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Reminiscences of Cromar and Canada
Chapter XXII - The Clerkship and Drainage


As already stated, my uncle John died in the month of March 1873. The office of township clerk thus made vacant, was then given to Mr. John Kerr, a long-standing friend of my deceased uncle and our nearest neighbour. He died in the early part of the following May without having added a line to the township records.

For appointment to the office, for a second time thus left vacant, there were several aspirants. My own desire was that it should fall to my cousin William C. Fletcher to whom the position so long held by his late father would be acceptable. I knew that he was aware that the council would not be unanimously in favour of his appointment, but was surprised, a few days before the council meeting that was expected to decide the matter, to receive from a respected friend of both our families a letter stating that on private information, he had come to know that nip• cousin had no chance whatever of receiving the appointment, and, at the same time assuring me that if I would make application for the office in my own behalf, it would meet with acceptance. This suggestion I declined with thanks. I went, however, to see Mr. Alex. Coutts, the Reeve who was ardently supporting my cousin's claim and told him of the information that I had received and the suggestion that had been made regarding myself. I assured him that I had refused to accept nomination by any member of the council opposed to the appointment of W. C. Fletcher, but, nevertheless, if he should find that my cousin had no chance of success, I would be pleased if he, himself would bring my name before the Council for appointment. Mr. Coutts expressed his approval of my attitude, but gave no indication as to his purpose further than that he would do his test to see that my cousin should get the office. What was said or done around the council board prior to the final passing of the by-law, I never heard. Information as to the result of the meeting was first brought to inc by W. C. Fletcher himself, who called at the saw-mill where I was working on the evening of the day of the council meeting and greeted the with heartiest congratulations on my appointment to the office of township clerk. To his credit be it said, that he never, then or afterwards betrayed the slightest suspicion of jealousy or even disappointment. By my own observation, already extending over a long life, I am convinced that such disinterestedness and self-abnegation are extremely rare. Glad I am to be able to say that from that day to the end of his life in 1892, our friendship was maintained without breach or interruption.

DRAINAGE

At the time of the first settlement of the Township the lack of drainage facilities was most keenly felt. Indeed so insuperable seemed the difficulty of obtaining drainage sufficient for agricultural purposes that some of the best lots in the township were vacated after an attempt had been made to perform their settlement duties by way of land improvement. Tradition has it that one man who had settled on a lot in the easterly part of the southerly range of Middle Road lots, sold out his claim for a pair of long boots in which he » as able to make his way to drier quarters.

Shortly before the commencement of my clerkship, the deepening and enlargement of two creeks, known as "No. 10" and "No. 20" creek respectively, had been undertaken and accomplished by the Ontario Government on petition of the council tinder the provisions of The Ontario Drainage Act. The benefit thereby rendered to the adjoining lands became at once so apparent that large sections of the township were at once ready and eager to embrace the more favourable terms provided by the newer "Municipal Drainage Act" under which the Council were authorized, on the petition of a majority of the owners, as shown by the last revised assessment roll, of any territory within the township praying for the drainage thereof to employ an engineer to survey the territory, prepare plans and specifications of the necessary works and make an assessment showing the amount or proportion of the total cost that should he assessed against each benefitted lot, part of lot and road respectively. Appeal from the amount thus assessed against each might be had to the township Court of Revision, and from that court to the County Judge whose decision was final.

The necessary funds were borrowed by the issue of debentures on the security of the township and the amount, with interest, charged and collected as are taxes from each benefitted lot, part of lot and road, with interest in equal annual payments spread over a period, in the discretion of the council, not exceeding 15 years.

These drainage works raised new and intricate problems. The settlers on the higher lands imagined that they were at liberty to drain their lands and discharge their waters into the channel provided by nature, let the consequences to those farther down the stream be what they might.

