TOWN OF LINDSAY – FACTS AND SUGGESTIONS - 1912

The following interesting paper was read by Mr. J. R. McNeillie at the February session of the Twenty Club:

Before entering upon any suggestions as to what might be done to improve our town, it seems desirable to trace the development of Lindsay and deal with its history. By so doing, light may be found on the question of the improvements needed to bring the town up to a standard, attaining which it would compare favourable with towns of similar size in which equal opportunities may have been afforded for the promotion of growth in population and relative advancement.

Lindsay is not as old a town as some of its neighbours. The place was first known as Purdy’s Mills. The first settler in the locality came in 1825, and in 1836 there were only two settlers on what became the town plot. In 1840 the road which was to become Kent Street was cleared of timber. By 1851 the population had reached 300. Tradition says that the place took the name ‘Lindsay’ from that of a land surveyor who died and was buried on the plot.

Incorporation was granted as a town in 1857 and in the same year a railway from Port Hope was opened for traffic. The assessment was then $300,000.00 The ambition of the inhabitants was quickened by the advent of the railroad and the prospect of the separation of the County of Victoria from the County of Peterborough, and the consequent expectation that Lindsay would be the county town. The situation of the town in the centre of the front range of townships and on the banks of the Scugog, a navigable stream, and the added advantage of being the most populous of the urban communities made the decision of parliament an easy one. In fact, technically, there was no other urban municipality in the county. The village of Omemee, which was the older place by a few years, and was a rival for a good many years, was not incorporated as a village until 1874.

The vote on the question of the separation of the counties was taken in the summer of 1861 and the fact that Lindsay had become the county town was marked by the meeting of the first county council in the town hall on August 20, 1861, “In accordance with the provisions of an Act of the Provincial Parliament entitled an Act to amend the Act for the separation of the County of Victoria from the County of Peterborough, and to fix the county town at Lindsay.”

The census of 1861 showed the population of the town to be 1907. By origin: there were 1153 Canadians not French, 43 Canadians who were French, 156 English, 39 Scotch, 403 Irish, 81 Americans, and 30 from all other countries. By religion: 506 Church of England, 814 Roman Catholic, 156 Presbyterians in three branches, 381 Methodists in four branches, 28 Baptists and 22 others.

In 1871 the population was 4049; in 1881, 5080; in 1891, 6081; in 1910, 7003; and in 1911, 8964.

The latest detailed statistics available are for the year 1901. Origin: 2325 English, 3117 Irish, 942 Scotch, 333 French, 200 Germans and Dutch, 86 others. Religion: 1424 Church of England, 1476 Roman Catholics, 1218 Presbyterians, 2418 Methodists, 311 Baptists, 95 Salvation Army, 61 others.

A comparison with neighbor9ing towns in population is interesting:

Lindsay: 1861 - 1907; 1871 – 4049, 1881 – 5080, 1891 – 5042,

1901 – 7003, 1911 – 5692.

Port Hope: 1861 – 4162, 1871 – 5114, 1881 – 5585, 1891 – 5040, 1901 – 4113, 1911 – 5692.

Cobourg: 1861- 4975, 1871 – 4442, 1881 – 5185, 1891 – 4829,

1901 – 4239, 1911 – 5074.

Peterborough: 1861 – 3379, 1871 – 4611, 1881 – 6812, 1891 – 9717, 1901 – 11,239, 1911 – 18,330.

Before the fire in 1861 the business portion of the town was almost all east of William Street and much of it near the mill site. The only bridge across the river was on the line of Kent Street east. The Bank of Upper Canada had a branch in Lindsay for several years prior to 1861, and erected and conducted business in the building on the northeast corner of Russell and Mill streets. It was succeeded by the Ontario Bank in 1863 and the latter remained in the same building for a number of years. The Bank of Montreal had an agency here as early as 1858.

On July 5th, 1861, the great fire occurred when the whole business portion of the town, the buildings being with a few exceptions constructed of wood, was swept away. The writer was in Lindsay for the first time in the fall of 1861. The striking feature was one brick building, a store, the only building on the south side of Kent Street in the whole space between William and Lindsay streets. The building was a forerunner of the business blocks on Kent Street.

The reputation of the town suffered because of its muddy streets, The writer remembers driving on Kent Street when it was a mire and the wheels seemed to sink almost to the hubs.

The exact year in which Kent Street was improved is not in mind but it was in excellent condition in 1875, when the writer came to reside in Lindsay. While by neglect the surface has become broken and uneven, there is this to be said for it – the foundation was so well laid the bottom never failed again.

An approach to the good work on Kent street has been attempted on several other streets, but whatever the merits of the work originally may have been they have suffered by neglect and the results of the first expenditure have been largely lost.

