Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Thomas Sutherland: On Railroads

This letter was originally posted online as part of an Ontario History Quest educational unit.

Moore River St. Clair Western Dist
Upper Canada. 17 March 1837

Newbigging Esqr.

Dear Sir

I trust your kindness will excuse the freedom of this communication and believe that I am induced to take the liberty with the anxious desire to lend my humble aid on behalf of that most valuable and important undertaking, the Great Western Rail Road – and with the most sincere desire that it should be carried into effect – so as to render the greatest possible good to the greatest number of persons, and open up the Interior of this valuable province so as to attract men of Capital to it - I have taken the liberty of sending you a Report on this important subject, and if you will take the trouble to trace upon the Map the route mentioned – I feel quite assured, you will be at once convinced that it is almost certain the route in question will obtain and command two thirds of the immense number of Persons constantly travelling to the far West – that is if the Great Western Rail Road be made to terminate opposite to and in connection with the St. Clair and Romeo Rail Road, now in progress on the opposite or American Side of this River St. Clair – which is to be continued to Grand River on Lake Michigan – Ten miles of the St. Clair and Romeo Rail Road is already levelled and nearly ready for the Rails – but it is also said the Americans are to have a Rail Road from Black River ten miles above this, but still connected with the River St. Clair to Grand River above mentioned – and if the Great Western is not constructed so as to unite with the American (St. Clair & Romeo) it will without doubt be an immense loss to the Shareholders.

Having made the above observations on the Great Western Rail Road, I now beg to observe that I fear the Toronto and Lake Huron Rail Road if carried into effect will prove a failure, and consequently a serious loss to all those interested in it as Shareholders, for to me and all those I have conversed with on the Subject, it does not appear that there is any reasonable prospect of its ever being so productive as to pay the interest of the money to be expended, and I really fear many are deceived as to the expectations formed and the assurances given, for in the name of goodness where is the Trafic to come from or go to that is to support so great an undertaking, and upon what calculation Mr. H. depended when he is said to have declared “if any Rail Road ever made a handsome return to the Stockholders, the Toronto & Lake Huron Rail Road will do it” – I say when he made this statement I cannot imagine what he depended on – for if it is entirely upon the inhabitants travelling to and trading to and from that quarter – I fear no such calculations ever will be realized – What is there to be taken to or from Natawasaga Bay? And it is not the least likely those going to Michigan will ever go by that route – when it is known they have upwards of One Hundred Miles of the wild Lake Huron to pass before they can reach the Shores of Michigan, while by the River they have little more than 5/8th of a mile to pass, and it at all times easily to be accomplished.

I feel quite convinced that if the Great Western Rail Road is to be confined to Hamilton, then it will raise that Town, and Toronto will most assuredly fall – but if the good people of Toronto, and more particularly the Stockholders of the Toronto & Lake Huron Rail Road would make up their minds to construct a Rail Road from Toronto to unite with the Great Western Rail Road at Hamilton – thus Toronto will be greatly benefited and enable to keep her station as the Metropolis of the Province – You are perhaps aware that the St. Clair & Romeo Rail Road commences [tear] nearly opposite to my House and will con[sequ]ently consider that my opinion should [tear] [be] received with great caution – which I have no reason to object to.
-- I would however before closing this take the liberty of suggesting that two or three of the Shareholders of the Lake Huron Rail Road should make up their minds as the navigation is now about to open, the Ice in the River having broken up yesterday & today, to come and take a view – and collect information on this all important subject to the Upper Province. If this should be determined upon I shall give them a hearty welcome at my humble dwelling – again hoping you will excuse the freedom and believe that I am anxious for the general good.

I am, Dear Sir Your Obed. Servant
Thos Sutherland

[Addressed to:]

Newbigging Esq.
Chairman of the Lake Huron R. Road Committee

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