The David Stirton Memoirs
This is a two-part article, the first
part of which consists of “Early Puslinch History” contributed by David
Stirton and composed by Kate Conway for the regular column, “Pioneer Days in
Wellington”, which appeared in the Guelph Mercury newspaper in 1899. The second part is a letter by David Stirton
to the editor of the
Mr. David Stirton
Mr. Stirton thinks that he has
devoted enough attention to the town and
Puslinch, as stated before, was a
block set aside as a Clergy Reserve. This
township remained intact and was not surveyed until it was obvious that
another outlet from
That certain lands should be set aside as
clergy reserves was an arrangement in the support of religion that emanated
from the first legislation in
To carry out the clergy reserves
idea, when the Canada Company secured the
Shortly after the settlement of
Mr. Stirton has examined the books in the Crown Lands Department and found that the first lot of land located in Puslinch was taken up by Wm. Carroll in June 1828. This is now known as the John Carter farm, now occupied by Mr. MacPherson. Patrick Carroll and John Clare located the adjoining places the same day. A Welshman, named Lewartch had been living farther down the township for two weeks previously but, although really the first occupant, he had not located his land. The Welshman’s land is now in the hands of the Weir family.
The length of this road, extending
nine miles through Puslinch, was taken up shortly. Many came in the fall, of whom a large
proportion were Irish and not a few German, but very
few Scotch. During the two following
years a few settlers came in, but the “new survey”, including from the first
concession to the seventh, was not surveyed until the spring of 1831. The lands were then offered for sale at
In connection with the opening of
this road through Puslinch, it was continued at the same time through the Flamboroughs. The
settlers called this the
By 1834 the township was completely
settled. The north end of the township
was settled by people from
When the district of Wellington was
separated from the old Gore district, Puslinch was retained and remained
connected with the Gore district until in 1844, at its own desire, it was
The township meeting of 1836 records the appointment of two men called commissioners. Their duties referred to the appointment of assessors, collectors, treasurer, poundkeepers, and pathmasters, the last named being then known as overseers of highways. They had then no power of establishing or opening roads, or passing measures to regulate the township, as they had after the passage of the first municipal bill in 1841.
The first meeting was held on the 4th of January 1836, in Jas. Flynn’s tavern. John Cockburn was chairman and Charles Armstrong was chairship clerk. The three commissioners appointed were Thos. Todd, father of the late Thos. Todd of Galt, John Linderman, and Patrick Doyle. Richard Ellis was appointed assessor and Jas. Flynn assessor.
Mr. Stirton relates a circumstance in
connection with this election. Mr.
Doyle, one of the commissioners elected, was a representative of the settlers
in the southwest part of the township.
His followers were very jubilant over his election, and it was feared
that if they remained at Flynn’s that there would be a fight between them and
The mode of carrying on these township meetings was very interesting and amusing. The meetings were always held in a barn, and the chairman sat on top of the swing beam, with the township clerk beside him. When the chairman asked the usual question, “Who’s to be appointed to this office?”, some would shout one name and some another. The chairman would put down a name of his own selection and declare it to the meeting afterwards.
The chairman generally appointed the pathmasters of the year before, and it not seldom happened that the pathmasters found it advisable to have work done opposite their own land. The Government gave aid in the making of the Brock road but the other roads were all made by the settlers so that the duties of the pathmasters were very important. Thirty were appointed at the first meeting, and the number was increased, until sixty was not unusual. It was a remarkable coincidence that two commissioners and the township clerk all had their legs broken while in office, and were known as the broken-legged council.
“Mr. Stirton’s Explanation”
To the editor of the Mercury:
I observed a letter in the Mercury of Tuesday
last signed by M. P. Doyle, in which he takes me to task for making certain
misleading statements about his father, the late Patrick Doyle, of Puslinch,
in connection with a fight or riot on the night of the first township
municipal election in Puslinch in 1836.
I am very glad that Mr. Doyle has called my attention to the matter,
as I find, on looking over my original article that I was in error when I
stated that the man alluded to, a Peter Armstrong, succeeded in getting Mr.
Doyle and his followers to go back to Flynn’s tavern to club the Scotchmen.
So far from this being the case as regards Mr. Doyle, it was quite the
contrary. From the statement made to
me by Mr. Doyle, and also at
My only excuse for having made this mistake is that when the proof or article in question was sent to me from your office for correction or amendment, I was so ill that my family sent it back without my seeing it, and when I did see it in your daily edition, I saw several errors. I then tried to have it righted in the Weekly, but as the issue came out a day earlier on account of the 24th of May happening on the day of the publishing of the Weekly, I was prevented from giving that attention to the matter which otherwise should have been given to it.
As an old personal friend of the late Mr. Doyle, you can well imagine my sincere regret at having given cause of offence to those of his family who are still left, and I trust that this explanation will be accepted in the spirit in which it is given.
I will not attempt to bandy words with Mr. M. P. Doyle about the southwest or northwest of certain parts of Puslinch; nor will I say anything about my credibility as a describer of early days or people. My position in life is, or has long been, before the public, and I am quite willing to leave it in their hands.
I may here mention that I have in the first municipal minute book of Puslinch, a statement of the names and amount of fines imposed on the parties engaged in the fight alluded to, so that there was some reality in the matter to those engaged.
I remain yours truly,
foregoing articles appeared in the remarkable scrapbooks of Herbert Fairbairn Gardiner, the first in volume 149, pages 6-7
and the second, in volume 149, page 14.
As of May 2003, the Gardiner scrapbooks could be viewed in the Special
Collections Department of the
Mr. Herbert Fairbairn Gardiner
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