CHADWICK, CHARLES ELI, farmer, office holder, businessman, militia officer, and politician; b. 13 Aug. 1818 in Preston, Lancashire, England, son of the Reverend Eli Chadwick and Margaret Weal; m. 7 Sept. 1843 Jane McCartney in Ingersoll, Upper Canada, and they had nine children; d. there 22 Feb. 1896.
Charles Eli Chadwick immigrated with his family to Upper Canada in 1826. He was educated by his father, who had become a farmer and a school teacher at Vittoria, Norfolk County; by the time he left school to work on his father’s farm, at age 16, Chadwick had received a sound classical education. Except for two years spent working for his uncle, Benjamin Chadwick, a merchant in Drummondville (Niagara Falls), he remained on the family farm until his marriage in 1843, after which he settled on a 500-acre farm in Dereham (Southwest Oxford) Township, Oxford County. He became active in local affairs, serving as a school trustee, inspector of schools, district councillor, and township clerk. These positions whetted his appetite for public life and, tired of farming and perhaps encouraged by political friends such as Francis Hincks*, he moved to Ingersoll in 1853.
There Chadwick’s career blossomed. He was postmaster from 1853 to 1861, manager of the local branch of the Niagara District Bank from 1854 to 1877, a member and at times the chairman of the school board between 1866 and 1877, and chairman of the Reform Association in Oxford South. An officer in the Oxford militia, he became lieutenant-colonel of the regiment in 1860. These activities did not exhaust his restless energy: he operated an insurance agency and served on the boards of several local enterprises.
Chadwick was an early and influential advocate of the factory system for making cheese. Cheesemaking in pioneer Canada had been a minor part of agricultural life, with small quantities being produced by individual farmers or, more often, by their wives. British North America’s first cheese factory was established in Oxford in 1864 by an American immigrant, Harvey Farrington. His factory centralized cheesemaking, which resulted in increased production, better control of quality, and a more stable income for farmers. The system caught Chadwick’s eye and, in April 1865, he convened a meeting of Ingersoll-area farmers and businessmen, who formed the West Oxford Cheese Association. In cooperation with James Harris, a local cheesemaker, Chadwick and the association opened a factory, the first in Ingersoll. The growth of the cheese business led to the formation of industrial associations and lobbies Chadwick was active in setting up the first of these, the Canadian Dairymen’s Association, at Ingersoll in 1867, and he later became secretary of the Dairymen’s Association of Western Ontario, a position he held for many years.
In 1878 and again the following year Chadwick was acclaimed mayor of Ingersoll. He lost the office in 1880 after a campaign in which he was lauded for attracting the Credit Valley Railway to Ingersoll but criticized for failing to collect $15,000 in unpaid taxes from the townspeople. Chadwick nevertheless retained his popularity – even his political opponents supported a petition asking the Ontario government to name him police magistrate for Ingersoll. The appointment was made in November 1880 and he served in this capacity until failing health forced his retirement at the age of 77, a few months before his death in 1896.
A frequent traveller, Chadwick is said to have crossed the Atlantic seven times. The Vienna exposition of 1873 enchanted him but he complained of a “systematic series of attempted extortions ever since we reached this cursed German country.” “Sick of Vienna,” he returned to Britain with the comment, “Thank God I am once more on British soil in something like a Christian country.” Later journeys, to expositions in Philadelphia (1876) and Paris (1878), did not provoke such comments and it can be assumed that he had become more tolerant of ways that were not those of Ingersoll.
In the Ingersoll area Chadwick was known as an orator and as a frequent contributor to the local press. His speeches were those of an imperialist-nationalist who believed that Canada should continue to have an “intimate connection with the British throne.” In spite of his imperialist views, Chadwick maintained in 1880 in the Ingersoll Chronicle and County of Oxford Intelligencer that the future of the dominion belonged to immigrants from many ethnic groups who would, with the aid of Canada’s “free institutions, free schools and the open Bible,” be moulded into “a new race, not second to any in the world.”
Chadwick’s contemporaries saw him as a devoted and efficient public servant, a stern but impartial magistrate, and an urbane and cultured gentleman. Addicted to work and conscientious in the performance of a range of duties, he nevertheless failed to move beyond the confines of public life in Oxford County, perhaps because he dissipated his energy on such a variety of activities, but more probably because he was content with local prominence and had no desire to leave Ingersoll. Jacks of all trades were not uncommon in 19th-century Ontario, but Chadwick was unusually versatile even for that era.
AO, MS 451, Oxford County, Oxford (North) Township, Ingersoll Rural Cemetery: 210; MS 747, Council minutes, 1878–80. UWOL, Regional Coll., C. E. Chadwick papers. Farmer’s Advocate and Home Magazine (London, Ont.), July 1867. Ingersoll Chronicle and County of Oxford Intelligencer (Ingersoll, Ont.), 2 Jan., 3 July 1879; 8–15 Jan., 8 July 1880; 20 Jan. 1881; later Ingersoll Chronicle and Canadian Dairyman, 14 Nov. 1895. Canadian biog. dict. Cyclopædia of Canadian biog. (Rose and Charlesworth), vol.1. The dairy industry in Canada, ed. H. A. Innis (Toronto, 1937). E. [S.] Moore, When cheese was king: a history of the cheese factories in Oxford County ([Norwich, Ont.], 1987).