WILLIAM MINCHIN TELLS HIS 1849 STORY
The following is an account written by William H. Minchin (1839-1914) of his life and struggle to become a school teacher, revealing how very difficult it was for immigrants to start a new life for themselves in Canada in the 1800's.
But really the story begins with his mother, JANE GLADNEY MINCHIN , (1807-1900), a brave and hardworking woman, who faced the eight week journey across the ocean with her husband, Daniel Minchin and five children, only to be left a widow, upon her arrival in Marmora, destitute and depending on relatives.
By the time William Minchin's family had arrived in Marmora, Jane's father, William Gladney (1780-1851) was well established as a merchant here, had married his second wife, Elizabeth Hampton, and produced a second Gladney family, who were the ancestors of the well known Gladneys that built 65 Forsyth Street, Marmora.
WILLIAM MINCHIN WRITES:
I was born, on the 22nd. of September, 1839, in townsland of Askinfarnie, County Wexford, Ireland. I was a sickly child, so much so that, I would for months not able to go to school while we lived in Ireland. The school was over a mile from our place. I was taught a good deal at home.
The time I spent in school in Ireland, to the best of my knowledge, would be about 18 months. I learned reading very young. I have heard my.mother say that I could read same chapters in the Bible very well before I was 5 years old. On June 16, 1849, my father and mother, with their children, sailed from the city of Waterford for Canada. We sailed from Waterford to Quebec in a sailing vessel, and were 8 weeks on the way from Waterford to Quebec. There was a fever which broke out on the ship, causing 19 deaths at sea and one more death while the ship was quarantined below Quebec.
We landed at Quebec on the 10th of August and came by steamboat from Quebec to Montreal. From Montreal to Kingston we came in a steamboat called "The Fashion", and from Kingston to Belleville, in a boat called The Lord Elgin. We were about a week coming from Quebec to Belleville.
We lost one day in Kingston looking for a sister of my mother, who lived there. We found her house in the evening but she had left the day before for Marmora, a place about 32 miles north of· Belleville, where her father, mother and a sister lived.
Our family was a week in Belleville, waiting for my uncle, that is my mother's half brother, Edward Gladney, to come with a team, an oxen team. My father had taken sick on the ocean, with the dysentry, but he was able to walk about a little, even up to the day before he died, about three weeks after getting to my grandfather's in Marmora. That was September 1849. My mother was left a widow with five children. She had no money or means in a strange country.
About fifteen months after my father's death, my mother married again!. (1850). I lived with my mother and stepfather from December 1850 to November 14, 1851, when I went to work for a farmer - Solomon Johns, in the township of Marmora. I just got my board and clothes fro doing chores with him. I stayed there until June 1852.
I then hired with my uncle, Edward Gladney, for $3.00 a month and my board and washing. About September, 1852, my stepfather, (Richard Laycock), who had kept a tavern, post office and shoemaker shop, and who was clerk of the Division Court, bought a farm and my mother persuaded me to go home and work with my stepfather on the farm in the summer and I was to go to school winters.
I went home and stayed with my stepfather from September 1952 until February, 1854, but I did not get away one day to school in that time, so I left home again. I then hired with Solomon Johns for $4.00 a month and my board and washing,
I was taken very sick with what was called intermittent fever in Ju1y, 1854. After getting over this sickness, I went to work for the, Marmora Iron Company about September. 1854. I worked there two months. In November, 1854, I went to work with a tailor named George DeClare, in Madoc Village. I only stayed one week there. I next hired with a man named Patrick Callaghan in the township of Marmora. He was a farmer. He was able to give me fifty-four dollars for a year. I had fever and ague twice while there. I worked with him until April of 1856. I then went to work for James A. Bonter, a farmer who lived on the shore of Crowe Lake, in the township of Marmora. I worked for him a year. In May, 1857, I hired with·Peter Bonter, a farmer in the township of Ameliasburg.
I had not been to school since I was a little over 8 years old - only in the sumner o f 1851 for about two months when I was in my 12th years. So in 1857 (when 18 years of age) though I had read a good deal and in this way got quite a lot of knowledge, I could not make all the letters of the alphabet in writing. I had never done a sum in long division and of course I knew really nothing of Grammar and Geography.
In January, February and March,1858, I went to school in School Section No. 1, Township of Marmora (White school, Lot 5, Conc. 8, Old Marmora Road) to a young man named Wiliam Fawcett. In the summer of that year I worked for a farmer named John Leggett and as I did not get all my wages from him, it left me in a poor way to go to school the next winter. But nevertheless, I went.
