This is the story of Brighton, a lovely little village of 3,200 souls nestled in the rolling hills of Northumberland County on the Northern Shores of Lake Ontario. United Empire Loyalists who preferred to live under the British Crown rather than the Republican government of America; families driven from the Emerald Isle during the potato famine; Welshman escaping from the coal mines; exiles from Scotland; seeking trade; and British soldiers taking their discharge in Canada.
According to local legend, attested by the monument at the entrance to Presqu'ile Provincial Park, Obadiah Simpson was the first white settler in Brighton. He was born 1757 in North Carolina and at the age of 19 enlisted in Delanty's (sic) Horse. In 1783 he wed Mary Taylor and migrated to Canada taking up residence near Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where he learned to be a carpenter. Later he moved to Adolphustown in Prince Edward County. He arrived at Presqu'ile 1796. After choosing a homesite, he returned to Adolphustown for his family leaving his 12-year-old son to stake his claim.
Brighton was part of the land deeded by the Indians to Canada in the Gunshot Treaty signed at the Carrying Place in 1787. The tract of land reached from the Bay of Quinte to Etobicoke, stretching north to within sound of a gunshot, approximately 12 miles.
An act of parliament passed in 1788 gave United Empire Loyalists and their decendants the right to place the letters U.E.L. behind their names. The Indians received a lump sum of $223,425 and a personal amount of $25 each.
It was Joseph Lockwood who gave Brighton its name. He also named Mount Hope Cemetery and St. Paul's Anglican Church. The name Brighton is taken from the Anglo Saxon name of Brithelmstan, meaning the seat or stone of Bishop Brithelm, an early Anglo Saxon Bishop. The village has also been known in times past as Singleton's Corners and at other times Bette's Creek.
Elton Simpson affectionately known as Dido Simpson was the Chief of Police. Commissioner, truant officer, water foreman, building inspector, welfare officer all for $35.00 per week. He also received $12.50 car allowence from the Public Utilities Commission, clothing allowance of $200.00, two weeks holiday pay and went nowhere.
He liked being paid this way to avoid paying income tax. When he retired, more than 80 police officers, lawyers, J.P.'s* and the county judge were present in the Legion Hall to witness Constable Stinson present Dido with $554 and a television set. He was a man beloved by all.
* Justice of the Peace
Brighton Town Hall
Like every other municipality, Brighton had a Town Hall. The Memorial Park was purchased in 1884 from the Proctor family for $1000.00. The building, copied from from St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, was built by local labour with local materials. The architect was M. Kingsley Lockwood; the bricks were made by Singleton on what is now the western playground of the public school.
A portrait of Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, was painted by A.D. Clapp. Neglected through the years, it gradually deteriorated until, in 1973, council decided it would have to be demolished. A group calling themselves concerned citizens thought it should be retained as a historic building.
It was a relic of the past with the fire hall in the rear, three cells which could only be termed dungeons, its ancient blue enamelled sink, a small kitchen, and a tower without a stairway. The council were saved from the controversy when a Tornado struck Brighton on Friday, July 13, 1973 and the Town Hall collasped.
In its day, it served a very useful purpose, being the only hall in town for operas, vaudeville shows, local drama, clubs, political meetings and banquets. Time had taken its toll and it was a relief to council when the Tornado ended its career.
Prior to 1939, there were two cannons in front of the hall. These were taken by the Order of the Eastern Star during its war time salvage operation to aid the munition drive.
In 1971, the council moved from the Town Hall to the library basement and the Law Courts moved to the Scotty Broughton Youth Centre. An oil painting by Mrs. Georgina Graham showing artifacts of the Town Hall was presented to the writer on being made a member of the Order of Canada. Should Brighton ever build another Town Hall, it will be the writer's desire that it should find an honoured place therein.
The fountain, newly erected, is not only a momento of the past but a tribute to the early settlers of Brighton who had the courage to build the hall and the foresight to purchase the park, which, with its well-kept lawn bowling green, is a gem in the heart of the village.
When the Tornado Hit Brighton
There is community spirit in Brighton and never was it more visible than on Friday, July 13, 1973 when a disaster struck Brighton. The storm which spawned the tornado began about 16:45 over Lake Simcoe. It was well developed as it passed over Peterborough toward the southeast at 18:30 hours. Upon reaching Lake Ontario, the storm developed into several cells, one of which became the Brighton Tornado.
The Main Street of Brighton, noted for its avenue of maple trees, became a tangled mess of foliage as the once stately trees fell like a set of dominoes.
The Town Hall, which a group of citizens wanted to preserve and which the council had decided to raze, felt the full impact of the storm and collapsed.
The time was 7:30 pm and in 32 seconds the once beautiful little village resembles a battle ground. The Presbyterian Church lost its steeple. The Smith residence next door lost its roof. Telephone lines, hydro lines were down, and two homes on Chapel Street lost their roofs.
The Ontario Provincial Police called every man back to duty to get rid of the traffic or sight-seers who had heard of the tragedy via the radio. Teenage boys were given traffic duty. The Bell Telephone Company brought every available man to restore the system. Workmen of 17 surrounding municipal hydros volunteered their service to get electric power restored as people were emptying their deep freeze and taking their food to friends in the country to prevent its loss.
Women of Brighton Townshop brought food to the Fire Hall and set up an emergency kitchen to feed the large number of friends who worked without any hope of reward to restore the village. The entire council of Brighton Township, led by their Reeve, Arnold Boes, cleared the eastern block of Chapel Street, using their own tools and machinery. The Legion stayed open all night for the out-of-town volunteers.
Every available chainsaw in Brighton was in use as the Main Street was made passable by midnight. The buzz of chainsaws could still be heard Sunday morning. By midnight, Main Street was cleared enough to allow through passage, electric power was restored and the next day telephone communication was restored to its usual efficiency.
An emergency committee was set up under Mr. Knight. They were to examine the damage, assess the amount required to repair homes and special emphasis on those who carried no or insufficient insurance. The committee collected $40,000, the biggest donor being the City of Toronto who gave $10,000. Other donors were Reeve Dorothy Brintnell, the Hon. George Hees, the United Counties, Village of Colborne, City of Belleville, Trenton, Legion branches in and around Brighton, the Bell Telephone Company, Prince Edward Countyand many, many other friends and organizatons.
There were no fatalities. The only person hurt was the daughter of the Village Clerk-Treasurer, Mrs Shirley Patterson. Her husband and daughter were in the car alongside the Town Hall when the east wall collasped. A young man removed her from the car through the door window, scared, but only slightly hurt.
The truck parked at the gas station across from the King Edward Park was lifted across the highway coming to rest on the chain fence in the park. A chair from Rays Barber Shop was carried by the blast to a place in front of the War Memorial. No fires were reported, no looting took place. The biggest headache was the curious people from outside Brighton, having heard the news on the radio, coming to see what was happening and hampering the work of those engaged in reconstruction.
The spirit of the early pioneer is not dead. It cannot die. It was shown on Friday, July, 13. 1973 when everyone pitched in to help his neighbour. As a former teacher said to a reporter, "I would not have believed it but two young helligans removed the debris from my property which just goes to show that give young people a challenge and they will rise to the occasion as did their fathers in two wars and a depression."