Harry Forbes had bought some lands on the margin of the plains which, in every dry seasons, might have been capable of producing crops though, in no year would the prospect be very encouraging. He made an attempt to better his condition by embanking a small section and pumping out the waters by means of a steam-driven "flash-wheel" and found that considerable benefit was gained by the expedient. The bank was too light, however, to be effective, and, noticing that conditions were being aggravated by the artificial drainage of the up-lands, he called on the Council for protection. That the Council refused to give. So an action at law was threatened for a mandamus to compel compliance with the demand. The Council passed a resolution instructing the Reeve to procure a solicitor's advice on the subject. It is known that Mr. Pegley, the solicitor gave a written opinion, but the Reeve refused to have it read to the council. The councillors, a majority of whom were favourable to the scheme for the reclamation of the low lands on the petition of the interested land-owners, did not persist on the production of the lawyer's opinion which had been procured, understanding, of course, that it was adverse to the position taken by the reeve. At the same or a subsequent meeting of the council, a petition was presented duly signed by a majority of the interested assessed owners, as shown by the assessment roll, of about 5000 acre, of submerged lands, praying for the drainage thereof by means of embanking and pumping, and for levying upon the lands and roads in said township to be benefitted the funds necessary for the construction of the works under the provisions of The Municipal Act. The requisite examination was made by Mr. A. McDonell, C. E., on the ice in 1885. His report was duly filed. and after the observance of the necessary preliminaries, was finally adopted by by-law, That by-law was, however quashed by a court of competent jurisdiction, on appeal by reason of a technicality. The costs, which were $4000.00 or more were put on the municipality, and yet the difficulty remained. Within two years, a council was elected of which the majority was favourable to the scheme. Prominent among the ratepayers who openly espoused the scheme were John A. McGregor, W. C. Fletcher, Gen. Hope, Henry Sales, Henry Powell, Alex. Gracey, John Richardson, and others. My recollection is that the three first named were in the council. In an' event, a majority of that council was favourable to the scheme, and Mr. McDonell, C.E., was again called upon to make such a report as he deemed necessary for the drainage of the territory described in the new Petition which had meantime been filed. The engineer's report substantially the same as the former, with, however, some important alterations was in due time submitted to the council and was soon thereafter finally passed. The opposition was not less loud and pronounced than on the previous occasion, but no recourse was had to the Courts, and the work went on. That there was some risk of failure cannot be denied, and had such occurred the township would have been burdened with a debenture debt of not less than $50,000.00 which would have been serious indeed. With good management, however, the risk could not be great, and the only alternative course being, as would appear, the construction of protecting embankments, if not also of a pumping outfit for the protection of the lower lands against the ever increasing flow of the artificial drainage waters of the higher lands, at a cost, perhaps but little short of that of the drainage works proposed, the true course of wisdom would seem to have been fairly obvious.

Whatever mists may have obscured the vision of the time, the smiling fields within the territory today, attest the wisdom of the council that faced such risk as attended an expenditure for reclamation in preference to one of smaller amount that promised to the township or any of its citizens no return. The lands within the territory, are now among the most valuable in the township, and the salubrity of the whole district is doubtless advanced by the withdrawal from the production of mosquitoes and malaria of an area so extensive.

The difficulties faced during construction were great, but all were overcome, and the machinery was soon in motion. Shortly it was demonstrated that there was to be no failure, but difficulties unforseen, or not fully anticipated, were soon in evidence. The owners were poor, the first breaking of the soil was a very heavy job, and the cost of horses, machinery and farm stock entailed a heavy outlay, in many cases exceeding the resources of the owners. To this was added a drainage difficulty, not at first anticipated. An internal drain had been dredged for carrying the water to the discharging wheel, and while the efficiency of the wheel and machinery was soon demonstrated, the difficulty of inducing the waters to move on a level bottom with speed sufficient to give employment to the machinery at its full capacity or to reduce the water level at the head of the drain to provide an outlet to the distant lands was soon apparent. In a few years it was found necessary to add an auxilliary pumping plant consisting of two steam-driven centrifugal pumps in the same channel over two miles distant from the original pumping station. Fortunately for the interested land-owners the actual cost of the original works was considerably less than the funds provided therefor and the surplus was properly devoted by the council towards payment of the outstanding debentures first falling due, thus relieving the ratepayers from drainage levies for at least one year.

For some years, the assessed area bore the heavy burden, but at last the owners made application to the council for the procurement of special legislation for the extension of the debenture period. An Act of The Ontario Legislature, in accordance with this application was readily procured and under the provisions thereof the period of 15 years originally fixed for the currency of the debentures was extended to 30 years, the yearly rates correspondingly reduced and provision made for the retirement of the outstanding debentures as they should severally fall due by the reduced levies supplemented by the issue and sale yearly of one debenture equivalent to the amount of the yearly rate reduction.

A few years later, the remainder of the plains lands beyond the Jeannettes Creek was reclaimed by the construction of the Dauphin drainage works, and the small westerly portion west of Jeannette's creek, still under water, was rendered fit for cultivation by the construction of the McGregor drainage works. The total area thus reclaimed contains about 1000 acres, or nearly one seventh part of the whole area of the township.

It gives me some satisfaction to think that I had a part, however humble, in advancing the accomplishment of undertakings so important.


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