Monday, November 15, 2010

Henry Routledge

My great grandfather Henry Routledge was born December 17, 1876 in the town of Clinton in Huron County, Ontario.

He married Charlotte Matilda Ginn on the 25th of August 1897. He was twenty one, she was 2 months older. Their only child, my grandmother Maude Ada Routledge was born on September 18th 1899.

Henry was a devout Baptist and was very active in his church, becoming a deacon. By all accounts he was a kindly and generous father and grandfather but he did instill in his daughter Maude the rigorous values of the early Baptist faith. Mother told us stories about my grandmother’s admonitions about dancing, smoking and drinking.

He was also a life-long member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOFF), a group he was active with all his life, serving as Deputy Grand Master for several years before his death.

In 1906 when Maude was about seven years old, the family moved north to New Liskeard.

In the earlier years Henry worked at a number of jobs, and quickly adapted himself to the new community, becoming well known for his horticultural skills and his beautiful lawns and gardens. In fact, in later years his gardens parties in which he would entertain visiting dignitaries including some provincial politicians would be reported in the Temiskaming Speaker in glowing terms. His gardening soil was apparently well sought after. During the spring planting times in the 1920’s and 30’s fellow community residents would be waiting for Henry's ad to appear in the Temiskaming Speaker with his annual sale of extra gardening soil. His wife Charlotte also became a well known figure in the community, becoming very active with the local Girl Guide group. She eventually became provincial commissioner of the movement.

In 1916 Henry was hired by the Town of New Liskeard. He was employed by the public works department and in short order became Public Works Superintendent. A works superintendent, in a small town, in those days out of necessity, wore a number of hats. He not only directed the towns work crews but acted as by-law officer and weed control officer as well as in other capacities. He was also responsible for the purchase and maintenance of town equipment.

Henry was also appointed special constable, no doubt to aid him in his by-law enforcement work, and was an auxiliary policeman. Town council minutes from the late 1930’s show special disbursements of additional pay to him for ‘police work’. He became very well respected as a knowledgeable town employee and it is reported in the records of the New Liskeard town council that on occasion he was called upon to give his advice on the design and specification of various local bridge construction projects.

In august 1938 the then current police chief resigned and Henry was appointed to fill the position until a permanent replacement could be found. He held the job until october 1939. In addition to his new duties as a police officer with the investigations and arrests and court appearances, Henry also managed to keep up with his job as the town's public works supervisor.

His career as public works boss did not always go without controversy. In june 1939 New Liskeard town council devoted one entire session interviewing Henry during the ‘great fire truck debacle’. Apparently an old fire company truck had caught fire and it was decided by Henry that it was beyond any practical use, so he arranged for the town to sell it as scrap to a local farmer.

One of the town councilors caught wind of the transaction, and for reasons that were probably based more on self interest than any sort of ethical concern, launched a bitter attack on Henry. The story occupied the front page of the Temiskaming Speaker for several editions and at times the debate became heated. At one point Henry demanded an apology from the newspaper for what he considered as suggestions that he had been guilty of wrong doing. The newspapers editor quickly responded with an editorial that said in part,"Some apparently read from the article the suggestion that the town foreman was accused of stealing the engine from the town and selling it. Those who know Harry Routledge (sic) know better than that."

It was finally revealed that the town councillor who sat on the fire and light committee had known about and had told Henry that he agreed with the decision to sell the vehicle. He also offered to resign his seat if council felt that he had been remiss in his responsibilites. As it turned out he didn't have to, but he was strongly censured. In concluding the matter the town unanimously sided with their Public Works Director and announced that Henry had indeed, "carried out his responsibilities with customary integrity.”

Henry was also a 1st. Leut. with the New Liskeard Fire Department, and no doubt found himself called out numerous times since the regular fire department was quite small and was for a number of years terribly under funded.

There is a story told that during the 1920’s a photographer was called in to take a photograph of the fire crew. What resulted was not a group shot, as everyone was expecting, but a series of small photos of individual firemen. It was soon learned that the reason for this was that there was only one hat and that each man in turn sat for his picture wearing it.

It would seem that Henry Routledge was held in high standing by the other town workers. Several times, as reported in the local press, he appeared in front of the city fathers petitioning for pay increases for certain of his employees. These were in the days before the famous ‘in camera’ sessions which are now a common and often abused practice when local councils are dealing with employee matters. In those days if your neighbor was called up on the carpet or was about to receive a promotion or pay raise, it would be duly reported in the local press.

In 1931 he assumed the role of protector of his daughter Maude and her four daughters, after she and her husband Laurence Bateson separated.The details of this event are well known in the family.

On July 23, 1937 Charlotte passed away after a long and debilitating illness. Records do not reveal the exact nature of her illness except that she apparently spent her final months in some misery.

On July 31, 1941 Henry remarried to Elizabeth Stuart Edwards, the former Mrs. William R. Campsall, with who she had three children, by then grown up. She was a long time friend of both the Routledge and Bateson families. Strangely, the couple were married in the United Church in the nearby town of Cobalt, even though Henry was long time member of the New Liskeard Baptist congregation.

In 1943 Henry suffered a stroke. It was something that he never fully recovered from and at the time was given a four month leave of absence with full pay from his job as Public Works Director. When that time had lapsed, he wrote town council announcing his intention to resign. The town accepted it, with reluctance, and in August 1943, took the unprecedented step of awarding him a higher pension than the existing town by-law actually allowed, although certainly by today’s standard it would be considered a paltry sum. He would receive $900 a year broken into semi monthly payments of $37.50.

Henry passed away Thursday March 14, 1946. Although he had suffered a stroke three years earlier, it was generally assumed that his health was stable, in fact a few days earlier he was out on the street chatting with friends and appeared fine. He collapsed early Thursday morning and was taken to the hospital where at 9:30 am, he died.

His funeral was a local event. It was held under the auspices of the Odd Fellows at the New Liskeard Baptist Church, which was filled to capacity with friends and relatives and fellow employees. The service was conducted by pastors Rev. E.G Baxter and Rev. William C. Kitto. Pallbearers were friends and former town employees A.J Brown, Jack Shortt, M.G Hansman, Thomas Grills, Alllan Kaye, Thomas Magladery and Charles Byram. He is buried in the New Liskeard Pioneer Cemetery where he lies in peace along with his daughter Maude and great granddaughter Faye Laura Haddow.

Looking back over Henry Routledge’s life, its clear that his was a time well spent. He was a man of integrity, a virtue that was born of his deep faith and an intelligent public servant. He was, and perhaps this is the quality most respected in the family, a caring and loving man who in his later years took on the responsibility of caring for and protecting the welfare of his daughter and my mother and her sisters and making sure that they had the proper social and educational opportunities.

As a result, my mother had a wonderful job at the Haileyburian Newspaper in Haileybury, Ontario where she worked with the famous John R. Hunt (who later became one of my mentors); my aunt Mildred married a very successful farmer and businessman and former reeve of Dymond Township, serving a couple of terms on council herself; and my aunt Helen who along with her husband Elwood Kidd single handedly founded the New Liskeard Cubs Hockey Club in 1954 and then nurtured them along for the next 50 years.The team went on to win ten league Championships, four All Ontario Championships and two trips to the Air Canada AAA Midget Championships, one ending with silver medals in 1997.

Today his contributions to the fast growing pioneer community are largely forgotten - except perhaps for a few relatives.There are no photos of him in the local town office or museum. But there have been few since that have rivalled his energy or his sense of commitment.