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Le Courant

Automne 2011 | 13

Street ligts

Street Lights It seemed that during the epoch of New France the streets in the city of Quebec were not illuminated. It was only after the fall of Quebec, in 1759, that the order was given to install lamps at the crossroads of certain streets and that these lamps should be extinguished at ten o'clock in the evening. It should be remembered that matches did not exist during this era and it was through a means of tinder, flints and various fire starters that one used to light candles of tallow, whale oil lanterns or kerosene lamps. In 1886, electric lighting from incandescent bulbs first made their appearance along the streets and later, in homes. At the same time as the electrictrical lighting system was being developed, Coaticook followed in the footsteps of these discoveries and the introduction of the system. We can read in the May 1890 issue of the newspaper L'Etoile de l'Est that the town council refused an extention in time to Mr. A.J. Corriveau for the formation of his company on the subject of electric lighting. This situation obviously led to the delay in establishing the electric lights along the streets but the council undertook to improve upon existing lighting, maintaining what equipment they already had and making sure citizens would not go without the electric light while also trying to avoid double expenditures. One mentions that consequently, in the face of this refusal for an extention, it is more than probable that the citizens still had to make use of lantern light if they went about during the evening. A short time later, in October 1890, the mayor and the councilors met to draw up a contract which would be presented to Mr. M. Beauchemin & Co. concerning lighting with electric lights. Mr. Beauchemin accepted the offer within four days and agreed at the same time to immediately work toward installing the electric light, as soon as possible, in the town of Coaticook. All concerns were then put into the hands of Mr. Beauchemin following the signature of the contract in the hopes that this contract would have more of an impact than the previous one had been. On October 24, 1890 it was learned that Mr. M. Beauchemin & Co. had received a wagon load of poles which were soon to be put in place for electric lighting much to the joy of the population as it was thought that everything would be ready by the end of November. During this month of November, the council received a new offer form Mr. Corriveau proposing that he would be able to light the streets and be ready for use by November 15th. The council had already hired Mr. M. Beauchemin & Co. He upheld his decision and remained confident in the project. The Beauchemin & Craig Company started the installation work before obtaining the lights. The following was written up the newspaper: ''This work would become an active priority. That is very good and high time as we have been living in an unproductive waiting period.'' These thoughts and hopes were not in vain because during the evening of January 1, 1891, the electric light was turned on for the first time. Unfortunately, an accident during the test run of the Dynamo sustained damage and put an end to this first attempt. The people would have to wait until the following Tuesday since repair work was carried out in Montreal. Employees worked night and day to complete the assigned work as well as other unforeseen repairs. The contract had stipulated that January 1st was to be the completion date, but before this work could be accomplished, the council decided to grant an extention of 30 days to the Beauchemin & Co. group, as a sign of good work by the contractors. We note in the newspaper on January 16th that Mr. M. Beauchemin & Co. acknowledged a certain delay while at the same time assuring the reader that the Dynamo was in perfect condition. The article went on to say that, just the same, the people of Coaticook were extremely anxious that the actual operations were begun. The Dynamo in question or other components had, without a doubt, encountered difficulty because on January 30th it was written that it seemed like the electrical machinery had at last arrived and lighting should be available by that evening. We can also read that, ''Hopefully this success will be more conclusive than the first or second attempt.'' An indomitable spirit was necessary because the lighting of the streets was not an easy thing to do since it required a lot of work relying on the support and performance of certain machinery whose capabilities were not yet wholly understood. The intent was of a success during this time, and the newspaper dated February 6 tells us that another 60-day extension had been granted to Mr. M. Beauchemin & Co. to fulfill their contract with the corporation to light the town. This was due to the fact that on the third trial run the Dynamo once again caught on fire. This time it was decided to order a new Dynamo which would arrive within a few days. Following these efforts, the town was at last lit by electric light beginning Saturday, February 7, 1891. It could be read, ''We are aware that all of the work is not completed but we are very happy to confirm that the light given is wonderful and that the distribution of the lanterns has been well done. A good part of the town was now found to be lighted, however, the section known as Coaticook North, was still yet to be done. On February 20, 1891 it was announced that electrical power had now been provided to Coaticook North and that the motor supply had been doubled in force. Following this information we learn that, in March 1891, Mr. M. Sleeper & Akhurst were in the process of putting in a water wheel which would furnish a supply to the Dynamo used by the electric light of the town. It is not too difficult to state that lighting had finally been established. It was, therefore, February 1891 that the town was lit for the first time. In June 1893, Mr. F.H. Sleeper went on to create a new invention. It can be told that up to this time a man was obliged to be on hand to manually stop the motor supply but thanks to Mr. Sleeper this would no longer be necessary. Mr. Sleeper invented an alarm system which would stop the motor automatically at whatever hour set making it no longer necessary for anyone to come in from their home to perform the manual stop. An article in the newspaper L'Etoile de l'Est published June 9, 1893 demonstrated the pride of such an accomplishment, ''Indeed we are living in an age of progress.'' In 1890 the Forepaugh Circus passed through the Eastern Townships. They gave demonstrations on electric lighting in the towns of sheaucheminerbrooke, Coaticook and Richmond. Recherches: Michel Guimond Textes Francine Ferland

Le Courant

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