Awaiting the railway…
Two letters found in an attic in Sherbrooke…
July 15, 1820
My dear Elisabeth-Charlotte,
My little village of Hyatt’s Mills is now called Sherbrooke. Two years ago, Governor John Coape Sherbrooke allowed us to name the village in his honour. The village is slowly growing. We have two merchants, two blacksmiths, a tanner, wool carding mill, saw mill and a flour mill.
Although the village is located on the St. Francis River, getting to Québec or Montréal is difficult. There are many waterfalls and rapids that oblige us to unload and then reload the boats five or six times, depending on the height of the river. In the winter, we take advantage of the frozen rivers to transport timber, potash and flour by sleigh to Québec. It takes almost a week to get there.
Video narration available in French available at
In Montréal, communications are starting to improve. It is now possible to bypass the Lachine Rapids by a toll road. Soon, the new canal will be completed. The roads remain in very poor condition here. In 1810, Governor James Craig ordered soldiers to open a road from Saint-Gilles-de-Lotbinière to Richmond. The following year, I joined my neighbours in extending the road to Sherbrooke. Trees have already grown back on several sections of the road.
To really break our isolation, we would need one of those railways you described in your last letter.
September 30, 1836
My dear Elizabeth-Charlotte,
This year, now that the first railway has opened between Laprairie and Saint-Jean (on the Richelieu River), we’re starting to believe that the steel rails will soon extend all the way to Sherbrooke. The village merchants now dream of opening a railway between Montréal and Boston through Sherbrooke.
Author: Léon Robichaud
French if available (si disponible)