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Title: The Court Houses of a Century - A Brief Historical Sketch of the Court Houses of London - Distict, the County of Middlesex, and County of Elgin
Author: McKay, Kenneth W.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Court Houses of a Century - A Brief Historical Sketch of the Court Houses of London - Distict, the County of Middlesex, and County of Elgin" ***

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The Court Houses

--OF A--



[Illustration: HOUSE OF LIEUT. JAMES MUNRO, ERECTED 1798, LOT 14, CON. 5,
Briggs, Publisher._)]


The Court Houses

--OF A--


A Brief Historical Sketch of the Court Houses of the London District,
the County of Middlesex and County of Elgin.



With Introduction by James H. Coyne, B. A.





    1. Introduction. By J. H. Coyne, B. A.                   1

    2. The Munro House, 1800-1802                            5

    3. The Turkey Point Court House                          6

    4. The Vittoria Court House, 1815-1826                   7

    5. The London Court Houses, 1826-1853                    7

    6. The Elgin Court Houses, 1853-1900                     9

    7. Statistics--Population, Number of Houses, Etc.       27

    8. Plan of Court House                                  28


    1. Frontispiece. The Munro House

    2. The London Court House                                8

    3. Warden Locker, 1852-1855                             10

    4. The Elgin Court House, 1860                          11

    5. D. J. Hughes, Esq., County Judge, 1853               12

    6. The Elgin Court House Before the Fire                13

    7. Court Room after the Fire                            14

    8. Wardens 1898-1899, Chairman Building Committee,
       Architect and Contractor                             16

    9. New Court House                                      17

    10. D. J. Hughes, Esq., County Judge, 1899              18

    11. Court Room                                          19

    12. Library                                             20

    13. County Council Chamber                              21

    14. County Clerk's Office                               22

    15. Stained Glass Window, Main Stairway                 23

    16. Court House, East Side, showing Jail Entrance       24

    17. Gaol Yard                                           25

    18. A Gaol Ward                                         26

    19. Plan of Building                                    28


    District and County Records.

    Oxford Gazetteer, by Shenston.

    U. E. L. Settlement at Long Point, by Tasker.

_"In any age it is a duty which every country owes to itself, to
preserve the records of the past and to honor the men and women whose
lives and deeds made possible its present, and to-day when the whole
civilized world is throbbing to social and political impulses of the
greatest significance for the future, we ought especially to call to
mind such lives and deeds and catch, if we can, inspiration for acting
well the part that falls to each of us."_



The Wonderful Century is before the bar of history. Its record shows
everywhere progress, consolidation, expansion, improvement. Civilization
has spread, barbarism has given away. Labor has been restored to its
honorable station, and idleness is accounted dishonor. Privilege has
been curtailed, liberty has widened its borders. Slavery has almost
disappeared from the earth. The beneficent forces are stronger. The
comforts and conveniences of life are increased and more evenly
distributed. Disease and pain have been brought under control.

Life has been made more interesting. Travel is easier and cheaper, and
mankind has become acquainted with the world it inhabits. The stars have
been discovered. They have been weighed and analysed. The human mind has
expanded with wider knowledge.

The railway, electricity and the Postal Union have gone far to blend the
nations into one. Every day, all round the globe, men read the same
news, think the same thoughts, are thrilled with the same tidings of
heroism or suffering. Human sympathy is broadened and deepened. Mankind
is more homogeneous in spirit. Statecraft, literature, society, have
become democratic and cosmopolitan.

The spirit of union dominates the century. The forces of disunion and
disintegration are everywhere routed. Mutual benevolence is organized
for greater effectiveness. Universal education, equality of rights and
responsibilities, are principles of government. Religion, emphasizing
points of agreement and ignoring points of difference, manifests itself
in its works as never before.

The century spans the years from Copenhagen to Paardeburg, from Nelson
and Napoleon to Roberts and Kruger. As the battle of Copenhagen
established the naval supremacy of Britain, so Paardeburg welded the
empire, one and inseparable. In 1800 the principle of a United Empire
was represented by the Loyalists of Upper Canada standing almost alone.
In 1900, borne by their descendants to the distant plains of South
Africa, it reached its full fruition in the final charge by the
Canadians under Otter, on the banks of the Modder River. The principle
includes the realization of all that the century stands for--union,
equal rights, progress, justice, humanity.

It is my task to say a brief foreword on the progress of Canada and
especially the county of Elgin. The beginning of the century found
Ontario almost an unbroken wilderness. Rare and scanty were the
clearings here and there along Lakes Erie and Ontario, and on the great
rivers. The winter express from Detroit to York or Niagara, made its way
along the lonely forest path. At long intervals only did he perceive the
smoke rising in the crisp air, from the hospitable and welcome cabin.
The frightened deer bounded across his path into the deeper woods. The
bear hybernated in the hollow tree. The long howling of the wolves broke
on the midnight air. The lynx and panther crouched among the branches,
ready to spring on the unwary traveller. The only sign of human life was
the Indian hunter following the trail of the turkey or wild beast.

It was in the first year of the century that a young man of twenty-nine,
giving up brilliant prospects in the army, and turning his back on
society, found his way to the township of Yarmouth and began a clearing
at or near Port Stanley. With royal dukes for his advocates, he applied
to the Imperial authorities for a large grant of land to form a
settlement. Two years later he succeeded. Yarmouth had been appropriated
to others, and Colonel Thomas Talbot began his actual settlement in
Dunwich. In the middle of the century, or more accurately in the year
1853, he died. In the same year the separation of Elgin from Middlesex
was completed, and Colonel Talbot's "capital," St. Thomas, was made the
County Town.

