William Sutton (1828-1896)

William was the tenth child of Richard Sutton and Ellen/Eleanor Constantine. He was their youngest surviving son as Thomas, who followed William, died in 1848 aged 19.

William was born on 29th February 1828 (note a leap year) at Rigg End in Dent.

When his father inherited Rigg End, Dyke Hall and money from Ann Sill (see Richard Sutton) he bought West House, where the Sills used to live; Richard and his family moved there in 1835:

Penetangore/Kincardine (1850/51-1867)

Like many young sons of yeomen farmers, William sought his fortune abroad. He emigrated from Dent to Canada in around 1850/51; I am not sure if he left before his father died that year.

The Historica of Canada tells us that the Municipality of Kincardine is located along the shore of Lake Huron, about 225 km northwest of Toronto and 80 km southwest of Owen Sound. In the earliest settled part of Bruce County, the community was first named Penetangore (1848). It was subsequently named after the Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, governor general of North America 1847-54.

In the 1851 census (collected January 1852) William, aged 22, is living in Kincardine, County of Bruce, Ontario with his nephew Richard Sutton and his wife, Isabella, both are 21; they were married in 1850 in Dent. Their daughter, Elizabeth, who was born in Dent, is aged one. William and Richard are down as farmers and millers. Richard and Isabella are Episcopalians whilst for William it says "anything arian." When I first read this I assumed it was something to do with the 'aryan' race. But I am not sure if it isn't connected to Unitarianism.

The census tells us that they lived in a hewn log house. It also tells us that William has erected a grist mill on his lots 12 and 13 Consession A, which grinds 100 bushells of wheat in twenty-four hours. Cost about £250 and has six feet fall. He is also erecting a saw mill to be completed this Spring with 18 feet head valued at £200. He employs two men generally.

The census goes on to note,

This mill is of great benefit to the settlers as they have been put to great inconvenience for want of one being obliged to take their grists to the Garafraxa road Mill, a distance of about 40 miles. It would have been completed long ago had Mr Sutton not lost one of his mill stones last fall. It was supposed to have been rolled into the lake by some ill-disposed person. He sent to Dundas by sleighing for another. The mill is now going and grinding very well.

At the end of the census the enumerator says:

This township like the others is but too little known as unless visiting no person has any idea that it is such an important place. The improvements and increase of population which have taken place within three years are far beyond anything anticipated and are still increasing rapidly and I am [assured] by the settlers that there is not a better county in Canada or in the world for wheat and all kinds of English grains than Bruce. I can fully confirm this statement from the samples of wheat and oats that I have seen and examined, it is well watered and covered with the best of timber. The soil is generally a rich mould and the climate is delightful in temperature and genial to vegetation. The exports will be from flour, wheat, pork, potato, timber and lumber. Mr Sutton's Grist Mill is now completed and in full operation. Mr Keyworth has a number of hands employed getting out timber to erect another and a saw mill also. The Messrs Fraser, Rastall, Withers and Sutton are also engaged in erecting saw mills in different parts of the township all to be completed in the Spring.

The settlers are . . . badly off for want of schools and places of public worship. There is not at present one school in the whole township as Mrs Kairn has just given up her situation as teacher. The grain crops, potato and fare carried out at so many bushels to the acre but in adding up the columns I have added the total raised on the acres sown. H.J.

On 9th October 1852, William married Sarah Keyworth, daughter of John and Sarah Keyworth. They were married by Reverend Thomas Crews, a Wesleyen Methodist. Both lived in Kincardine and their witnesses were John and Ann Keyworth. This is recorded in the Huron District Marriage Register, Original Book, R.G. 80-27-1, Vol. 13, p57.

Sarah was born on 16th August, 1834 in Tuxford, Nottinghamshire. Richard and Sarah cannot have known each other long before they married. According to Norman Robertson, History of the County of Bruce, 1906,

John Keyworth came out from England in 1851, and on August 22nd of that year applied to the Crown for this Mill Block. He also at the same time contracted for the erection of a good-sized frame mill building. On his return from England the next year, where he had gone to fetch his family, he found that the contractor had so botched his job of framing that the building could not be put together or erected. Feeling disappointed, Mr. Keyworth gave up the idea of milling, and confined himself to keeping store, continuing thereat until his death, in March, 1861.

The following description of the Wesleyan church comes from Norman Robertson:

In 1851 the first congregation [This was also the first congregation to be organized within the county outside of the Indian Missions.] in connection with any denomination was organized, this initial step in the religious interest of the place being taken by the Wesleyan Methodist Church. The congregation then organized commenced with a membership of forty. Its first pastor was the Rev. Thomas Crews (1851-52). His successors in the pastorate during the early days were the Rev. A. A. Smith (1853), Rev. Wm. Creighton (1854), Rev. S. E. Mandsley (1855), Rev. Andrew Edwards (1856-58), Rev. J. F. Latimer (1859-60), and Rev. D. Connolly (1861-63). As far as the author has been able to trace, services were held at first in the public school-house until, in 1856, a neat brick church was built, [Now occupied as a dwelling by R. Rinker.] the opening services of which were held on Sunday, March 1st, 1857. The author was present at that and many ensuing services. As the congregation assembled for the afternoon meeting the weather was warm, springlike and balmy, but on leaving the church when the service was concluded they encountered a blinding blizzard. The snow which fell then and subsequently did not leave until the end of April. For some time after the building was in use the seating accommodation consisted of rough two-inch planks, supported by blocks of cordwood of the necessary height. There was but one aisle, that up the centre of the church. On one side of this the women folks sat on the other the men. The gable of this building was blown in by a high wind on March 3rd, 1862. It was never rebuilt, the roof being adapted to the new form of the walls when the repairs were made.

