Founder’s Sun Dial on Stump Guelph’s First Town Clock
Publication Date: 1966
Guelph’s first town clock was a sun dial placed upon the stump of the tree felled to mark the founding of the community by John Galt. The dial might have remained, but for removal necessitated at the time of provision of the embankment for the coming of the railway, Toronto to Guelph, eventually extended westward by the Grand Trunk RR.
In due course came the town hall clock.
According to writings of the Rev. George A. Little, at one time a Guelph clergyman, the famous whole ox feast, dating back to a king’s birthday anniversary celebration in Guelph’s first year was considerably a failure, because of the ox being underdone. Evidently those attending had no liking for meat served rare. However, they did go for the potatoes from huge potash kettles. Hemlock tea was served. There was banquet music by a band brought from Little York.
In the early celebrations there were cannon discharges formed from hollowed out beech and maple logs. They could be used only two or three times by reason of bursting.
Guelph’s first physician was one named Welch, who was termed 'the mad doctor.' He is said to have had but two patients, both of whom died. His most notable eccentricity was that of building a house without a door. Instead, he had an opening several feet from the ground through which he had entrance and egress.
The word egress reminds me of a sign put up by P. T. Barnum in his great menagerie in New York. On St. Patrick’s Day, Irish folk so crowded the place, tending to remain on all day, that Barnum resorted to the trick of putting up a sign “This way to the egress.” It worked, the victims finding themselves outside and unable to return inside.
A crafty advertising plan of the great circus man was to have elephants hitched to plows on his farm property in Connecticut in plain view of train passengers. Many more indications of his verisimilitude entertained me in Barnum’s autobiography read in youthful days.
Guelph’s founder, John Galt, had a troubled life. Even when he came to York in 1826 to make provisions for the operation of the Canada Company, he was charged by the governor, Sir Peregrin Maitland, with interference with Canadian politics. He was able to fully clear himself. In the ensuing year began his years in Guelph. Those years were indicative of his prime ability. The record has been so often told that repetition need not follow at this time.
Having in mind favorable circumstances of his troubled life, it is interesting to find in the 1927 Centennial issue of the Mercury an appealing reproduction of a plaque at the house in Ayrshire, Scotland, where John Galt was born. Below a remarkably fine reproduction of his likeness, there are carved underlines: “John Galt, born here 1779, died at Greenock, 1839.”
It is interesting to again record that Galt's son became one of the Fathers of Confederation, honored with knighthood, as Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt. This is something to be remembered respecting the celebration of the Confederation Centennial next year.