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Commemorative Biographical Record of the County of Kent, Ontario
Alexander Young

ALEXANDER YOUNG.  Probably few names are better or more widely known in the County of Kent than that borne by Alexander Young, one of the prominent and substantial residents of Harwich township.  He was born April 3, 1844, son of George and Janet (Robertson) Young.

George Young was born February 19th, 1809, in Roxburghshire, Scotland, on the banks of the river tweed, and died on August 14th, 1890, at the age of 81 years.  He was the only son of Charles Young and Agnes Nisbet.  His father being accidentally killed three months before he was born, he lived principally with an uncle, and went to school until he was ten years of age, when he removed to Paisley and assisted in keeping a toll-gate for a couple of years.  going to Glasgow at the age of twelve, he was apprenticed to a cabinet maker and builder for a term of seven years.  having completed his apprenticeship he worked a year or two as a journeyman, acquiring the reputation of being one of the best mechanics in the city.  He soon commenced as a master builder, at what was then considered an unusually early age, entering into partnership with John Stewart.  they carried on an extensive business as cabinet makers and builders.  Between 1830 and 1840 Mr Young erected or superintended many of the finest blocks in Glasgow and so high did he stand as an architect and builder that when in 1836 the city contemplated the erection of new public buildings, he was chosen to visit some of the principal cities of England, including London, Liverpool and Manchester, to inspect their public buildings and report on same.  His plans and suggestions were adopted.  Dissolving the partnership mentioned he carried on the business himself, owning his own quarries and lumber yard, and employing from three to five hundred men.  He took a leading part in all affairs tending to promote the political and commercial interests of the city of Glasgow, and the corporation rewarded him be presenting him with the freedom of the city, an honour he regarded with just pride as long as he lived. 

Mr. Young was an enthusiastic Radical, active in politics, and the great political movement which resulted in the Reform Bill of 1832 found in him a fearless and untiring advocate.  Glasgow at that time held a high place among the cities of Britain for the wealth and intelligence of its working classes, and thousands would be affected by the bill.  As delay after delay occurred in the passing of he Bill by the Government Mr Young always declared that he had worked day and night to keep some of the hotter headed ones from breaking out in open rebellion, and by his quick and determined decision he stopped a riot that had in contemplation the wreck of a number of houses belonging to high Tory gentry.  The night before the news came of the final passing of the Bill excitement ran to a tremendous height.  All the people of the town remained on the street all night, and when in the morning the  news came that the Bill had passed the people, true to their Scottish character, quietly dispersed after having decided to hold a monster demonstration and procession of all the Trades and Guilds of the city.  To Mr Young was given the honour of walking at the head of the Trades procession.

Another great work in which Mr young was interested in his early manhood, the restoration of the Andersonian Institution, should be mentioned here.  John Anderson, a professor of Natural Philosophy in Glasgow, left a sum of money in the year 1795 to establish a school for the education of mechanics, which afterward received the name of the Andersonian Institution.  At first the Institution was not well patronized and the funds were insufficient.  About the year 1825 Lord Brougham visited Glasgow, and by his writings and lectures on behalf of polular education aroused the enthusiasm of a number of wealthy men in the city to revive the Institute.  George Young, then a young man of 18, was asked o co-operate and stir up the mechancis to take an interest in the Institute.  Some of the master minds of the country were employed to give lectures, and Mr. Young was thrown greatly into their company.  Among others were Dr Andrew Ure, the scientist; Sir Archibald Allison, the historian; Sir William Hamilton, the metaphysician, and Rev Dr Eardie.  These men then gave mostly free lectures at that time.  Mr Young threw his whole energy into the work and the first Mechanics Institute was organized in connection with the other work.  From a small beginning the institution has grown until Anderson's University of Glasgow ranks today as one of the most famous seats of learning in Europe, with its fifty professors and three or four thousand students.

In the year 1841 a disastrous fire occurred in Mr. Young's workshops and lumber yard, and he lost so heavily that he determined to give up the business and emigrate, that being his third and most serious fire inside of two years.  The British Government was building a harbour and twelve ships in New Zealand and he was offered the position of overseer at a high salary, but he declined, having decided to come to Canada.  He made the trip in 1842, in a sailing vessel.  Before he left the Corporation gave him a public dinner, and when he came to the wharf to embark for Liverpool almost all the men that had ever worked for him were there to see him off.  Landing in Quebec he came up the Lakes to Windsor, then on to Chatham, at that time a straggling village.  The same year he bought the property in Harwich where he resided until his death, comprising two lots on the creek road, about ten miles from town.  There were very few settlers when he came.  The road between his place and Chatham was only a track through the woods.  A man had been on the place he bought five or six years and had a log house and stable and a few acres cleared.  A year or two after he came Mr Young started to build a house, which still stands.  He drew part of the ligs to Arnold's mill, on the river Thames, but cut the joists and rafters and all the large timber by hand, with whip saw.

