The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Veteran River Captain Relates Interesting Tales of Navigation And River Over 42-Year Period
The Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall, ON), 11 Oct 1941

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Down the Lane
Veteran River Captain Relates Interesting Tales of Navigation And River Over 42-Year Period
Capt. Raoul Lalonde Served Greater Part of His Sailing Days On Old Britannic

Down The Lane had an interesting cruise up and down the St. Lawrence River and canals system a few evenings ago with Captain Raoul Lalonde, 18 Arthur street, well known river navigator, as our pilot. Captain Lalonde took us on a couple of trips as far as Picton, Ont., but the runs consisted largely from Garden Island, opposite Kingston, and Kingston itself, down to Montreal and several farther journeys to Quebec. We travelled first by a large one-decker tug which hauled rafts from Garden Island and Kingston; then on freighters which plied largely from Kingston to Montreal; winding up on the well known river steamer, Britannic, owned by the Montreal and Cornwall Navigation Company, of which Arnold N. Smith, of Cornwall, now of Toronto, was manager. The Britannic was perhaps one of the best-known boats in the local river and canal trade and Captain Lalonde’s 24 or so seasons on that craft was his longest single boating experience.

At different times in his career he was associated with Captain Cory Hart, whose death a few months ago he greatly regretted; the late Captain Alex. Anderson, Captain Andrews, of Brockville; chief engineer Noe Chartier, of Champlain, Que.; chief engineer Narcisse Marchaud, Montreal; first mate Donat Hamel, St. Zotique, Que.; Noe Pilon, St. Zotique, a deckhand; Leo St. Germain, Aime St. Germain, Albert St. Germain, a wheelsman, all three nephews of Captain Lalonde. Russell Snetsinger, of Cornwall, was purser on the Britannic for a good many seasons and Captain Lalonde had a kindly word for him, saying, “he was a fine fellow to work with and everybody about the boat liked him.”

Captain Lalonde said he was sorry when the good old Britannic went to the marine graveyard a few years ago. The happiest years of his life were spent on the Britannic, he said, and if anyone regretted to see the faithful, sturdy craft go out of commission it was Captain Raoul Lalonde.

Native of St. Zotique — Raoul Lalonde was born at St. Zotique, Que., a little place that has sent many men into various positions in the navigation world. Born within easy access of the River St. Lawrence, it may be said to almost natural that he should take to boating as an occupation. He said every time he went up and down the river, he could see his old home and the house still stands there, though it passed out of the hands of the Lalonde family a good many years ago.

“The smell of the river had a lure for me,” said Mr. Lalonde, in stating that he took to boating at the age of 14 years. He was born at St. Zotique May 8, 1885, a son of Leon Lalonde and his wife, Lucie Asselin. While he only passed his 56th birthday last May 8, a lot of activity has been crowded into the last 42 years since he first started his career on the St. Lawrence, and he is still boating, for, on the death of Captain Cory Hart, who was captain on the government steamer W.A. Bowden, Captain McLatchie was appointed as his successor and Raoul Lalonde joined the staff to fill the vacancy. While he did not follow the boats for a few years, he was always known by his friends as “Captain” Lalonde and is still spoken of and to in that term. For six years he had been employed on construction work along the canal, in the Department of Transport, under Vincent McDonald, so that from the age of 14 years, up to the present, it may be truly said that he has followed the river. In all his long service in various capacities on boats, from the position of deckhand up to that of captain, he never had an accident.

Went To Work Early — Raoul Lalonde’s father was a farmer and the young lad did what he could to help with the work, being the only “man” about the house besides his father, other members of the family being girls. Farming was harder then than it is today, for modern farm machinery had not been invented. Everything had to be done by hand. He helped milk, do the chores, feed the horses, cows, hens, pigs and assist with the planting and harvesting. Mr. Lalonde had a good garden and grew enough potatoes and other vegetables each summer to tide the family over the following winter.

Boys did not have to go to school in those days like they do at the present time, and Raoul Lalonde, with his district school education, struck out when he was 14 years old to make a living for himself and help the folks at home as well. Choosing the river as a career, he secured work as a deckhand on the large tug Parcia, [sic: Parthia] a one decker, owned by the Calvin Company, of Kingston. David Lefebvre, of Kingston, was the captain, and the boat carried a crew of 10. The Parcia hauled rafts from Garden Island down the river to Montreal and Quebec, where the lumber was disposed of.

Raoul Lalonde served a couple of years as deckhand and spent two or three years at the wheel, when he left the Parcia to take a position as wheelsman on the steamer Alexandria, a big side-wheeler owned by the *Hepburns, of Picton, Ont., the boat being engaged in the freight and passenger service from Picton and Kingston to Montreal, making one round trip a week. Captain Smith, of Picton, was in charge and had a crew of 18 under him.

