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Delayed Civic Improvements, Victoria County, Ontario Canada

The last four decades have seen remarkable developments in the conveniences and amenities of town life. Electric light, water works, sewerage, paved streets, municipal charities, and a hospital have all reached mature growth.

The tardiness with which these developments came was due in large measure to bad municipal financing during the period 1857-1891. For many years, municipal politicians deliberately disregarded written and unwritten laws. Debentures were issued for various purposes, but the councilors, in their desire to curry popular favor by a. low tax rate, kept taking the money raised to pay off the principal and diverting it to current expenses. Finally, in 1891, a provincial Act forced the consolidation of the arrears of debt and payment in full within thirty-five years. The consolidated debt amounted to $152,000, of which sum $123,000 had been voted in railway bonuses.

Once civic government had been placed on a sound basis in this fashion, the provision of modern public utilities was much accelerated.

Lindsay's Lighting System

Prior to 1880, the streets of Lindsay were without illumination and citizens who walked abroad at night did so in imminent peril from mud, thugs, and drunken drivers. The town council at last decided, in November 1880, to purchase six coal oil lamps. One of these lamps was placed at the Wellington Street bridge, one opposite the Midland station, and the other four on Kent Street.

In September 1881, a "Consumers' Gas Company of Lindsay" was formed, with an authorized capital of $50,000. J. R. Dundas was president and F. C. Taylor managing director. This new company contracted with the town to instal 23 gas lamps for street lighting.

Gas, however, was soon to abdicate to electricity. In 1890, B. F. Reeser of Newmarket established a "Lindsay Electric Light Company," which generated power on a fuel system, and was given the street lighting contract. A rival enterprise, the "Victoria Electric Light Co., Ltd.," was at once founded by Samuel and Alfred Parkin.

The Parkins were burned out in September 1891; and thereupon bought up the plant of the Consumers' Gas Company, on the south east corner of William and Wellington streets, demolished the works, and set up an electric power station. Competition between the two electric light companies was keen and both gave service at a loss to the great benefit of the public but to their own embarrassment. At last, Thomas Sadler and William Needier came to the financial assistance of Reeser. They then bought out their rivals and incorporated the "Light, Heat, and Power Co., of Lindsay, Ltd."

The advantages of hydro-electric power development at Fenelon Falls were now considered. J. A. Culverwell, of Port Hope, had seen the prize first and had secured an option on the Smith Estate at Fenelon Falls; but was checkmated by the adverse report of a supposed expert. The Lindsay company then stepped in and snatched up the power rights.

Work was begun in July 1899 on a $75,000 generation and transmission system. The chief items in the generating system were an 11-foot steel flume, two Sampson turbines, and a 400-kilowatt generator. A three phase current at 550 volts was stepped up to 11,000 volts for transmission and distributed in Lindsay at 1100 volts. The contractors were the Wm. Hamilton Mfg. Co., of Peterborough. The system was formally opened on May 31, 1900.

The municipal fathers now decided that, the rates charged for street lights were exorbitant and encouraged the formation of a Lindsay Gas Company, capitalized at $40,000, in July, 1901. The manager, John A. Burgess, of Toronto, put up a plant on the south west corner of Kent and Sussex streets. His gas lights were tested in May 1903 by Professor Ellis and W. H. Stevens, and condemned as hopelessly under strength.

In 1906, another gas venture, the "Gas Power Company," headed by a Mr. Dancy, of Toronto, was given the lighting franchise and much municipal encouragement. With this firm's collapse, all struggles against the electric power company came to an end.

In October, 1911, the question of municipal ownership was brought to .a head by local Socialists but was decisively rejected when put to a popular vote.

Since then the Light, Heat, and Power Company has been acquired by the Seymour Power Company, and still later absorbed into the Hydro-Electric Power Commission's 44,000-volt Central Ontario (or more correctly, Trent Valley) circuit.

Search for a Water Supply

No adequate provision of water for drinking, washing, and fire fighting was made prior to 1892.
For drinking purposes, private wells had to suffice. It was hoped, at one time, that artesian wells, sufficient for the town, could be located within the civic limits. In 1887, a heavy flow was found by Richard Sylvester while drilling an his property on the northwest corner of Peel Street and Victoria Avenue; and in 1888 the town council paid $500 to have a test well sunk on Edward Murphy's pasture lot, on Adelaide Street, just north of the Collegiate Institute, by Abraham Mosley, of Beaverton. Mosley's auger was broken and lost at a depth of 140 feet, and, as no water had yet been discovered, the project was abandoned.

Bathing was ill provided for, except, perhaps, in a bath house built by Thomas Sadler, jutting into the river about 200 yards east of the grist mill. Here a bath could be had by paying an admission fee of ten cents to Peter Forbert, the attendant. Part of the bath was fitted up to accommodate children, the bottom being covered with a lattice work of leather straps, thus allowing the water free circulation and preventing even the smallest child from filtering through.

The only fire protection was that furnished to the business section alone by a limited line of pipe and a water wheel at the grist mill ,which was set going whenever an alarm was given.

A change from all this came in 1892 ,when the town entered into an agreement with a "Lindsay Waterworks Company," backed by Messrs. Moffatt, Hodgkins, and Clarke, of Watertown, N.Y., whereby the company was to install a modern waterworks system in return for a guaranteed franchise for a period of years at $3200 per annum.

Construction began in June 1892 under the superintendence of E. B. Calkins. An intake filter and a pump house were built on the west bank of the Scugog at the foot of Mary Street. Two large Deane pumps, with a daily pumping capacity of 1,000,000 gallons, were installed, and 7 miles of pipe laid down. For storage and pressure purposes, a standpipe, 110 feet high and 16 feet in diameter, was put up at the corner of Jane and Henry streets, on the height of land near the fair grounds. The system was tested' and accepted by the town on October 17, 1892.

It soon transpired that the company had gotten itself into financial embarrassment and the town authorities at last decided to buy up the waterworks for $60,000 and to place the system under a Board of four Waterworks Commissioners, consisting of the mayor, ex officio, and three members elected, one each year, by the rate payers. Since that time the water service has been extended steadily.

In 1908, experiments were made in water purification by ozone, but the results were not uniformly satisfactory. The water is now run through a sand and alum filter and sterilized with chlorine gas.

Town of Lindsay

Victoria County


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