Among the prominent men
of Norfolk County, few have been more thoroughly identified with its
interests, or have filled a more prominent position in its business, social
and religious affairs, than the subject of this sketch.
Mr. Slaght is a
gentleman of great natural force of character. He is possessed of a keen,
comprehensive mind and great intellectual grasp, and was designed by nature
to be a leader among men. Within the sphere of his own field of action he
has exercised a marked and salutary influence, and his long life of
excessant activity has also been one of unselfish desire and labor for the
good of his fellow men.
Mr. Slaght was born
on a farm near Waterford, August 18th, 1822, and was the youngest of three
sons. His father, A. Slaght, Esq., came to that place with his parents,
when but three years old. He was of German descent. Mr. Slaght's mother
was of English extraction.
During his boyhood he labored on the farm, and
there developed the excellent constitution and physical and mental vigor
which has carried his successfully through long years of arduous toil.
While thus engaged in the duties of assisting in the management of the
farm he received the advantages of a common school education, and these
advantages at this early day, it is needless to say, were not of the
character, which are given by our common school at the present time.
At the age of twenty
Mr. Slaght left home to attend the Baptist College at Montreal with a view
to entering the ministry. This step was taken at the request of the
Baptist church of which he had become a member, his capabilities and
talents having secured the attention of his neighbors and friends at this
Three years was spent
at this institution of learning. Into this period was compressed the
regular course of four years. During these three years, while pursuing the
literary and theological course of training furnished by the College, he
also frequently attended lectures on scientific subjects at McGill
Almost from the time
he entered the Baptist College at Montreal he was employed in ministerial
work, and preached regularly in the suburbs and surrounding localities of
When his studies were
completed he took charge of the Baptist church in the City of Quebec for a
short time and then returned to Waterford. Very soon after his return, in
the year 1846, the Baptist church at Waterford was organized by him, and he
continued to be its pastor for thirty six years. This large and influential
congregation has grown from a very small beginning -- the number of
constituant members upon its organization by Mr. Slaght having been but
eight. At the time of his resignation in 1882 it numbered over three hundred
and sixty members.
While Mr. Slaght's
pastorate of this congregation continued, he was an active and prominent force
in the Baptist denomination of Ontario. During his pastorate the
present church edifice was erected at a cost of $15,000, and before his
connection with the congregation terminated the building was paid for, and
the congregation was out of debt.
During the period of
Mr. Slaght's pastorate in Waterford he was actively engaged in Sabbath
School work. For six years he acted as Superintendent of the Sunday school
in connection with his church, and for twelve years was teacher of its large
and interesting Bible Class. He also preached at surrounding stations
frequently, as at Round Plains and other points, and in this way laid the
foundation of other Baptist churches.
He was actively engaged
in visiting the sick, taking part in social church gatherings, burying the
dead and officiating at marriages. In the performance of the marriage
ceremony he seems to have been one of the most popular and frequently
employed of the ministers of Norfolk County. He also took an active interest
in promoting educational work and increased educational facilities in
connection with the denomination with which he was connected.
In addion [sic,
presumably addition] to the services rendered by Mr. Slaght to the higher
educational schools of the Baptist denomination, he gave a considerable
portion of his time and services in promoting the interests of the common
schools in his own locality.
For a number of years
he served as a member of the Board of Instruction for examining and granting
certificates to school teachers. He also acted for twelve years or more as
local Superintendent of schools for the township of Townsend, and for ten or
twelve years he made it a rule to deliver a lecture on education annually in
each school section in the township, and he also made a point of visiting
and examining schools quarterly.
He also received and
made up the Public reports for these schools, twenty-four in number. He was
a warm advocate of a free school system, from the lowest district school to
the highest university of learning, and held that the poor man's child was
entitled to as liberal a training as the children of the more wealthy and
favored. His contention was that the entire population and property of the
country should sustain the schools for the education of all children,
whether of the rich or of the poor, as the intelligence, industry, and
morality of the people enhanced the value of property, increased the
stability of the state, and ministered in every respect to the welfare of
On April 29th, 1884,
Mr. Slaght received the honor of a diploma from the Toronto Baptist College,
certifying that he had honorably completed the full course of theological
studies as prescribed in the curriculum of the Theological Department of the
Canada Baptist College, Montreal. This diploma secured to him the literary
and theological standing of a graduate of the Toronto Baptist College. This
recognition of his services and standing, years after he had passed through
the course at Montreal, indicates the estimation in which he was held in the
church at that time.
While so active and
full of labor in the religious department of his work, Mr. Slaght was
impelled by his active mind and great energy, to engage in secular pursuits
as well. This was rendered natural, if not necessary, by the fact that his
services as pastor of the Waterford congregation, were, notwithstanding
their great efficiency and value, rendered for a stipend totally inadequate
for the maintenance in respectability of himself and family.
