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.

ELIZA JANE TESKEY

[Welland Telegraph. 4 September 1891]

Mrs. Teskey, widow of the late W.E. Teskey, died on Sunday morning. The deceased had been in delicate health previous to the death of her husband which occurred last September, and since her arrival in Welland in January she gradually but steadily sank to death. Three orphan children, between 12 and 3 years, are left.

NIAGARA FALLS PARK

[Welland Telegraph, 28 August 1891]

Among the attractions at the park are a bronze statue lately erected near the museum, and the pyramid erected, some years ago by Mr. Barnett, to several Indian chiefs of early days. Our impressions on seeing the new statue is that it must be in memoriam of Thyendinaga, or some other chief of the Mohawks, who had once encamped in sight of the great falls of Niagara. The latest guide book has, of course, no references yet to the statue and tourists inquire about it in vain. The features of the face seem well executed and represent some noble son of nature of 100 years or more. The body is cut short and opposes the idea of longer proportions of the upper parts, but this may be true of the form and figure of the two Brants, father and son. The unveiling of the statue has not been reported in the daily papers, or we have failed to read any statement in reference to it, its name or fame. Perhaps it is the first one of a group of figures intended to be displayed in time to the multitudes passing by to indicate men of the early period of Ontario.

Niagara Falls Park commissioners have the honor of erecting the first monument. The Lundy’s Lane Society can show nothing yet as a memorial on the old battle ground, where brave soldiers and Indians fell together. The park commissioners have done themselves great credit.

Excursionists to the Mowat Falls Park complain that there is no bus line accommodation through the park. The 10 cent fee for admission to the island hinders thousands from extending a visit to them and the want of a bus line causes thousands more to keep away from the most delightful portion of the park. No wonder about the lack of patronage. It is a penny wise and a pound foolish policy that most unfortunately prevails in the management of the park, for which nature has done so much to adorn and magnify.

PERILOUS VOYAGE – ARRIVAL OF CAPT. LAWLOR’S LITTLE DORY ON THE OTHER SIDE.

MANY HAIR-BREATHTH ESCAPES-EXCITING ADVENTURE WITH A SHARK

[Welland Telegraph, 14 August 1891]

LONDON, Aug. 7- Capt. Lawlor, on board the American dory, Sea Serpent, which started from Boston on an ocean race with the Mermaid, another dory, officered and manned by Capt. Andrews, arrived at Coverack near Lizard Point on the English Channel at 6.30 o’clock Wednesday morning. His recital of the incidents of the trip shows many narrow escapes from death.

The most exciting event was an encounter he had with a shark. On the night of July 24 he went to sleep after he had made his rudder ropes fast and otherwise prepared his boat to care for herself. He was suddenly awakened by a grinding noise and found a shark rubbing against the boat. He paid no attention to this as it was a common occurrence. Suddenly the boat gave a twist and he found the shark had turned over and had one end of the boat in its mouth trying to gnaw it off. Lawlor had a harpoon, but was afraid that if he threw it he might lose it. He tried to lash a knife to the harpoon so that he might stag the shark without danger of losing his weapon, but found he would not have time to do it as the shark’s powerful jaws were almost crunching the boat. He therefore took a patent yacht signal, a number of which he had on board, and which consist of an explosive preparation which acts somewhat after the manner of a Roman candle, lit the fuse and wrapped the signal in a newspaper. Then he threw his novel weapon overboard. As soon as it touched the water the shark seized it and the signal exploded, much to the detriment of the shark’s internal economy.

On August 3, while trying to speak to the bark, Finland, Lawlor lost control of his boat and the latter went down on her beam side ends and was half filled with water. He had hard work to right her. After parting company with the bark he had very dirty weather. When he arrived at Coverack he was drenched and greatly fatigued. The Postmaster there offered him the hospitalities of his house and Lawlor is now there resting from the strain of the voyage.

HE MUST BE A BORN ARTIST

[Welland Telegraph, 14 August 1891]

Mr. John England, of Niagara Falls South, is gifted with more taste than the average artist. His pictures are simply fine, every point is made the most of and brought out to perfection. Mr. England’s specialty is the enlargement of photos, and his latest achievement in Welland is that of the late Sheriff Hobson, which may be seen in the county treasurer’s (G.L. Hobson, Esq.,) office. It is a picture that one may be proud of, and all that have seen it pronounce it as first class.

The Welland Telegraph

[Souvenir of the Town of Welland issued August 22nd, 1902 by the Welland Telegraph, Sears & Sawle, Publishers]

The Welland Telegraph, now in its thirty-ninth year was the first newspaper published in Welland town. It was started in 1863, in the interests of the Conservative party, and from that date until the present it has been the organ of that party in Welland county, During the nearly two score years of its existence it has had a varied career and seen many changes, but altogether it has made a steady advancement.

