Temperance Tempest in the Townships: Excerpt #1 from the "Private Journal of Henry Joseph Martin"

Edited by Matthew Farfan
Henry Joseph Martin (1828-1885) kept a Private Journal for ten years. (Photo - History of Golden Rule Lodge, 1905)

The following is an excerpt from a "Private Journal" kept by Henry Joseph Martin, a resident of Stanstead, Quebec. It is the first excerpt in a series of six to be published in Townships Heritage WebMagazine. Martin's diary, a large, leather-bound volume that has remained in private hands since it was written a century and a half ago, spans the period from 1859 to 1868.

A momentous one in the history of North America, that period included the U.S. Civil War, Canadian Confederation, the Fenian Raids, and many other important social and political events. These events and others far more quotidian are mentioned in detail in this diary, in particular in regards to how they impacted life in the Eastern Townships.

Funding for transcription and research into this unique historical document has been provided in part by the Bélanger-Gardner Foundation of Bishop's University, Townshippers' Foundation, and through the Heritage Online Multimedia Enrichment Initiative of the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network (QAHN).

larger_martin_001.jpgHenry Joseph Martin (1828-1885):

Henry Joseph Martin (1828-1885) is an obscure man today. This is due in part to the fact that he was such a private, modest man. But in life, Martin was profoundly respected by his friends, colleagues and community, where he was heavily involved in numerous behind-the-scenes ways, giving freely of his time and energy, without expectation of reward.

Martin was remembered by historian Arthur Henry Moore (History of Golden Rule Lodge) as being "of a quiet, even temperament, born to win the hearts of his fellows and to lead them by the sheer force of his personality."

Born and raised in Stanstead, Quebec, Henry Joseph Martin studied to become a civil engineer and land surveyor. After working as a surveyor and draughtsman for several years in the Townships, Martin moved to Iowa in 1861, where he remained until 1864. He then returned to Stanstead for several years until he received an appointment to the U.S. Patents Office in Washington D.C.

After moving to the U.S., Martin maintained close ties to the place of his birth, returning frequently to Stanstead where, among other things, he was one of the leading lights (and several times master) of Golden Rule Masonic Lodge. Martin died of tuberculosis in Washington D.C. in 1885. He was much lamented by all who knew him.

In his lifetime, Martin was known as a meticulous record-keeper. The diary that has come down to us, from which the following is an excerpt, is remarkable in its detail. Within its pages may be found descriptions of everything from local disasters to political events of regional or international significance.

This first excerpt in this series spans a two-month period between August and October 1859. The main event noted in the diary during this time is the ongoing battle between local Temperance crusaders and those (like Martin and his good friend Rufus P. Stewart, of Beebe Plain, Quebec) who saw no moral dilemma in the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Private Journal of Henry J. Martin

Believeing that a Journal may be of use in recording Events that might otherwise be lost, as well as of use in establishing ones whereabouts and what one was occupied about, I have resolved to devote this volume to be used as a private journal. I therefore commence recording this Sunday the 21st day of August AD 1859 [...]

Wednesday. Sept 14th. Cold, windy, rainy, snowy day. In the house nearly all day. Went to the Line Post Office in the evening. Great excitement amongst the Liquor vendors. Every Landlord in the County with the exception of one (Levi Bigelow) has been arrested for selling liquor without a license.

larger_img_8781.jpgThursday. Sept 15th. Clear windy cold day. There was a tremendous frost last night. Got in Three loads of wheat and assisted Bachelder to cut up his Corn. The Liquor excitement increases. The Landlords and Merchants who sell liquor, are assembled at Winn’s Hotel to form a league offensive and defensive [...]

Saturday. Sept 17th. Lowery rainy day. At home in the forenoon, in the afternoon I went to Beebe Plain and made a Survey of Stewarts Store, to enable him to show that he sold his Liquor in Vermont instead of Canada.

Sunday. Sept 18th. Fine pleasant day. Took dinner at Winn’s. Went to the Line in the afternoon and drew another plan of Stewart’s Store. Took a long ride in the evening withBro’ Kathan. Stoped all night at Winn’s.

larger_040a.jpgMonday. Sept 19th. Fine pleasant day. Took the Stage at 4 o’clock A.M. for Sherbrooke where I arrived at 10 o’clock A.M. I am here as a witness in these Liquor cases, for Stewart, and to impeach Nathan Morehouse one of the witnesses. These trials have created much excitement throughout the country. The feelings and sympathies of the people of Sherbrooke are with the defendents.

Tuesday. Sept 20th. Cold rainy day. In the Court room all day. In my opinion the Court are a set of prejudiced men, who are determined to give judgement against the Defendants let the evidence be what it may. The sequel will show.

Wednesday. Sept 21st. Cold rainy day. In the Court room all day. The Court to day gave judgement in McNamarah’s case, in which the witness for the prosecution was most thouroughly and decidedly impeached by their own witnesses brought forward to sustain him. There can be no chance for the others.

Thursday. Sept 22d. Cold rainy day. The Court adjourned until Monday next. Their decision of yesterday was too much for them. They must lay off a few days to recruit their exhausted energies. Stewart and I started after dinner for home, in the rain. At the Old Elm Tree we got out of the road and encroached upon the jurisdiction of the fence, and on feeling out our position (for it was so dark we could not see) we found a deep ditch between the wagon and the road.

