” They came from near and they came from far, The East and the West and the South gave men, And they built new homes ‘neath the north-set star, They’ll ne’er swing back to the old again.”
Perhaps the best remembered man in Sault Sainte Marie was until very recently the late Colonel John Prince, first Judge of the District.
Born in Hereford, England, in 1797, he emigrated early to Canada and settled first in the neighborhood of Sandwich where he engaged the ” rebels” during the 1837 episode.
The Colonel’s action at that time in having prisoners shot without a trial raised such a disturbance that the Government was forced to act. The punishment of the offender, however, was not what some might have expected, for he was ordered to proceed to Algoma, ” the Siberia of Canada,” as he termed it in after years, and he received here a grant of land and a position on the Judicial Bench.
The reason of the Government’s leniency is found in the strong interest exhibited in his behalf by the Duke of Wellington, then Prime Minister of England, who, when the case was presented to the Home authorities, addressed the House of Lords on the Colonel’s behalf.
On reaching the Sault the Colonel proceeded to clear his land, which lies to the east of the present town, and there he built a spacious house to which he gave the name of ” Bellevue.”
Here, until 187o, he lived and entertained ever a tender friend albeit a rough foe, eccentric, determined, prejudiced, loyal and chivilrous, giving quarter to none who transgressed or sinned against him or his idea of the ” Law.”
His notion of vengeance was swift.
It is said that he had a pet eagle for which he had refused a large sum of money and which one day offended him by swooping down upon his chickens. The eagle’s life immediately paid the penalty for the transgression.
At another time the Colonel had a beaver, of which he was particularly fond. The beaver was wont to disport itself in the water which laps the beach not a hundred yards from its master’s door and old Monsieur Perrault one day paddling along the shore and seeing a beaver shot it and carried it in as a present to the owner of Bellevue, for whom he had a profound reverence. Colonel Prince was sitting at his table when the polite old gentleman arrived to offer with many bows and words of respect his little gift. For an instant the Colonel glared in angry silence at his neighbour who, becoming alarmed, and rushing to the door saw, as he fled, the bereft Britisher reaching for his gun with which he might have takenhad he been in timea terrible revenge.
The Colonel’s anger was quickly over, however, and there lived not in all the North a man who could be a truer friend than he was.
On St. Andrew’s Day, 187o, Colonel the Honourable John Prince died, and two days after all the sorrowing town wended its way to Bellevue to follow the remains to their last resting place.
As the tourist approaches the Sault from the East he descries three little islands half-way between the Shingwauk Home and the town.
On one of these islands, alone, uncared for, lies the body of the old man, where the snow in the Winter months and the wild flowers in the warmer weather make conspicuous the brown sand stone monolith which marks his tomb. A mural tablet in the south transcept of the pro-Cathedral in Sault Sainte Marie also reminds us of his life and death.
The last Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company here was Wemyss M. Simpson who came to Canada from London, England, where he was born in 1825.
For twenty-four he served the H. B. C. and for eight of these twenty-four was he a Factor. With Colonel Fred Cumberland he represented the district in Parliament from 1867-1872, being like Colonel Prince, a Conservative
Where Upton Road crosses Queen street, there stands an old-fashioned, homelike villa of stone, at present owned by Mr. H. W. Evenden, an English gentleman. The villa was built by Mr. Simpson, when he retired to private life, and there, surrounded by his family, he spent the rest of his days. Mr. Simpson was married twice and three of his children, Mrs. H. Plummer, Mrs. Begg and Mr. A Simpson. are living at present in the Sault. Upton is now known as Ste. Marie,
But to Major Wilson must be given the honour of being called the oldest resident in the district the Major having come here as Mr. Wilson, Customs officer, to succeed his father in that office, and having dwelt continuously in the district since September, 1843. The Major was born in Perthshire, Scotland, in 1818, reached Canada in 1832, and served on the Government side in the trouble of 1837. He was appointed to his office of Customs Collector by Lord Sydenham. Later on, under Lord Clanricarde, Her late Majesty’s Postmaster General, he received in 1848 the further office of Postmaster. This he held for many years until David Pim succeeded him in the office.
A photograph of the original “Authority ” is here presented.
For fifty-eight years has the Major hept his diary of events. not missing a day, a set of volumes of great value to the town or to book-lovers.
Judge McCrae, who succeeded Judge Prince, was a Canadian by birth, having been born at Burritt Rapids, Ontario, 1850.
On Friday, March 11th, 1904, Major Wilson passed away at the ripe age of 87 years, and the following day, surrounded by his friends of earlier days as well as those of more recent acquaintance, his remains were carried to the Korah cemetery and there laid beside his wife’s.
The local militia company with reversed arms marched slowly at the head of the funeral cortege, the 97th regiment band playing a dead march. The casket, wrapped in the flag he loved, was drawn on a black-draped sleigh, and about it, under Sergeant Howe, strode six of the old battery men who had gathered so often at the former soldier’s call.
