The following is a re-print of a past column by former Advertiser columnist Stephen Thorning, who passed away on Feb. 23, 2015.
Some text has been updated to reflect changes since the original publication and any images used may not be the same as those that accompanied the original publication.
September – October 1877
146 years ago
The liquor question rose to the top of the political agenda on Sept. 27 when county council, by a vote of 28-13, authorized a plebiscite on prohibition in Wellington County, as permitted under the Dunkin Act.
Deputy-reeve Thomas Whale of Peel co-sponsored the measure at council, supported his request with a petition containing more than 2,000 names.
Burglars made off with a haul of $2,000 when they blew up the safe in Wortley’s store in Drayton. Much of the cash belonged to grain buyer L.A. Noecker. The thieves made a clean getaway.
The new flour mill in Moorefield opened Oct. 1, with a crowd of about 1,000 on hand to see the machinery start up, listen to speeches by local dignitaries, and dig into a substantial free lunch.
A road accident in early October claimed the life of Tom Morgan, who, at 65, was one of the oldest active farmers in Maryborough. Morgan was taking a wagon load of tan bark to the tannery in Stirton when the load shifted, startling the team. The horses bolted, pitching Morgan under the wheels of the wagon.
A private member’s bill to grant a charter for a projected railway line between Goldstone and Arthur was tabled in the provincial legislature. Proponents of the line had been active earlier in the year, but little had been heard over the summer. In October they commenced a new series of meetings. Arthur Village agreed to pay $500 of the initial expenses, and promised $10,000 of aid for construction. Peel council agreed to a similar sum, and there were hints at contributions from Arthur Township and West Luther. Thomas Whale of Peel and Mark Langdon of Luther were among the township directors appointed, based on the financial support of their municipalities.
Oct. 14 brought the anniversary service of the Alma Methodist Sabbath School. A huge social took place the following evening. Rather than the usual baked treats, the desserts featured peaches, pears, apples, grapes, and other fresh fruit.
Peel councillors enjoyed a relaxed schedule. They met at Stork’s Hall in Goldstone on Oct. 1 for their first session since Aug. 8. They had only minor items to deal with, mostly minor road and bridge repairs. The largest accounts were $15 for work on the Woolwich-Peel town line road (a sum to be matched by Woolwich), and $14 for the care of James Wilson, an indigent, who had to be taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Guelph due to serious illness. Councillors turned down a request for financial support for the Eye and Ear Infirmary in Toronto, but did send a letter to the provincial government, urging them to support the special hospital. Councillors then adjourned until Nov. 29.
Drayton council met several times during the fall at their usual venue, a room at the Commercial Hotel. On Sept. 18 they purchased 155 cubic yards of gravel at five cents per yard from William Armstrong. It was for various problem locations around the village. After much argument, councillors approved a plank sidewalk 10 feet wide on a portion of Wellington Street, and another six feet wide on Main Street, from Wellington Street to the bridge. An additional resolution authorized an arbitrator to negotiate with the Dales family for some property required to allow the opening of Wood Street to traffic.
On Sept. 28, Drayton council met to set the tax rate for 1877, but decided to postpone the discussion until November. The next meeting, on Oct. 13, began with an inspection tour of the new agricultural hall. Council accepted the work, which had been completed by Rogers & Co., requesting only the addition of two more 10 by 12-inch beams across a portion of the structure. The building was open in time for the 1877 Drayton Fall Fair.
In a mood to spend money, Drayton councillors discussed briefly a wooden- sidewalk to the railway station, but postponed a decision until November.
A sensational matrimonial affair scandalized Peel Township at the end of October. A prominent farmer in the township had lost his wife several years earlier, leaving him with seven young children. To look after the house and youngsters, he hired a widow from West Garafraxa, who had six young children of her own. Early in 1876 the farmer remarried, and dismissed the housekeeper, who returned to West Garafraxa, with her children, to stay with relatives. In the summer of 1877, she accepted a proposal of marriage. On Oct. 25, she boarded the train at Fergus, explaining that she was going to Drayton to get some items in preparation for her wedding. Instead, she got off the train at the Goldstone station. There she met her old employer, and the pair boarded the next train south. By morning, they were in Buffalo, leaving his new wife and her seven step-children abandoned in Peel, six children with relatives in West Garafraxa, and a very bewildered groom.
