The First Entry from the Westmeath Township Minute Book: March 6, 1837
“At a Township meeting held for the Townships of Ross and Westmeath at the House of George W. Tucker in Westmeath on Monday the sixth day of March 1837, Caleb Bellows Esq. being called to the chair the following resolutions were unanimously passed.
Voted Ephraim Olmstead, Town Clerk
Voted George Boution, George W. Tucker, Anthony Maloney: Commissioners of Highways,
Voted Patrick O’brien: Assessor
Voted William McDonald: Collector
Voted Spencer Allan, Philander Howard, William Moore, Waller McDonald, Moses B. Bellows, James McRae, Lewis Lamanth: Path Masters
Voted Philemon Thresher, Ira Mason, Robert Graham, Belony Lousie, John Hudson, Alexander Robinson, Samuel Shields, Owen Haloven: Pound Keepers.
Resolved that a lawful fence shall be four feet and a half high to be composed of stone wall, logs, poles, or rails and sufficiently strong to turn sheep or swine.
Resolved that swine shall not run at large.
Resolved that sheep be permitted to run at large.
Adjourned to meet on the first Monday ___at the house of Eph. Olmstead in the Township of Ross or at the School House near Mr. Tucker in Westmeath, of which notice will be given.
Ross, 7th March 1837, E. Olmstead, Clerk”
Right from this first meeting the important item of funding was handled by the naming of both a tax assessorand a tax collector. However nowhere in these minutes does it explain what the amount or rate of taxation was to be, or how it was to be set. It is assumed that the answer would come from either the county or the provincial level of government but that is not explained herein.
In these early times the Path Master was responsible for seeing to the maintenance of the public roads. Residents were assessed a tax and they could “work it off” by working on their own roads. This practice of Statute Labour continued even into the early part of the twentieth century. It was the responsibility of the township Path Masters to see that it was done and taxpayers credited for their work.
Upper Canada’s Statute Labour Act has its origins in the earliest days of British settlement in Ontario. In colonial times, many local roads received no government funding and male residents were forced to work on roads and bridges for as much as 12 days a year. Eventually, the number of work days required, came to be tied to the assessed value of a settler’s property.
Pound Keepers were responsible for the collection and keeping of stray animals. From Wikipedia: “An animal pound was a place where stray livestock such as pigs would be impounded in a dedicated enclosure until claimed by their owners, or sold to cover the costs of impounding”.
Both the duties of the Path Masters and the Pound Keepers were of primary importance in a time when the homesteads were often joined by only paths or trails making traveling difficult and slow, and often inadequate fencing or housing meant farm animals could easily run at large. These concerns would constitute much of the early business of the township leadership.
Municipal paperwork was still in its very raw beginnings in 1838. By-laws were simply written into the Minutes of the Council Meetings. Elections were not held in the way we know today; rather the men of the area, (this was long before the women’s suffragette movement), gathered at a meeting and those in attendance were voted into the offices.
Without any explanation given, Ross is not part of this meeting and only Westmeath is named.
“At a Township Meeting held at the school house in the Township of Westmeath on Monday the first day of January 1838 the following resolutions were passed.
George Tucker, Chairman
Caleb S. Bellows, Town Clerk
William Moore, Philemon Thresher, George W. Tucker: Commissioners
Samuel Shields, Assessor
William McConnile Jr., Collector
Hiram Barnum, William McDonald, Ira Mason, Anthony Maloney, Henry Bromley, William McConnile: Path Masters
Peter O’Brien, James Devine, Ira Mason, Louis LaMarch, J. Poupore: Pound Keepers.
Resolved 1. That show horses shall not run at large between 1st May and 1st November.
Resolved 2. Hogs shall not run at large.
Resolved 3. A lawful fence shall be 4½ feet high with stakes and riden not more than 6 inches between the rails.”
The undertaking of the work on these new concession roads was set out by Divisions as listed below. A review of the Concessions and Lots in the Map section of this website will help in following where these early Division lines lie. As more settlement took place, the municipality defined new divisions to handle the expansion.
“At a meeting of the commissioners held at the School House on Saturday the 20th January 1838 the following resolutions were adopted.
