HISTORY OF BOWMANVILLE

Part 31

By Mr. J. B. Fairbairn, P. M.

Many good people think it almost a sin to be mirthful. They do not take any stock in the proverb "Laugh and grow fat." That this is an unfortunate and distorted view to hold does not require any logic to prove. The stern realities of the present and future have to be met and no attitude of mind towards them would shake them off. There they are and there they will remain. What sense is there in meeting the trials that must in due course come to us all, half way? Why forever live in the shade when you may enjoy the light and beauty of sunshine a good portion of the distance you have to travel on the route to eternity? The religion of gloom and dread is not, I think, a fair outcome of the gospel of grace as taught by the great Master. If his ethical rules for life were properly understood and realized, it would bring the opposite joy and hope. No one should be better fitted to really take in the cheerful side of what they meet in the long dusty, often dark and cloudy, pathwa y of life than the individual who is conscious of the divine protection while passing through this, so often to man, vale of tears, and the assurance that the fogs and mists will be dissipated in the new heavens and earth where there is no darkness and no night.

This great gift of knowing how to enjoy and tell a good story perhaps full of fun and humor is often used with great effect by platform speakers. It enables the orator to hold an audience and if judiciously used opens up an avenue through which he is better enabled to reach the intelligence of those he addresses and accomplish his purpose than any other method that could be tried. In private conversation the one who can embellish it with a good pointed, appropriate story is to be envied. I fancy the art of conversation in this respect is becoming lost: I question if it ever will reach the high standard that it held at the beginning of the last century. The coffee houses and clubs in London abounded with men of rare gifts in that line. To read the literary encounter of the wits of that time is itself a partial education at least, in knowing how to use the polite polished witticisms that might grace the intercourse of those who meet each other in the realtors of home and society.

You may reasonably ask what has led me to this train of thought which is apparently so far disconnected from my present object in writing? Well, I got thinking about one of the oldest pioneers and one that I knew well in my childhood Ė Edward Silver, or "Ned" as he was usually called. He was a native Canadian born in the neighborhood of Belleville. I think his wife was related to Dr. Harndenís people came from the same locality. I cannot fix the date that the village was honored with is arrival in it, but I do know that as far back as I recollect he was taking his part in what was going on among the primitive settlers. He owned the lot now on the street named after him now owned by John and Thomas Percy and sisters. He was the first pumpmaker we had and although whiskey was so commonly in use, still water was wanted if only for the purpose of mixing with it, and to get it up conveniently from the well necessitated such an apparatus. Mr. Silver a lso went into chairmaking and I can well recall his efforts in that line. The best chairs were quite elaborate and were used to set off the most elegant rooms in the house. The painting was something calculated to take your breath away. Green and yellow were the prominent colours used to give them style and finish. I had one of them in my possession some years ago and did not value it as I would now. Where it went to I cannot say. They were made to last and if fairly treated would like the famous one horse shay go to pieces from old age, every part disappearing at the same time. The house in which he lived is still standing on the north end of the plot. It has been there so long it now shows unmistakable signs of old age. I hope our special friend, Thomas Percy will still leave it as a momento of the old proprietor, but if he should replace it with a more modern structure that he will in some way perpetuate the model upon which it was built and put up some little adornment with the word " Silver" on it.

I cannot imagine this first of streets laid out in Bowmanville and which Iíve trod so long being without a Percy on it. Their family came in at a later period but since they became dinizens have played a very important part in the general affairs of the town. The late John Percy, the father, was one of the honest, industrious men who by careful living made a competence. He was married in Devonshire, England, and the young couple were good specimens of the wholesome, healthy people that famous county produced. They were quite an acquisition. Mrs. Percy was a true helpmate. Her demeanor indicated that she came of good stock. I was going on one occasion into a leading dry goods store and met her coming out. The gentleman who had waited upon her said to me after she left, " There is no one of our lady customers upon whom I like to wait more than I do on Mrs. Percy." This speaks volumes in her favour, for if you want to know when a woman is well bre d you will be most likely to find it out at the shop counter. Her example in the home and out of it was of value to the young girls growing up in her neighborhood. John Percy, Jr., still follows the same occupation in the same place. He has served the public faithfully and well as town councillor to which position he was repeatedly elected and although for the last two years he has practically retired. It is the hope of his many friends that he will again pull an oar in the municipal ship. There are breakers ahead and we want just such men as he to man and steer the vessel aright. His brother Thomas, the friend of everybody and everybodyís friend, is ever alert to do a good turn to anyone needing it. I hope heíll remain steadily on the same spot. I am sure I he were to drop out from any cause, hundreds of people would miss this cheerful face and hearty handshake.