In January,February and March, 1859, I went to school in the Village of Marmora, to .a Mr. Armstrong. I attended his school again in the winter of 1860, about three months each w inter I boarded with a farmer named James Smith Bonter. I worked night and morning Saturdays to pay for my board.
It was while attending Mr. Wm. Armstrong's school that I got my first good start in education. It was with him that I became so well up in Arithmetic, that I could pursue the subject myself. I also got a good start in Grammar,Geography, History, Astronomy and physics.
In April, 1860, I tried the examination for a teacher's certificate. I tried the examination in the Village of Stirling and failed by a few marks of getting my certificate. In the summer 1860 I worked the forepart of the summer for Hon. Robt. Reid of Belleville, who owned a large farm in Sydney Township. From July to
December I worked at the carpenter trade for a man named William Carrington, a carpenter who lived in the Township of Ameliasburg, Prince Edward'County.
In January, February and March, 1861, I went to school to a Miss Caroline Ball. In the last of March I got a permit for special certificate to teach a public school in School section No. 8, Marmora. I got this from the local Superintendent of Schools for North Hastings, a Mr. Mowat. I was taken sick, and had to give up this school after teaching three or four months. I spent some time in the fall of 1661 in a doctor's office mixing drugs with a Dr. H.H. Spencer, a graduate of Queen's College, Kingston.
In 1862, I was sick most of the year. In 1863, I worked for a farmer named John Wadsworth and in the fall of 1863, I went to school in school Section No. 1 for about four' weeks to a teacher named David Fichett. He gave me my first lessons in Algebra, Geometry and Bookkeeping. He was taken sick and gave up the school. I then went into the village of Marmora to school to a man named Samuel Williams, an Englishman. He was really the best scholar I ever went to. He gave me great help
in many things for the short time I went to him. I think this was about 5 weeks in November and December, 1863.
In January I attended an examination for teachers in the village of Stirling, and I obtained my first real teacher's certificate. I got a Second Class County Board Certificate. Taking into account my schooling in Ireland, I had been considerably less than 3 years at school altogether, but I had, of course, learned a
great deal out of school.
While in the doctor's office in 1861, the doctor, a young man only a couple of years older than me, and who had taught school before going to college, taught me a great deal, particularly in Grammar. Then, in the summer of 1858, while I worked for John Leggett, a cousin of his, Edward Leggett came from the United States. He was a lawyer and had been through college. He stayed there, where I was working, all summer, and we were much together. I learned a great deal from him.
Then, after I started to teach, I attended every teachers' convention or teachers' institute that was at all within my reach, and this, along with home study and taking teachers' papers, kept me well abreast of the times, so that when the new school law came into force in 1871, when there were only four public school teachers in the whole County of Hastings that obtained Provincial Certificates, I was one those four, and I was the only one of the four who had never attended any school higher than our common, or public school. I had never even been to a teacher who held a Provincial Certificate. The certificate obtained in 1871 qualified me to teach in any public school in Province of Ontario, and it was good for life, unless it might be broken for bad
When I first saw in the newspaper what teachers might be examined in , I gathered up my old school books and bought new ones, and set myself to work to prepare. for the examination, which was to be in August 1871. I never studied as hard in my life as I did for about five.months then, from the 1st of March till August, 1871. I was teaching school in School Section No. 3, Marmora.
I studied night and morning and Saturdays. In March of that year I got Worcesters unabridged dictionary. I found it a great help in my studies. I tried the examination in the village of Madoc, County of Hastings. The examiners were G.S. Agar, Public School Inspector for North Hastings, Geo. Boulter, M.D. of Stirling, and Frederick Seymour, M.A. of Madoc Village.
Before 1871 the salaries of public school teachers in country schools were about $200.00 a year. In some odd cases it was a little more than this, but in many cases it was less. My salary for the first 8 years, that is from 1864 to 1871, was $204. a year.
After that salaries raised for about 15 or 16 years , when they began to fall again. My highest salary was $400. a year. I only got that one year (1875) in Marmora Village. My salary for·my whole time of teaching would average about $280. a year, but besides this, I generally raised my own potatoes and vegetables. I also
worked out during vacation, and, in this way made enough to live on. I sent all my children to High School Four went far enough to get a teacher's certificate and each of them taught school, for a time.
(William Henry Minchin went on to marry Margaret Kelly, had four sons and three daughters, and 10 grandchildren that we know of. Jane, his mother, married Richard Laycock and produced a family.