David McCutcheon – 1816-1905

I found another old book with a signifigant story about David McCutcheon that I felt needed more than a “one-liner” mention in the overall content of my History of the McCutcheons From Donaghadee.

I have added his story to Chapter 11, attached:

DAVID McCUTCHEON – THE LOCAL POLITICIAN:

In 1851, at the age of 34 years, David married Mary Ellen Hicks. Mary Ellen was the grand-daughter of Edward HICKS, a United Empire Loyalist who fled to Canada, settling in the now very historic Marysburgh Township, Prince Edward County, Upper Canada. It is probable that the large tracts of land her grand-father and his brothers received were granted for payment of their service fighting on the side of the Empire Loyalists that led to the formation of a large Hick’s settlement in Marysburgh. See Edward’s story following at the end of David’s narrative.

In 1850, the first council of the Township of Mulmur consisted of 5 men, of whom David McCutcheon was one. (Page 8; Mulmur: the Story of a Township). They were the first local politicians assigned to a municipal office in this township and the first meeting was held on the 21st January 1851.

These 5 councillors were destined to play a major part in the governing process of the municipality for decades. Some of the early decisions made were: crafting the bylaws, fixation and collection of taxes, overseeing and constructing the highways, provisioning for the schools, erecting public buildings, and promoting the building of a railroad to the community.

The first “job titles” held by these first councilmen were: Fenceviewer, Pound Keeper, Overseer of Highways, Assessor/Collector, and Treasurer.

One of the first bylaws passed by this newly formed council was to fix the legal height of a fence at 5 feet 6 inches. Another bylaw passed was bylaw number 6 in 1851; it fixed the total amount to be raised by taxation as 40 pounds, 6 shillings, 9 pence.

David McCutcheon, who lived on the west half of Lot 13, Concession 1, E.H.S., served on the first 4 councils. After an absence of 3 years, he was elected again in 1858; out in 1859, he came back in 1860 and continued to occupy a seat at the Mulmur Council Board, without a break, until 1875. It is doubtful if anyone has ever since equalled Mr. McCutcheon’s twenty years’ service on this township’s council. One hundred years later, David still held the record.

At the time, elections were all open vote and the rate payers who wanted to vote came to a central location. The first nine years the elections were held at Gallagher’s farm house, for which he was paid 3 pounds 15 shillings. This posed many problems, as the roads were rough and un-opened, hills needed to be cut, trees and brush cut, bridges built across streams and rivers, swamps traversed with causeways.

These hardy pioneers made the trek on rough trails through the untamed bush to vote.

At the time, ratepayers were required by law to do 2, 3 or 4 days statute labour for the community to build or repair roads. Without this system in place, the advancement of the settlement would have been greatly impeded.

For instance, in April 1854, council approved the sum of 1 pound 15 shillings paid to John Hicks (Mary Ellen Hick’s father) to build a bridge on Center Road.

Another major issue to be decided by these councillors was the funding of schools and to provide good reading material for the residents. Their first decision came on the 12th September 1853 to allot funds of ½ penny per round of assessment on the resident poll to buy books for the schools of Mulmur.

In 1855, they allotted 40 pounds to build a town hall.

The Township was divided into 5 wards and in January 1860, the first election for councillors for these wards resulted in David McCutcheon being elected as councillor for Ward 3. By 1867, the system changed to “Vote by the People” and the councillors came to be called “Reeves”.

One of the issues that had to be dealt with by the councillors in the early years was the taverns. Or rather the licencing of them. In the early days, prior to 1850, the taverns served a real need to the weary traveller arriving in the back country, looking for land, quite often on foot or travelling behind a team of oxen. Man and beast needed housing for the night, good food for both; cheap, strong whiskey was made available and plentiful to these travelling pioneers. This resulted in much drunken revelry at the taverns along the route.

David’s father and his brother were only two of the many McCutcheons who owned and operated these early “Traveller’s Rest Inns”. Others were cousins Margaret and Ellen McCutcheon in Erin; cousin John McCutcheon in Badjeros, ON. to name a few.

Because of this continual merriment, a strong temperance movement began and one of the first orders of business, in 1856, was to begin licencing these taverns. The first tavern was licenced in 1856 in Mulmur, increasing rapidly, so that by 1873, there were 8 licenced hotels in Mulmur: the Mansfield Hotel; the Stanton Hotel; the Queens Hotel; the Prince of Wales Hotel; the Farmers Inn; the Union Hotel; the Simcoe Hotel; the Mulmur Hotel.

The control of the Inns also facilitated the need for a Board of Health which didn’t happen during David’s tenure. That came later in approximately 1885.

By 1899, a bylaw was passed prohibiting the sale of liquor in these taverns. This bylaw was squashed on appeal shortly thereafter. Lack of liquor in the taverns was not good for business.

Towards the latter part of his service to the community, the population of the municipality was growing and there arose the need to open more polling stations and create further counties. In 1875, the present county of Dufferin came into being. And that was the last year of David’s term on council as a Reeve.

David’s impact on the creation of the municipal district of Mulmur, Dufferin and the electoral process was monumental. From the bogs of Donaghadee thousands of miles away to the wilderness of Dufferin, he led a long, productive, political and industrious life. He left his mark.

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