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


             Page 2 of the Welland Herald, printed at Fonthill and dated September 20, 1855, brings us to the editorials, the sanctum sanctorum of the newspaper of that age as it is of the press of our own day.

             But before venturing upon this holy of holies of that dead and gone journalist, A. Dinsmore, editor and proprietor, have pause for another of those times the columns of the paper afford, for the lack of local news and personals referred to in the opening story of its first page marks the sheet throughout, and only the advertising columns reveal names of those who then walked and had their being.

             At head of first column of the second page is found the following notice:

Local Agents

             “The following gentlemen have kindly consented to act as local agents for the HERALD for the localities in which they respectively reside:-

Mr. Ralph Disher, Point Abino

Mr. P. Hendershot, Stevensville

Mr. John W. Lewis, Fort Erie

Mr. Bruce Baxter, Fort Erie

Mr. James Weeks, Point Abino

Mr. Chas. Park, Wainfleet

Mr. Michael Graybiel, Marshville

Mr. William Dunn, Forks Settlement

Mr. Chester Kinnaird, Wainfleet

Mr. Luther Boardman, Crowland

             Agents and subscribers may forward money at our risk, through the Post Office, directed Editor of the Herald, Fonthill, Pelham, C.W.”

             Further, “V.B. Palmer, the American Newspaper Agent, is the only authorized agent for this paper in the cities of Boston, New York and Philadelphia, and is duly empowered to take advertisements and subscriptions at the rates required of us. His receipts will be regarded as payments.”

             Which last throws much illumination upon the relative importance of the Fonthill of old and of today, for even with our own much larger newspaper and much larger city of Welland neither is making sufficient splash to get into the news in Boston, New York and Philadelphia.

             Were the inhabitants of those burgs alive to their opportunity and did they line up to act upon this notice of the opportunity and time to subscribe?

             Now come we to the lucubrations of Brother Dinsmore, sometime journalist, a craftsman of those described by Napoleon as “a grumbler, a censurer, a giver of advice, a regent of sovereigns, a tutor of nations,” and of whom he said that “four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.”

             The job of editing is not so heavy as all this, nowadays; but back then it is likely Brother Dinsmore felt himself all that and then some, for his leader of the day is a column review of “The War and Its Cost.”

The British Bull Dog

             That sounds strangely familiar to us, or would have so sounded a few years agone; but it was not our War to which he was giving the once-over for his opening paragraph refers to victories at Alma and Inkerman and the taking of Bomargund and the bombarding of Sweaborg, all part and parcel of the Crimean War and not the great struggle more real to us.

             But the spirit of the British bull dog so well displayed in our struggle both by Britons here and overseas, was a live thing then, for he writes as follows:-“The British people through its influential journals lead requiring whether all these results,( those above referred to) important as they may be, are what we were led to expect as the fruit of that immense expenditure which the nation has cheerfully incurred. The war is as popular as ever, and none but the interested or the conscientious few who look upon all war, even defensive war, as at variance with the meek spirit of the Gospel (they had pacifists in those days, too) would listen to its termination until the object of it is accomplished, and a peace concluded honorable to the Allies.”

             Familiar stuff, that, but rather strange, in these days of wire and wireless communication, his closing paragraph: “The only news from Europe since our last issue is by the Ariel, which arrived last Friday. We may probably hear of another arrival before going to press.”

Going To The Fair?

             People asked that question then, just as they do now, for the next editorial is headed Township Fair and says: “Up to the present time (and it was then September and late in the season) we have only heard from three townships, whose fair till be held as follows: Thorold Township Fair at Upper’s Hotel, Allanburg, Humberstone Township and Pelham Township Fair at Perine’s Hotel, Pelham Heights,” All three are set down as one-day events.

             Then comes an editorial upon the appointment of Hon. Francis Hincks to the post of Governor of the Windward Islands.

             The name does not seem to be emblazoned upon the tablets of memory, but he evidently was a Somebody, (wasn’t there such a reform leader?) for we quote: “However, parties may differ as to the principles and the constituency of the Hon. Gentleman, who has so long held an eminent position and exercised so influential part in Canadian politics few will be found to question his talents or his administrative ability.”

             Anyway, the appointment evidently set a precedent in the selection of a Canadian for such a post, and the editor hails it as “the day of a new era in the government of our colonies.”

Sound of the Hammer

             Another familiar strain, a knock, comes in the next edition in which the pen engages in the modern pastime of putting up a holler.

             “The POST OFFICE. We have much reason to complain of the extreme irregularities with which we receive our exchanges through the blundering or want of management of the post office. The Toronto daily papers for Friday and Saturday which ought to reach us on the eve of publication did not arrive here till Tuesday.”

             The editor of old had his troubles, but he did not have to try to get connection with a telephone subscriber on the Ridgeville exchange through a call from Welland, which is probably lucky or he would likely have died at the phone.

Well! Well!! Well!!!

             Now come we to a somewhat astounding item, one that reveals that Fonthill was not only the seat of a newspaper but of still another journal-something it may be inferred, along the line of today’s Saturday Evening Post a journal devoted, not to the diffusion of news, but to a higher object, the dissemination of literature. We quote:

             “THE ACORN-We had the pleasure of welcoming to our desk editorial the Acorn, a _published at Fonthill. C.W. by Messrs. Stone and Hobson, two of our former pupils, yet in their juvenility. It has ever been our opinion that the same Hosmer and Daniel would yet rise to eminence and distinction in some professional pursuit. The zeal manifested by them in the pursuit of knowledge, and the superior talent exhibited in the specimens of composition writing presented by them, while under our tuition, we were confident would ere long receive a merited reward, and enable them to rise far superior to the drone and the clown, and entitle them to enjoy meritedly, the esteem and admiration of their parents and friends for their superior literary acquirements.

             We wish our young friends much success in an enterprise which does so much credit to youthful talent and as “tall oaks from little acorns grow,” we doubt not this little Acorn may yet become to the Press of Canada as a giant oak among the trees of the forest.”

             “We extract the above from the grand River Times (Michigan) the editor of which, Mr. A.W. Taylor, two years since taught school in this village. We cordially unite with him in hoping that the Acorn may quickly grow to a forest tree.”

             Alas! It is to be feared that this hope failed to come to fruition and that the praiseworthy Acorn went the way of all flesh and___the Ken of Man.

             But Stone and Hobson, Hosmer and Daniel, what of them? Did they continue to serve with pen or did they abandon that instrument for other and presumably more lucrative pursuits? Well known family names hereabouts are these, and it is to hoped that some of their descendents of this day can throw more light upon the little Acorn that failed to reach the lasting altitude of the sturdy oak.

             The Tribune and Telegraph makes urgent requests for and will much appreciate any information.

             That winds up the editorial matter, and we find an item clipped from the British Whig and we find an item that at the annual meeting of the London and Port Stanley Railroad Company the directors reported that with the 50,000 pounds granted by the London Corporation and the aid looked for from the county of Elgin there was fair prospect that the line would be completed, equipped and in full operation by the next summer.

             And we have not yet done with the page, but it is high time we were done with this effusion about it. But there is a something in the old, yellowed sheet that makes it hard to break away from; it seems to bring to mind “memento mori,” the remainder that we, too, must die, and that in days to come other men will muse upon this page and your names of today in just the same way.

             We do so they will do so because as Carlyle said, “The present is the living sum-total of the whole past.”

             So there is more, maybe much more, in these annals of three-score and ten years ago, and they will be laid before you if you like to hear them and if you think they make good reading.

The Welland Tribune and Telegraph

26 May 1925

Add A Comment