To St. Louis du Ha ! Ha ! (Temiscouata Railway), Published 11 October 1938I'm not fooling there really is such a place as St. Louis du Ha! Ha! for I was there last week. It lies deep in Temiscouata county, in the riding of Jean Francois Pouliot, energetic federal member who lives in Riviere du Loup. But before I get you to this point, a mere 37.9 miles from R. du L. Let me go back for a minute and explain to you that St. Louis du Ha! ditto isn't the only place I've been since I came back from Turkey and the Trossachs.
I have been to Chicago and Boston, and I was in Gettysburg, too, taking movies of the old grey-clad, grey-beard Confederate soldiers. I heard Roosevelt rattle the chancelleries of Europe at Kingston, and lent an ear while he took an oblique crack at deep waterway opponents from Wells Island at the opening of the Thousand Islands Bridge., I have also discovered some queer places around Quebec, notably the padlocked frontier of Quebec-New Hampshire, and Egypte, and Mystic, where the tombstone of S. J. Hungerford, president of the Canadian National, is already erected, and with his own birth date on it. The stone lacks only the death date to be complete. I once was at St. Michel des Saints, a spot less than 100 miles from Montreal, yet 48 miles from a railway and 33 from a doctor. Most of you know Shawville, but few perhaps realize it has no Catholics, no French and no liquor also no unemployment. Scarcely anybody from outside points realizes that the Pontiac town can also boast that it never received any municipal, provincial or federal relief. How many know that in French and Catholic Quebec, you can go 25 miles up around Shawville, in one direction, and not encounter a priest, a nun, a separate school or Catholic church.
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Anyway, with my annual mileage now flirting with the 26.000-mile mark, you can see I haven't been idle. But we still haven't got to St. Louis du Ha! Ha! yet, and that's where I set out to take you. At 7.30 one morning not so long ago, I left Riviere du Loup on the Temiscouata Railway, heading east for St. Louis you know what.
The betting is more than even that you never heard of the Temiscouata Railway until now. Since it is the 61st railway on which I have ridden, let me tell you a little about it.
Two trails apparently were possible if one sought an all-Canadian route to the Maritimes from Lower Canada. One was via Lake Temiscouata. and the other via Metapedia. The Temiscouata Lake road was open when a Louis was proclaiming the world was his oyster, and while drooling his famous dogma about the state being himself in person. The first bishop to Acadia from New France took the Temiscouata trail. Long before trains were thought of, the short and snappy route to Nova Scotia - it took only half a summer - was to put your canoe on your back at Riviere du Loup or near it, walk about 40 miles, and climb over 1,000 feet in altitude through primeval forest before finally launching your canoe on Lake Temiscouata. Then the paddling route lay along the Madawaska river downhill to the St. John, and on to the open sea.
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When help was needed in Upper Canada, against the Americans during 1813. the 104th New Brunswick Regiment took the lake road, as it used to be called, and marched through to Quebec. Later Fort Ingall was erected on the shores of Lake Temiscouata. (Incidentally, Temiscouata in Indian means the lake that is deep all over.) You can see then, that 100 years ago. and even 300 years ago, the Temiscouata route was well known. But when the Intercolonial Railway engineers came to build a railway from the Maritimes to the outside world, they passed up the Temiscouata route on patriotic motives. It was easy for a gunner at Fort Kent. Maine, to draw a bead on a box-car across the river and knock it off the rails with a cannon. You could bowl over trains like nine pins with ordinary artillery. In those unsettled days, the Imperial engineers weren't having any of that, and so the Metapedia Valley got the railway line. To this day, however, the old province of Quebec runs its highway No. 2 through via St. Louis du Ha! Ha! and Lake Temiscouata, showing they have a proper appreciation of the old and true road to Acadia. Thus Highway No. 2 in Canada follows the historic route of the voyageuxs, from Edmundston, N.B., up through Riviere du Loup, crossing to the north shore of the St. Lawrence at Quebec. Then it keeps north of the river but close to its right to Kingston, and then on by Lake Ontario, and right through to historic old Detroit. That Route No. 2 pretty much takes in all the civilized areas of the Canadas as the French and British must have known them in the 18th century.
