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One of the oldest “land marks” in the County of Norfolk, is Francis Legh Walsh, who was born in Hartford County, Maryland, March 12, 1789. The branch of the Walsh family from which he sprang, went from Wales to Ireland centuries ago, with the forces that subjected that country under Strongbow. The progenitor in America, the grandfather of Francis, came from the County of Tyrone, Ireland, during the first half of the eighteenth century, settling in Philadelphia.
The parents of our subject were Thomas and Mary (Mitchell) Walsh, the mother being of English descent. Thomas Walsh was a United Empire Loyalist, and on the breaking out of the rebellion of the Colonies, having refused a command offered him by the Insurgents, he (through great peril) escaped to the British, and was an officer in a regiment called the Maryland Loyalists, which was sent to West Florida, where he was taken prisoner by the Spaniards. At the close of the revolution (having lost his property in Maryland), he went to New Brunswick, resided there about five years, and then returned to Maryland and married.
Early in the year 1793, the family removed to Upper Canada, and finally settled in the Township of Charlotteville, County of Norfolk; at first a humble log cabin, in the dense forest, being their home. Our subject has a vivid recollection of the wildness of the scene surrounding their home, eighty and eighty-five years ago, the howl of the wolves in the evening, and gobbling of the wild turkeys in the morning, being often heard; his father’s violin was often brought out to atone for the lack of social intercourse, and to break the monotony of life in the wilderness.
His father was a land surveyor, and not only surveyed in the Provinces of Maryland and Pennsylvania before the revolution, but, in Upper Canada, the Township of Charlotteville and other townships in the County of Norfolk, and also several in the County of Lincoln, often, while thus employed, sleeping out in the woods and enduring great hardships. In that way it is thought that he shortened his life, though he lived to his 75th year; but several of the family in Ireland lived to see a hundred years and more. He was Registrar of the County of Norfolk, from 1796 to 1810, when his son Francis, whom he had educated almost entirely, and had kept in his office for ten years, as collating and copying clerk, and then deputy, took his place.
Mr. Walsh has been in the registry office from the beginning of this century, and, if alive in April, 1880, will have been registrar seventy years! It is not likely that the annals of Ontario can furnish another instance in which a man has held the same office an equal length of time. The next oldest registrar, reckoning the number of years in office, is probably Mr. Ingersoll, of Woodstock, whose sketch can be found in other pages of this volume.
Four or five years ago the citizens of the Town of Simcoe, and County of Norfolk, presented Mr. Walsh with a costly portrait of himself, and an elegant set of silver, as a token of their appreciation of his long services as a county official, and their great respect for him as a citizen.
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Prior to the union of Upper Canada and Lower Canada (1841), Mr. Walsh was in Parliament for ten years.
Mr. Walsh is a member of the Church of England, and a man of the purest character. It is perhaps, needless to say, that his habits are temperate, and that he has always taken good care of himself: He reads manuscript and print of fair sized type without glasses, and is very attentive to business, observing office hours with as much regularity as he did fifty years ago.
He married Elsie Fairchild, of Charlotteville, in 1818; they have had a family of twelve children, eight of them yet living. One of the deceased, Walter, grew up and left a family; a daughter also died leaving nine children; Thomas W., the eldest son, is a Provincial land surveyor, living in Simcoe; Aquila (who has been a member of the Legislature), and Christopher Legh are deputies under their father; Lewis F. lives in Connecticut; Harriet is the wife of Morris Smith, of Vittoria; and Margaret P., Rebecca A., and Sarah A. are living at home.