The Farmers' Bank of Rustico
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Farmers' Bank of Rustico

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Father Belcourt

Animations - First Car

"Father Belcourt's Adventure"

Father Belcourt Goes for a Drive.

In 1866, on June 24, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, a great picnic was held on the church grounds at Rustico where nearly 1,000 people had assembled. This was the occasion selected by Father Belcourt for the trial trip of his new vehicle. There was a band and people looked on in anticipation.

A reporter from the Charlottetown Examiner was there to capture the news of the day. In the July 5, 1866 issue of the Examiner he described the main event of the day.

"In the afternoon , a steam carriage was put in motion and with wonder and delight was observed steaming away for half a mile on the road and back again, at a fast speed, after which the meeting dispersed in good order, all appearing well pleased with the day's proceedings."

Rev. John MacMillian in his book, The Catholic Church in Prince Edward Island, describes the event differently.

"The starting point was near the church, and for a short distance the machine moved in an orderly and well-behaved manner, but soon manifested a spirit of independence quite unusual in mechanical appliances, and put on a burst of speed without let or hindrance on the part of the driver or chauffeur. Presently it became altogether unmanageable, left the beaten track of its own accord and finally became entangled in a fence by the wayside, where it came to a sudden and inglorious halt."

Marjorie (Hooper) Dalziel in her research on Father Belcourt's wagon writes as follows:

"While the band played, Father Belcourt got into his red steam wagon. The people were overcome by the sight. There was Father Belcourt driving away from the church in a wagon without horses. The only noise came from the engine as the car made its way over the road. The people followed the wagon as fast as they could. It ran beautifully until it came to a turn in the road at South Rustico. Before Father Belcourt or the onlookers knew what had happened the car had run off the road. The beautiful steam wagon ended up on the grass. It had driven for one half mile only."

The reason for the mishap was understandable. Father Belcourt was unfamiliar with such contraptions and the vehicle had picked up speed going down the road. The machine did not have a breaking mechanism so Father Belcourt lost control of the steam wagon and landed on the grass in a grove of trees. The carriage of the steam wagon was beyond repair. No one knows what eventually happened to the vehicle but it is said that the steam engine was used to propel a stone wheel in a grist mill for many years after the mishap.

Father Belcourt's adventure with a steam wagon in 1866 gave Rustico the distinction of being the site of the first motor car in Canada, as well as the dubious honour of being the location of the first motor vehicle accident as well.

It Was Almost Forty Years Until the Next Automobile Arrives on PEI

It was not until 1900 that the second motorized vehicle appeared on the Island. It was not a popular devise and people protested its use on Island roads. The vehicles were noisy and scared horses which created a danger to the public. Legislation was passed declaring the use of automobiles on the Island roads to be illegal. The bill was eventually rescinded. However up until the year 1913, there were only three or four automobiles allowed to operate province wide.

Father Belcourt's Adventure

The animation below shows "Father Belcourt" getting into a type of steam car he might have driven. It then moves until it hits a tree and turns on it's side. ( 323 KB )

Car Crash
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