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Some Yellowed Papers of A century Ago

By Louis Blake Duff

Recently there came to me as a gift from of Toronto a number of old papers; about the most interesting collection I have seen.

To list them:

  • St Catharines Journal of December 28, 1843.
  • St Catharines Journal of March 16, 1848.
  • The Leader, Toronto, November 28, 1878
  • The People’s Press. Fonthill C.W.  February 14,1861.

A curious catalogue of agricultural implements made by Albany Agricultural Works of Albany, New York. This is dated 1851, and is one of a yearly series that had begun in 1831.

Implements of a Century Ago

The Albany Agricultural Works list fifty different plows, most of which are shown in illustration, and the price range is from $3.50 to $14. Horse tread mills are shown, one for driving a threshing machine and one for driving a chopping mill. There is another tread for dog power to be used for light farming operations. The  picture shows a dog busily, and even merrily, trotting as he churns, and oddly enough the animal shows Rover actually enjoying the job. There are various churns, cheese presses, a sausage stuffer, grain cradles, fanning mill, the Clinton cornsheller, or yokes and bows. What did an ox yoke sell for? From $3.50 to $5.

The Fonthill Newspaper

The People’s Press of Fonthill,C.W. was in its second year. Very few of its issues are known.

This Fonthill newspaper enterprise arose out of the political ambitions of Dr Fraser who had his office in Fonthill. He was the first member for Welland County when it had been taken from the rib of Lincoln. The paper naturally, was violently Reform. The first issue was early in 1854 and it did help to bring about the election of the worthy doctor. In its first incarnation it was called The Welland Herald. Doctor Fraser soon had enough of newspaper publishing and sold the plant to Dexter D’Everardo

David Cooper announces that he has leased the Aqueduct Flouring Mills in the Village of Welland.

The Leader, Toronto of which more later, announces that since its founding in 1852 it has attained a circulation of several thousand more than any other paper in Canada.

Dr. Nicholas Dick with his infirmary pleasantly and healthfully situated opposite J. Steele’s Ridgeville, advertises his “Botanic Medicines” Culled from Nature’s Garden.” There at last, is a political doctor for you.

George Gamble near Lock’s Clothing Establishment, Upper Fonthill, advertises his stock of boots and shoes.

Ester Sherk, Point Abino advertises for creditors of the estate of the late Daniel Sherk.

J.S. Rich, Fonthill. Has the largest advertisement in the paper. A few of his prices might be of interest:

  • Coffee sugar, 8lbs. for a dollar
  • Porto Rica sugar, 12lbs. for $1
  • Crushed sugar, 7lbs. for $1.
  • Teas. 50 to 75c pound
  • Coal oil, $1 per gallon
  • Brooms 16c each
  • Candles, 15c lb.
  • Factory cotton, 8c per yard.

J.A. Cohoe inserts this notice “The members of Fountain Head Temple, No. 440 I.O. of G.T. (that stands for the Independent Order of Good Templars, I believe) intend holding a public meeting in Clarke’s School House on the Plank Road on Monday evening February 18. The members of Sweet Home Safe Guard Lodges are requested to attend and assist on the occasion. Several talented speakers are expected.

Henry Martin Giles of St Catharines will deliver a lecture in the concert hall, Fonthill

Before the Mechanics” Institute, on Saturday evening next at 7 o’clock. Subject:”The Origin and Progress of Letters.” Admission: Members and Ladies free, non-members 121/2  cents each.

The two rival papers attacked each other in language that could not be equaled in any other papers of the day. Here is a sample from The Reporter:

“Extract the venom from the vilest snake that ever on its belly crawled along the dust; take the quintessence from the juice of all the poisonous herbs that ever from the earth sought the genial rays of Heaven’s great luminary; then mix and with a quill drawn  from a raven’s wing, write—against truth and honesty principle and justice, morality and religion, and if you equal in virulence the article alluded to, then must the subtle poison have entered your heart also, and venom dictate the words with venom written”

That is drawing rather a long bow.

Now in this issue of the People’s Press on the desk before me the business notices include the following:

D. D’Everardo—Money to Loan

Peter Learn, Esquire, Point Abino—Marriage Licenses

Alfred Willett, Clerk of the First Division Court, Welland—announcing his office hours 10am to 4pm.

A, Murray, postmaster at Port Robinson—marriage licenses.

