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.
116 years ago – June/July 1903
Peel and Maryborough farmers began to cut their hay in late June under blue skies. The quality, according to most reports, was excellent, and prospects for a good grain crop seemed bright. Harvesting of wheat began about July 25.
School students breathed a general sigh of relief with the announcement in late June that Latin would no longer be a compulsory subject in Ontario’s high schools. Instead, students had to study at least one of Latin, Greek, French or German.
Drayton’s new IOOF (Independent Order of Odd Fellows) hall opened on June 26, in second floor quarters above the drug store and adjoining retail space. Visitors considered the rooms lavish. The suite consisted of an entry room, a large meeting room, an assembly hall, and three small rooms, all freshly carpeted, painted and papered. The Odd Fellows and their guests celebrated with a concert, then retired across the street to the Queen’s Hotel for a banquet.
Maryborough council met on June 27, and dealt with bridge issues, specifically new approaches and abutments at Hollen, and major work at Booth’s bridge, on Concession 8. Councillors awarded a contract to Charles Mannell to smooth and grade the road between Stirton and Moorefield with his new steam-powered grader.
The annual Moorefield Camp Meeting opened on June 28 and ran until July 13. Rev. James Livingstone opened the first day with three sermons during an all-day service. The following day, the Methodist and Presbyterian Sunday schools of Palmerston led an observance known as Rally Day. The program including a half dozen visiting ministers, a woman revivalist, and a famous baritone from Scotland. Crowds came from a wide area, but the meagre turnout of Moorefield people disappointed organizers.
On July 1, the camp meeting offered the only Dominion Day celebration in the area, a concert featuring mostly religious music.
Noecker Brothers in Drayton sold their hardware store to Tom Fullerton of Atwood at the end of June. Fullerton expanded the business at once by adding a tin-smithing shop.
Several stores offered fresh strawberries at the beginning of July, but there were local sources as well. Wooddisse Bros. advertised that berries “in any quantity” were for sale at their farm at Lot 13, Con. 13. Richard Stickney, at Lot 10, Con. 7 of Peel, pioneered the “pick your own” concept: he sold a daily pass, allowing the purchaser to pick any quantity, at 10 cents per day per person.
Noah Cober, on Con. 3 of Maryborough, constructed a new barn using a concrete foundation, the first in the township.
Rothsay’s Presbyterians were busy with renovations to their church. A new driving shed went up in June, followed by major work to the church building. While the project was under way, they borrowed the Rothsay Methodist Church for their weekly services. Not to be outdone, Rothsay’s Anglicans constructed a new driving shed as well.
Orange Day, July 12, fell on a Sunday in 1903, so the holiday was observed generally on July 13.
The big celebration in north Wellington was in Harriston that year. The various lodges hired a special train from the Grand Trunk Railway from Guelph and intermediate points, and Canadian Pacific supplied special service from the east and west. A few Orange Lodges held local services on Sunday. In Rothsay, for example, the Orangemen met at their hall at 2pm, then marched to the Methodist Church for a solemn celebration.
News came from Ottawa that redistribution had reduced Wellington County from three MPs to two. A federal election was expected in 1904.
At its summer session, county council let a contract for a new wooden bridge on Concession 4 of Maryborough. Richard Boyle, the famous bridge builder of Parker and Alma, submitted the low bid.
The Glen Allan area was a beehive of activity in the first week of July: there were three barn raisings and two garden parties in the area that week.
Drayton’s Royal Templars of Temperance met on July 14 at the home of Mrs. Robert Slimmon. Several more new members signed up, and there was a discussion about pushing for local option plebiscites in Drayton and the townships. The usual lunch of sandwiches and weak tea was augmented, to the surprise and delight of members, with ice cream and cake.
As well as good crops, farmers enjoyed a strong market for cattle, at prices in the range of $4 to $5 per hundredweight. One Drayton cattle dealer shipped $29,000 of cattle from Drayton and Alma during a four week period.
Dairy farmers also enjoyed the rare combination of rising prices and good markets. The cheese factories in Peel and Maryborough worked at full capacity in 1903. The one at Rothsay shipped 35,000 pounds of cheese between June 15 and July 7. All of it went to the Ingersoll Packing Company, which acted as the selling agent for many of the smaller cheese plants in the area.
July 1 passed quietly in 1903 with no special observances in Drayton and area. On July 13, the white horse and orange flag crowd went to Harriston, many by the special train chartered from the Grand Trunk Railway. In 1903, Orange Day was observed in many Ontario communities as a public holiday. That year it was observed on Monday, the 13th, because the 12th fell on Sunday.
