. . . Here I am again, sitting in my car on the Prescott/Ogdensburg international bridge, waiting in a line of traffic.
This reminds me of articles I have read about the times when there were no bridges and people used ferries to cross the St. Lawrence River.
There were many ferry services over the years from 1880 thru 1960. The first ferry service used sailboats to ply the river in the 1770s. Henry Plumb established a steamboat ferry service connecting the Canadian and US shores between Prescott, and Ogdensburg in 1832. The Lady of the Lake was one of the first, followed by Howard, the New York and the Baptiste. In later years The Levis, The Joseph Dubrule and The M.S. Windmill, all travelled between Prescott and Ogdensburg. The William Armstrong and The Elmer W. Jones also crossed between Brockville and Morristown.
In 1909 the Prescott and Ogdensburg Ferry Co. Ltd. was formed. Miss Vandenbrerg, Ferdinand and the Levis were added over the years.
The ferry Levis, was named after the last French fort in America. The fort was on Isle Royal (Chimney Island) just east of Mallorytown Landing. This was the site of the last battle of the French and Indian war in 1760.
. . . This backup is stalled, I wonder if there may be an accident, well at least I will not sink like The William Armstrong did back in the late 1890's. She went down off the shore of what is now Hardy Park, in Brockville.
The Wm Armstrong, a steamer operated by the Prescott-Ogdensburg Ferry Service sank on June 30, 1889. There was reportedly only one death resulting from the sinking. The Ferry took on water, tipped on its side and sank in about 80 feet of water. She was carrying three cars and a freight car from the railroad loaded with iron ore. Captain Leonard and a crew of five along with (passengers) J. Hocklinger and John Sweeney both from Brockville were on board. Canadian customs officer Allan Hayner and Charles C. McFall jumped into the river and all but McFall were rescued by a passing steamer. The William Armstrong was raised the following year and moved to Ogdensburg N.Y.
The Elmer W. Jones ferry began her service in the 1920s. She ran between Morristown and Brockville for several decades. Doug Grant, who writes a popular website and column, “A Glimpse of Our Past” explained that the ferry was named after Lt. –Col. Elmer Watson Jones (ca. 1872-1918), “Brockville’s foremost war hero, native son and former Brockville lawyer.” She could hold up to 25 cars. She was used by the US Navy during the World War II but returned to the River in 1946.
In those days the ferries ran all year. They also severed as ice breakers. Even temperatures of 24 below zero did not stop them – but did “slow them a little.”
. . . I am moving a little closer to the pay booths and can see the price has gone up again. I now think of an article I read by Richard Johnson, he stated that the fare for using the ferry was 25 cents per crossing and never changed for 20 years.
The cost to use this bridge seams to always be going up, but I guess they have to pay workers and upkeep. Reminds me of the many stories of life as a ferry worker. One of which is of a deckhand by the name of Philip Jellie who wrote home, in 1948, to tell his dad that he had gotten a dollar a day raise, but could not tell anyone because he said, “it was between him and the owner.”
(Probably means he was the only one to get the raise.)
. . . I am finally reaching the customs station, I can see officers going to check a pulled over car, I wonder did they try to bring fireworks back?
The reason I say fireworks is because the 1948 Johnson article talks of a little girl, the daughter of an immigrations officer, that tried to take fireworks from Brockville to Morristown. She hid the fireworks under her French Fries. She got caught.
In 1909 the Prescott-Ogdensburg Co. Ltd. was formed. The company operated until 1960 when the International Bridge was opened. The M. S. Windmill Point was the last ferry to cross between Prescott and Ogdensburg on September 21, 1960.
Construction on the Ogdensburg–Prescott International Bridge, also known as the Seaway Skyway, began in the 1950s . This suspension bridge was designed by Modjeski & Masters in Mechanicsburg PA.
You know it is funny, they stopped the ferries because they were no longer a financially viable mode of transportation between the two countries. The bridge allowed travellers to continue on their travels and not have to wait to board the ferry. Yet the cost to use and maintain this bridge goes up too.
Well I've finally cleared customs and the traffic line up. Today, with border security as it is, it took close to an hour to cross over the St. Lawrence River from the United States to Canada. In the old days they say that most ferries did the crossing in 15 minutes in winter months and even faster, 10 to 12 minutes, the rest of the year. How they can say that the bridge is more viable is beyond me, besides, it is not nearly as interesting as in the old days…
Well no more line ups and the Brockville sign is in site, I will be home soon.
By William J. Elliott
William J. Elliott was born in Toronto, Ontario, but moved to Brockville as an infant. He attended schools in the region and served on several volunteer committees including the Brockville Epilepsy Association. His interest in writing and history began at an early age. He holds a vast collection of reference material, postcards and photographs about Brockville and the Thousand Islands. In addition to these interests, William also writes poetry.
Note: More information to come which will include how railroad cars crossed the River on the ferry.