Resolved 1. That the First Division from Statute Labour shall commence at the Town Line at Philemon Thrashers and turn down through the front lots to what is called the Stoquas Portage Road.
Resolved 2. That the Second Division shall commence at Stoquas Portage Road and run down on the line of road to be laid out by the persons appointed for that purpose to Lot No. 4 in the Gore.
Resolved 3. That the Third Division commence at Lot Number 4 in the Gore and run through the Front Lots to the foot of Paquette Rapids.
Resolved 4. That the Fourth Division shall commence at low water mark Allumette Lake on the Gore Line and run two low water on the Rochufondu
Resolved 5. That the Fifth Division shall commence at the Side Line between 21st and 22nd Lots and run on the 7th Concession Line to the Town Line of Ross.
Resolved 6. That the Sixth Division shall commence at the Town Line of Pembroke at McNaughtons Farm and run on the allowance of road to Snake River and thence to the Town Line of Ross or along the Staquas Portage Road should that road be duly established.
Resolved 7. That the respective Path Masters shall cause the Statute Labour of all persons in the vicinity of the above mentioned roads to be performed thereon, Except the Fifth Division of which on half of the labour shall be performed in the Second Division.
Resolved 8. That the Pound Keepers shall be allowed the following fees and no more. For receiving and discharging each animal subject to be impounded one shilling and three pence per day for necessary forage for each and every day such animals are impounded after the first twenty-four hours.
Resolved 9. That all animals subjects to be impounded may be taken to the nearest pound in the Township.
Resolved 10. That all Pound Keepers in this Township having animals subject to be impounded shall pay into the hands of the Township Clerk sum of one shilling and three pence for every animal thus subject.
Caleb S. Bellows, Town Clerk.”
One year later the men of the community met again. New that year was that each appointment swore an oath to promise and declare that he would faithfully and diligently perform the duties. Not every man was literate, so some would mark their X by the Clerk’s writing of their name. A new category in the appointments was Fence Viewers – charged with making sure that the fences were constructed to a certain standard.
At a Township Meeting held at the School House in the Township of Westmeath on Monday, the 7th day of January 1839 the following resolutions were unanimously passed.
“George W. Tucker, Chairman
Francis E. Vaughn, Town Clerk
George W. Tucker, John B. Poupore, Robert Otterson, Town Wardens.
Ira Mason, Assessor
Patrick Flannigan, Collector
Philemon Thresher, Ira Mason, Francis Lisard, George Williams, Andrew Grawliergen: Path Masters
William Moore, George W. Tucker, Alexander Robinson, Lubene Levuless, William Little, William McDonald: Pound Keepers.
George W. Tucker, Antonie Mayloney, Waller McDonald: Fence Viewers
Resolved 1. That show horses shall not run at large between 1st May and 1st November
Resolved 2. That Hogs shall not run at large
Resolved 3. A lawful fence shall be 4½ feet high with stakes and ridens no more that 6 inches between rails’
Resolved 4. That the Fourth Division shall commence form the water mark at J. B Poupores and run to the water mark at Lt. Simanches (?) having been altered from the Gore Line.
Francis E. Vaughan, Town Clerk”.
Another year goes by and new names appear at the annual January meeting. Tax assessor and tax collector is done by one man.
”At a Township Meeting held at the School House in the Township of Westmeath on Monday the 6th day of January 1840 the following resolutions were unanimously passed:
John Buchanan, Chairman
Ira Mason, Town Clerk
Patrick Flanagan, Assessor and Collector
William Moore, Caleb L. Bellows, Alexander Robinson, Daniel Ferguson, David Beach, Robert Graham, John McKay: Path Masters
Philemon Thresher, Ira Mason, James Otterson, Francis Lewis, Robert Nelson, John Llull(?): Pound Keepers.
James Bromley, John B. Poupore, Moses B. Bellows: Fence Viewers.
Resolved 1. That stone horses shall not run at large from the 1st of May until the 1st November
Resolved 2. That hogs shall not run at large
Resolved 3. That sheep shall not run at large
Resolved 4. That a lawful fence shall be 5 feet high with stakes and riden.
John Buchanan, Town Clerk.”
