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Rediscovering History

Nearly two centuries later information about life in the early settlements is emerging

Daniel Daverne's personal writings shed new light on long held views

The handwritten notes of Daniel Daverne, discovered sealed in the walls of a downtown building being rebuilt, paint a very different portrait of life in the early years of the Perth settlement then was previously thought. "History is written by the winners" said Clark Theobald whose "Trial Of The Century" filled the Perth Town Hall to over-flow when presented for the first time in October 2005.

Daverne, Perth’s first secretary and storekeeper from 1815-19, finally had his day in court at a recent meeting of the Perth Historical Society. The capacity audience acting as the jury found him not guilty, something decades of local history had not done. Daverne's newly discovered written account of that period differs significantly from the writings of the Rev. William Bell, the local Presbyterian minister, at the same time. The manuscript is only part of the Daverne's writings. Somewhere, perhaps tucked in another wall, other books may await discovery.

What then of Perth’s Town Crier?

There is little doubt that military settlement at Perth was made up of an educated group of officers and half-pay officers. In its earliest years records report that the local Sheriff (possibly a Mr. J.D. Powell or a Mr. Phillips) filled that role not only for the Court but for the Settlement. The requirement to proclaim the news of growing town quickly became secondary to the requirements for an area newspaper. “The Bathurst Courier and Ottawa Gazette“, now The Perth Courier, Canada’s second oldest newspaper, was an immediate response to the needs of a very literate community. The early years of the paper contained little news of local events and so the position of Crier remained a part of the daily life of the community until around 1890.

Similarly, The Perth Citizens Band, North Americas oldest continuously performing community band, would have been a growth out of the military music heritage. At least five of the Glengary Light Infantry Fencibles buglers settled in the Perth Settlement and no doubt numerous other musicians settled here from the other regiments. It is not too difficult to assume that the all-familiar sounds that summoned assembly in the military units were heard instead of the clanging bell in the earliest years of the settlement. Early records show that employers readily released band members from their duties to play for important functions. The first newspaper accounts of the band are found in January of 1851

One of the early editions of The Bathurst Courier (March 20, 1835) lists a salary of 6 pounds and 6 pence being paid to "D.Hogg, crier and constables attendance." There is also a reference to a payment of 2 pounds and 10 shillings, do to D. Hogg for "Crier's fees" A February 6, 1835 newspaper account of an injury to his son Robert (who was nearly 16 at the time) gives the name "Mr. David Hogg, a bailiff of this place." A March 27, 1835 report lists a fee of 7 pounds, 13 shillings being do to "D. Hogg, Crier Court of Kings Bench." This would fit into the pattern of one Crier performing two official functions within the Town.

There are many references to Anthony H. Wiseman who has traditionally been identified as Perth's first Town Crier. A reference in the January 12, 1847 edition of the Bathurst Courier refers to him as "the Crier of the Court". Wiseman became the High Constable in 1826 a position he continued to hold in 1858. An ex-soldier who also peddled 'hot mutton pies and ginger beer' on his announcement rounds, Wiseman had a store on Beckwith Street near Harvey. An estate advertisement the July 20, 1860 edition of the Courier refers to him as the “late Anthony H. Wiseman“ and contains the legal name, Anthony Wiseman Linton while a debt announcement refers to him as Anthony H. Wiseman.

In the papers of the Perth Historical and Antiquarian Society as compiled in 1896-1901 and there is one called Paper on the Early Municipal History of Perth by John A. Stewart. The following paragraph is from that paper.

"In September of 1826, Anthony Wiseman was appointed High Constable for the District which position he occupied for many years. Wiseman was also Crier for many years. This office might be considered rather novel at the present day, with printing so generally in use, but in the early days before the introduction of printing presses in the District, we can readily understand the necessity for the office. Official matters of which public notice had to be given, were announced by the Town Crier, who would travel the section in which the notice was to be given, stop at certain public places, and ring a bell he always carried. When the crowd had collected he would make his announcements and move on to the next stopping place. Mr. Wiseman was an old soldier whose early education had been so neglected that he could neither read nor write. It was necessary, as High Constable that he should certify to certain matters during the Session and to do so it was necessary that he should sign the documents from time to time. To get over this difficulty some of his friends taught him to write his name mechanically, and for years his name appears on official documents when he seemed not to have known one letter from another even in his own name."

John A. Stewart
Perth, February 21st, 1896

In an article from the Perth Courier, May 20, 1892, entitled "The Schools of 50 Years Ago" there is a note to “We will never forget the pompous high bailiff Anthony Wiseman and his portly wife. Their candy shop was the daily resort of the scholars and our palates still crave their pungent ginger beer.

