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  • Writer's pictureArt Duval

David Davidson's, Mill owner in Penetang

The following letter was written by Lumber Baron David Davidson to the Northern Advance and dealt with the issues involving running for Center Simcoe at the turn of the 1900's. It is for a member of the provincial parliament, granted but still shows the "Plus ca change plus c'est la meme chose" way things are.

To the Editor of the Advance :

—When I went into the political contest

it was with the determination that the

fight should be a square one on the public

questions of the day, and that it should not

get down to personal mud slinging, but it

seems that I made a mistake in the

character of the parties I had to contend with.

Having gone into the fight I expected to

get all the knocks that could be given, but

thought there was some decency in politics

as well as in other things, but I have been

mistaken in this also, and my reason for

now answering your many articles is to show

the public how far a newspaper man will go

in the particular line that seems to suit him


I don’t object to fair criticism, but I do

object to slander and misrepresentation.

Having had but a short experience in

running elections it seems strange to me that

some men and some newspapers are so built

that while in discussing the ordinary questions

of the day. they can use a certain judgment

and their opinions form a certain degree of respect.

One would have thought that past experi-

ence would, have taught you more sense than

it displayed in the various articles that form

the ground work of the fly sheet that has

Been issued from your office—but instead of

any improvement, malice and misrepresentations

seems to be your whole stock.

In dealing with the wood that I supplied

to the Reformatory, in your attempt to

cover np the high price paid by the Tory

Dominion Government for wood, you stated

that the wood delivered by me was green

Wood, and supplied during the winter.

Now on the contrary, the wood was dry and not

delivered during the winter, as you state,

but during October when there was no snow.

You knew well enough when you made that

Statement, that it was not true—if you knew

anything at all about it—still you made the

Statement from your old habit of throwing

mud, hoping that some would stick, and

that some might believe what you said.

While I received $2.50 per cord, the

Dominion Tory Government paid in Penetang-

and Midland $3 00 and $3.50 per cord

for the same quality of wood,

and in one case the same wood cut by the same men.

The Dominion Tory Government paid •2 .00 per cord

for second class wood (softwood and limbs)

and in your unfair way you speak of that

wood as first class. This second case wood

was bought within a quarter of a mile of

Penetanguishene at $1.00 and delivered to the

Dominion Government at

$2 00.

The year before the Dominion Tory Gov-

ernment paid $3 00, each at the very time the

paid Government paid $3 00 and $3 50 per

cord for wood, you condemned the Reform

Government for paying $2 50 per cord.

This year the price is less and there are no

outside buyers and the wood only get 55 cents .

You ask me where I get my figures,

the Auditor General Report for the Do-

minion, 1895, p 167 you will find that 3$ a cord was paid

And in the auditor General

Report for 1896, p. 147 you

will find that *3.50 per cord was paid for

wood by the Tory Dominion Government to

a good Tory merchant, who had no wood of his own,

but bought the wood for $2.50 and

put the balance into his pocket.

You will find that in every case my figures

are correct as I do not draw on my

Imagination but have gone to the trouble of giving

the amount of .lumber supplied to the Re-

formatory since I have been in business. It

is quite true that most of the lumber sup-

plied to that Institution was obtained from

me, which is quite natural, because on^

formatory since I have been in business,

is quite true that most of the lumber sup-

plied to that Institution was obtained from

me, which is quite natural, because on

account of the position of my mill I can sup-

ply, and did supply, lumber cheaper than

anyone else. During the past 27 years they

required a large amount of lumber at the

Reformatory, as they built a large barn,

stables and sheds, 13 houses, moulders shop,

carpenter shop and part of the main build-

ing of the Reformatory, and you speak as if

it were a crime to buy lumber where it could

be had to the best advantage.

In shipping my lumber, as everyone

knows, it must be first loaded on scows and

then taken to the dock at Penetanguishene,

and when the scows are loaded it can be

delivered just about as easily at the Reforma-

tory as on the Penetanguishene dock, while

anv other mill would be compelled to draw

the lumber three miles on wagons to the

Reformatory, or make special arrangements

for delivering on scows, and could not

compete successfully with me, consequently

I got the most of the lumber supplied

For the same reason the firm of

Breithaupt Bros. & Hall, got their lumber from me

They are sharp business men and they purchased

from me during the past 16 years'

$29,727 00 worth of lumber, simply because

I could deliver cheaper than anyone else.

But while you took the trouble to look up mv

dealings with the Reformatory what you speak

of as "Davidson's Deep Divings”

why Sid you not look up Mr. Thompson s interest

in the purchases for that Institution.

You pretend to be fair and are shocked at the

amount bought from Davidson, but why

did you not give both sides and show how

much had been purchased from the Thompson?

