Welland History .ca

The TALES you probably never heard about

Wellandport Ontario

By W. Schwoob

Perhaps I should give a short history of Wellandport before my impressions of the village. It was first called the Narrows from the ridge of land separating the Chippewa River and Beaver Creek. (Chippewa is Indian for “People without moccasins”) and Beaver Creek is self-explanatory.

The first settler was John Dochstader in 1782, whose grant of land was west of Wellandport. He was soon followed by the Henry, Robins, Heaslip and MacDowellfamilies and others. These people settled along the Chippewa River as it was the easiest way to travel by boat in summer and on the ice in winter.

The river valley is so flat that when the Niagara (into which it empties) is in flood, the river backs up nearly 30 miles from it’s mouth, and raises the water one to two feet.

The first school was built on land owned by Wm Dils, west of Wellandport, after 1800, and the teacher was Mr. Weston, nicknamed “Nappertandy”. There were two churches built in 1835, both Methodist. One, just west of Elcho, and the other on Heaslip’s farm, east of the village.

A history of Gainsboro in 1876 shows that in that year the village of Wellandport had the following: about 200 people, three hotels, two stores, one harness maker, one blacksmith, two doctors, a grist mill, a drug store, two churches, a saw mill, several mechanic shops, a fair grounds, where each year a fair was held(where the community centre is now.)

My first recollection of Wellandport is the first day at school. I was five years old and Frank Mittlefeldt was the teacher. We were living in the home of Dilly Holmes just west of the Wellandport Road on the Creek Road. My older brother and I started school and finished together. We had gone to Schwoobs school, when living with my grandfather about a mile south of Wellandport, on the Wellandport Road, and my mother thought it would be a good idea if we kept one another company. So Fred and I went to school there for one year and then started to Wellandport school when we moved to the Holmes house. I used to think the hill, west of the school, was so very high until I went back to teach there about 25 years later. We had great fun on that hill sliding down on sleighs, skates, pieces of tin or on our pant bottoms in winter and rolling down in summer. Skating and hockey on Beaver Creek at noon and recess were great fun too.

Sometimes we’d skate to school on Beaver Creek, as our home was just east of Wellandport, on Beaver Creek. In the summer we’d play baseball and soccer and one summer someone introduced cricket but that didn’t last long. On the way home we’d call at the  Post Office for the mail and the Spectator, which would come a day late. Mr Gilmore was the first postmaster that I can remember. Arthur Coleman came later. Often we’d bring butter or eggs to the Empire store, owned by Will Steward, and trade for sugar, salt, etc. or maybe get a (due bill) which was like a cheque if we didn’t buy as much as the produce amounted to.

Joe Cowan had a harness shop in Walter Misener’s building, near where the Post Office is now. He’d make and repair harness and repair shoes, and was very Irish, I remember. There were three general stores, I think and the Simpson’s ran the barber shop, ice cream parlour and Telephone office. The ice cream parlour had wire tables and chairs and charged 5 cents for a cone. 15 cents for a banana split.

John Fluelling had the farm machinery store and H. Brooks had the furniture and undertaking parlour. Cooper’s store was across from the Empire store , next to the bridge. The Grist mill and wheat house were situated west of Cooper’s store and Mr Cooper was the miller. Uncle Billy Steward has the Cheese Box factory farther west. Charlie Imel and his brother Henry, were the painters and paperhangers, while Jack High was the tailor. The Seldon’s had a small grocery store on the North side of Main St., next to the Cheese Box factory.

The Caver’s family took the mail from the Post Office and delivered it to Man Snyder at the St Ann’s post office by horse and buggy, or cutter and brought home mail for our post office. Dr. Collver lived just north of Wellandport on the St Ann’s road and Dr. Oliva and later Dr Jameson, were the physicians there.

I remember the big fire of 1910. My father woke us up to see the fire. It surely was an awesome sight. Next day on the way to school, we found that all the north side of the village from the post office to the hardware store had burned. If I remember correctly, no one was injured. Another time we had a small tornado and on going to school, found the roof of the hotel barn had been blown off and landed on the street going to school.

Across the street from the school was a small Anglican church. One day in going to school, we found that this church had been moved away. Later we found it had been moved to Dain city near Welland. A few years later while attending High school in Beamsville, I had occasion to visit an Anglican Minister there, and when he found out we were from Wellandport, he recounted the story that he had gone there for a service one Sunday morning and found his church gone. He said he never knew what became of it!

There were two other churches there too. One a Methodist, is still the United Church, and the other, a Presbyterian Church. The Masons had a hall too, near the Post Office. I remember my father being a Mason and had a leather apron. The three Methodists would hold services in Schwoob school sometimes.

In winter we would shovel off a rink on either the Chippewa or Beaver Creek, and we would the round up some kids in order to play hockey. I remember my first hockey stick was the curved branch of a tree and the first puck a tin can.

Just across the bride(the original bridge), on the west side of the road, was our baseball diamond, and many a hard fought battle we had there too. Dr Leeds was our manager and one year he had a garden party at his house on the banks of the Chippewa, and with the proceeds he bought each of us a uniform. Were we proud! Frank Marr was one of our better pitchers along with Romaine Ross.

On the north side of the Narrows was a board sidewalk made of planks, laid crosswise I was taking my childhood sweetheart home one night along this walk when I stepped on the end of a loose plank and sent my girlfriend head over heels as she tripped over the up-turned plank. That nearly ended my courtship as she had a sore shin for days afterwards.

