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Former Stevensville Resident Writes of His Experiences

[The Welland Tribune and Telegraph, 11 June 1925]

             The following reminiscences of the Fenian Raid, the “invasion of a day,” show the feeling created in the Niagara Peninsula at that time. They were written for The Telegram by M. G. Sherk, 1201 Broadview avenue, Toronto.

             At the time of the Fenian Raid of 1866 I was living in Stevensville, a small village about four miles from Ridgeway, and about the same distance from the locality on Limestone Ridge where the battle occurred. My father, Rev. A.B. Sherk, the night the marauding army led by General O’Neil, crossed the Niagara River into Canada, had been attending an evening meeting on the Garrison road, three miles from the village of Fort Erie. He spent the night at the house of John Hershey, one of his church members, a well-to-do farmer.

             Early the following morning he was sitting chatting with his host when a neighbor dashed in and saluted Mr. Hershey with, “John, did you hear the news? The Fenians came over last night eight hundred strong and fifteen hundred more are ready to follow.” My father’s first thought was of his family, so he at once set out for home.

In a Panic

             My mother, alone with her children, was awakened at early dawn by the noise made by numerous vehicles rushing through the village, and saw women and children, some of them partly dressed, huddled together in wagons, along with articles of furniture, bedding and provisions, on their way to the big marsh, a few miles back in Humberstone township. One of the women, wringing her hands frantically, called out to my mother: “The Fenians are coming. They are only a few miles behind. They are killing men, women and children as they go.”

             I remember as a boy, not quite five years of age, my mother taking me across the bridge over the creek to the home of Peter Hendershot, the local merchant, Mr. Hendershot being away at the time. Mrs. Hendershot was having a wagon loaded with a few things preparatory to fleeing, but as my mother expressed no great concern, she decided to give up going. Just then my father was seen coming down the hill in his gig.

Seeking a Refuge

             He was anxious to follow the fugitives farther into the country. My mother objected, but proposed going down to her father’s (Capt. M.D. Gonder’s) one mile below Black Creek post office on the Niagara River road. This proposal did not suit my father, who thought there would be more danger there. My mother then said she would be willing to go to her uncle’s, Joshua Fare’s, a few miles into Crowland township. My father gathered a few things together and placed them in his gig and we started, but when we got to our destination we found my mother’s uncle’s family with their wagon loaded with a few necessities, ready to go farther away from the border. On my mother laughing at her for being so frightened, her aunt said to her, “Well, if you are willing to stay, we will.”

Found O’Neil’s Bible

             I remember going out into the old fashioned garden at the back of the house the morning of the battle and hearing the noise of the engagement on Limestone Ridge. My father and mother’s uncle went together to view the battle and before the bodies of the dead Fenians had been taken from the field. He noticed that the buttons had been cut off their tunics.

             One of my uncles found in the woods in the vicinity of where the Fenians had been encamped, leaning against a tree, a Fenian rifle with a knapsack containing among other things a Roman Catholic prayer book on the fly leaf of which was written in pencil, “John O’Neil, his prayer book. Holy mother for me pray and take on my dying day my soul to heaven.”

Too Excited For Church

             On the Sunday following the day of the battle, services in some of the country churches of the frontier were omitted, there being no congregation to greet the ministers, the people not thinking of worship.

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