In 1857 the population of the Village of Penetangore was 837. This is how Norman Robertson describes Penetangore in 1856:

The appearance of the little village in 1856, as remembered by the author as he looked upon Kincardine for the first time, was somewhat as follows: From Princess Street to the lake was all cleared, but there was standing timber in several parts of the town where now there are numbers of dwellings; e.g., there was then a good sugar bush along South Street towards the High School, and a fine clump of giant hemlocks stood where the Water Tower now stands. The buildings were very much scattered, and stumps of trees were everywhere. Queen Street north of Williamsburg had not at that time been opened out. There existed only a footpath through the trees and clearings leading to Stoney Island. The wagon road along the beach was that used for travel not only to Stoney Island, but by those going further north. Archibald Campbell had a storehouse on the beach at the foot of Lambton Street. When the Ploughboy arrived on her regular trips, a large scow owned by Mr. Campbell was rowed out to her, that is, if the weather was fine. In the scow freight and passengers were placed and brought ashore. If there was any "sea" on the lake, the Ploughboy passed on to Stoney Island, and at the wharf there landed Kincardine passengers and freight. The bridges over the river in the year mentioned were such as the primitive engineering skill of the settlers could erect. That on Huron Terrace Street had an open log abutment on each side of the r iver. On these were laid heavy stringers across the stream. On Queen Street the superstructure of the bridge was supported by Macpherson's dam, and the same method was in use at Sutton's dam. Russell Street was the thoroughfare at first for the traffic from the Durham line. After Sutton's dam was erected, with the bridge as a superstructure thereon, Broadway was the most travelled. The uncertainty for several years where the centre of business was to be, resulted in the shops and taverns being spread over the town plot. There were two or three shops on the south side, one at the old mouth of the river, one on Huron Terrace Street, and another on Queen Street. On the north side shops were to be seen on Huron Terrace Street, Lambton, Durham and Queen Streets, on the Market Square, and in Sutton's Hollow. Of taverns there was Nelson Boss' on Broadway. The Union Hotel, kept by Tom Splann, and afterwards by John Barnes, stood on the site of the present Methodist Church. On the other side of the Market Square Thomas Kennard kept the British American. On the Beach, John Rowan and Francis Walker kept hotels, and on the south side William Anderson. At that time the town bell was such a one as is now in use on farms in the county. This bell was hung in front of Barnes' Hotel. The standard time was obtained by a mark on a stump placed there for the purpose by a surveyor. As this was "sun time," it of course varied, about twenty minutes too fast or too slow, during the course of the year.

On 1st January 1858 Penetangore became known as Kincardine. When the decision was taken to change the name, William Sutton was a member of the Council alongside Malcolm McPherson, David McKendrick and Francis Walker. William Rastall was Reeve and Joseph Barker, Clerk.

William and Sarah are down in the 1861 census as millers; they have two children, W.J. (William John) who is two and S. Ellen (Sarah Ellen) who is one. William says he does not have a religion whilst Sarah and the children are down as English C.

In 1867 Kincardine had five hotels and numerous services and small industries, including cabinet shops, four carriage and wagon shops, water-powered grist mills and sawmills, two foundries, pearl-ash factories, woollen factories, blacksmiths, tinsmiths, tanneries, harness and saddlery shops, a bakery and confectionery, and a brewery.

The only remaining hotel from this period is now a museum and is called Walker House which was owned by Francis Walker. Here is a photograph of the inside of the bar, it is highly likely William Sutton would have had a drink in this bar:

And here is a compilation of photographs taken when I visited Walker House in June 2014; it is likely William and Sarah had similar furniture.

William's role in the early days of Kincardine are recorded in the 1906 History of the County of Bruce, Ontario, Town of Kincardine by Norman Robertson. Here is an extract:

The need of a grist mill was a want keenly felt by the settlers who raised the first harvests of grain in the county of Bruce. William Sutton decided to supply this need, and proceeded to construct a dam across the north branch of the Penetangore, [This dam was utilized to support the superstructure of a bridge, largely used by those who came into town by way of the Durham Road.] and to erect a mill at what still is known as "Sutton's Hollow."

The mill was of logs and of modest dimensions. The required pair of mill stones were in due time landed on the beach, but before they were removed a storm sprang up. The loose sand on which the stones lay was quickly washed from beneath them by the heavy surf, or else transformed thereby into the nature of quicksand, and the stones were "drowned," to use the expressive phrase of an old settler, as he described their disappearance.

This serious disaster was productive of delay, but did not diminish the efforts of Mr. Sutton, who purchased another pair of stones, and in 1852 had the first grist mill in the county in operation. Settlers who before had taken their grists to Durham or Port Albert were now able to dispense with such long journeys.

Being, however, the only mill in the county, many a pioneer found he had a long and weary distance to cover before he could get his grist to "Sutton's Mill." It is related of such that while waiting for their grists to be finished they would light a hot fire on one of the large boulders near by, and when this was sufficiently heated, on it they would bake a cake, made from their newly ground flour and water crudely mixed. Unleavened and unseasoned such a cake certainly was, but to a hungry backwoodsman, tasting the initial harvest of his bush farm, it was delicious.

Mr. Sutton, after running this mill for several years, built, in 1854, a much larger frame one, and in a few years later one of still greater capacity, which he continued to operate as long as he was in the milling business.