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The Temiscouata Railway itself was put through as a lumber route, and while both passenger and freight earnings have languished, the firm is still doing business. The Temiscouata head office is in the Canadian National Railways station at Riviere du Loup, and the general manager is C. A. Stewart, who runs the line. Passenger business ls poor in summer, and so a gasoline car makes the 81.9-mile run daily except Sunday from Riviere du Loup to Edmundston. The train goes right through to Edmundston, and returns the same afternoon, but you can make a connection for Connors, another 30 odd miles, via mixed train. However, let me bring you back to the frosted platform of Riviere du Loup C.N.R. station. It is 7.30, and the train has begun to chug.
We climbed over the hills, and immediately started squirming through beautiful bush country. No wonder the line used to be labelled "The Sportsman's Route." Lakes, rivers and hills ran all over the landscape, while occasionally through clearings you saw the spire of a Roman Catholic church, pointing the way of salvation.
I might say that the Temiscouata is done out of its normal initials through a railway away off in Texas. It's this way. The Texas and New Orleans, a branch of the great Southern Pacific Railway, a line oft venerated in these columns, is known as the T.& O. down that way. So when the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario wanted an initialled abbreviation for their railway they could not use T.& N.O. even if everybody everywhere in Canada uses that label because the American railway used the letters first. Consequently the Hepburn line has to stencil its box-cars "TEM." Now this again poached on the Temiscouata's alphabet combination, so they must emplov T.M.C. Their cars, as stressed above. used to have painted on them. "The Sportsman's Route." I imagine they can afford no such luxury as that now, when they paint a new boxcar.
At St. Honore. the Temiscouata had climbed over 1,000 feet. Two interesting things I noted en route. One was that the telegraph posts were twice the normal distance apart, and secondly, the gasoline car shifted gears like a truck on a hill. I could hardly believe my ears at first.
Well, here's St. Louis du Ha! Ha! We'll get out here, and later visit the district. A word too about Grey Owl in the next.
Beaver Cabins, Eight Cows and Grey Owl (Temiscouata Railway), Published 20 October 1938I have just landed you at the St. Louis du Ha! Ha! railway station, and the stationmaster is about to earn an honest two bits driving me to town. You can imagine how busy his Temiscouata railway duties keep him if the chef de gare can engage to take a passenger ten seconds after the train leaves!
My railroader turned chauffeur let me off outside the house of Dr. Antoine Raymond, the only man in the village who speaks good English. He again confirmed the story of how St. Louis du Ha! Ha! got its name. The portage was long and tiresome, and after trudging for days through the woods, one of the men. sweating from having climbed 40 miles and 1.000 feet altitude through primeval forest shouted: "Ha! ha! there's the lake." To get the Louis part in, I might say the first settler was Louis Marquis. So that's how St. Louis du Ha! Ha! was born.
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The most interesting thing I saw in St. L. du H.H. was a home-made ferris wheel. Ingenious French lumber dealers had slapped together a ferris wheel that propels by hand, and I had the extreme pleasure of photographing it. filled as it was with the Pelletiers, who are the Smiths of the village.
I then decided that since St. Louis had exhausted all its possibilities, after a call on the cure who couldn't speak much English. I thought I might walk the six miles to Cabano. I had eaten some cakes in an alleged restaurant at St. Louis which repeated on me. and I thought I could walk this food off. Perhaps I could, but instead Dr. Raymond came along and drove me over there. I was glad to have had the car ride.
In the first place. I found out that Lake Temiscouata, a 30-mile long body, is known in Indian as "the lake which is deep all over." In one place, they can't get bottom at 1,200 feet. Again. I learned that Madawaska, the name of the river which drains it, means in the Indian language of the area "the river which does not freeze." Hence you have a town on that river named St. Rose de Degele.
