Welland History .ca

The TALES you probably never heard about

TALES to tell and MUSINGS to mind!

This is where you will find interesting TALES of the various people that lived in and around Welland during the 1800s and 1900s. 

We’ve also introduced a new subcategory: HISTORICAL MUSINGS by select featured authors.


[The Welland-Port Colborne Evening Tribune, 11 December 1931]

Editor Evening Tribune:

I was much surprised to read in an issue of the Mail and Empire of Dec. 1st an article headed, “Laura Secord as Heroine, Fading out of History.”

The first reading suggested that the writer was laboring under the effects of a brainstorm or that a new mental disorder had appeared to afflict mankind.

The article is a disparagement of a feat well authenticated by indisputable documents and traditions received at the time as genuine. The main issue is that historians (sic) are omitting the story of Laura Secord from Canadian history on account of its mythical character; in other words disposing of it as a recent lecturer in Toronto did with “Wm. Tell.”

Let me say at the outset, that until I learn it from his own pen, I shall refuse to think that Professor Wallace omitted the story from present school histories, because he thought it mythical.

It is true, however, that in a school history, written by Mr. Wallace now in use in Alberta, he proved himself unreliable in accuracy. As to the contents of the article, we will notice the “lost key,” something unheard of before, and on the face of it most absurd. Why should she lock up her wounded husband and five children, prisoners in their home until her return, and carry the key with her through the “Black Swamp?”

These critics have not said that she locked the door; to have done so would have excited the suspicion of the enemy sentry at her door. Another paragraph reads: “It was only when Laura Secord was an old woman that her part in the episode became generally known, it was said.” This statement is the reverse of the truth.

In the Niagara district Laura’s story was told to admiring friends, who often invited her to their homes. One of them was the late Mrs. John Munro of Thorold, later vice-president of the Thorold Historical Society. The details of the story as told by Laura herself, were given when the heroine was in the full possession of all her faculties, unimpaired and not in old age. It may be found in the Historical Society’s “History of Thorold Town and Township,” published by John H. Thompson, editor of the Thorold Post. Mrs. Munro’s version of Laura’s story was corroborated by her eldest daughter, who had heard it at the time, and also Miss Amy Ball, a member of one of the oldest families in the Niagara peninsula, and familiar with the history of the period. Another statement reads: “It (Laura’s story) was dropped after investigation revealed that the troops at Beaverdams knew all about the surprise American attack, before Laura Secord’s arrival.” This looks like a fabrication to support an assertion of which no proof is given. On the contrary it may be safely assumed that if a previous warning had been received, Fitzgibbon would have received it. He says nothing of a previous intimation, but writes some years later, a certificate saying he received the warning from Laura Secord and acted upon it.

The certificate reads: “I do hereby certify that Mrs. Secord, the wife of James Secord, Esq., of Chippawa, did, in the month of June, 1813, walked from her house in the village of St. David’s to Decamp’s house in Thorold, a circuitous route of about twelve miles, partly through the woods, to acquaint me that the enemy intended to attempt by surprise to capture a detachment of the 49th Regiment, then under my command. She having obtained such knowledge from good authority, as the event proved. Mrs. Secord was a person of slight and delicate frame, and made the effort in weather excessively warm, and I dreaded at the time that she must suffer in health in consequence of fatigue and anxiety, she having been exposed to danger from the enemy through whose line of communication she had to pass. The attempt was made on my detachment, by the enemy, and his detachment consisting of 500 men with a fieldpiece and fifty dragoons were captured in consequence. I write this certificate in a moment of much hurry and from memory, and it is therefore brief. (Signed) James Fitzgibbon, formerly Lieutenant to 49th regiment.”

It should be observed that the merit of Mrs. Secord’s action would not be diminished in the least if warning had been given before or after her’s by some other person. It is  now in order for those historians (?) whose modesty made them “decline to be quoted,” to come forward and tell to whom and in what manner, whether by dream or vision was knowledge of a previous warning “revealed.” The use of the last word, suggests that a good part of the article is a pipe dream. Unless some proof is forthcoming a discriminating public will hold them guilty of defamation of a worthy person.

