Lennox and Addington County, the "cradle of Ontario," had been settled by United Empire Loyalists some 83 years before Confederation.
The county had succeeded, after many years of struggle, in separating from the united Counties of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington on Jan. 1, 1865 upon reaching a population of 15,000 persons.
Although Sir John A. Macdonald is best known for his role in creating a united Dominion, he stoutly opposed separation of the two counties, despite the fact he represented Lennox for a short time during his 47-year political career.
Lennox and Addington County, with a population in 1966 of 24,876, is a long narrow county close to 100 miles in length. It is bounded on the north by Renfrew County, on the east by Frontenac county, on the south by the Bay of Quinte and on the west by Hastings County.
The county is comprised of 15 townships, two incorporated villages - Bath and Newburgh - and the county town of Napanee. The townships are Adolphustown, Amherst Island, North Fredericksburgh, South Fredericksburgh, Ernestown, Camden, Richmond, Sheffield, the combined townships of Kaladar, Anglesea and Effingham and the combined townships of Denbigh, Abinger and Ashby.
The county's first member of the local legislature of Ontario was the Hon. John Stevenson, who served from 1867 to 1871. He was also reeve of Napanee from 1863 to 1865 and was the first warden of the county as well as the first speaker of the legislative assembly. The present member of the provincial legislature, Norris Whitney, of Consecon, has represented Prince Edward-Lennox riding since 1951. The house of commons representative, a Progressive Conservative as is Whitney, is A. Douglas Alkenbrack, chosen in 1962.
The 1967 county warden is William T. Briscoe, deputy reeve of Ernestown Township. The county council, composed of reeves and deputy reeves of the municipalities, held three-day sessions five times a year at the county house in Napanee until the once-a-month schedule was approved in March 1967.
The county, mainly an agricultural district with some major industries located in Napanee and the southern portion of Ernestown Township, had a total assessment of $36,150,000 at the end of December, 1966.
Napanee's town hall was constructed in 1855, while the county court house was built at a cost of $33,146 in 1864. The registry office, located adjacent to the court house on Thomas street, was built in 1872 at a cost of $4,800.
First surveyed in 1831, but settled as early as 1785, Napanee was recognized as a police village in 1850 and rose to a full-incorporated village on Sept. 29, 1854. Napanee was chosen as the county town over Newburgh and Bath in 1864 and the court house, jail, anew academy and the Presbyterian Church were built then. It was not until 1888 that the fine sandstone post office was begun.
A map drawn in 1874, recently reproduced by the county historical society, shows Napanee has retained almost the same dimensions during the past 90 years.
Churches in 1874 included the church of England, (St. Mary Magdalene's Anglican Church); the Presbyterian Church (the Masonic Temple at the corner of Bridge street and Belleville road); the Methodist episcopal Church (now Grace United church at the corner of Robert and Bridge streets); Wesleyan Methodist at John and Bridge streets (now Trinity United Church) and St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church on West street at Thomas street.
Industries located in Napanee in 1874 included John Herring's Agricultural Works, Foundry and Machine shop at the lower end of Adelphi street; Green and Son Furniture Factory, part of the present Gibbard Furniture Shops Ltd., the original J. Gibbard and Son Furniture factory - today Canada's oldest furniture manufacturer; W. Ross' Flour Mills in Springside park; F. Land and Brother (plumbago and water lime works) with one building near the present Beaver Lumber yard on Water street and a second building at the end of West street along the Napanee River.
There was also D.A. Mair's machine shop at the southeast corner of Bridge and Adelphi streets; J. Perry's woollen mills in Springside Park; Wright and Robert's mill and sash factory, located near the present Gibbard shops; S. Huff's planing mill on the south-side corner of Donald and Water streets; S.S. Madden's Tannery, situated across from the present fuel dealership of Harry W. Vine on Water street east and D. Dey's Tannery, located where W.R. Douglas operates a factory today on the southeast corner of Robert and Water streets.
Other major industries in Napanee, besides the Gibbard shops, are Pet Milk (Canada) Ltd.; Napanee Industries (boilers and railway cars); and Nabisco's Milk Bone (animal food) plant.
The Canadian Educator, published in 1919, describes Napanee as the "centre of a prosperous farming district."
"The surrounding farming district supplies materials for the town's creamery and cannery and the neighborhood supplies an abundance of brick and cement clays," the sketch noted.
"The town is an important manufacturing centre, containing foundry and machine shops, grist mills, cannery, brick and tile plants, planing mills, motor boat works, two saw mills, a carriage factory and creamery. There are several good hotels, five beautiful churches, good public schools, collegiate institute, armory, park and three banks," the history book said.