For many years he owned
and managed a large farm. He also conducted one of the most extensive
nurseries in this section of Ontario for over eighteen years, and at times
had over fifty acres covered with plants, ornamental trees, fruit trees, and
vines. At his closing sale of this property he disposed of over 200,000
fruit trees in different stages of growth.
For over twenty years
he was engaged in company with his father, in the milling business, and was
a large dealer in lumber and grain, and in company with his father, was the
owner of the Waterford mills purchased from Job Lodor.
This mills were
refitted for merchant work and their shipments of flour reached from 3,000
to 5,000 barrels annually. They purchased the cut of the upper grades of lumber from
a number of sawmills, at one time as many as twenty-four, and shipped this lumber
to the American market, largely to West Troy, N.Y.
In 1853 the mills at
Waterford, with a large quality of grain, were destroyed by fire, entailing
a loss of $20,000, but they were rebuilt in the following year upon a larger
and more complete scale.
Upon Mr. Slaght's
resignation of the charge at Waterford in 1882, he left for the state of
Colorado, where he was engaged by a large mining company to take charge of
their mining operations. Here he led an active business life, and at the
same time continued his ministerial work with efficiency and energy in the
mining towns of the State.
The mine, which he was
engaged in developing proved unremunerative. The silver ore became poorer as
the depth of the workings increased, and it became necessary to abandon it.
After a few years spent in Colorado, Mr. Slaght returned to Canada.
In 1890 he received
from the Provincial Government the appointment of Inspector of Mines for the
Province of Ontario, a position which he has continued since that time to
fill. He has annually submitted his report to the Government upon the
matters under his charge, and has discharged the duties of his position
satisfactorily and with ability.
He, of course, has not
escaped criticism, which every man in a public position must expect to meet,
but he has given satisfaction to the Government, and his reports evince and
[sic] intimate knowledge of the matters he has to deal with, and
painstaking labor in the discharge of his duties. Last year it was considered
advisable, on account of the very large increased in mining operations, to
divide the field, and he was assigned supervision of that portion of Ontario
north and east of Sault Ste. Marie.
Advancing years do not
seem to dull Mr. Slaght's taste for active employment in both secular and
religious affairs, and for about a dozen years past he has carried on a
large evaporating factory in the village of Waterford. For several year he
was sole proprietor of this property.
The limits of a brief
sketch do not admit of [sic] full recognition of the various phrases
and excellencies of Mr. Slaght's endowments and charter. His rare abilities
have been recognized from the time he entered upon his career as a minister,
by all who have come in contact with him.
The loyality [sic]
of Mr. Slaght to the Liberal party was strikingly shown in matters connected
with the first nomination of the late lamented John B. Freeman. Townsend, as
the banner Reform township, naturally put forth claims to the honor of furnishing
a candidate, and J. D. Smith, Esq., of Townsend Centre, was the choice of
the Townsend people for the nomination. When the Convention met the vote was
a close one. Two of Mr. Smith's supporters went over to Mr. Freeman, and the
result was the choice of the later by a very narrow majority.
of the Townsend delegated were indignant at the defection of the two
delegates, and the loss of the nomination for their friend, and
preliminary step were taken for calling an indignation meeting to protest
against the choice. A party split seemed imminent, and Mr. Slaght's
services came into requisition to avert this calamity to the party. He at
once saw R. W. McMichael, Mr. Smith, and others, and succeeded in allaying
the excitement, and securing the presentation of a united front in support
of Freeman. But for his action at this juncture it is in the highest
degree probable that the Reformers would have lost the election.
Slaght is familiarly and affectionately spoken of as the "Elder"
-- or as Elder Slaght by his neighbors and acquaintances. At the present
time though past seventy-five years of age, he is actively engaged in the
work of a Minister of the Gospel, and he preaches regularly and with great
acceptance, to the Baptist congregation at Round Plains, and to other
Baptist congregations in the township of Townsend. He is a hale, vigorous
old man, and for thirty years has known no ailment more serious than an
close of Mr. Slaght's useful and busy career, in the natural course of
human events is not far distant. His life had been one of sincere devotion
to whatever came in his line of duty. If providence had assigned to him a
place in the legislative councils of his country, his energy and
intellectual power would, beyond doubt, have enabled him to make his mark,
but his work, though less prominent, has been of a higher character than
that pertaining to political action.
has a high place in the affectionate regard of his neighbors, fellow
townsmen and fellow citizens of Norfolk county, and they cannot give him a
higher position than his qualities of heart and mind merit. The
presentation of these brief notes has been prompted by genuine affection
and admiration for a man of high and rare qualities, and we wish him
comfort, peace and secure trust through all of his declining day in the
goodness and mercy of One who had lead him heretofore in the paths of his