This is the story of community leaders setting up a new society here in the small clearings and settlements, during colonial times. Many of these men came from families who had already done so before, in other areas such as the St. Lawrence Valley, particularly in the townships of Stormont, Leeds or Glengarry. They were the second or third generation of the United Empire Loyalists. Now with money in their pockets, they could come into this Upper Ottawa Valley and establish themselves as “community builders”. These were people with a vast store of commitment and drive.
They were by and large God-fearing men, often from staunch Methodist, Church of England or Presbyterian backgrounds and had been well tested by the hardships in a new nation. Some had served the Crown in the 1812-1814 War and now could lay claim to their thousand-acre Crown Land Grants. Men with such key surnames such as Condie, Jackson, Bellows, Beach and Tucker were some of the earliest.
The following wave brought in a more diverse group of settlers; French Canadians, Americans, Scots, Irish and other European settlers came looking for surveyed and cleared lands to farm or places to set up a small business to make use of their skills. Many were just “greenhorns” who had escaped poor conditions in their homelands. As the lumbermen cashed in on the massive stands of old growth forest for overseas export, land surveyors followed behind and the Crown then offered land grants for purchase as a strategy for colonial expansion in the New World.
These community builders were the first of the true settlers; woodsmen and traders had come into the Valley for decades, but the men named in the Council Minute Books were the people who came with the intent to stay and build a life for themselves and their families. The men’s names are listed but we should remember that it was the women settlers who carried the heavier burden of making a home for the family while facing extreme challenges of loneliness, weather, and lack of provisions and healthcare.
The Township of Whitewater Region passed a resolution of support and granted access to its stored historic Westmeath Township documents and materials; council minute books, tax rolls, correspondence, bylaws, etc., to be used in research for this website. A sincere thank you to the Township of Whitewater Region Council members and staff, and in particular Annette Mantifel, for their help and support. Whitewater Resolution
Sadly some books are missing from the collection housed at the municipal office in Cobden. Minutes from the years 1929 and through the 1930s are lost. It would be interesting to see how the township coped with the lean years of the Great Depression and The Dirty Thirties. Hopefully someone reading this, will find these old books in some dusty old box, up in the attic, and get in touch.
Westmeath Minute Books
These materials have been combed through to find sections or items of most interest and the results are presented here. Care was taken to transcribe from the handwriting and spelling as presented in these original documents. However, some handwriting was quite difficult to interpret and spellings used might differ from those used today. Also, some sections were rendered illegible either through very light writing, fading inks or the ravages of time.
Often the spelling of names was problematic with no guarantee of accuracy. Indeed some surnames were spelled multiple ways. Others were highly suspicious: was there ever a “Mr. Lizard”? – probably Bressard was meant, but who can say? Spellings are left as they were written without correction.
Punctuation was seldom used and run-on sentences very common. Editing to correct these sorts of things was not done, – the manner of writing was left true to the times. Explanations have been inserted where it was thought necessary to give a definition of terms not now in common usage, or to give emphasis to actions or events. Hopefully that is found to be helpful to you, Dear Reader.
It is hoped that these excerpts from the Minute Books are sufficient to give some degree of insight into the early work of this township’s municipal political body. As of the writing of this site in 2013, 176 years have passed since the Westmeath Township Council first began. We, who have roots in this area, applaud the tenacity and dedication of these pioneers.
Gayle McBride Stewart, Editor