My great-grandfather Jabel Robinson was a giant in the early days of farming in western Ontario. While studying family history last week, I learned he had been the founding president of the Dominion Grange in Canada.
The Grange was the farmers union and he helped to unite this body with United Farmers’ Association to increase the influence of the agricultural community in the provincial and dominion legislatures.
Jabel Robinson and his fellow farmers worked hard to improve laws in regard to drainage across railway lands and for the protection of cattle at level crossings. And not that long ago!
Just imagine the logistics of lobbying in the days before cellular telephones and email and texting. Even before telephones and Morse code and telegraph service.
Having to meet face-to-face to discuss issues, after travelling on foot or on horseback. For the lucky people, travelling in a two-horsepower carriage.
Great-grandfather Jabel was born in 1831, in Linsdale, Buckinghamshire, just north of London.
He was a prolific journalizer, and while in Canada he sent monthly letters to his hometown paper titled, “Notes from a Linslade man in the Canadian colony.” So, I guess I come by my propensity to ramble honestly.
What an interesting life he had. After the Crimean War, he moved to Vicksburg, Tenn., just before the American Civil War, as a skilled carpenter.
Just as the horrible war started, his tools were burned and he returned to a long and remarkable life of unselfish public service in Canada.
He was a councillor in St. Thomas for three years and, in 1900, he was elected to represent West Elgin in Canada’s House of Commons.
He served for four years as an Independent – and an Independent he remained to the end.
Always fully prepared for political debate, whenever a vote was called for, his vote recorded his personal convictions.
He was not beholden to any political party and he was no man’s man. Thoroughly independent.
Back home in Middlemarch and St. Thomas, he worked tirelessly with the Grange and entertained many distinguished guests.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Lady Laurier visited on more than one occasion.
A poem was composed by F. J. Waddell to describe Jabel Robinson in the House of Commons, titled, “When Jabel Takes the Floor.”
There’s the member for West Elgin,
With a broad and massive brow,
When at home his avocation,
Was following the plow.
But now that he’s in Parliament,
His aspirations soar,
And things are interesting,
When Jabel takes the floor.
Jabel Robinson accomplished so much for the agricultural community of Canada.
As a past Master of the Grange, one of the chief pleasures of his latter days in 1900 was attending a picnic in Port Stanley, on the north shore of Lake Erie.
Some 5,000 people were in attendance and this was to him an assurance of new life and vigour coming into the organization.
Farming is a noble profession and because of the hard and smart work of our farming friends, we are able to eat nutritious food year-round.
Farmers do so much good around our town, and create such a presence.
Hardworking, healthy and handsome, they are involved in many charitable organizations in NOTL.
To name a few, how about Albrecht Seeger tooling around NOTL in his dashing red Volkswagen Bug, or Juan Neumann purposefully taking the airs along the Niagara Parkway Recreational Trail?
And Deputy Lord Mayor Erwin Wiens on his powerful motorcycle riding to Ryerson Park with his wonderful wife Dorothy for another sunset.
What a cast of characters, eh?
Take a moment this week to thank a NOTL farmer. They are all outstanding in their fields, producing food for us and doing so much good around town.