But there's more history to the place than that. Route 2. on which I was travelling, is known as the Lake Road, and I think I told you that the first bishop from France to Acadia went that way. Later, you recall the 104th New Brunswick Regiment marched through to help their comrades against the Americans in 1813 via Temiscouata Lake, and Fort Ingall was erected there. I am merely skimping rather than sketching the history of this beautiful area.
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In Cabano I found Father Cyr trying to take movies of a caterpillar going up a shrub. But the poor fur-coated worm had Klieg eyes, or studio panic, or something, for he would not perform. He'd drop to the ground, and the priest would put him back up. Finally, the caterpillar, apparently never having heard of Bruce and the Spider, gave up. and striking a pose, put on the best possible act for the cure-photographer, and a couple of interesting feet of film resulted.
I learned in Cabano that the place was named from the river, and the Cabano river originally was called that because the beaver huts out along the river suggested "cabanes" to the French. What I heard about Grey Owl interested me more, and I have no doubt Lloyd Roberts will refute it. My informant said that Grey Owl never had a beaver farm, but owned only two beavers.
"He trapped and killed all the beavers for years, then finally set out to raise them, but he never had any but two young ones." said my local acquaintance. "Originally he read the outdoor magazines, but did not write. Later he became a writer. A fine fellow perhaps, but certainly he had no farm here."
(You recall Grey Owl claimed he got no sympathy nor support in Quebec, so went with his beavers to Riding Mountain, Manitoba. There he discovered the place was too dry. and went to Saskatchewan. There, absurdly enough, in the province where there never is enough water he found lots of it for his beavers.)
When I motored back to St. Louis I found out that the only place the word St. Louis du Ha! Ha! is correctly spelled is on the Quebec highway sign. The railway station omits the two exclamation marks, and so does the post office; even the post office stamp hasn't got these twin bits of punctuation.
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By now the affair of Mr. Richard's eight cows down at Estcourt on the Maine border is famous, but I want to go over two or three interesting points, as I got them from Jaan Francois Pouliot, the dynamic MP., whose house I was in that night. First of all, this international pasture field belongs to Mr. Richard. A bit of it is in Maine, but there is no fence to stop the cows walking into the United States, because, after all, the whole field belongs to Mons. Richard. Secondly, there is no American road to Estcourt, Maine, and so the United States immigration officials had to travel 40 miles on Canadian soil to get back into the United States and arrest the cattle. Well entrenched on private property about three worms length into Maine, the Fort Kent Immigration men made their famous haul. Again, of these eight cattle so arrested, two are American-born anyway. Next, so ashamed were the US. officials that they denied they had seized the Internationally minded bossies, and Mr. Pouliot had to produce the US. Department of Immigration's form of receipt.
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I did not have time to go to St. Patrick, but I should like to have seen the old house in which Sir John A. Macdonald lived, some summers. Here treked ponti-ficos, politicians and pap-seekers alike, all seeking something. and there probably wasn't a giver in a carload. Those lamp-lit, buggy-driven days are over, and today a Grit M.P Mr. Pouliot, is responsible for having Canada's greatest Tory perpetuated in his riding. Although the plaque marking this house has been up two seasons, Mr. Pouliot has not had time to have it unveiled yet. Actually, it has been unofficially unveiled a long time ago, and there it stands sans ceremony.
The governors-general of Canada used to come to Cacouna, but I didn't go there. Your old Geography Teacher knows this Temiscouata stuff isn't as exciting as his wanderings through barbed wire into Russia, or around the Sultan's harem in Turkey, nor yet again his travels through the Trossachs. But you can't always be hitting high C. you've got to croak once in a while, and perhaps this is it. Just the same, I hope you think my trip down to an almost unknown part of Canada, does not read like a total loss, and that some time again, you'd like to hear about it, when I emerge from a similarly obscure part of the Dominion that we sing about so proudly, and of which we see so little.