A sewer was built in Kent Street in connection with the construction of what was intended to be a permanent road. The sewer has served for purposes of drainage and for carrying off surface water fairly well, but was not deep enough. When facilities for conveying sewage became necessary, sewers had to be laid in Kent street but even then false economy led to the sewers being laid at so shallow a depth that the drainage section does not suffice to carry off the water from a moderate depth of basement on some portions of Kent Street.

There was for a number of years a water service for fire purposes on Kent Street and within a limited area adjoining. The power was a water wheel at the mill, which was set going on an alarm of fire being given. In 1892 a private company provided a water system for all purposes. This was purchased by the town about twelve years ago, and has since been largely extended by the commissioners who control it.

Following the introduction of water for all purposes, a system of sewers was planned and has been established on the frontage plan of assessment over a considerable area in the north and south wards and to a limited extent in the east ward. The limitation in the east ward is owing to extension of the water mains not being asked by the residents.

Soon after 1861, the building known as the Central School was erected, and in it the high school and public school work was conducted to the largest extent space would permit. Poor buildings for public school purposes were erected in the east and south wards, and in about 1876 the north ward building, another poor structure, was erected.

In passing it may be remarked that the block bounded by Francis, Colborne, Sussex and Albert streets was the first Protestant burying ground in Lindsay. The easterly portion on which the school was erected had been used to a considerable extent for burial purposes and much work of removal had to be done preparatory to building. Besides these, temporary quarters had to be used to meet increasing demands. In 1866, the old St. Andrew’s Church, opposite the CourtHouse, was purchased by the Board of Education and fitted for school purposes. In 1888 the Collegiate Institute was erected. That was the first distinct advance made in the quality of school accommodation. Later the old East Ward school was replaced by a building, which while architecturally common, provided greatly improved accommodation. But in the matter of Public School buildings and equipment, nothing adequate or creditable had been accomplished until the two new buildings finished and occupied last year were erected.

The first Town Hall, a frame building, stood on the corner of Kent street and Victoria Avenue and after the erection of the present building the former was used as a Fire Hall. The present edifice was erected about the middle sixties and like all the other buildings provided by taxation, it was cheaply constructed. Whatever purposes it may have served in the past it is now unsuitable for the needs of the town and for the accommodation of the town officials.

As has been already remarked, the first railway into Lindsay was opened in 1857. It was known as the Port Hope, Lindsay and Beaverton Railway. The station was situated just east of the site of the large grain elevator erected many years later. The railway crossed the river on a swing bridge below the Madison Williams site. In 1874-76, the Victoria Railway was built to Haliburton. Closely following the latter, the Whitby and Port Perry Railway was extended to Lindsay and the station of these two lines was on Victoria avenue about where the G. T. R. freight sheds now stand. Later all the roads were absorbed by the Grand Truck System, the route of the line from the southeast into the town was changed, the railway works were removed from Port Hope to Lindsay and the conditions as they at present exist were established. The Canadian Pacific Railway commenced traffic on the line from Burketon Junction to Bobcaygeon in August 1904.

The only means of lighting was by the use of coal oil until about the year 1883 when a gas plant was established. The system was extended over the central portion of the town, but it was born too late to withstand the coming in of electricity for lighting purposes. In a few years two electric light plants were installed, one of the latter secured control of the gas plants and destroyed it, then the two became one as the Light, Heat and Power Co. The town has had reason to regret the breaking up of the gas plant. Had it been continued a few years longer, the system could have been made a paying concern for heating purposes and public utility. In about 1875 a Mechanics’ Institute, the forerunner of the Public Library, was established and it had a precarious existence for many years. The passing of the Public Library Act and the erection of a public building by the benefaction of Andrew Carnegie made it possible to establish a creditable institution. There is one blot upon the town in connection with the Public Library, the peculiar quality of ingratitude which prevented the name of the benefactor being bestowed upon the institution.

The Ontario Bank was the only financial institution, after the failure of the Bank of Upper Canada, doing a general business for a number of years subsequent to 1883. The Bank of Montreal was represented, but only for the purpose of receiving deposits for the Government. The Merchants’ Bank opened a branch about the year 1870 and continued in business until 1877, when its building and business were transferred to the Bank of Montreal and the latter entered upon a general banking business. The Dominion Bank began business in 1881. The going out of the Ontario Bank and the coming in of the Bank of Commerce, the Standard Bank, and the Home Bank are events so recent they need not be detailed.

