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.
168 years ago January – February, 1856
Maryborough council held its opening session for 1856 on Jan. 21.
Councillors unanimously re-elected John McKeeman reeve. They then tapped Andrew Kilpatrick to be the auditor for 1856, and set the clerk’s salary at $70 for the year. After a lengthy discussion councillors struck a committee to examine the township’s bylaws and recommend changes and amendments. That was the second such review since the township government was established five years earlier.
Councillors looked favourably at a petition from Alex Kilpatrick and his neighbours. They wanted to use their statute labour to open and improve the sideroad between lots 9 and 10 in Concessions 15 and 16. They granted the request. After a second meal break council reconvened for a rare evening session. They dealt with a lengthy bylaw appointing the pathmasters, pound keepers, constables and other officials, and their rates of pay for 1856.
The next morning they wrestled with a new bylaw to regulate and licence inns and taverns. It included one of the first age restrictions in the area. Imbibers had to be 18, and apprentices were not allowed to drink even if they were older. Other rules required hotels to have at least five beds available, and stabling and feed for livestock and horses at all times. There were to be no Sunday sales of liquor. Stores were forbidden to sell liquor in quantities less than a full bottle.
Inspectors would see to the enforcement of the bylaw. Licensees had to post a bond of $80, plus two other sureties of $60 each. Violations carried fines of $20 to $40, and if not paid could result in forfeiture of property or a jail term of up to four months. It was by far the most restrictive liquor bylaw in the county up to that time.
Maryborough councillors gathered for a special meeting on Feb. 12, to refund overpayments by three ratepayers. They then adjourned until March 15.
County council convened in Guelph on Jan. 28 for a week-long winter session. Councillors trickled in for the first three days, each submitting papers signed by their township clerks verifying that they had been duly elected. John McKeeman represented Maryborough. Peel, with its larger population, was allowed two representatives: reeve John Walton and deputy reeve Bill Sturtridge.
Charles Allan, who had been warden in 1855, allowed his name to stand again. David Stirton of Puslinch was also nominated. Voting that first day resulted in a tie. More councillors arrived on the second day, most from the north of the county. Recognizing that the new men would be solid Allan supporters, Stirton nominated Allan the second day. Council elected him unanimously.
Later on Jan. 29 council learned that the governor general would arrive in Guelph the following day on a private trip over the Grand Trunk Railway, which was not yet officially in service. Council formed a special committee to put together a welcoming ceremony. Another committee was to discuss plans for a survey of a railway from Guelph to Owen Sound, an idea that was being pushed aggressively by Grey County. In his address the following day, warden Allan wanted to go one step further and appoint a committee to supervise a survey, rather than talk about one.
The committee overseeing the Elora and Saugeen Road offered its report on the fourth day. It included financial details for 1855, the first full year that the road had been under the control of the county, after the failure of the private company that had started to build the route. Expenditures had totalled $2,100. Of that, $432 had gone to the legal firm of Fergusson and Kingsmill to settle various civil matters, most of them inherited from the private company. Almost all the financial claims against the road company had been settled. Expenditures on construction included $620 to lay gravel from London Road in Guelph (then the northern boundary of the Royal City) to the junction with the Fergus Road at Marden. More gravel had been laid on rough portions all the way to Elora. Major work included cutting down the hill near Hurst’s tavern at Ponsonby. The balance of the money had gone to work between Elora and Teviotdale. With the various lawsuits settled and the road in reasonable shape between Guelph and Elora, settlers to the north looked forward to major work in 1856.
In other matters, county council approved the separation of Minto and Arthur townships into separate townships. They had been administered as a single entity up to that time. In road matters, councillors approved a $100 contribution to a bridge on the Peel-Woolwich town line, provided the two townships contributed $300.
Happy with the favourable outlook on transportation matters, council adjourned, to meet again in June 1856.
43 years ago May 1981
Peel Township’s councillors expressed unhappiness with their 1981 contribution to the Grand River Conservation Authority. It was up 13% to $18,000. Councillor Pat Salter requested a meeting with GRCA officials on May 19 for an explanation. The meeting brought little information to light. Jim Bauer of the GRCA tried to explain the authority’s budget but provided only vague answers to most of the questions posed by councillors, and was sometimes condescending in his tone. In the end, council could only shrug its shoulders and pay its portion.