During the latter few years the Telegraph has grown splendidly in popularity, and a much increased business patronage is the result. The present publishers of the Telegraph are Messrs Frank H. Sears and G.R.T Sawle. They have been affiliated with the Telegraph for many years, and are now succeeding to the business that was held by their respective fathers before them. Today the Telegraph is recognized by newspaper men all over the province to be the greatest county weekly published in Canada.

Its news facilities are remarkable, and elicit much praise as well as a satisfactory patronage. The plant of the Welland Telegraph is the best equipped outside the larger cities. It contains modern machines and presses, and all the very newest series of fancy and body types, borders, rules, etc.

Messrs Sears & Sawle are hustlers after business and nothing in the printing lines is too big or too small for them to tackle. They are good printers. Their enterprises combined with their equipment, makes a combination of united facilities which enables them to turn out the very best work and have it right. They believe in doing things right. Both big things and little things. They work on the principal that a good job is a good ad. For themselves, and advertising is the foundation of their business. They are disciples of advertising, and in realizing the good results it brings, they can conscientiously preach it to others. This printing shop is replete with modern ideas, both in printing and proper advertising.

These ideas are collected for the benefit of the patrons of the Telegraph, and every effort of every member of the staff is to make every dollar spent in the Telegraph worth its while to the man who spends it.

PAUPER DEAD

[Welland Telegraph, 10 July 1891]

On Tuesday Mr. hemming was summoned before Police Magistrate Hellems for neglecting to notify the inspector of anatomy of deaths occurring at the Industrial Home, and judgment was reserved until Saturday to allow the defendant’s attorney to argue the case. There is a statutory regulation which enacts that keepers of public institutions must notify the inspector of deaths occurring on the premises under their charge, and in most cases the bodies are sent to a medical school. The Welland county council and Warden Macklem contend that the Industrial Home is not a public institution in the sense implied by the statute, and it was on the warden’s instructions that Mr. Hemming neglected to notify the inspector, The ultimate decision in this case may set the matter at rest as to which is the right interpretation of the law.

James Griffith

[Welland Tribune , 1909]

Welland over Fifty years ago

Although we have already published a reference to the late James Griffith, we are pleased to print the following, both on account of being fuller and for the historical reminiscences contained:

James Griffith, son of Thomas Griffith and Isabella Church, was born in Port Robinson on Dec 4th, 1828. He was the last of five brothers, excepting a step-brother, Charles Curry of Dunnville. His boyhood days were spent on a farm, and in early life he took a place as clerk in a store. While clerking for the late D. Kinsman of Fonthill, he became acquainted with Ellen Randall, a native of Brookfield, Nova Scotia, whom he married on Sept. 3rd, 1854. They started on the journey of life in the village of Merritville, now the town of Welland, and on the corner of West Main and North Main streets stood a long Gothic frame building, the property of Seely & Betts. The front of the building contained a store where the deceased carried on business, while in the rear were apartments for dwellings. On the opposite corner the late Elias Hoover kept the Welland House–still the Welland House but greatly enlarged and improved.

Across from the Gothic store A. Bald had a dry goods store, and west of that stood his residence. There were no railroads, and the canal, which was west of the present one was content to have its boats hauled through by horse power and tow ropes. Steam boats were few and far between those days, and the bridge over the river was an old wooden structure without a railing.

Among the business firms were Daniel McCaw, who did shoe making; Mr Shrigley sold drugs; Wellington Hellems kept a furniture store; Betts & Seely had a saw mill.

There was no jail; no church–an old log school house, where the model school building (now the Y.M.C.A.) stands, served both as church and school, and was lighted by tallon candles, oftimes the members of the congregation bringing their own candles with them. The sidewalks were either mother earth, or two planks with space between them.

Mr Griffith took an active part building up the town, was enthusiastic in church work and in municipal affairs. He fought for a free school system, and, although opposed by some of his most intimate friends won the day after many strivings, he believed in education for all classes. If I remember correctly he was the first superintendent for the first Sabbath school in Welland, He was very hospitable and generous to the last degree. He was the father of six sons and six daughters–three sons and two daughters dying in infancy.