In 1897 the Thorold Historical Society published their “History of the Town and Township,” which circumstance brings the battle of Beaverdams within the scope of their activities.

Great pains were taken by the committee to obtain details from all reliable sources available, so that the work might be a truthful narrative of the past. Chapter V gives the story of Laura Secord as she told it while in the vigor of life. This chapter also gives particulars of the battle of Beechwoods, gleaned largely from military documents including Brigadier General Cruikshank’s pamphlet. I quote from the first paragraph of the narrative: “Many circumstances connected with the engagement commonly known as the battle of Beechwoods, or Beaverdams, combine to make it one of the most interesting episodes of recent Canadian history. It is indissolubly connected with the memory of one of the most patriotic and courageous women of any age, or country.”

Such is the tribute of General Cruikshank to Mrs. Secord. He supports it by Capt. Fitzgibbon’s certificate already quoted, which he placed in the appendix of his pamphlet. The only portraits in the pamphlet are those of the heroine and Fitzgibbon.

In a hundred years and more since the event, the writer of the article under criticism appears to be the first to cast doubt on the truthfulness of the story as received for many years.

Other writers than those already named have written the story. Mrs. Curzon interviewed Mrs. Secord’s third daughter, who remembered her mother leaving home on that fateful morning.

Mrs. J.G. Currie, also a native of Great Barrington, Mass., from which the Ingersoll’s came, has written a sketch of Laura’s life, the profits on which were to go towards a fund for a monument not built until 1901.

When King Edward, as Prince of Wales, visited Niagara Falls, in 1861, Laura Secord, then living at Chippawa, was present at a public reception, given to the prince. A prominent citizen , a member of the committee, drew the attention of His Royal Highness to the heroine, telling what she had done. The prince asked for an interview in which he expressed regret that she had not been rewarded for distinguished action. He afterwards sent her a personal gift of £100.

Ridgeway, Dec. 3, 1931
One time Secretary Thorold Historical Society.

Decew Road, Thorold, ON

Headquarters of local British forces under James Fitzgibbon to which Laura Secord came from Queenston to warn of the American invasion. The house, destroyed by fire in 1950, was designated an historic site. The name Decou is now spelt Decew.

Some Yellowed Papers of A century Ago

By Louis Blake Duff

Recently there came to me as a gift from of Toronto a number of old papers; about the most interesting collection I have seen.

To list them:

  • St Catharines Journal of December 28, 1843.
  • St Catharines Journal of March 16, 1848.
  • The Leader, Toronto, November 28, 1878
  • The People’s Press. Fonthill C.W.  February 14,1861.

A curious catalogue of agricultural implements made by Albany Agricultural Works of Albany, New York. This is dated 1851, and is one of a yearly series that had begun in 1831.

Implements of a Century Ago

The Albany Agricultural Works list fifty different plows, most of which are shown in illustration, and the price range is from $3.50 to $14. Horse tread mills are shown, one for driving a threshing machine and one for driving a chopping mill. There is another tread for dog power to be used for light farming operations. The  picture shows a dog busily, and even merrily, trotting as he churns, and oddly enough the animal shows Rover actually enjoying the job. There are various churns, cheese presses, a sausage stuffer, grain cradles, fanning mill, the Clinton cornsheller, or yokes and bows. What did an ox yoke sell for? From $3.50 to $5.

The Fonthill Newspaper

The People’s Press of Fonthill,C.W. was in its second year. Very few of its issues are known.

This Fonthill newspaper enterprise arose out of the political ambitions of Dr Fraser who had his office in Fonthill. He was the first member for Welland County when it had been taken from the rib of Lincoln. The paper naturally, was violently Reform. The first issue was early in 1854 and it did help to bring about the election of the worthy doctor. In its first incarnation it was called The Welland Herald. Doctor Fraser soon had enough of newspaper publishing and sold the plant to Dexter D’Everardo

David Cooper announces that he has leased the Aqueduct Flouring Mills in the Village of Welland.

The Leader, Toronto of which more later, announces that since its founding in 1852 it has attained a circulation of several thousand more than any other paper in Canada.