On The Britannic — After a few years on the Alexandria, Raoul Lalonde started as a wheelsman on the steamer Britannic, of the Montreal and Cornwall Navigation Company, which was successfully managed for so long by Arnold N. Smith. The Britannic carried passengers and freight and ran from Montreal to Kingston, passing west on Thursday mornings and returning on her way to Montreal Saturday evening. For a good many seasons the Britannic carried pleasure parties of holiday travellers, who spent a week’s round trip on the St. Lawrence at a moderate rate, berth and board included. Stops were made at each town along the line from here to Kingston, giving passengers an opportunity of sightseeing while the boat was unloading and taking on freight. On the trip East, the boat arrived in Montreal Sunday morning and did not leave until Wednesday afternoon, giving almost three full days in the Metropolis. The Britannic carried a crew of 17. Commencing as a wheelsman, Raoul Lalonde spent several seasons in that position. He was then promoted to first mate and later to captain, which position he filled about 11 seasons. He retired three years before the Britannic went off the route.

Came To Cornwall — Raoul Lalonde first came to Cornwall with his parents and three sisters when he was seven years old. The family remained here about two years and during that time his mother passed away and was buried at Flanagan’s Point. She was only 47 years of age. The family returned to St. Zotique for some time, but came back to Cornwall and Leon Lalonde, the father purchased the three-tenement house, which has since been occupied by the family of Hugh F. Cumming. Leon Lalonde continued to make his home between St. Zotique and Cornwall until his death at the former place at the age of 87 years.

Knew Cornwall Early — Both Captain Raoul Lalonde and Mrs. Lalonde have known Cornwall for a long time, Mr. Lalonde started going through here at the age of 14 years and Mrs. Lalonde has been living here since she was 18 years old. In their homes in St. Zotique and Glen Nevis, respectively, their young days saw only coaloil used to light dwellings and water from wells was used to drink as well as cook and wash. The more advanced years of their lives have witnessed a great change with the introduction of electric lights and waterworks. East Cornwall was a pretty barren place, they said, as they first knew it, and great strides had to be made before it assumed its present fine city-like appearance. They are well satisfied with living conditions of today and would not care to go back to “the good old days.”

Married At Age Of 26 — Captain Lalonde was married at the age of 26 years, two months and four days to be exact, on July 12, 1911, to Miss Mary Louise Brunet, a daughter of the late Seraphin Brunet, of the historic parish of Glen Nevis, Glengarry County. The ceremony was performed at Nativity Church, Cornwall, by Rev. A.J. MacMillan, then the parish priest. The bride was almost three months short of reaching her 21st birthday at the time of her marriage, as she was born at Glen Nevis, October 2, 1890. She passed her 51st birthday a week and two days ago.

The bride’s father had died at Glen Nevis and her mother moved to Cornwall and was living in what was known as Bergin’s Cottages, adjoining the new theatre now in the course of erection on Montreal Road, below Brennan’s Corners.

The young couple and other members of the wedding party drove to and from the church in a cab owned by Mr. Chatelois, then a well known livery man on Water street East, who always drove fancy horses. Witnesses at the wedding were Leon Lalonde, the groom’s father, and Jacques Brunet, of Glen Robertson, uncle of the bride. The reception was held at the home of the bride’s mother and later Mr. and Mrs. Lalonde left by Grand Trunk Railway on a trip to Montreal. On their return, they took up residence on Arthur street, quite close to where they reside at present.

Were Parents of Five — Captain Lalonde and Mrs. Lalonde were the parents of five children, three of whom are living - Mrs. Donat Seguin (Blanche Lalonde); Mrs. Bernard Pollard (Laurette Lalonde); and Miss Simone Lalonde, who resides at home with her parents. They have two grandchildren - Ethel Pollard, aged 7 years; and Maurice Seguin, 5 years old.

Raoul Lalonde was one of a family of four. He was the only boy and there were three girls. One of his sisters died and two are still living - Mrs. William Samson, at 22 Arthur street, in the same tenement as Captain Lalonde, she being 62 years old; and Mrs. Josephus Leblanc, of St. Zotique, Que., 50 years old. The other sister was Mrs. Osias Forget, who passed away three years ago, in the same tenement, next door to Captain Lalonde’s home.

In Mrs. Lalonde’s family, there were only two children - herself and a brother - Seraphin Brunet Jr., who resides at St. Andrew’s West.

Both Captain Raoul and Mrs. Lalonde are in the enjoyment of good health and bid fair to have many years of useful activity ahead of them.

Wilson, George
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11 Oct 1941
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 45.0175444021534 Longitude: -74.7130093575834
Lyall Manson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
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Veteran River Captain Relates Interesting Tales of Navigation And River Over 42-Year Period