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Nelson Gilbert Raynolds, high sheriff of Ontario county, since it was organized in 1853, is a son of Rev. John Reynolds, many years a Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal church, and a native of the north of Ireland, and was born at Kingston, Upper Canada, January, 23, 1814. His mother was Mary nee Gilbert, whose father was from England.
Young Reynolds was educated at Upper Canada College, and Cazurovia (New York) seminary; at fifteen years of age went to England, and became an officer in the 11th Lancers, afterwards Huzzars; in 1833 returned to Belleville, Canada, where his parents were residing; shortly afterwards went out to what is now Manitoba, as Lieutenant of a company of the 54th regiment, contingent troops, in the service of the Hudson Bay company, going as far west as Jasper House, part way up the Rocky Mountains, and enduring many privations, hardships, and perils. Returning to Belleville, he was elected to the Upper Canada Parliament, from the county of Hastings, before he was of age, taking his seat as soon as legally entitled to it. The Parliament, however, was soon dissolved.
For several years Mr. Reynolds was President of the celebrated Marmora foundry, or smelting company; was also at one time at the head of a steamboat company, and interested in banking, mercantile business, railroading, and other enterprises, this period of his life being subsequent to the rebellion of 1837-38.
At the breaking out of the so called “Patriot war,” Mr. Reynolds was an officer on duty, and during all that trying period, was perfectly loyal to the parent Government, having no desire to see a separation of Canada from the mother country. But he did not believe in any “family compact,” as it was called; thought the Local Government was under the control of an oligarchy, and wished to see a change. In short, he heartily sympathized with those who advocated the principles of ” Responsible Government,” and was a bold and strong advocate of such government.
During those times he was in several skirmishes; received three wounds, still carrying a ball in his right thigh, and was falsely accused of being a traitor. During the excitement, when at its highest pitch, he crossed to the American side; soon afterwards returned and voluntarily surrendered; was tried for conspiracy and treason before Judge McLean, at Kingston, at a special court ordered by Lord Durham, who visited him while in prison, and forty-four witnesses were examined on the part of the Crown, and not one in his defense. He declined to have any lawyer to plead his case; made, himself, a clear statement of his views; explained the motive which had prompted his every act, and was acquitted without the jury ever leaving their seats. Then was witnessed such a scene as a courtroom rarely furnished. Men of all political parties rushed to Mr. Reynolds; in their joy and excitement almost tore his clothes off, and carried him out of the courthouse, and through the streets, making the welkin ring with shouts and huzzas, the troops on duty saluting him as he passed.
Mr. Reynolds held almost every municipal office in the town of Belleville, and the county of Hastings; and has been sheriff of Ontario for twenty-six years; he is not the oldest sheriff in years, but the longest in that office, probably, of any man in the Province. In fact, from the time that he became a military officer at sixteen years of age, he has held some official position, either under the Government of Great Britain, the Province of Ontario, or some municipality, and nearly all his life, many of such offices conjointly.
He is a man of universal business talents, and executive abilities, and great force of character. Until quite recently he has been a man of great physical endurance; in his younger years, was known as “Iron Reynolds,” and though never a professional athlete, has always been blest with great activity and muscular strength. He has been a good sportsman, a great horseman, and has often ridden in steeple chases.
Mr. Reynolds is a member of the Church of England, and was warden of churches at Belleville and Whitby for seventeen or eighteen years.
He was first married in 1834, to Hannah M. Eyre, a near descendant of Sir Giles Eyre, of Eyre Court, in the north of ,Ireland, and by her he had twelve children, she dying in September, 1850. Most of the children died young, only two of them now living. Florence Mary Hastings, wife of Frederick Casey, barrister, Smith’s Falls, and Charles Bagot, who is at Belleville. His present wife was Frances Eliza Armstrong, daughter of James R. Armstrong, of Toronto, at one time member of Parliament, married March 16, 18 52. By her he has also had twelve children, nine of them yet living. Frances De Saullus, the eldest daughter, is the wife of Harvey L. Henderson, of Montreal; the others are single, most of them young. George Nelson Armstrong, the eldest son, is deputy-sheriff, under his father.
In 1859, Sheriff Reynolds built a remarkably fine residence, called “Trafalgar Castle,” in which he has resided for years. It is not only a mammoth structure for a rural town, but most elaborately finished, with the Reynolds and Armstrong coats of arms, and other devices in the wings a building of his own planning showing much taste. Finding it too large for him to take care of, it is now occupied as a Ladies College, he retaining a large interest in it, and residing more centrally in Whitby, in a house quite spacious enough for his use. For three years he has been afflicted with paralysis, which confines him most of the time to the house.
Sheriff Reynolds matured at a remarkably early age, and has had an eventful life, which will, no doubt, some day be written in full.