At the same time there are references to an "Arthur Herald Wiseman" who is appointed to act as the "Messenger To The Council" by the District Council Of The Bathurst District on March 15, 1842 throughout the 1840’s and 50’s. Later editions (November 30, 1849) of the paper show increases in the amount of monies paid to him “for the attention to which he has discharged his duty“ and several stories record how he would facilitate the Council by limiting attendance at meetings. The references and advertising in the Courier from that period addressed to “Mr. A.H. Wiseman“, primarily related to auctions, land sales and to the vandalizing of his gardens (June 9, 1854) seem to relate specifically to him.

An article entitled Early Days Of The Perth Settlement by Mary A. B. Campbell dated February 17th, 1896, can be found in the Perth Museum. It contains:

On August 12th, 1837, an interesting event occurred in the Town. The public proclamation of the young Queen, Alexandria Victoria, by the Deputy Sheriff (in the absence of the Sheriff). The order in which the procession moved was as follows:- The deputy Sheriff on horseback, the Clergy, the members of the Medical Profession, members of the Bar, Officers of Militia, Clerk of the Peace and the Magistrate, with the Perth Volunteer Artillery Company in uniform in the rear. When Her Majesty had been proclaimed in four different parts of the Town, the Artillery fired a royal salute on conclusion of the ceremony, after which three cheers being given by the loyal townspeople for the young Queen, the assemblage dispersed.

A paragraph from the article "50 Years Ago" in Perth Courier of May 27, 1892 contains an additional, perhaps more important, note:

My youthful days of happy memory were mostly spent in Perth but not until a few years later than the time referred to by ‘M’ and therefore I cannot remember Mr. Kay of whom he writes so kindly. However, some other persons he mentioned were still there during my time and his mention of them has called them to my memory almost as distinctly as if they were yesterday. ‘Bill’ Matheson, Anthony Wiseman and the sallow faced, somewhat wizened looking little Frenchman were indeed ‘characters’ in their way. I do not call them ‘characters’ in any unworthy sense for they were all most worthy men. Each fulfilled his special sphere and attended to his duty in a manner that might well be emulated though not surpassed by officials today or even fifty years hence. Old Bill was by nature somewhat robust and a very austere man. At least we youngsters held him in some dread but it may have been that his austerity was magnified in our imagination owing to his being the jailer. Underneath his rough and ready sort of speech he was said to have a kind heart for those unfortunates placed in his charge. I have seen him in milder moods for he enjoyed a joke but in repartee he always hit right from the shoulder. Anthony Wiseman I can only remember when martialing his under constables, the ‘knights of the blue stoves’ as we boys called them, at the opening of the Assizes and Quartersessions and his pomposity was only exceeded by the redoubtable Chief McNab, whose occasional visits to the town headed by his piper was one of the events.

... headed by his piper ...

Several elements emerge from the previous passages as well as from the names and writings of that period: first, the clear tie of the local Crier to the role of a bailiff, constable or other settlement official and second, an equal attachment to some of the traditions acquired through military service.

There were many differences between the militia on the move and a militia in a fort or camp. While the army was encamped (or billeted in a city) the “officer of the day” (supervising at that moment) would always have a drummer, fifer or piper with him to draw the attention needed to make a public announcement, call for a conference of the officers, or the sergeants, or to gather all of the musicians for some formal duty. Chief McNab's piper would have been simply an extension of this military tradition. Of historical note: the drummer and piper were not permitted to play together in military units until the late 1860's.

It is reasonable to assume that David Hogg, Anthony Wiseman, Arthur Wiseman or another individual carried out the role similar to the "officer of the day" within the early Perth settlement. Even with the arrival of the weekly newspaper in 1834, the need to proclaim everything from the mundane business of the community and markets to the important judgements of the courts remained an integral part of the vibrant, growing community.

Even though the Military Superintendent was removed on December 24, 1822, the traditional role of the official Crier remained so vital to the community that the April 15, 1836 edition of The Bathurst Courier shows in the Treasurer's Account for Bathurst District - 1835 a "Crier and Constables allowance" for the March Session to be 4 pounds, 10 shillings and 7 1/2 pence, a significant increase from previous amounts. There are numerous references in records of that era to other costs for this position such as "attending K(ings) Bench", "Crier's attendance" or "attending session"; there are corresponding increments in the salary. Unfortunately there are no names (yet discovered) attached to these payments, and other then the reference to McNab’s piper and Wiseman's bell there are no further references to the device they would have used to draw the attention of the crowd to their proclamation.

Continuing the tradition ...

When visitors come to Perth meet the Town Crier they will find that they could be greeted not just by the ringing bell, but perhaps by a drummer, a fifer, or a piper. Whether it be the beating of assembly on a military rope drum, the shrill sound of the fife, the drone of a bagpipes or the clanging of a Crier's bell, the traditions of our early Military Settlement and the warmth of the current Perth community are extended to all.

The best traditions of the Perth Town Crier, rooted in our deep historic past, continue to this day.

And may God Bless Canada!

 

 
 
  © Copyright 2006 Brent McLaren. All Rights Reserved.