The next break in the family came in the death of their daughter Mrs M. Webster, about 10 years ago, Grand Forks, N.D., where the Griffith family had gone to live in 188-, 1884. In 1889 and during following winters Mr and Mrs Griffith had gone to California to escape the severe cold of the north. In 1906 owing to ill-health of Mrs G. they remained in Pasadena for the summer and on the last day of August same year, the life partner of the deceased passed away and was laid to rest in Mountain View cemetery. Mr Griffith returned to Grand Forks, to be with his sons there, and, owing to the severity of the cold northern winters and his advanced, he came to Pasadena, California, last November, to live with his daughter Mrs R.W. Weeks, where he died on Jan 31st, from fatty degeneration of the heart, and was laid to rest beside his wife in the beautiful cemetery with a fine monument marking the last resting place of all that is mortal of the venerable old couple whose journey in life began on the other side of the continent, and also beside them rests a sister, Miss Catherine Randall, who as a teacher in Welland county, instilled in the minds of many a young girl and boy good principles that led them to become noble men and women

Although Mr Griffith had been complaining at times for about two weeks preceding his death, he was not considered in an immediately serious condition, and in fact the day before his death his condition was pronounced to be improved. On the day of his death, after supper, he laid down, as was his custom, to take a nap. He woke up and said to nurse and me, who were in the next room, “Why, girls, haven’t you gone to bed yet?” And nurse replied, “ It is only 6.30.” Whereupon he said, “Oh is that all; guess I’ll  go to sleep again.” and those were the last words he spoke. The nurse was in the room watching him constantly while he slept, fearing he might have a stroke of apoplexy; but his last long breath came at 8.45 p.m.;he looked as if he were sleeping so peaceful–his long life work was ended.

“Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord… That they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.”

The surviving children of deceased are: R.B. Griffith T,C.Griffith, Mrs L.H. Carter, of Grand Forks, North Dakota; Mrs F.W. Cathro of Bottineau, No. Dak; Dr. A.R. Griffith of Montreal, Canada; Mrs R.W. Weeks of Pasadena, Calif.

There are twenty grandchildren.

Mr and Mrs Griffith celebrated their golden wedding anniversary on Sept 3, 1904, in Grand Forks, N.D.

Late James Griffith

[Welland Tribune, 1909]

The death of James Griffiths occurred at the residence of his daughter, Mrs. R.W. Weeks, Pasadena, Calif., on Jan, 31st. Mr Griffiths was a prominent resident of Welland forty to fifty years ago, having carried on business as a merchant there, served as school trustee, village councillor. His sons carry on a large mercantile business at Grand Forks, and one son is a doctor at Montreal. In politics deceased was a Liberal. and in religion a Baptist. As Mr Griffith was in good health recently, his death must have been comparatively sudden. He was about 80 years of age. We expect to give a more extended notice at a later date.

Obituary – James Griffith

James Griffith, (whose death was briefly noted in our last issue,) was born at Port Robinson, Welland county. Ontario, on Dec. 4, 1828, was married to Ellen Randall on Sept 3,1854, in the picturesque village of Fonthill, and started the journey of life in Welland, where he carried on the mercantile business for many years, in the store now occupied by A.O. Rose and was prominent in church and municipal affairs.

Twelve children were born to them, five dying in infancy, and one later.

In 1883 he went to Grand Forks, North Dakota, where his oldest son had started in the mercantile business, and, liking the country, sent for his wife and family, who joined him the following year.

In 1888 he had a severe sick spell, and in the following winter his physician advised a California trip, so he, with his wife, went to Pasadena for the winter and since then have spent each winter in California until  two years ago, when his life partner passed away, and he returned to Grand Forks to be with his sons. One winter was passed at Compton, California, where he helped found the Baptist church.

Last November he arrived in Pasadena to spend the winter with his daughter, Mrs R.W. Weeks. In January he took a severe cold, resulting in bronchial pneumonia, from which he recovered; but other complications set in unexpectedly and on Jan. 31st he went to sleep, peacefully and quietly breathing his last, fatty degeneration of the heart being the cause of his death. He was eighty years of age.

The surviving children are; R.B. Griffith, T.C. Griffith and Mrs L.H. Carter, of  Grand Forks, North Dakota; Dr.A.R. Griffith of Montreal, Canada; Mrs F.W. Cathro of Bottineau, North Dakota, and Mrs R.W. Weeks of Pasadena, California.

Deceased, who were winter tourists in California, and the minister was Rev C.Y. Snell, a life-long friend.

Many friends attended, and the casket was covered with beautiful floral offering, among them being a handsome piece of violets and delicate white blossoms sent by his friends who were formerly from his old home in Grand Forks, North Dakota;

Crashing Weddings

by Al Garner

When I was a teenager (17-18 years old) growing up in Welland in the mid to late 1950’s, one of the social events that helped pass the time was occasionally crashing weddings on Saturday nights at one the many ethnic halls in the city. For example there was the Hungarian Hall, Italian Hall, Polish Hall and the Ukrainian Hall.

