News of the past from the Mapleton Township area

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.


65 years ago: September 1952

August 1952 ended with fine harvest weather, with most farmers reporting medium to good yields, and the crops in by Labour Day.

The first week of September brought cooler, wet weather.

The big construction news was a rumour at the beginning of the month that tenders for the new Conestogo Dam would be called in late fall. Delays had plagued the project for a couple of years, due largely to escalating costs, estimated in 1952 at $4 million. Maryborough council, on Sept. 2, received correspondence from the provincial government advising that work on all roads affected by the dam should be suspended.

To retain teachers, the Drayton High School Board set a new salary schedule, with a $2,700 starting rate for minimum qualifications, and $2,900 for specialists.

The up-and-down economy of Palmerston was buoyed by the reopening of the Marion Beaver Cheese and Butter factory, after a long period of inactivity. The new Rotor Electric building neared completion on William Street. On the other side of the coin, rumours of coming layoffs at the Canadian National Railway shops and yards caused apprehension among railway workers.

A late-season tornado swept through the Lebanon area of Maryborough Township in mid month, demolishing Louis Riddell’s brand new garage, and tossing his 1929 Ford motor car clear across the road. Other damage consisted of downed wires and uprooted trees.

H.N. Jennings and E.C. Gray of Palmerston erected towers for television aerials. Both hoped to have their sets in operation in time to watch the 1952 World Series.


90 years ago: September 1927

Farmers had completed harvesting the 1927 grain crop by the second week of September. Threshing crews put in full days all month with the fine yield that year.

The provincial government warned motorists to apply for driver’s licences. Authorities had been lenient since compulsory licencing began a few months previously, but an epidemic of serious accidents brought a determination to remove unqualified drivers from the road. Farmers in particular were ignoring the new requirement.

The famous Alma girls softball team ended a busy schedule on Sept. 3, with two games. In the afternoon they trounced the visiting Elmira team 15-3, but lost in the evening at Harriston by a score of 12-6.

Kitchener’s Knights of Columbus staged an old-time minstrel show at Schnurr’s Hall in Linwood. All proceeds went to the building fund for St. Mary’s Church.

Wellington County’s Junior Farmers held their 1927 field day at Drayton. The attendance was disappointing, but those present enjoyed a morning of field sports and an afternoon of baseball. The highlight of the morning events was the girls tug-of-war, won by the West End girls of Guelph Township over a strong team from Goldstone in the finals.

Municipal councils spent September tidying up loose ends of business. On Sept. 3, Maryborough council authorized some major expenditures for the Scott drain. Reeve C.G. Stickney called a meeting of Peel council on Sept. 19 to approve some minor road and bridge work. Gravel cost them 77 cents per cubic yard. An unplanned expense was a $100 repair bill for the township grader.

The schools of Maryborough jointly organized a school fair on Sept. 15. It featured 557 entries in classes for grain, vegetables, flowers, calves, baking, drawing and writing.

A lightning strike and subsequent fire claimed Tom Sturtridge’s barn near Parker on Sept. 11. He lost a good crop of hay and most of his implements. Nine days later, a bee raised a new barn for Bob Arnold on C. 16, Peel. He had lost his barn as well to lighting a few months earlier.

Drayton United Church opened its doors on Sept. 19 for a fundraising concert, in aid of the new pipe organ in the building. The featured artist was C.F. Legge, the famous Toronto organist who had supervised the installation. Assisted by his wife, a noted soprano, and with the accompaniment of a violinist, he delighted the full house with a selection of old popular favourites and light classical pieces, such as the William’ Tell Overture.


115 years ago: September 1902

Excellent weather from late August to mid September delighted farmers, as they harvested one of the best grain crops in years. The threshing crews then took over.

Farmers had a glimpse of the future when several national magazines carried articles on experiments with the combination harvester – the combine – which promised to revolutionize harvesting work.

The flax crop was also a fine one. A stream of wagon loads arrived at the new flax plant in Moorefield. Several dozen farmers in Peel and Maryborough grew flax under contract to the company.

Dairy farmers also enjoyed a good year. The Rothsay cheese factory sold half the August production in a single lot to Bellentyne Bros., a wholesale firm, for the excellent price of 9.5 cents per pound.

Not all the harvest news was favourable in 1902.

Potato rot devastated the crop across Ontario. Seemingly good potatoes contained a foul-smelling mush in their centres when cut open.

Andrew Matchett, who farmed near Rothsay, feared that his illness would prevent him from getting his crop in. On Aug. 30 a gang of his neighbours showed up and did the work for him.

Several cases of typhoid fever were reported from Peel Township, all undoubtedly the result of contaminated drinking water.

Young men in the area took advantage of harvest excursions and work on the prairies to earn extra income. The second of two groups left Drayton on Sept. 2, and expected to be gone about six weeks.

Work on Drayton’s new town hall progressed quickly. The masons completed the brickwork on Sept. 10. Then the carpenters took over.

Another major construction project was the new bridge at Hollen. Taking advantage of low water levels, the contractor completed the concrete abutments during the first two weeks of the month.

At Moorefield, John Schneider made some improvements to the grain elevator, including a new boiler and engine. He also deepened the well to 100 feet.

A coal miners strike in the anthracite region of the United States threatened fuel supplies for the coming winter. Coal rose to $7 per ton as existing stocks ran low. Cordwood dealers in the area prepared to fill the gap.

Local councils held brief meetings in September 1902. Maryborough councillors set the 1902 tax rate on Sept. 6, and approved some minor road work, including the purchase of 60 cubic yards of gravel from Woodisse Bros, at five cents per yard.

On Sept. 20, Peel council reviewed reports on road and drain work completed over the summer, and paid the accounts for them.

Moorefield’s Methodist Church sent a delegation to Toronto to purchase a new organ. The congregation had already collected the money for it, and expected to make a good deal for cash.

A civil court case between James McEwing and George Tucker drew much public interest. Tucker had sold McEwing a bull calf in 1900, but the beast’s lineage was not as Tucker had represented it. In court, Tucker admitted that the bull was not from the line he had claimed, but argued that he had made an honest mistake. The judge favoured Tucker’s version of the story, but the jury sided with McEwing. He was awarded $200 plus court costs. Both Tucker and McEwing had long been prominent in both farming and political circles.

*This column was originally published in the Drayton Community News on Sept. 6, 13 and 27, 2002.


Stephen Thorning - 1949-2015