I have also had the accounts of the

and find that tne

Reformatory gone over

Thompsons, including Mr. A B. Thompson,

your candidate, have received the sum ot

$29,357 83, being many many Thousands

dollars more than I received. For a number

of years Mr. A. A. Thompson, father of

your candidate, sold large quantities

goods to the Reformatory without tenders,

and after his death his estate of which Mr

A. B. Thompson was a member, had large

dealings with the Reformatory, which have

continued by bis brother, William,



been _

who has had some large contracts.

of calling names as you have done 1 am tree

to admit that there was nothing wrong in

purchasing goods from the Thompsons, as

it is well known that for many years Mr.

A. A. Thompson had the best and largest

store in Penetanguishene, and the goods got

there were bought because they could he

had at best advantage, the same as the lum-

ber was purchased from me. But in your

political creed it is a crime to buy from a

Reformer, but all right to purchase from

T°In giving the amount purchased from tho

Thompsons, the many thousands of dollars

received from the Guards are not tncbined,

hut simply the purchases for the Institut on

itself, and to show that there were no political

favors, as you have stated, I might men-

tion that the Reformatory has purchased

from Mr. Chas. Wright and his father, to

the amount of $33.931.32, aud from Geo

Copeland & Sons. $23.560.44, all these being


Most of the supplies furnished under contract,

but not all of them.

I have no doubt all these parties gave

every satisfaction. I trust Mr Editor, that

have enough decency left to be ashamed

the beautiful fly sheet scattered about you,

and it is quite evident

that tho parties that got it up were ashamed

of it as they were afraid to sign their names

to the document, and I leave it to the public

to declare as they cannot he humbugged

by such a political dodge.

Yours, &c.,

David Davidson.

Penetanguishene, Feb. 8th, 1898.

David Davidson owned the Firstbrook company box factory and Mills in Penetang. In between his mill in Penetang and businesses in Sunnidale, it is estimated he employed 200-300 people.

He also ran for public office, winning a seat in the Ontario Legislature for Simcoe center. During his time in office he served on several committees:

Member, Standing Committee on Agriculture and Colonization February 5, 1904 – April 26, 1904

Member, Standing Committee on Legal Bills February 5, 1904 – April 26, 1904

Member, Standing Committee on Private Bills February 5, 1904 – April 26, 1904

Member, Standing Committee on Agriculture and Colonization April 23, 1903 – June 27, 1903

Member, Standing Committee on Private Bills April 23, 1903 – June 27, 1903

Member, Standing Committee on Municipal Law April 23, 1903 – June 27, 1903

Northern Advance 5th of June 102

David and his wife, Dora (Belyea) would be considered the upper crust of the small town society, often being found on the dinner invitations of other prominent liberlas in the Penetang (and elsewhere) events. Their daughter Carrie Lent (Davidson) was a Conservatory of Toronto trained musician who would entertain the society members in these early years.

During their years in Penetang, the Davidson's would stay in contact with family, many of whom moved to Penetang from Bronte, which is now part of Oakville Ontario.

David's father, John Davidson was from Northhumbria England, he and his wife Hannah emigrated to Canada when David was a young child. They took up a 200 acre lot in Nelson township by Burlington Ontario in 1830. When John died in 1852 Hannah lived with her son John, eventually moving to Penetang with them. She died in Penetang in 1880, but her body was returned to Burlington.

Dora's father also came to live in Penetang, and is buried in Copeland hill cemetery.

John's sister Elizabeth and her husband , William Hollister moved to Penetang becoming a guard at the reformatory. After being widowed in 1882,She would marry John Magee. who had been a carpenter in Woodstock previously. Although living in Kincardine at her death, she is buried in Penetang.

David and Dora's daughter, Carrie Belyea Davidson was a conservatory trained singer. Her marriage to Williston FW Lent seemed to be quite the occasion.

Barrie examiner 25th of June 1903 top first two clippings and Northern Advance the third report on the wedding in Penetang. Local residents include Dr and Mrs Spohn, The Hall's, the Becks, the Breithaupts, all prominent families in the local society.

David Davidson managed a sawmill on the outskirts of Penetang. He would live in the house below while in Penetang, before selling his house and mill and moving to Calgary.

While in Penetang, David would own two ships, tugs he would name Maud. (Both of them) the first Maud was built in 1887 and was 52 feet long. It was propellor driven, which was cutting edge technology then.

Not satisfied with this Maude, she would be renamed the Irene. The next Maude would be built in Penetang, and would be 71 feet long. This would be in 1904.

Then in 1905, the lumber industry seemed to no longer interest Mr Davidson, and he would pull up stakes, accompanied by his wife, two daughters and a son, and move on to become a cattle rancher in Calgary.

However, despite moving to Calgary they would still maintain the old friendships in Simcoe center, when the Breithaupts would coms for a visit. This entry would seem to suggest the Perkins, who had been at the wedding of Carrie, had also moved to Calgary with the family. This it is reported at his death he worked hard on until his 82 year when he passed suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 82.

Where he would live in this house in Calgary, and raise cattle. There doesn't seem to be any connection to cattle in his time in Penetang. This house is now a pub called the Rose and Crown, having been a funeral home, and while the Davidson's owned it was the place both David and Dora's funeral was held.

At to the column that led to the rebuttal above:

Art Duval Pipesmoke of the Past

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