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Elvins Autobiography 1913

Transcript of shorthand notes towards the back of this book. They were dictated to C. A. Chant at 33 Dorval Road by Mr. Elvins May 27, 1913.

The Astronomical Club was the first organisation of its kind in the city and these are the minutes of it.

In 1860 Mr. Elvins came from Cobourg and settled in Toronto. Between 1860 and 1870 the American War was raging. Mr. K.K. Winder was located in Cleveland, but it became so uncomfortable for anybody who wuold not come out in favor of the North to remain among the northern people that he found it impossible to stay there- he was opposed to war under all circumstances, and in his view, the Bible tolerated slavery, which was at the bottom of the American War. Hence, he came to Toronto, where he settled and obtained a living as a printer, Mrs Winder was a better printer than he was. He also preached, being connected with the Disciples, and as there were very few Disciples in Canada employing ministers, he worked at his trade as well as preached. If the brethren asked anyone to preach they furnished him with all the necessaries of life.. The Disciples were very strong in the South. They hired a minister when they wanted one and called him an 'evangelist.' They compared his life to that of Paul.

Mr Winder was appointed the Club's first president, and Samuel Clare, Sr. was secretary. Clare was writing-master in the Normal School. Nothing was published officially, but the members used to frequently write articles for publication. The first aim of the meetings was, however, to improve each other mutually by discussing current questions and keeping each other informed on what was going on in the heavens.

Mr. Turnbull was great on instrument-making and optical work. He read papers on optics, instruments etc. Mr. Winder had taught Astronomy in a U.S. College. Mr. Elvins had a taste for the subject, but Mr. Winder was the most proficient in the subject. Mr. Elvins always had a liking for all scientific questions, and had been used very early in life to notice the stars, make drawings of the different groups, and when about 14 years old he made a number of them. Shortly afterwards he fell in with Chambers' Encyclopedia, and was very much pleased to find that his drawings were just like those in it, and that led him always afterwards to take some interest in the stars.

At that time Mr. Elvins took more interest in mineralogy and geology, having been born and lived in the neighbourhood of one of the ancient Cornish tin mines, near where the Phoenicians or Jews used to trade for tin, they left behind them their record in many names—Penryn, Perizzin etc.

The beauty of the minerals attracted Mr. Elvins from his youth. Some time afterwards, when he was a young man, when he could talk better than now, he was taken up by the Methodist Bible Christians and urged into public speaking. From childhood he had been a great reader and was well informed in the Bible.

First Person. I was sent to a place by the name of Goran Haven (there was a regular printed list of men and appointments), and I believe I took as my text, "What shall the end be of those who obey not the Gospel of God?" (I was about 17 years old) I had learned what the scriptures say on the subject, and I had also read Milton. From him I quoted largely-- more largely, indeed, than from the Bible. I wished to terrify the people. I came down from the pulpit and a gentle man asked me if I would go home and take dinner with him. Having walked 12 miles that day I was very ready to go. This was Mr. Chas. Peach, he was exciseman, appointed by the Government for that port. His duty was chiefly watching for smugglers bringing brandy and wines from France. He took me home and we had a nice dinner with Mrs.Peach and one child. It was in the spring of the year, and I remember him saying "This is the fist lamb we have had this year." He spoke very kindly to me and afterwards took me in to a cabinet he was a naturalist and a geologist, and he showed me a number of fossils, polished, some of them beautiful; it was surprising to me, I wondered at it, for although I always enjoyed minerals we found few of them in Cornwall. I believe he found a couple which allowed him to say that Cornwall was in the Devonian Strata. The greater part of Cornwall however is granite and there are few or no fossils to get. The central portion is very like the Highlands of Scotland. Sir Roderick Murchison found Mr.Peach in Scotland and recognised that he had ability and taste for study on geological lines and he got him into his position into the British excise. Afterwards I heard him lecture two or three times on natural history and geological subject. The last time I heard him it was at a place called Liskeard after which our northern town is called. He was a most pleasant individual and one of the best teachers that I ever listened to. He for the first time called my attention to those little animals (Mr E.could not recall name.. like coral but with a hole right down through them; the animal spreads out like a leaf- he put out his hand to touch the leaf when it disappeared down the hole)

Peach was transferred to Ready-money cove in Scotland where he remained a long time--until his death. Since I came out here I found that Charles Peach was a Unitarian, and for a Unitarian to take me home and treat me so kindly after I had denounced the views he held was more than some other Christians would have done. It made a turning-point in my life.

In 1844 (or 43)[ 1 ] when I was 21, I came to Canada. The first Sunday after I landed at Cobourg I went out for a walk and found that I was in a different Geological series of rocks; I went off and found a place which was dry then, but which every Spring was covered with water and on the top of one of the rocks, but embedded in it there was the first trilobite that I ever saw. The pleasure I felt then I do not expect ever to feel again.

