In 1858 Algoma was organized into a judicial territory with headquarters at Sault Sainte Marie and a full complement of civil officers was appointed to carry out the demands of justice. The distrit at that time stretched from French River to James’ Bay and to an undefined boundary in the West, `4 for Manitoba had no existence then.”
The gentlemen appointed to act in this huge district with its coast frontage of Boo or more miles were Honorable John Prince, Judge, succeeded in 1870 by Judge McCrae ; Richard Carney, Sheriff ; John McPherson Hamilton, Clerk of the Peace and Crown Attorney ; Henry Pilgrim, Clerk of the District Court ; Colonel John Savage, Registrar ; Wm F. Moore, Gaoler, and Andrew Hynes as Constable.
The Court was not occupied with serious offences, the trespassing of cattle and other minor counts being the stamp of offences adjudicated.
When grand jury met, if it was in the Winter they were detained for days and sometimes weeks before they could get off for home. There were no hotels then and the jurymen were billeted at the different houses.
Many stories of a rugged nature were wont in old days to be narrated of Judge Prince, whose patience was often times sorely tried by the litigious few who met before him to air their differences.
Not, however, until 1866 was the erection of a proper court-house undertaken.
In that year the Ontario Government put the project into operation, and two years later, 1868, the present court-house and gaol stood finished, and by far the handsomest building in the town. The work cost $20,000. The brick and tiles used were made and burned in front of the present flagstaff site, and Mr. W. H. Carney became the first resident gaoler.
Magistrates were known in those days to render at times startling decisions. It has passed into history that one of our most honoured citizens, acting as magistrate, had brought before him a culprit who was charged with stealing a pair of boots. ” Guilty or not guilty ?” demanded the ” Power,” as the boots were produced and evidence filed and the wretch pleaded ” guilty.” ” I sentence you then,” came the judgment, ” to be hanged by the neck till you are dead and order the officers to remove you.” The prisoner was prostrated with fright and begged to be heard.
He told his story and the judge replied, ” On account of the extenuating circumstances I hereby commute the sentence on the understanding that you leave this side of the river within half an hour.”
The thief, who did not know the powers of Canadian magistrates, left in a great hurry and was no more seen
It was in 1866-7, when the stone was being quarried at Campment d’Ours for the court-house that a certain judgment was rendered by a coroner’s jury at the Bruce Mines which is not inappropriate here.
Two men returning to the quarry for their tools early in January stopped at Richard’s Landing and bought some goods. As they turned to leave Richard’s store, one of them espied a bottle of pickles which he purchased and slipped into his fur coat pocket. They left.
The following May, John Walker, a farmer on Campment d’Ourswhich it may be mentioned is an historic island down the St. Mary’s River, on which, among other things, is an Ojibway graveyardfound the body of an unknown man on a small island near by called Doris Island.
The body was towed to the Bruce Mines and an inquest held. The man’s identity was established by the fact that he had in his pocket a bottle of pickles which was silently handed to each of the empanelled jury for inspection. The jury, after hearing all the evidence, retired and drew up the following finding :
” Found drowned through want of carelessness on the ice.”
The man was now buried. Some one produced a hymn-book and read a hymn as a burial service Exit cadaver. But the pickles. The party returned and all sat down silently, smoking and eyeing the pickles, till one bolder than the rest, exclaimed, ” Well, fellers, them pickles ain’t much the worse for wear, I moves we eat ’em.” The motion was not put, the cork was drawn. Exit pickles !
Such is life in a frontier district.
The year 1875 saw the birth of our first town newspaper ” The Algoma Pioneer and District General Advertiser.”
It was the child of an enterprising citizen, the sort of men who make a town to prosper. Mr. W. H. Carney, our present Sheriff. The copy here reproduced contains much interesting matter and some quaint advertisements.
That year 1875 Simon J. Dawson was frantically endeavoring to win over the electorate as opposed to Colonel Rankin. The Indians had received the right to vote and were being appealed to by both parties.
In Mr. Dawson’s address to the voters he says : ” The descendents of those once powerful tribes who figured so conspiciously in the early history of the country, are still to be seen, although in numbers sadly thinned, in the forests and by the crystal seas of Algoma, and they have rights which should be respected. By a clause in the treaty by which they surrendered their territorial rights they are entitled to certain allowances which have until now been witheld simply because the matter had not been urged on the attention of the Government. I have recently had communication with the Department of the Interior on this subject and am glad to be in a position to say that the case of the Indians is engaging the most serious attention of the Government and that there is every prospect that the stipulations of the treaty will within a short time be carried out and the annuity to the Indians considerably augmented.” All of which is another proof that there is nothing new under the sun
Until 1881 the settlement was not incorporated. In that year a town charter was granted by the Provincial Legislature, and Sault Sainte Marie became the proud possessor of a Mayor and Board of Aldermen.
Among the most prominent of those who served the town as Chief Magistrate to the present are W. H. Plummer, W. J. Thompson, E. Biggings and Wm. Brown.
The growth of a military organization has not yet been dealt with in these pages.
The fostering of the martial spirit is due entirely to the patriotism of Major Wilson, who as early as May 24th, 1849, made an attempt to muster a rifle company.
The advent of troops under Captain Cooper in 185o aided in the development of the soldierly instincts.
On December 8th, 1861 the Americans became threatening and rifles were issued with ball cartridge, Messrs. Pilgrim, Simpson, Davidson, Hamilton and Prince being the chief advisers of the officer in command.
The cloud, however, passed away and peace was again assured.