The GRCA wasn’t the only government body with a ballooning budget. Wellington County’s 1981 budget pushed the county rate up 17%, and the public-school board came in at 13.5% over 1980 figures. Local councillors, to their dismay, realized that there was no way to keep the lid on 1981 tax increases.
Alma Public School marked Arbor Day with a tree planting, assisted by members of the Alma Horticultural Society.
The Peel Maryborough Drayton (PMD) Arena Board, after a deficit year, raised rates for the facility for the 1981-82 season. Ice time would rise from $75 to $80 per hour, the bar and kitchen from $25 to $30, and the arena floor from $175 to $200 per day. As well, they terminated all reduced rates and free uses.
On May 1 the County Roads Committee, led by warden Bill Adsett and engineer Al Holmes, spent the day touring Peel and Maryborough and discussing planned capital projects. Scheduled work included widening a section of Road 8 at Drayton westerly from the arena, estimated at $40,000; Road 10 in Maryborough from Rothsay to Highway 9, at $10,000 plus another $10,000 to refurbish the “Cheese Factory” bridge; and rebuilding the Centre Sideroad in Peel from Parker to Con. 15, at $165,000, $133,000 of which was for gravel.
The annual Clean-a-thon, organized by the Drayton Rotary Club, came off successfully on May 3. Squads of adult volunteers and school children combed roads in the Drayton area, gathering rubbish and recyclables.
The fifth annual mother-daughter breakfast, organized by the Catholic Women’s League, came off successfully with about 80 women and girls present.
Peel Township decided to hire a full-time and qualified building inspector. They tapped Paul Brubacher for the job. He had broad experience in the construction industry, and was a 1976 Conestoga College graduate in engineering technology. In other business, Peel councillors approved the 1981 PMD arena budget, except for a $6,000 expense for a sound system. The arena’s operating budget for the year would be $138,000, partially subsidized on a pro-rata basis by Peel, Drayton and Maryborough.
Drayton’s Lawn Bowling Club geared up for another season in early May. The lawn was in excellent shape, and members scheduled games for Tuesdays and Thursdays each week.
May 1981 saw a flurry of fundraising activity in the Alma area. The Alma Opti-Mrs Club raised $250 at a bake and garage sale. They directed $200 of that to new playground equipment in the hamlet. The Junior Optimists of Alma generated $297 selling bars to cover the cost of sending Barry Hall, Terry Sutcliffe and Steven Rowe to a Freedom Foundation convention in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. And Alma Presbyterian Church held a very successful bake sale during the month.
The Public School Board announced several transfers of principals, effective Sept. 1981. Arnold Davidson would move from Drayton to John Black School in Fergus. George Walker moved from Palmerston to take charge of Drayton Junior and Centre Peel. Bill Cherrey was named principal at Palmerston, and Robert Zirk principal for the Maryborough schools.
Drayton’s Seniors Club enjoyed a very successful May outing. A chartered bus provided by Cherrey Bus Lines took the group to a visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, and then on to Niagara, where a guide provided commentary on a three-hour tour.
Peel Township cautiously considered a switch to market value assessment. The concept was being pushed by the provincial government, and council agreed to conduct a study of the idea, to be financed by the province.
Both Drayton council and its citizens were shocked at the decision of the North Wellington Planning Board to turn down the rezoning application on a 50-acre parcel of land in Maryborough that was to be the site of Drayton’s sewage lagoon.
Opponents, including the Christian Farmers Organization, expressed delight at the ruling. They had expressed fears that the lagoon would generate odours, encourage vermin, squander good farm land, and pose future pollution dangers. There was also doubt about the viability of the lagoon system in cold weather. The decision put the entire sewer project planned for Drayton in jeopardy.
The province had announced it would subsidize only a lagoon system, not a full sewage treatment plant, and now the village had no place to put a lagoon.
*This column was originally published in the Drayton Community News on Jan. 6 and May 12, 2006.