Wm Steele, Humberstone—marriage licenses

W.P. Brown, office in the County Court House, Welland—lawyer and conveyancer.

B.W. Price, Fonthill—watches, clocks and jewelry.

J. Brackbill, Fenwick, advertising a lot for sale in Fonthill, opposite home Dexter D’Everardo.

Wm. Cook, Fonthill—harness maker

Alexander Sinclair, Fonthill—merchant tailor

Wm Horne, Fonthill, announces that he is a senior member of the College of Veterinary Surgeons in Philadelphia and is ready for practice.

Wm Beatty of Thorold advertises a public meeting in Bald’s Hall Welland, T.W. Hooker was chairman, and J.S. Chipman, secretary Two motions were passed, one by A, Bald and Wm Thompson and one by J. Griffith and Moses Betts

The theme was condemnation of the ministry objection to the tariff and to the growing expenditures.

At another Beatty meeting at the Court House, Squire Hellems an early school teacher in Welland and later police magistrate, took a hand in defence of Cartier-MacDonald.

George Arnold and a man named Farley, both of St. Davids, got into an argument, when Farley pulled out a stake from a sleigh on which he was standing and struck Arnold on the head Arnold died in a few hours and a coroner’s jury rendered a verdict of willful murder.

Louis Blake Duff

{Editorial, The Globe and Mail, Toronto, August 31, 1959}

Louis Blake Duff was one of those rare men whose intellectual curiosity molds their lives and enriches all who come in contact with them. His death at the age of 81 ends a fruitful career during which he made a notable contribution to the life and letters of this country, particularly of the Niagara Peninsula.

Dr. Duff was a man of many parts—a composite man, as a university president once called him. He began work as a teacher, became a capable newspaper editor, then had a successful career in the world of finance. Whatever he was doing, he found time to indulge his love of books, his respect for and sensitivity to local and national history.

He had the articulate ease of expression which made writing and speaking a pleasurable experience for both him and his audience. His career as a public speaker spanned 40 years in Canada and the United States, he took every opportunity which this broad platform offered to stress the importance of history, its lessons and pleasures. As a scholar. His original research brought to light many hitherto unknown facets of Canadian history and facts about the personalities who made that history.

Dr. Duff deplored what he called the booklessness of Canadians, their disinterest in literature. As a passionate bibliophile—his own library contained 10,000 volumes—he could not help but be depressed by this characteristic which he considered a national trait. He decried, too the absence of museums in Ontario, particularly in the small towns where local history could be preserved. He was critical of Canadians for ignoring their history, in contrast to the way Americans venerated their heroes and national shrines.

A man of warmth and wit, he had a multitude of friends. We join them in paying tribute to his achievements and his memory.

Hear L.B. Duff

{Welland Tribune 1940}

Mrs. G.V. Cordon opened her home on Niagara street last evening for a meeting of the Joan of Arc chapter I.O.D.E. Mrs R.B. Burns presided and led in a discussion of ways and means for raising funds to buy more wool to knit into articles for the soldiers. Next month officers will be selected and the nominations committee includes Miss Minnie McPherson, Miss Katharine McKeon and Mrs Donald Carew with Miss Cora Marshall. Mrs A. N. Conklin and Mrs F. Durdan appointed to act as scrutineers. Mrs H.J. Dougherty and Mrs C. Gelling were introduced as two new members. L. B. Duff addressed the members in his inimitable and entertaining fashion. Mrs Cordon served refreshments at the close of the meeting.

Works by Louis Blake Duff

[compiled by - S]

The journey of the printing press across Canada. by Louis Blake Duff. 1937.

The romance of our place—names; a series of eight radio addresses..February 20 to April 10, 1934, station CKTB, St Catharines;  by Louis Blake Duff, 1934.

Names are pegs to hang history on. by Louis Blake Duff, 1926.

Muddiman, the first editor. by Louis Blake Duff, 1925.

Address to weekly newspaper editors on May 27, 1944 at Niagara Falls, Ontario by Louis Blake Duff, 1944.

John Brown at the battle of the Plains of Abraham. by Louis Blake Duff, 1927.

The county kerchief by Louis Blake Duff, 1949.

A study in vanity by Louis Blake Duff, 1952.

Samuel Chandler of St. Johns by Louis Blake Duff, 1938.