Shortly after he came to the country.  Mr. Young was appointed superintendent of schools for Harwich, and all his life too a great interest in educational affairs, being for any years a high school trustee for the county.  He was one of the leaders in the establishing of a county grammar school, was elected a trustee by the county council in 1864, and served until 1884, when the school came exclusively under town management for a few years.  From the time of his settlement in the country until his death George Young was a conspicuous figure in the history of the section, and was intimately associated with all the progressive movements which had so much to do with advancing the welfare of the county.  Before the year 1850 Essex, Kent and Lambton were joined together for municipal purposes under the name of the Western District.  The meetings were all held at Sandwich.  In 1843, shortly after coming to the county, he was elected a member of the old western District council (which comprised many prominent men of the day), and served until that system was abolished in 1850.  mr. Young was chosen a member of the first council and in 1852 he was elected reeve.  He retained a seat in the county council (with the exception of the years 1857 and 1859) until 1867, when the reeves were elected by direct vote of the people instead of being chosen by the councillors.  In 1867 he was elected reeve, was re-elected in 1868 and with occasional intervals of a year continued to hold the office until 1878, when he retired from public life on account of  advancing age.  In 1864 and 1865 he served as warden in that incumbancy succeeding his warm friend, James Smith, of Camden.  At the time of his retirement Mr. Young was entertained at a public dinner by his old constituents and friends, and was presented with a handsome gold-headed cane in friendly recognition of his services.  during all those years he only missed two meetings from any board and that because of sickness.  He was counted an authority on all matters connected with municipal law.  In 1852 Mr. Young was appointed clerk of the Fourth Division Court for Kent, by Judge Wells, and he continued in that office until within a few years of his death, resigning in 1888.  With the exception of Sheriff McKerrall he was the last survivor of the old commissioners for Kent when it was a part of the old Western District.  We take the following from an article published in a  local paper at the time of Mr. Young's death:

    "Mr. Young superintended the erection of the present court house and goal in 1849, and had entire management of the work, none of his colleagues wishing to interfere when they had such a master amongst them.  He also superintended the building of the old grammar school and it is worthy of note, that although 40  years old both are still substantial structures, so thoroughly was the work executed.  He also laid the stone pavement on King street, and the main sewer, early in the fifties.  In 1870 he superintended the Rond Eau harbor works for the government.  Indeed, for twenty or thirty years he was the general architect for all public structures, drawing plans and specifications for town halls, bridges and many other public works in all part of the country.

    "Politically Mr. Young was a thorough Liberal, and took an active part in many of the political contests in the County.  On several occasions he was spoken of as the Reform candidate, but he steadfastly refused political honors.

    "The influence of such men as George Young will long be felt, and the world has been made better by his life.  A man of untiring industry and strong will, he resolutely set out in every undertaking with a determination to succeed, setting an example to be especially commended to the young men of the present day."

In 1832 Mr. Young was married, at Glasgow, to Janet Robertson, who was born in 1809, daughter of Alexander Robertson, of Glasgow.  She died several years before Mr. Young in 1879.  A family of nine children was born to this union, namely:  Rachel was born in 1832, in Scotland, and received part of her education there; she married John Coutts, a prominent farmer of Tilbury township, and both are now deceased; their surviving children are John, Janet, Annie, George, William, Rachel, Mary, Richard, James and Edgar.  Agnes, born in Scotland in 1834, died in young womanhood, on the present farm.  Elizabeth, born in 1836 in Scotland, married Theophilus McCarroll, of Chatham, where she died, leaving two sons, George and Theophilus.  Jessie, born in 1837, resides with her brother on the old homestead.  George E., born in 1839, learned the trade of cabinet maker, worked a few years at the same in Cincinnati and returning to Chatham, engaged in a grocery business until 1901, when he removed to Los Angeles, California; he married Maria Brodie, of Chatham, and has one son, George A., of Chatham.  Isabella, born in 1841, married Peter McKerrall, of Chatham township, and has three sons, Dougald, George and Peter.  Alexander is mentioned below.  Marion, born in 1845, in Harwich, died in 1860, aged fifteen years.  Richard, born in 1849, married Miss Isadora Mitton, sister of E.D. Mitton, one of Ridgetown's prominent citizens, and they reside on Concession 13, adjoining the farm of Alexander Young; they have children, Dora, (wife of Sidney Cooper of Harwich); Lena, Eva, Arthur, Edgar, Edith and Hazel.  George Young, the father, was one of the founders and strong supporters of the Presbyterian Church in Harwich.

Alexander Young was reared on the old homestead and obtained his education by attending school in the winter months.  His summers were devoted to farm work.  Mr. Young is a practical farmer having devoted his whole life to that vocation.  In November, 1879, he married Miss Flora McLain, daughter of Robert and Agnes McLain, who were born and reared in Scotland, where the father was killed by an accident.  Mrs. Young was born in 1861 and came to Canada in 1875.  For eighteen years Mr Young managed the affairs of the old homestead prior to his marriage.  He gave devoted filial care to his parents as long as they lived, and tenderly waited upon his mother, who was a cripple for sixteen years.  Since purchasing the old homestead, Mr. Young has made many improvements upon it, has adopted new methods and uses modern machinery, and has one of the most attractive homes in County Kent.  He and his wife are leading members of the Presbyterian Church, which they liberally assist in supporting.  Politically he is a Reformer, and has always taken an active and an intelligent interest in political work.  His personal standing is high in his community and he is justly ranked with the representative men. 

pages 320 - 323

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