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Spotswoods Ferry (The Crossing to Waltham)
The crossing of the
Ottawa River from the north end of the Westmeath peninsula to Waltham was
referred to as Spotswoods Ferry. William Spotswood and his wife had left
Scotland circa 1835 and settled in Kemptville, along with an uncle and two
brothers. In 1840, he and his wife and first-born son moved to Westmeath and
settled on a 58-acre farm, raising nearly every kind of animal on it, from
horses to pigs to geese. The farm was the end of River Road (now known as Rapid
Road), six miles from the village of Westmeath. He also built the first of two
ferries that would be the heart of a business.
This ferry was designed to be lower in the centre section
than both access points. It saved on the cost of lumber and was possibly safer
for transporting cattle to the lumber camps up the Black River on the Quebec
side. The ferry made its crossings, winched along by pulley and cable. There
was one incident involving a horse-drawn carriage being transported where a
horse bolted. A woman thrown from the carriage drowned.
Great-grandson Jack Spotswood
was the final ferry operator. He took over circa 1940 and later built a second
ferry, a two-car, 40 x 14 footer. This one was propelled by a pointer boat
powered by a Model A engine. The crossing season extended from
April into December, 24 hours a day. His brother Gerald worked with him. The
sound of a horn honking signaled another customer was ready to cross. Once in
the night the horn was not heard. It was a taxi on the Quebec side with a
pregnant woman heading for a hospital in Pembroke. The delay caused the baby to
be born in the cab itself. All turned out well in the end. There was another
incident at night where a car drove onto the ferry and partially off the other
end. The back wheels hung up on the exit ramp. Mr. Spotswood, awakened by the
commotion, got up and rescued the driver. He had been drinking and figured the
ferry was a bridge.
Upriver, the S.S. Pontiac operated between Pembroke and
Desjardinville. However, it stopped service in early November each year.
Spotswoods by operating until Christmastime picked up some of the S.S.
Pontiac business despite the longer drive for some of the customers. Sunday was
the busiest day of the summer. Each hour up to 12 cars were ferried, from about
noon until 6pm. Most were heading from the Ontario side to picnics in Quebec.
At times, 20 to 30 cars were in line, waiting to cross. The fee to cross at the
end of the business was 75 cents one way.
Jack Spotswood continued to operate for one year after the
bridge from Ontario to Allumette Island was completed. Business was down so
significantly, the family business expired. Someone in Fort Coulonge bought the
ferry for $50; the pointer boat was left to rot and the engine given to a local
First Ferry Second Ferry Ferries out of service