The current number of Queen's Quarterly, of Kingston, publishes another instalment of the early records of the Quarter Sessions of the then Midland District, from June, 1803, to April, 1811, inclusive. The excellent editorial notes of Prof. Adam Shortt add much to the interest and value of these reports of the early proceedings of the courts of the Quinte counties. As has been already explained there was no municipal system in this province at that early date, nor was there much other civil government machinery, and a large proportion of all the business of these classes was then transacted by the magistrates, appointed by the Provincial Government, thus assembled at the Quarter Session. At that time, and for some years later, these courts were held alternately quarterly at the village of Adolphustown and at Kingston. It was understood that the juries summoned for the Adolphustown sessions should be summoned from the eastern boundary of the township of Fredericksburgh proper, and for Kingston from that line east. It may be as well to remark here again that the Midland District then included all the territory from the Gananoque river on the east to the Trent river on the west, - a territory that now includes the counties of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, Prince Edward and Hastings, and the cities of Belleville and Kingston. Though the judicial district was then so very large the population was sparse, and the people were not much given to litigation. Lawyers were few, and many of the cases now dragged into court were either "left to men," by arbitration, or fought out with the fists between the disputing parties.
THE ADOLPHUSTOWN SESSIONS
For convenience sake we will keep the records of the Sessions at Adolphustown and Kingston separate, though they come alternately in the report before us. The first record in this "Quarterly" begins with Adolphustown, July 12, 1803. Richard Cartwright of Kingston was the chairman, and the other magistrates reported present were Alexander Fisher and Thomas Dorland, of Adolphustown; Jonathan Miller, Stephen Conger and Daniel Wright, of Prince Edward; Hazelton Spencer, of Fredericksburgh; John Embury of Fredericksburgh, and William Bell, of Thurlow. We believe there are descendants of all those early "Squires" still residing in the localities, where they then lived. Here is an item, which indicates that the constables of those days were impressed with the necessity of their presence at these court meetings:
"The following constables are fined five shillings each for non-attendance: Daniel McKenzie, of Thurlow; John Low and Albert J. Vandusen, of Sophiasburgh, and Isaac Garrett, of the Township of Hallowell."
There is another editorial note here stating that the volume containing the Records from Jan., 1804 to Jan., 1807 is wanting.
At the Sessions held in Adolphustown, January 27th, 1807, nearly the same magistrates were present except Richard Cartwright. Not much, however, of any public importance appears to have been transacted. There was a long list of women who were barred of their dowers, because of the land sales of their husbands, and of cases of assault and battery.
The next report of Adolphustown Sessions was on January 24, 1809. Alexander Fisher was then chairman, and we believe he continued to act as such for many years. As has been before stated he was popularly known as Judge Fisher. He lived and died in the third concession of Adolphustown, on what has for years been known as "the Platt farm." He was buried in a private plot in the field near the residence, where his monument now stands, but the grounds are in a dilapidated and much neglected state. The writer visited the place some weeks ago. No other members of the family appear to have been buried there. He had no sons; his three daughters married the Kirkpatricks of Kingston, and Thomas Cartwright, who died at an early age. He built the house which has been the home of the Platt family during all their residence in Adolphustown. The house is yet in good, sound condition, having been several times repaired and improved. He died in about 1840. The new magistrates names at that Sessions were Reuben Bedell, who became a prominent resident of Fredericksburgh, and lived and died on the farm now owned by Cyrus Allison, Esq., Parma. The late Mrs. Edwin Mallory was a daughter of his. James Young and Robert Wilkins, of "Carrying Place," Murray township, appear on the list for the first time. They both became prominent and wealthy men in that locality.
There are also brief reports of sessions held in Adolphustown July 10th, 1810, and January 22d, 1811, but not much business of importance appears to have been transacted at either of them. At the first a license was granted to Griffith Howell to keep an inn at his house in Sophiasburgh. That was, we believe where the village of Demorestville now stands. The rates of ferriage charges allowed were fixed at the last for the ferry between Thurlow and Ameliasburgh, near where the fine Bay of Quinte bridge near Belleville is now located. The ferriage for a single man was then 30 cents. Benjamin Garow (or Gerow) was the proprietor on the Prince Edward side, and Philip Swick (or Zuick) on the Hastings side.
THE KINGSTON SESSIONS
The first of these here reported was held in June, 1803, at Kingston. Joshua Booth's name appears as one of the magistrates present and Thos. Dorland, who generally appears to have attended most of the sessions at both places of meeting. The only item of business noted was the fact that the assessment roll for the township of Ameliasburgh was received. Prof. Shortt gives an editorial note to the effect that the law had now been so framed that an assessment was made of the rateable property of each section of the District, and, when completed, this was laid before the Sessions by the assessors and the Justices then determined what proportion of a "full rate" should be levied in order to afford the estimated expenditure for the ensuing year. The estimated expenditures were made by the Sessions. The assessors were also appointed by the same body, and so was the collector to whom the list was handed for collection, when all was arranged. A full rate was one penny on the pound of the assessment. In the report of the proceedings it sometimes occurred that a full rate, or a three-quarter rate, or a half rate, was levied.
At the next Sessions reported held in Kingston, April 28th, 1807, the name of J.B. Chamberlain, of Fredericksburgh, appeared for the first time. It may as well be given here a story that has been frequently published of a little encounter of wit between him, after his appointment as Magistrate, and the Rev. Darius Dunham, the first ordained Methodist preacher in Upper Canada. They were brothers-in-law and their homes were near each other, at Little Creek, North Fredericksburgh. Dunham, it appears, was very fond of a fine horse, and generally kept his in good condition. He rode up to the neighbouring blacksmith shop on his fine steed one day. Chamberlain was there and several of the neighbours. The new Squire rallied him by saying, "When our Saviour was on earth he was content to ride on an ass, but his preachers now-a-days are not content to ride on anything but the best horses we have." Dunham is said to have been a very dry humorist, and his ready retort was: "I would not mind riding a jack-ass myself, but the government has just appointed all the able-bodied ones magistrates."
