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[The Welland Tribune and Telegraph, 6 May 1926]

Letter written in reference to article of 27 April 1926 by Meta Schooley Laws

 Editor Tribune and Telegraph

             Very interesting and informative are the articles on “Point Abino and Vicinity” contributed to the Tribune and Telegraph by Meta Schooley Laws, I have never seen, nor even been near to Point Abino, but I read these recollections of folk-lore, legend and reminiscences with attention and appreciation.

             In the issue of April 27th, the authoress gave a scrap of information about Otway Page. This pioneer of Bertie was a prominent man in his day, but, so far as I know, no comprehensive biography or sketch of his career has ever been published. He is often mentioned in old records, but I did not know until reading this recent reference, that he was once High Sheriff of the Niagara District. I hope that Mrs. Laws will give T. & T. readers some more particulars concerning him.

             That was a pretty good story of the Governor drawing to the roadside in the snow and waiting, uncovered, while the funeral passed. I doubt, however, that it was Governor Simcoe. Probably it was one of his successors.

             The Governor who had a residence near Niagara Falls was Sir Peregrine Maitland. He bought a large tract of land on the brow of the mountain in Northern Stamford and built a 22-room cottage. The estate was called “Stamford Park.” Governor Maitland left the province in 1828 and the “cottage” was burned some years later. Another house was erected on the grounds, but not on the same site. This was occupied by the late William Henry and was burned in the ‘eighties’. The original gate-ledge of the Governor’s park still stands, though recently much altered. It is on the road from Stamford Village to St. Davids, just where it detours to the west before passing down the ravine. The original iron gates were purchased by Colonel R.W. Leonard and are now at the entrance to the grounds of his residence in St. Catharines.





              “Father can tell you things that you don’t know about, Squire Sloan,” was the greeting I got from a friend the other day, and “I’ve heard father talk about the old sand pit at the Point,” someone else chimed in. Needless to say, I was delighted, because the chief purpose of these letters is to arouse interest in those days, before it is too late for their history to be recalled by one and another of us.-If only we can today “serve our day and generation” (a phrase which would seem to have been a sort of watchword of those days) as well as they served theirs; if we can only build today as firmly and with as good material, as that with which they laid the foundations yesterday!

             Squire Sloan and auntie were certainly outstanding figures. She always wore a velvet hood trimmed with a band and a short cape of mink, and a long heavy black cape in the winter. Her’s was not exactly a bed of roses, for like many of the men of his day, he was rather fond of the cup which “inebriates but fails to cheer,” to paraphrase an old adage. Because of this habit, the stern old Presbyterian pioneer had opposed his daughter’s marriage to the gay young “Yankee,” but Margaret had her way, and when long years afterward her youngest sister on a visit to her, ventured to ask whether she would not have been wise to heed her father’s warning, Auntie said almost fiercely, “If I could have seen every step of the way ahead, I would have done the same. I never had an unkind word, Mary.” And her influence over him was wonderful. Often a neighbour was seized with a sudden need to hitch up and hasten to the village, after watching Auntie walk past the house, perhaps in a driving snowstorm, for they knew her errand though none ever dared mention it to her. She would go to the store and from there to the hotel bar. “Come,” she would say to him. “It is time we went home,” and no matter how much he had been drinking he would turn back to the bar and order-“two fingers” all round. Lifting the glass high, he would say, “Gentlemen, Lady Sloan,” and after the toast was drunk, bow low to her as if she had been a queen, and accompany her out.

             Perhaps she had to unblanket and untie the little bay team that he always drove, but he never refused to go with her. Only once was he known to be angry, but those who provoked him never forgot it. There was a smallpox epidemic threatened. One man, a Negro, had died, and those who had never had the disease feared to attend the burial. Squire Sloans’s pock-marked face attested that he was immune, and after inducing him to drink more than usual, they sent him to the cabin, and he laid out the body and closed the rude coffin. Then he went home with his wife. When he realized where he had been, he returned to the village and strode into the group of men, in a rage. “I would have looked after the man, but you made me expose my wife, and if she dies”- and his look told the threat his lips did not need to utter. Fortunately for all concerned Auntie escaped the disease.