Anxious to turn aside years of poor public relations, the Grand Trunk advertised that it would honour the excursion fares to Harriston from July 11 to 14 on its regular trains.
91 years ago – June 1928
Drayton council’s meeting of June 5, 1928 was a rather dull affair.
Councillors quickly approved a short list of small expenditures. The only big item was a bill for $422, to the Municipal Road Spraying and Oiling Co. The bill was routine, but Drayton residents had decidedly mixed feelings about the project. Council had hired the firm to spray oil on Wellington and Main Streets, and most of the side streets as well. That settled the dust that had been stirred by passing traffic. The unwelcome side effect was the oil, stuck to shoes and boots, was tracked across the floors of stores and homes, and it sat in puddles here and there on the streets. The smell gave some people headaches, especially when the weather turned warm and humid.
On June 1, about 40 students from the Drayton High School travelled by motorcar to Wingham, for a district field day, against competitors from Arthur, Mount Forest, Listowel, Palmerston and Harriston. Chester Medill and Gladys Day were the top local competitors. Overall though, Drayton placed sixth out of the seven schools competing. Only Palmerston fared worse.
The provincial Agriculture Office in Arthur assisted in the formation of the Arthur and Maryborough Sheep Club for boys. The executive included Oliver Tremain, Fred Noble and Calder Dalgarno. Several similar groups formed elsewhere in the county.
Drayton council was enjoying some success in refurbishing and cleaning up the cemetery. Council asked those with family at the cemetery to contribute $1 to the fund, or $35, to be placed in a fund to provide perpetual care.
On June 2, a touring company presented Uncle Tom’s Cabin at the Town Hall theatre. The play had been on the road for 70 years, staged by hundreds of theatrical groups, but it retained its popularity. Ten days later, the Drayton Dramatic Club took its popular farce, Making Daddy Behave, to the Harriston Town Hall.
Moorefield United Church’s Young People took charge of both morning and evening services on June 3. Substitutes filled the pulpits in other United churches, except in Hollen, where services were cancelled. The reason was a conference of United Church ministers that week, and most from the area attended.
With business brisk on Saturday nights in downtown Drayton, postmaster S.E. Fisher announced that he would keep the office open until 10pm, even though he would receive no additional salary for the expanded hours. Moorefield followed the trend and raised the stakes. The post office there would be open until 10pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the summer.
The Drayton village baseball league began play in early June. There were six teams. Four represented geographic areas of the village, another the high school, and the sixth consisted of only bachelors. There was a game almost every night.
The Dept. of Highways announced that it had let a contract to Paul Bergmann and Co. to pave the highway between Harriston and Clifford with concrete. Work was to begin at once.
Road expenditures preoccupied county council at its June meeting. With a very heavy construction schedule, a tax increase was necessary. Warden R.J. Holtom suggested that debentures be issued so that the long list of road construction and paving projects could be dealt with more quickly. Up to that time, the county had pursued a pay-as-you-go policy, refusing to borrow for road and bridge projects. Many residents, though, were becoming impatient at the slow pace of paving and road building in Wellington.
Drayton’s teachers all signed contracts for another year with the public and high school boards, except for Miss Haley, the Grade 1 teacher. She decided to move to Toronto, and had already found a position there.
On June 1, Canadian National Railway’s employees, with their families, held their 1928 picnic at Palmerston. The Citizens’ Band met all the afternoon trains at the station, and escorted the fresh arrivals to the Brunswick Street park, where a ladies’ baseball tournament was in progress. Other activities included lawn bowling and tennis at the CNRA clubhouse near the station. Main Street merchants had decorated the downtown with bunting. In the evening, the visitors went to the arena for refreshments and speeches by Mayor Dr. H.C. Coleman, MP Duncan Sinclair and various railway officials. Many retirees also attended. Billy Halpenny, who had worked as a conductor for decades out of Palmerston, came the longest distance. He had retired to Vancouver. The division superintendent, Walter White, organized the day.
Maryborough councillors arrived at their June 25 meeting to be greeted by a large delegation from Palmerston. The visitors wanted the township to make a donation toward the Palmerston hospital. The tight-fisted councillors decided to take no action on the request.
On July 3, Drayton council offered enthusiastic support for a Dept. of Highways proposal for a new highway from Stratford to Newmarket, via Drayton and Arthur. The project did not proceed far in 1928, but it did surface again several times. The most popular proposal was to use the centre sideroad of Peel as the route.
*This column was originally published in the Drayton Community News on June 27 and Aug. 1, 2003.