As late as 1875 the church buildings were: The Roman Catholic Church, much as at present, excepting the spire, the successor of a log building on Lindsay street; the Church of England, a frame building on Kent Street on the site on which the Post Office was erected; the Baptist Church, a frame building on the corner of Wellington and Sussex streets; the Canada Presbyterian Church, a rough cast building on the south side of Peel street between William and Cambridge streets; the Church of Scotland, opposite the Court House, erected in 1863, the successor of a log building on the same lot; Cambridge Street Methodist Church, erected in 1871, the successor of a frame building on the corner of William and Wellington streets; Bible Christian Church, on Cambridge street, erected a few years before, now the Baptist Church; the Episcopal Methodist Church, began in 1875, services in the building on Peel street which had been the edifice of the Canada Presbyterian Church prior to the union in that year. The first and only public clock was in the tower of the Bible Christian Church building, until moved to the Fire Hall. There was also a building on the west side of Cambridge Street, south of Kent Street, which had been built by the New Connection Methodists but was closed. The present Church of England was built in 1885; the Presbyterian Church in 1886; and in the latter year the Cambridge Street Methodist was enlarged. After 1875 a small frame building was erected in the East Ward for use as a Methodist Church and a number of years later the Queen Street Church was built. This fact is worthy of remark, that the citizens of Lindsay in their separate association in churches have shown greater enterprise in building than they have exhibited in their corporate capacity as a town.

The Ross Memorial Hospital was established in 1902.

One of the hindrances to the greater progress Lindsay might have enjoyed in the course of the history of the town was bad municipal financing. This began early and continued until the Legislature, in passing an Act for the consolidation of the debt, made it obligatory that the principal of the indebtedness should be liquidated along with the payment of the interest. In the early days, debentures were issued to provide for necessary public works. The debentures were issued payable at the end of a term of years from a sinking fund to be levied annually. Unfortunately, from time to time, men were elected to the council who had so little thought or regard for the ultimate welfare of the town that they either deliberately prevented the levying of the sinking fund or, when levied, spent the amount for current expenses. The ratepayers were deluded by such men into the belief that they were economists, whilst in truth they were false to their duty and the plain requirements of the law without at all questioning their integrity, it should be remarked that if the men who occupied the positions of Clerk and Treasurer had been seized of the imperative duty laid upon them they could, to a large extent, have prevented the doings of the Council in regard to the sinking funds, defiled them to do otherwise than obey the law, and thus have ensured that the ratepayers of this day should not have to shoulder the results of the illegal actions of Councils in the past along with the legitimate burdens of the present. The debts referred to and which no provision has been made, amounted to $152,000 in 1891 and were then consolidated to be paid with interest within a period of 30 years.

In common with many other Municipalities, the natural desire for more railway facilities led to the granting of bonuses beyond, perhaps, what was reasonable or prudent. A bonus of $85,000 was voted towards the building of the Victoria Railway to Haliburton and later, as one of a group of Municipalities, the town contributed $13,000 towards the extension of the line from Port Perry to Lindsay. Still later a bonus of $25,000 was voted towards the Lindsay, Bobcaygeon and Pontypool Railway.

Before referring to what appear to be necessary improvements for the well being of the citizens, a word may be said as to the advantages or otherwise of the application of public ownership of utilities to Lindsay.

The ownership of the waterworks has proved advantageous. The system has been extended beyond what could have been expected from a company in possession, and the system is not likely now to demand direct taxation for its improvements or maintenance. With regard to the purchase of the plant of the Light, Heat and Power Company, which was proposed last year, if the town could have been assured of sufficient water power for present and future requirements from the sources of supply at Fenelon Falls, it might have been advisable to take over the concern, but with the prevailing uncertainty, the better course probably was the one adopted, to allow the plant to go into the possession of another company with the conditions as to prices for lighting and the supply of power stipulated between the town and the company. There is a marked distinction between the supply of water and the supply of electricity. The health and life of the people are affected by the good or otherwise supply of water, but that of electricity so far as the individual is affected is one of convenience only.

In suggesting some desirable improvements I will name them in the order in which it seems to me they are of importance relative to the community, bearing in mind that whatever contributes to the health and consequent well being of the citizens must be given the first place in the discharge of the duties laid upon the men who are entrusted with the management of Municipal affairs.

The disposal of sewage. The outlets of the main sewers are immediately below and above the Lindsay street bridge and at the foot of Francis Street. If there were any active current in the Scugog River, even through the corporation from Lindsay street northerly, the effluent would be carried far enough down stream to lessen the contamination of water and air within the town. In conditions as they are a mammoth cesspool exists in the centre of the corporation which already is a menace to the health of the public and must soon become intolerable. A remedy would be the capturing of the sewage from all the outlets, carrying it by a main to or beyond the northerly limits of the corporation, where it could be treated chemically to render it innocuous. The resultant fertilizer could be sold profitably and the harmless liquids discharged into the river.


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