Amazing story of the Winghamite secretary of Louis Riel. by Louis Blake Duff, 1955.

Crowland by Louis Blake Duff, 1928.

The beginnings of the newspaper in Canada by Louis Blake Duff, 1929

The immortal memory; an address before the Burns literary society of Toronto, January 25, 1944 by Louis Blake Duff, 1945.

Papers and Records, Welland County Historical Society, 5v, 1924.

Address by Louis Blake Duff given at a dinner by Stephen Leacock memorial association on the occasion of the unveiling of a bronze bust of Stephen Leacock by Elizabeth Wyn Wood, Orillia public library, Friday, 14th September, 1951.

Sam Johnston: smuggler, soldier and bearer of news. By Louis Blake Duff, 1926.

Burnaby by Louis Blake Duff, 1926.

Huron Road centennial by Louis Blake Duff,1928.

Jane Susan Duff—her book by Louis Blake Duff, 1940.

Burnaby by Louis Blake Duff, 1927.

A shepherd’s crook on the hills of St. Johns by Louis Blake Duff, 1952.

Nihon no koika gyorui= Cyprinid Fishes of History of Cyprinid of Japan by Louis Blake Duff.

Hundredth Anniversary of Trinity Church, Chippawa by Louis Blake Duff, 1921.

Trinity Church, Chippawa 1820-1920: Hundredth Anniversary by Louis Blake Duff, 1920.

Good will in Fields of Peace by Louis Blake Duff, 1941.

From a Doss-house to Parnassus by Louis Blake Duff, 1934.

The Earliest Canadian Travel Books by Louis Blake Duff, 1935.

Louis Blake Duff Papers, 1932.

Correspondence with Prof. Norman J. Endicott, by J. Kemp Waldie, Norman Endicott, Louis Blake Duff, 1942.

As it Appears to Us by Louis Blake Duff, Lee F. Heacock, Buffalo Area Chamber of Commerce, 1928.

Louis Blake Duff: A Neglected Icon in Canada’s Print History by Peter Saracino.

Devil’s Artisan #54, Spring/Summer 2004

We think it’s so: being an assortment of editorial opinions from the Times-Review of Fort Erie, 1941.

The Vanished Village of the Shorthills by Louis Blake Duff, Canadian Historical Review, v13n3, 251-257., 1932.

Local Historical Societies: The problems and Opportunities of Canadian Historical Societies by Louis Blake Duff. Canadian Historical Review v13n3, 251-257, 1932.

The lost Lincoln order by William J. McCulloch, Louis Blake Duff, Nathaniel Benson, Lincoln Fellowship of Hamilton Ont. Meeting, 1957.

Robert Browning by Edward Dowden, Louis Blake Duff, 1904.

Louis Blake Duff Papers, 1932-1953.

Tourist and historical supplement by Louis Blake Duff, 1937.

The Printer of the Jesuit “Relations” by Louis Blake Duff, article Colophon v2 no2, 33-41, 1936

Welland Ship Canal by Louis Blake Duff, 1930.

The Greatest Englishman of history: an address by Arthur Meighen, Louis Blake Duff, 1954.

Die fruhesten canadischen reisebeschreibungen. By Louis Blake Duff, Herberth E. Herlitschka 1935

Thje buk ov samz: in Mikmak by Silas Tertius Rand; Louis Blake Duff.

College life: Dr. R. Tait McKenzie, OAC Review, v40, no 7, Mar 1928, p.245-246. By Louis Blake Duff; Tait McKenzie.

Literary section: H.M.S Pinafore/ Tom Bell, OAC Review, v45, no.5 Feb 1932, p. 292-294. By Louis Blake Duff and others..


{Welland Tribune 1929}

Purchased by Louis Blake  Duff of this city—Building Erected in 1836

Another ancient landmark of the county has changed hands, this being property at St. Johns, history of which dates back to the year prior to Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne.

The land and premises in question were purchased by Louis Blake Duff of this city a short while ago from Mrs Pitts of St Johns. It is in two parcels, one on the north side of St John’s road, the other on the south side. Workmen are now demolishing the large frame store and dwelling on the north side of the street.

It is interesting to note that this building was erected by Zenas Fell in 1836. Mr. Fell was an engineer whose name was attached to many plans in the county. Over the front door is the sign of the Niagara and District Mutual Fire Insurance company, which was probably the first insurance company in the Niagara peninsula.