At the grave, heaped high with snow, the Chaplain of the regiment read the beautiful service of the Church of England, the firing party took their position and discharged their three volleys, the last salute over a soldier’s tomb, and from a single bugle floated out over the desolate hills the lonely notes of the ” Last Post,” the call known to every warrior, heard when the lights die out and the army sinks to rest.
So passed from the scene one whose memory will linger among the citizens to whom may be ascribed the credit of first infusing military enthusiasm into the men of the district.
He was a loyal, honourable and consistent man, a good father and a true friend, and now he is gone, no one may say the Major ever did him a wrong. Such are the sturdy characters who often unappreciated, unnoticed help to make a people great.
Mr. Wm. V. Abbott, until recently the Indian Agent, received his appointment to that office in 1873. He was born in Surrey in 1831 and came to Montreal where for about twenty years he was a wholesale dry goods auctioneer. He came to the Sault in 1864 to carry on a wholesale liquor trade, this being for two years a free port on account of its distance from any other port of Canada.
He has ever been an active citizen, and though living in retired life he takes the keenest interest in everything that concerns the Sault.
Like others already mentioned, Mr. Abbott and his good lady have ever made their house a centre of hospitality and have done much to make the Sault the homelike town it claims to be. With Glengarry cap and brier pipe he is one of the best known figures on our streets, and long may he be spared to be a binding link between the happy past and the busy, growing future.
Another old time resident remains in Francis Jones Hughes, who came to the Sault in 1856 in company with a number of other pensioners to settle a disturbance, already mentioned, as having taken taken place among the Indians. Poor Sergeant Andrew Hynes, who came at the same time, has since passed away, but Mr. Hughes still lives to tell his friends of early days.
He was born in Wales in 1828 and joined the Royal Marines’ service, fighting in the war with China on Her late Majesty’s first-class gunboat ” Lily.” He tells how he smoked his first cigar in Hong Kong ; was still in the service during the Crimean war, and having found his way to the town at the foot of the Rapids, was appointed Chief Constable and Magistrate ” under Royal Seal.” Mr. Hughes’ district extended from the French River to the Lake of the Woods (Lac des Bois). Mr. Hughes was married twice, his two sons living at the Sault in the present time.
The present Sheriff is another of the few left from the early days. He was born in London, England, in 1830, and came to Canada when he was three years old. His early days were those of a settler’s son, working hard in the daylight hours, studying after dark. His father had been Collector of Customs at Owen Sound and again at Niagara, but he resigned his post to enter the mercantile life in Barrie.
The present Sheriff, who was the eldest son of a large family, took an active part in his father’s business, and when the latter was appointed the first Stipendary Magistrate for Algoma, he removed with him to the Sault. The office of Stipendary Magistrate was abolished in 186o, and the disestablished officer was appointed Sheriff, which position he held until 1882, when the present Sheriff, Wm. Henry Carney, succeeded him. Mr. Carney was the first Municipal Treasurer of the town, and on resigning in 1888, was succeeded by his son Richard, who is Treasurer at the present time. Three of the Sheriff’s sisters still live near the old family homestead, while the Sheriff and one son occupy the historic stone house built by Armatinger in 1822.
The Diggings and Camerons, whose house was down east of the town on the river banks ; the Towers and Davidsons, Ironsides and Pennos are also to be ranked among the early settlers whose quite tenacity helped to anchor Sault Sainte Marie to the older civilization and thus to lead to greater things.
One of our most respected citizens was Doctor J. A. Reid whose charm and grace made him a welcome guest in every house.
The Doctor, who was born in 1845, was a son of the Honourable Alexander Reid who for many years was Minister of Finance in the colony of Newfoundland. The Doctor’s education was carried on first under his fathera thorough classic scholarand then at McGill University and the Royal College of Physicians, London, where he practiced, after graduation, with Dr. Cook, sometime physician to Her late Majesty Queen Victoria. There a brilliant course seemed to be before him, but the call of his native land was sounding in his ears, and in 1875, bidding farewell to England, he came across the water to make his home.
At first the young Doctor practiced among the fishermen of his native island, but afterward crossed to Canada and sojourned for a time in Montreal.
There he contracted typhoid fever and for many long weeks lingered between life and death, but his work was not yet completed.
Chatting one day with a brother physician he learned of the District of Algoma and of the need of medical aid there. The splendid combination of being likely to exercise his skill in a country romantic and little known appealed strongly to his nature, and as soon as he could stand the journey he found his way to the great lakes region. At first the Doctor settled at Bruce Mines where he met and married Annie, daughter of George F. Marks. In 1878 the Doctor, with his bride, came to Sault Sainte Marie where they continued to reside. For many years was he spared to carry on his great and good work, and it was with a deep and sincere sorrow that the people learned in the Fall of 1902 that he, whom they had learned to honour and revere, had passed away to his rest. Doctor Reid is survived by his widow, who, in her own gentle way, exercises a quiet yet mighty influence for good in the townand by a much respected family, one of whose members. Mr. George Reid, is a prominent figure in all matters athletic.