In 1862 a second rifle company was formed and the school-house was used . for drill. The following year, January, 1863, saw the artillery company formed, which existed as a half battery until very recently. The infantry was attached to the artillery and the whole controlled by Mr. Wilson, so that when the trouble from Fenianism threatened in 1866, there was here a solid body of sturdy men to guard the frontier.
In 1888 the Government organized the 96th Battalion of the Militia of Canada and named it the Algoma Rifles. The local company was placed under command of Captain W. J. Thompson, who is one of the most important of the Sault’s citizens at the present day.
The organization was, however, changed by order July 1st, 1900, to the 97th Regiment with its headquarters at the Sault, and in 1903 the Battalion was authorized to use the title ” Algonquin Rifles,” a particularly appropriate name for His Majesty’s troops in the Ojibway country.
Amongst the names of those who have been connected with the regiment, that of Father Sennett, a sometime Parish Priest in Sault Ste. Marie, will ever be held in high regard, for it was he who received such honourable mention for his deeds at the ” front,” where he was privileged to act as an Army Chaplain.
The present officer commanding the 97th Regiment is Lieutenant-Colonel T. H. Elliott, the local company being officered by Captain and Adjutant C. V. Campbell, Lieutenant H. Lynn Plummer and Mr. George Johnson.
Tne crest of the regiment is the head of a bull moose with the motto ” Kee-she-nah,” an Ojibway expression meaning ” We surpass.”
The officers other than those already mentioned are Major Gordon and Captain Cressey, Sudbury ; Captain McKee, North Bay ; Paymaster, Captain A. E. Dyment. M. P. ; Quartermaster Ainsley and Captain Gillespie, Thessalon.
Sault Sainte Marie’s sons have ever been ready to take their share of hardship in the defence of their country. Already have been mentioned the instances when they shouldered their muskets to do duty against possible invaders.
When in the recent trouble in South Africa the Motherland turned her eyes to Canada for assistance Sault Sainte Marie three times responded to the call for men. And here, as was the case from Halifax to Vancouver, many more than could be sent inportuned the authorities to be allowed to go. Surely such a spirit speaks well for the manhood of our common country.
In the decade from 1881 to 1890 two important works were brought to completion at the Sault. The Canadian Pacific, in 1887, effected here a junction with the railway system of the United States and the Canadian Locks, which made possible an all-Canadian water route through the great lakes system, were constructed and opened for traffic.
Sir Garnet Wolsley’s experience in 1870 made it apparent to the Canadian people that we were dependent on a foreign and, at times, a not too friendly nation, for access by water to our western possessions, and in 1887-8 $4,000,000 were voted by the Dominion Parliament for the construction of the locks.
The Canadian canal is 1 1/8 miles long, 150 feet wide and 22 feet deep, with a lock 900 feet long and 6o feet wide, having 22 feet on the mitre sills.
The building occupied seven years, from 1888 to 1895, and was carried out under the direction of the Honourable Collingwood Schreiber, Chief Engineer of Dominion Canals, and W. G. McNeill Thompson, Esquire, Government Engineer in local charge, Messrs. Ryan and Haney being the contractors,
Electricity generated by water power is used for the operation of the lock, which can be filled and opened in about nine minutes
A little to the north of this marvel of engineering skill stands the original lock restoredat least as to its sizethe forerunner of mighty warterway.
In 1902 the Canadian Lock passed 7,728.351 nett tons of freight and 36,599 passengers on steamers, etc.
The 45 new vessels put in commission for the Lake superior trade that year (1902) were large steam freighters ranging from 225 to 436 feet in length and designed for economical speed of twelve miles an hour on a draft of 19 to 21 feet.
One may form some idea of the increase of tonnage in the last fifty-one years, when it is remembered that in 1851 the estimated amount and value of articles which crossed the Portage at Sault Sainte Marie was 12,600 nett tons valued at $1,675,000, while in 19o1 the tonnage passing through the Canadian and American locks combined amounted to 28,403,065 nett tons valued at $289,906,865.
This chapter on organization would not be complete without a word in reference to that great order which is said to extend to all parts of the globe and which found a home in Sault Sainte Marie, Free Masonry.
On May 13th, 1885′ the first lodge was held and on July 11th following a regular meeting was called The brethren met in a little room over the old Pioneer office, on Pim street, immediately behind Messrs Plummer & Co ‘s storehouse, and men journeyed from Thessalon, Richard’s Landing and even from Marquette in order to form a quorum to carry on the work. The chief mover in the matter was the late ex-Mayor E. Biggings and the names of the brethren were : Captain Wilson, Joshua Trott, Colonel Savage, John W. Hamilton, Wm. Carney, Mr. Biggings and Reverend Mr. McDermit, all of the Sault, and John Boyd, Thessalon ; John Richards, St. Joseph’s Island, and Samuel Evans, of Marquette. The first candidate was a David Murray.
From the small beginning has the order grown until at the present time it occupies a magnificent temple in the Harris Block, at Queen and Spring streets. A list of the Masters of the Lodge from its inception include among others the late Edward Biggings, W. H. Hearst, Esquire, ex-Mayor Thompson, C. F. Farwell, Esq., K.C. ex M. L.A., Dr. Fred Rogers, a writer of works both grave and gay, M. McFadden, Esq., Town Solicitor, Captain Campbell, W. J. Bradley, Esq., and J. B. Way, the present Worshipful Master being Mr.. C. W. McCrea
Many other orders have since then taken their place in the lives of the people, and by their fraternal teaching help, no doubt, to impress the citizens with the divine doctrine of the Brotherhood of Man.