By Devonna Edwards, Columnist
The Omnibus was a large, enclose wheeled vehicle that was horse powered. It was used for passenger transport before the introduction of motor vehicles. The bus was described as having two wooden benches along the sides of the passenger cabin with the passengers facing each other. The driver sat on a separate, front-facing elevated bench outside the passenger enclosed cabin. Many Omnibuses were double decker buses which had an upper deck that was uncovered, and they contained long benches that were arranged back-to-back. They were overcrowded most of the time with people, products, and all sorts of material.
William H. Deal will be remembered for his association with the old omnibus line, which for years connected Dutch Village Road with the city of Halifax. Prior to the 1860s public transportation in Halifax relied on horse-drawn cabs and coaches.
Early in the 1870s Col. B. H. Hornby, an American who had come to Halifax at the close of the Civil War, had established a line from Willow Park. Mr. Fry was the driver of Hornby’s bus for a year or so before George Weaver, a tall, burly, red faced man then conducted it until 1895. His Omnibus was a yellowish colour and had a diagram of horses’ heads on the curved side-panels and on the door-apron which protected the rear steps. The driver sat at the front of the roof, with a foot-strap to keep the door closed and a powerful footbrake. Behind him, in the fare-opening was a gong with a mallet (made a sound like a loud bell) which the passengers could signal when they wanted him to stop. In winter a sleigh-bus was often used but frequently overturned in the deep snow.
William Deal conducted the Dutch Village Omnibus line from 1875 to about 1892. He stored his Omnibus in a barn on his property. William’s house was located on the west side of Dutch Village Road (today known as Westerwald Street), near the bottom of what was to become Melrose Avenue in Fairview. William’s property also contained a large barn yard, barn, and other out-buildings. It was situated on the Dutch Village Lot No. 6 originally assigned to a German settler named Gottlieb Schermuller by the general land grant dated April 28, 1763. The house now standing on the site may have contained the frame of an earlier dwelling, but the outward form no doubt dated from the time of William H. Deal who was born in 1831. Today the house on that site, may possibly be William’s old homestead and if so, it would make the house the oldest in the Fairview area.
In February 1875 a company, with a capital of $2,000, was formed to operate a line from the Dutch Village. The Omnibus made its first appearance on April 29, 1875, running three trips a day to the Halifax post office (Cheapside), via Dutch Village Road, Quinpool Road, Cunard, and Cogswell Street. William Deal operated the bus line for seventeen years before he retired in 1892. William Deal died on May 24, 1904.
On May 3, 1892, Thomas Robinson (with Harry Innis as driver) started a new bus line which ran from W.H. Webb’s gate (Ashburn Golf Club) via Dutch Village, Quinpool and Bell Roads, South Park Street, Spring Garden Road, Blowers and Granville Streets to Kenny’s Corner (corner of Granville and George Streets) at the Kenny-Dennis Building. Special trips were made on Sundays.
The Dutch Village line, after operating for several years, went out of operation as the tramlines extended their routes.