For the Beaver
The township of Adolphustown supplies, we believe, the oldest and most complete of all the early municipal records of any municipality in this Province. Long before local municipal councils were even thought of, and before even a law was enacted legalizing the old time "town meetings" there is yet in existence a well preserved record of town meetings in Adolphustown. So far as is now known these were the first town meetings held in Upper Canada. It was not until the second session of the First Upper Canada legislature that an act was passed authorizing the holding of town meetings and of empowering them to elect certain officers and enacting certain by-laws. That was in 1793 and that law went into force on the first of July of that year. There are, however, well preserved records of at least two town meetings at Adolphustown previous to that time.. The first of these was held on the 6th of March, 1792, and the next a year later, March 5th, 1793. The third record is of one held on the 28th of August, 1793, and it was, no doubt, in accordance with the provisions of the new law, which had then come into force. The same rare old book contains the records of over fifty consecutive years of town-meetings, in Adolphustown, coming down to the days of 1849, when our present municipal law come into force, establishing township councils. This book, though it passed through the hands of about twenty different township clerks who were each its custodian during his term of office, is as well preserved and much more neatly and systematically kept than many of the municipal records of to-day. the rare old book was among the papers of the late Joseph B. Allison, of Adolphustown, yet well remembered by many of the older readers of THE BEAVER. We doubt if anything similar to it, either as regards age or completeness, can be found anywhere in Ontario.
THE FIRST RECORD
As an evidence of how business was done by the U.E.L. Pioneers of this country over a hundred years ago, it may be well to give the minutes of the first meeting complete, and verbatim:
"At a Town Meeting held 6th March, 1792, the following Persons were chosen to officiate in their respective offices the ensuing year, and also the regulation for the same. Reuben Bedell, Town Clerk; Joseph Allison, Garret Benson, Constables; Paul Huff, Philip Dorland, Overseers of the Poor; Willet Casey, Paul Huff, John Huyck, Poundmasters. Dimensions of Hogs Yoaks, 18 inches by 24. Height of fence 4 feet 8 inches. Fence Viewers, Abraham Maybee and Peter Ruttan. Water voted to be no Fence. No pigs to run till three months old. No stallion to run. Any person putting fire to any brush or stubble that does not his endeavor to hinder it from doing damage shall forfeit the sum of forty shillings. Philip Dorland, T.C."
The names of the officers were all well known men in "Fourth Town" at that time and for years later. Some of them were heads of large and respectable families in that township and through-out the province to-day. The by-law may seem somewhat ridiculous and out of date now, but they were such as the circumstances of those times demanded. There were only scattered clearings on any of the farms then and these only were enclosed by rude rail fences. All kinds of farm stock not prohibited by by-law "ran at large" and all hogs had to be well "Yoked" to prevent them getting through the spaces of the fence rails.
THE FAMILY RECORD
One of the most interesting features of the book is a complete record of all the families residing in the township. It contained the name of the head of each family, the number of adult makes, of females, and also of all boys and girls under 16 years of age. This record was continued for years - from 1794 to 1823, with breaks of a few of the later years. In 1794, there were 81 families in the township, containing in all 113 adult males, 78 females, 101 boys and 110 girls. The families were large, even then. John Canniff had the largest family, consisting of 13. Many of his descendants are still in the township and this county, as well as all over the province. Daniel Cole came next, with 11. He is reported to have had the most children of any of the pioneers, when they landed in 1784, and was therefore at once granted the first lot in the township. But one of the name is now left in the locality. The following reported 10 each in their families: Solomon Huff, Alexander Fisher and Nathaniel Solmes. though these were all large and well known families, not one of them is now represented in the township, we believe. The Solmes are still numerous in Prince Edward. Alexander Fisher was the first Judge of the Midland District, and lived and died on what is now the Platt farm, on the south shore of Hay Bay, where he and several members of the family lie buried. He was grandfather of ex Lieut-Governor Hon. G.E. Kirkpatrick. Among those reporting 8 in family were Nicholas Peterson, James McMaster, Albert Cornell, Baltus Harry, Benjamin Clapp, Paul Trumpour, Joseph Carnahan, Willet Casey, Conrad Vandusen. It would not be possible to extend the list now, for lack of space.
