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Municipal Institutions, Victoria County, Ontario Canada

Certain changes there were, however, which did enter into the lives of all. These were the successive steps by which our present system of municipal government was worked out. Prior to the Union of 1841, all local affairs were managed, or more often mismanaged, directly from the office of the lieutenant-governor. After the Union, a system of District Councils composed of elected representatives from the different municipalities, was inaugurated. Then by the Baldwin Municipal Act of 1849, the municipal organization which still exists (with minor modifications) was set up. Under this Act each township and incorporated village elects annually by general vote a reeve, or head, and four councillors. If there are 500 electors in the municipality, it is entitled to a reeve, a deputy-reeve, and three councillors; and for each additional 500 electors, another deputy-reeve is substituted for a councilor. Towns are governed by a mayor and three councillors from each ward, elected annually. The number of councillors may be reduced by bylaw. Towns which have not separated from the county in which they are situated also elect a reeve and deputy-reeves proportionate to the number of their electors. The county council is composed of the reeves and deputy-reeves elected for the year by the townships, villages and towns. These representatives, at their first meeting each year, elect one of their number as Warden or head of the county council.

Each county, and each subdivision within it, is legally a corporation, with a corporate seal and certain specific powers granted it by the laws of the Province. Connected with each such corporation are a number of officials. The clerk is the most important officer and preserves all records, keeps all books and promulgates all bylaws of the council. The treasurer receives all funds and makes all disbursements. These two appointments are usually permanent. Other officials, more commonly chosen from year to year, are auditors, a solicitor, assessors, tax collectors, fire wardens and firemen, fence viewers, pound keepers, pathmasters and health officers. All the enactments of municipal corporations are executed by means of bylaws issued under seal. The powers of all such bodies are, however, strictly specified by provincial statute, and any council exceeding its powers may be restrained by the courts, if legal appeal be made.

The Second One-third Century a Railway Era

The second one-third of the centenary, from 1854 to 1887, is chiefly characterized in Victoria County by the building of railways and by the attainment of municipal maturity.

In 1857 a railway was completed from Port Hope through Millbrook, Bethany and Omemee to Lindsay. The track did not cross the Scugog, but followed the east bank around from the present "Santiago" switch to near the Flavelle grain elevators in the East Ward. This line was known until 1869 as the "Port Hope, Lindsay and Beaverton Railway," and was then renamed the "Midland Railway." It was not, however, extended to Beaverton until 1871 and did not reach Midland until 1878. In the seventies, it crossed the Scugog by a swing bridge just at the present Carew sawmill. A branch line from Millbrook to Peterboro was completed by 1858, but it was many years before the "Missing Link" from Peterborough to Omemee was filled in.

The first session of the Ontario Legislature, held in 1867, granted a charter for the construction of a narrow gauge railway from Toronto to Coboconk. This "Toronto and Nipissing Railway" was completed as tar as Uxbridge by 1871 and in 1872 the settlers of Bexley were given a free inaugural ride on a long train of flat cars decorated with evergreens.

In that same year the Victoria Railway was projected to run north from Lindsay and through Haliburton County. There was an understanding that the road was to pierce through the granite highlands and join the transcontinental line of the C. P. R. (then in the making) at Mattawa. This was to make the read the main route between Northern and Southern Ontario. Some dreamers even urged that it be extended still further through the Temiskaming region and on to James Bay; but the politicians of that day did not see eye to eye with these deer, and Haliburton village, 55 miles from Lindsay, has been the northern terminus since 1878. it is interesting to know, in this connection, that the central girder of the Distillery Creek bridge on this road, just north of Lindsay, was originally part of the Victoria Bridge, Montreal, and was sent here to form part of the new "Victoria Rail Way." The Irondale and Bancroft branch, running east from Kinmount Junction, was begun in 1880.

The year 1877 saw still another railway joining the county system. An earlier road from Whitby to Port Perry was now brought through to Lindsay by way of Manilla. The Lindsay station for the Victoria Railway and the Whitby and Port Perry Railway was on Victoria Avenue, where the present G. T. R. freight sheds stand.

The next six years saw the construction of a connecting link between Manilla on the Whitby line and Blackwater on the Toronto and Nipissing, the building of the present bridge over the Scugog, the establishment of a through service from Port Hope to Toronto via Lindsay and Blackwater, and the absorption of all the county rail ways by the Grand Trunk Railway System.

The coming of the railways made great changes in the life of the county. Their first effect was great prosperity, because of the cheap, easy access furnished to outside markets. Then came reaction and great financial depression, for almost every municipality had bonused the railway builders far beyond its means. Eldon, Somerville and Bexley alone had bestowed $74,000 on the Toronto and Nipissing Railway. And after prodigality came bitterness and the shadow of bankruptcy. However, the lean years did not consume the countryside *indefinitely, and the natural wealth of the county gradually asserted itself through the fuller development made possible by the new channels of import and export. Lindsay and the villages served by rail now entered on a period of industrial development. The farm fields in the Southern Townships grew wider and more golden, and the pioneers who once jolted to a backwoods mill with a few sacks for gristing now shipped their thousands of bushels of grain by rail.

The Trent Canal had not shown like progress. For many years the original canal scheme was abandoned and in 1855 all existing works were handed over to a corporation, the "Trent Slide Committee," who kept timber slides in repair and exacted tolls from the lumbermen. In 1870 a great flood destroyed much of the slide system and parts of it were abandoned. The largest construction work of the period was the building of the locks at Fenelon Falls in 1886.

The Development of the Northern Townships

Consequent on the development of rail and water facilities came the opening up of the Northern Townships. There had been a few earlier attempts to colonize Somerville and Bexley but the poverty of the soil and the remoteness of markets had kept settlement within narrow limits. Now came a shortcut to outside markets and a new outburst of activity. The Northern Townships were covered with magnificent forests of pine, and lumbering was soon undertaken on a large scale. The first timber license in Somerville was issued in the season of 1863-64 to one Samuel Dickson. By 1872, the mills at Fenelon Falls and Bobcaygeon alone had an annual output of twenty-eight million feet of pine. The lumberman's axe echoed through the forests from the Kawartha Lakes north to Laxton and Longford and far beyond. And while this industry flourished and provided a local market for farm produce in summer and employment in the bush in winter, the settlers who spread over this half sterile country were able to make a living.

Victoria County Reaches Maturity in 1861

The same period, the second one-third of the centenary, witnessed the municipal coming of age of the county. In 1850, the Colborne District, of which its townships had for a decade formed a part, was given the new title of "Peterborough County." In 1851 this same municipality became the "United Counties of Peterborough and Victoria," but Peterborough was the dominant partner The Wardens from 1841 to 1860 were as follows: 1842-46, G. A. Hill; 1847-50, John Langton of Fenelon Township; 1851, Thomas Short; 1852-58, William Cottingham, of Emily Township; 1859, W. S. Conger; 1860, Wm. Lang.

At last, in 1861, Victoria was granted provisional independence. William Cottingham, the founder of Omemee, was Provisional Warden. Lindsay was chosen as the prospective county town; the present Court House Square in Lindsay was bought; and a start was made at the erection of the Court House and County Gaol. Neil McDougall, Reeve of Eldon, was the Provisional Warden in 1862.

In 1863 the County buildings were completed. The cost, including that of the Registry Office, added in 1874, was about $59,000. The County was now accorded all the rights and privileges of an independent corporation, and the council held its inaugural meeting with great decorum in the new council chamber.

County History

Victoria County


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