There is no longer a grist mill at Sutton's Hollow and I'm not sure if anyone calls it Sutton's Hollow anymore but it was still called this in 1995. I went to have a look on my visit to Kincardine in June 2014 but it felt too dangerous to climb down to the hollow. There is a modern day bridge over the hollow with the following sign:

On the other side of the river there is a water tower that can be seen for miles:

Here is a photograph of William from the same book:

and here is one of his wife, Sarah Keyworth, which I acquired from the Sedbergh and District History Society, donated to them by a descendent, Keith Sutton:

From 1862 to 1865, William Sutton was the Reeve of Kincardine. Reeve is the presiding officer of a village or town council. William Sutton is clearly acknowledged by various sources as playing an important role in the early days of Kincardine. In modern day Kincardine there are two streets named after him: Sutton Street and William Street, as well as an area called Williamsburg. Here is the reference to this area being called Williamsburg, again taken from History of the County of Bruce, Ontario, Norman Robertson, p.445:

Penetangore, as originally surveyed, had as its northerly limit the range of lots lying on the north side of Durham Street. All of that part of the town now known as Williamsburg has been added by a subdivision of lots 12 to 15 of the Lake Range in the township of Kincardine. The name Williamsburg was given by William Sutton, who had these farm lots surveyed into town lots.1

1This survey was made by John Denison, P.L.S., in June, 1855, and June, 1856. The Crown patent for lots 12 and 13, Lake Range, was issued to William Sutton ; for lot 14 to his nephew, Richard Sutton, and for lot 15 to John Monilaus. One George Moffat squatted on the lots afterwards held by William Sutton, and in 1849 he offered to sell his claim for $8 to Robert Rowan, who declined the offer. William Sutton probably purchased from George Moffat his squatter's claim.

Here is a photograph outside of the old school in Williamsburg:

Here are the signs for William Street and Sutton Street, as well as a shopping mall:

Here is a picture of Kincardine Harbour in 1878 from History of the County of Bruce, Ontario, Town of Kincardine:

When we visited Walker House we saw a photograph of a William Sutton; is it our William Sutton? We know that in early photographs the image is usually a mirror image, reversed left to right from reality. This was a possible issue here, so I have flipped one of the photographs. Here they are. When I first saw the photograph in Walker House I didn't think it was our William, but now I think it is. What do you think?

Walkerton (1867-1892)

In January 1867 William Sutton was appointed the first Sheriff of Bruce County. He purchased Lot 25 with a house. Sadly, this house was pulled down in 1992 to make way for a car dealership, but here is a photograph and extract from The History of the Township of Brant, 1854-1979 edited by Laura M. Gateman, 1979, Pg. 469 - 471:

The large white house of stone construction and stucco finish, is located on Lot 25, Con. 3 SDR, Brant Township on the southern outskirts of Walkerton.

In 1860, Lot 25 was deeded from the Crown to James Burrison. A short time later this property was purchased by John McDonald of Goderich. Mr. McDonald had been appointed the Sheriff for the United Counties of Huron and Bruce, and the building constructed on the property served as the first jail and Sheriffs offices in Bruce County. This continued until the Bruce County Buildings, Court House and Jail were erected in Walkerton.

In December 1866, the two Counties separated and in January 1867, Bruce County Council appointed William Sutton as County Sheriff, a position he held until 1892. William Sutton came to Kincardine in 1850. He was Reeve of Kincardine and took a notable part in the settlement of the county town question. On his appointment as Sheriff, he moved to Brant Township, purchased Lot 25, where he and his family lived for many years.

The house had a large basement, which was the lock-up, with cells, including a windowless solitary confinement room. All the basement windows were strongly barred and there was no outside entrance, only a narrow inside stairs from the main floor. The living quarters were at the rear in a one and a half storey wing, with its own stairs.

The main house, on the first floor, had four large rooms, and a wide open stairway led to the six rooms on the second floor. Both the downstairs and upstairs halls were at least six feet wide, and the ceilings were ten feet high. The two chimneys on the main house, were built from the basement up, and accommodated the four fireplaces on the first floor and the four heaters in the basement.

Apparently the front rooms were used by the Sheriff and staff offices. In those days, the Sheriff seemed to have a great deal more power and responsibility than now. Sheriff Sutton was relieved of his duties in 1892, and in 1894 the property was turned over to Richard Sutton for $1.00. In 1903, Richard Sutton sold it to John Bilger, who sold it to J. G. Lambertus in 1917.

In 1942 the present owners, Mr. & Mrs. J.P. Johnstone of Brant Township, acquired the house and land. The Johnstone family lived there for several years, using the whole house, with its eight bedrooms, kitchen, dining room, den and two living rooms. Very few structural changes were made, just the addition of bathrooms, and a central heating system.

During these years, J.P. Johnstone was in politics, and the big white house had numerous notables pass through its doors. When the Johnstones moved out of the house, it was converted into the present Johnstone Apartments. Three fireplaces still remain, and much of the old cell area has not been changed. The bars are still there, much to the dismay of a tenant who wished to store wood in the basement for her fireplace."

In 1867 the new jail and courthouse were built:

Here is an extract from "The Scrapbook of Reflections by the Cordwainer Memories", Lloyd Cartwright, 1995:

And here is an extract from Doors Open, Walkerton, 2014:

Walkerton (Bruce County) Jail Jackson Street between Cayley and Jane Streets, Walkerton. Built in 1866, just before Confederation, the Walkerton (Bruce County) Jail is part of a complex which includes a courthouse and registry office. This solid stone building cost $14,670 to build. Walkerton has been identified in Ripley's Believe or Not as the only town with a jail in the middle and a church located on each of its four corners. The most famous hanging that took place here was perhaps that of convicted murderer, John Haag, in 1868. He survived his hanging because of a conspiracy between his doctor and the hangman. They rigged a false noose and a special harness that took the weight off his neck. According to the story, the casket was taken to the cemetery, where Haag jumped out and rocks were buried instead. He escaped to the US but was later spotted by the very judge who sentenced him to hang.