             She outlived him many years and a better neighbor than W.M. Sloan, a more upright man never lived, and to the wonder of the other women his wife would have stoutly added, “No woman ever had a kinder husband.”

             They had no family but one and another of the nephews often shared their home for months at a time and their adopted daughter, still living, cherishes their memory as though they had been her parents.

             But to return to the Point. The winter of 1878 witnessed the last of the lumbering operations on the beach. The Decews, whose name is preserved in the little hamlet of Decewsville on Provincial Highway No. 3, just west of Cayuga, bought all the remnants of the virgin forest in that vicinity available, especially the oak. All through the winter of ‘77-‘78 the operations were carried on. The Dickout Woods was one that was practically stripped. In the spring the logs were hauled to the Beach at Point Abino. Huge rafts were built and tugs came in the early summer and towed them away. The lumbering outfit especially the wagons with their huge hind wheels stand out in memory. The huge logs, which required three teams to haul them, are not forgotten. I only know two oaks as large still standing, they gave their name to my Haldimand farm home, “Two Oaks”-great spreading trees under one of which more than once family gatherings have picnicked.

             If these forests had been even partially replanted perhaps the “Chicago water steal” would not have to make so apparent a lowering of the lake level today, for the depletion of forests without doubt is a very potent factor in this matter, greater perhaps than Chicago’s much mooted drainage canal.

             We have referred to the Dickouts. Squire Dickout was an early local preacher. His wife was one of the Morgan girls, from Morgan’s Point. Point Industry some of the old maps call it. He read “The Country Gentleman,” one of the oldest agricultural papers published on the continent, and one which is still issued. He was lover of trees and the row of beautiful maple trees which border the road along what was his farm are still his beautiful monument.

             He laid out a little park opposite his home and planted the first peach orchard in the section. Red cherry trees bordered both sides of the road east of the house, and the fruit hung there in the summer, purple and luscious. Both Mrs. Dickout and “Grandma” were famed for their “Cherry Bouse.” The recipe is still extant but I fear me that it is taboo these days-too high a percentage of-. But these were the days when the various “moonshine” concoctions were unknown, and it would have been difficult indeed to have convinced these folk that any possible harm could be associated with the pure juice of the grape or cherry as they prepared it.

             Wild berries were abundant. Their flavor is vastly superior to the cultivated varieties of today, though the latter are much more attractive to the eye. Oh, for the taste of the contents of one of the big stone jars of raspberry jam! Those of us who remember them cannot be overly enthusiastic about the manufactured article with its commercial pectin. These people knew nothing about balanced meals. Their tables were an utter defiance of every known rule of the dietician today. No menu card of today is big enough for the list of viands served at their feasts, yet, I wander through the cemeteries and read the names of these old people and their ages, 78, 80, 90 etc, etc, etc. How did they do it? Sometimes we order whether, the necessity for a strictly ordered diet proportioned as to the contents of the proteins and what not, is not laid upon us because we have forsaken the cool sequential vale of life, along which there “kept the even tenure of their way,” rather than for any more easily controlled cause.

             Just north of the marsh, through which was the approach of the Point lived the Parneys (the name is spelled Parnea) and on the opposite side of the road the Pages-or rather Otway Page. The latter farm is still in possession of the family. Old Mr. Page was famous for his maple syrup and sugar. His oldest son, whose widow is still living, was the first in that neighbourhood to obtain the degree of B.A. They were a family of marked intellectual tastes. One daughter still lives, and could no doubt make a valuable contribution to Point Abino here.

             Along the road too, was old Mrs. Tolson’s little home, where she and her one son lived. The little shack in the main road in which he lived after his mother died looked as if the old one had been lifted up and set down again. It was old, even if newly built.

