“Billa Flint: King of Hastings County”
By Armand P. La Barge
Senator Billa Flint’s death in 1894 marked the end of an era for Hastings County. For most the nineteenth century, Billa Flint’s guiding or interfering hand could be found at the centre of virtually everything that went on in the county from Belleville to Bridgewater to Bancroft.
Flint is the subject of a new biography by historian Armand P. La Barge—Billa Flint: King of the Hastings County.
“Flint was a complex, fiercely independent and self-made man,” says La Barge. “Within two decades of his arrival from Brockville, he had completely transformed the mouth of the Moira River at Belleville from a ‘marshy wasteland’ into a modern industrial centre with the construction of wharves, warehouses, machine shops, factories, grain silos and one of Canada’s first steam saw mills.”
He developed Belleville economically and socially, created the towns of Flinton and Bridgewater, and unilaterally changed the name of York River to Bancroft.
Although Flint was preoccupied with the all consuming task of making money and expanding his lumber, milling and mining business initiatives, he was one of Hastings County’s most generous philanthropists. He and his wife took an active interest in Belleville’s sorrowful educational system and in its failing religious and social institutions, says La Barge.
The town was suffering from a high rate of illiteracy and the results of alcohol abuse could be found on every street corner. Driven by their strong Methodist beliefs, the Flints established a “free” school in the settlement and they created one of Upper Canada’s largest and most comprehensive Sabbath School systems—a system that continues to this day.
Although Flint held a variety of elected and appointed political offices throughout his life, business and commerce were his true passions. Flint’s position as justice of the peace, warden of Hastings County, president of the Police Board, mayor and member of Belleville Council, perennial reeve of Elzevir Township, member of the Legislative Assembly and Council and senator provided him with an invaluable base of power and influence from which he could promote his seemingly endless array of business schemes and social causes.
La Barge says Flint approached every issue from the perspective of business, religion and morality and he, like many of his political colleagues during the nineteenth century, made full use of public office, to promote his own personal business and social initiatives.
La Barge says this new book is intended to rescue Flint from near-oblivion and to chronicle the history of nineteenth century Hastings County by studying the man who was King of Hastings County.
Armand La Barge, OOM, OStJ, BA, BAS (Hon), MA, LL.D (Hon) has deep roots in the Tweed and Centre Hastings area. He was born in Sulphide and raised in Tweed and Hungerford Township. He attended Tweed-Hungerford District High School and Centre Hastings Secondary School.
He joined York Regional Police in 1973 and rose steadily through the ranks. He was appointed Chief of Police in 2002, a position he held until his retirement in 2010.
Chief La Barge holds a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree and a Multiculturalism Studies Certificate from York University, an Honorary Bachelor of Applied Studies degree from Seneca College, a Masters degree from Trent University in Canadian and Native Studies and an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Guelph.
613-202-1939 (text and phone)
Armand La Barge