A look back at chimney sweeping in Old Barrie, a dangerous, dirty and difficult job to do, not to mention low wages and underestimated
It took a tough customer to be a chimney sweep in Barrie in the city’s early years, when every building was heated by some sort of combustible material.
In general, the sweepers wore several hats at the same time and quite often acted simultaneously as the police officer and the keeper of the pound.
Charles Henry was one of the first. He was appointed in October 1870 by city council and was required by law to clean every chimney or flue in the municipality at least once a year at the owner’s expense.
Within a few years, the city was again without a bang. Since the work was dangerous, dirty and difficult to perform, while being poorly paid and underrated, it was no wonder that few people clung to it for very long.
In the latter part of the 1870s the post was elevated to the new title of Chimney Inspector. Nevertheless, Robert Bradford, the man appointed, still carried out his duties with long brushes and sticks in the dirtiest conditions.
Perhaps the most ideal candidate for the post came in the mid-1880s. Watson Marshall Jones, born in Markham in 1852, was the rambling great-grandson of the United Empire loyalists who had fled the United Empire. Post-revolutionary America in the 1790s.
Watson Jones married Caroline Catherine McCarthy in Barrie in 1873. Mrs. Jones was not herself shrinking. In fact, in 1885, she found herself before a judge, and in the section of the police court of the North advance for being offended by a charge of theft by a neighbor.
“I went to see the accused for a ring that belonged to Mrs. Wood. She denied having the ring. She ordered me to leave the place. She pushed me away and when I got to the street she hit me in the eye. (The eye was well marked.) Sworn-in Charlotte Wood said she was present when the argument started. Mrs Jones said if you don’t leave my premises, I will put you off. She then went to get a stick, hit and pushed it on the street, and threw the stick at him, hitting him in the eye. He then kicked him.
A fine of $ 2.95 was paid and “Ms. Jones walked out of court with fire in her eyes.
Watson Jones raised a family in a small house, now defunct, believed to have been located on Maple Avenue in what is now the rear parking lot of the large Bell building on Bayfield Street.
In addition to cleaning the chimneys, he took on any job available to support his offspring, including pruning trees, cleaning up after the frequent Barrie fires, cleaning the ditches and maintaining the toilets in Barrie. Collegiate.
The Colorful Chimney Inspector has been involved in a number of dustings over the years, most of them battles with members of his own extended family and in-laws, the Hebners and the McCarthys. His name was frequently on the city’s list of needy people in need of financial support, but just as often he was among those who gave what they could to the Ardagh Memorial Home for Women and Children. This has not gone unnoticed.
At a town hall meeting in 1912, Alderman Bidwell complained that Watson Jones had recently been treated at the Royal Victoria Hospital at city expense and asked who had ordered the admission.
“It was His Honor the Mayor,” replied the chief magistrate. A number of Barrie citizens had asked the mayor if he would do this for Jones who had served the city for many years.
Watson Jones died in 1921 at the age of 69 from a form of cancer, according to his death record. It wouldn’t be surprising if his latest illness was somehow linked to the many dangerous jobs he has held over the years.
Each week, Barrie’s Historical Archives gives BarrieToday readers a glimpse into the city’s past. This unique chronicle features photos and stories of years gone by and is sure to please the historian within all of us.