The "Shop of Silver" where Ned manufactured the articles he dealt in was immediately south of the residence lengthwise to the street. At first the logs were bored by hand labor. He afterwards introduced a machine which was worked by horse power. All the boys within reasonable distance used to congregate in this depot to see and hear what was going on, and whatever fun was uppermost Ned took a hand in. He was particularly fond of the lads and generally had the older ones fully primed for all kinds of innocent mischief. He seemed never to tire of trying to give them a good time in his own way. He was tall, slim, withy and very restless in his movements. He continued making pumps till he left the world for good. He was one of the best hearted neighbors we had and was willing at any time, day or night, to do another a good turn. His outside chattels were apparently kept for public use. When passing his shop one day he was on the sidewalk answering a request from some chap who wanted to borrow his single wagon. "Yes," said he, "you can have it but only on one condition, that is if you promptly return it in time for the next applicant for some fellow is sure to want it." He spent over much at the taverns. Hindesí was his favorite resort. He was not what might be called a steady hard drinker but took enough to fire his blood and vivify his imagination and then stars and garters, didnít the humor and wit pour out in a lively full stream! It would be useless to tell any of his witty sallies for there was as much in the way he told them as in the jests themselves. His face was like a mirror Ė you could see the fun beaming out all over and when he like to try his powers of imitation you would laugh in spite of yourself. This peculiar faculty was not confined to himself. He had a brother Tim who visited here occasionally from Lindsay and when the pair got together in the hotel there was quite a lively circus. The only way I know of that you could get a realistic idea of his powers as a jester would be to get our worthy friend, Thomas Bassett, to relate a few of his experiences with him. He was constable for the west ward at one time and in the execution of the office there were some rare performances. To arrest a man was with him a joke. I am tempted to give a little bit of history in which he was principal actor.

Joseph Maynard, senior, well known to local fame, kept a lively place of business right where the Prower block stands on King St., combining candy shop, bake shop, livery stable and hotel. He applied at the time to which I refer for a renewal of his license to sell spirits at the bar. Ned had been elected Inspector of licenses and it was necessary to get from him a certificate that the house contained six rooms fit for the accommodation of any travellers who might want to be entertained at his hotel. By a strange defect on the part of Joe in his knowledge of arithmetic he counted six but this Inspector could only count five. This led to a lively tempest. Failing to bring Ned to time, he threatened him with an action for damages. He became anxious about it and called a meeting of the ratepayers to find out from them what should be done in such dangerous circumstances, for if the suit went on some one would have to pay heavy cost and he wanted the interested p ublic to assume the responsibility. The gathering was held in the old Town Hall, afterwards it was converted into a public school. Garner Gifford was elected chairman and of all the rum performances that ever took place at a public meeting in Bowmanville, I think this broke the record. Ned was in his element, his eyes dancing like firelight, his whole body twitching with excitement, when laying down the law from his standpoint he was frequently interrupted by a man named Harris, a shoemaker who had his shop in the place on King St., east, where a Mrs. Gifford lived and which was burned down during her occupancy of it. He kept interjecting his questions in a most disagreeable way, "Whoís to pay the cost I want to know?" To understand the point of Nedís scathing retort I would explain that when you had a boot re-soled it was called putting a tap on. " I tell you what Iíll do," Ned bawled out, "Iíll go down to you Harris and get a tap on.&q uot; This odd way of footing a bill caught the crowd and they yelled like people possessed. The victim, of the joke was laughed out of court. The chairman at last thought it time to interpose and ask for an adjournment. In doing so he unwittingly said, "Gentlemen, youíve disgusted it long enough," and although he meant discussed, it about described the situation.

One thing I am bound to say, with all the continuous long time I met and knew my hero on no occasion did I hear him use any low or degrading language. His genius for joking was never made the vehicle of obscenity or to give vent to ill temper. There was no prejudice in his disposition. I witnessed once, though the part he took in what I thought was cruel treatment of a poor wretch whose conduct called out the resentment of a crowd who were having a high time in Hindesí bar. This fellow was in from the rear of Darlington somewhere. He had an altercation with someone and drew a knife trying to use it on the party he had the dispute with. He was disarmed and brought out into the street, someone procured a raw-hide and this Ned applied without mercy. When he did let him off, the way he ran down and out the Scugog road was a sight. There were few who had a kindlier heart than Edward. As far as I know the only surviving one of his children in Bowmanville is Mrs. George Moses. Such is Life!


Next - Bowmanville and Darlington History Part 32

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