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.
113 years ago
After cold weather and snow for Christmas, a thaw during the first week of January turned township roads into muddy obstacles courses.
Then the thermometer plummeted again for a couple of weeks, until a second thaw on Jan. 20. Colliding weather fronts that morning caused a severe wind storm, toppling chimneys and windmills, stripping the roofs off several barns, and uprooting trees everywhere. Warm weather melted sufficient ice to cause the Conestogo River to flood, dumping huge chunks of ice along its banks at Glen Allan.
The Wellington branch of the volunteer Ontario Fish and Game Protective Association took a dim view of those hunting deer out of season, and cooperated with the game warden in identifying and pressing charges against violators. Some hunters had been ignoring the regulations, and deer had virtually disappeared in much of Wellington 100 years ago, hunted almost to extinction.
Municipalities held elections early in the month. Drayton’s new council was acclaimed.
In the townships, though, the contests were lively ones, especially for reeve. The incumbents held their seats in both Peel and Maryborough, though majorities were not large. A surprise in Peel was the defeat of Glen Allan miller W.C. Quickfall for a seat on council. His loss caused much resentment in the Glen Allan area. Most people conceded that the bad roads kept the turnout down from what it might have been.
The police village of Moorefield returned its three trustees by acclamation: John McKay, Richard Greenwood and Jacob Gabel.
The West Wellington Farmers Institute put together a day-long instruction program for farmers, featuring future Ontario premier B.C. Drury. Session subjects included the breeding and feeding of beef cattle, weeds, and the social side of farming. The Women’s Institute offered sessions at the same time for farm wives, and the evenings featured music and entertainment. The sessions were held at Glen Allan on Jan. 10, Drayton on Jan. 11, and Moorefield on Jan. 14.
Farmers looking for more detailed instruction could sign up for one of the free short courses at the Ontario Agricultural College. A one-month course featured beef cattle, crops, poultry and dairying.
Francis Green’s Concert Company played the Drayton Town Hall for three days. The program of plays and music delighted local audiences, and was endorsed by local ministers as a moral and wholesome show.
The new provincial education act, setting minimum teachers’ salaries at $300, came into effect Jan. 1, but opposition remained strong. Several farmers groups sent petitions and delegations to Queen’s Park to argue for a return to the status quo. Bowing to the pressure, Premier Whitney increased grants, offering a 40% subsidy for salary amounts in excess of the minimum. That meant that a $400 salary would rate a $40 payment from the province. There were also new and improved grants for other local school expenses. The new legislation had already resulted in a big increase in teachers college enrolment.
Many of the churches in the area held their annual meetings in January. Drayton’s Presbyterian Church met Jan. 8, and the books showed it in a prosperous condition, with income of $1,660 in 1906. The women of the church held a tea on Jan. 22, featuring the Drayton Orchestra, the church choir and the Drayton Quartette. Tea and biscuits cost 25 cents, with proceeds to mission work.
Drayton’s chapter of the Royal Templars of Temperance scheduled its annual meeting on the same night as the Presbyterians. Mrs. R.J. Slimrnon and Ross McEwing were among the executive for 1907. A week later, 22 Templars went to Harriston for a meeting of the district council. That session decided to protest against the 3/5 clause in the legislation, requiring a 60% majority vote for prohibition to be brought in. Even with the bar that high, several municipalities had voted themselves dry in local option votes in January.
The Peel and Maryborough Mutual Fire Insurance Company’s annual meeting brought smiles to all present. Business was up, with 219 new policies in 1906. The company had about $4,000,000 of policies, and cash in the bank of more than $9,000. The meeting discussed lowering rates, but decided not to. William Christian was elected president for 1907.
Prices for farms remained strong in the new year. Adam Cunningham sold his farm near Hollen for $5,500.
138 years ago
Municipal elections for 1882 were quiet affairs throughout the area, except for Peel Township.