William and his family are probably still in the same house in the 1871 census. William is 44 and is now down as being an Episcopalian with his occupation as sheriff. Sarah is 39, William John is 12 Sarah Ellen is 10. They have now been joined by several other siblings: James Edward who is 8; Mary Louisa, 4; Richard, 2; and Fanny who is 8 months. Sarah's widowed mother, Sarah Keyworth, aged 68, is also living with them. Here is a photograph of the children probably taken around this time:

William John (1859-1914) back row seated; front left, Richard Keyworth Sutton (1868-1940); baby Fannie Keyworth Sutton (1870-1921); to her right at front, Mary Louisa Sutton (1866-1940); behind her, Sarah Ellen Sutton (1860-1949), far right, James Edward Sutton (1862-1935). My thanks to Keith Sutton for the photographs.

Here is an old photograph of the main street in Walkerton in 1878 from History of the County of Bruce, Ontario:

William was Sheriff of Bruce County for 25 years but was sacked in 1892. It is quite clear something happened to make county officials get rid of him. Various bits of evidence imply that he had become corrupted. Unfortunately there are no local newspapers (Walkerton) from this time - it seems that when the local newspaper was taken over the new owner burnt all the previous editions!

We learn more about it from History of the County of Bruce, Ontario, by Norman Robertson. Here is an extract from the section, Thriving and Progressing:

On November 29th, 1891, an old servant of the county, Samuel Roether, died, the vacancy caused by his death resulting in a scramble for the position. It seems that the gaolership has anomalous features: the sheriff appoints the official, the government confirms the appointment, while the County Council fixes the salary and pays the greater part of it. The first appointment made by Sheriff Sutton was Geo. A. Henry, of Port Elgin, of which appointment the government did not approve; neither did it of H. B. McKay, of Walkerton, the sheriff's second appointment, political interests and influences being the cause of the delay in filling the post. The man the politicians at first wished to have made gaoler the sheriff refused to consider.

The upshot of the controversy, which became intense, was evidently a determination to change the sheriff. In the summer of 1892 Aemilius Irving, Q.C., was directed by the government to hold an investigation in the matter of some charges made against Mr. Sutton in his official capacity. On the receipt of the report of this investigation, in which some of the charges were sustained, Mr. Sutton was asked to resign. This he would not do, so he was dismissed, and on November 5th, 1892, Frederick S. O'Connor (a brother of the member for South Bruce) was gazetted as sheriff of the county, and a week later the office of gaoler was given to Donald McKechnie, on the recommendation of the new sheriff. Nothing but the highest commendation can be uttered of these two appointees, who proved capable and well qualified for their respective posts.

When I was in Canada in July 2014 my sister, Sue, brother-in-law Martin and myself visited the archive at Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre and the archivist, Deb Sturdevant and volunteer, Marilyn, were extremely helpful. We spent a few hours there and got quite a bit of information including the following:

I cannot find any references to a further investigation.

Mystery Solved?

Thanks to Stephen Wood of Bruce County Public Library I found an on-line search facility Index of Historical Victoria Newspapers, Victoria's Victoria, 2007; we need to thank Leona Taylor and Dorothy Mindenhall for the index.

This is what it said in the Daily Colonist, 11th March 1896:

Died at Victoria, British Columbia, Mar 10, 1896 at his residence, 135 Michigan St, Victoria BC, William Sutton, ex-Sheriff of Bruce Co, Ontario, Native of Dent, Yorkshire, England, aged 68. William Sutton, resident of British Columbia for the past 20 years, died on Tues in this city. He was well known, especially in connection with the lumber business, having built the Cowichan mills and operated them for some years. He also built a mill at Euculet, and with his son had large timber limits there. He was a Native of Dent, Yorkshire England, but went to Bruce, Ontario, where he became sheriff of the Co before he came to British Columbia. He leaves a widow, 3 sons and 3 daughters. The funeral takes place from the family residence, Michigan St. Pallbearers: W A Robertson, W Clark, G A Huff, MPP, A Macleod, M B Hamlin, D Fraser.

Did you notice the obituary said William Sutton had been a resident of British Columbia for the past 20 years? How can he have been a resident in British Columbia when he was the Sheriff of Bruce County and he didn't leave that post until 1892?

I have done a search of The Daily Colonist, also known as The Daily British Colonist, Victoria, British Columbia and it seems that William spent a lot of time in British Columbia. In fact, the newspaper says on 29th May 1875, "William Sutton, Esq, Sheriff of Bruce Co, Ontario, arrived on the North Pacific on Thurs. We learn that Mr Sutton contemplates taking up his residence in British Columbia."

I do believe we may have found the scandal: It seems that William Sutton, whilst being Sheriff of Bruce County, was also spending a lot of time at the other end of the country setting up new businesses; indeed, I have found several references in The Colonist which shows that he was in British Columbia in 1877, 1878, 1880, 1883, 1885, 1886 and 1887. How on earth could he be doing his job as Sheriff properly if for significant amounts of time he was in British Columbia?

After searching through several on-line newspapers I have managed to find the following references.

Acton Free Press (AC, ONTARIO), 26th May 1892:

Charges Against the Sheriff of Bruce. PORT ELGIN, May 20th, 1892. Mr Aemillias Irving, Q.C., has been appointed a commissioner to enquire into charges preferred against Sheriff Sutton of the County of Bruce. One of these is that Sutton has been in the habit of leaving his office for months at a time without leave of absence.

The Daily Colonist, 12th July 1892:

Charges Sustained WALKERTON, July 11th, In the charges brought against Sheriff Sutton, of Bruce Co., the investigation has been concluded, and the report to the Government is that they have been sustained.

Newmarket Era, July 15th 1892:

The commissioners appointed to enquire into certain charges of irregularity against Sheriff Sutton, of Walkerton, have concluded their labors. Press despatches state that the commissioners held that the charges had been sufficiently sustained to require them to report the irregularities to the Government.