Dr. Nicholas Dick with his infirmary pleasantly and healthfully situated opposite J. Steele’s Ridgeville, advertises his “Botanic Medicines” Culled from Nature’s Garden.” There at last, is a political doctor for you.

George Gamble near Lock’s Clothing Establishment, Upper Fonthill, advertises his stock of boots and shoes.

Ester Sherk, Point Abino advertises for creditors of the estate of the late Daniel Sherk.

J.S. Rich, Fonthill. Has the largest advertisement in the paper. A few of his prices might be of interest:

  • Coffee sugar, 8lbs. for a dollar
  • Porto Rica sugar, 12lbs. for $1
  • Crushed sugar, 7lbs. for $1.
  • Teas. 50 to 75c pound
  • Coal oil, $1 per gallon
  • Brooms 16c each
  • Candles, 15c lb.
  • Factory cotton, 8c per yard.

J.A. Cohoe inserts this notice “The members of Fountain Head Temple, No. 440 I.O. of G.T. (that stands for the Independent Order of Good Templars, I believe) intend holding a public meeting in Clarke’s School House on the Plank Road on Monday evening February 18. The members of Sweet Home Safe Guard Lodges are requested to attend and assist on the occasion. Several talented speakers are expected.

Henry Martin Giles of St Catharines will deliver a lecture in the concert hall, Fonthill

Before the Mechanics” Institute, on Saturday evening next at 7 o’clock. Subject:”The Origin and Progress of Letters.” Admission: Members and Ladies free, non-members 121/2  cents each.

The two rival papers attacked each other in language that could not be equaled in any other papers of the day. Here is a sample from The Reporter:

“Extract the venom from the vilest snake that ever on its belly crawled along the dust; take the quintessence from the juice of all the poisonous herbs that ever from the earth sought the genial rays of Heaven’s great luminary; then mix and with a quill drawn  from a raven’s wing, write—against truth and honesty principle and justice, morality and religion, and if you equal in virulence the article alluded to, then must the subtle poison have entered your heart also, and venom dictate the words with venom written”

That is drawing rather a long bow.

Now in this issue of the People’s Press on the desk before me the business notices include the following:

D. D’Everardo—Money to Loan

Peter Learn, Esquire, Point Abino—Marriage Licenses

Alfred Willett, Clerk of the First Division Court, Welland—announcing his office hours 10am to 4pm.

A, Murray, postmaster at Port Robinson—marriage licenses.

Wm Steele, Humberstone—marriage licenses

W.P. Brown, office in the County Court House, Welland—lawyer and conveyancer.

B.W. Price, Fonthill—watches, clocks and jewelry.

J. Brackbill, Fenwick, advertising a lot for sale in Fonthill, opposite home Dexter D’Everardo.

Wm. Cook, Fonthill—harness maker

Alexander Sinclair, Fonthill—merchant tailor

Wm Horne, Fonthill, announces that he is a senior member of the College of Veterinary Surgeons in Philadelphia and is ready for practice.

Wm Beatty of Thorold advertises a public meeting in Bald’s Hall Welland, T.W. Hooker was chairman, and J.S. Chipman, secretary Two motions were passed, one by A, Bald and Wm Thompson and one by J. Griffith and Moses Betts

The theme was condemnation of the ministry objection to the tariff and to the growing expenditures.

At another Beatty meeting at the Court House, Squire Hellems an early school teacher in Welland and later police magistrate, took a hand in defence of Cartier-MacDonald.

George Arnold and a man named Farley, both of St. Davids, got into an argument, when Farley pulled out a stake from a sleigh on which he was standing and struck Arnold on the head Arnold died in a few hours and a coroner’s jury rendered a verdict of willful murder.

Terrible Toll in Disaster at Cleveland Clinic

{Welland Tribune Thursday, May 16, 1929}

Ninety-Five Known Dead as the Result of Two Explosions.

Poisonous Gas Rushes Through Building When X-ray Films Burned

Cleveland, May 16—Poison gas and two explosions which followed burning the X-ray films in the Cleveland clinic yesterday claimed nearly 100 lives.