Nearly another half century has passed since then, and it includes the
history of the County of Elgin as a separate municipality.

The death of the eccentric founder of the settlement divides nearly
equally the history of the county from the time when its only
inhabitants were the bear, wolf and panther, to the end of the century,
which finds the county well cleared and cultivated throughout its entire
extent; intersected by splendid highways, including the lines of five
railway companies; peopled with a numerous and enterprising community,
God-fearing and law-abiding, industrious and prosperous. The thriving
city of St. Thomas, the enterprising and flourishing town of Aylmer, and
numerous promising villages, advancing with rapid strides in magnitude
and importance, form centres of population, where a century ago the
primeval silence was unbroken, save by the footfall of the Mississaga
ranging the woods in pursuit of game.

It was during the first decades of the century that the pioneers came.
From them the present population is largely sprung. Dunwich was the
first to be settled. A few immigrants from the Eastern States settled
near Port Talbot. Then the overflow of settlement from Long Point made
itself felt in Southwold, Yarmouth, Malahide and Bayham. Before 1820 the
Highland settlements began in Aldborough and Dunwich. The wanderings of
the Kildonan settlers from Hudson's Bay to Red River, and thence
eastward to Upper Canada and southward, to the settlements on Lake Erie,
add a tragic episode to the story of the pioneers of West Elgin. Their
hardships, sufferings and heroism can never be forgotten. Much later
came the settlement of South Dorchester.

These were the men who felled the forest, let the sunlight into the
wilderness, drained the swamps, cleared and fenced the bush, made the
roads and bridged the fords, "drave out the beasts," and established
schools and churches. They were the sifted grain of Canadian
immigration. For the Colonel was determined to have none but the loyal,
industrious and enterprising, and was discriminating in the choice of
settlers for this County, among the numerous applicants for land.

Such were the pioneers of Elgin. We inherit the fruits of their
strenuous toil and struggle. It was they who, with dauntless courage and
unfaltering determination, braved all hardships, the loneliness, the
privations, the sufferings of pioneer life, that we might enjoy the
harvest of their labors. They slept on the bare ground in the forest
shanty, and hewed with mighty toil the log huts, that their sons might
live in framed houses, and their grandchildren in houses of brick
furnished with the appliances of modern civilization. They sowed and we

In the old churchyards at Tyrconnel, New Glasgow, St. Thomas, and
elsewhere near the lake shore, they rest well after their labors. The
mouldered headboards have given way to the marble slab or stately
monument, that records their brief history--that they lived and died.
Their true and imperishable monument is the manhood and womanhood of
Elgin, the beautiful farms and homes, the noble institutions of religion
and education. Their names will be forever honored among the founders of
the Canadian nation, and after a thousand years men will be proud to
count their descent from the pioneers of Elgin.

The public buildings of a community are a fair index of the character of
the people. In this view, the completion of the new Court House is an
event, and its evolution, as recorded in this volume, is a study of
historical and sociological value.

The new building is admirably adapted to the purposes for which it is
intended. It is up-to-date in every particular. Visitors from other
parts pronounce it, as its predecessor was pronounced when first
erected, one of the handsomest and most commodious public buildings in
the Province. The architect and contractors have done their part well;
but the credit is mainly and beyond all due to the public spirit of the
people of Elgin, who were resolved that nothing short of best would
satisfy them, and who were willing to be taxed to a reasonable extent
upon the sole condition that the building should be well and honestly
built, be a credit to the county and answer its purpose.

Doubtless before another century rolls round, the increase of population
and wealth may call for an enlarged building, but it is certain that no
changes in architectural science will produce one that will better
reflect the intelligence and enterprise, the wealth and the culture of
the people, than the beautiful and commodious structure, which is to-day
the pride and the boast of the citizens of this county.


The Court Houses of a Century.

The History of the Court Houses of Ontario is closely associated with
the development of the Province. The first recognition of population in
South Western Ontario was the formation in 1788, of the District of
Hesse and the appointment of Justices of the Court of Common Pleas, and
other officials.

The only inhabitants were in the French settlements around Detroit,
where the barracks and Government House were located. In 1792 Upper
Canada, now Ontario, was divided into nineteen Counties, Norfolk,
Suffolk, Essex and Kent occupying nearly the same territory as the
District of Hesse. Representatives to the Provincial Parliament were
elected and, at the first session convened at Niagara in September,
1792, an Act was passed for building a Gaol and Court House in every
district, and for altering the names of the districts. Hesse was
hereafter called the Western District, and the Court House and Gaol was
ordered to be built at Detroit. The Courts were held there until the
evacuation of Detroit by the British in 1795, after which they were held
in the Parish of Assumption, now Sandwich. D. W. Smith, in his Gazetteer
of 1799, states: "That there is a good Gaol and Court House," in
Sandwich, "situated a little below the fort of Detroit, on the east side
of the river."

The Munro House, 1800-1802.

The U. E. Loyalists settlement of Norfolk commenced in 1793, and in 1798
the rapid increase in population was recognized by a division of the
Western District and the formation of three Counties, Norfolk, Oxford
and Middlesex to be known as the London District. This was organized by
the appointment of a general commission of the peace and the necessary
officials. The first meeting of the resident Magistrates was held in the
house of Lieutenant James Munro, of Charlotteville, on 1st April, 1800,
for the purpose of carrying the Commission into execution, and the first
General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the District was ordered to be
holden at the same place on Tuesday, the 8th day of April, 1800.