Then I found from my geological books where I was, I was in the Trenton Limestone of the Lower Silurian Rocks and while I remained in Coubourg I enjoyed geology greatly. It is one of the finest places I ever saw for fossils. An old Professor at Victoria (Whitlock) and I became quickly acquainted, from the fact that we would go to the same places to collect. A quarry which was opened then yielded a splendid lot of specimens; we were both keen at collecting, and we found out, after a while that by giving a man the price of a drink one would often get a beautiful specimen. During the 14 years that I lived among the rocks I made a fine collection of specimens from the rocks extending from Belleville to Port Hope. I kept them in a 'Mechanic's Institute' in Cobourg, it was like a geological society.

When I came to Toronto I was still owing on a house I had bought in Cobourg. The one who held the mortgage was Dr.Beatty, a Professor in the College, who that so same year was moving to Ottawa. He anted to have the mortgage cleared off. I brought my fossils here to Toronto, and not knowing how else to wipe off the debt I put them up in an auction room and they sold them- some being given away- and they brought me enough to pay off the mortgage. Altho' it was like parting with my life-blood I sold them and cleared off the debt. Prof.Cheekney of Upper Canada College bought them. Some time afterwards there was a loan exhibition of a number of curiosities in the dancing hall of the Mechanic's Institute, I went there to see the things and to my surprise I saw many of hte fossils that I had taken from the rocks. I then learned that it was Prof. Cheekney who owned them; I was introduced to him, he was pleased to see me. I offered to buy some of them back, but he would not sell them.

I was employed in such a way that I could not study geology. I could not get time off in the day, and so I settled upon the stars.

When Winder came over, as we were both Disciples we soon met. Then it was proposed to gather a few together, to meetin in my house. This we did, and then we got together a few whose names are on the sheet. These did not come all at once, Mr.Hughes did not join at the very first. He joined soon after, through Mr. Clare. Hughes was a student at the Normal School, but teaching at the same time, and he was introduced thro' Mr.Clare.

When we had been meeting in that way for a while, we began to talk about forming a club where we might come come together and read, and discuss what was doing in the Astronomical world. A committee was appointed to draw a constitution and by-laws.

We observed one eclipse, we met for quite a while at my house, and then we began to find it a little budensome to Mrs Elvins, and we then met weekly at different people's houses. By this time Pursey and a number of others had joined. For a time we existed in a very precarious way. Mr.Miller and I used to get together, and occasionally some others.

Mr.Winder returned to the U.S.A., and business interests had so overweighted the rest of us that the work languished.

Finally, Mr. Lumseden (with Mr.Ross at his back), recommended us to get incorporated- Lumsden, Miller, and I went to see Carpmael to ask him if he would not be Patron. They had always considered me President of the old society, without ever having been elected. After Winder went away they always made me chairman.- it was sort of taken for granted, the idea was to make me the first president, and I understood that Mr.Miller would act with me. Perhaps, however, Mr.Miller intended to get Mr.Lumsden to act. The idea was, at any rate, that we would ask Caprmael to be Patron- Carpmael said "Why not let me join?" I said we would be very glad if he would become a member. Then there was a question about the president. He was made President at once. He however insisted that as he was not well, and would have to be away on business I would have to help him. They made me Vice-Pres. Some time aferwards he got worse and was forced to go to England and he died there.

When he was going away we were at a meeting at Mr.Lumsden's house, and Carpmael spoke about it being necessary to fill his place. He said-"I will resign if Mr.Elvins will fill my place." I protested that there was no need for it, and he remained President until his death.

Then Larratt Smith was elected. then a struggle was who should be elcted afterwards. Mr.Lumsden would not take the position and Mr.Harvey took the Chair and kept it for two years.

G.Brunt was one of the partners in Thompson' and Son's establishment (of the Mammoth House), who died quite recently and Mrs.Brunt were sisters. That led to their acquaintance with me.

Robert Ridgeway in 1868 was a teacher in the Jarvis St.Coll.Inst. Afterwards for a long time, he was in the Custom House. He was Editor of the Canadian Magazine, Vol.I 1871 It lasted only a year or two- thirteen months, more accurately. Mr. Elvins used to write papers for it, one of them was not published on account of the death of the magazine.[ 2 ]

Mungo Turnbull was a cabinet-maker. He was a well educated Scotchman.

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Footnote 1:
This date (1844) was determined from Mr. Elvins knowing when an eclipse of the sun occurred. I found out it was 1844 by reference to "N.A." Mr . Elvins was then 21 yrs. old.
Footnote 2:
The magazine lasted 7 months July 1871 - Jan 1872 incl