Traveling Across the North River

Whether it was by boat, bridge or ice, Cornwall residents made many trips across the North River to Charlottetown, sometimes in dangerous conditions.  There have been many tragedies and triumphs on the North River.  The following excerpts were collected from the residents of the area.

“Then the winter time it (the river) was ice and used extensively for getting people back and forth from town.  It was staked with spruce bushes and then there were different stories of horses falling through the ice.  There were some that were lost, I assume.  And, because people would be trying to get across the ice because it was easier than it was to go through the muddy road or muddy field in the spring of the year.  In the spring time they would be trying to get home before or into Charlottetown before the ice would break up.  And, there was subsequently some horses lost.”25 – Shared by Robert MacMillan

“When I was a kid they always went across the ice.  I can remember going across the ice driving a car myself when I first got my license.  Yeah, we used to go out on the ice all the time.  My Dad, he was in the truck business and he had a couple of big trucks.  So, he used to buy potatoes and stuff all up and down the road.  He used to haul them across the ice all winter when there wouldn’t be a lot of snow around.”26 – Shared by Howard MacPhail

“I remember going across North River.  We used to go down the river and go under the bridge with the horse and sleigh down the ice to Charlottetown.  But there was down here.  Where this bridge was there was a wharf down here and they loaded boats.  Just small ones and feed.  I guess that’s the way they took it to Charlottetown.  Took it down here by horse and wagon or horse and sleigh and put it on boats.  In to Brighton.  Of course, in them times we traveled all winter with the horse and sleigh.  There was a couple down here who used to, they call it Bush the ice.  They put the tree here so if it started to snow and you turn around you’d know where you were going.  Cause if you got out on the sheet of ice and if it was snowing a little bit you could get lost pretty quick.”27 – Shared by Keith Wheatley

“My mother, and I can remember as a little fellow my mother and the lady across the road going to the movies in horse and sleigh. Going across the ice. You know, in the fifties.  They used to like to go to the movies, they were only young and they would take the horse across the ice and in them days there was a place to put your horse and sleigh in.  You paid them fifty cents and you put your horse in and you went to the movies.”28 – Shared by Don MacEwen

“Used to cross the ice and the ice would have to be bushed.  Everybody would take a turn and they would go to the woods and get bushes and they would bush the ice across in case a storm come, you wouldn’t get lost.  I was with my father once when we bushed the ice and that was just once and that was when things were pretty well done.”29 – Shared by Don MacEwen

“There was a proper way to take their horses out.  I think there was a way of putting the rope around the horse’s neck.  That’s how I understood it, I never saw it done but, apparently choke the horse and when he chokes he makes a big reef  and the sleighs would pull him right out.  There was a proper way of doing it and apparently my grandfather was good at it and they would call for Leslie.  That’s what I’m told.”30 – Shared by Don MacEwen

“A lot of traffic went through Cornwall in the winter time down the Ferry Road, so they could cross the ice from York Point to Brighton.  Lots of traffic in Cornwall, from all over the place, it was a lovely sheltered route, there was trees along the road nearly all the way so even in the vilest days of the winter it wasn’t such a bad trip to go down that way whereas if you went down what we call the long ice which was the West River in front of my place and the Hyde place and so on that was a bitterly drive down there because the wind swept across the River from every direction there was no shelter it was very cold”31 – Shared by Lawson Drake

Many of the residents also remember taking cars across the frozen North River.  Some of the residents can recall an incident in which a couple were traveling across the ice in their pick-up truck.  The truck hit a crack and went through the ice, unfortunately the woman drowned.  It is said that there was a certain way to cross the ice in a vehicle; the doors were to remain open during the crossing, in the event that a quick exit was needed.

In Partnership with