The Munro House above referred to, was built in 1796, on lot 14 in the
5th concession of Charlotteville. It was the best house which had been
erected up to that time, and stands to-day as an old land mark, about a
half mile back from the road running straight west from Vittoria. It is
a two story frame house of considerable size. The frame was made of hewn
timber, with bents four feet apart, strengthened by tie girths, morticed
and tendoned--a marvel of axeman's skill. The planks for the floor and
sheeting were cut out by the whip saw. The original roof is on the
building at the present time. The shingles are of cedar, rudely whittled
by the draw knife, and show in places an original thickness of over an

A temporary jail was erected near the house, a log building fourteen
feet by twenty-five feet, divided into two rooms--one for the debtors
and the other for those charged with criminal offences. This building
was erected during the winter of 1800 by day labor, and was used for
nearly a year. The courts were held here until 1802, when they were
removed to Turkey Point or Fort Norfolk under the authority of an Act
passed in the year 1801.

Turkey Point, 1802-1812.

The Courts at Turkey Point were first held in the public house of Job
Loder. In 1803 the contract for a court house was awarded. It was to be
a frame building forty feet in length by twenty-six feet in width, to be
two stories high, the first or lower story to be ten feet between floor
and ceiling, and the second or upper story to be eight feet high. The
original specifications were as follows: "The building to be erected on
a foundation of white oak timber squared, the same to be sound and of
sufficient thickness, the building to be shingled and to have two
sufficient floors, an entry eight feet wide to be made from the front
door across one end of the lower story, from which winding stairs are to
be erected to ascend to the second story; two rooms are to be
partitioned off in the second or upper story for juries. Nine windows
are to be made in front and ten in rear, of twenty-four lights each,
seven by three. The front door to be made of inch and a half plank, six
panel, and to have a good sufficient lock and key. Two windows are to be
finished in the first story opposite each other, so as to afford
sufficient light to the bar, besides two windows of fifteen lights each
behind the Judge or Chairman's seat. The rest of the windows are to be
cased and nailed up for the present. The Bar, table, Justices' seat,
benches for the bar and a table for each jury room, and benches for the
same are to be finished; the three inside doors to be temporary; a seat
and writing table for Clerk, to be made between the bench and the bar.
Note--The house to be raised, shingled, weather-boarded and floored,
and the bench for the Judge and Justices, Judge or Chairman's writing
desk, Clerk's seat and table, the bar and table and benches therefor,
the four windows below and two above to be finished, the rest of the
windows cased and nailed up. The front door to be finished, and the
other three temporary doors to be made and hung. Comprehends the present
contract proposed by the court to be performed by the next assizes for
this district."

Courts were held in this building commencing in the year 1804 until it
was appropriated for the use of prisoners during the war of 1812.

The Vittoria Court House, 1815-1826.

In 1815 an act was passed which provided that the courts of general
quarter sessions for the district of London should be held at
Charlotteville. The Magistrates were ordered to make a choice of the
most convenient place, and a meeting was accordingly held at the house
of Thomas Finch on the 13th June, 1815. John Backhouse, Thomas Talbot
and Robert Finch were appointed Commissioners to superintend the
building, and a brick court house and gaol was erected at Vittoria at an
expense of £9,000. During the erection of the building, courts were held
in the houses of Thomas Finch, Francis Beaupre and Mathias Steel. The
first meeting of the sessions was held in the new court house on 8th
April, 1817, and it was used until 1826, when it was partially destroyed
by fire.

The London Court Houses, 1826-1853.

An Act was then passed to establish a District town in a more central
place, and courts were ordered to be held in some part of the
reservation made for the site of a town near the forks of the River
Thames. This was at London where four acres were set apart for the
purposes of the jail and court house. The commissioners appointed for
the purpose of erecting the building, Thomas Talbot, Mahlon Burwell,
James Hamilton, Charles Ingersoll and John Matthews, held their first
meeting in St. Thomas. During the erection of the court house at London,
courts were held in a private house at Vittoria, and afterwards at St.
Thomas. Dr. C. Hodgins, in his History of Education of Upper Canada,
states that on one occasion the Court of King's Bench, with Judge
Sherwood presiding and the late Sir John Beverley Robinson in attendance
as King's Attorney, was held in an upper room of a building used by Mr.
Stephen Randal as a grammar school. This building was afterwards
removed to the school lot near the present residence of Judge
Ermatinger, and was known as the "Talbot Seminary."


_From "Illustrated London," copyrighted. By permission London Printing
and Lithographing Co. (Limited.)_]

The first court house in London was constructed of flat logs, and on the
ground floor was a log partition to separate the jail from the jailer's
room. The court room above was reached by stairs outside. This was
followed by the erection of a two story frame building upon the same
square where the present court house stands, but closer to the street.
In one end of the first floor were placed two cells, which were rendered
more secure by being surrounded with logs, from which the building
acquired the distinctive title of "The Old Log Court House." Courts were
first held there in 1828.

In 1838 a new jail was proposed, and in the years 1843 and 1844 the
present jail and court house in London was completed at a cost of
£8,500. The latter resembles the castle of Malahide near Dublin, the
birth place of Col. Talbot.

The Elgin Court House, 1853-1898.

The County of Elgin was established by an Act of the Legislature passed
in August, 1851, and formed a union with Middlesex until County
Buildings were erected. The provisional County Council held its first
meeting in the Town Hall, St. Thomas, on April 15th, 1852. The first
business was to erect a jail and Court House. Offers of building sites
were received from Messrs. Curtis and Lawrence and Benjamin Drake. The
Curtis sites were north of Talbot Street and West of East Street. The
Lawrence site, two acres, included the lot on which the Post Office now
stands. The Drake site appears to have been considered suitable before
the county was formed as a deed from Benjamin Drake to Queen Victoria,
dated the 25th of October, 1848, and registered the 30th of October,
1851, conveys the Jail and Court House Block to Her Majesty for public
buildings for county and district purposes only. A resolution of the
County Council shows that the final acceptance of this site depended on
obtaining water at fifteen feet, failing this a new site was to be
chosen. The location for the building on lot selected was next

Petitions to front the buildings on Stanley Street were presented, but
they were ordered to face north so as to stand parallel with the Talbot
Road in front of Queen Street.

