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HOTELS AND STOPPING PLACES

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THE GATINEAU
Many stopping places for lumberjacks walking north with their teams would later become hotels where the new train would stop. Some of these were temperance hotels, like that in Aylwin, advertised with the train schedule of the Ottawa and Gatineau Railway in 1898. At that time, Aylwin had two hotels, as did Kazabazua. At Gracefield, there were three, one of them the famous Ellard Hotel near the Pickanoc bridge. It was named after this river and was the only one charging as much as five dollars a week. All others, including three in Wakefield and four in Chelsea (one of which was also a temperance hotel) charged between three and four dollars a week.

At the turn of the century, Farrellton had a hotel run by Mrs. McCaffrey. The train made two stops at this village, one, a mile before reaching the Farrellton bridge, where there was a butter factory, and where another hotel catered to summer visitors. This stop was called Lordsvale, after the donor of the land on which the Farrellton church had been built. There were two stops in Venosta, one called simply Kealey, after the large settlement of Kealeys in the southern part of that village; the other, named “Venosta,” was close to the hotel run for many years by D. Haveron.

PONTIAC COUNTY
In Pontiac County, the train had strong competition from the valley steamers, so that many hotels were located at stopping places like Norway Bay and Portage-du-Fort. At Chapeau, there was Maloney’s Bar, celebrated in a song. At the turn of the century, Fort Coulonge was a centre of activity for lumbermen hired in Ottawa by J. R. Booth, Davidson or McLaughlin companies to work in the Quebec limits. The men would arrive in town by train and spend the night before going up to the camps, as described so well in the song, “The Chapeau Boys.” A large hotel was needed to accommodate them all.

LABINE’S HOTEL, FORT COULONGE
In 1901, the Jewell House was built for this purpose. In 1922, the hotel was bought by the LaBine family who gave the hotel its name. Mrs. LaBine managed the hotel for fifty-four years until she sold it in 1976.She remembers when the hotel had a horse-drawn bus that was used to transport the people to and from the train station. The evening train usually arrived in Fort Coulonge at eight o’clock. The bus would carry twenty people and their luggage and the one-mile trip to the hotel from the station cost twenty-five cents per person. The hotel’s stable could accommodate as many as thirty horses. If you came to the hotel with your own horse, the price of hay and oats was added to your bill. Mrs. LaBine’s father had thirty to forty horses of his own. These horses were used to take the men and supplies to the lumber camps. At the end of March, the men left the camps, and, of course, they spent the night at LaBine’s Hotel once more. They would pass through again in the spring to work on the drive.

A DOLLAR A DAYIn those days, the average wage in the shanties was a dollar a day, so that by the end of the winter a man could have as much as a hundred or a hundred-and-fifty dollars. His first stop was at LaBine’s Hotel, where a good time could be had after a long hard winter. If there were fights, and there sometimes were, the best man won and it ended right there.

The men provided their own music in the hotel. The instruments were simple: the jew’s harp, the mouth organ, spoons on a pan or a comb on paper. Mrs. LaBine remembers that there were many excellent singers, fiddlers and step dancers who entertained the men for the fun of it. Usually Mrs. LaBine had from seven to ten employees: a cook, a kitchen girl, a dining room waitress, two chamber maids, one laundress, and a man to stoke the fires.

NO ELECTRIC LIGHTSIn the beginning, there were no electric lights, so a girl had to be hired to clean and fill the sixty or seventy oil lamps in the hotel. That alone was a full time job that took her all day. Later, the hotel acquired a gas generator, so a man was hired to keep it running from dusk to midnight. The water had to be brought from the river. The hotel consumed two large drums of water a day, one for drinking and cooking, and one for washing. There were twenty-five rooms with a total of forty beds. In special cases, the hotel could accommodate as many as a hundred guests. The hotel had an understanding with the companies that they would not send more than fifty men at a time, but sometimes a hundred men would arrive on the same day, so the straw mattresses were brought out and the hotel was more than full.

BOILED PORKThe meals were excellent: the meat was either boiled pork or sausage that was bought in kegs, with potatoes, beans, good soup and bread that was baked in the hotel ovens. If they should run out of bread, they could go to Charlie Kenney’s bakery down the street.

Eggs were a real treat for the men who had not eaten any the whole winter in the camps. The hotel served as many eggs as the men requested. Some men ate as many as six to eight eggs at one meal. Desserts were well appreciated: cakes, pies made with apples, prunes, raisins and dried peaches. The owners of the hotel had some very large baking tins made at Mr. Lough’s, the village tinsmith. The kitchen employees got up at 4:30 a.m. to start their long day.

“I SEE NOTHING, I KNOW NOTHING, I SAY NOTHING” Mrs. LaBine’s hotel had an excellent reputation. From August until spring, the rooms were all occupied practically every night. During the summer, guests would sometimes stay for a few months at twenty dollars a month… Mrs. LaBine was an excellent hotel manager. Her motto was: “I see nothing, I know nothing, I say nothing.” She always believed that to stay in business one had to mind one’s own business. People come here to have a good time and to forget. We had to try and make peace. That was number one.”

Mrs. LaBine also attributed her success to another motto she practiced faithfully: “Give a good measure and give quality.” Her generosity and hospitality were well appreciated by all her clients. It was not surprising that some of them continued to patronize the hotel for more than fifty-five years. The hotel, under new ownership, burned to the ground in 1979.(1)

End Notes:
1. Venetia Crawford, Pontiac Treasures in Song and Story, Shawville, 1979, 66.

**This publication is available for $17.95 (including s/h), from Gunda Lambton, 68 Olivier Levesque, Box 38, RR 1 Alcove, QC JOX 1AO.