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Chapter 8
Fire Brigades and Fence Viewers
Table of Contents

Title Page
Author's Preface
1 The Road through Richmond Hill
2 First Peoples on the Land
3 The European Settlers Arrive
4 From Miles' Hill to Richmond Hill: The Birth of a Community
5 Tories and Reformers
6 Stagecoach Lines and Railway Tracks
7 The Neighbours at Mid-Century
8 Fire Brigades and Fence Viewers
Living with Divided Loyalties
A Time and a Place for Swimming
Community Spirit
The First Village Council
"Wants of the Village"
"A Local View of 1874"
Who Was Who in the 1873 Municipal Elections
The Richmond Hill Fire Brigade
Fighting Fires with Hand Pumpers
The Trench Carriage Works
Miss Aiken Then Sang "The Woodland Tree"
Life in the Newly Incorporated Village
9 Picture Post Card Village of the 1880s and 1890s
10 Rails through Richmond Hill
11 The Flowering of Richmond Hill
12 The Village Transformed
Table of Illustrations

Who Was Who in the 1873 Municipal Elections

Abraham Law: Successful Candidate for Reeve

Law was born on October 13, 1806, in Pennsylvania. At the age of eighteen he emigrated with his parents to Upper Canada and settled near Stouffville. Two years later young Mr. Law moved to Richmond Hill, where he established himself as a general merchant, later owning and operating a tannery. He married Elizabeth Klinck and together they had thirteen children.

Law prospered in his adopted community. In 1827 he purchased a lot on the northwest corner of Yonge and Richmond streets, and five years later built "Richmond Villa," a handsome house of eighteen-inch mud bricks. He was appointed a justice of the peace. He sold a piece of his land to the Methodists for their new 1880 church building.

John Duncumb: Defeated Candidate for Reeve

Duncumb was born in 1801 in Yorkshire, England, and studied medicine in Edinburgh and Dublin. After emigrating to North America about 1835, he travelled extensively in both the United States and British North America, and supplied notes for his brother Thomas Duncumb's book, The British Emigrant's Advocate.

Dr. John Duncumb established a medical practice in Richmond Hill a few years later. Through his skill as a physician and his shrewd business talents, the doctor did well financially and acquired considerable property in the village. But Duncumb was not universally popular. In the 1873 elections, when "his friends, to a great extent, did not support him," Duncumb was humiliated by polling only five votes in the race for reeve.

William Harrison: Non-Candidate

Harrison was born on May 10, 1834, in Bath, England. In 1843, when William was nine, the family moved to Canada and settled on a farm three kilometres (about two miles) north of Richmond Hill. Nine months later, William's father died, and later Mrs. Harrison and her four children moved into the village, where young William became a successful harnessmaker and saddler.

An active community volunteer, Harrison helped organize the first fire brigade and was a founding member of the Richmond Hill Mechanics' Institute and Literary Society. He was active in the Methodist Church for over half a century. Above all, he wrote hundreds of articles, columns, and editorials for Richmond Hill newspapers, establishing himself as the community's number one booster and its first historian.

Harrison was active in the 1872 campaign for incorporation but refused nomination as reeve in the first civic elections. He was elected Richmond Hill's second reeve in 1874, however, and during his term succeeded in obtaining the considerable sum of about $3,000, to which the village was entitled under the provincial government's Municipal Loan Fund.

Matthew Teefy: Village Clerk

Teefy was born on April 18, 1822, in Tipperary, Ireland, and came to York, Upper Canada, two years later, where he apprenticed as a printer. He married Betsy Clarkson in 1846 and fathered nine children, six of whom survived infancy.

Teefy was appointed postmaster of Richmond Hill on December 3, 1850, and for the next sixty-one years ran the village post office from a building on the site of today's McConaghy Centre. At the time of his death in 1911, Teefy was Canada's oldest and longest-serving postmaster.

Teefy also served for an extended period as the village's secretary treasurer - thirty-one long years from 1873 until he stepped down in 1904. During much of this time, Teefy also pursued his interests as a diarist and antiquarian. He kept a record of village life for over half a century, while in his private office behind the post office he proudly displayed many papers and documents of historical interest.


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Copyright Richmond Hill Public Library Board, 1991