Plans were received from architects Thomas and Tully, of Toronto, and
John Turner of Brantford.

The plans submitted by Mr. Turner were the same as for the Court House
at Brantford, which he was building. These were adopted with some
changes suggested by other plans before the council.

The contract was awarded to Garner Ellwood for £4,580, on the 19th June,
1852. The jail, jailor's house, etc., to be completed by the 15th
September following, and the Court House on the 1st August, 1853.

The Building Committee consisted of the whole council, of which Messrs.
Clark and Locker of Malahide, Ganson of Yarmouth, Skinner of Bayham,
Munro of Southwold and Parish of St. Thomas, were the most active.
Thomas Cheeseman was the architect's superintendent in charge of the

[Illustration: WARDEN LOCKER, 1852-1855]

The jail was not completed until the spring of 1853, and on the 23rd of
March Mr. Ellwood gave up the contract, £2,764 having been expended. The
Warden was then authorized to proceed with the work which, with the
exception of minor contracts, was completed by day labor, with Thomas
Fraser, builder, of London, as superintendent. The Gaol as at first
erected was not satisfactory, the plan being defective. This increased
the cost and when the buildings were completed and furnished in 1854,
the total expenditure was £11,405. Mr. Ellwood in tendering for the
buildings was guided by the figures supplied by Architect Turner who was
then erecting a court house at Brantford. In a subsequent report to the
council Mr. Turner states that in the erection of the Brantford building
he ruined himself, and that he could not have erected the Elgin
buildings at a less price than they cost the county.

A Special Committee reported on completion of the work: "That after
taking into consideration the advance in price of material and
labor--that the buildings have been erected in as judicious and
economical a manner as the circumstances would admit, and that the
beautiful workmanship and design is not surpassed by any building in
Canada west."

[Illustration: THE ELGIN COURTHOUSE, 1860.]

The Royal Arms Rampant, which is very much admired, on the front of the
Court House, is in size twelve feet by six feet, and cost £93. They were
supplied by Messrs. Cochranes and Pollock of Toronto, from a sketch
drawn by Mr. John M. Walthew who also painted the picture placed in the
court room, the beauty of which the council acknowledged by special
resolution in January 1855. Sculptured faces were placed in the east and
west gables of the building. That in the west resembles Lord Elgin,
after whom the county was named, and the other may be architect Turner
but at present no one seems to know definitely who they were intended to

In 1853 the Town Hall of the Village of St. Thomas was secured for court
purposes on condition that any fittings, etc., required were to be
supplied by the County, and left in the building when court house was
completed. Plans of the new buildings and of the town hall were
submitted to the statutory commissioners, and approved of as suitable
for court purposes. On the 30th of September, 1852, a proclamation was
published in the Official Gazette, dissolving the union of Elgin and

[Illustration: D. J. HUGHES, ESQ., COUNTY JUDGE, 1853.]

The Officers appointed were:

    Judge, David John Hughes.
    Sheriff, Colin Munro.
    Registrar, John McKay.
    Clerk of Peace, James Farley.
    Clerk of the Court, Peter Murtagh.
    Jailor, John King.
    County Clerk. William McKay.
    County Treasurer, William Coyne.
    County Engineer, Charles Fraser.

During November, 1853, the offices of the Sheriff, Clerk of the Peace
and Clerk of the County Court were located in one room in the apartments
erected for the Jailor.

On the 15th of November, 1853, the first court of quarter sessions of
the County of Elgin opened at St. Thomas in the Town Hall, David John
Hughes, County Judge, presiding. In opening the court, the Judge
delivered the following address to the Grand Jury:


"It is usual for the presiding Justice at our criminal courts to address
to grand inquests, remarks upon the duties which have to be discharged
by them. This being the first time we have met together in our relative
capacities, I think the occasion a becoming one for congratulating you
and the inhabitants of this fine county in general, in being now
separated from the senior county for the transaction of all the
judicial, municipal and other business of our inhabitants.


Anyone who has lived in what was the London district for twenty years,
and who will look back upon the time when, with little better than a
mere track to guide or assist them, most of the settlers were obliged to
travel the primeval forests to distances of fifty or sixty miles to
attend courts, and for other purposes in the way of business, and who
now have public offices almost brought within reach of their own doors,
cannot but feel thankful that a gracious Providence has favored the
country and its inhabitants with such prosperity--a prosperity which is
still on the increase, at a rate surpassing the expectations of the most

If we look beyond the limits of our own county and view the Province at
large, we see progress and prosperity, peace, contentment and general
happiness surrounding us. We find the minds of the people progressing
too, for with a bountiful provision for schools and a well ordered
system, the rising generation are enabled, and doubtless will keep pace
with their monetary prosperity.

