Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mayors Of London - Francis Evans Cornish


Portrait hanging in London City Hall.

Francis Evans Cornish (1 Feb. 1831-28 Nov. 1878) was Mayor of London 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864. (1)

He was born to William King Cornish, and married Victorine Clench in London 31 October 1853. Francis Cornish is one of the more interesting characters to be mayor of London. He was a member of the Orange Order and very much anti-French, anti-Catholic, and very anti-Louis Riel. As mayor he was responsible for resolving a scandal at the city’s hospital, and oversaw the first serious efforts to reduce fire hazards in the city.

In 1863 he physically attacked a British commander who had boasted of a affair with his wife. He was convicted of assault and fined eight dollars. On another occasion Cornish was arrested for public drunkenness. Mayors in the 1860‘s also acted as local magistrates. Cornish tried himself, and fined himself four dollars. For good measure he also gave himself a lecture on the evils of drink..

Politics at that period was a rough and tumble affair. Cornish was not above receiving assistance at the polls from members of the Orange Order, and there were some accusations that he was not above stuffing the ballot box. He was defeated in 1864 when members of city council called out the militia in order to assure an honest election. (2) In 1872 Cornish moved to Manitoba where he became Winnipeg’s first mayor in 1874. Apparently he won by a margin of 383 votes to 179 in a city in which there were only 382 eligible voters. He must have put his London experiences to work. (3)

He also left his wife in London when he moved to Manitoba, and took up with a mistress until his death in 1878. Politics in the first half of the nineteenth century were far from boring.

(1) At that time mayors were elected for one year terms.
(2) Dictionary of Canadian Biography.
(3) The following link outlines his antics while in Manitoba.

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