Montreal Daily Star, 24 July 1911, page 12


I Remember



For when Mr Starr kept his livery stable on the north end of Victoria Square, he had never fewer than twelve horses, belonging to the officers, who were not in the habit of calculating too closely.

“Why, they had no need to make nice calculations,” said Mr Starr, “they had plenty of money, or they could always get plenty.  Many of them were heirs to great titles and to vast wealth.  They supported ‘a gay existence’ and spent their money like gentlemen.  I used to see them, coming in and going out.  They were free in their manner.

“I remember General Williams, a great soldier, and had many a pleasant chat with him.

“There was a Major or Colonel Penn, I forget which, who was a great Crimean warrior.  They had their horses boarding with me at the time.  Lord Wolseley has been in my stable, on north of Victoria   Square in the place now occupied by the Ames-Holden Company.

“I remember, at the time I am referring to, that the Civil War was in progress.  We had then in Montreal a lot of men who jumped the bounty.  I had several of them in my employment and I well remember the state of funk they were in most of the time, lest they might be detected and brought back again to the States.  We had, too, a large number of southerners, who had plenty of money, of which I got my share, no doubt,” said Mr Starr laughingly, “for rigs and horses.”

Mr Starr saw the shooting of Hackett, “and I saw the marks of the bullets in the wall of the building he ran to on Victoria Square, which was not built up in my young days to any extent.  We would call the houses then existing shanties.  I remember the old Tattersall’s; the old Ottawa Hotel; and the livery stable between that and the present Bank of Toronto, on St   James street.

“I remember Mr Hogan, of the St Lawrence Hall, of course, and Dolly standing in the [illegible] of the much talked of chop house.

“Tattersall’s was kept by a man named Jones, and the livery stable by James McGiven.

“The street was then, to some extent, residential, but where there were stores the proprietors lived above them.  Notre Dame street was also retail and had such big stores as the Mussens.

Beaver Hall Hill was just completed, and there was a hay market on the north end of Victoria Square.

“You know where the Desbarats building is on the corner of Beaver Hall Hill and Lagauchetiere street?  Well, on that corner lived the late Dr Leprohon, in the old homestead which stood there for over a century, with beautiful grounds and gardens all about it.  That was one of the landmarks of the city.  The officers, or a good many of them, lived on Beaver Hall Hill and many a prank they played upon their good doctor- wrenching off his knockers- they were all knockers in those days- and calling him up at all hours of the night on pretence that some person was sick.

“There was also a big hall belonging to the Hudson’s Bay Company, which gave name to the hill.

“Close by was a stone-cutter’s yard.  On St Catherine street west the only thing in the shape of buildings that I remember was the Wellington Terrace, which was just then completed.”

“The time of the Civil War, greenbacks were rather looked at askance or at least till the fortunes of war were with the north and Mr Starr recalls that once when he sold a horse for $250, he got paid for it in silver.

“It was a hot day in the summer.  You may guess the bulk the silver made, and the inconvenience of it.  I too, was hurrying away with the buggy, lest the man might rue the bargain.  Between the heat, the weight of the silver which I had spread over all my pockets and the fatigue of hauling the buggy, horse-fashion, I was nearly dead when I got home.”

“When the American war closed, however, the good times, which that                war helped to bring about, came to an end.  The reciprocity treaty with the United States had been abrogated.  We could not compete with the manufactures of the United   States.  From the latter we were flooded with stuff which swamped us.  Our people went away, when they could get away.  I have seen mechanics working for seventy-five cents per day.  I had men at the time begging me to give them work for their board.

“Such factories as we had were closed down.  I have seen the soup kitchens opened in our city, and the poor people rushing to them for something to keep them alive.

“We never got better, either, till we got the National Policy through Sir John Macdonald.  Under that policy, we prospered, and I would say that in a humble way, I am opposed to any reciprocity treaty with the United States.  Let well enough alone, is my motto.”