Our modus operandi was as follows. We’d check out the Welland Tribune newspaper to see what was going on at a particular hall on the upcoming Saturday night. We’d dress up in our best clothes either a suit or sports jacket, white shirt and tie and of course shined dress shoes. We’d hit the hall of choice after the wedding guests had eaten their dinner, usually about 8:30pm-9:00pm. By that time everyone was well oiled from the booze and food and no one would pay attention to us. We’d saunter in usually one or two at time. We’d work our way up to the bar, order free drinks, usually beer or rye whiskey and munch on the food that was left over from dinner. At the Hungarian Hall, which was my favorite, there would always be paprika chicken or cabbage rolls and perogies to chow down on.

We’d hang out at the wedding for a couple of hours, have a few drinks, dance the polka or chardosh with the good looking girls, get half pissed and then jump in our cars and head over to Niagara Falls, New York and go drinking and dancing until the bars closed at 4am.

Now keep in mind this didn’t happen every Saturday night but when we got bored or were low on money, which for me was most of the time, it was a fun way to get free drinks and have a good time.

Things I Remember About Welland in the 1940’s & 50’s

By Allan Garner

Myrtle Avenue – Main Street

In those days Welland was the armpit of Southern Ontario. Some would say it still is. There  were many industries such as foundries, forge shops, textile mills and the bigger factories such as the Atlas Steel, the Electric Metals (Union Carbide), Page Hersey Pipe Mill and of course the Wabasso Cotton and Dominion Textiles.

These great industrial giants surrounded our blue-collar neighbourhood. As mentioned the Atlas Steels was the biggest and employed almost a thousand men during World War ll. We lived at 27 Myrtle Avenue with my Grandma and Grandpa Garner. The Canada Foundries and Forgings employed my Dad’s family. For example Grandpa Garner and his brother, Uncle Fred Garner started at the plant around 1918 or so. By the time they retired, they had logged about 90 years at Canada Forge between the two of them.

The factory was right at the end of the block at the corner of Myrtle Ave. and Major St. East. It was a two-minute walk for Dad and Grandpa to go to work in the morning.

The Atlas Steels Recreation Club was the predecessor to the modern day recreational facility. They had a bowling alley, and a projector and screen set up where they would show Hopalong Cassidy movies with William Boyd as “Hoppy” and Andy Clyde as his side kick. There were also cartoons and free donuts and chocolate milk. The rules were that it was for employee family members only, but I always managed to scam my way in. Thanks to the Brettell boys. Even at the tender age of seven or eight I figured out how to get in through the pass gate.

Winters

I remember the very, very cold winters of Welland. Jesus it was cold in the winter. Snow up to here, the cold crunch of your boots on the snow. Walking out to “The Pond” to play ice hockey. We would pack our lunches and walk out to The Pond. It was about a mile and a half walk from our house on Myrtle Ave. Maybe it wasn’t that far but it seemed that far when I was a kid.

We’d strap on the blades, play shinny all day long till almost dark. It seemed like ten miles on the way back. I’d skate back home on my very fragile ankles, tears in my eyes, exhausted but happy to be part of the gang.

WWII

The world from my eyes, those of a five year old was all black and white. I remember in those days that almost every movie that you went to was in black and white. There just wasn’t much colour. An event that sticks in my mind, even to this day are the blackout curtains and the air raid sirens going off. We had to practice for the dreaded German invasion of course! Because the Germans were about 4,000 miles from us! Welland in those days was a major supplier of war materials so we had to be very careful and aware of the consequences of the dreaded Nazi Blitz Kreig attacks. But there was hope, generally it was ok. And eventually we won the War!!!

One of the things that I remember as a kid was going to Plymouth Cordage Park in Welland after the Allies won WWII. It was a huge gathering of people, perhaps some 3000-4000. Effigies of Hitler, Tojo and Mussolini were burned as the bands played and people cheered. The war was over and we won.

Another post war memory is that the city had a parade for the returning vets. I remember walking down Main Street just about where the liquor store was in between River Road and Hellems Avenue with my uncle Willard proudly holding his hand at this victory celebration parade. The war was over. Uncle Willard was home from the war. He was my hero. Willard was captured at Dieppe and was a POW for some 31 months. He was released from a German prisoner of war camp, a hero. I don’t think he considered himself a hero though. He probably considered himself an unlucky SOB to get captured at Dieppe and held captive in a German POW camp for almost three years.