It may be interesting to note the population of Napanee in 1911 was 2,807; in 1918 it was 4,000 and in 1966 it was 4,635.
The period from 1860 to the early 1900's saw the birth and death of a variety of newspapers in the county, although only one, the Napanee Beaver, is still in existence.
Walter S. Herrington a Napanee lawyer and prominent historian who published a history of the county in 1913, also wrote an historical survey of the newspapers in 1919.
These records, published by the historical society which was founded in 1907, gives an accurate glimpse of life in the early days.
A survey of such newspapers as the Napanee Standard (partly owned by Allan MacPherson, a cousin of Sir John A.), the Newburgh North American, The Lennox and Addington Ledger and the Weekly Express (later the Napanee Express, then merged with the Napanee Beaver in 1965) the major issues of the 1860's, we learn, were politics and prohibition.
Herrington wrote: "The early newspapers were not afraid to discuss all public questions and if in so doing it became necessary to criticize the conduct of someone in office the editor unhesitatingly did so. Correspondents were encouraged by this example and the result was the free and open ventilation al all public grievances through the columns of the local press."
Other early newspapers were the Newburgh Reporter, the Reformer, The Bantling, The Canada Casket and Temperance Advocate, The Index, the Napanee Star and The Napanee Beaver (previously known as The Ontario Beaver and The Addington Beaver).
One of the county's claims to distinction is that Sir John A. Macdonald spent much of his boyhood on the south shore of Hay Bay. He set up a branch legal practice in Clarksville early in his career, maintained close contact with his friends and relatives in the county during his political life and made his last campaign speech, at 76, at Napanee Town Hall on Feb. 25, 1891.
A friend of Sir John A.'s was the Hon. Sir Richard John Cartwright, a statesman and financier who began public life as a Conservative in 1863, but became a Liberal member of the House of Commons for Lennox in 1867. Sir Richard donated land for the erection of the court house, jail and several churches.
Another distinguished statesman was Sir Allen Bristol Aylesworth, born at Newburgh, Nov. 27, 1854. Educated at Newburgh Academy and Toronto University, he practiced law in Toronto for some time before representing the province before the privy council in England, in July, 1904. He appeared in reference to the dispute over the representation in the House of Commons of the old provinces of the Dominion. He was later appointed postmaster-general in Laurier's ministry and was named minister of justice from 1906 to 1911.
Sir Gilbert Parker, novelist and statesman was born in Camden East in 1860 and was educated at Trinity University, Toronto. After a career in journalism, he moved to England where he was elected to parliament in 1900, a position he retained until his retirement in 1918. He was knighted by King Edward VII in 1902 and created a baronet in 1905. In 1916, King George V appointed him a privy councillor.
Major Aylesworth Bowen Perry, born in Napanee on Aug. 21 1860, was educated at Napanee High School and Royal Military College Kingston, and was appointed commissioner of the Northwest Mounted Police in 1900.
When Confederation arrived, there were numerous police villages scattered throughout the county - at Selby, Enterprise, Colebrook, Kaladar and Cloyne - where ever water power could be found to run gist and saw mills. But only Napanee, Camden East, Centreville, Conway, Newburgh, Odessa, Tamworth, Wilton, Yarker and Bath had populations of more than 300.
Long-range planning in the county includes a $2 million four-county regional detention centre, a federal building to be located on the present armory site, a federal penitentiary at Millhaven in Ernestown Township, a pipeline connecting Deseronto with Napanee and the Bay of Quinte, a vast development program at Bath which includes water and sewage works and a hint, in 1967, that Ontario Hydro may build a $250 to $400 million power plant on the Bay of Quinte.
In the past decade, a $1.6 million 75-bed hospital in Richmond Township culminated a dream which began over 100 years ago. Additional property was set aside near the hospital for the possible development of a home for the county's senior citizens.
Construction of additions to high schools at Napanee and Odessa will accommodate close to 2,500 students upon completion later this year.
A summary of sports activities during the past century must include the two fields that have brought the county greatest recognition - hockey and baseball.
In the 1930's baseball teams sponsored by the Gibbard Furniture Shops at Napanee won Ontario titles in two categories and 20 years later, intermediate hockey teams won three successive provincial championships in 1958, 59 and 60. Junior hockey teams from Napanee have reached the Ontario finals in 1966 and semi-finals in 1965. Latest hockey champions are a bantam team which won the Ontario championship in 1967. An Odessa juvenile squad also reached the top in the provincial baseball contests in recent years.
In the early 1900's, popular sports included baseball, football, lacrosse, curling, ice-boating and skating. Golf, badminton and croquet teams surged and flourished at various times in the county.