Squire Chamberlain lived and died on his fine farm, nearly opposite where the cheese factory now stands, and now owned by Mr. Alex Breckenridge.
Durham's farm is now owned by our townsman, W.N. Dollar, Esq. Both men have a number of very respectable descendants in this county.
Abraham King received a license to keep a house of public entertainment in the first concession of Ernesttown. Here appears a mysterious and somewhat startling item. What the offence was; or what further proceeding were taken does not appear.
"The Grand Jury came into Court and presented a presentment against John Embury, Jacob B. Chamberlain and William Bell for a misdemeanor in their office as Magistrates and Commissioners of the Court of Requests."
Mr. John Embury appears to have been a large land owner at that time and made an appeal to the Sessions against his assessment. The following minute was made: "Mr. J. Embury represents that he is rated for 7,000 acres of improved land and has but 1,700 unimproved. If this appears on the Assessment Roll, allowance to be made." According to the original Government record, John Embrie, or Embury, of Fredericksburgh, was a sergeant in the King's Royal Regiment of New York during the war of the American revolution. His name was on the land Book of Mecklenburg District of 1791 for 600 acres; also, on P. Lands as a magistrate. His name was on the Government Provision List of 1786, together with the other U.E.L. pioneers of that time. His descendants are yet well-known in this county.
SURVEYORS OF HIGHWAYS
About this time a new arrangement was made in regard to the public records. The old method of appointing pathmasters at the town meetings, it was complained, was not satisfactory. In March, 1810, the Upper Canada Legislature passed an act placing the administration of the roads and bridges in hands of Surveyors of Highways, to be appointed by the Quarter Sessions. It was in accordance with the new law that the following appointments of such officers were made at the Kingston Session in April, 1810:
Davis Hawley, of Ernesttown
John Carscallen, of Camden
Peter Detlor, of Fredericksburgh
Cyrenus Parks, of Fredericksburgh
Elisha Phillips, of Fredericksburgh
Paul Trumpour, of Adolphustown
Similar appointments were also made for Prince Edward and Hastings counties. At the Sessions at Kingston in October, 1810, permission was given to William L. Bowen, to have a license to keep an inn in Richmond. That was located in the front of the last lot west on the front of Richmond, adjoining the boundary, where Deseronto now stands. Mr. Bowen was an important and influential man and was for years a magistrate and a government official among the Indians. His descendants are yet numerous in that locality and elsewhere in these counties.
PAYMENT OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT
The custom yet remained of the Sessions levying a special assessment for the payment of the representatives of the legislature in each of the counties. The following records will show who represented the counties from 1807 to 1810 and what the boundaries of the electoral districts were. That was during the term of the Fourth Legislature, and the administration of Sir Francis Gore as Lieutenant-Governor.
At the Kingston Sessions of April, 1807, there were the following items recorded;
"Also the sum of seventy-eight pounds ten shillings to be raised for the wages of Members of Parliament for the Midland District.
"That the sum of twenty-two pounds ten shillings be allowed to Thomas Dorland, Esq., as a Member of Parliament for the counties of Lennox and Addington fir the year 1807.
"That the sum of twenty-three pounds ten shillings be allowed unto Allan McLean, Esq., as Member of Parliament for the county of Frontenac."
"That the sum of ten pounds be allowed unto David McGregor Rogers, Esq., as Member of Parliament for the county of Hastings.
"That the sum of twenty-two pounds ten shillings be allowed unto Ebenezer Washburn, Esq., as Member of Parliament for the county of Prince Edward.
The members were then allowed $2 a day for each day of actual attendance at the Session, on presenting a certificate from the clerk at the end of each session.
In the commencement, in 1791, the township of Adolphustown and Prince Edward county were united for one electoral district; the rest of Lennox and Hastings were thus united, Addington was a division of itself; the islands front of the main land, from Howe on the east to Amherst on the west, inclusive, were one, under the name of Ontario county. It would seem, from this record, that this had all been changed now.
In the proceedings of the Sessions of 1809, the sum of eighteen pounds ten shillings was levied on the county of Hastings and the township of Ameliasburgh for James McNabb, Member of Parliament. It would seem that Ameliasburgh was thus cut off from Prince Edward and added to Hastings, where the population was yet very small. Mr. McNabb was a resident of Belleville, where he died at an early period. The late Rev. Dr. Alexander McNabb, at one time principal of Victoria College, Toronto, and later on rector of Bowman (Church of England), was a son.
At the same Sessions, and again the next year, an order was given for payment also to John Roblin, Esq., Member for Lennox and Addington. Mr. Roblin was a resident of Adolphustown, and the father of the late David Roblin, of Napanee, who represented this county in the fifties. He was a Methodist local preacher and a member of the old Reform party. Before his day the "Family Compact" party had been formed, made up of Church of England men. He was opposed to them, and to rid themselves of any much opposition, the majority declared his seat vacant, declaring him ineligible because he was a local preacher. The people of this county re-elected him and his seat was again declared vacant. He was promptly re-elected again, but before he had time to go and again demand his seat, his death occurred. This appears to have been about the commencement of such high-handed proceedings, by which the then dominant party got rid of opposition for some years to come.