A Travel Tale from a Transitioner’s Family

The historical streetcar system (thin black line) and possible future system (colouredlines) on top of the roads and some key buildings (schools, returement residences, medical, employers)

MARK WOOLLEY – This is a small slice of history from the still remembered past about Peterborough Farmers’ Market. At the time of this family story the farmer’s market was held in Market Hall on George Street Peterborough.

On my Mother’s side, I am from settler stock in Northumberland County. My maternal-maternal great grandparents we’re the second generation born on farms in the fairly newly-formed country called Canada. Railroads and waterways dominated the long haul travel landscape.Howard Harper and Ida Davey married and became farmers like their grandparents. They struggled to get established but by the time my Grandma Jean showed up, they were raising hens, ducks, pigs and cows as well as keeping a large garden for vegetables and fruit trees at the east end of Smylie Road, which runs east from Burnham St (Cty Rd 18) in Camborne. 

Page 357 of the “The Bowman/Harper Family History – mid 1700s – 2015” records “Ida’s display of farm products [that] received first prize in the Farmer’s Market Display Competition in Cobourg in December 1932.” It notes that the display included dairy products, eggs, chickens, ducks, apples, winter pears and canned fruit, many kinds of vegetables including artichoke, Brussel [sic] sprouts and popcorn, sage, and honey, as well as beef and pork. The prize money for first place was $10.”

Oral history records traveling from a Northumberland County farm to Peterborough for the Farmer’s Market with a route involving multiple vehicles. Whether they got from the farm to Gore’s Landing, by horse and cart or early truck, is unclear. Instructions in my copy of the 1912 official Automobile Road Guide of Canada simply say to stay on the fine gravel road that also has telephone poles erected – Bell being more widely deployed than Ford.

In Gore’s Landing, the family boarded a steamboat. Since the first ferry in 1832 through today there has been passenger and freight service on Rice Lake. Gore’s Landing boat builders had crafted boats like Golden Eye (a 105’, 350 passenger sidewheeler), Beaver (72’ but far faster), North Star (“84 feet in length and weighed twice as much as the Beaver), surpassing her in speed by thirty minutes on a trip from Peterborough to Gore’s Landing”. Based on the dates I wonder if they were on the double decked, 70’, twin screwed, 214 passenger steamboat Geneva. 

The Peterborough dock was near Lock Street, downriver from Lock 19/Lansdowne Street. The Peterborough Radial Railway Company ran a line to the steamboat landing until 1927. The third and final leg of the trip, which must have started very early, was by streetcar. The streetcar travelled up the middle of Lock Street, onto Crescent, past the grand home that now houses the Art Gallery, left and then right onto George Street, northbound to Charlotte Street and Market Hall. Then they unloaded, carried all the produce up to the second floor, and had a grand day in Peterborough, only to reverse the trip home to the farm at the end of the long day.

The historical streetcar system (thin black line) and possible future system (coloured lines) on top of the roads and some key buildings (schools, retirement residences, medical, employers)