There were 95 known dead and hospital authorities worked desperately to administer artificial respiration to 43 more who were overcome. Victims of the disaster were dying at short intervals and physicians sent out appeals for addition oxygen in the fear that the supply in the city might prove insufficient. Oxygen is declared the only effective means of overcoming gas burns.

Nearly all of the deaths were attributed to the deadly gas which filtered through the four-storey brick building slowly at first and then augmented by a second and greater explosion than the first, rushed up from the basement and cut off escape down the stairways and elevators.

Survivors said those asphyxiated were dead, their faces turning a sickly yellowish-brown color, within two minutes after inhaling the gas.

Like War Gas

The fumes were given off by fire of an undetermined origin which destroyed X-ray films in the basement. Some pharmacists said it was bromine gas, while Dr. William E. Lower, one of the founders of the clinic, said it resembled the deadly phosgene gas employed in the great war.

It was ironic that the disaster occurred in the very place where the most advanced instruments and laboratories of science had been turned against pain and death. The clinic was owned principally by Dr. George W. Crile, nationally-known physician, who was too occupied with relief work to comment on the catastrophe.

Despite the heavy loss of life, firemen estimated the property damage at only $50,000.

The first explosion occurred in the basement. On the floors above, waiting rooms were crowded with clinical patients. Many of them died where they sat, some in wheel chair unable to move, as the deadly fumes rapidly penetrated to all floors.

The hollow centre of the building first was filled with gases.The intense heat below sent the fumes swirling upward. Before any one had opportunity to escape, a second blast blew out the skylight and filled the entire building with the deadly fumes. Occupants had no way to escape by the windows and few were able to reach them. These were enveloped by the fumes which hung about the building and they collapsed.

The two street entrances were choked, and the stairways leading to the roof were heavy with the fumes. Every piece of fire apparatus available was centered at the clinic and every vehicle possible was commandeered to remove the bodies.. An hour and a half after the first explosion all had been taken to nearby hospitals.

The first blast was heard by policeman Henry Thorpe, walking two blocks away. He immediately turned in an alarm and ran to the building at Euclid avenue and 93rd street.

Explosion At Cleveland Clinic Hospital Claims Life of Dr. John Phillips

{Welland Tribune May, 1929}

Native Son of Welland County was one of the Founders of Famed Institution—Born at O’Reilly’s Bridge, Received Education Here Before Graduating From Toronto University—Made Great Contribution to United States Medical Science—Relatives Reside in Fenwick.

According to later word received by The Tribune at edition time, Dr. Phillips died late last evening from his injuries.

The terrible explosion and fire which Wednesday took a toll of 91 lives at the Cleveland Clinic hospital, Cleveland, Ohio, came home with full force to this city and Welland county when it became known the Dr. John Phillips was among the injured and is not expected to live.

Some years ago Dr. Phillips former resident of Welland city and native son of Welland county became associated with the famous surgeon, Dr, George W. Crile, and together they founded the Cleveland clinic, which has been known all over the continent as an institution of the very first rank.

Relatives here of Dr. Phillips said late Wednesday night following long distance conversation with Cleveland that Dr. Phillips was seriously injured and dispatches this morning report him as being gassed.

Dr. Phillips was born at O’Reilly’s Bridge, a few miles from Welland, the son of the late Robert Phillips. He attended school at O’Reilly’s Bridge and later was a student at the Welland high school, residing with his parents on West Main Street. From there he went to University of Toronto and on leaving that institution started a practice in Cleveland under the late Dr. Cushing of that city.

Studious Character

Dr. E.E. Binns, class mate of Dr. Phillips at Toronto University in 1903 their year of graduation, in an interview with The Tribune last night described Dr. Phillips while a student college as quiet and studious and though he did not then show a marked brilliancy nevertheless displayed an intense application and perseverance. “He was one of the most industrious students at Toronto University,” was Dr. Binns’ characterization. “We all knew he would make good but no one thought he had it in him to reach the heights that he speedily scaled. His association with Dr. Cushing, one of Cleveland’s foremost physicians and consultants the latter’s interne at Cleveland gave him an introduction to the finest of professional intercourse in the city, and his close application to work soon bore fruit.

