Patrick Kelly was a key builder of Early Blyth
Reprinted from The Brussels Post, Morris Township 125th Anniversary edition, 1981
A famous Morris township settler was Patrick Kelly who became reeve of both Blyth and Morris and was influential in having the London, Huron and Bruce railway come through all the way to Blyth and Wingham.
According to a story in the centennial issue of The Blyth Standard, Kelly had developed a large export trade from the lumber business but had encountered the problem of transportation. He had to haul the lumber by horse and wagon 11 miles to Clinton, the nearest railway station where it was shipped via the Grand Trunk Railway to the Atlantic Seaboard.
But competition and the cost of transportation soon became too steep and to Pat Kelly the solution to the problem was a railway.
He approached the Grand Trunk Railway, but they turned him down so he went to the Great Western Company in Hamilton which had recently built a railway through London to Sarnia. Apparently impressed by the arguments of the value of goods to be shipped from the country such as firewood, tan bark, sheep and cattle for the Buffalo market and flour, the officials urged him to go back to Huron and arrange for subsidies from the various municipalities to help build the road.
The building of a railway in those days meant a great deal as to whether the community prospered or faded away so most municipal councillors were more than happy to pay a subsidy for a railway to come through their town or township.
The going rate of most of the northern municipalities along the route for the “Butter and Eggs Special” as it was called or the London, Huron and Bruce railway was $25,000.
Originally the railway was to run only to Blyth, but further subsidies were raised from the townships of East Wawanosh and Morris and from the village of Wingham to pay for the extension to Wingham.
On December 11, 1875, the first scheduled trip from Wingham to London was made along the line and service was begun.
Reeves and councillors from municipalities all along the line were on that first train. They were taken to London where a banquet was held to mark the opening of the line, London Mayor Benjamin Cronyn was chairman for the banquet for 600 held at the Tecumseh House. Among the principal speakers was Pat Kelly.
A sketch from the Clinton News-Era and reprinted in the February 23, 1894 issue of The Brussels Post describes Patrick Kelly with more than a little admiration.
“Death has removed another of Huron’s pioneers in the person of Patrick Kelly of Blyth. Probably there has not been a more prominent or progressive citizen in making the splendid history of the past than the subject of this brief sketch:
“The late Patrick Kelly was born in Tipperary County, Ireland in 1832, being the eldest of the family. Along with his parents he immigrated to this country in 1847, settling in the township of Fitzroy near Ottawa. Six years later, the family moved to the Township of Morris where the present comfortable homes were hewn out.
“The deceased was man of great nerve, indomitable pluck and courage and passed through all the hardships incident to pioneer life. His long active and honourable career from the logging field to the comfortable farm from the farm to the village and business, from municipal to Provincial and Dominion politics made his name a respected household word extending far beyond the County of Huron.
“For over 17 years, he was reeve of Morris and Blyth and was held in the highest esteem by his fellow workers in the County Council. He was for the usual term Warden of Huron and contested West Huron against the Hon. A. M. Ross. He was an important factor in securing the London, Huron and Bruce railway through this section. He was a thorough businessman and for many years carried on extensive lumber and flour mills in Blyth. The village owes much to the deceased for its present standing and prosperity. He was one of the principal promoters in securing fire protection and electric light for the village.”
The obituary describes Mr. Kelly’s politics – “a staunch Conservative” and his very large funeral” the largest ever seen probably in the County of Huron.
“The remains were conveyed from the late residence to the Roman Catholic Church, the immense and solemn cortege being headed by the Blyth Brass Band, playing the “Dead March in Saul.”
“After the usual service, the imposing procession reformed, headed by the band marched to the Morris cemetery. At the school, the band opened order and the great gathering passed on.
“The remains were deposited in the last and silent resting place in the family burying ground, while many a silent tear dropped.”