Our excellent friend C. C. James, Deputy Minister of the Ontario Minster of Agriculture, has very kindly furnished us with a very well preserved copy of “The Kingston Almanac for the year of our Lord 1839; being the second year of the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.” It was “printed and sold at the Chronicle and Gazette office” of that growing town. Where it may have been kept ever since to present so neat and clean an appearance, now in its sixty-first year of its existence, we know not. It contains, however a good deal of curious information of matters and things as they were in the old Midland District, as well as in the Province of Upper Canada away back in the thirties. We can only pretend to give a few of its many important items in regard to those times.
THE GOVERNMENT OF THAT DAY
Here is a list of the members of government given in the old Almanac of 1839;
“Lieutenant Governor - His Excellency Sir George Arthur, Knight Commander of the Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order;
Members of the Executive Council - The Hon. Robert Baldwin Sullivan, Presiding Councillor; the Hon. Wm. Allen, the Hon. Augustus Baldwin, the Hon. John Elmsley, and the Hon. W. H. Draper.
There were at that time twenty-eight members of the Legislative council and sixty-two members of the House of Assembly, seven of whom represented the following towns and cities: city of Toronto, towns of Kingston, Niagara, Hamilton, Brockville, London and Cornwall. Nearly every county at that time elected two members. The members for this and the surrounding counties were as follows: Lennox and Addington, John Solomon Cartwright, George Hill Detlor. Frontenac, James Mathewson, John Bennett Marks. Prince Edward, Charles Bockus, James R. Armstrong. Hastings, Edmund Murney, Anthony Manahan. Northumberland, Henry Ruttan, and Alexander McDonnell. Among the other members whose names became prominent in the country were Malcolm Cameron, for Lanark; James Morris and Ogle R. Gowan for Leeds; Sir Allan N. McNab, for Haldimand, the father of the Welland canal project, and E. W. Thompson for York, formerly of Kingston.
At the election just previous to that time Cartwright and Detlor had defeated Marshall Bidwell and Peter Perry in this county. They remained the joint members until the union of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, in 1841, when but one member was thereafter allowed.
THE CHANGES JUST THERE
Sir George Arthur, who was then the Governor, succeeded Sir Francis Bond Head, under whose administration the Mackenzie rebellion occurred. Matters had not yet become settled when Sir George Arthur arrived. It was under his administration that Lount and Matthews, two well known citizens, were hanged in Toronto for their participation in the rebellion. He was much censured by many that he did not exercise the royal clemency of pardon in their cases, which had been petitioned for by as much as thirty thousand inhabitants of this Province; but times were different then. It was just about this time, in November of the previous year, that the invasion took place at Prescott and the famous Battle of the Windmill was fought there, which ended such American invasions. It was, too, in his time that the Canadian steamer “Sir Robert Peel” was burned while wooding at Wells Island (now Thousand Island Park), by a gang headed by Bill Johnson.
At the opening of Parliament that very year of 1839, the Governor entered on a review of the painful occurrences of the past year, and recommended some precautions. He also recommended the settlement of the much agitated Clergy Reserve question, which has been a subject of so much political contention for many years, and also the improvement of the common school system. It was while he was yet Governor that the Union of the provinces took place, when Lord Sydenham was appointed Governor General, and a more thorough system of responsible government was inaugurated.
At the time we now write of judges, sheriffs, collectors of customs and other important officeholders were also the candidates of political parties and members of parliament. The Hon. Chief Justice, John Beverly Robinson, was then speaker of the Legislative Council, and among its other members were Rev. Dr. Strahan, then Archdeacon of York, and later on Bishop of the Church of England, and Right Rev. A. McDonnell, the Roman Catholic Bishop. All these anomalies passed away at the time of the Union.
SOME OF THE LOCAL OFFICERS
“The Court of Requests” composed of magistrates appointed by the government of r that purpose, then performed similar duties to those of the division courts now. The districts were divided into divisions for that purpose, and regular sittings were held in each division for the hearing and disposal of the cases within their jurisdiction. Here is a list of those appointed in the various division in this county:
“Division 3d, Ernesttown and Amherst Island - Isaac Fraser, William J. McKay, Orton Hancox, Benjamin Seymour, William Fairfield junior, holden at Bath.”
To the older readers of The Beaver these names are yet familiar. Mr. Fraser was for years a prominent citizen and politician, and was once, at least, a Conservative candidate for parliament. In 1828 he and Samuel Casey were defeated by Bidwell and Perry, the Reform candidates. Samuel Casey was elected in 1820, and sat during at least one legislature, but whether Mr. Fraser was ever elected we have not now the means of knowing. He was appointed county registrar and held that position for many years, until his death. The office was then located at Mill Haven. Wm. J. McKay was then a resident of Bath, and was the postmaster there at that time. He was also a coroner and a merchant. He was a native of Little Creek, in North Fredericksburgh and a brother of the late A. B. McCay, for years a prominent man in municipal affairs in the township and counties. He was appointed an emigration agent at Toronto, and died there. Orton Hancox was a wealthy merchant in Bath, and afterwards was several times elected to parliament for this county. He was a member of the Dominion Senate at the time of his death. William J. Fairfield was also a resident of Bath, and for many years its postmaster, a position he held at the time of his death.