The annual meetings of 1841 and 1842 ran much the same with a few new names appearing and the resolutions being concerned with fences and animals running at large. In 1842 there appeared for the first time the appointing of School Commissioners; named as Alexander Robinson, Noah Jackson, John Poupore, Davis Beach and Hiram Chamberlain. From this point on the township would have the role of the collection of school taxes and the general oversight for schooling. However the School Commissioners would have the main oversight for the daily running of schools.
In 1843 the Resolution included: No bulls over two years old to run at large, All horned cattle excepting bulls to run at large, hogs not to run at large and no sheep to run at large. Finally that all horses or horned cattle not belonging to resident in the township found running at large to be subject to Poundages.
In 1844 the following men were appointed.
Hugh Hamilton, Town Clerk
Noah Jackson, C. Bellows, Hiram Chamberlain: Town Wardens
Hugh Hamilton: Assessor and collector
Hugh Dunlap, Ira Mason, J.B. Poupore, Henry Bromley, John Tucker, James McNaughton, Alex McDonald, Moses Bellows, Peter Comry: Path Masters
Philemon Thresher, C. Bellows, Francis Poupore, Louis LaMarche, William Little, Andrew Crawbarger, Moses Bellows, John Robinson: Pound Keepers.
William Moore, Rex
Tucker, James Bromley, George Williams: Fence Viewers
The resolutions that year were much the same for animals at large and fences; but taverns were mentioned for the first time.
Resolved 6. Tavern Keepers Cattle of what sort soever are to be confined at such times as travellers are stopping at taverns with their vehicles and if Tavern Keepers Cattle within the Township shall be found eating hay or destroying any articles on such vehicles the Tavern Keeper will pay a fine of five shillings for each and every violation of this resolution.
In a May 22nd Meeting in 1844:
“Resolved that the Path Masters within their respective divisions will cause all persons liable to perform statute labour to do the same on the roads already formed between the date hereof and the 10th October next and any persons wishing to have roads made from the main roads to their dwellings or places are to make the same without any assistance from another division.”
“At a Township Meeting held for the Township of Westmeath, Bathhurst District in the house occupied by Mr. James Dunn situated on Lot Eleven in the Sixth Concession of the aforementioned township on this 4th day of January 1847. John Poupore Esq.was called to the Chair, the following resolution were passed the under mentioned persons were elected to fill the respective offices as hereafter stated in this present year.
David Hogarth, Town Clerk
John Wright, John Carswell, David Beach: Town Wardens
Patrick Flanagan: Assessor and Collector
William Moore, George Rx Tucker, Duncan Robertson, Franklin Wright, Patrick O’Brien, Robert McLellan, Roderick McDonald, Davis Browne, David Buchanan, Joseph Labine, Charles Bateman, John Carswell: Path Masters
George Thresher, Ira Mason, Jean Poupore, Louis Lamarche, James Dunn, Walter McDonald, Moses B. Bellows, Hugh Carmicheal, Patrick Flanagan, John Tucker, Papineau Bertrand: Pound Keepers
John Robinson, Patrick O’Brien, Henry Bromley, David Beach, Charles Wright: Fence Viewers.
John Wright, Thomas Collins, John Buchanan: Recommended to the Council as Superintendents of Highways.
A New Resolutions for Animals:
“Resolved 8. That a good and efficient Bell be affixed to at least one Beast in every herd of cattle running at large the property of persons residing in the township and if any herd or herds of cattle be found at large without a good bell attached to at least one beast shall be subject to Poundage.”
Road Building: Both the building of bridges and the “crosslaying” of roads required funding to carry out the work. Crosslaying was needed in wet or swale land to give a more solid base to a road. Logs, usually black ash or cedar, as great as 16 feet in length were laid crossways tightly side by side. These roads were nicknamed “Corduroy” roads and gave a rough ride to a traveller. The crosslaying of roads was let out by contract to the lowest bidder.
The Township could apply to the District of Bathurst for a sum of money granted for roadwork. The Bathurst District at that time encompassed the Upper Ottawa Valley from Bytown westward on the Upper Canada side of the river, to include the Counties of Lanark and Renfrew. The government was encouraging immigration to the new land and roads meant better access to yet unsettled areas.