             The neat little Snider home was there too. The Snider girls could doubtless furnish stories of the Point also.

             Then the Sherk farm, now the home of the youngest son, whose mother still lives with him. Chris Sherk always had beautiful horses. He had a half mile track on his farm. One of his horses, a beautiful black animal whose coat shone like satin, passes before my mind’s eye now, though it is more years than one likes to remember, that its master drove it to Ridgeway, passing the gate of Maple Grove farm on which the children swung and watched for it. I can still see him on his “Sulky” carrying the long whip which his horse never felt, I am sure.

             Have you ever read “Aunt Jane of Kentucky?” It is a beautiful collection of pioneer character sketches. “Child” says Aunt Jane to her listener, “nearly all my stories end in the church yard,” and so do these, and yet, remembering the number of pioneers homes which have passed unto the hands of the lesser people than those who braved loneliness, privation as they strove to establish homes in the wilderness, one thinks of the warning crouched in these lines from

Ill fares the land to hastening ills a prey

Where wealth accumulates and men decay

Princes or lords may perish or may fade

A breath can make them, as a breath hath made

But a bold peasantry, their country’s pride

When one destroyed, can never be supplied.

             Of course, the word “peasantry” was never properly applied to Canadians. Exchange that word for this coined one “ruralry” and in those lines, is described the real menace of Canada today, for one of the plainest truths taught by the page of history is this “Rural decadence spells national disaster.”

The Welland Tribune and Telegraph

13 April 1926




                 We are all too some extent at least, worshippers of the old Roman god Janus, one of whose faces turned tot eh past, the other to the future.

             So we have our “Jubilees,” our “Anniversaries,” our “Old Boys Reunions.”

             Perhaps one of our greatest pageants ever staged by the empire was the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, whose memory is perpetuated by the holiday and fittingly preceded by Empire day.

             Truly the great poet Laureate wrote of her: “She did her people lasting good.”

             Today, amid social unrest world-wide, amid the downfall of great empires and the birth of lesser states, the British empire stands secure.

             “Unshaken still.

             Broad-fused upon her people’s will.

             And compass’d by the inviolate sea.”

             More fascinating than fiction could possibly be is the story of her expansion and consolidation.

             What an inspiration to novelist and poet, as well as to historian are the great men around whom, from age to age her history has centered.!

             Two great loves have possessed her people, from the earliest days when Hengrst and Horsa led their wild followers across the North sea from their crowded quarters, down to the present.

             The love of adventure, which lies at the root of Britain’s expansion; the love of free institutions, of liberty, which has been the mightiest force in her consolidation.

             Hand in hand these two great forces have permeated our national life, and upon them the greatness of the empire; in all the phases, social or economic of her life chiefly rests. These the foundations of the empire. And the builders?

             Small wonder that we are proud to count ourselves among them, when we consider that from so small a beginning this great empire has evolved.

             What characteristic enabled the conquered Saxon to dominate the Norman conqueror so that England and not Normandy emerged?

             How often had one man of this great empire dominated thousands not by military prowess, but by some other great quality; Warren Hastings in India; Cecil Rhodes in Africa.

             Even the military force of the empire when brought to play in the development of her colonies has not engendered lasting hate. Those who led armed forces against her have in more instances than one subsequently aided her in establishing her rule among their own people.

             This is peculiarly true of South Africa.

             The daring of the northern tribes, the imagination of the Celt, the “canniness of the Scot, the dogged perseverance of the Englishman, the suavity of the Norman-all these have combined to make the Britisher.

The Welland Tribune and Telegraph

24 May 1927




              The writer is indebted to Mr. Green for his kindly words. He may easily be correct about Gov. Maitland rather than Gov. Simcoe having met that funeral procession. Grandmother told us that story and was an eye-witness of the incident.

             As to Otway-Page-His granddaughter, Mrs. Wilson Bowen, who lives with her daughter in Welland, was the authority for stating that he was Sheriff of the district. Mrs. Bowen remembers her grandmother who died at the home of her son, Otway-Page, the writer remembers.