Reached National Fame

Dr. Cushing gradually worked in as a sort of personal assistant and from that moment with John’s industry and conscientiousness his future was assured. Not long after Dr. Cushing died rather suddenly and so great was the impression that John Phillips had made upon the hospital staff and the medical faculty the great city in his few years serving among them, that he was offered chair of assistant professor of medicine and associate lecturer in the medical schools. His work as a clinician soon became known outside the limits of Cleveland, and as the years passed he reached a national fame. He was recognized as one of the most capable, conscientious and reliable members of the healing profession.

“Welland county is justly proud to have given to the United States a man made so valuable a contribution to the realms of medical science,” was Dr. Binns’ tribute.

Dr. Phillips and his wife, Cordelia, have one son John, now at Yale. Who is looked upon as an electrical genius and a most gifted boy. He has three brothers in Welland county, Thomas of Wainfleet, Robert of Fenwick and Richard of O’Reilly’s Bridge and one sister Mrs. Henry Chambers of Fenwick. A niece is Miss Lillian Phillips of O’Reilly’s Bridge. He last visited Welland a little more than a month ago.

Dr. John Phillips

{Welland Tribune 1903}

Dr. John Phillips, recently of Toronto, left on Monday for Cleveland, after spending a few holidays at his old home here. John’s many friends will be pleased to learn that he has received a better offer in his profession than that announced some weeks ago. He goes to the Lakeside Hospital, Cleveland, and was to have taken a position as assistant in the surgical department, but has since been asked to go in as chief assistant in the medical department.

Welland County Mourning Loss of Dr. J. Phillips

{Welland Tribune May, 1929}

Victim of Cleveland Clinic Disaster was Internationally Known Specialist.

Welland county is mourning the lose of one of its most brilliant sons, Dr. John Phillips, who died late Wednesday night as the result of being gassed following the explosion and fire that day at the Cleveland Clinic hospital, Cleveland, Ohio, of which he was co-founder.

Dispatches from that city say that Dr. Phillips, head of the medical service of the clinic and silver medallist at the University of Toronto, in 1902. He was one who escaped from the building only to die later. He was able to walk home after assisting in rescue of others, only to be rushed to the hospital at night where he died.

Eight doctors lost their lives the last one being Dr. Phillips who, Cleveland dispatches describe, as a native of Welland and internationally known specialist and one of the founders of the Cleveland clinic. He was in the building when the catastrophe occurred but walked home believing he had not been affected by the gas. He was taken ill toward evening and  rushed to the hospital where a futile blood transfusion was made.

Relatives of Dr. Phillips residing in this vicinity were expected to attend the funeral in Cleveland today.

Fine Tribute To Dr. Phillips by Cleveland Paper

{Welland Tribune May 1929}

Plain Dealer States Welland Old Boy was Renowned Leader in Medicine

That the late Dr. John Phillips co-founder of the Cleveland Clinic hospital, scene of one of the greatest peace-time hospital disasters of recent history, was renowned as a leader in the world of internal medicine and that he was accredited with the largest consulting practice in the history of medicine was noted in a recent issue of the Cleveland Plain Dealer which reported in part as follows:

“Renowned as a leader in the world of internal medicine, Dr. Phillips was accredited with the largest consulting practice in the history of medicine.

Unaware that the blood-destroying gases had attacked him, Dr. Phillips had walked into the Wade Park Manor, where he made his home. A rest, he thought would be a wise precaution.

“A few hours later attendants called for oxygen, Dr. George W. Crile, intimate associate of Dr, Phillips, hurried to the hotel and ordered a blood transfusion, but died at 9.15p.m.

Caught on the Third Floor

“The gasses had sapped his blood. He was working on the third floor of the clinic when the blast occurred and escaped by leaping from the third floor to the fire net.

Dr Crile, after an examination, declared that Dr. Phillips died from nitrous peroxide and monoxide gases. His death takes the second of four founders of the clinic. Dr Frank E. Bunts having died Nov. 28th 1928.

