Port Hope, Canada – Some Other Institutions

WHILE scarcely of such importance as to require separate chapters for their description, yet there are several other institutions in Port Hope deserving attention and these may conveniently be grouped in a single chapter.

The Post Office, established in 1817 with Charles Fothergill as Post Master, has suffered several changes of location. Rumour has it that Mr. Fothergill for several years handled the mail in his own residence where Mr. James Craick now resides. From there the office moved down to D. Smart’s store on Mill street, when that gentleman became Post Master. Then it was transferred to the store at present occupied by John Wickett & Son ; from there to Gould’s present site ; next to the old Hatton block on Mill street ; from there to the Smith Block on Walton street and in 1877 to the Riordan Block. All these years David Smart and his son R. W. Smart had been Post Masters. In 1877 the Rev.-J. Baird received the appointment and on Oct. 5th, 1878, the present Post Master E. J. Baird succeeded him. The present building was erected in 1883, the corner stone being laid with much ceremonial on August 30th by Sir Hector Langevin, Minister of Public Works.

The Customs Department has been in existence in Port Hope since 1819 and with it the name of Mr. M. F. Whitehead was associated for many years. It was located for some time in the Hatton Block and later in the block south of the old Oil Clothing Factory Building. From there it went to the new Post Office in 1883. The present Collector E. J. Burton, Esq. succeeded Mr. Whitehead on Sept. 15th, 1872.

Offenders against the law and order of the Town were tried by the early Board of Police and later by the Mayor and Justices of the Peace. In 1871 R. H. Holland Esq. was appointed Police Magistrate, which office he has ever since filled. For several years the lockup was situated in a house on the corner of Walton and Brown streets and then was moved to Norman Strong’s house on Mill Street prior to a place being fitted up in the Town Hall. The Chief Constables have been Dennis Riordan, D. Gillespie, John Lynn, James North, David Marshall and Charles Gilchrist. John Douglas, the present Chief, was appointed in April, 1883.

In the year 1821 John Hutchinson was granted the privilege of holding a semi-annual fair or mart in Port Hope. This was probably the first step towards making Port Hope a market town. The Board of Police were also allowed t0 establish a market but it was not until the Town Hall was built and suitable accommodation provided that the market, as it is now known, was held regularly.

The Port Hope Gas Company was organized in 1857 with John Smart as President. The present building was erected by Mr. Donovan and the works put in by Mr. Perry of Montreal. The Town took £42,500 stock on March 2nd, 1857. The Company has had its periods of depression, first when coal oil was introduced and latterly when the use of electric light became prevalent. At present the Company’s stock amounts to $34,860, its last dividend was 4%, and its mains extend eight miles. J. Mulligan Esq. is President.

Electric lighting came in in 1886 and Mr. J. W. Quinlan was its introducer. By-law 533 dated Jan 11 th, 1886 contains the agreement between the Town and that gentleman. Mr. Quinlan supplied the light for a portion of that year until in November the Town contracted with Dr. Corbett to carry out the lighting arrangements. This gentleman has extended and improved the system very largely and still operates it.

The earliest burying-ground in Port Hope was on the east side of the Park Hill. Then the St. John’s Church Cemetery around the present St. Mark’s Church became the burial ground of the settlement. Afterwards the Presbyterians and Methodists each made cemeteries, the former at the rear of their church, the latter west of the High School.

The Catholics also buried their dead around their church. The present St. John’s Cemetery was opened in 1862, and the Union Cemetery in 1873. A Union Cemetery Company was formed on April 13th of that year with Col. Williams as President. Its present stock is $3,000 and W. Craig is President. Up to the present time 1126 interments have been made.

The Port Hope Board of Trade has had a checkered history. There was a Board in existence in 1865 with John Helm as President, but it must have soon disappeared for on August 18th, 1874 a new organization was registered at Ottawa with the late Wm. Craig as President. After a few years this too became defunct and until the Twine Factory was established, no Board of Trade existed. In 1889 a large Board with one hundred members was formed and G. M. Furby appointed President. It is still alive though latterly its office has been rendered useless by the appointment of a Manufacturers’ Committee of the Town Council.

An institution which has been of much benefit to the Town is the Mechanics Institute established in 1874 under the presidency of Mr. G. A. Stewart, now of Calgary. A previous Institute had been established in 1852 and incorporated in 1854, and for several years had maintained a library and reading room over Mr. Deyell’s present store ; but it became defunct and sold its library to the Y. M. C. A. During its early years it provided courses of lectures every winter. The present Institute started over the old Times office and soon after moved to its present location. J. H. Helm Esq. is President and Miss M. C. Budge, Secretary, while the library now contains 5000 volumes.

Prior to 1870 all concerts, theatricals, lectures etc. were held in the Town Hall. In that year the O’Neill Brothers built the old Opera House. It was merely a music hall, without gallery, boxes or adequate stage accommodation. These accessories were added in 1886 when a Peterboro’ Company secured the property, and until 1897 the old Opera House witnessed many gatherings of most varied nature. It was destroyed by fire Feb. 14th and restored to its present well-equipped condition in 1899. Mr. E. J. Farquharson is the lessee.

Since 1862 the charity of the Town has been dispensed through the Benevolent Society, which was formed in that year by the late Wm. Craig. Over one thousand dollars pass through the hands of the society annually, of which more than half is donated by private subscription. Mr. W. Quay is now President and for over twenty years Mr. J. H. Helm has been Treasurer.