             Mrs. Bowen could doubtless recall much of interest regarding the family. They were connected with English aristocracy.

             A grandson, Thomas Otway-Page, was a graduate of Queen’s University, the first in that section. He taught high school for years at Van Kleek Hill, very successfully. The other brother, A.E. lived on the homestead where one of his sons, still resides.

             The other day I came across some notes father wrote during the last few months of his life, (in 1925). According to these, there have been Methodist meetings at or near Ridgeway for 126 years.

             William Baxter was very prominent in the early days. The first services were held in a barn, not far from the present Baxter Church.

             Mr. Baxter was a class leader, tall, clean shaven, with piercing yet kindly eyes.

             The requirements of the “discipline” regarding dress, etc., for the women, were rigidly adhered to at that time. Squire Benjamin Learn was another prominent man. His great-grandson lives in Crowland, J.A. Learn. Old Peter Tuttle was another of the group.

             The circuit was very large, and included Macaphee’s, 133 miles away; Lyon’s Creek, 14 miles in another direction, and Morgan’s Point Church, some 17 miles up the lake.

             The roads were nearly all bridle paths.

             But the services were very interesting. The singing was hearty. A tuning-fork was the only “instrument,” but singing schools were quite the order of the day, or night, rather-and many of the young folk sang by note, reading rapidly and correctly.

             There is a note also about “Little Tice Haun” who preached in the open, somewhere near the lake.

             There were log seats fixed, for about a hundred people.

             He was peculiar in dress and manner. He believed in baptism by immersion and “dipped” his converts three times.

             Two of the Fretzs were among those presenting themselves for baptism, one day, but the one wrenched himself free from the preacher’s hands after the first plunge into the icy waters, and ran. His brother pursued, but in vain, and the meeting dispersed without any formality. That happened sixty years ago.

             An old copy of the Telegraph some time in the spring of ’77 or ’78 contains an account of a wild goose hunt on the Maple Grove Farm. The account was written by father.

             A large flock of geese settled on the wheat field just north of the building, for several nights in succession.

             The old hunting instinct revived. Father, E.E. Fortner, who was his guest at the time, A.E. Otway Page, and one or two more assembled, just at dusk, and crept cautiously back the lane, using horses for concealment, for one of the men were sure they could approach quite near the birds in that manner.

             They did get within fifty yards or so. A group of woman watched them from the back yard, but some one was so absorbed or excited by the sight of the big flock that he spoke aloud and instantly the flock rose and formed for flight. The old shot guns were hastily raised and one lone goose dropped with a broken wing.

             We children fed it in the barn unit its wing healed and then freed it.

             Grandmother was certain that the flock was descended from a flock of geese she raised which disappeared from that very field.

             About this time Dr. Neff at Port Colborne had invited a group of his friends, of whom he had hosts, to help eat a wild goose he had shot. Mrs. Neff cooked the bird for a long time and the doctor essayed to carve it.

             All his efforts failed, and the bird roasted to a delicious (looking) brown remained, practically, intact on the platter. “Well boys,” said the doctor, “perhaps we can get our forks into the gravy.” That episode saved “our” goose’s life.

Fifty years ago the Grange was a quite prominent feature of agricultural life in that section. The old Grange hall is still standing. Was it not remodeled and dedicated as Kennedy’s Methodist Church?

Like some other ideas borrowed from our American cousins, it did not take very deep root in Canadian life.

Still it served the purpose of suggesting the idea that farm folk had common interests, other than those of a purely social nature, and paved the way for other rural organizations of broader purpose, and great economic value. The Wheat Pool is the outgrowth of these early organizations. The rural fairs were also a real factor of rural life.

Every township had its fall show, which was purely agricultural.

The big county fair did not in those days require a “midway” to draw the crowds. What did bring the people together then? We drove 16 miles and always attended.