The encouragement that agriculture has met with in an increased demand
for the staple produce of the county, and remunerative prices will call
for an improved system of tilling the fields. The encouragement given to
manufactures by the increased consumption, justifies enterprise in an
increase of fabrics; and all these call forth the necessary supply of
improved and cultivated minds--so that enquiry is awakened, and the
benefit of our schools and colleges is every year becoming more and more
appreciated and will be so much better attended and encouraged, that
they will themselves improve in their standard and tone, so that Canada
in one or two generations will equal, if not successfully rival, parts
of the world which are now considered amongst the freest and most


We enjoy a liberty in our civil and religious affairs which admits not
only of a freedom of thought, but action. We can watch our very rulers,
and have the means in our hands of curbing usurpation of power or
infringements of rights by the privilege we can exercise of approving or
disapproving of the advisers of the crown. We can worship the Almighty
in our own way; no one venturing to disturb or make us afraid. We can
educate our children almost entirely at the public expense, and place
them within reach of the highest honors that their talents entitle them
to, or that the country can bestow. The time has gone by for those
honors to belong only to a class; or when promising aspirants can be
successfully frowned upon by those who fancy that they hold a
prescriptive right to them; and the time has arrived for men not to be
judged by the occupations they are day by day employed in, but by the
integrity of their purposes, the cultivation of their minds, the
uprightness of their characters, and their successfulness in
accomplishing some good for themselves and their fellow-men.

In entering upon the duties of the office I fill, I must confess my
misgivings as to the ability to discharge them aright. They are onerous,
responsible, and will be at times arduous and disagreeable. I depend
upon the forbearance of those with whom I shall be brought in contact,
and claim their assistance and advice when necessity shall suggest it. I
desire to see the great body of the people, whose business or affairs
shall be brought under my judicial notice, satisfied that justice and
right are aimed at, however, I may fall short in administering them, and
in my magisterial capacity I rely upon the aid of my brother magistrates
to further these motives; for I doubt not that by mutually according to
one another, integrity of purpose, (as I shall at times desire to
attribute to them) we shall be able to accomplish much good in the way
of checking vice and setting a good example to the several neighborhoods
we respectively inhabit.

The County Buildings are not yet quite completed, but I am informed that
before the next sessions, the Court may be held in them; and when
finished I am satisfied they will not be surpassed in beauty,
convenience and comfort by any in the Province."

The first Court of Quarter Sessions was held in the Court House, on the
5th of January, 1854, and on the 11th of April, in the same year, Hon.
Justice Draper opened the first Court of Assize. Col. John Prince,
Q. C., one of the lawyers in attendance at this Court, complimented the
County on the magnificence of the Court House, which, he said, was
unsurpassed by any Court House in the Province.

On June 7th, 1854, all of the offices in the Court House were occupied,
and the building completed, with the exception of some painting and the
erection of the Royal Arms.

The County Buildings remained the same until the gaol was rebuilt, and
wall erected in 1872. This was followed by a new Registry Office in
1874, and a Gaoler's residence in 1889-1891. On the 1st of July, 1898, a
fire occurred at midnight, destroying the roof and upper portion of the
Court House, the whole building being damaged by water.

[Illustration: DANIEL LANG. Warden, 1898.]

[Illustration: OSCAR McKENNEY. Warden, 1898.]

[Illustration: ARCHIBALD J. LEITCH. Chairman Building Committee.

[Illustration: NEIL R. DARRACH. Architect.]

[Illustration: ROBERT CARROLL. Contractor.]

The Elgin Court House, 1898-1900.

[Illustration: THE NEW COURT HOUSE.]

The first meeting of the County Council, after the burning of the Court
House, was held in the Grand Central Hotel, St. Thomas, on July 8th. The
Insurance appraisers' award fixing the amount of damage at $5,509, was
then presented. Mr. J. M. Green, contractor, was valuator on behalf of
the County. The County officials were consulted in reference to
temporary accommodation, and the Clerk was authorized to rent offices
from Mr. Charles Spohn, on the south-west corner of William and Talbot
streets. A special Building Committee was appointed, with power to
employ an architect, visit other Court Houses, to have plans prepared,
and report. The committee, consisting of Messrs. A. J. Leitch, S. B.
Morris, D. Turner, R. Locker, D. F. Moore. W. B. Cole and Warden Lang,
accompanied by N. R. Darrach, architect, and J. A. Bell, County
Engineer, proceeded to Brantford, to examine the county buildings, which
had recently been enlarged. Instructions were given to prepare plans to
include enlargement of building and re-modelling Jail and Jailer's
residence and kitchen. The County Council met on the 27th of July, to
receive report presented by Architect Darrach, who estimated the cost of
plans submitted at about $33,000. Opposition was offered by some members
of the Council, who were desirous of limiting the cost of building to
$20,000, but the architect's plans were adopted. A by-law was passed
appointing a special building committee, and authorizing the Warden to
sign contracts. The architect's fee was fixed at $1,200 for the whole
work. Tenders were received, and as all of them exceeded the
architect's estimate, a special meeting of the Council was called for
the 8th of September, to consider the matter. At this session the
building committee reported in favor of the adoption of the following

  J. H. McKnight & Co., Toronto, for the whole work, with the
  exception of the electric wiring, iron work and plumbing.   $33,990 00

  R. A. L. Grey, Toronto, electric wiring                         346 00

  Stacey & Co., St. Thomas, iron work                           1,231 42

  C. T. Bull, St. Thomas, plumbing                              1,047 00

[Illustration: D. J. HUGHES, ESQ., COUNTY JUDGE, 1899.]

This report was adopted and contracts signed by all with the exception
of Mr. Bull. Mr. A. J. Leitch, Chairman of the Building Committee, was
appointed to inspect the work as it progressed, and issue orders for
payment in accordance with the architect's estimates. Tenders for
heating and plumbing were received in January, 1899, and contracts
awarded--the heating to Joseph Harrison for $3,146, and the plumbing to
Keith & Fitzsimmons, Toronto, for $1,125. The Building Committee next
considered the question of furnishing, and for the purpose of securing
information, visited the court houses in Stratford and Woodstock, and in
March, 1899, tenders were received and the following contracts awarded:

  J. Acheson, St. Thomas, hardware                            $400 00

  McDonald & Wilson, Toronto, gas fixtures                     645 00

  The Preston Office & School Furniture Company,
        for special work                                     2,995 00
       And for furniture, desks, etc                           556 80

  The Office Specialty Company, Toronto, for
       letter press, stands, vault fittings, etc               892 50

[Illustration: COURT ROOM.]

