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.
117 years ago
News of the arrest of former county constable Conrad House for cattle theft startled local residents. He had served in north Wellington for more than 20 years, was known by everyone, and had a reputation for impeccable honesty. An Owen Sound court sentenced him to 60 days in the hoosegow.
Rothsay was a hive of activity in October 1901. At the beginning of the month the Methodist Sunday school put on a big rally, with visitors from many churches in the area. A special guest was Rev. John Hellyar, a former Rothsay boy who had moved to western Canada. The rally ended on Oct. 7 with a fowl supper at the church, complete with vocalists and instrumental music from the Drayton Orchestra.
A week after the Sunday school rally, the Rothsay lodge of the Canadian Order of Foresters held a parade and special service, with delegations from Harriston, Moorefield. Wallace, Drayton. Palmerston, Hollin and Teviotdale. The Foresters lined up in formation at their lodge building and paraded around Rothsay before heading to the Presbyterian Church, where they heard an address from Rev. John Hellyar, a founding member of the Rothsay lodge. He had spent the previous week visiting with old friends.
Rothsay’s cheese factory was in full production, making shipments of cheddar regularly through the fall. The cheese was aged only about two months before shipment. The average price, a little above nine cents a pound, delighted local dairy farmers.
Several fires, started by accident and by spontaneous combustion, destroyed barns in the area. Most serious was that of Sam Wilson at Lot 6, Con. 11 of Wallace, near Palmerston. An overturned lantern set fire to a pile of straw. The flames destroyed his large barn, much of his livestock, and his entire grain crop.
Maryborough’s council bit the bullet and authorized expenditures for a new bridge at Moorefield, following the collapse of the old one. At their October meeting they paid $100 to John Cameron, who had lost a horse when the bridge collapsed a month earlier. Immediately after the collapse council had made some temporary repairs, but these caused further accidents and a couple more claims for damage. The township quickly signed a contract with the Warren Steel Truss Bridge Co. for a new structure, with a 14-foot roadway and 4-foot sidewalk.
With a provincial election in the near future, the Conservatives of the West Wellington riding met at Drayton on Oct. 16. They selected a new riding executive, but left the choice of a candidate to a committee, which was to report to a later meeting to be held in Palmerston.
“Blind” Trooper Malloy served up the most popular entertainment of the month at his appearance in Drayton. A British soldier blinded in the Boer War, Malloy had taken to the stage with a two-hour mixture of song and stand-up comedy entitled “The Bright Side of Life on the Veldt.”
In late October work was almost complete on the addition and renovation to the Stirton Post Office. Pollock’s Flax Mill Store was scheduled to move in before year end, following a moving sale at the old flax mill that had been under way for most of 1901.
In late October the Drayton branch of the Traders Bank moved to new quarters at Main and Wellington. The bank had spent a considerable sum on renovations to make the interior the equal of any big-city banking office.
In late October the last group of Peel and Maryborough residents ventured to Buffalo to take in the Pan American Exhibition. The big show was to close on Nov. 2. Another group from Parker went to Toronto for a few days to see the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of York on their royal tour of Canada.
While some people took fall vacations, others planned to move to the Canadian west. Among these was Joel Boyle of Peel Township, who purchased 960 acres near Regina for homesteads for himself and his sons. Auctioneers were busy with farm sales during October 1901, as farms changed hands at good prices. A 20-year slow decline in farm prices ended in the late 1890s, and by October 1901 good farm land changed hands at between $45 and $50 per acre.
Directional signs appeared for the first time at intersections of township roads in Peel and Maryborough. It was not a municipal project, but rather, a promotional scheme by Drayton hardware merchant L.A. Noecker. The signs displayed arrows pointing to Dravton and the number of miles to Noecker’s store.
92 years ago
North Wellington’s public school teachers held a teachers’ convention at the Mount Forest library on Oct. 7 and 8.
They heard several lectures and watched performances by dramatic and musical groups from the Mount Forest schools. Most of the program consisted of short talks by the teachers themselves to share their successful teaching methods, particularly with new curriculum additions such as household science and health.
High school students from Drayton, Harriston, Arthur, Wingham and Listowel descended on Mount Forest for the annual field day on Oct. 8, with total attendance at the 1,500 mark.
Most of the churches scheduled special services during October. Holy Trinity in Alma staged its harvest home on Oct 3. A week later, St. James in Rothsay held its harvest home, Drayton Anglican its Thanksgiving service, and Stirton United held morning and evening anniversary services, all with guest ministers and special music. Goldstone United’s anniversary service took place on Oct. 17, and the same day the Glenallan and Hollen United churches combined for a joint service at Hollen. Last of the special services was the harvest home at Alma United on Oct. 24.
Maryborough council spent much of its October meeting discussing an extension to the Kells drain, following the submission of a petition by Andrew Lennox and a group of his neighbours. Council voted to have an engineer study the proposal and prepare a drainage plan.
Peel council’s meeting of Oct. 18 involved the paying of accounts and other matters related to a recent outbreak of smallpox. Several houses had been placed under quarantine, and the local board of health had been busy monitoring the situation.
County Council visited Drayton on Oct. 13 to see the paving project for the street to the station, which was completed the very morning of the visit. This was the first use of asphalt by the county. The quality and the cost saving over concrete impressed the councillors.
The paving of Moorefield’s main street was completed the same week. County council had planned to pave the main street of Clifford as well, but postponed the work to 1927 due to wet weather.
Wellington’s Junior Farmers held their annual banquet and awards presentation at the Guelph Armouries on Oct. 15, with a large contingent from Peel and Maryborough. The evening featured speeches by Premier Fergusson and President Reynolds of the Ontario Agricultural College. During his remarks, the Premier announced that his government was considering an educational broadcasting system aimed at farmers. Music awards went to Isobel Henderson and the Monarch Orchestra of the Drayton area. Douglas Reid received a trophy for livestock judging. The most popular recipients were the members of the Goldstone girls’ baseball team, winners of the area championship that year.
Election fever was in the air, and Premier Howard Fergusson confirmed the rumours when he dissolved the legislature on Oct. 18 for a general election on Dec. 1. His Conservative government was proposing to ease out of prohibition through a system of local options and the sale of liquor through government-run outlets. He wished a mandate for the measures. The Liberals had selected their candidate almost a year earlier: Dr. George McQuibban of Alma, a staunch temperance man. The Conservatives scheduled a nomination meeting for Arthur on Nov. 1. Confusion prevailed in the ranks of the Progressive Party. W.E. Raney had received the local nomination, but then turned it down. Meanwhile, local temperance groups geared up for a lively campaign.
The first snowfall of the season came on the night of Oct. 17, producing glee in the hearts of winter sports fans. The accumulation was about an inch. Most of it melted by the following afternoon.
A fire of unknown origin destroyed the large barn of councillor John Armstrong on Concession 16 of Maryborough. He also lost his entire 1926 crop.
Another fire broke out on Drayton’s main street, but the volunteers extinguished the blaze before it could flare up into a major conflagration, thanks to the new fire engine, purchased by the village earlier in the year.
The fire underlined the importance of a reliable source of water. Drayton council continued to review plans for the proposed waterworks system.
*This column was originally published in the Drayton Community News on Oct. 19 and 26, 2001.