Northern Advance, 20th October 1892


Mr Mowat has been determined to lop off the head of the Sheriff of Bruce. So far as we can learn Mr. Sutton, has not been preaching annexation - like Myers of Orangeville, but has been simply independent enough to refuse to appoint to the position of gaoler, a nominee of Mr. O'Connor, a thick and thin supporter of Mr. Mowat in the Local Legislature. Whatever difficulty there may be in Mr. Sutton's office on which Mr. Mowat demands his resignation, we do not know, but it is generally believed that the step is simply one in the centralization policy of the little premier. Every petty office whose occupant can be made to aid in keeping Mr. Mowat in power in spite of the untrammelled voters of Ontario, is being siezed and utilized as an additional wheel in the political machine. Mr. Mowat thus becomes perpetual provincial autocrat, and his "wicked partners" have a life lease of office and the substantial benefits of the provincial money chest. The unfortunate feature of this is that the average Grit voter is quite content because it is called Reform.

The Daily Colonist, 27th October 1892, tells us that "Sheriff W. Sutton, of Bruce County, whose dispute with the Ontario Government has furnished many newspaper articles of late, is visiting relatives in Victoria."

There you have it: looks like a combination of political intrigue and William Sutton spending too much time away from the job whilst, probably, still receiving his salary.

William seems to have cut his losses and moved to Euculet, British Columbia, where, in 1893, he set up a new company, The Sutton Lumber and Trading Co. William hadn't been there very long, perhaps three years, before he died on 10th March 1896 in Victoria at the age of 68 years.

Here is an overview of William's life taken from History of the County of Bruce, Ontario, Town of Kincardine, Norman Robertson:

Wm. Sutton was born in Yorkshire, 29th February, 1828, and at an early age he learnt the business of a saddler. He came to Kincardine in 1850. His enterprising, energetic character gave him a prominent position in the settlement, a prominence retained during the forty-three years of his residence in the county. He was reeve of Kincardine from 1862 to 1865, and took a notable part in the settlement of the county town question. On the separation of Huron and Bruce he received the appointment of sheriff of the latter county, which office he held until 1892.

In 1873 he became interested in lumbering in British Columbia and made money, but lost heavily through agents in Australia, to whom he had shipped the produce of his mills.

In 1893 he formed a new company, called " The Sutton Lumber and Trading Co.," of Euculet, B.C., which he was conducting at the time of his death, which occurred March 10th, 1896, at Victoria, B.C. In 1852 he married Sarah, daughter of John Keyworth. His widow (who died in 1905) and six children survived him.

Having discovered William's 'second' life, we now have to look at what he was up to in British Columbia.

Logging at Cowichan Bay (1875-1889)

On 12th June 1875, the paper says, "Sheriff Sutton, accompanied by Mr W A Robertson, MPP, and a party of surveyors, went up the Cowichan River yesterday to locate Mr Sutton's 20,000 acres of timber land. Logs are to come down the river and a steam sawmill to be built near the mouth. Success to the enterprise."

On 27th June 1875, the same newspaper says, "SS Pacific brought the machinery for a new steam sawmill to be erected at some point on the Island (probably mouth of Cowichan River) by Sheriff Sutton, of Bruce Co, Ontario, who is now engaged in 'prospecting' for timber. The machinery was made at the Guelph Iron Works."

On 8th August 1875, the following appears, "Mr Sutton, who recently arrived in British Columbia from Canada with the machinery for a sawmill of 150hp, sailed last evening in the SS Vasco de Gama for home [Bruce Co, Ontario]. The intention of Mr Sutton was to have proceeded 2 months ago with the construction of a sawmill; but we believe he has been as yet unable to make satisfactory arrangements with the local government, and has stored the machinery for this year at least."

There were clearly delays. The mill was not built until three years later: The Colonist, 26th March 1878 says, "Two carpenters and a millwright will leave this week for Cowichan, to erect Sutton & Co's mill at Mahoney's Bay, Cowichan."

On 24th July 1878 we learn from The Colonist, that the "Schooner Juanita, for mill supplies, arrived from Cowichan Bay yesterday. Mr Sutton came in Schooner and reports the frame of the mill buildings almost ready for raising. About 20 men are at work there."

The Daily Colonist, 14th May 1878, tels us, Mr. Sutton, a Canadian capitalist, imported a sawmill in 1874 and spent two years trying to induce Walkem and Co to grant him timberland in Cowichan District. They refused. When the Elliott government came into office they granted Mr. Sutton's reasonable request and the mill is being erected at Cowichan Bay. In a few months this industry will employ a large number of workmen who will furnish a ready market for the farming produce of the District. So much for a policy of Progress.

The sawmill was clearly in full swing by 27th May 1879 as The Colonist says, "The steamer Leonora will leave here at 3 o'clock this morning for Cowichan to tow a boom of logs from Mr. W.A. Robertson's logging camp to Sutton and Co's mill. Thence she will proceed with a boom of piles in tow for the wharf of the South Wellington colliery."

John F.T. Saywell's Kaatza-The Chronicles of Cowichan Lake, 1967, provides the history of Cowichan area. In Chapter Three: Pioneer logging, Saywell tells us the first logging lease at Cowichan Lake was granted to Mr. William Sutton from Kincardine, Ontario, sheriff of Bruce County. It seems the lease was originally going to go to William Archibald Robertson but it was probably offered to William Sutton because the other William could not meet the requirements of building a sawmill, whilst William Sutton had money to invest.

