Welland History .ca

The TALES you probably never heard about


A Village Publication Ere Welland Was Named- Merrittsville -a Suburb of Fonthill-Names Known Today and Names Lost to Memory


Frank C. Pitkin

             Let us turn the pages of a newspaper- a paper differing radically from the Tribune and Telegraph you are wont to peruse twice a week.

             Its pages reveal no reference to many things that are today found in the columns of the press. There is not a word of telephone or trolleys, the O.T.A. and its presumed alleviator, four point four, find no mention; radio and jazz are subjects not touched upon, nor can a cross-word puzzle be found in any of its corners, and the comic strip is likewise noticeable by its absence.

             The title of his paper is The Welland Herald, but Welland as we distinguish it is not noted therein, although reference may be found to Merrittsville, not of the fair province of Ontario but of Canada West.

             For the Welland of today had no official existence at the time we are looking back upon. This copy bears the date September 20, 1855, or one year previous to the erection of the county buildings, and the paper is No. 15 of Volume 2, its first issue being June 24, 1854, and the office of publication being located at what was then the hub of this district, the present village of Fonthill, which, far outranked our city of today in population, prominence and pep.

             7 column sheet, 24×17 inches, as compared with our own 24x 16 inches paper with its six columns. The quality of the press work is noticeable, the types standing out clear, and distinct despite the passage of seventy years. Much of this is due to the grade of news print used, for that was before the day of wood pulp and paper was then made from rag stock.

Shy on Some Stuff

             Another point that would strike the modern newspaper man is the dearth of local news. Let alone there not being a single story of local happening and bearing head lines, there is not a local brief nor even a personal and the only news item of immediate personal interest is to found in its four pages is the notice of the birth at Port Robinson of a son to Joseph M. Stark.

             The only light thrown on the life of those days thereabouts is found in the advertising columns, and there is absolutely nothing to give one who had not had it by word of mouth news of the happenings about him.

The Front Page

             The first two columns of page 1 are devoted to advertising, headed by the display card of the paper, from which we learn that it was published every Thursday morning at Fonthill by A. Dinsmore, Editor and Proprietor.

             The subscription terms were $2 per annum, if paid in advance: $2.50 if paid any time before the expiration of six months and $3 if in arrears one year or more.

             This for a once-a-week 4-page paper, while the only lowest rate applies to our own twice-a-week issue, with pages numbering from eight to sixteen, or twenty or more, which makes it evident that when one is engaged in excoriating those upon whom one places responsibility for the high cost of living, the newspaper publisher should perchance be passed over.

             Besides which, in those days a dollar was a Dollar!

             Advertising rates are quoted in shillings and pence, 2s. 6d. being the rate for 6 lines and under, which would figure abut 75¢ per inch; a demonstration that the increased market for advertising has materially lowered its price.

             There is a display advertisement of the book and job printing done at the Herald office. This shows a cut of a press operated with a lever and by one-man power-a far cry from the mammoth motor driven newspaper press, and the battery of smaller presses standing within our own plant.

             Then comes a notice anent claims against and in favor of the Welland Printing and Book Co., evidently in process of liquidation. It is signed by J.H. Berston, Secretary.

Familiar Names

             The balance of the first column is given over to advertising cards. These include those of I. Pierce, licensed auctioneer for Pelham township, and two St. Catharines legal firms, MacDonald & Rykert, (Rolland MacDonald and John Charles Rykert) and Eccles, Lawder & Currie, (Wm. Eccles and J.G. Currie of St. Catharines, and John M. Lawder, of Niagara). The Erie and Ontario Insurance Co. is advertised by D. D’Everardo, agent in Fonthill.

             Charles Cockburn, of Thorold Village, advertises as Bailiff of Division Court, insurance agent and licensed auctioneer for the Counties of Welland and Haldimand.

             The name of D. D’Everardo again appears as Notary Public, Commissioner Court Bar and conveyancer at Fonthill; and Daniel Stoner tells the world that he is a Dealer in General Merchandise, opposite the Brick Government House, Port Colborne, C.W.

             John Thompson, Commissioner Court Queen’s Bench and Conveyancer offers his services in matters pertaining to the law, giving Petersburg as his location.

             Another auctioneer’s cards heads column 2, that of S.N. Pattison, of Stevensville. He likewise proclaims himself a “wholesale dealer in nine-five per cent alcohol (for burning fluid), proof spirits and rectified whiskey.”

Welland Heard From

             Then we get the first peep at Merrittsville, the forerunner of the Welland of today, but it is only a modest two-line card of Merrideth & Co., Cabinet makers, Etc.

             Next we are told that Murgatroyd Buggies are manufactured at Fonthill by E.C. Leadbeter; Richard Miller, barrister at law, St. Catharines, has a card as has Charles Stuart of Port Robinson, a notary public, accountant, conveyancer, commissioner in the Queen’s Bench and insurance agent.

             Now looms a name well known in our midst, that of Raymond, not our present Col L.C. Raymond, but his father, Lorenzo D. Raymond, barrister, attorney at law, solicitor in chancery, etc., at St. Catharines.

             John R. Giles is conveyancer, accountant, land and general agent at Fonthill.

             A call is made for payments upon the capital stock of the Humberstone Steam Mill Company, capital $3000. John Thompson, secretary-treasurer signs the call, which is dated at Petersburgh.

