Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mapping the Route: Québec to Cohoes

There is a family legend that Solyme Beauvais came from Canada to Cohoes with his wife, Adele Guay, and children in a horse drawn wagon. This story is plausible but not likely. The last source for his presence in Québec is the marriage of his oldest daughter, Mathilde, to Noel Tetro in St Cesaire in Rouville in 1862.  He appears in Cohoes in the 1870 census - so sometime between 1862 and 1870, Solyme made the journey south from Québec to New York State.

Coming of age in upstate New York when Route 9 was a two lane paved highway, the Adirondack Northway was under construction and the D & H railroad ran trains up the west side of Lake Champlain, I took it for granted that my ancestors just drove their wagon straight through the  funnel between the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain!  However, in 1862, there was no highway running directly south from Montreal to Saratoga and Cohoes.  The Champlain Canal existed for 30 years already but it was primarily used for cargo transport and wasn't readily available for passenger travel.

Several local train companies began operating in and among the cities of Cohoes, Waterford, Troy, Saratoga and Ballston - a true patchwork in 1830. The Rensselaer & Saratoga Railroad started in the 1830s running between Troy & Waterford to Ballston & Saratoga.  Later it was possible to start in Cohoes and continue to Rutland, Vermont through a complex network that included the Saratoga & Whitehall Railroad, the Saratoga & Rutland Railroad or the Troy, Salem & Rutland Railroad.  Once in Rutland, passengers took the Central Vermont raiload to Burlington.

We know in December 1859,  trains carried the sad funeral cortege of John Brown from Charlestown, West Virginia to Troy, New York.  From Troy, a train transported John Brown's widow, his bearers and his body to Vergennes, Vermont where they disembarked to ferry across Lake Champlain to North Elba.  After the Brown party disembarked, the train continued to Burlington Vermont.

The route from Rutland to Montreal, the Central Vermont railway,  was a subsidiary of the Grand Trunk Railroad.  From Burlington Vermont, it was a short trip by train to Rouses Point and across the border to St John (St Jean sur Richelieu) and Canadian lines in the Richelieu Valley.

The train lines in the 1860s from and to Montreal and Cohoes were not as direct as the well organized "Grand Trunk Railroad" that funneled thousand of French Canadian laborers into the textile mills of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Connecticut.

My hypothesis is this train through Saratoga and Washington Counties to Rutland is the route used by most of the French Canadians who came to Cohoes in the mid 19th century for jobs in the textile industry.

Oh! and Cohoes had more than one railroad station! There was the D& H depot, the New York Central station and station on the Schenectady Railroad!

Please add your comments, arguments for an alternative immigration route and more.

1 comment:

  1. As always, your posts and interesting and informative. Thanks for sharing!