The Municipal Election
Imbroglio of 1865
The article originally appeared in the Meaford Express December 23, 1943.
... No more hectic election had ever taken place in the township; in fact, we may say no more hectic one has taken place since that date. We regret that no newspaper existed at the time to carry a report of the affair so our account must be completed from tradition and a few brief resolutions of council.
Of course these remarks refer particularly to the election in ward 2, contested by the old reeve, Jim Grier and C.R.Sing.
During 1864 the polling place for this ward had been changed from Whitelaw's schoolhouse to the Griersville School so that Sing must now beard the lion in his own den. This he was nothing loathe to do, and well supplied with ammunition, laid charge after charge against Grier at a public meeting preceding the election whereupon a general melee followed, blows were resorted to, Grier becoming so incensed as to lead the riot. Sing was struck over the head with a heavy cane, allegedly in the hands of Grier, and lay unconscious for several days. In fact, according to Mr. W.H. Sing, the blow would have been fatal had it been a fraction of an inch from where it actually struck.
Meanwhile the election took place in Grier's return by one vote, but it was no peaceful affair as the council was forced to appoint four special constables to keep order. They were J.L. Wilson, Thos. Londry, Ruben Green and James Logan.
As Sing recovered he took action against Grier for his attack, the story is told that Grier, finding certain men were to give evidence in Sing's favor, immediately had warrants issued for these persons' arrest on some trumped up charge, the warrants to be served just in time to keep them away from the trial. Sing on his part, finding this out, had the men come to his house where they were hidden until after dark, when they were taken to Paul's Hotel and hidden in a bedroom close to the room used at that date for the courtroom, before the town hall was built, from where they were produced at the proper time. Two of these men were said to have been Thomas Vickers and Sam Richmond.
How this case ended we have never been able to find out.
Despite Sing's application for an investigation as to the legality of Grier's return by one vote, Grier took his seat in the council which also included James Stewart, James Drummond, Samuel Eagles, Donald McLaren. James Stewart was appointed Reeve, and McLaren, Deputy.
In the meantime Sing was busy collecting evidence against Grier regarding the election. At that time open voting still existed where electors entered the polling place and declaring their names, stated their choice, which was marked down opposite their name in the poll book. Secret voting was unheard of then. It then turned out that two men had cast votes under assumed name, the real electors having removed to other parts. This case of impersonation finally lost Grier his seat in the council but not before (he) had taken his case to the court of Queen's Bench.
At the meeting of March 25, Mr. Stewart as Reeve produced a notice form Mr. Sing demanding to be immediately admitted to the office of councillor, whereupon it was resolved on a motion of Mr. Eagles, seconded by Mr. McLaren, "that this council does not consider the said notice sufficient authority for the council to admit Mr. Sing to said office."
Grier was absent from this meeting. He must have seen the net closing about him as the council passed the following moved by Messes. Drummond and McLaren "that the Clerk be and is hereby authorized to demand of James Grier Esq., late councillor and Reeve of this township, all statutes, check books, orders on the Treasurer and all other books, papers, accounts, documents, moneys and valuable securities, the property of this Corporation, which have been kept by him by virtue of his office as Councillor and Reeve."
Finally at a meeting held April 27th the Reeve produced a mandamus from the court of Queen's Bench ordering James Grier who has usurped the office of councillor, to be expelled from the Council and Mr. C.R. Sing to be admitted at once to the office of Councillor in this township and Mr. Sing haven taken the declaration of office, took his seat.
Frank Norris Harding was a local antiquarian who collected huge files about the history of Meaford. Copies of his work are in the Meaford Public Library.