History | Rev. Aaron Slaght biography | Back
The following article appeared on page 5 of the 17 Mar 1898 issue of The Waterford Star newspaper, reprinted from the Simcoe Reformer. It was one of a series written by John Charlton, M.P. [Some paragraph breaks added by the transcriber.]

Rev. Aaron Slaght
A Brief Biographical Sketch
by John Charlton, M.P.

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 early day.

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 University. 

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 that city.

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 the community.

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.

Many 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.

Mr. 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 obstinate cold.

The 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.

He 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 life's journey.

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