The beginning of a legacy.
In the beginning it was nothing more than one man trying to prove he was better than the next. Although that is still the basis of the sport, it has changed in many ways.
In 1848 the Saint John area was a booming place of industry, boasting the title of one of the most important ports in the British Empire. The Village of Renforth was then called The Chalet and consisted of a train station, a few summer homes of prominent social figures, and the Kennebecasis River.
The river is not what you would normally think of when the word "river" is used, at least not the part that runs through Renforth. The area where rowing took place on the Kennebecasis was sometimes quoted by reporters as resembling a "Lake" or "bay".
In the 19th Century the river was a main form of transportation and a necessary part of the famous log drives. The growing interest in the sport of rowing led to rivalries between communities and to the formation of a particularly successful Saint John Crew.
The place was Paris, France and the event was an International Regatta on the 7th and 8th of July, 1867. Elija Ross, Samuel Hutton, George Price, and Robert Fulton, decked out in pink caps and suspenders weren't given a second glance, other than from those who criticized their boat's structure, their physical strategies and their attire. (Pink remains KRC's colour today) It was the first time Canada had ever represented itself at any international competition since their separation from Britain the week before.
When the day was finished the young Canadians had beaten the Europeans at their own sport and it was not a close race. They would later be dubbed the "Paris Crew" and would continue to be the undefeated world champions of rowing for three years.
In 1870 The Paris Crew were defeated in Quebec by the British team from Tyne, England. The Saint John crew protested the results because of the rough conditions which half filled their boat at the end of the race. A "Grudge Match" was set between the newly found rivals for the following summer in New Brunswick. It took place on August 23rd, 1871 on the Kennebecasis River near The Chalet.
It was a tragic event and, although the home team won, there would be no celebrating. The stroke of the Tyne crew was Jame Renforth and the other crew members were James Percy, Robert Chambers and Harry Kelley. James Renforth was England's star athlete and excelled in rowing, his fame was comparable to that of Canada's Wayne Gretzky.
Half a mile into the six mile race, James Renforth fell back into the arms of the second man, Kelley. He became suddenly weak and died shortly after the other men rowed him to shore.
Thirty years after the death of this significant man, the community residing in the place of his final moments decided to change their name to Renforth. And this is how the legacy began.
For more history of rowing in Saint John follow some of these links to stories we have found elsewhere on the web.
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