An important feature of Morpeth’s great days was the Morpeth-Thamesville stage which was established in 1864 after the building of the Great Western Railway. The stage handled passengers, express, baggage and mail for all points between the port of Morpeth and Thamesville. These coaches were anything but comfortable with the travellers being pitched and jostled about as the coach bumped along. One of the first stage-coach drivers from Morpeth was Miles McDonald in 1872. Others from the area were Tom Sheppy and Leon Poulin, who continued to drive the stage for fifteen years. There were also several daily coach lines operating on the Talbot Road. In 1913 with the advent of the rural mail delivery the stage coach business was discontinued.
The old stage drivers had many interesting tales to relate since travel through mud and snow made the going often almost impossible. Some of these stories, however, one wonders about, such as the following.
One day as the faithful stage driver was wearily wending his way home he noticed it seemed to be getting quite dark. As he glanced back over his shoulder he noticed large black ominous clouds behind him. Soon the thunder was rumbling and the lightning was streaking across the threatening sky. He immediately slapped the lines on the horses getting them to take off at full speed. The drenching rain in the distance was fast approaching. He urged his horses on faster and faster. Would that storm overtake him or could he keep ahead of it? That was the big question in his mind.
Would you believe it? When he pulled into the barn in Morpeth he found his dog in the back of the coach drowned but neither he nor the mail was even damp!
Timetable of Stage Coach 1884-85 (Soutar’s Almanac)
- Stage between Morpeth and Thamesville
– Leaves Morpeth – 6:00 am or to connect with mail trains going East – fee .25c
– Leaves Ridgetown for Thamesville – 7:00 am – fee .50c
– Leaves Thamesville for return at 4:00 pm
- Stage between Morpeth, Blenheim and Chatham
– Leaves Chatham at 8:00 and arrives in Morpeth at noon.
– Leaves Morpeth for return trip 1:30 and arrives back in Chatham at 5:00. Return fare $1.75 – single fare $1.00.