Carpets and window blinds were procured from J. B. Kay, Son & Co.,
Toronto, and rubber matting for the stairs from the Gutta Percha &
Rubber Co., two clocks for the court room and council chamber, from W.
R. Jackson. Stained glass windows with appropriate designs were ordered
from N. T. Lyons, Toronto, for the main stairway, one contains a picture
of the old and new buildings; the other, the names of the County Council
for the years 1898 and 1899. Stone walks around the building and through
the grounds were put down by the Silica Barytic Stone Company, of
Ingersoll, at the cost of $579.02. The work of grading the grounds was
completed under superintendence of W. Irving.


The Court House was formally opened on Wednesday, the 13th day of
December, 1899, the occasion being the first day of the Court of
General Sessions of the Peace, and of the County Court.

The proceedings commenced at 2.40 p. m. Judge Hughes presided, and on
his right was Junior Judge Ermatinger, and on his left Sheriff Brown.

Judge Hughes explained that he had invited Rev. Canon Hill and
Vicar-General Bayard to be present, to assist in the opening
proceedings, but they had other engagements and could not attend. There
were present Revs. D. R. Drummond, Prof. T. L. Fowler, of the Disciples
College, and Rev. R. I. Warner, principal of Alma College.

[Illustration: LIBRARY.]

Rev. D. R. Drummond opened the proceedings with prayer, Rev. Prof.
Fowler read the scriptures, and Rev. Prof. Warner led in prayer.

Mr. Oscar McKenney, Warden of Elgin County, read the following address
to Judge Hughes, on behalf of the County Council:

"Before proceeding with the business of the County Court and General
Sessions of the Peace, the County Council desire to congratulate your
Honor on your good health and physical and mental vigor, which is
remarkable when we consider that you have occupied your present position
for over forty-six years. You had the honor of presiding at the first
court held in the old buildings in 1854, and have since done much to
assist in the development of the county. You have witnessed many changes
and can refer to many pleasant experiences which are the accompaniment
of a long and useful life. The Court House which we hereby formally hand
over to you for Court purposes, is representative of our idea of the
advancement made by a wealthy and prosperous community during the past
half a century.

We hope you may enjoy continued good health, and that the remainder of
your life may be pleasant and a restful recompense for many busy years.

The members of the Council will make a few remarks as they feel it is
difficult in a brief address to refer to all the circumstances that have
brought us together to-day."


[Illustration: COUNTY CLERK'S OFFICE.]

Councillor Frank Hunt delivered the oration of the day on behalf of the
County Council. He spoke as follows:

"This is an important occasion. Important because it makes a page in the
history of the county. It establishes a milestone marking the progress
of a people who first planted civilization in this county a century ago.
The burning of the old Court House necessitated the building of a new
one, and this gave the present council the opportunity to erect a
building characteristic of the people, and of the arts and sciences of
this particular period. The old court house was emblematic of the
pioneers of this county. It exhibited wisdom, strength and beauty. As
much as I admire the new structure I am glad the front of the old court
house is preserved, and will hand down to future ages in its Grecian
columns and pilasters, the artistic taste of the pioneers who could
spare from the rewards of unceasing toil money to erect a court house
that bore the impress of the best art of their time. The excellence and
thoroughness of the structure attest the true worth and integrity of the
pioneers of the County of Elgin. I cannot but think, when considering
the population and wealth of the county fifty years ago with that of
to-day, that in the erection of the new court house we have spent less
for artistic effect than did the pioneers. Modern requirements for the
comforts of those attending courts, or on official business, entailed a
large expense, which was not considered in the erection of buildings
fifty years ago. The provision made for women during a forced attendance
at court shows how far we have advanced on one particular line. It is a
grand building of the utilitarian type, and erected on such lines that
great beauty may be discovered by a casual glance. I want to say a word
in praise of the architect who designed the building and supervised its
erection to the satisfaction of the Building Committee. The epitaph in
St. Paul's Cathedral says: "If you would know the genius of Christopher
Wren, look around you." I will say, also, and it is all that is
necessary, if you would know the genius of Mr. Darrach, look around you
and see that he is master of his art.

    New occasions teach new duties,
      Time makes ancient good uncouth,
    We must upward still and onward,
      Who would reach the realms of truth.

[Illustration: Art, national or individual, is the result of a long
course of previous life and training; a necessary result, if that life
has been loyal, and an impossible one, if it has been base.--_Ruskin._


In its important examples, all municipal art should be at once a
decoration and a commemoration--it must beautify and should celebrate;
thus becoming a double stimulus, first to the aesthetic sense, second to
the sense of patriotism.--_Blashfield._]

I cannot close without reference to His Honor Judge Hughes and his long
judicial career in the County of Elgin. He opened the old court house
forty-six years ago; he has been spared to open the new. In the first
courts he grasped by the hand the men who planted civilization on the
shores of Lake Erie. He has lived to grasp by the hand their children
and grand-children. He came here in his early years, a type of that
manhood which comes from the chisel of Pericles, and the great masters
of the Grecian school. He has seen the county a wilderness, he now sees
it populous and wealthy, inhabited by a people educated, industrious; a
people who love God and keep his commandments.


