Wiarton News: 1890s

Wiarton news: the 1890s, as seen in the pages of the local newspaper revealed problems typical of today's communities.

Today urban growth and the accompanying problems are a major issue for society. In the 1890s Wiarton was experiencing growing pains. In its first quarter century, the community had experienced rapid growth and expansion. The town's business leaders had worked hard to promote this Colpoy's Bay community as a thriving Georgian Bay port facility. As well, the Wiarton Echo had consistently acted as the voice for expansion and development on the Bruce Peninsula with Wiarton as the metropolitan centre for trade, commerce and development for the region.

Settlement was constantly being encouraged. Travellers to the area were bombarded by stories and advertisements in the Echo encouraging them to put down their roots in or near Wiarton. Lumbering operations had cleared a lot of the land in the region. Therefore, agricultural activity was seen as an easy means for newcomers to sustain themselves. After all much of the back-breaking task of clearing had already been completed. Advertisements in the Echo extolled the low cost and easy terms for purchasing land in the area. One land agent, James Walmsley advertised building lots in Wiarton which required no down payment as long as the purchaser agreed to build on the lot. Walmsley's advertisement also stated that the purchaser had five years to pay for the lot and that the interest on the purchase price was seven percent.

Wiarton News:
1897 Town Council Report

By 1897 Wiarton was an established community and was experiencing some of the growing pains consistent with a community which was constantly expanding its physical borders. A November 1897 Wiarton council meeting reveals some the problems which that community was facing.

A Mrs. Galloway made a presentation to the town fathers requesting that she should not have pay taxes. Her rationale was that because she lived on the outskirts of town she did not derive any benefit from the town, such as fire protection, water works or street lighting. Her taxes were $3.57.

Counsellor Freeman thought that this rate was too high considering the lack of services available to Mrs. Galloway. However, Deputy Reeve Perry took the position that if council acted to benefit Mrs. Galloway, then similar generosity would have to be granted to the others living on the outskirts of Wiarton. At the same time that council voted to refuse lowering the tax rate they also voted not to take action to increase the availability of utilities.

Others who lived in areas of Wiarton which did not have access to public services made similar appeals at the meeting. Like Mrs. Galloway their overtures fell on deaf ears.

While the residents living in the more recently settled areas of Wiarton were denied services, at the same council meeting discussions were held with regard to placing another street lamp in the main part of town. It was ultimately decided that a street lamp be placed immediately at the corner where the Anglican Church was located. The cost for this lamp was $45.00 per year.

Mr. Seaman made a presentation to council to reduce the taxes on Weaver's store as they were too high. The councillors agreed and the proposal was carried.

Mr. Bernie reported that the town should hire a night watchman to patrol the streets. He said that ladies could not pass certain corners without being insulted or having tobacco juice spit at them. The Mayor agreed that perhaps a private detective be hired for a short period of time to see if the situation could thus be alleviated. He stated that although the chief constable was out each night on patrol it was impossible for him to be two places at once.

Although these are anecdotes are from more that a century ago, the issues facing communities have not really changed, except the tax rates!

A version of this article about Wiarton news first appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times in 1997.

Discover More About the Bruce Peninsula

Getting to the Bruce Peninsula is a relatively easy driving trip. Here are driving directions from three regions to the peninsula.

Bruce Peninsula Lumber History details the impact of the forest products industry on the development of the region.

Bruce Peninsula Lumbering provided the stimulus to develop and grow the pioneer economy on the newly settled Bruce Peninsula. 

Bruce Peninsula Municipal Politics: No matter what the venue, or the issue, seldom is a popular decision made that suits everyone. 

Bruce Peninsula Travel Routes were often a matter of debate because in the early years, land travel was virtually unattainable for settlers and lumbermen alike.

Bruce Peninsula winters could be difficult, especially in pioneer times when transportation connections were limited to only a few months each year.

Colpoys Bay Vista - Awesome! A short drive from either Wiarton or Owen Sound is one of the most magnificent views to be found in the province of Ontario!

Forest Products on the Bruce Peninsula contributed greatly to the growth and development of that region of the province of Ontario.

Gillies Lake: aka Ghost Lake has a mysterious past as its original name, Ghost Lake, implies.

Great Grey Owls on the Bruce Peninsula was a surprise discovery for ornithologists and others. Sadly, the story of their visit had an unfortunate conclusion.

Pioneer Campers: Hope Bay mostly considered the peninsula untamed wilderness and some of the locals were not about to disappoint them!

Pioneer Missionary James Atkey arrived on Colpoys Bay to minister to the native community near Oxenden until a treaty uprooted his parishioners.

Pioneer tourists first visited the Bruce Peninsula in the 1800s and the region continues as a great recreational and tourism destination today!

Pioneer Vacations on the Bruce Peninsula got an eerie start in the Hope Bay region of the peninsula.

Lighthouses  Lighthouses were vital to Georgian Bay Sailing.

A Flowerpot Island cruise is not only entertaining, but it is also very educational as you will see things that you have never viewed before!

Travel the Bruce: Owen Sound to Wiarton  A wonderful journey from Owen Sound to Wiarton.

Travel the Bruce: Wiarton to Tobermory  Relaxing and historic journey.

Bruce Peninsula  The Bruce Peninsula is a compelling place, with a rich history, to visit. Once you have traveled there, we guarantee that you will return, again and again!

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