Mr. Robert Adam Lyon is another of the old time citizens who have joined the great majority. Born in 183o in the city of Glasgow, he came, in early years, across the water and Canada became henceforth his home.
Mr. Lyon received his education like many of our great Canadians in the public schools of Old Ontario, the common ground upon which alike all creeds and races meet, and which institution ought to be to the nation a source of sturdy Christian patriotism for the upbuilding of a united people.
In 1858 he married Sarah Moore who, with his family, survives him. Mr. Lyon was ever an active member of the district and won Parliamentary honours at various times from 1878 to 1891, retiring in the latter year to private life. In 1902 he became unwell and decided to visit once more the land of his birth. All arrangements were made, but it was not to be. In Montreal he was overtaken by a sickness which resulted in his decease on June 4th, 1902, and thus passed away from the scene of his former activity an old and much respected man. Mr. R. A. Lyon, the Manager of the Imperial Bank in Sault Sainte Marie and President of the local Board of Trade, is the only member of the family now residing in the old town.
In the town proper, that is, the town apart from ” The Works,” the most important business man has long been Mr. W. H. Plummer who settled here a young man in May 1873, and succeeded in centring, to a very great degree, the life of the place around him. Nor is it merely in a business way that Mr. Plummer is known
It is said that there are few old settlers in the district but owe something to his kindnesses in the past. He has ever been a hearty supporter of improvement tending toward the advancement of the district and his purse has always been ready to emphasize his convictions.
Mrs. Plummer, too, was looked to by those who were sick or in distress, and now that she has passed away does one hear from the lips of grateful people many stories of her sweet generosity and gentle provision for their needs.
The doors of Lynnehurst, the Plummer residence, seemed always to be open. None of any importance came to Sault Sainte Marie but he was right royally entertained there.
Mr. Plummer and his wife became the welcome authorities to whom most questions were submitted.
From the inception of the General Hospital to her demise did Mrs. Plummer act as President, a position now filled by Mrs. Reid, and in that splendid institution is much that owes its exist- ence to her initiation.
Mrs. Plummer is survived by a daughter and son, the latter, Mr. H. Lynne Plummer, being the first Lieutenant in the volunteer company.
It was mainly due to Mr. Plummer’s efforts, backed by a handful of citizens, among the number Mr. W. J. Thompson and Mr. H. C. Hamilton, that the great water power was first harnessed and made to minister to the needs of the village as the Sault was in those days. The idea in developing the power from the mighty flow of the rapids was to induce industries to locate on the shores of St. Mary’s River and so add to the wealth of the community.
Mr. Plummer’s efforts, with those of his confreres, were quite successful, for to the founder of the great company whose works now occupy so large an area here, did the plan prove attractive, and to-day in place of the settlement of a few hundred people, there stands a town comprisingwith its outlying suburbs a population of many thousands.
Of these great works, whose coming has wrought such change, much has been already written, nor is it within the scope of a volume such as this to discuss them
On the site of the North West Company’s post of 1792 they are erected. The old powder magazine of the Hudson’s Bay Company of a later occupation has, by Mr. Francis Clergue, been added td and converted into bachelor’s quarters. It is now known as the “blockhouse.” Only one other building of the Fur Company stands, while on every side are ranged the massive stone structures wherein many think the future of the town is being wrought.
So the old order ever changeth giving place to the new. It is the working of the law of evolution. The ” Post ” has vanished, the old schoolhouse has disappeared, the town-hall is no more, but on its site, turning its ugly back upon the river front, has risen a larger, if less beautiful, pile.
One by one the familiar faces of a few years ago are dropping out, and when inquiry is made, the voice is lowered in answer, ” They are gone.” Three of the old time burial places have disappeared entirely, one being on the brow of the Pim street hill ; one at what is now the south cast corner of Superior and Huron streets, and one between the Armatinger house and the Roman Catholic cemetery ; two others have fallen into disuse : that in front of the Church of the Sacred Heart and the other the old N. W. Co. cemetery adjoining St. John’s Anglican Church, in the west end of the town. Within the corporation limits is still the so-called ” town cemetery,” where on old time shafts and headstones may be read the names of families once influential in the district and whose places others filled. May they, who still remain, be long spared to enjoy the prosperity which seems to be dawning for the growing Sault.
Since 1887, when Sault Sainte Marie became an incorporated town with its Mayor and Civic Board, the office of Chief Magistrate has been filled by only five gentlemen, Messrs. William Brown, Edward Biggings, Henry C. Hamilton, W. J. Thompson, and the present Mayor, W. H. Plummer.