“Quiet, genial, industrious, Dr. Phillips enjoyed the confidence of the city’s wealthiest families and it was to him that thousands flocked each year for diagnoses.

“He had the largest consulting practice in the world,” Dr. Lower declared last night.

Dr. Phillips was born in Welland county in 1879and at 50 was the youngest of the clinic executives. He studied at the public schools of Welland, later attending and graduating from the University of Toronto with his degree in medicine. Although he left for graduate work at Johns Hopkins University and service in Cleveland soon after his graduation in 1903, Dr. Phillips always maintained friendships in Toronto and was as well known there as in Cleveland.

It was at his instance that more than 25 Toronto physicians were coming to Cleveland as guests of the Cleveland Academy of Medicine for a two-day conference and clinic, and Dr. Phillips was to have been their host at dinner at Wade Park Manor, where he died.

“It was only by the luckiest chance that members of the Toronto crowd were not in the clinic at the time of the explosion,” hospital authorities revealed “They had been there on an advance visit and left just a few moments before it occurred.”



[The Welland-Port Colborne Evening Tribune, 14 December 1931]

Ransacking the entire house at 12 Division street, owned by Miss Helena Griffith, a man took away $20 and ran from the place and down Division street shortly after eight o’clock this morning. He was seen by a Mrs. Johnson just as she was on her way to the house to do some work there. Mrs. Johnson, however, according to Police Chief George T. Crowe of Welland, failed to notify police, and it was not until near a quarter to nine o’clock that city police were notified of the break-in, Mrs. Johnson apparently telling Miss Griffith who communicated with Police Officer Tom Wilson.

Officer Wilson investigated, and found rooms all over the house in disarray. Police are thoroughly investigating every angle of the affair.




[The Welland-Port Colborne Evening Tribune, 14 December 1931]

The death occurred in hospital at Hamilton on Saturday night of A.B. Robertson, a former reeve of Crowland township and a resident of Niagara Falls for 35 years. The late Mr. Robertson was in his 80th year and was born in Lanark county, Ontario. In 1870 he settled in Crowland township and took up farming. He owned one hundred acres of land and for 25 years was a successful agriculturist. He took an active interest in municipal affairs and besides serving as a councillor for several years, for two years occupied the position of reeve of the township.

About the year 1895 he moved to Niagara Falls where he conducted a general store and also built a number of houses. He became a well known figure in Niagara Falls but a year ago disposed of his business and went to live with his daughter, Mrs. Sanford Fleming, of Jarvis. He was a Liberal in politics.

Surviving are three daughters, Mrs. Elizabeth Pratt, Cleveland, O.; Mrs. Ernest Reaveley, Niagara Falls and Mrs. Sanford Fleming, Jarvis; also three sisters, Mrs. Melvin Misener, Port Robinson; Mrs. W.D. Misener, Welland and Mrs. A.S. MacGregor, London, Ont; and one brother, William Robertson, formerly of Port Robinson, now of Buffalo.

The funeral is to held on Tuesday afternoon at 1 o’clock from Sutherland’s funeral home in Welland to Doan’s Ridge cemetery.



[Welland Tribune, 30 May 1872]

Niagara Township has lost by death another of its worthy and oldest inhabitants, and Canada one of its earliest settlers and bravest defenders. Mr. Lachlin Currie, father of the Hon. J.G. Currie, Speaker of the House of Assembly and of J.M. Currie, Esq., of this Town, breathed his last on Saturday evening at the ripe old age of 87 years. The deceased was a Scotchman by birth, and came to Canada with his regiment in 1812 or 1813 taking part in many of the battles fought on the Upper Canada frontier during the war. On the conclusion of peace he left the army and settled on a farm on the Niagara River, where he continued to reside till the day of his death. When the Rebellion of 1837 broke out, Mr. C. once more shouldered his musket and again enjoyed the satisfaction of being successful in assisting in preserving the honor and dignity of the flag he loved. For the past  two years he was blind, but otherwise seemed as healthy and strong as most men of his age. He leaves behind him six children, five sons and a daughter. -St. Catharines Journal.