Friday, October 07, 2011

Diarist Mercy Coles and the Quebec Conference of October 1864

Wednesday, October 5th, 1864 through to Saturday Oct 8th, 1864

Mercy Coles was the attractive and smart 26 year old unmarried daughter of George Coles, [Father of Confederation from Prince Edward Island], who kept a diary of the events and her travels to the Quebec conference in October 1864. She is one of the few people that wrote of the events at the time and certainly one of the few women. Her unpublished diary can be found in the National Archives of Canada. At the Quebec conference the delegates created the 72 resolutions that basically make up the BNA Act (British North America Act) that forms our constitution today.

A small group of Islanders left PEI on October 5th to go to Quebec. [The majority of Maritimers came by the Canadians steamship the Queen Victoria a week later.] From Mercy Coles’ diary:

Wednesday 5th October /64
“Left Charlottetown at 3 am. Arrived at Shediac [New Brunswick] at half past [not clear - 12?]. I was very ill it was so rough. Monk came off in a small boat and was taken on board off Summerside. Found a special train waiting for us at Shediac, arrived at St. John at 1/2 past six. Mr. Tilley [Premier of N B, Samuel Leonard Tilley] and Mr. Steeves at the Hotel to receive us ...
[Tilley is the one who made that railway between Shediac and St. John happen – there is way too much on that to put here! Tilley is also the one who suggested the name ‘The Dominion of Canada’, vs. something like ‘Kingdom’.]
Thursday – We had a walk before breakfast and came on board New Brunswick. I am going to share a stateroom with Miss Alexander [the sister of Thomas Haviland], arrived at Eastport at 12, went on shore and dined, left at 1 for Portland [Maine].

Friday morning. Portland Public House. We arrived here this morning after being 24 hours on board the New Brunswick. I went to bed at 6 and just got up in time this morning [she doesn’t say why – maybe anticipating or being seasick again?]. We had an awful stormy night. We leave here in the Grand Trunk Railroad at one o’clock ...  [So 24 hrs travelling down the Bay of Fundy from St. John to Portland. So far I can’t find any current info on a ferry or boat trip for that journey – just the 3 hr from St. John across the Bay of Fundy to Digby, Nova Scotia. By land it is 478 km, 5hrs 23 mins driving.]

Saturday, 8th  We arrived at Island Pond last night at half past 9. We got up this morning at half past 4 .... We passed some beautiful scenery yesterday coming through New Hampshire, it was too dark to see the White Mountains. Mr. Tilley helped me admire it. It is rather a joke, he is the only beau of the party and with 5 single ladies he has something to do to keep them all in good humour. [emphasis mine – the funny thing there is Tilley is a widower of 2 ½ years, 7 children, 5 of them still young and he was 46 yrs old – and known for his good head and grasp of finances, not necessarily his charms – but maybe that is what we don’t know of him and that Mercy’s writing exposes to us?]
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