From a Meeting on 9th October 1847:
“Resolved 3. That the grant of six pounds eight shillings allowed last year to aid in the building of a bridge across a certain stream known by the name of Snake River be cancelled and that the said sum of £6 8s shall be employed in the internal improvement of the township.
Resolved 4. That Mr. White shall be liberated from his bond to crosslay road in the north ½ of the Fifth Division of the Township.
Resolved 5. That ⅓ of the £6.8 formerly granted to Snake River be added to the sum of £6.8 (the amount of contract taken by White) making in all £8.10.8 and that this sum be employed in cross laying part if road in the North ½ of Fifth Division.
Resolved 6. That another ⅓ of the Snake River grant be employed to crosslay road in the swamp near Henry Bromleys.
Resolved 7. That the other ⅓ of the same grant be employed to cross lay road between Robinson and Dubois in the Rochufondu.”
The Path Master could be compared to today’s road crew supervisor or manager, with the difference that these crews were all neighbours working to improve their local road and the labour was mandatory. Further settlement meant further extension of the roads system as seen in this excerpt from a May 1st 1849 meeting, held at the Bromley Line Public School House:
“At a meeting of the Commissioners of Statute Labour held pursuant to motion given at the Schoolhouse in School Section No. 3 of this Township on Tuesday the first day of May for the purpose of apportioning the statute labour for the current year. Mr. David Brown was called to the chair and the apportionment made in the following manner:
1st Division Labour to be performed in said Division to be done on the Concession Line fronting Concession A.
2nd Division Statute Labour for this Division to be performed on the road known as the New Survey and to commence at the intersection of the said road by the road running through Ira Masons to the Allumette Lake and thence along said survey to the division line between Division No. 2 & 3.
3rd Division The place of performing the statute labour in the division to be left at the option of the Path Master.
N. ½ 5th Division The Labour of this Division to be laid out in the following manner thus two days in the repairing of the crosslay at the southern extremity of the said North ½. Four days on the hill of opposite ___ Nelson’s and the remaining part on the swamp which is on the north extremity of said division.
S.½ 5th Division The Statute Labour of this section of the division to be performed between Lots 10 & 11 and the division line between north and south half of said 5th division.
6th Division Statute Labour of this division left at the option of the Path Master as respects the place of performing it.
7th Division The Statute of this division to be performed in removing the obstruction on the road between Mr. ___Dunn’s and Mr. George Patterson’s clearing and if there should be any extra labour unperformed exclusive of the removal of said obstruction that the place of performing it be left at the option of the Path Master.
8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th Divisions. The place of performing the Statute Labour of these divisions left at the option of the respective Path Masters.
14th Division The Statute Labour of this division to be performed between Stoquas Portage and Lot No. 15 in the 2nd Concession with the exception of 8 days which Mr. David Brown is to perform as per contract with the Commissioner of Statute Labour to be performed on the District Survey.
15th Division The Statute Labour to be performed in this division to be laid out in opening the road in the extremities of this division.
John Robertson, Town Clerk.”
“Expenditure of Money
That the sum of £16..12..6 of filed taxes which is in the hands of the District Treasurer for the use of this Township be apportioned in the following manner.
1st That the sum of £2 be expended in the repairing the road in the swamp between Mr. Harry Bromleys and Lapasse and the same to be given out per contract to the lowest bidder on Wednesday the 31st ___ at the hour of 3 o’clock.
2nd That the sum of £11..12..6 be laid out in ditching the road in the swamp in front of Lots No. 19,20 & 21 in the 7th Concession of this township and to be given out to the lowest bidder on 31st ___ at the hour of 11 o’clock.
3rd That the sum of £1,..10 be laid out in making a bridge over a certain creek on the New Survey between Mr. Davis Beach’s mill and Mr. David Brown’s and to be given out for contract to the lowest bidder on Tuesday the 30th at the hour of 11 o’clock.
4th That the sum of £1..10 be laid out repairing the road at the mud hole between Mr. Beach’s and Mr. Couter’s (?)and to be given out as above on 30th ____.