February 20, 1880
Great debates have been had in St. John’s about snow and what to do with snow.
There was a time in St. John’s, when residents were encouraged to throw snow from their sidewalks into the middle of the street. Not only were they encouraged to do this, they were often ordered to do this. The St. John’s newspaper, The Evening Telegram reported in February 1880:
“a policeman called on the various dwellings (in St. John’s) and ordered that all snow lying before their doors should be thrown into the middle of the street.”
One resident of Cochrane Street, St. John’s was not very happy with this arrangement. In February 1880 he wrote to the St. John’s newspaper:
“In most instances the order of the policeman to throw snow in the middle of the street was complied, with the result of which is that today sleighs driving up and down Cochrane Street encroach on the sidewalks to the danger of pedestrians.”
It appears that those with horse and sleigh wanted to take the path of least resistance and rather than take to the center of the road (now covered with mounds of snow) were more inclined to take the cleared sidewalks.
The frustrated resident of Cochrane Street wrote:
“If the magistrates have ordered the snow to be cleared from the sidewalks, it would be only right that they should cause all sleighs to keep to the center of the road.”
The policemen and the magistrates did begin to listen to the residents and actively pursued convicting carmen who were driving on the sidewalks. Judge Daniel Woodley Prowse took no sympathy on those that went before him in his court with the charge of ‘driving on the sidewalks.’ Among the many that were convicted were Patrick MacDonald of Portugal Cove Road and Matthew Doyle of Freshwater Road who were before the good judge in the court for “driving the quadrupeds (horses) on the sidewalk” were each fined fifty cents and costs.
Judge Prowse was squarely on the side of the pedestrians as having rights above all other traffic!
Oh, how times have changed!
Recommended Archival Collection: At The Rooms Provincial Archives Division read the old newspaper accounts that give great insight into the events of the past. http://www.therooms.ca/archives/
Recommended Web Site: City of St. John’s Snow Clearing: http://www.stjohns.ca/living-st-johns/streets-traffic-and-parking/snow-clearing
Recommended to Read: One for the History Books: The Winter of 2000–01 in St. John’s, Newfoundland by Bruce Whiffen. http://www.easternsnow.org/proceedings/2002/021_Whiffen.pdf
Definition: Carman, a driver of a horse-drawn vehicle used for transporting goods.
(If you know the street location and or the approximate date of this photograph please contact me.)