It is a question whether the races are any more interesting now than when Ryerson McKenney drove in them, as he always did. The great high-wheeled sulkies are a thing of the past, so is much of the real “sports-for-sports’s-sake” that characterized the races of those old days. Are the ideals like the sulkies, lower today?

We’ve gone a long way from Point Abino this time, but in spite of all effort to the contrary the mind wanders, as we did in those old days. We follow the old road, as then, past Ben Snider’s blacksmith shop; back to Netherby and across the country to “the Seventh” into the county town, to the Fair. Remaining perhaps for the concert in Orient Hall. Once we heard Mrs. Keltie and the Tandy Brothers sing. Welland has almost forgotten the “days of small things” when Orient Hall was her only amusement auditorium.

Or perhaps we drove on through New Germany, over Montrose Bridge, to Lundy’s Lane and the Falls, or Drummondville; we climbed up the stairs of the old pagoda and listened to the stories the old soldier told the tourists, of the War of 1812-14. Of course, he had not taken part in those battles, but we childen really thought he must have done so, for he described them so graphically.

Then we wandered in the cemetery across the street where the graves of friend and foe were marked with wooden slabs.

There is a dim recollection of driving out to Falls View one evening to see “the lights on the Falls.” What they were is forgotten-not electric lights then, 45 years ago surely. But they were accounted a ‘wonder’ for a rainbow almost as perfect as the one seen any sunny day above the Falls was produced by them.

Then the long drive home, But we had good horses, two to a buggy, and the time went fast; till Auntie Sloan’s light streamed across the roadway and in five minutes we were home.

The Welland Tribune and Telegraph

10 June 1926



Meta Schooley Laws

              One of the very interesting pages of this paper is the “Twenty Years Ago” column. One reads it always with an “I’ve wandered through the village, Tom,” feeling, often wondering whether it is really only twenty years since this event, or if it can be that many years since the other occurred.

Then, too, the column calls up a procession of well-known and much-loved figures-gone, many of them, but well worthy of remembrance-and we owe the T&T a debt of gratitude for calling one and another of these to our remembrance. Truly, “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”

In a recent number of this paper, Principal McKay was mentioned, and the paragraph brought a host of recollections concerning him. He certainly was an honor to the teaching profession. He had nearly completed his 33rd year in Port Colborne school at the time of his death. One recalls how a new-comer to the then village, had the temerity to walk into Greenwood’s butcher shop with a tale of his woe about “Mac’s” treatment of his young hopeful. “Dick” Greenwood was chairman of the school board, and promptly threatened to throw the groucher into the canal if he said anything more about the matter. He didn’t.

Or perhaps the boys who loitering over their tasks and incidentally disturbing the room, may remember being sent home to saw wood. He had ideas of his own, not so prevalent then as now, as to what constituted “education.” There was an organ in his room and music was part of the daily program. His boys learned how to conduct a meeting according to parliamentary procedure. A man who will not require to be able to say at least a few words in public at some time or other, will fill a very unimportant part in life, he used to tell the boys. So, there were occasional impromptu three-minute speeches on current topics of interest during Friday afternoon session, at which one of the pupils usually presided.

He was always ready to help the younger teachers, “Ring that bell promptly to the second,” he told one of them starting work in a rural school. “The whole section likes to keep their clock by the school bell, and they ought to be able to do so.”

A question of disciple was being discussed at one of the teachers’ conventions, and Mr. McKay was appealed to. “If that were to happen?” said he, “Why –well-it just would not happen-such things are more easily prevented than cured”-and as he walked away, one of the men, a successful teacher said: “When it comes to discipline ‘Mac can do more by raising his finger than any of the rest of us could accomplish with a shot-gun.”

Port Colborne ex-pupils all remember the effect of the gentle tap on the master’s desk.

But, how they loved him-the day he was laid away, the rain did not deter the crowds who came to pay their tribute to his memory. The front yard was crowded with pupils and friends-and the road before the house as well. The pupils sang, or tried to sing, his favorite hymn, “Lead Kindly Light,” but sometimes only a few quivering voices carried the tune. Then others, stifling their sobs, would join. No one who was present could ever forget the scene.