Saywell tells us William Archibald Robertson suggested the timber lease to William Sutton when he heard he was looking for some attractive speculation. They agreed Robertson would "cruise it and use his influence to obtain the lease" while Sutton put up the finances and carried out the terms of the lease. Saywell quotes the following from the Provincial Archives:

In 1878 Mr. Wm. Sutton, who was Sheriff of Bruce County, Ontario, made application for a timber lease at Cowichan Lake (B. C.) and on January 9, 1879, was granted 7,069 acres. To hold this lease he had to erect a mill, which he did at (nearby) Genoa Bay. The lease contained a clause that settlers were allowed to locate on the lease, and that if the timber was not taken off in 20 years it became the property of the settlers. Later a great portion of this lease was surveyed and sold to Mr. Sutton outright, crown grants being issued for it.

The building of Sutton mill at Genoa Bay went ahead but for some reason Robertson pulled out of the agreement. Saywell notes that in securing the site at Genoa Bay, Sutton experienced difficulties with the 'Indians who claimed that it was their "Illahie: (land) and objected strongly to the white man's encroachment.' Saywell then says that, with diplomacy, Sutton gave each ranch a community present of a two-wheeled dumpcart which created a "kloosh tum tum," or good feeling resulting in everything being settled amicably.

A W.P. Jaynes came with the Suttons and he was tallyman at the mill when it opened. Saywell tells us there were five Suttons, William the father and his three sons, James (Edward), William (John) and Richard (Keyworth), as well as their cousin, Alfred (who is later shot and killed in an apparent accident, see Richard Sutton).

Saywell goes on to say that Alfred's wife, Margaret Alexander, was, for some time, the only white woman at Genoa Bay and was probably the first white woman to go up to Cowichan Lake. It seems that William Sutton (senior) was well known in the area because he held extensive timber holdings at both Cowichan Lake and in South Cowichan.

I get the impression that Saywell wasn't keen on the Suttons, not least because he gives a brief biological sketch of the Robertson family and the Sutton family: the Robertson's appear above reproach whilst there seem to be innuendoes about the Suttons. He says that they 'never really logged' at Lake Cowichan.

For their first operation at Koksilah River, Saywell tells us, William Curren was the logger and John Burke the ox-teamster or "bull puncher." We are told that the Suttons moved from Koksilah to Sutton Creek on the south side of Cowichan River.

Here is a photograph of Sutton Creek Valley from a

Land Reserve Commission
report of 2002. Saywell continues,

The trail to the new camp ran from near Kiksilah station up past the old Keating property through Glenora and past William's place. The campsite was about twelve miles from Duncan around "River Bottom". Later the road crossed to the north bank of the river at the foot of the canyon, then turned up what is now called Ripp's Road.

In 1885 Sutton built a camp near where Charlie March now lives and prepared to start a logging operation. Margaret Sutton (Alfred's wife) cooked for a while here. However, the Genoa Bay mill was closed down and later in 1887 was sold to Hewitt and McIntyre.

Saywell says that Angus Fraser was, as early as 1882, logging for the Sutton Brothers. Here is a wonderful photograph from Saywell's book:

Saywell actually got the date wrong when Genoa Bay mill was sold to Hewitt and McIntyre, it was 1889. He also got the spelling of the name wrong, it was Hughitt.

Sutton Lumber and Trading Co

Here is an advertisement from The Colonist:

On 23rd June 1893 we learn from The Colonist that "Messrs W J, William and J E Sutton are named as the first trustees of Sutton Lumber and Trading Co of Euculet, whose incorporation with a capital of $100,000 has just been announced."

There is a substantial piece in the local newspaper, 11th September 1895

A complete electric plant in operation in the immense forest of West Coast will before many days be one of the wonders of British Columbia, and this new application of electricity bids fair to prove equally in its financial results. The plant has for several months been in course of manufacture and preparation in this city, and the last consignment of it formed an important part of the freight carried by Maude, which left for West Coast last evening. Among her passengers were the party of men who will erect the plant, under the skillful direction of Mr C G Cunningham, of the firm of Hinton & Cunningham, constructing electricians, of this city. It is to be established on the limits of William Sutton, in Euculet district, Barclay Sound.

The greatest difficulty which the lumbermen of British Columbia have to contend with, is that of transporting the immense trees, after they have been felled, to the water, for once afloat it is a comparatively simple matter to handle even the greatest of these giants. Dependence has had to be placed hitherto on teams of mules or horses or on steam power, when the services of a portable engine could be brought into use, and in the Barclay Sound region it has been a source of great trouble and expense to transport and operate even the portable engines. Now these are to give way to electric motors, which will be run by the unlimited water power adjacent, the motors being easily moveable and the task of stringing the wires to conduct the electric current being simplicity itself.

Where this modern improvement is to be introduced a canal has already been dug for a considerable distance through the limits, and by the application of electric power the logs will in a few minutes be drawn from where they have fallen along skids to the waterway. The immense stock of timber which can be cut from a comparatively limited area makes works of this nature of more than transient utility and encourages such enterprise as has been shown in this instance. It is not at all improbably that Mr Sutton's example will be followed in other limits.

William died in 1896, but the Company went on under the control of the Suttons until they sold out in 1902:

A history of the Sutton Lumber and Trading Co can be found in the Judgements of the Supreme Court of Canada. This tells us that in 1902 the Seattle Cedar Lumber Manufacturing Company acquired the share interest of the members of the Sutton family.

But the name Sutton Lumber and Trading Company was mentioned as recently as 1995 and again in 2000:

In 1995 there were attempts to begin logging again on Meare's Island, as noted on The Globe and Mail:

A lawyer representing opponents of MacMillan Bloedel's plans to log Meares Island told a B.C. Supreme Court hearing this week that the company's right to harvest timber on the island expired six decades ago.

Lawyer Richard Gathercole, representing protesters who blocked logging crews from landing on Meares Island in November, acknowledged that in 1905 the Sutton Lumber and Trading Co. secured a 21-year lease to log the area.

But he said the company failed to renew the lease when it expired in 1926 and was therefore "null and void" when MacMillan Bloedel purchased Sutton Lumber.

