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.
115 years ago – January 1907
After cold weather and snow for Christmas, a thaw during the first week of January turned township roads into muddy obstacle 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 its banks, 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. All were the same as 1906, except for Dr. Coram, who stepped down. Former reeve George Fox took his place at the table with reeve Henry Irvine and councillors E.G. Haack, John Ritch, and Henry Gibb.
In the townships, though, the contests were lively ones, especially for the reeveships. The incumbents held their seats in both Peel and Maryborough, though majorities were not large. In Maryborough George Dickson defeated George Brooks by 11 votes. In Peel, in a three-way race, George Wallace received 353 votes, to 287 for Ed Gamer and 91 for J.M. Clarke. 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 Jan. 11, and Moorefield 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, 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 their 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.
45 years ago – January 1977
Local councils lost no time in getting to work in 1977.
Peel Township met on Jan, 3. The main order of business was a list of appointments to various boards and committees. Councillors authorized the clerk to borrow up to $300,000 to cover expenses until first instalment tax payments, due March 21.
Maryborough, meeting the same evening, also dealt with the year’s appointments. Things were a little livelier at Drayton the next evening. Henry Wimmenhove appeared with his consultants, upset that the Ministry of Environment was now requiring soil tests before approving his new subdivision. He wanted council to guarantee that they would grant approval before he undertook the tests. He was also worried that the additional expense would price the lots out of the market.
Drayton council also considered a proposal from the Peel and Maryborough Mutual Fire Insurance Co. to sell them a small park on Wood St., east of the cenotaph. The company wanted to construct a 1,500-square-foot office. Their existing facilities had become too cramped. Council deferred a decision that night, but approved the sale later in the month for $7,500.
Drayton council pleased the Kinsmen Club by approving a lottery. The Club proposed to sell 1,000 tickets at $25 each, with a total of $7,500 in prizes, and the proceeds to the new arena fund.
Construction continued on the new Drayton arena through the winter as weather permitted. By mid-month the committee put the total cost of the project at $677,457, and advised the public that they needed more donations to qualify for the maximum available in provincial matching grants. The project remained on schedule for a July 1977 completion.
Many dairy farmers in the area went to Toronto during the second week of January for the Milk Marketing Board annual convention.
Back at home, the Moorefield Horticultural Society got the new year under way with its annual meeting and a pot luck supper. The Alma Horticultural Society held its annual meeting a few days later, on Jan. 13. Mary Farrelly agreed to continue for another year as president.
Drayton’s Rotary Club reported a successful sale of Christmas cakes, with more than a ton distributed. The campaign produced net proceeds of more than $1,400.
On Jan 14, the Seniors Club in Drayton enjoyed pleasant performances from 14 girls of Calvin Christian School. The young thespians and musicians presented a varied program of skits, readings, and instrumentals.
Fire destroyed the barn of Bob Martin, near Alma, on the morning of Jan. 15. With the assistance of neighbours, he succeeded in removing the livestock. Later that same day, much activity got under way, despite very cold temperatures. In Alma, about 150 turned out for public skating on the outdoor rink maintained by the Optimist Club. Volunteers served free hot chocolate and hot dogs.
To the west, the Drayton Agricultural Society held its annual meeting the same evening. Due to a larger-than-expected list of prize winners at the show, the society suffered a deficit of $500 in 1976. A pot luck supper and a slide show, featuring pictures of Belize taken by Brian Hammond of Moorefield, bracketed the formal meeting. Bruce Schieck took over as president for 1977.
Also on Jan. 15, Goldstone’s community club held a euchre at the home of Angus Franklin, with several prizes given. A similar group was active in the Parker area, scheduling evenings of euchre at members’ houses on a rotating basis.
The Moorefield Optimist Club celebrated its eighth anniversary on Jan. 22, with guests from a half dozen neighbouring clubs sitting down to a pot luck supper, followed by speeches and fellowship.
Music aficionados enjoyed a treat on Jan. 22, when the Toronto Consort, a group of performers specializing in medieval music, appeared at the Palmerston Library Hall. The show was free, with sponsorship from the Outreach Ontario program, through the Midwestern Ontario Library system.
A series of grant announcements gave the provincial government an air of generosity. Moorefield’s community centre received $29,000 for renovation work and improvements. Drayton scooped up $1,800, to assist with the production of a comprehensive zoning bylaw.
The township councils managed to get by with a single meeting during the month. Drayton had a lot more on its plate. On the 20th there was a special meeting, held at the insistance of councillor Ab Hesselink and newcomer John Green, to address the water and sewage problems in the village. These had been longstanding issues, with serious construction proposals dating as far back as the 1920s. The most recent cost study dated to 1968. The two councillors wanted their colleagues to petition the province to reopen the Drayton file.
Water and drainage studies in recent years had shown that much of the potential development land in and around Drayton was unsuitable for building on private services. The situation was deterring new construction.
Council’s interest in infrastructure captured the attention of Henry Wimmenhove. He had been planning a communal water system for his subdivision, and it would be redundant if council constructed municipal services. He stated that he would probably wait until council resolved the sewer and water issues.
A few days later, more trouble appeared. Environment Ministry officials had been sampling the water in the Conestogo River, and found high concentrations of soap and detergent, among other things. They concluded that at least 75% of the village was using drains and storm sewers to dispose of wash water, and they wanted it stopped.
To end the month, and perhaps considering the work load they faced, Drayton council voted themselves a 33% salary increase. At the same time they raised the salary of the clerk-treasurer to $9,000.
*This column was originally published in the Drayton Community News on Jan. 4, 2002 and Jan. 5, 2007.