The Travels of Abiathar M. Harris: Off to Montreal

We continue following the travels of my 3rd great-uncle, Abiathar Millard Harris, on New Years’ Day of 1822. Abiathar was still in Kingston, Ontario. He had just recovered from a lengthy illness and spent an unhappy Christmas holiday. Here is his diary entry for January 1st:

"1822. On the 1st of January, I spent the day very agreeable with my friends – and in the evening, the Americans had a Ball at the Royal Hotel – at which [I] was one of the number. The evening passed in great harmony there being 19 couple[s]. The society in this place is very indifferent except with the Americans."

Original in the University of Rochester Library


It’s good to know that after his disappointing Christmas, Abiathar enjoyed a festive New Years’ celebration.

Several months passed before he took up his diary again to record that he was moving on from Kingston.

On the 18th June, I started for Montreal, a distance of 180 miles, in a bateau principally manned by Canadians – and spoke no English – I however made them understand. We stayed at Gananoque, a little settlement 22 miles distant.

 

In the early years of the 19th century, boat travel along the St. Lawrence became very popular for upper-class people taking pleasure cruises. Steamships of various sizes embarked out of Montreal.

steamship

Diary entries for the remaining days of June 1822 record Abiathar’s continuing journey to Montreal, where he found employment for a few weeks.

On the 19th we started early, the weather very fine – about 2 P. M. we passed Brockville, a little village pleasantly situated on the bank of the St. Lawrence on the Canada side. Nearly opposite on the American shore is a little village called Morristown. We arrived in Prescott 6 o’clock P. M. This place is small and the houses are very shabby, but considerable business is done in the transportation line. Opposite this place lies Ogdensburgh, a small village, but pleasantly situated, it being on high ground – much business is also done here. I crossed the ferry into this place, enquired for work, could get none – returned to Prescott, put up at J. Warner’s Inn.

On the 20th we started at 4 o’clock, passed Johnstown, C. shore – weather fine and fair wind. About noon it began to rain very hard. We arrived in Cornwall about 3 o’clock – 50 miles from Prescott. Here we took dinner at Chester’s/Charter’s Hotel – at 4 P. M. we started, it rained, thundered and lightened very hard. At 8 P. M., we arrived at the head of Lake S. François, in the County Glengary. Here we were obliged to stop here, the darkness of the night prevented us from proceeding. We put up at a farm house 11 miles from Cornwall.

On the 21st at 3 in the morning we proceeded to cross the lake, with fair wind, and at 8 we reached the Cedars, a distance of 40 miles. Here we went on shore – but soon resumed our journey – the Long Sault commences at this place. We came through, however, very dangerous, without any difficulty – at the foot Salmon River enters Lake St. Louis, we crossed the lake and arrived in Lachine 12 o’clock noon. During the passage from Prescott, Mssrs. Long & Wilson, of Niagara, were in company with me. We took a Caleche for Montreal, 9 miles, and arrived 3 P. M. Put up at Cushen’s Inn, Hay Market.

On the 22nd I walked about the town, inquired for work – got work at Gray’s Herald office – commenced work on the 24th.

On the 30th I took an excursion to La Prairie, in the steam boat, in company with the Mssrs. Burrells and Mr. Demarse, here we met a lady living No. 574 Broadway, etc.

The Montreal Herald was published by a Scottish immigrant, William Gray. Gray began the publication shortly after arriving in Montreal in 1811. Sadly, Gray died shortly after Abiathar started work for him. In February 1822, Gray fell ill while on a business trip to Toronto. He was only 33 years old.

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2 Responses to The Travels of Abiathar M. Harris: Off to Montreal

  1. Jerry Baum says:

    Am very much enjoying the travel account of your ancestor as he roams NY, Canada and … I am doing research on early 19th c. upstate NY inns and taverns. Most of my sources are travellers (both foreign and Am) who went to/thru NY after the Revolution up to about 1840. I knew of Abiathar’s journal but understood it was in the mss. collection of the U of Rochester, and thus unlikely to be read by me in the near future. Thus, your excerpts are quite interesting. Do you know if he describes NY tavern life in his journal? Thanks for making at least part of AMH’s diary available. Jerry Baum (magbaum@att.net (314) 962-0192)

    • Site Admin says:

      Hi Jerry – I have more of AMH’s diary to blog about, when time and inclination permit. (If you know how that goes!) The diary is held at the U of R. I visited the archives and they permitted me to photograph it. I remembered the first few posts to caption pictures of the actual diary pages with a disclaimer but going back I saw I’d left that off the last two posts. I’ve fixed that. The text itself isn’t copyrighted, only images of the diary. Anyway, AMH does mention other inns where he stayed. He doesn’t get into much detail about them or their owners. Before posting excerpts from the diary, I research each place he stops and the people he mentions. I’ll make an effort to get the remainder of the diary published over the next few weeks. Good luck with your research!

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