History of Cleveland Township
The Township of Cleveland is situated in the County of Richmond, on the northeast bank of the St. Francis River, about forty miles from the St. Lawrence River. The territory was originally included in the old Township of Shipton. Shipton was surveyed in the wilderness about 1800 as a grant to some New England settlers. The township was planned to contain 70,000 acres, more or less, 50,000 acres were designated as a grant to the settlers, and 20,000 acres were retained under government title as Crown and Clergy Reserves. The physical geography of the Township had an important effect on the development of the settlements on the fifteen ranges included in the territory. Shipton extended some fourteen miles from the St. Francis River to the Arthabaska border. The survey numbered the ranges, which were one mile wide, starting with Number 1 at the Arthabaska border to the half-range Number 15 at the St. Francis banks. The landscape of the ranges 1 to 8 was largely made up of hills and valleys, and gentle slopes drained by the streams flowing into the Nicolet River. A little hamlet, later called Danville, grew up on an upland, close to the Nicolet. This little community developed as a convenient trading post for the settlers living on those fertile ranges. Gradually as the farm land filled up, most of the important local roads converged at Danville.
Between Danville and Richmond are two imposing heights of land, with two or three narrow valleys in between them. The engineers, who surveyed the first railway right – way, had small choice of ways to get through the heights of land from Richmond to Danville.
The other ranges of the old Township of Shipton, Ranges 9 to 15, which are closer to Richmond, have their hills and valleys, and slopes whose streams drain into the St. Francis. So a little hamlet with a post office grew up on the bank of the St. Francis at the mouth of Cushing Brook. It became a trading post for the rural folk of the front ranges, and the local roads were laid out to serve the purpose.
Thus, to a marked extent, the rural settlements of Shipton developed as two pioneer communities, with happy relationships, yet with a definite tendency for each to have its own churches, mills, stores, aristocracies, leading farm families, and perhaps some characteristic accents of speech.
But as far as the common functions of municipal government are concerned, there is little evidence of inconvenience suffered in those early days because of the fact that the two communities were administered as one township. Indeed, from the earliest settlement until 1825, most of the authority now entrusted to local municipal councils was dispensed from Three Rivers. In 1825, this administration was transferred to Sherbrooke and the powers were concentrated in some sort of a council that held sittings from time to time.
In 1845, the Township of Shipton was set up as a municipality, with a duly-elected local council having authority over the whole township from the Arthabaska border to the St. Francis River. Responsibilities and problems resulting from this progressive change soon showed up in the inconveniences of having one municipal government for two communities of the Township.
Early in the 1850’s the railway was built from Richmond through Danville to Levis. There was a great local stir, and a local boom in employment and trade because of the magnitude of the project for those days. When the trains began running, there was a brisk local market at Richmond for the farmer’s hardwood to supply fuel for the wood-burning engines. Shortly, the Richmond railway station and village, and the Danville station and village, became the unchallenged centers of local trade for their respective rural communities, and this importance had persisted and increased in great measure down to modern times. All this made it increasingly urgent to separate the old Township of Shipton into two municipalities, and something soon was done about it.
In 1855, the Municipality of the Township of Cleveland was formed out of Ranges 9 to 15, which we might call the ranges of the St. Francis watershed. A newly organized municipal council was set up with the usual vested authority over the new Township. A similar municipal council administered affairs in the other Nicolet ranges of Shipton, and met at Danville.
The Township of Shipton was named after a well-known local family whose ancestors had played a distinguished part in the early history of the settlements. The new municipality started its career with some auspicious events within its borders. In 1855, the Government opened a Richmond County Registry Office at Richmond in the Township of Cleveland. (Richmond was not yet at this time an organized municipality. It was a village forming part of the Township of Cleveland). In the same year, 1855, St. Francis College was founded at Richmond in the Township of Cleveland. But these distinctions for Richmond and the Township of Cleveland did not come about without anyone saying a word. It appears that there was a small but very active group of citizens in the village of Richmond who were largely responsible. They appear to have had great influence in high places, considerable wealth, abundant resourcefulness and a common determination to put Richmond on the map. Their projects would be better carried out, if Richmond were set up as a separate, independent, village municipality. This status was granted to Richmond in late 1862 or the beginning of 1863. The first meeting of the Richmond council was held on January 9, 1863.
There was probably little opposition to this move. When a rural village gets enterprising ideas, and finds itself in a municipality of farmers, there is often marked divergence of opinions on how the tax money should be spent. The municipal code used to say that all roads were to be kept passable at all times. In bad weather of the old days of dirt roads and deep snow in the hilly country, the best the rural council could do was to keep most roads passable most of the time, and some roads passable some of the time. They worried bad washouts on the hills, and mortgages on the farms. With all this on their minds, farmer councilors usually showed limited enthusiasm for expensive village projects charged to the municipality. They were apt to demur at the idea of building a good sidewalk on the village street in front of the ornamental fences of the prominent residents of the village, when they saw more mud everywhere else.
So the village of Richmond separated from the young Township of Cleveland, and from that day to this, Cleveland has carried on as a rural municipality, generally blessed with sagacious administration and peaceful progress. The conflicts within and without have been temporary and forgotten long ago. Like many such rural municipalities, the Township of Cleveland gets considerable done with very little fuss.