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.


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However, the control of this business must have remained some sort of a problem, because two years later council repealed the original bylaw and enacted an updated version.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