The date on the metal sign is 1836, and the plate is said to have been placed on the structure before the latter was actually completed.

While this is a frame building it is lined with brick between the uprights. The man who is now dismantling the property, W.A. Spark of Thorold road, states he never saw finer timbers than those used in construction of this property.

Louis Blake Duff: January 1, 1878-August 29, 1959

The Late Louis Blake Duff by William Arthur Deacon

The late Louis Blake Duff of Welland was the subject of a biographical article by William Colgate that appeared in the Globe Magazine in mid-August. Dr. Duff died two weeks later at the age of 82. Tributes to his character and career appeared on the editorial pages of this and other newspapers, for the man was not only extremely able but loved even more than he was admired. Now his friend George H. Smith of Port Colborne has gathered these and other similar material into a handsome, privately printed brochure of 150 copies. It would have greatly pleased the short, round man  in whose honor it has been published.

Born near Wingham, Louis Blake Duff taught for four years before a long and varied career on several newspapers in Southern Ontario. For 20 years he was the successful owner of the Welland Telegraph; but in 1926 he surrendered it to a buyer because the offer was too high to refuse—in those days. So Mr. Duff founded Niagara Finance Corporation and throve more lushly. But it was as writer and humorous speaker that he was most widely known. His great  library of rare and beautiful books was admired; and now some of the books he himself wrote are collectors’ items. The lighter side of the man came out when he was accepting an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Western Ontario. He explained that the small son of a neighbor lost interest in the promotion when he learned Dr. Duff would not be allowed to hoist a “D” on the license plate of his car.

I am grateful to Mr. Smith for a copy of his memorial book because it gives me a chance to say something. Being away from Toronto when Dr. Duff died, I lost the chance of timeliness. What has not been stressed is the man’s kindliness. A writer never forgets the first editors who bought his words nor the established senior writers who spoke encouraging words to the fledgeling in the craft. When I, an unknown young fellow from the West, was trying to make good in the then despised chore of reviewing, one of my first fan letters was from Louis Blake Duff. Nor did he stop there. He gave helpful advice; he entertained me in his home, took me to the beautiful, fairy-like Crowland he had built; insisted on a friendship that lasted 37 years.

He always attended the Leacock dinners for the Humor Medals. The last time I saw Louis was at the Meet the Authors dinner last spring, which he attended, not as the author he was, but as a member of the reading public. If slight there was, he was too big to take notice.Afterward, Greg Clark, Louis and I  were admiring John Drainie’s superb impersonation of Leacock giving a lecture from a copy of his own Orillia porch. The make-up, the stance, the intonation amazed Louis, who said: “I knew Leacock all my life; and I could have believed the man on the porch was Stephen himself.” Then he went home and wrote Drainie his congratulations (a carbon to me). This pleased Drainie, who never saw Leacock; but was so typical of the generosity of Duff.

Louis Blake Duff

The composite man

{Port Colborne, 1959 Privately printed for George H. Smith}

But what of Louis Blake Duff himself? He was born in Bluevale, a village in Huron County near Wingham, on January 1, 1878. He was named Louis by his mother after Louis Riel, and Blake by his father, an ardent Grit and follower of Edward Blake. A period as schoolteacher(1896 to 1900) was followed by a stint as reporter on The Wingham Times, The Stratford Beacon and The Galt Reporter under J.P. Jaffray, where he had as colleague J. Herbert Cranston, for ,many years editor of the Star Weekly in Toronto. “Louis Blake Duff,” says Herbert Cranston in his autobiography, Ink on My Fingers, “began his career as a schoolteacher, but after four years of verbally admonishing the young, and a few years at research for a shorthand expert in the city of Toronto, was invited by Blake Elliott of The Wingham Times to manage his weekly temporarily.”

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An Account of Fenwick

By Louis Blake Duff

[Pelham PNYX 1933]

“Wick is a common element in names, Norse as well as Anglo-Saxon, and while the spelling of the word is the same in both languages, the meaning is different. With the Anglo-Saxons it was a station or abode on land, that is a house or village.

