William Jaffray was born in Shrewbury, England to parents, Peter Jaffray (1800-1864) and Mary Ann Gittins (1804-1873). He immigrated to Galt, Ontario sometime between 1840-1850 with his parents and five of his siblings, the sixth being born in Ontario a few years later. William started his career as a bookkeeper and moved up to being a journalist and editor of the Berlin Chronicle and the Galt Reporter by the 1860s. Subsequently, he became Postmaster in 1862, holding the position until 1896. By 1866, he became the mayor of Berlin, holding several political positions into the 1880s. For a more in-depth look into William Jaffray’s biography, please visit his Waterloo Generations page.
William’s involvement with the Poorhouse began in 1870 when he was acting as Deputy Reeve for Berlin and one of his duties was to commit people to the House of Industry and Refuge. People would apply to the Deputy Reeve or Mayor of the town they had been living in for at least two years. The mayor would then have to give written consent for the person or people to be sent to the Poorhouse upon their recommendation that it was the best fit for said person. William’s name is listed on the “Register of Paupers, Vagrants, and Idiots received at the House” a few times in 1870 and then again in the early 1880s when he was mayor of Berlin. His brother, Richard Jaffray (1834-1898), is also on the Register, having committed a few people when he was the mayor of Galt. Richard Jaffray’s wife, Mary Havill, wrote a recipe in the New Galt Cookbook of 1898 (for more information on this cookbook, please visit this site).
William was also paid by the House to send paupers away to other towns or friends. He most likely paid out of pocket to send the inmates by train to other places and was reimbursed by the Keeper. Below is an example of Jaffray being paid $4.25 for doing such work.
William became interested in the Poorhouse and from there he went on to spend a full day at the House on May 5, 1871, meeting residents and getting an idea of how everything worked after a year of the House being opened. He wrote an article on his findings and presented it in a Town Hall on June 20, 1871.
He started off his article with the reasoning behind his visit to the House:
William confirms that the disciplined schedule of the House is obeyed by the ringing of the bells to wake up the inmates at 5:00am and to bring the inmates down for breakfast. He also confirmed that inmates were locked in their “apartments” during the night:
After breakfast, William ventured out to see the rest of the House as well as the inmates. One of the interesting pieces of this article is how he details certain characteristics and describes the mental and physical health of the residents in a critical and demeaning way. As he entered some of the rooms, he labeled the room as “the day room for idiots” (p.40) where he explained one such instance that involved shaving the faces of all the men as a “waste on pauper crowds”. Feeling sorry for the man in charge of doing the shaving, he takes pity on him:
The most derogatory language used was when William wrote about black inmates. He used racist terms to describe two men, one man he hadn’t met but he seemed to like as several staff members appreciated his work ethic. Below are just a few of the deplorable terms he used to describe Albert Hunt and William Robinson. For more information, go to Albert Hunt’s story.
He commented a lot on religion and its role in the House. He used a more respectful tone when writing about inmates that are devote Christians and doesn’t mention a religious affiliation with those he doesn’t care for. William also reveals his pious nature, being an Anglican and a Lay Reader as well as apart of church choirs for forty years, by suggesting that the Keeper and Matron keep a record of the religious persuasions of the inmates:
On another occasion, William suggests that the unmarked graves in the Potter’s Field should be properly cared for, including using markers for each person to record their name, age and “anything else connected with the dead that a Christian ought to know to his soul’s comfort” (p.40). He believes this should be done especially for the children as they died innocently.
To read William Jaffray’s article in its entirety, please visit the Source page.