Politics and hitting the polls in the early days of Uxbridge

Voting has changed juristically over the last two-hundred years, not only in Uxbridge, but all over the word. It has grown to become more inclusive and accessible by expanding eligibility criteria and providing more methods to cast votes. As the Uxbridge 2022 municipal elections approaches for October 24, let’s look back at a brief history of elections in Uxbridge.


Voting in the 19th century


The origins of elections in Uxbridge go back to the early 19th century when Uxbridge voted as part of an Ontario land region and not as an individual municipality. Uxbridge citizens would vote on a representative for the entire county of Middlesex in Southern Ontario. Those voting would travel to the town of Brantford to cast their vote, which is now a two-hour drive from Uxbridge, but would be a long trek in the early 1800s. There was a fixed start date for the election, but no official end date. If at least one vote was cast each hour, the election continued. This made elections a prolonged and grueling process. Results from the election were declared long after the polls were first opened. There was little to no voter privacy at the time. To cast a vote citizens would stand in front of a political officer and vocalize their preferred candidate. After casting their vote, electors would usually be either be praised or taunted by onlookers depending on the political viewpoint of the crowd.


Some of this was changed with the 1832 Reform Act. Uxbridge now had their own polling centre’s in town, and there was a set deadline of two days for electors to cast their vote. As well, voting eligibility expanded so that any male citizen who owned or rented property or land worth more than 12-pound sterling’s was entitled to vote. In the 19th century, voters would be brought to the polls and entertained out of political candidates’ pockets. Bribery was often a key to winning elections, and along with the expense of running a campaign, an election was extremely costly to a candidate.



Ballot box archived in UHC's permanent collection. 987.14.5 Accession number.


Opening the polls to women and minorities


It took a long time before women, or any minority demographic had the right to participate in any election. In Ontario, it wasn’t until 1917 that women had the right to vote and 1919 when they could run for office, after their efforts on the home front during the WW1, and 1954 until Indigenous people could vote. Voting rights for minorities is similar in its timeline federally as all women could vote if they reached the same eligibility requirements as men. Indigenous men and women could not vote federally until 1960. Finally, when the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was founded in 1982 it gave every Canadian citizen the right to vote and qualify as a political candidate.



Picture of a women's suffrage parade.

Image source


New voters from Scott Township


Before it amalgamated into Uxbridge Township in 1974, Scott Township and many of its hamlets; Leaskdale, Sanford, Udora and Zephyr, was considered separate from Uxbridge. Therefore, the township had its own town hall and elections up until the amalgamation, although they had a much smaller population than Uxbridge. The Scott Township Hall was used as the only municipal government building for the township from 1860 to 1967 when it was purchased and moved to a farm to be used as a Country Heritage Museum. It was donated and relocated to the UHC ground in 1993.



The Scott Township Hall at the UHC grounds


Mayoral elections in Uxbridge


Uxbridge’s first mayoral election came in 1986 when Uxbridge elected Dr. Joseph Bascom as the first to represent the town. He was in office until 1988 when William Smith, a local merchant and the former youngest warden of Ontario County took over. The first women mayor of Uxbridge was Nellie Kydd who served the town from 1963 to 1964. Gerri Lynn O’Connor was the longest running of the forty-seven total mayors of the town as she served from 1985 to 2018.


The Gould’s in Uxbridge politics


The influential Gould family was a household name in Uxbridge’s political history. Joseph Gould was the first MP for the riding of North Ontario, which included Uxbridge. He served from 1854 to 1861 despite being involved in several controversies such as being accused of being a government contractor and having Uxbridge mailed picked up in Newmarket when it was supposed to be picked up in Pickering. Joseph was also a supporter of William Lyon Mackenzie's reform movement and took part in the Upper Canada Rebellion, in which he went to prison for a year because of his involvement. But Joseph is mainly remembered for his role in developing Uxbridge and his contribution to its growth. Joseph’s son, Isaac Gould, was later elected to provincial legislature in 1883, 1886 and 1890. Two other of Joseph’s sons, Charles and Harvey, were county wardens along with Isaac as well. Another son of Joseph’s, Jonathan Gould was mayor for two years in 1894 and 1895. His grandson, J. Walter Gould was mayor from 1920 to 1922.





Picture of Joseph Gould and his wife, Mrs. Mary Gould. Courtesy of the Uxbridge Historical Centre. Permanent Collection, P291.



Sources:


https://scugogheritage.com/history/uxbridgefirst100.pdf

https://www.elections.on.ca/en/about-us/100-year-anniversary.html


McGillivray, Allan. “Tales from the Uxbridge Valley.” The Uxbridge Millennium Committee, 2000. Pg. 111-114.


Hearmon, Carolynne. “Uxbridge A Concise History.” Hillingdon Borough Libraries, 1982. Pg. 60-62.


https://electionsanddemocracy.ca/voting-rights-through-time-0/brief-history-federal-voting-rights-canada


https://www.elections.ca/content.aspxsection=res&dir=his/chap2&document=index&lang=e

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