This Week in Peterborough: 1882


Young men bowling at the YMCA in New York City sometime in the 1880s.  Why is this picture here?  We shall find out! (Photo via the YMCANYC Archives)


There was much sadness around Peterborough in early December of 1882, despite the approach of the festive season.  One famous and adored Peterborian had died, and another was leaving the town, presumably forever.  Who were they?  Click on to find out, and also to read about the railways, Russia, public health, and an amusingly fortunate pig!

As mentioned, Peterborough was in mourning at this time in 1882; on December 9th, Colonel Frederick W. Haultain passed away at his home on Brock Street at the age of 61.  We have met Col. Haultain in this series before now.  We saw him elected, ever so narrowly, to Parliament in 1861, and then again in 1864.  In 1869, we noted that his house was up for sale, as the good Colonel prepared to depart for Montreal for a time (he did, of course, return).  By all accounts, he was a popular figure in the town, at least among those of a Liberal bent, which included the editors of the Peterborough Examiner.  From their obituary for Colonel Haultain on December 14th, 1882:

“…his was a philanthropy whose aims, wishes and labor extended to wherever there was good to do, evil to combat and suffering and sorrow to ameliorate or assuage…  The poor were his especial care, and as chairman of the Hall Trust and in the management of the Protestant Home, the kindly charity of his nature was revealed, in all its earnestness.”

There will be a special, Colonel Haultain-related post here this weekend!  His son, by the way, would go on to become one of the key figures behind the creation of the Province of Saskatchewan.


The Cathedral of St. Peter-in-Chains, Peterborough, shown on a 1910 postcard. The church itself was built in 1837-8, and became a cathedral with the creation of the Diocese of Peterborough in 1882. (Photo via the Toronto Public Library)


One other departure – not nearly so final a one – was also being mourned by the people of Peterborough at this time.  The Rev. Fr. Lynch, long-time Roman Catholic priest in the town, was departing to take up a post in Lindsay.  Only a few months previously, Peterborough had been made an Episcopal See* (i.e. the seat of a diocese), and Father Lynch, who was not young, was finding the increased workload too much for him.  Like Colonel Haultain, he had been deeply beloved in the community (the Dec. 7th Examiner notes sadness at his departure even among Peterborough’s Protestants), and the Examiner mentions an interesting item among his bequests to the town:

“In evidence of his thoughtful care for the young men of his flock, he made provision for counter attractions to the baleful allurements of saloons and other evil places of resort, by leaving to them his splendid private bowling alley, costing about $600.”

Those sad departures aside, other things were going on in Peterborough in early December of 1882.  On the 8th of the month, Peterborians were in attendance at the Opera Hall to hear a lecture entitled “Contagious Diseases: Their Causes and Prevention.”   The lecture was given by a certain Professor Bryce, of the Provincial Board of Health.  While no specifics of Peterborough’s situation were recorded by the Examiner, beyond a brief mention of a local epidemic “of a kind removable by sanitary precautions,” the general state of sanitation in early-1880s small Ontario towns was fairly horrific.  Professor Bryce noted the case of Sarnia, which had built an intake for drinking water only about 30 yards from a sewer outflow.  Typhoid had been the result of that mistake, and diptheria also came and went with regularity, especially in those neighbourhoods built close to slaughterhouses.

The problem, and it was one that the province was working extremely hard to fix (hence Dr. Bryce’s lecture), was the lack of properly-staffed local health boards.  The Examiner, in its December 14th issue, summed up the problem thus:

“The town council was de jure a board of health, but they generally delegated their power to some broken down old man who confined his exertions to warning people in the spring to move the ashes from their back yards.”

The lecture did seem to have an effect on the people of Peterborough, as there were immediate moves towards lobbying the town council to form a proper board, with qualified people on it.

And, is we have come to expect in this era of history, there was a great deal of railway talk going on.  The village of Lakefield was at the centre of this locally, looking forward to having “an engine house built, a morning and evening train [to Peterborough], and our station completed (Peterborough Examiner, December 7th, 1882).”  In this case it was the Midland Railway making the improvements, in order to make better connections in Peterborough with the Grand Trunk.


Waiting for the train in Lakefield, circa 1910. The Grand Trunk had taken over the Midland Railway in 1884. (Photo via Canada-Rail)


The Pacific Railway also remained in the news, with the Examiner still raging against it.  In 1881, the problem had been the railway’s monopoly over movement of goods in the West of the country.  This year, however, it was the spectre of an American takeover of the project, with the name of William Henry Vanderbilt at the fore of the rumours (Vanderbilt already owned at least one Canadian railroad – the Canada Southern – which he had inherited from his father Cornelius).  What prompted this fear was a request by the group that owned the Pacific to be allowed to float enough stock to raise their capital from 15 million to 100 million dollars.  This, patently, could not happen through Canadian investment alone, hence the worries about foreign money.  The Examiner used the occasion, in its December 7th issue, to fire another broadside in the direction of the Pacific’s owners:

“Their power for evil is one at which the country, if it looked at the matter with dispassionate deliberation, would stand aghast.”

In any case, the Pacific Railway was not to be taken over by William Vanderbilt or anybody else.  Instead, in 1884, the Canadian Government passed a railway relief that steered another 22.5 million dollars in the company’s direction, and that was enough to get the job done.


Tsar Alexander III of Russia, in the 1880s. (Photo via History is Now)


Apart from discussing the Pacific Railway, we have stayed fairly close to home in this one, and the reason is simply that there was very little going on in the wider world that seems to have attracted the attention of the Peterborough papers.  There was, however, one little note in the Peterborough Times that serves a harbinger of events still far in the future.  The Times, in its December 9th issue, briefly mentioned political disturbances among university students in Russia, with several being expelled from the Demidov Judicial Lyceum in Yaroslavl.  The new Tsar, Alexander III (Alexander II had been assassinated in 1881), was in the midst of instituting autocratic reforms, and these were not going over well in many sectors.  The disturbances in the country’s universities were part of the long, slow, build-up to 1917…

That’s about all for 1882 – next time, of course, it will mid-December of 1883!  I did, however, promise you a funny story about a pig, so here it is, from the Peterborough Examiner of December 7th:


“[T]his village” refers to Lakefield.

‘Til next time!


*The Diocese of Peterborough included at first not only a large swath of the territory between Lake Ontario and Georgian Bay, but also a non-contiguous tract of land far off to the West, along the shore of Lake Superior.  This last became part of the diocese of Sault Ste. Marie in 1904.

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2 Responses to This Week in Peterborough: 1882

  1. Pingback: The Victory Song of Colonel F.W. Haultain | Peterboriana

  2. Pingback: This Week in Peterborough: 1921 | Peterboriana

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