90 years ago
A tragic incident shocked the residents of Alma on Sept. 7. Robert Tschantz, who had taken over as the principal of the school two days earlier, went for a walk in the evening and was fatally struck by a passenger train bound for Palmerston. A note found in his room indicated it was a suicide, but the coroner’s jury on Sept. 15 ruled the death as accidental. He was only 22, and had grown up on a farm on Con. 16 of Peel.
Drayton council met early in the month to set the tax rate for 1933. It would be 30 mils, down from 32 in 1932.
Sept. 12 was the date for the Maryborough School Fair at Moorefield Park. Six country schools participated. Students competed in sections for grain, vegetables, root crops, flowers, livestock, poultry, sewing, cooking, farm mechanics, and pets. Many of the winners planned to compete the following week at the Drayton Fall Fair.
As the depression continued, Drayton area residents looked forward to the Fall Fair, held on Sept. 21 and 22. Crews were on site early in the month, bringing the grounds and track up to standard. Ideal weather brought out a huge crowd, and the exhibits were numerous and of a high quality. For some of the exhibitors, prize money constituted a sizable portion of the household income, and they spent a good part of the fall competing at fairs over a wide area.
The big show featured better sections for cattle and horses than usual, and the horse races were very popular. A trained dog act headlined the grandstand show. As usual, the fair opened with a parade of school children – more than 300 – representing Drayton and 11 country schools. For the first time, the student exhibits were set up in a separate area. The large number of entries filled the skating rink.
Brock Davis and the Drayton Elastic Band entertained both afternoons. The Bowman Radio Service of Mount Forest set up an amplifier and a large horn loudspeaker for use in making announcements. It was the first time that a public address system had been used at the event. A new competition was for the happiest looking couple at the fair. That honour went to Mr. and Mrs. Frank Johnson of Maryborough.
The fair ended with a dance at H.C. Helwig’s garage, which he cleared out for the occasion.
Most of the Drayton stores ran specials to take advantage of the crowds in town, expecting at least some to be in a spending mood. Several merchants offered across-the-board 10% discounts on the fair days for those paying cash. Farmers without electricity could refill their lamps with coal oil at 16 cents per gallon, and motorists could fill up at Drayton service stations for 19 cents per gallon (for younger readers, that works out to four cents per litre.)
Rothsay’s Anglican Church held its harvest festival on Sept. 17, with Archdeacon Scovill of Guelph in charge of the services.
A week later, Knox Church in Drayton held anniversary service, with Rev. James Fleming of Waterloo in the pulpit and music by the 50-voice Argos Male Choir of Guelph.
J.J, Morrison, the Arthur-area native who spent 40 years as a leader in farm organizations, announced that he would retire as secretary-treasurer of the United Farmers of Ontario. He was 72. He had been the leading figure in establishing the United Co-operatives of Ontario, and had turned down the position of premier of Ontario following the election of 1919.
Magnus Franklin of Glen Allan was killed while riding his bicycle on the Elmira-Alma Road on Sept. 18. His was the fourth highway fatality in the area during the summer of 1933.
O.B. Henry urged homeowners to buy their coal for the coming winter in advance. He had Lackawanna Brand anthracite available at his yard for $13 per ton, 50 cents more delivered in Drayton. Henry hinted that prices might be higher later in the season.
Zion Church at Bosworth held a “peaches and ice cream social” on Sept. 19. About 100 people attended, both members of the church and others living in the area.
The women of Rothsay’s United Church prepared a bale of clothing to be sent to Alberta. A minister there would look after local distribution to the needy. The group had previously sent clothing to the prairies on several occasions during the depression.
Maryborough council and the county co-operated in holding a sale of property for unpaid taxes on Sept. 20. On the block were farms of 90 and 172 acres, plus eight smaller parcels.
All municipalities were struggling to collect overdue taxes and they could sell the property when arrears were outstanding for four years or more.
Farmers with orchards ended the month picking apples and turning them into apple butter and cider.
*This column was originally published in the Drayton Community News on Oct. 4, 2002 and Sept. 12, 2008.