Grey County Bylaws
(to the 1890s) 

Grey County Bylaws to the 1890s reveal a lot about the financing of local government, especially education in the early days of the region.

One can learn a lot about the history of this area by looking at some of the early documents to be found in libraries, archives and other repositories in the Grey County area. For instance, this past week I discovered an interesting document published by Grey County in 1896. 

The booklet contains a list of some of the bylaws which were enacted by county council during the period from 1853 to 1896. Most of the bylaws that are listed in the book pertain to financing the operations of the county. However, there are some bylaws which provide some interesting information about that era of our history. 

Today the cost of maintaining our education system is a popular topic of discussion. For decades we have taken our access to education for granted. Each September our children head back to the classroom without much thought as to the cost of their education. 

In 1892, Grey County council passed a bylaw requiring all students who wished to attend high school to pay "a fee of One Dollar per month during the teaching months, the said fee to be paid at the beginning of each term." 

On June 25, 1892, county council passed Bylaw No. 445, which required all students to pay a fee of 50 cents for entrance examinations. 

Today we are all inundated by telephone marketers trying to sell us products and services. In the 1850s much of the commerce of the area was carried out by peddlers who travelled from farmhouse to farmhouse selling their wares. In 1854, County council enacted a bylaw to control this industry. 

However, the control of this business must have remained some sort of a problem, because two years later council repealed the original bylaw and enacted an updated version. 

During the course of the next 30 years the hawker’s and pedlar’s bylaw was updated on six different occasions; 1865, 1866, 1874, 1876, 1879, and 1885. In 1880, this bylaw was changed on two different occasions. 

In 1890, an attempt was made to fix a licence fee for hawkers and pedlars in accordance with the other terms of the previous version of the bylaw. 

Finally, on Jan. 31, 1891 Grey County council approved Bylaw 419 "To Impose a License on Hawkers, Pedlars and others." 

The points covered in this bylaw tell us a lot about the values and circumstances of society in this area in the 1890s. 

Section One states: 

No person shall act as Hawker, Pedlar or Petty Chapman, or carry on petty trades, or go from place to place or to other person's houses, on foot or with any animal bearing or drawing any goods, wares or merchandise for sale, in or with any boat, vessel or other craft, or otherwise carry goods, wares or merchandise for sale in the County of Grey, unless such goods, wares or merchandise have been manufactured within this province, without first obtaining a License for so doing. 

Section Two: restricted such salespersons from selling tea, dry goods or jewelry. 

Section Three: required that any applicants for a license first had to obtain a certificate of good moral character. These certificates could be obtained from any member of the Municipal Council in the community where they resided. 

We can learn a lot about the previous eras of the history of our region from many sources, but government documents such as the bylaws of Grey County are especially important. 

The information used in this column came from the Index to Bylaws published by the County of Grey in 1896.

A version of this article first appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times on June 2, 2000.

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More Grey County Pages

12-year-old Walks to Owen Sound in 1851 from the journal of a teenage boy's experience travelling with his brother in the untamed Upper Canadian wilderness.

1st Grey County Building in 1852 was only built after many hurdles were overcame.

Dr. Anna Henry  from Markdale, was a medical trailblazer for women doctors in Canada, who helped lay the groundwork for the establishment for Women's College Hospital.

Egremont Township endured the usual growing pains of a pioneer community, but its early history records times when it was embroiled in a few contentious issues. 

Euphrasia Township in the early years when spelling the name was a problem for those who called it home and those that wanted settle this new Grey County township.

Georgian Bay's 1st pioneer settler arrived on the western shoreline long before any other settler reached the area.

Grey County Heritage: A Valuable Resource which is rich and varied, as an important resource for future use for business, political, and many other purposes.

Grey County's Creation in 1852, laid the framework for organizing a county in the last wilderness in the southern region of what would become in the future the province of Ontario.

An Unlikely Hero From Grey County (Part 1) found his way from the farming community of Flesherton to missionary work in the Ottawa Valley, and beyond.

An Unlikely Hero Vs. The KKK (Part 2) Our hero from Grey County took his missionary zeal south of the border and ultimately crossed paths with the infamous KKK!

Barn Raising: A Pioneer Economic and Social Necessity as it provided settlers with an opportunity not only to build a barn, but also build a community.

"Barring Out": A Pioneer School Tradition was a custom which the settlers brought to the new world from England, or Scotland.

