Lowe, James: The King's Highway

The King's Highway

by Jim Lowe

The King's Highway.

In 1908, my great-grandfather and namesake, James Low, drove an automobile from Ottawa to Port Hope.

Also on the trip were his three oldest sons, John, James, and William. Unfortunately my grandfather, being the fourth oldest son, was not on this trip. The trip included visits to Niagara Falls and Buffalo, but they left the car in Port Hope and took a steamer from there to Niagara-on-the-Lake and from there took a train to Niagara Falls and Buffalo. The trip from Ottawa to Niagara Falls took five days, with the trip to Port Hope probably taking three days.

Where is thisToll Gate?

A photo album of the trip was made by my granduncle John Low and placed in an album with a few comments. His daughter (my father’s first cousin) Arline Low/Brackenridge of Ottawa, now age 90, loaned me the album and I scanned the pictures. One was of particular interest, as it was purported to be the Toll Gate at Port Hope. During my research of local landmarks of this trip, I was astounded to discover on the website Cobourg and District Images a picture described as the Toll gate at Grafton, Ontario in 1913 which looked very similar to my great-grandfather’s picture taken just five years earlier.

I thought “I guess all toll gates looked similar about that time.” I then examined the picture on the web site more closely and compared it with the one taken by my great grandfather. The fence looked the same. The utility poles in the background appear the same, even the one tilted at an angle. All the small features on the toll gate house look exactly the same. I came to the conclusion the two pictures were of the same toll gate, taken five years apart.

Now, the question is: was the toll gate in Grafton or Port Hope? I suspect Grafton. The album was prepared a month or so after the trip, and perhaps it was just recalled as a toll booth on the way to Port Hope.

What make of car was on that trip? My 90-year old cousin recalls hearing a story from her father that her grandfather James Low once had a Maxwell. Searching the internet for cars of the early twentieth century, it appears very similar to the Maxwell Touring Car of the period. Can anyone identify the car?

James Low was born in Montrose, Scotland in 1861. He came to Canada in 1886 and immediately settled in Ottawa to establish a carpentry and contracting business. He married Martha Ashe in 1888. They had eleven children, three of whom died in infancy. He died by drowning in the Rideau Canal in 1919.

The entire album can be seen on my web site with the title “The King’s Highway” at:


The picture at the Cobourg and District Images site is at:


Clicking on the image at that site will give a larger image.