             Another peep from Merrittsville comes from H. Dunn, who “Would care___________ Merrittsville and vicinity that he has commenced the blacksmithing business, three lots west of Mr. Bald’s store,” and that “By strict attention to business and Good Workmanship, he expects to merit a share of public patronage.” He was prepared to repair carriages and wagons “on the shortest notice;” and what might to the carping critic seem superfluous in connection with blacksmithing, he tells of “Horseshoeing done to order.”

             There is an advertisement of a Buffalo “Agricultural Warehouse and Seed Store,” which leads to the reflection that maybe Buffalo business of this day is overlooking something in its neglect of Fonthill as an advertising field.

The Genesis of Taxes

             Then comes notice of the first debenture issue of Welland County, in which Archibald Thompson, Prov. Treasurer, from the Treasurer’s office at Montrose, calls the attention of “Capitalists” to his authority to borrow through debentures $7000 in large or small sums for the erection of a Court House and Gaol, the loan periods to vary from one to 14 years as may suit the lender, the interest rate being six per cent.

             Finally, Israel Pierce at Chippawa, “In returning thanks to his numerous friends and customers in the County of Welland for the generous support extended to him during the many years he has been in business, begs at the same time to acquaint them and the public generally that he is now in the New Premises between the residence of the late Gilbert McMicking and the late Wm. Hepburne, Esqs,” where his stock comprises “Everything in the line known as the Assortments, also tin and copper, stove furniture, stoves, etc., etc.,” and furthermore, that “Rags and country produce taken in exchange for goods.”

The Big Break

             Come you now to the premier position in this paper’s make-up, head of first news column and which, in these days, would be devoted to some tale of battle, murder or sudden death or such else as comes under the classification of a Big Break-an outstanding feature of the news the issue is to purvey.

             And what have you here? Aha! No “yellow press” in those days! Then had they journalism pure and undefiled! For the leading features bears no scare head, not even capital letters are employed for its title, “The Juggler’s Duel, A Naval Sketch.” Two and one-half columns are devoted to what is presumably a masterpiece of fiction, with scene laid in the Mediterranean-doubtless differing from the “snappy story” of our own day in that no one could read it and not go away a better men, although that yet remains to be tried out.

             Following this, the column closes with what is presumably an interesting and informative article on what happens, if a piece of quicksilver be put into nitric acid. It must have been interesting for half a column is devoted to it; but there being no nitric acid, or quicksilver handy, as was doubtless the case in those days, no experiment could be made.

             You have now worked your way to the head of the sixth column, and there is found a newly half-column quoting Rev. G.S. Weaver of Marietta, Ohio, on “The Organ of Spirituality.” He informs us that, “Spirituality is truly the prophet seer of the soul and it is through this organ that the grand truths of revelation have been known to man.”

             There is a lot more of this, probably all to the good, but it is not what today’s newspaper would rule as first page stuff.

Hitting On High

             But now you are coming to something, and you should sit up and take notice when you strike the title of the next_.

             Kings are always good stuff for a newspaper-even better-than cabbages sometimes. So you read half a column about the bats of the regal belfry and if you are not in the newspaper game your enjoyment will not be tempered by discovering at the finish that George had then been dead thirty-five years which sort of took him out of the line of current topics.

Putting Them Next

             One of the avowed objects of The Tribune and Telegraph (or, if you feel that mean against it, one of the excuses for) is “the diffusing of useful information.”

             The same motive must have been one of the impelling forces of the Welland Herald, for next on the front page come three highly useful and informative wise-ups, one on Expanding the Lungs, which tells you right in the first line to “Step out into the purest air that you can find,” rather than sticking your head in a hole and having some one fill up the hole with dirt, which you thus learn is no way to promote lung expansion.

             The next is on “Steering By the North Star, so that any time you are on the seas and a little leary about which way to head and find your compass has gone zowie, you are told what to do.”

             Thirdly, you learn How To Preserve Meat From Insects. You might say, off hand, Eat It; but things were different in those days. Now you buy a small steak or a five-pound roast and consider yourself lucky to have the price thereof; but this recipe in the Herald closes by stating that the quantity of preservatives mentioned will preserve over one thousand pounds of meat.

             From this, it was evidently nothing unusual to have a well stocked smoke-house or cellar back in those times, which must have been a grand and glorious feeling.

             A few small items fill the balance of the space, one of which is “Another train was put on the Brantford Road last week. The train will leave Buffalo at 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.”

Work This One

             Another says that,  “By the marriage at Macclesfield, England, on July 15th, of Mr. Orobin Ollenshaw, aged 68, to Miss Sarah Ollenshaw, aged 28, the bride became the wife of her own uncle, sister-in-law to her aunt, aunt to her brothers and sisters, an step-mother to her cousins, and by another marriage she became the mother-in-law of her own sister.”

             Well, they had no cross word puzzles in those good old times; but what did they care? They did not need them, not with stuff like this on which to work the old bean during the long winter evenings.

             One more to quote; “A witness in a liquor case in Manchester, the other day, gave the following testimony:-“Salsoda is ice and water and some stuff squirted into it from a concern, Don’t know whether it is intoxicating or not; it makes one feel good-your feet lift easier!”

             You get the analogy between this and our own four-point-four problem. The drys maintain that it is going to be intoxicating, the wets hope it will so prove, and the Government says it will not. But even the latter rather intimate that the feet will lift easier.

             Here endeth the first page.

             There may be more if you get rested up.

             One thing is certain. That while this journal may differ muchly from the modern concept of a newspaper, it stands out full and clear between the lines, an indefinable something that they raised Men in those days.

The Welland Tribune and Telegraph

21 May 1925

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