Paul Rosenberg, lawyer for the Clayoquot and Ahousat Indian bands, said logging on Meares Island would be a violation of the "aboriginal title" held by local first nations that have occupied the land continuously for "thousands of years." Earlier, lawyers for MacMillan Bloedel warned the court that a prohibition on logging Meares Island could spark similar lawsuits across the province and lead to significant job losses.

The ruins of the old saw mill are still standing, as the following quote from Hansard, Volume 19, number 11, May 9th 2000 shows:

I think the minister will understand that when you expand the limitation period this way, there's a range of implications for private landowners. I remember -- sorry to personalize this -- that ten years ago I had the opportunity one summer to spend the weekend in Clayoquot Sound and in fact to wander around Meares Island. As the minister may know, there was a sawmill on Meares Island in the last decade of the nineteenth century -- a fact which I always thought was interesting, given that Meares Island was usually considered by the public to be a pristine wilderness. What remains of that sawmill even yet on Meares Island made me think that all across the province people have wandered, invested, built, constructed, demolished and abandoned activity in relation to the land -- which may have had an impact on heritage conservation sites. Heck, I mean, the Sutton Lumber and Trading Co. sawmill remains themselves may be a heritage site which ought not to be defaced or desecrated.

Here is an old glass plate photograph of Sutton Timber and Trading Company at Mosquito Harbour, Meares Island, taken by Rev Stone and passed onto me by local historian, Ken Gibson, it was taken in about 1902 which is when the Suttons gave up controlling shares in the company:

Here is a photograph of a ship in Mosquito Harbour:

And here is another old photograph of the Sutton sawmill taken in 1907, the new buildings were erected in 1905. Tofino Photography, which includes other, old, photographs of the mill.

Here is a photograph of Sutton Mill Creek, a tributary of Mosquito Harbour, Meares Island, British Columbia Tofino Photography,

Ken Gibson tells me that between 30-50 Chinese workers lived in the woods behind the mill whilst the elite lived on the hill behind the mill with Sutton Creek in their backyard.

In 1907 disaster struck the Sutton Lumber and Trading Company when they lost nearly a year's cut of cedar trees due to infestation by teredoes, a salt-water clam that burrows into wood. The dock at the company collapsed as a result of teredoes. I believe the company ceased trading after this (so it was lucky the Suttons sold out before this happened!)

Sarah Sutton (nee Keyworth)

William's wife, Sarah, outlived him by nine years. In the 1901 census she is still living at 135 Michigan Street, Victoria with her daughter, Fannie, who is 30 and single; Sarah's grand daughter, Gertrude aged 6 is also living there. I assume this is James Edward and his wife Ada's daughter, even though she is also listed as being with her parents in another part of British Columbia, Port Albernie, some 195 km from Victoria. James and Ada have three other young children living with them so this seems likely. Perhaps Gertrude is living with her grandma so that she can go to school in Victoria?

Sarah dies at the age of 71 years on 5th October 1905 in Victoria. Here is a photograph of their house taken from Victoria Heritage Foundation.

It is from this website we learn that Sarah had been ailing for some time and whilst her family was upstairs, she hung herself in the cellar; I call that courageous!

William's Descendants

This is what happened to William and Sarah's descendants: Other Sutton family trees include three other children who all appeared to die when they were very young: Emma (1853-?); Albert (1855-1856); and Edwin (1857-1857). However I have not been able to find any information.

William John Sutton (1859-1914)

Sarah Ellen Sutton (1860-1949)

On 8th July 1891 at St Thomas' Walkerton, at the age of 30 years, Sarah Ellen married the Reverend Fred Helling Fatt, a widower who originally came from London, England.

St Thomas Anglican Church sits on the corner of Colborne and Jane Street in Walkerton, Ontario and is the oldest church in Bruce County. Built in about 1865. The parish registers are held in the Diocese of Huron Archives at Huron College in London, Ontario. The archives are only open to the public on Tuesdays and there is a $25 research fee. It is recommended that you book an appointment beforehand.

See Pierssene Family Blog for more information on the Fatt family.

In 1901 Sarah, Fred and the first three of their four children, were living in Burlington Village, Halton, Ontario. William Maberly, their eldest, was 8, Fred Philip 3 and Norman Bertram was 1.

On 5th September 1907 Sarah, Fred and their three youngest children, Fred, Norman and Edward John who had been born in 1901, arrived in San Francisco.

By 1921 Sarah Ellen, Fred and family were back in British Columbia, living in Penticton. We know this because her sister, Fannie, died whilst visiting them.

Fred Helling died on 26th January 1930 in Victoria, British Columbia.

In 1940 Sarah Ellen was living at 344 Simcoe Street, Victoria. She died on 22nd September 1949 at the grand age of 88. This is what happened to their children:

William Maberly Fatt (1892-1917)

William married Marjorie Hannah Sales on May 17th 1911. They had two children, Margaret born in 1911 and Constance 1913.

In 1914 when William joined the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force, the family lived at 1528 Foul Bay Road, Victoria. William was a printer. He already had three years experience in the army.

He had served in France before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps.

Here is a write up from The Colonist, 5th January 1917:

William was killed in an aircraft accident, at Wallsend, Northumberland; the machine burnt in the air. He is buried at Croydon Cemetery, grave number 9210.

Aberdeen Press and Journal - Monday 08 January 1917


An inquest was held at Wallsend on Saturday on Lieut. W. Mabberley (sic) Fatt (24), married, who was killed in an aeroplane accident on Thursday. Witnesses stated that the deceased was flying at a great height, and descended slowly. When within 100 feet of the ground the machine dashed down and caught fire. Deceased's body was badly burned. Witnesses thought deceased was in difficulties in a strong wind and tried to alight.