Mr Coleman was the owner of the gas company before he became postmaster, and I can remember him sawing the ceiling in my grandfather’s house to put in the gas lines in order to have lights. Up until then we had only coal oil lamps. My job at home was to clean lamp chimneys every Saturday. We had three or four lamps one could carry besides several lanterns for carrying to the barn to do chores. Also, we had three hanging lamps with large crystal shades all painted with lovely flowers and glass bangles or prisms dangling from the rim. Usually they had two wicks and gave a good light. Later we had Coleman lamps which gave a very good light as well. Then these were all discarded when he had electricity. They would bring a good price now.

Mr Coleman also had a car, one of the first I ever rode in. I think it was a Rio, about 1911 or so, as all the levers and gears were on the outside of the body along the left hand door. Another car and the first one I drove was a 1914 Ford. Will Steward’s son, Harold drove it down to or farm east of Wellandport and he let me drive it for a way. I can only remember being scared when I met a car on the way back. The roads were not paved then, and my father used to pay some of his taxes by doing ‘road work’, which means he hooked his team to a two bladed scraper and levelled the ruts in the road. Each farmer had a certain section of road to keep up whenever the roads were dry enough to level.

And when I  received my first drivers’ licence I just paid $1 and walked out with my licence. I think it was in Dunnville, as it was the nearest licence office. There were no drivers examinations then.

Mr Glaves bought Cooper’s store and mill. I remember Harry Glaves, the son. He was a smart chap, and used to look after the store. He sold ice cream and the fellows used to sit on the counter and eat their cones. Hary didn’t like that, so he rigged a bare wire along the counter edge and hooked it up to a battery and would give the sitting chaps a real shock. They’d jump and drop their cones, swear a little and then buy another cone. Harry also had a .22 rifle and would challenge the rest of us to go on their back verandah and shoot mud turtles, which would be sitting on logs or the shore. No one but Harry could hit the turtles. We found out later he would load the rifle with blank cartridges for us and use good bullets when he shot!

One day Mr. Glaves came out with a rat trap in which was about a dozen rats, which he had caught in the mill. He had a fox terrier for a pet, and he would let one rat out at a time and the terrier would put a quick end to each rat as it was let out.

I can just remember the old wheat house where the farmers would unload wheat and store it there until a tug would tow several scows up the river from Welland. The scows would be loaded with grain and then towed to Welland by the tug to the mills–a lot of logs were sent down the river too. My father had bought his farm in 1908 and I  remember him saying that the pine trees in the woods were dying and he should get rid of them so he cut all the virgin pine and Sam Lambert from Welland, had the teams which hauled it to the river and towed it to his mill to be sawn into lumber. I think the price was about $20 a thousand board feet.

The lumber carts were quite unique. The front wheels were about the same as the front wheels of a lumber wagon. The butt, or large end, of the log would be rolled onto the front wheels and the hind wheels, which were about 10 feet high with an arched axle, would stradle  the logs the tongue would be raised and the log chained to the arch and the horses would pull the tongue down to the log and it would be fastened there, raising the log from the ground. One tree I remember my father saying was 75 feet long and 4 feet side at the butt.

Wellandport fair was another great occasion, It was held where the Community Centre is now. Mrs Fulsom used to pasture her cows there in the summer and someone would have to clean up after them just before Fair day.Usually 25 cents was the admission charge and hot dogs were ‘Just a nickel,half a dime,a twentieth part of a dollar” as the seller would shout. They had all kinds of tests of strength and skill, like throwing a baseball at a target and getting a prize for hitting it.

They had harness races too, which were quite exciting and I dimly remember Tom Longboat, the famous Indian runner competing against a race-horse. If I remember correctly, Tom won in a 5 mile race. The main hall of the fair grounds was the scene of the ladies’ competitions, baked goods, sewing and all the things the ladies do well were competed for.

Then there were competitions among the farmers for the best horses, cows, sheep etc. and some very nice teams all decorated with brass bound harnesses, and driving riding horses too were shown. Altogether the fair was a milestone in our lives.

Another big day was Queen Victoria’s birthday, May 24th. There would be a calathumpian parade starting in the village and ending at the fair rounds. Willy Putman’s Band from Silverdale supplied the music and marched to the leadership of Major Barwell, who was the Military authority of the town at that time. Then would come the soldiers all in uniform and carrying guns. With them would come the cannon, which was a piece of smoke stack about two feet across and ten feet long mounted on the two wheels of a lumber cart. Mr Didlmus Smith’s two sons always made the cannon and rode proudly on it. Then came the Indians all decked out in feathered head dresses.They also carried guns and when the fair grounds were reached, they would attack the soldiers and a sham battle would ensue. I never found out who won the battle.

I could go on for a long time yet with remembrances and comical things which happened during my time in Wellandport, but I’m afraid I should get boring if I continued, so will close with the thought that those days in Wellandport were the happiest of my life.

  1. On 6 February 2018, Gerry Krabbenbos Said,

    I just moved to the area on South Chippawa Road and found the article very interesting and enjoyable. I wish there was more to read and more pictures / Would be nice to go back in time and exp. those times! Gerry

  2. On 15 February 2018, B Said,

    Hi Gerry

    Glad you enjoyed the article. We have pictures on Wellandport in the gallery for you to view and various other articles on the site. The West Lincoln Historical Society located in Smithville has an extensive number of photos and are extremely helpful. They reopen in April. Enjoy.

Add A Comment