The reason for the intense interest there is not entirely clear, but ratepayers may have been upset over high costs associated with several surveys and cases of disputed property ownership and road allowances. Robert McKim, the 1881 Peel reeve, chose not to run. The first deputy reeve of 1881, John Harcourt, moved up, successfully deflecting a comeback challenge by James Cross, who had been reeve in 1880. Councillor Tom McManus moved up to Harcourt’s old deputy-reeve’s chair, defeating an opponent by 50 votes, and Joel Boyle defeated incumbent Rudd, the second deputy reeve, by a mere five votes. Electors sent Tom Whale and John Stickney to the table as councillors.
Drayton’s 1881 council held its final meeting on Jan. 9, 1882. The reason for the late session was to wind up some sidewalk repair work commenced in November of the previous year. Councillors approved the bills for that work, some printing, and for the hall rent for the election. All were to be charged to the 1881 financial year.
A week later the clerk swore in reeve S.P. Emes and the new council. That Jan. 16 session was largely a ceremonial one. Reeve Emes was late in arriving at the first business session on Jan. 23. Most of that meeting was occupied with discussion about some protested tax bills. The major one was from the Great Western Railway, claiming the company had overpaid $400 over the previous years on the property taxes on its station facilities.
At the next, meeting, on Feb. 4, council accepted the resignation of treasurer H.S. Proctor. That produced some problems: Proctor had deposited money in his own name, rather than that of the village. That resulted in some lengthy discussions with the Bank of Montreal, and eventually required the signing of several agreements.
Council met again nine days later, but there seem to have been some informal meetings in the interval. The main topic that night was to raise the village’s line of credit with the bank in order to purchase some firefighting equipment. In other business, council set the annual salaries for 1882: $75 for the clerk, $16 for the treasurer, $10 for the assessor, and $I6 for the tax collector.
Maintaining its policy of frequent but short meetings, Drayton council convened again on Feb. 27. That night there was a petition to consider, from Martin Schneider and 57 others, asking that council provide for shop licences – that is, licences for grocery stores selling liquor, in addition to the licences granted annually to hotels. After a lengthy discussion, council approved a new licencing bylaw, permitting up to five hotels at an annual licence of $100 each, and two shops at $120 each. The licence revenue provided a significant portion of the municipal income.
Word that council had reached a compromise with the Great Western Railway on its taxes had circulated around town, and encouraged others to protest their own taxes. The owners of the Drayton Planing Mill appeared before council, asking for a break. Council rejected the request.
Peel’s first council meeting of 1882, on Jan. 16, included both the swearing-in ceremonies and a business session led by new reeve John Harcourt.
A couple of disputed road allowances had caused headaches for the 1881 Peel council. The matters were resolved at the end of the year, but the bills were still coming: $20.80 and $79.50 for surveyor ‘F.F. Passmore; $100 in legal costs to the township’s solicitors Guthrie, Watt and Cutten; and $29.90 in expenses to Robert McKim. Council paid its 1881 printing bill of $34 to Stovell & Sons of Mount Forest, and asked for tenders for the 1882 work.
A bridge on Centre Sideroad at Con. 1 was reported in poor shape. Council delegated two of its members to inspect it and bring recommendations to a future meeting.
The next meeting, on Feb. 2, was taken up largely with appointing the various township officials for the year. A major surprise was the resignation of clerk Michael Robson. Council appointed Magnus Henderson to take over his duties. Apparently having no desire to venture out to another winter meeting, council adjourned until April 17.
Population figures from the 1881 census came out in mid February. For many municipalities in Wellington, these would be the high water mark, never to be equaled again for more than a century. Drayton had 587 residents, Maryborough 4,551 and Peel 5,024. Palmerston, with 1,536, had declined by more than 500 since the mid 1870s, but would recover with expanded railway facilities over the coming two decades.
Liquor licencing figures for 1881 also were released that month. Wellington County had 123 licenced hotels. Drayton had five, Palmerston seven, Maryborough six, and Peel eight. There were 23 shop licences (stores licenced to sell by the bottle). Of those, Drayton and Palmerston had one each.
During 1881 some 36 people had been jailed for public drunkenness; that was down from 40 in 1880.
*This column was originally published in the Drayton Community News on Jan. 5 and 12, 2007.