Richmond 200 – Factoids # 71- #75

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: #71. Richmond’s first municipal government #72. Occupations in 1851 #73. The women#74. Stone residences #75. The Common School

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

Factoid #71. The new municipal government had many officials that we still have today for example: auditors, tax assessors and a superintendent of schools. In an era when almost every household had at least a horse, a cow and a pig, there was a “pound-keeper” to care for stray livestock. As well there were some other positions which must have been considered important or which involved contentious issues. Four “fence viewers” were appointed to settle any disputes arising over the location or nature of fences between neighbours. Five of the most respected men in the village: George Lyon, Sewell Ormsby, Patrick McElroy, Joseph Hinton and Charles P. Thompson were named “superintendents of highways” – in charge of streets. These men were in addition to the two “path-masters”.  Like today roads must have been an important issue on the minds of the villagers and Council.

Factoid #72. Our first real insight into the make-up of the population is provided by the Census of 1851. The Canadian Directory, which included an entry for Richmond, was published around the same time. Its entry for Richmond reinforces the census data and shows the extent to which the village was a service town depending on the nearby farmers and teamsters for its new found prosperity. Six stores, five taverns or inns, three wagon makers, three cabinet makers, four blacksmiths, four tailors, eight shoemakers, four tanners and six joiners were listed on the directory or census. Several of the tradesmen were also farmers but never-the-less when one adds the teachers, ministers and other tradesmen to the list, it seems to be a skilled population when one considers that there were only 212 males living in the village (including children).

Factoid # 73. In 1851 Richmond’s population included 222 females. Many of these were young children, their stay-at-home mothers or the daughters of the wealthier residents. What of the women who had little family support?

The 1851 census gives a hint as to the occupations of the unmarried women in the village whether they were girls, spinsters or widows. Some bore the names of area farmers and could possibly have been their daughters. Others were probably young newly arrived immigrants. Research needs to be done to verify the background of each girl or woman. In total it appears that at least 28 were servants and many of these were teenagers. The two youngest, Betty Caven and Ann O’Hara, were only 13.

Two of the more mature women worked as housekeepers. Surprisingly one woman was listed as a labourer.

Some women had skills.  Two were dressmakers, while Diana Crawford and her daughter, Elizabeth, made bonnets.

Only one woman in the village had an occupation, which involved a formal education. Mariana Burke was a 52 year- old widow. She was a teacher.

On the census return Mrs. Falls was listed as having no occupation but the Canadian Directory listed her as operating a hotel in her residence. One wonders why the discrepancy.

Factoid # 74. It is interesting to note that in 1851, aside from the mills, there were only three stone buildings in the village. The Anglican rectory on Fowler St. was about ten years old and was occupied by Rev. John Flood and his young family. The second residence was that of William Lyon who had built his store and its attached residence on McBean Street, in 1843.

The third stone building and its principal resident are both rather mysterious. The two-storey building was both a residence and store. Its location is unknown. It may have been near the intersection of Cockburn and Perth Streets. I say this only because the buildings listed on the census before this one were on the most northerly block of Cockburn St. and the building after this was on Perth St. near Cockburn. The main occupant, John Eager, is also a mysterious figure. To date I have found no reference to Mr. Eager, a 36 year old single man, other than on the census. Living with him were a housekeeper and a farmer. If he lived in such an imposing building why did he not have any clerks working for him? Where did John Eager come from and where did he go?  Who built this building? Where was it? What happened to it? These are indeed unanswered questions.

Factoid #75. Government. Church. Private. Common. Grammar. Union. Model. Public. Elementary.  High. Continuation. These are all names given to schools in Ontario in the nineteenth century. The differences among some of the various schools are not always clear nor even relevant.

We know that the first Richmond school established in 1821 was a “government” school financed by the military. As the teachers came directly from England the curriculum would probably be one followed in the British Isles or possibly similar to that taught to the children of military personnel in the barracks.

After 1822, the pupils’ parents would have financed the Richmond school. There is no evidence of a “church” school in the village although ministers influenced curriculum and choice of teachers. Older children would have been sent to live with relatives in a larger town or even to boarding school.

By 1851, “Common” schools had been established across the province. Financed by a combination of government grants, local property taxes and at times student fees, the schools were operated with an eye to both local and provincial requirements. A common school taught a curriculum for what we would call grades 1-8. The emphasis was on reading, writing, spelling and arithmetic. Knowledge of geography was encouraged although Rev. John Flood the Superintendent of schools for Richmond and Goulbourn was unhappy with the quality of the maps provided for teaching that subject. The local officials hired teachers and attempted to get the highest possible qualified personnel. Third class teachers had barely more than a grade eight education and were only hired as a last resort. First class teachers had knowledge of the Classics and English literature as well as algebra and geometry.

We know little about education in the village in 1851 but the census tells us something about the students and teachers. Under the heading “attending school”, a total of 32 boys and 20 girls were indicated as being educated. This census doesn’t tell where they are being taught. The 52 children came from a cross section of Richmond society. Three were members of the Lewis family and 3 were children of George Lyon. The farmers and tradesmen made sure that their children were educated. Constantine McGuire had a large family and in 1851, seven of his children – 4 boys and 3 girls – were pupils at the school. The blacksmith and tanners’ children as well as those of the Innkeepers, Mr. McLean and Mrs. Falls, were all students

We are told that three individuals were teachers. John Bryson is listed on the census return as “school teacher” but in the Canadian Directory of the same year he is recorded as being a “teacher of grammar school”. This information raises questions. The date usually given for the beginning of a Grammar School is 1854. Was it actually established earlier?  Were more advanced classes being taught in the Common School? Or was Mr. Bryson just reminding everyone that he was a highly qualified teacher?

The second teacher was a son of the Presbyterian minister and lived with his brother who was a surgeon. 22-year-old George Evans was probably at least a class 2 teacher.

The third person whose name surfaces as a teacher is Mariana Bourke – a 52-year-old widow with two children to support.

In 1851 the basis for future educational developments had been established


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