Guelph and Wellington County's Legal Past

A History of the Wellington Law Association

(from Foreword by G. Blaine Baker)

Histories of voluntary associations of Anglo-American lawyers set in any place or time are rare. Book- length treatments of the American Judicature Society and the New York City Bar Association do, however, exist as does an article-length description of the origins of the American Law Institute. Closer to home, a couple of studies of short-lived, early-nineteenth-century British North American lawyers’ or law students’ clubs have been undertaken. Perhaps most relevant for present purposes, at least four of Ontario’s century-old county law associations (Carleton, Middlesex, Peterborough and York) have been topics of historical study. Those organizations, like the City of Guelph and Wellington Law Association, came into existence in the last quarter of the nineteenth century as agents of the Toronto-based Law Society of Upper Canada and were commissioned to operate law libraries in county towns. They later developed shared interest in such other matters as the promotion of social bonds among local lawyers, standardization of fees for legal work, the policing of unauthorized law practice, and the implementation of legal aid. Helpful and manageable comparisons can, therefore, be drawn among Ontario’s county law associations for which secondary source material is available. Although this account of the Wellington Law Association’s first century and a quarter was not designed to be comprehensive or an academic account of that organization, or of the context in which it operated during that period, it is none- the-less intended as a contribution to the modest provincial and continental literature on lawyers’ voluntary associations.

In January of 1961, J. A. Claire and Abraham Acker were appointed by the Wellington Law Association as a committee to oversee the preparation of a brief history of the legal profession in their county. By July of 1962. C.L.C. (Cyril) Allinson had been hired (for $100.00) by Claire and Acker to write that account. Eighteen pages of Chronicles of the Lawyers of Wellington County was the product of that effort, available in 1965. Allinson continued work on his text (comprised of a short description of local courts and fifteen brief biographical sketches of leading Wellington lawyers) until October of 1966 when the Association dispatched Angus Dunbar, Richard Becher (R. B.) Hungerford, and Arthur Kearns to attend to the publication. Fifty copies of Allinson’s, Notes on Courts and Court Buildings at Guelph, History of Administration of Justice in this Area, Wellington County Lawyers who Attached Especial Eminence was the result of that initiative, underwritten with a levy on the Association of $60.00, and distributed on a complementary basis to its membership.

Forty-five years later, the Wellington Law Association resolved to produce a larger and more ambitious history of itself with research and literary input from several of its members and its former members’ descendants. Primary sources to support that research were sometimes incomplete, with the result that there are several gaps in this story and other hiatuses that have been filled by extrapolation from collateral records or experiences. The result is offered as a readable ‘coffee-table book’ that is a respectable if not quite comprehensive treatment of its subject. A special acknowledgment is due to the current History Committee of the Wellington Law Association, David Cameletti, Lois Payne, and Carol VandenHoek (who are also substantive contributors to this volume), and to Western University law student, Arnab Quadry, who undertook initial organization of the Association’s primary sources in the summer of 2010.


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