Years afterwards, a new-comer to the town and elected to the school board, was so impressed with the hold D.W. McKay had upon the memory of the people, suggested that the west side school be named for him, and so eighteen years after his passing, the McKay memorial school was opened with fitting ceremonies, and the McKay scholarship instituted by ex-pupils of his all over the continent. His portrait hangs in the hallway and his work goes on and we who knew him best and loved him most, hopes that he knows, some way or other, that though all these years have passed his life is still an inspiration to those who have succeeded him in what he estimated the most important work possible to man or woman-the training of the young, who will fill our places tomorrow.

The Welland Tribune and Telegraph 

1 February 1927

Pioneer Stories of Haldimand



              It seems difficult to realize that the development of Haldimand county has been the work of but three generations.

             That the grandparents of those of us who speed over our highways were the men and women who hewed for themselves and us homes out of the solid forest; whose journey here was one of untold difficulty and hardship, and whose lives of never-ending sacrifice, toil and privation laid the foundation of this, one of Ontario’s most prosperous agricultural counties.

             Before me as I write lies an historical atlas of the county published in 1879. Copies of it are in many homes. The data it furnishes is accurate so far as it goes, but, like others of its kind published about the same time, only the families who subscribed for the volume are mentioned in its records. The poverty or parsimony of many of the early settlers furnished an excuse for the incompleteness of the volume as a full record of county pioneer history.

             The stories which will comprise this series are not found in the volume, but gathered from the few-ah-so few- who are really interested in collecting and preserving the records of “days that are no more.”

             A few weeks ago we visited the Fradenburgh homestead on the bank of the Grand river, about five miles below Cayuga. For a number of years it was out of the family’s possession, but a great-granddaughter of “Grandma Fradenburgh” who in 1799 crossed Lake Erie in a log canoe with her parents, is now the mistress of the beautiful and historic site.

             The river bank here is very high here and is reached by a rustic staircase, but the old trees festooned with wild grapevines by means of which the top of the bank was reached in the early days, still flourish. From the river one looks up a wall of locust, pine and maple trees, matted together by the climbers-wild cucumber vine and Virginia creeper, as well as the grapevines. Wild roses and other flowers crowd themselves into every nook. The rambling old house with its big living rooms, its tiny bedrooms, its wide porches, is surrounded by beautiful trees of the forest primeval, a group of them form a natural arbor where a rustic table and chairs are placed, and where our meals are served. A broad avenue bordered by giant maples skirt the edge of the bank which is protected by a wire fence hidden by the wild climbing vines.

             Beautiful old-fashioned flowers grow near the house.

             A tennis court occupies a part of the front lawn, and reminds one that the present occupants of Riverside are of today. But sitting in the arbor it is easy to let one’s thoughts roam back to the 1820s, when Dan, one of “Grandma Fradenburgh’s” sons operated a saw mill at the mouth of the creek a little above the site of the old house. He employed three men in the mill, and one man with a team of horses done the farm work. This was about 1870.

             The Fradenburghs were the first settlers along the river; the Wardells the first along the river shore five miles south. Dan’s wife was a Wardell.

             One day the man plowing just west of the house turned up a skull. He told Dan, and the mill was stopped and all started to explore. They found five large graves, re-interred the bones, and ceased to cultivate that field.

             An official from the provincial museum at Toronto, whose summer home is at Crystal Beach, met “Uncle John Link,” whose wife was a Wilson, another of the pioneer families of that section. He told the story and the official came post haste to the Dan Fradenburgh home, while the Armstrong family were in possession of it. He used an augur with a wide bit in his exploration and found a bit of a vase of French workmanship. He persevered until he got all the pieces and cemented them together. That vase is in the Toronto museum and valued at $10,000 by the authorities there.