The settlement of Pelham began about 1790. The Crown grants of the farms where Fenwick is now located were made in 1798 and 1801—two to David Sharpe, two to Martin McClelland and one each to Benjamin Hill and Christopher Bert. The first schoolhouse lot was leased, not deeded in 1844 by Benjamin Corwin of Stamford, to James Disher, Leonard Haney and Simcoe Chapman as “Town Wardens for the township of Pelham in the County of Lincoln in the District of Niagara”. Welland county had not come into being until more than a decade later.

This schoolhouse was to be for the benefit of the inhabitants of Union School District No. 7. The consideration of the lease was five shillings, and it was stipulated that the lease was to terminate if no school was maintained for five years. The School Trustees were James E. Hutt and Joseph Garner.

The “Church corner” was bought in 1860 by Rev. John Wilkerson, Jacob Crow Jr., Abishai R. Crossman, Leonard Loucks, Edward Early, Benjamin Loree and James Swayze—“Trustees of the Chapter of the Canadian Wesleyan Methodist New Connection at Fenwick”. This church deed marks the first use of the name Fenwick so far as Registry Office records show. The name however had been in use for seven years. The place had been known in former years as Diffin’s Corners—and that name dates back to 1845 when George and Benjamin Diffin bought a lot and began the operation of an inn.

The post office was opened on April 1st in 1853 with Leonard Haney as first postmaster. That was the  birth of Fenwick. Why Fenwick?  That is a question I cannot answer. Local  tradition  says it was named in honour of a famous military man, General  Sir William Henwick Williams, the hero of Kars. Tradition is usually right or nearly right but, I am doubtful in this case. The Reeve of Pelham was Dr. John Fraser, The first Warden of thecounty. He was born in Fenwick in Scotland. It is not unreasonable to conclude he had a part in the naming.

Leonard Haney was succeeded as postmaster by James Brackhill. Mr Brackhill had come to Fenwick in 1858, but soon after joined a large party of adventurers who set out for the gold fields in California. Mr Brackhill never returned for he lost his life when the steamer, Goldengate,  in which he was a passenger, was destroyed by fire off the Californian Coast. He was succeeded as postmaster by James W. Taylor, Fletcher Swayze, Pattison and Diffin, Barney Hare, O.A. Stringer, F.W. Hutt, J. Edsall, William Swayze. W.H. Fry and Frank Tunnacliffe. This information I had a decade ago from the late Augustus Hyatt.

The first plan of Fenwick was filed in 1924 and the street names there listed will pass down to the future the memory of former residents of the village. Haney Street records the names of Henry R. Haney,M.D., at one time Superintendent of Schools in Pelham and who was M.P.P. for Monck when he died in 1878 and also that of Capt. A.W. Haney, who recruited a company of volunteer infantry at Fenwick for the 44th battalion at the time of the Fenian invasion of 1866. Garner Avenue commemorates the name of County Warden Joseph Garner, who occupied the Reeveship of Pelham for more than a score of years; Baxter Lane is named for one who spent the closing years of a long life at Fenwick—Rev. Michael Baxter, a retired Methodist clergyman.


Editorial Louis Blake Duff

[The Welland Tribune and Telegraph, 20 March 1924]

              The Parks Superintendent reports that recently planted trees in Merritt Park have been interfered with, presumably by small boys. This conclusion is arrived at by the fact that the damage was done with a jack-knife.

             Apart from showing very bad manners this is an act of wanton destruction. The trees were purchased by the Board of Parks Management and planted as part of their scheme in the beautification of the city, and yet for no apparent reason certain boys have seen fit to tear them up and destroy them.

             The parks of Welland are being developed and beautified for the boys. The parks are really theirs.

             Boys, you should look after your own parks and see that not a thing is harmed.


[Welland Telegraph, 31 May 1910]

             At the Ontario Club banquet in Toronto last week the Hon. Wm. Puglsey referred to the need of better wharfage and mentioned that proper mechanical appliances should be provided with the necessary depth of water to enable vessels of deep draught carrying large cargoes to discharge them rapidly and cheaply. “That means,” Mr. Puglsey went on, “the deepening and enlarging of the Welland Canal. It is a great work, which must be undertaken in the not distant future. Let me say, however, that this country is big and wealthy enough to undertake these two great works just as soon as we have the National Transcontinental Railway completed. In 1913, at the very outside, it will be completed from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and the country will be in a position then to undertake these two important works-the enlarging of the Welland Canal and the building of the Montreal-Ottawa-Georgian Bay Canal.”