The First Society in Adolphustown - Probably the First in Midland District
The township of Adolphustown was one of the earliest settled in this province and by a class of hardy intelligent men who took the lead in many things in the early days of the history of our county. The first Methodist church built in Canada was erected on the shores of Hay Bay in that township and it is said, too, that the first Quaker meeting house was also built there. That stood about a mile west of the Methodist church, also near the bay shore.
Probably one of the first, if not the very first temperance society, in this part of the province at least, was formed there also, and among its officers and members were some of its best known citizens, men who were well known far outside of the limits of their own locality.
A friend has recently shown me a copy of the Kingston Gazette, of May 14th, 1830, and it contains the report of the first organization I have ever read of in the Midland district. The meeting was held in the court house - the first court house, by the way, in the district - on the 18th of April, 1830. Rev. William Ryerson was at that time a young man and the Methodist preacher on the Bay of Quinte circuit, and he appears to have been the leading spirit in the movement. The report says that he "stated the object of the meeting, and gave an appropriate address." It was then resolved "that the members of this meeting form themselves into a society called the Adolphustown temperance society."
The pledge was as follows: "We severally agree that we will entirely abstain from the use of ardent spirits, except as an article of medicine; we will not furnish them to our friends as an article of entertainment, nor to persons in our employ as an article of refreshment, and in all suitable ways we will discountenance their use in the community."
This pledge did not prohibit the use of wine and beer - fermented and malt liquors - and as a matter of fact they were freely used by some members. It was not till some six or seven years later that "the teetotal pledge" was adopted which included all intoxicants. When that forward step was taken some of the old members refused to have anything to do with it, and had little hesitation in declaring that matters were being carried "to an absurd extreme." The officers elected were as follows:
President - Willet Casey
Vice-president - Lazarus Gilbert
Secretary - Charles B. Gilbert
Committee - Peter V. Dorland, Samuel Dorland, Joseph B. Allison, Archibald Campbell and Burger Huyck,
Esqs., and Messrs. Helebrant Valleau, William Roblin, Robert Peterson and John McFee.
Willet Casey was one of the original U.E. Loyalist settlers of the township. He was a man of great energy and intelligence and was the second representative elected for the Midland district to the Upper Canada Parliament. He lived to a ripe old age, and became one of the most wealthy men and largest land owners in the township. One of the descendants has informed me that at one time he held the titles for over 20,000 acres of land. He was the father of Col. Samuel Casey, of Adolphustown, who defeated Marshall Bidwell, in the parliamentary election of 1838. Mrs. Thomas Wilson, of Kingston, is a granddaughter.
Dr. Hiram Weeks was a son-in-law of Willet Casey, and a resident on the bay shore where Lord Cecil was drowned three years ago. He was a man highly esteemed by the people, but died quite young.
Lazarus Gilbert was next neighbor to Dr. Weeks. He lived to an old age and was a Methodist exhorter.
Charles Gilbert was a son of Lazarus and a very intelligent man. He afterwards moved to Prince Edward county and spent his days there.
Samuel and Peter Dorland were brothers, sons of Thomas Dorland, one of the pioneer settlers, who was a member of the first parliament of Upper Canada. They both were born and died in the township, living to ripe old ages.
Joseph B. Allison was also a resident of the front of Adolphustown, and a much respected man and a Methodist local preacher. He was the father of David W. Allison, M.P., the present member for Lennox County. He died a few years ago, the last survivor, I think, of this list.
A. Campbell resided north of the Hay Bay, and was a successful farmer. He was the father of the late Alexander Campbell, of Napanee, who was well known in the county years ago.
B. Huyck was next neighbor to A. Campbell, a quiet and industrious man and brother-in-law to Col. S. Dorland.
H. Valleau also resided north of Hay Bay. He was grandfather of Judge Price, of Kingston, and has still a number of descendants in the country.
These three last named men all lived to an old age and are buried near together in the burial ground near Casey's Point.
William Roblin resided on the south shore of Hay Bay. He was also a Methodist local preacher, and was at one time elected to parliament for the Midland district. He was the father of the late David Roblin, of Napanee, for many years the M.P.P. for Lennox and Addington and warden of the counties.
R. Peterson resided a mile east of the old Methodist church, where some of his grandchildren still live.
J. McFee lived for years adjoining the old Methodist church, and then moved to Newburg, where he died.
These men were all temperate men through life, and all lived to a ripe old age, except the vice-president. With two exceptions they all died and were buried in the township.
One of the resolutions adopted at the meeting read as follows: "Resolved, that the committee and the officers of the society, in their efforts to suppress intemperance, be requested to inquire if any evil exists with respect to intemperance in any of the public houses, that they may take such measures as they may judge most efficient to correct the evil." What the results of their enquiries may have been or what steps were taken not one of them is now living to tell of. There were at that time, and for many years after, two public houses in the vicinity of the old court house. They were quite as well kept as houses of that class generally are. The keeper of one, at least, was an official in the Methodist church for years, but reports are still current about a good deal of drinking and drunkenness in connection with them. In the churchyard near by are now the graves of more than one descendant of these officers who was taken there early in consequence of too convivial habits contracted at these houses. The good influences, however, of this early temperance society are still felt in the grand old township to a considerable extent to this day.
If there was an earlier society of this kind in the Midland district will some WHIG reader give the public the particulars? -
THOS. W. CASEY