He has left his impress on his county and its people, and can it not be
said that it has been for the good of society, for the happiness and
advancement of the people? His legal knowledge, and his great ability is
known throughout the Province. His untiring industry has been
proverbial. He has administered the law with fairness, and tempered
justice with mercy. It is not contended that he was or is

    Who thinketh a faultless man to see?
      Thinks what ne'er was and ne'er shall be.

It is the desire of the council that his learning and great abilities
may long be spared to his fellow-citizens, and that

    An old age serene and bright,
      Lovely as a Lapland night,
    Shall lead thee to the grave."

County Councillor J. H. Yarwood voiced the sentiments of Mr. Hunt, and
extended the congratulations of the county to the Judge for the manner
in which he had administered the affairs of the county, and hoped he
would be spared for many years.

County Councillors S. B. Morris, W. O. Pollock, D. Lang, W. M. Ford, E.
McKellar, Mahlon Lyon, D. Moore and A. J. Leitch also delivered
addresses of congratulation.

[Illustration: GAOL YARD.]

Judge Hughes thanked the County Council for the privilege of opening the
new Court House. The county building was a testimonial to the
advancement of the county council. He had to acknowledge with thanks the
many kind things said of him personally, and of the way he had
administered justice in the county. The building is an index, not only
of enterprise and good taste, but also of conception for the convenience
of those who had to attend the county buildings to do business. The
mistake with the old building was that Architect Turner had his plans
interfered with, and all the rooms, except the court room, were but half
the size intended. He concurred in all that had been said of the
architect. The contractors, too, had performed their work well. The
court house was a manifestation of the progress of municipal
institutions. He had found the county council always ready to encourage
education and grammar schools, and this building was a monument to their

The county court was then opened by Court Crier Hopkins, when Mr. John
Crawford, of Aylmer, on behalf of the bar of Elgin, extended to Judge
Hughes their congratulations upon the long term he had served on the
bench, and upon his distinguished services during that time. The members
of the bar were in hearty sympathy with and heartily endorsed the
remarks made by the members of the county council. The members of the
bar hoped the Judge might be long spared to occupy the high position
which he did.

Judge Hughes said he could only express his high appreciation of the
kind things said of him. It was an honor for a man to act as judge where
there was such a bar as in the county of Elgin. He concluded by thanking
Mr. Crawford and the other members for their kind remarks.


In the evening the judge entertained the members of the bar and the
municipal and judicial officers of the county of Elgin at a banquet in
honor of the occasion of the re-opening of the court house and the 46th
anniversary of his appointment. This was held at the Grand Central

All the work connected with the court house improvements was completed
in the spring of 1900. The final report of the Building Committee was
not, however presented until the 23rd of November. The total cost was
$50,954.72, and of this amount the city of St. Thomas contributed

The excellent service rendered to the county by architect Darrach was
recognized by the presentation of an address, suitably engrossed,
expressing the councils appreciation of his efforts. The report also
directed attention to the satisfactory manner in which Messrs. McKnight
& Co., the principal contractors, who were represented by the senior
member of the firm, Mr. R. Carroll, had completed their work. After the
adoption of the report a resolution was passed tendering the thanks of
the council to A. J. Leitch, Esq., for his services as Chairman of the
Building Committee.


  COUNTY       ||               POPULATION.                      |
  OF ELGIN.    || 1817 | 1841 | 1851 | 1861 | 1871 | 1881 | 1891 |
  ALDBOROUGH   ||   400|   733| 1,226| 2,325| 3,500| 4,718| 5,299|
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |
  BAYHAM       ||      | 2,108| 5,092| 5,141| 4,895| 4,689| 3,856|
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |
  DUNWICH      ||   500|   633| 1,948| 2,888| 3,731| 4,290| 3,663|
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |
  DORCHESTER   ||      |   635| 1,477| 2,204| 2,071| 1,844| 1,624|
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |
  MALAHIDE     ||   775| 2,218| 4,050| 5,320| 5,554| 4,415| 3,851|
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |
  SOUTHWOLD    ||   900| 2,563| 5,063| 5,467| 5,559| 5,206| 4,766|
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |
  YARMOUTH     ||   400| 3,664| 5,288| 6,166| 5,563| 5,575| 5,471|
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |
  ST. THOMAS   ||      |      | 1,274| 1,631| 2,197| 8,367|10,370|
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |
  VIENNA       ||      |      |      |      |   590|   528|   398|
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |
  PORT STANLEY ||      |      |      |      |      |   674|   616|
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |
  AYLMER       ||      |      |      |      |      | 1,540| 2,167|
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |
  SPRINGFIELD  ||      |      |      |      |      |   555|   463|
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |
  DUTTON       ||      |      |      |      |      |      |   838|
     TOTALS    ||2,975 |12,554|25,418|31,142|33,660|42,401|43,382|