Ceylon Ontario: How it Got its Name: It is always interesting how a community got its name, but I doubt any place received its name from a more unique source!

Chatsworth Ontario: First Settlers took advantage of fulfilling the needs of pioneer travellers and built a thriving community in the Upper Canadian wilderness.

Clearing Trees a Daunting Task for Settlers as they worked to fulfill their obligations for their land grant.

Dornoch: or is it Smithville? Originally it was Smithville, then it became Dornoch. But, surprise it is still, in reality Smithville!

First Pioneer in Durham: Archibald Hunter established his family, and a hotel, in what would become the centre of the town of Durham.

Durham Ontario Influenced by the Saugeen River. This river provided a means to create new industries, but especially in the spring it can also pose a menace to the community.

Grey County Bylaws to the 1890s reveal a lot about the financing of local government, especially education in the early days of the region.

John Muir, the legendary naturalist, who promoted the idea of protected nature spaces, spent time in Ontario and I went to help find evidence of his stay in the Owen Sound area.

A Heroic Woman From Grey County who made great changes as a doctor in China in the 1890s and early 1900s.

Jesse James: In Grey County? An interesting question. Did the notorious gangster hide out in Proton Township? We will never know. But it is fun to speculate!

Kilsyth's Train Engine was one for the history books. It brought an evening of joy followed by disappointing news soon after.

The Knight's of Meaford have long history in that Grey County community. Their business forged by early settlers employed many locals and supported the economy.

Leith: Tom Thomson's Birthplace is part of the rich heritage of this community located on the east shore of the Georgian Bay north of Owen Sound.

The Leith Golf Course has provided many families with great memories. The history of this golf course starts, and ends, with the generosity of one family.

Agnes Macphail was a political trailblazer in a part of Ontario that one could hardly expect such radical action for the era in a rural region.

Markdale Ontario: The Beginning: originally known as Glenelg East, but the coming of the railway and the name of owner of the land for the station led to a change of identity.

Meaford's history is one of hardy and entrepreneurial pioneers carving their lives out of the wilderness of what would become Grey County.

Meaford Ontario, first called Peggy's Landing located on the shores of Georgian Bay has a rich history.

Meaford vs Purdytown. Conflict over the name of a new community was not unusual in early Grey County but electing a school trustee was the "hot button" issue in this rivalry.

Pioneer Clergyman: John Neelands was the first to minister to the first settlers' spiritual needs riding on horseback through the wilds of early Grey County.

Pioneer Doctor: Dr. James Smith, a local boy who became a doctor and served his community for his entire life was a testament to Grey County community spirit.

Pioneer Healthcare in Grey and Bruce counties was not administered by doctors, nurses, or pharmacists, no it was the responsibility of the women of the community.

Pioneer Homes in Grey County in the 1840s offered only basic amenities. Homes were basic because clearing the land to earn a living to survive were of paramount importance for those embarking on a new life.

Pioneer Ingenuity created many labour saving devices and methods and quite often helped to create a sense of community.

Pioneer Christmas: A Family Tradition as told to me by may grandparents who experienced Christmas as children in the 1880s and 1890s.

Pioneer Settlement Plans for Grey County began almost two decades before the rest of Grey County was available for settlement.

A pioneer road surveyor's impact on the local history of Grey and Bruce counties could have been dramatic, if it had not been changed by another surveyor.

Pioneer Teachers in Grey and Bruce Counties had a long and arduous task, not to mentions strict and confining job requirements for very little salary.

Plowing Match in Grey County in 1933 the first International Plowing Match held in Grey and Bruce counties and it's success led to more such events in Grey.

Settling Osprey Township: Parts of Osprey were considered too rugged to settle, but today they are prime real estate because of the great view!

Swamp College: Proton Township: this colourfully named institution of education in Grey County has provided many stories to the heritage of the region.

Sydenham Township's First Council undertook the often difficult task of creating a new municipal infrastructure.

The Impact of Snow is not what is Used to be! As snow removal equipment has improved the impact of snow on our lives has reduced significantly from previous eras.

Unique Characters: Nathaniel Herriman lived in Grey County and owned an inn to provide food and and accommodation to early travellers. Each day he performed a unique practice.

Unique Maps: Quilts Guided the Underground Railroad to enable runaway slaves to escape to Canada and freedom from the shackles that enslaved them.

The Women's Institute is a group of rural women that has made a difference to the quality of both urban and rural life in Grey County and across the country.