Captain H. Higgin, R.F.C., said the deceased was in a new machine, but it was impossible to say what occurred. A control wire or strap might have broken which would have caused deceased to lose control.

A verdict was returned that death was due to burns, but that there was no definite evidence to show what caused the machine to fall.

Frederick Philip Fatt (1897-1983)

According to another family tree, Fred married Violet Georgina L. Swettenham on 6th May 1945. He was 47 and she was 45. Violet was born in Wales but had done a lot of travelling, having been to Canada, then Argentina, back to England then out to Canada again. Again, according to another family tree, as I cannot find any records, Violet died in 1968 in Victoria, British Columbia. In 1972, Fred was living at 511 Charles Street, Victoria and was retired. He died on 30th April 1983 in Victoria at the age of 85 years.

Norman Bertram Fatt (1900-2005)

We don't know a lot about Norman. He married Frances M. Lloyd Young on 27th February 1927 in Victoria. We do know that Norman bred Belgian hares, Flemish Giants and New Zealand Reds and was a member of the British Columbia Rabit-Breeders Association. He lived at 344 Simcoe Street, Victoria.

He lived in Victoria most of his life and he died at the grand old age of 105 years! It seems Norman left some money to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of British Columbia and Yukon.

Edward John Fatt (1901-?)

We know even less about Edward John, apart from the fact that he married Lilian Mary Pritchett in Victoria on 17th October 1928.

James Edward Sutton (1862-1935)

Mary Louisa Sutton (1866-1940)

On 24th December 1889, Mary Louisa married James Grey in Bruce. James, who was born in Scotland, was a teacher. They had two children, Clarise Mary (1891-1987) and Jessie (1904-?). James died in 1904.

On the death of her husband it looks like Mary Louisa and her children moved to Victoria. In the 1911 census they are living at 534 Simeon Street, Victoria. Mary Louise is 44, Clarise is 20 and Jessie is 7. They have a lodger, Anoys, W. Cameron who is 27. Mary Louisa's sister, Fannie, is living at 544.

Mary Louisa died on 16th April 1940 in Victoria, she was 73 years old.

It looks like Clarise Mary stayed single. It is possible she was a secretary. She died on 16th April 1940 in Victoria at the age of 73.

I'm not sure what happened to Jessie.

Richard Keyworth Sutton (1868-1940)

Richard married Annie J. Stubbs on 6th December 1893 in Lambton, Ontario. They had five children, all of whom were born in Bruce County. In 1911 they lived in Bill Street, Walkerton. The family were still living in Walkerton in 1921 when Richard Keyworth was a caretaker. He died in Walkerton on July 20th 1940 aged 71. So it looks like Richard Keyworth Sutton stayed in Walkerton. Here is what is known about the children:

William Richard Sutton (1895-1971)

William Richard was born on 27th January 1895. In 1911 he is living in Bill Street, Walkerton, with his parents. On 6th May 1918 he joins up, he was living at 258 Dufferin Street, Toronto. He was single, a methodist and his employment was as a tool maker. Here is an extract from his joining up papers:

William Richard married Ruth H, probably in 1920; in 1921 they are living in Windsor, they have one son, Edward aged 1. On 7th September 1926 William Richard, at the age of 31 years and 6 months, moved from Windsor, Ontario to Detroit, Michigan. In 1930, Willliam Richard, Ruth and their three children, Edward W aged 10, Robert W 8, and Frederick R 6, lived in Redford Wayne, Michigan. William Richard died in 1971 at the age of 76; his wife Ruth died in 1969. Edward married Doris; he died in 1994 whilst his wife died in 2004. Robert W. married Helen; he died in 1991 a year after his wife. Frederick married and had eight children, seven of whom are still alive, Kathleen Mary Sutton was born in 1954 and died in 2011. Frederick died on 23rd March 1985 in Wardsville, Ontario. His wife is still alive.

Charles K. Sutton (1896-?)

Charles enlised on 23rd August 1915 with the 32nd Bruce Regiment:

He was clearly posted to England where he met his first wife, Isabel Maria Isaac. They were married in Bromley, Kent on 4th August 1919. In 1921, Charles and Isabella were living in Walkerton, his brother, Keyworth was living with them. Charles arrived in Detroit on 13th June 1923 to stay with a Roomer Brightman (my guess is that they became friends during the war). Isabella arrived in July 1923. She died in 1927 at Redford, Wayne County:

In 1929 Charles married Mima; I am not sure what happened after this, whether they had any children or when they died.

Edwin Albert Sutton (1898-1918) Edwin died from heart disease on 26th May 1918 in Walkerton. He was 19 years old.

Keyworth Matthew Sutton (1902-1954)

Keyworth married Ivy Emma Hines in Grey, Ontario on 6th June 1923. They moved to Detroit, Michigan, inn 1923 where they were living with their two children in 1930. At some point they came back to Canada as Keyworth died in 1954 in Windsor. Ivy died in 1957. Their two children are Richard Keyworth Sutton (1924-2012):

and Herbert Sutton (1924-?).

Gladys May Sutton (1904-1994)

Gladys married Frederick Arthur Fraser and had five children, four girls and one boy.

Fannie Keyworth Sutton (1870-1921)

We know little about Fannie. She didn't marry. She was living with her widowed mother in 1901 and in 1911 she was living at 544 Simeon Street, Victoria, just up the road from her widowed sister, Mary Louisa. Elizabeth Gribble, who was living with the family in 1901 as a domestic is still living with Fannie and is down as domestic. It is possible Fannie was a secretary. She died in on 22 April 1921 aged 50 years in Penticton, British Columbia, whilst visiting her sister, Sarah Ellen Fatt. Here is the Sutton grave in Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria. It was taken by local historian Leona Taylor who tells me that it is a double plot which contains William and Sarah and their daughter, Fannie: