Richmond 200 – Factoids #61-#65

To honour Richmond’s 200th anniversary, we will be posting factoids about our rich history. Over the next year you should expect to see 200 pieces of information that you may or may not have already known.  The topic of these posts are: #61. Fair in 1837 #62. Fair in 1847 # 63. Rev. Smith’s policing #64. the Shiners #65. the Magistrates

If you have a question about the source of a factoid please contact us.

Factoid # 61 – In the 1830s a fair was held in Richmond usually two times a year; local farmers traded or sold livestock and produce.  On March 2 1837, the Bytown Gazette described the fair as successful for sellers but not buyers. “At the Fair in Richmond, on Tuesday last, the quantity of Farming Stock was rather scarce for the quantities of buyers, consequently high prices were obtained.”

Factoid # 62 – The Fairs were held on the old administration land close to the intersection of Strachan St. and Cockburn St. Drinking and fighting were a major problem and in 1847 the government issued a Patent, not to a fair committee, but to the District Sheriff empowering him to organize a semi-annual fair (January and July), to levy tolls and to take whatever actions were necessary to make the fairs “convenient, commodious and most useful to the public at large”. There is no record as to whether the sheriff was able to control the amount of drinking and fighting. (see “Letters Patent for Richmond Fair”)

Factoid # 63. Richmond had the county sheriff to contain the violence at the Fair and magistrates to prosecute lawbreakers, but sometimes civilians took matters into their own hands. J. L. Gourlay in History of the Ottawa Valley (1898) extolled the strength of Rev. Terrance Smith (whom Gourlay called Peter). Rev. Smith was known for breaking up fights among the fair goers. Gourlay wrote that Father Smith ” who ruled there (Richmond) many years, had both hands full on many a fair day held twice a year in the village. He was of giant stature, and when mounted on a splendid charger with a long whip, or even on foot, he was a terror to evil doers.”

Factoid #64. In the late 1830s and into the 1840s, a number of social and economic conditions led to riots and violence in Bytown. In the beginning, the main combatants were the Irish Catholic navies (Shiners) who had worked building the Rideau Canal, and the French Canadian rafts men who dominated the timber trade. The violence spun out of control and roving gangs attacked and robbed travelers. Goulbourn farmers returning from taking their produce to market in Bytown were easy targets.

The Richmond Road was a dangerous place. In one incident a Mr. Hobbs from Goulbourn was involved in a personal altercation with a Shiner, Mr. Gleeson. Gleeson held a major grudge. Michael Cross in the “The Shiners’ War” presents a description of the ensuing events. On 14 February 1837 Gleeson and his gang encountered female members of the Hobbs family. “The Irishmen attacked the sleigh, beating the girls. Hobbs’s pregnant wife, terrified at the violent assault, attempted to leap from the sleigh. Her clothing caught on the side and she was dragged behind the vehicle bumping over the frozen road, while the Shiners beat her with sticks. The women eventually escaped.” The Shiners then turned on the horses and when Hobbs found them, they both had been mutilated, their ears and tails cut off. The fight had become a sectarian conflict.

Infuriated, the local farmers marched to Bytown several times and demanded justice but got no satisfaction from officials. Eventually they turned on an easy target, the peaceful Catholic population in Richmond, whom they harassed and threatened. These were men and women who had played no part in the Shiners’ violence. In one incident shots were fired at the home of a Catholic veteran. Unlike Bytown where people were killed and badly beaten, no written record has been uncovered of anyone being seriously injured in Richmond because of these incidents. The Magistrates struggled to keep the peace. Sectarian violence was now added to the already complex social mixture of transient teamsters, visits of local farmers, and too much drinking. Distrust had been created among local residents and resentments were felt for many years. This situation was to last throughout the 1840s.

Factoid #65. In Richmond in the 1840s there was no police force. The magistrates, with the aid of citizens whom they appointed constables, were responsible for the administration of justice. In the early years the jail and courthouse were located in Perth, but after 1842 when Richmond was included in the newly formed District of Dalhousie, they were in Bytown.

When Richmond was first settled, the military officers:  Burke, Lyon, Lewis, Maxwell, and Ormsby were all appointed Magistrates.  In 1843 when the system was reformed, little changed in Richmond. George T. Burke and his son George R. Burke both were living in Bytown and became Magistrates in that area. The four Richmond Magistrates continued and there were new appointees from the surrounding townships.

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