SOME OF THE TOWN CLERKS
It is interesting to note the handwriting of the various town clerks elected from time to time within the half century recorded in the historic old book. They appear to have been all men of excellent education, especially for those early days. The handwriting throughout is neat, plain and very businesslike, and the arrangement of the minutes was very systematic Philip Dorland came first, followed by Reuben Bedell for three years; Archibald Campbell, four years; James Noxon, Daniel Haight, William Robins, three years; Reuben Bedell, Bryan Crawford, Daniel Haight, four years; John Stickney, three years; Daniel Haight, two years; Reuben Bedell, Peter VanSkiver, Orin Ranney, three years; Thomas Cook two years; James Watson, three years; Moses Carnahan, three years; Henry Davis, five years; Ricketson Haight, four years; Reuben B. Clapp, Parker Allen (in 1838). Stephen Griffis, three years; John J. Watson, four years; Reuben B. Clapp, Samuel Casey, Paul Trumpour Dorland. With the single exception of our old friend, Parker Allen, Esq., all that long list of once active men have passed over to the great majority. Mr. Allen is now the oldest native resident residing in the township, now in his eighty-seventh years.
For many years two officers were elected each years as Town Wardens. These officials could sue or be sued in the name of the township. An Upper Canada law specified where there was a regular parish church in the municipality one of these should be appointed by the Rector and the other at the town meeting. The first Town Wardens mentioned were Abraham Maybee and Paul Huff, in 1793, at the August meeting. In the minutes of 1823, the first Church warden was appointed by the Clergyman in the person of Thomas Williams, Esq. At the same time Lazarus Gilbert was elected at the town meeting. Mr. Gilbert, was a Methodist. It was at that time that the Rev. Job Deacon first came to Adolphustown, and was the first Rector there. Previous to that time there is no record of any Church of England congregation or church in the township, though there had been such at Bath, Fredericksburgh and Ernesttown for years. The Church wardens' names regularly appeared for some years, till 1835, and then dropped out. Those were the days of Church and State in Upper Canada. The Town Wardens were regularly appointed till 1841.
In 1836 a Board of Commissioners was first named, consisting of John Bogart, Thomas Casey and Henry Davis. These lists continued for three years and then dropped off. In 1842, a Board of School Commissioners was appointed, consisting of Joseph B. Allison, chairman, Rev. Job Deacon, Henry Davis, Nicholas Bogart and Willet W. Casey. Another set was appointed the next year and then no further mention is made of them.
In 1842 there is the first record of a Councillor appointed to represent the township in the old Midland District council. Archibald Campbell, jr., was then elected. He resided north of Hay Bay and for years after was a member of the Township council and representative in the old Frontenac, Lennox and Addington County Council. In 1845 Willet W. Casey was elected to that position and died while holding that office. In 1848 Major Peter V. Dorland was elected. These are the only three names that appear in that capacity. At the end of that term our present system of Township and County councils was inaugurated.
THE THISTLE PEST
It has been said that the Canada thistle pest was first introduced in Upper Canada by some of the U.E. Loyalists, who wintered at Sorel in 1783-84 during their journey here from New York. They filled their straw bed ticks there and brought them on. The straw contained thistle seed which thus got scattered here. In the minutes of the meeting in 1795 the following appears:
"It is agreed by the Township that the weed called thistle should be crushed in its growth and to this purpose that path Masters do direct the people to assist any person on whose Land the same may grow, in subduing it, Provided it be found Necessary and of this the pathmasters are to be the judges." Two years later a large and important committee, representing every part of the township, was appointed for a similar purpose and they were authorized to "determine whether a fine of Forty shillings shall not be laid on any person or persons who shall be found negligent in stopping the growth of thistles on their premises, which fine if so laid by the aforementioned persons, or any three of them shall be laid out in subduing the thistles in this Township." Subsequent events have made it clear, however, that the thistles aforesaid came to stay, and the problem of just how to exterminate them is yet unsolved.
Many other curious and interesting records occur in the valuable old book now referred to, but it is not possible to even make mention of others for lack of space. It would be well if every municipality would preserve as complete and comprehensive a report of its passing events.