certain sum to the troops at Kingston and Newark, and to the retired half-pay officers. The few who could command money were placed in a position of greater comfort as soon as provisions and merchandise were brought to the new settlement.

Mainly, however, trading was carried on by exchanging one commodity for another. Probably the first article for trade was the ticket for grants of land in the back concessions, often parted with so cheaply. The settlers required clothing, grain for sowing, and stock; these wants in time led to trade, two kinds of which were introduced.

One was carried on by merchants established at Kingston, the other by peddlers – Yankee peddlers, who would come from Albany with their pack in a canoe or small bateau, and who plied their calling along the bay shore from clearing to clearing.

Both the merchant at Kingston, who waited for his customers to come to him, and the pedlar who sought customers, asked for their wares only grain or any other produce. But wheat was desired above all others.

Great day in back woods

It was an event of no little interest to the back woodsman's family when the peddler's canoe or bateau came along and halted before the log house by the shore.

Even when their circumstances would not permit them to buy, it was a luxury to view the things so temptingly displayed. The toil-worn farmer with well-patched trousers, would turn with an inward sigh from the piece of cloth which could not be bought. The grown-up daughters gazed wistfully but hopelessly at the bright calico prints, more valuable in their eyes than the choicest silks are to their descendants today.

But the calico dress was enjoyed by few until it was bought for a wedding dress. Frequently some article of family use was exchanged for goods which were deemed of more use. The trade of merchants at Kingston steadily increased; but not a cash business.

The port

Port Milford was not, as might have been supposed, at Black River bluff, where the ox-dredged and roller-bridged stream came into South Bay from the milldams of Milford, three miles up. It was miles farther into the Bay – Black River bluff being at its very mouth – and here the bay began to shoal up into marsh, with Flats Point making out for its eastern side. There was good water in here, two fathoms even inside Flats Point, good holding ground if you were careful to anchor on the mud and not on the weeds, and shelter from every wind. So wharves were pushed out, first for wood-docks for the early steamers, then for loading farmers' grain and country produce and unloading the requirements of the sturdy thriving county.

Peddler man built well

Chief among the wharves was Cooper Brothers, where an itinerant packman, James Cooper, who came to the country from Kingston with all his stock in a satchel, had built up a county-wide business with his brother William's assistance. He had a big general store, stone warehouses for grain and goods and docks for fueling and for handling merchandise. Below Coopers' were other wharves, of the Church brothers, and there was good ground for shipbuilding between them, under the high bank. James Cooper built two vessels and several others were built at Port Milford although few bore its name on their arch boards.

Passing hails

Bauxite hails from British Guiana

"Enjoyed your stories of the JESSIE DRUMMOND," airmails R. E. Williams, care of Demerara Bauxite Co., Mackenzie, British Guiana. "My grandfather Beatty grained her cabin doors. Sam Beatty, whom you mentioned in an iceboat story, is an uncle. I intended to call on you while in Toronto last summer, but rail strike kind of messed up my program.

"I have an original photo of MAPLE LEAF taken in 1909. Will have it copied if you are interested, Also a couple of old steel engravings of Toronto waterfront near G&W distillery (God bless them). I do not know if they are correct or are just imaginary on part of artist. "Please tell us what happened to – REUBEN DOUD, DUNDEE.

"I hope you will publish Schooner Days in book form. Enter my name for a first edition."

(Name and address entered, but the first copy is pledged to Paul McLaughlin. Have several pictures of Maple Leaf already, thanks, but echo your benison upon the two steel engravings, and hope you bring them with you when you next tome to Toronto. Note also your order for the fate of the Reuben Doud and the Dundee and will fill it next year, but soon. – Schooner Days.)


The Nelson Bloom

Sir – Referring to Schooner Days under date of Nov. 4 you mention the Nelson Bloom as a "big boy from up above." Dana T. Bowen states that the steamer Meteor, which collided with and sank the Pewabic in August, 1865, later became a tow barge named the Nelson Bloom. Were these Blooms any relation? Kind regards.

      – W. M. PRENTICE.

Think the relationship was closer than in:

"Sisters and brothers
Have I none
But that man's father
Is my father's son."

The Nelson Bloom was a tow barge when she helped relieve the coal famine in Toronto in December, 1902, but she had a schooner's foresail and staysail and, as we recollect, a spike mizzenmast which may have been bare and could have carried canvas – a not unusual barge rig fifty years ago. She was built up forward as though she had been a steamer, and had a good bold bow. Have I answered your question, or does the identity of "that man" throw you out?

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