“Division 4th. Camden and Sheffield - Jacob Rombough, Samuel Clark, Calvin Wheeler, R. D. Finley, W. M. Bell, holden at Camden East.” Mr. Rombough was a native of Fredericksburgh, but was one of the early pioneers of Camden township, back of Centreville. He was a land surveyor and a large farmer. Samuel Clark was a large mill owner, lumberman and general business man and postmaster at Camden East. The village was long popularly known as “Clark’s Mills” in honor of him. He lived and died there. Calvin Wheeler was a pioneer settler and mill owner in Sheffield township, where the village of Tamworth now stands. It was long known as “Wheeler’s Mills,” in honor of him. R. D. Finley resided in Camden near Clark’s Mills, where he lived and died. His wife is a sister of the late John D. Ham, of Newburgh and Napanee. She is still living, and is probably the only wife now living of all these once active commissioners. W. M. Bell was an influential and successful Camden farmer, between “Rogues’ Hollow” and “Humbug” now better known as Newburgh and Camden East. He lived and died there. Some of his descendants are now well-known residents of this county.
“Division 5th. Part of Fredericksburgh and Adolphustown - Jas. Fraser, David L. Thorpe, Peter Perry, Samuel Dorland, Samuel Casey, Jacob Detlor, William Sills, holden at Charters’ Inn.” James Fraser was then a mill owner at what is now Close’s mill, a farmer and a prominent officer in the militia. He had taken a prominent part in the militia in the stirring years just previous to 1839. David L. Thorpe was a storekeeper at the front of Fredericksburgh near Conway. He was a brother-in-law of Isaac Ingersoll, then another prominent citizen of that locality. His son, the late Henry Thorpe, was for years sheriff of Prince Edward county. Peter Perry was then a farmer in S. Fredericksburgh, on the farm now owned by Charles Hawley, Esq. He was the most prominent of them all. He had been, for years previous a prominent Member of the Legislature and one of the Leaders of the old Reform party. He moved to Whitby, where he became an extensive merchant and business man. Samuel Dorland was an Adolphustown farmer where he lived and died. He was for years a colonel of the Lennox militia. He used to claim that he was the first white male child born in Adolphustown. Samuel Casey was also an Adolphustown farmer. He was born, lived and died in that township. He was an M. P. P. in the twenties, and a Captain of Troops during the time of the rebellion and for years. Jacob Detlor was a resident of S. Fredericksburgh, where he lived and died. His son, the late Byard Detlor, died on the old homestead a year or so ago. William Sills was also a Fredericksburgh farmer. He lived near Hamburgh, on the farm now owned by J. M. Parrott, Esq. The late Mrs. George Eakins, of Newburgh, was a daughter of his.
“Division 6th. Part of Fredericksburgh and Adolphustown - Archibald McNeill, James Fraser, Willet W. Casey, George Schryver, Archibald Campbell, holden at Clarkville.” This division evidently consisted of what is now North Fredericksburgh and the part of Adolphustown north of Hay Bay. The sittings were held in Quackenbush’s tavern in Clarkville, which was then a busier and more pretentious village than Napanee. Archibald McNeill was then a merchant and large lumberman, and a man of much influence. He was the father of the late Arch’d McNeill, ex-Mayor of Napanee, and the late John McNeill, of Clarkville. Willett W. Casey (the father of the writer), was an Adolphustown farmer at “Casey’s point,” where he was born, lived and died. George Schryver was a well-known farmer. He lived and died on the farm now owned by Mr. Hugh Close at Big Creek, Fredericksburgh. Archibald Campbell was born and lived on the old Campbell homestead in Adolphustown, now owned by our townsman, John Soby. He was later on, a member of his township and counties council.
“Division 7th. Richmond and a part of Hungerford - Allen McPherson, Archibald Caton, George H. Detlor, David Stuart, Charles McDonald, holden at Napanee.” Allen McPherson was the first postmaster of Napanee, the largest merchant of the village for years, a mill owner and distiller, and a lumberman. the old inhabitants will well remember his brick store near where the Gibbard Co. office now stands, and his mills. In the end these all fell into the hands of the Cartwright estate. Archibald Caton was a large farmer in Richmond, from which he retired and he died in Napanee.. He is yet very kindly remembered. George H. Detlor was a native of Fredericksburgh, a brother-in-law of David Roblin, for years a leading spirit in the ranks of the old Reform party, Warden of the Counties Council of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, and M.PP. for Lennox and Addington. Mr. Detlor was one of the early merchants of this locality; later on county clerk of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, and after that an official in the customs department at Kingston. He represented this county in the Upper Canada Legislature from 1836 to 1841. He died in Napanee. David Stuart was an Irishman of considerable education and influence; a farmer in Richmond. Charles McDonald, the last one on the list, is the only one of whom we do not know anything.
There is also a list of no less than ninety magistrates in the Midland district at that time, many of whom were well-known residents of this county, but we have not now space to make reference to them. Not one of them is now living.
POSTOFFICES AND POSTAGE
At that time, and for years after, the post office department was under the sole control of the British government, and postage rates were very high. The smallest rate was about seven cents, even to the next office, and it ranged from that up, according to distance. A letter from Kingston to Napanee was charged seven cents, from Kingston to Toronto 15 cents, to Amherstburgh 27 cents. It was one of the strong complaints of the old Reform party leaders at that time that the mails were beyond the control of the Upper Canada government, nor was there any means of knowing how much postage was really collected from the people. It was intimated that a very large share of it at least became a perquisite to the fortunate general office-holder at the time. Of course he was an officer of the British government, and refused to furnish such information to the Legislature as did not suit his purpose to give.
The post offices and postmasters in this county were few and far between. The old almanac gave a list of all in the Province, from which we cull those in this county:
Adolphustown - Stephen Griffiths
Bath - Wm. J. McKay.
Camden East - Samuel Clark.
Fredericksburgh - W. Anderson
Napanee - Allan Macpherson
Wilton - Sidney Warner.
Newburgh, Odessa, Mill Haven, Amherst Island, and some other places now of much importance and intelligence, were then entirely without offices. It was quite a common thing for persons to walk ten or a dozen miles to mail or receive a letter, or get their newspaper.