After a most scientific effort, aided by a certain prayer book, the contence of which was anything but the Church litany, we succeeded in regaining our position in the road without accident, and went on our way rejoicing. We arrived at home beautifully wet inside and out, about 10 o’clock PM. Henry Benson’s Saw Mill and dwelling house were carried away early this morning by the freshet, which broak away two dams and let the accumulated mass of water, flood-wood and directly upon the Mill & House. The family barely escaped in their night clothes.

Friday. Sept 23d. Cold rainy day. At the farm in the forenoon, at the Line in the afternoon. The excitement caused by these Rum suits still raging. Joseph Stodard has been arrested for setting fire to Morehouse’s House, and God knows that he is as innocent of it as I am. I have no doubt but Morehouse fired his own buildings, to get the sympathies of the public in his favour. Mrs Wallingford has opened a Temperance House in the old Durocher Stand, as Winn has closed his house [...]

Monday. Sept 26th. Fine pleasant day. Went to the Line in the forenoon. Afternoon Stewart and I went to Sherbrooke where we arrived at 7 o’clock PM. John W Baxter and Hellen Gaylord were married today.

Tuesday. Sept 27th. Fine pleasant day. Loafing about Sherbrooke all day, waiting for Stewart’s case to be called.

larger_030.jpgWednesday. Sept 28th. Cold rainy day. Loafing about Sherbrooke as yesterday. Eliphalet B Gustin was married to a Miss Bean of Hatley. Stewart and I went down to the Cars to congratulate him, got an introduction to the Bride.

Thursday. Sept 29th. Fine warm pleasant day. After breakfast Stewart and I rode to Compton where we stoped to the cattle-show which was a good one. After dinner we started for home. Captured a Colt in a pasture between Compton and Hatley, belonging to Stewart, and led him home. I had not been at home more than an hour when I was subpoenad to return to Sherbrooke as a witness in Woodards case.

Friday. Sept 30th. Pleasant day. Went to the Line in the forenoon, pulled Peas all the afternoon. Father gone to Sherbrooke as a witness [...]

Monday. October 3d. Cold pleasant day. Started for Sherbrooke. Dined at Coaticook, arrived at Sherbrooke at 3 o’clock PM. Roomed with W. S. Foster Cashier of the Eastern Townships Bank.

Thursday. Oct 4th. Fine pleasant day. Went before the Court at 11 o’clock AM, and game my opinion of Morehouse. Took the 3 o’clock train of freigh cars and came up to Compton, and walked to Hatley (7 miles.) where I stoped all night at Woodards.

Wednesday. Oct 5th. Fine pleasant day. Called on Mrs & Miss Wesson. Started at 9:30 o’clock AM and walked home (14 miles) where I arrived at 2 o’clock, my toes somewhat sore [...]

larger_martin_003.jpgSunday. Oct 9th. Fine pleasant cool day. In the forenoon Mr. Kimball’s House & Barn was burned down. The fire was caused by his children setting matches on fire while playing on the hay. In the afternoon Bro’ Kathan and I went down and smoked the Pipe of peace with Bro’ Stewart. Evening spent at Judson York’s [...]

Sunday. Oct 16th. Fine pleasant day. After dinner C F Haskell and I started for Island Pond, where we arrived at 6 o’clock cold and hungry. Rufus Stewart and I spent the evening in Bro’ Fennessy’s room. Smoking, chatting, reading and drinking good Brandy.

Monday. Oct 17th. Took the train at 7 o’clock AM for Boston. Arrived in Portland at 2 PM, got dinner and Rufus & I went up to see James H Baxter. At 9 PM Rufus & I took the Cattle train to Portsmouth. We had to crawl through a window to get into the Sallon-car. We stole the cushions from the Seats and made us a comfortable bed, while others had to lay on the bare slats of their berths, which was not very pleasant to judge by their swearing.

Tuesday. Oct 18th. Cold rainy day. About 5 o’clock in the morning, the couplings in the center of the train (which consisted of 50 cars and two engines) broke away and droped on the track. The Engine went on and left the hind half of the train. The hind saloon car was thrown off the track and smashed up, no one hurt. Rufus and I walked into Portsmouth about eight miles. When the train arrived we took it and went on to Boston where we arrived at 4 PM. Drove Mead Blake’s cattle out to Mitford and then took the horse cars for town. Stoped at the “American House.”[...]

Friday. Oct 28th. Fine pleasant day. Left Portland at 7 AM. When we got to Island Pond at noon we found plenty of Snow. Arrived at home about 8 in the evening where we found Mr Stewart with a team to send us on to Sherbrooke to attend Rufuses liquor Suit. We went as far as West Hatley and being fatigued we got Supper and stoped all night at “Hitchcocks.”

Saturday. Oct 29th. Cold cloudy day. Arrived in Sherbrooke at 11 AM, got our breakfast and went up to the Court House. Stewart’s case came off in the afternoon, but the decision not to be given until next Saturday. Spent the eve’ with the young ladies [...]

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"Fixing Up the Farm: Excerpt #2 from the "Private Journal of Henry Joseph Martin."