I often wonder how my Dad felt about Willard. My Dad you see was drafted to go into the army. Family and friends had a big party for him. He was on his way to war. He was on his way to Hamilton to get sworn in. At the last moment a phone call came and he was told that because he was the last surviving son in Canada he didn’t have to go to war. I often wondered if he was happy or disappointed. Probably a little of both because the war was such a big thing in those days.

Welland Canal

To write about Welland and not mention the old Welland Canal is almost sacrilegious. The Canal as it was rightfully called in those days ran right through the centre of town. It joined Lake Ontario to the North and Lake Erie to the South. The Canal was, and still is an integral part of building the trade routes between the United States and Canada via the Great Lakes.

The canal in those days separated the executive families who lived on the northwest side of Welland from the blue-collar worker’s families that lived on the southeast side of the town. We of course were of the blue-collar class. But the meeting place and focal point in the summer was the old Welland swimming pool. It was located right beside the canal. I was never a swimmer when I was a kid mostly because my Dad wasn’t a swimmer. So he never thought that I should be. I was always afraid of the water and would always make excuses not to go swimming in the deep end of the pool or dive off the pier. A fence at the deep end of the pool separated the pier and the pool. There was a wall about 12 feet high that all the older guys would dive off of into about seven or eight feet of water into the canal.

My buddy Jack Brettell was one hell of a swimmer. He could practically swim underwater halfway across the canal a distance of some 300 hundred feet. I remember one time he dove off the pier and he didn’t surface. We waited and waited and waited. A good fifteen minutes must have gone by and for sure we all thought he was a goner. Well old Jack he was a cagey SOB. He had swam underwater and surfaced along the banks of the canal unseen by us kids. He told me years later that he sat there laughing his guts out, listening to us worrying about him. I loved that guy and as matter of fact I still do.

Movie Theatres in Welland (1940’s & 50’s)

The Community Theatre located on King Street near the old Leon’s building was also called the Garlic Opera, because of its proximity to the Italian and Hungarian communities in the area. Whenever you went into the Community Theatre there was an omnipresent smell of garlic. Hence, The Garlic Opera. No disrespect meant or intended, just stating facts people.

The price for admission at the Community Theatre for matinees was 12 cents. We would go there on Saturday afternoon for the movie serials with Red Ryder, Lash La Rue, The Phantom, Wild Bill Elliot, Hop Along Cassidy and many more that are buried somewhere in my memory banks.

Admission to the Park and Capital theatres was 15cents. These two theatres were where we would go to meet up with a girl and go to the balcony and neck with each other. I often wonder where the term necking came from? You didn’t get much farther than “necking” more commonly known as fooling around, but it was still fun. Occasionally you could cop the odd feel but that was as far as it ever got. There was a lady attendant dressed in a nurse’s outfit whose job it was to catch us fooling around and kick our asses out of the theatre on the spot. Sexual desires and those types of things were stringently suppressed in the 1950′s. Of course we would be back there the following week to do it all over again.

Another thing I remember about going to the movies in those days was they would have additional entertainment at the Capital theatre. Photo Night was one promotion.  Another one I remember is when I was about 12 or 13 years old going up on stage with several other people and being hypnotized. The hypnotist had us doing weird things like making animal noises or rolling around on the floor at his commands. Well I wasn’t really hypnotized because I faked it. I thought that being on the stage and being watched by people was cool. Obviously the so-called hypnotist wasn’t very good at his trade. But none the less for going up on the stage I won a free pass.

Crystal Beach

I remember we used to go on excursions to this great amusement park called Crystal Beach Park. It was situated right on the shores of Lake Erie across from Buffalo, New York, a few miles west of Fort Erie, Ontario. It had to be one of the greatest amusement parks of its kind in Canada, if not North America at that time. It had not one, but two roller coasters the biggest being The Comet. It was scary. The great thrill of the Comet was that it ran alongside of the lake. The first climb up to the top was about 100 ft.  A chain pulled the roller coaster up to the top with about a dozen cars attached together. Once it got to the top it was a free fall straight down. After that it was gut wrenching and twisting and turning tracks that ran right alongside of Lake Erie. It was about two minutes of unrelenting thrills.

The second coaster was called The Giant, not as high as the Comet but certainly a rush for a young kid who was afraid of heights. The other amusements were the Funhouse, Laugh in the Dark, Moon Rocket, Miniature Golf, Bumper Cars, and of course the Ferris Wheel. They had a Kiddies section with rides such as the Merry-Go-Round, miniature airplanes even a mini roller coaster, The Little Dipper that was about 10 feet high and a wide variety of other kiddie rides. The best of all though were the cinnamon and butterscotch suckers from Hall’s. Candies.