  COUNTY       ||        NUMBER OF HOUSES.                       |Schools.|
  OF ELGIN.    || 1817 | 1841 | 1851 | 1861 | 1871 | 1881 | 1891 | 1817   |
  ALDBOROUGH   ||    90|    13|   189|   311|   630|   880| 1,064|     1  |
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |        |
  BAYHAM       ||    60|   133|   732|   887|   955|   978|   882|     2  |
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |        |
  DUNWICH      ||   100|    45|   316|   450|   673|   820|   744|     1  |
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |        |
  DORCHESTER   ||      |    10|   238|   345|   378|   423|   341|        |
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |        |
  MALAHIDE     ||   150|   125|   692|   726| 1,104|   956|   887|     2  |
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |        |
  SOUTHWOLD    ||   180|   175|   800|   579|   993|   998|   973|     3  |
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |        |
  YARMOUTH     ||    75|   299|   881| 1,128| 1,067| 1,161| 1,150|     2  |
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |        |
  ST. THOMAS   ||      |      |   226|   390|   417| 1,634| 2,205|        |
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |        |
  VIENNA       ||      |      |      |      |   103|   105|    99|        |
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |        |
  PORT STANLEY ||      |      |      |      |      |   139|   128|        |
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |        |
  AYLMER       ||      |      |      |      |      |   330|   521|        |
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |        |
  SPRINGFIELD  ||      |      |      |      |      |   130|   123|        |
               ||      |      |      |      |      |      |      |        |
  DUTTON       ||      |      |      |      |      |      |   167|        |
     TOTALS    ||   655|   800| 4,074| 4,816| 6,320| 8,554| 9,284|    11  |

The statistics of 1817 are taken from Robt. Gourlay's Book. For other
years official census reports were referred to.

Plan of the Court House.


  NO.                    BY WHOM OCCUPIED.

  1-2.   County Attorney and Clerk of the Peace.

  3-4-5. County Court Clerk. The Vault was formerly used as an office by
           County Court Clerk and Junior Judge.

  6.     Inspector of Public Schools. Formerly occupied with vault
           adjoining by Clerk of the Peace.

  7.     Junior Judge's Office. Formerly Occupied: (1) County
           Treasurer's Office. (2) Law Library. (3) Jailer. (4)
           County Engineer.

  8.     County Treasurer's Office. Used as Registry Office up to 1875.

  9.     County Clerk.

  10.    County Engineer.

  12-13. Sheriff.

  14.    Telephone. 15. Janitor. 16. Jailer. 17. Jail Kitchen.
           Originally occupied as Jailer's residence and afterwards as
           County Clerk's and Jailer's Offices. The heaters are in
           basement under these rooms.

         The space occupied by lavatories and main stairway was formerly
           the Sheriff's office.


  18.    County Judge's Office.

  19.    Barristers.

  21.    Crown Counsel. Formerly County Judge's Office.

  22.    Law Library.

  23.    Lady Witnesses. Formerly Petit Jury.

  25.    Court Room.

  26.    Witnesses. Formerly Crown Counsel room, afterwards law library.

  27.    County Council Chamber, also used for small courts.

  28-29. Local Master.   }
  31.    Judges' Parlor. }
  32.    Turnkeys.       } Originally occupied as Jailer's Residence,
                         }   and afterwards as County Judge's Office.
  33.    Petit Jury.     }
  34.    Gaol Stores.    }

         The space occupied by main stairway was formerly the county
           clerk's office and afterwards a witness room.


  35-41. Janitor's apartments. 37 and 41 formerly Grand Jury Rooms.

  42-43. Witnesses. 42 was formerly occupied by Local Master and
            afterwards by County Police Magistrate.

  45.    Historical Society.

         The space occupied by main stairway was formerly a store room.




[Illustration: COUNTY · BUILDING · AT · ST · THOMAS · ONT.

[Illustration: SECOND FLOOR PLAN]

Members of Elgin County Council.


  ALDBOROUGH--Duncan McColl.
  DUNWICH--Moses Willey.
  SOUTHWOLD--Colin Munro, Nicol McColl.
  YARMOUTH--Elisha S. Ganson (Warden), Leslie Pierce.
  MALAHIDE--Thomas Locker (Warden), Lewis J. Clarke.
  BAYHAM--John Elliott, J. Skinner.
  ST. THOMAS--David Parish.


  DISTRICT NO. 1--(Aldborough) S. B. Morris, Daniel Lang (Warden 1898).
  DISTRICT NO. 2--(Dutton and Dunwich) A. J. Leitch, Edward McKellar.
  DISTRICT NO. 3--(Port Stanley and Southwold) William Jackson, Donald
                     Turner, 1898, Francis Hunt, 1899.
  DISTRICT NO. 4--(Yarmouth) James H. Yarwood, Wm. B. Cole, 1898,
                     Wm. O. Pollock, 1899.
  DISTRICT NO. 5--(Aylmer, Vienna, Polling Sub-divisions 1 and 2 of
                     Bayham, and Malahide, except Polling Sub-division
                     5) Oscar McKenney, (Warden, 1899) Richard Locker,
                     1898, Mahlon E. Lyon, 1899.
  DISTRICT NO. 6--(Springfield, South Dorchester, Malahide (Division 5)
                     and Bayham (except divisions 1 and 2)) David F.
                     Moore, (Warden, 1900) Wm. M. Ford.

Transcriber's Note.

Illustrations have been moved to avoid breaks in paragraphs. Minor
punctuation errors have been corrected without note. The single table of
Statistics in the original has been reformatted into two separate tables
for ease of reading, one for population and one for houses and schools.
Typographical errors have been corrected as follows:

  P. 5  'east side of the river."'--closing quotation mark added.
  P. 5  'Tuesday, the 8th day of April, 1800.'--had '1900.'
  P. 6  'tie girths, morticed and tenoned'--had 'tendoned.'
  P. 12 'sessions of the County of Elgin opened'--had 'Couty.'
  P. 24 'contended that he was or is faultless'--had 'fautless.'
  P. 24 'Shall lead thee to the grave."'--closing quotation mark added.
  P. 25 'his plans interfered with, and all the'--had 'iterferred.'
  P. 28 '26. Witnesses. Formerly Crown Counsel room'--had '36.'

Unusual spellings of hybernated, Mississaga; inconsistent spellings of
jail/jailer, gaol/gaoler; inconsistent hyphenation and capitalisation are
as per the original.

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