The Old Toll Gate
By Walter Kilborn Billings
Except for the buildings on our farm, the toll gate was the first building I can remember. It was located about ten rods east of our farm on the Lyn Road, and the design was similar to many gates in operation at that time. It had never been painted and had gradually weathered to a dark brown. The front door of the house opened to the road, and in front was a platform built to about the heaigh of the axles of a wagon, so that the keeper could receive the toll without getting out on the ground. An archway was built over the road and a gate was placed with hinges on the opposite side from the platform. A heavy post forming it this end of the gate ran up about twelve feet towards the roof through the hub of a cog-wheel. Across under the peak of the rook was located a heavy shaft of iron with a smaller cog-wheel that mashed into the other wheel. The ends of this shaft were secured by boxes or bearings. At the other end of the shaft just over the platform, a large wooden wheel about two feet across with a groove cut in the edge of it, was placed and an endless rope was laid in this grove. Another pulley was fastened to the post of the door and as you pulled on one side of this rope you opened or closed the gate, thus stopping any conveyance passing through until the driver paid the toll.
I remember this fee was three cents for a one-horse rig going one way, or five cents when you paid the return fare. For a team the toll was five cents for one way or eight cents for both ways. At the farm we were allowed to hire the gate by the year by paying five or six dollars for the term. Of course the toll-keeper could not collect for passing through when you were on farm work, drawing wood from the bush or driving to and from the sugar bush to gather the sap. There were always a few smart ones who at night would steal up quietly to the gate when it was open, then run their horse through before the keeper could get to the door. This practice sometimes resulted in the gate’s being shut on their return so that they were forced to pay both ways. Another scheme was to run the gate, and on the return trip to go around by the Week’s Place and come into village (Lyn) below the gravel pit and up the Mill Hill. Some villagers used this road all the time to save the five or eight cents toll. At one time there was a small work shop over behind the archway where the gate-keeper did a bit of carpenter work, and he told me that sometimes the boys would fasten the gate open and you had to go across the road and unfasten it before you could shut it.
There was another toll gate on this road, half a mle west of Brockville, but as we always had to go by my grandfather’s farm on our way to town, we did not use this gate, but went through by the Mine Road (Chemical/Old Red Road), as the second concession was then called. Also on the Perth Road there was a toll gate just north of the junctions where now where the William Street extension meets this road. However, this was not very satisfactory, as people would come to the second concession road, turn left and on till they came to a side road running in to town and by-pass this gate, which was later placed on the north-west corner of the second concession and the Perth Road. Then another gate was put across the Perth Road on the south side of the second concession and you either had to pay toll at this gate driving on it from the second concession or crossing over and down to the side road farther east. This plan did not last very long as it was not quite a mile to the town limits and thus you were not obliged to pay.
Speaking of the Lyn toll gate, I recall some memories, one when the old gate-keeper died and my mother took me down to see him as he lay in state there. He was bal-headed. I had never seen him without his little round cap on and it was a shock to see he did not have a bit of hair. At times the widow, Aunt Sally as she was called, was left alone at night, and mother was asked if one of us children could co down to sleep there. This usually was my job, and I can remember climbing up the narrow stairs to the bedroom. There were just the rafters and boards above me, and an old four poster bed with ropes laced each way from the sides and ends. A husk tick (Mattress) rustled each time you moved and the ropes squeaked in unison. On cold nights I slept under heavy wool blankets with a home made quilt made from homespun cloth that nearly took the skin off my face and hands. Those were horrible nights, but I thought I had to go there, and I can still fancy the heavy home-made quilt over me.
There was one compensation for this however. Behind the toll gate on the south side of the road was a lovely hill. You got on a sleigh borrowed from Aunt Sally, and started down the slope. One of my sisters was usually on in front, and we sailed smoothly to the gully at the bottom where the water had frozen. Down this gully we would go, but sometimes the water backed up at the bottom and covered the ice, and it was tricky to avoid sliding into it. Once we could not stop and went on until the water came up over the sleigh and we had to wade back and go home to Mother. When we were getting dry clothes on I remember she gave us a few spats for getting wet.
The old toll gate is gone. The gate-keeper is gone. The archway with its posters of auction sales, pictures of the coming circus, of giraffes, lions, tigers and elephants plastered on the inside of the wall behind the swinging gate, all are gone. The Lyn Road, once a gravelled muck hole, later laid with planks on cedar stringers that afterwards were forced up through the macadam surface by the frost, had been widened, graded and paved. Cars, trucks and buses now roar past. But in memory I can see Aunt Sally, standing like a sentinel on the platform waiting for a slow moving team to come to a stop. I can see the driver stand up, remove his mittens, unbutton his purse, open it and pick out five coppers from its depths, place them in his left hand , fold the purse and replace it in his pocket, button up his coat and hand the coins to the gate-keeper. But she counts the money saying “You owe me three cents more, my man! You went through yesterday and did not pay your toll”. So the driver unbuttons his coat, pulls out the pocket-book, picks out three more coppers, closes and uts the purse back in his pocket, buttons his coat and finally hands the money over Then she turns back into the house and slams the door hard. The driver looks at the door, puts on his mittens, sits down, draws the robes over his knees, gathers up the reins and drives on, meantime wondering how she remembered that he had gone through the day before without stopping. But that was her job, she kept the toll gate.
Taken from the booklet “How Dear to My Heart” by Lyn Native Walter Kilborn Billings.
The Lyn Road Toll Gate as told by Mrs. Mary MacArthur Chapman
The road was built and maintained as an investment, by a Company that built the gate and collected Toll as a business. It was rented out to the “Keeper” who paid a monthly rent out of the tolls and kept the rest as their pay.
I think that Grandfather Judson went into the gate when his son, William married Jane Everetts and took over the farm, which is now owned by the Hudson’s.
After Grandfather’s death on May 14, 1879, Grandmother kept on at the gate until about 1900. What happened after that I do not know. When I lived with Grandmother (1884-1890) the toll was three cents one way of five cents return for one horse and carriage. Five cents for a team and wagon one way, or eight cents return. Grandmother paid twenty dollars a month rent to someone in Brockville.
Some of the families who used the gate were: the Howard’s, Morrison’s, Rowesome’s, Billing’s, Gardiner’s and Brown’s.
The toll gate on te Lyn Road was closed December 1st, 1910.
Mrs. Chapman’s grandparents were Fairman Jusdon and Sally Clow, a granddaughter of William Clow and Sophia Strader.
Mary Chapman was a daughter of Nancy Malinda Jusdon and John B. MacArthur. She was born Sept 16, 1876 and died December 21, 1967. She was a frequent visitor to the Brockville district, her last visit being in June 1966, three months before her 90th Birthday.
Written by Mrs. Mary MacArthur Chapman, Grosse Point, Mich. March 5, 1967
It should be noted that the name “Lyn Road” no longer officially exists. The United Counties of Leeds and Grenville eliminated all county road names and went to a numbering system, so the once proud name of Lyn Road has been reduced to County Road 46, eliminating all traces of its’ place in history.