             Up on a shelf at the writer’s home lies a tomahawk of French workmanship which her husband plowed out of one of the fields. There are many emblems rudely carved on the blade. The piece is in perfect condition. In his childhood Indians built their wigwams in the swale just north of the Laws homestead. Three or four families lived there and made willow baskets which they sold to the settlers.

             Many a winter evening he remembers three or four Indians silently stealing into the house, squatting in front of the huge fireplace and departing as silently as they came.

             From the doorway of their home they watched an Indian wedding ceremony and feast on a hill on the opposite side of the river.

             On that site a man of “John’s” own age has his beautiful modern farm home.

             Soon after Lorne Wardell, a cousin of Dan’s wife, whose home was in Toronto, came out for a visit. He gathered beads and other little relics, went back and published a story of the “Find,” describing the 7 ft. skeletons etc., in the Toronto World.

             The story attracted considerable attention and a doctor, whose name my informant could not remember, came out and uncovered some of the bones, laid two or three skeletons together and pronounced this one the remains of an Indian, this of a half-breed. The place was an old battlefield without doubt.

             In the meantime two of the little Fradenburgh girls, Sarah and Emma, playing beneath a big Walnut tree, found a gold ring in the sand. On cleaning the ring it was found to have a French inscription. Dan showed this to the doctor, and it is supposed gave it to him. The ring is likely now in the provincial museum.

             While the two of them were chatting the man was plowing near and suddenly one of his horses dropped into a hole. Here more skeletons were found and some hammers and rude tools, as well, showing that white men had been there.

             The doctor told them that the ring and these tools tended to prove the truth of a story that a French boat had in those early days plied a trade with the Indians in furs, but it disappeared.

Now, said Dr._, this looks as if the boat had been driven up the river in a storm, attacked by Indians, and the crew massacred, as the old story conjectured.

The spring freshets of a few years ago washed part of the bank away and more graves were uncovered, apparently those of white men.

             Richard Saunders, a son-in-law of Charles Fradenburg, recently found an old coin near this spot.

             There were three Fradenburg boys, Dan, Charles, and John. Charlie was a farmer. His beautiful home is now unoccupied though still in the possession of his family, a widowed daughter who makes her home at “Riverside.” John’s home was a little farther down the river.  A creek winds behind his building and at its mouth lie the remains of “The Enterprise,” one of the boats which sixty years ago plied up the river as far as Brantford, using the “canal,” now but a weedy depression in the river flats.

             With him was associated Edward and Ben Baxter of Fort Erie. Their boats, the Sowerby and the Enterprise, freighted grain and wood to Buffalo.

             An old sidewheeler, the Dover, owned by Lachlin MacCallum, used to come up the river for gypsum. The old senator’s tug, the Robb, did the towing.

             Here and there a vestige of the old tow-path can be traced.

             Adjacent to the Fradenburg tract is the Jones tract. Here Hiram Macdonald, a cousin of Sir John A., brought his wife and her children. The Laws, the Hanslers, Guinthers and Bradshaws of Welland county are connected with this family, and one daughter, Rebecca, married Abraham Sherk of Bertie township.

             This family landed from old Scotland at Nova Scotia, where some of the brothers remained. Bonar Law was a cousin.

             The Windeckers were the earliest settlers on the opposite side of the river, the Murphy’s following close.

             They operated a rude ferry at Windecker, before Dunnville or Cayuga existed. Indiana, now non-existent, and York, where offices of the Grand River Navigation company were, were the cities-to-be of those days.

             But past is all their fame: the very spot,

             Where for a time they flourished-“bids fair to be forgot.”

The Welland Tribune and Telegraph

12 July 1927



Meta Schooley Laws

              Did you ever try to imagine yourself as one of a group of those who wonderful men and women who came into this section of the country in the seventeen–seventies or thereabouts?

             Travel has been made so easy, so safe for us. Every little depression in the road through which water ever flows is bridged. A bridge three feet high must have a railing. As we speed along the highway, every high graded stretch of road is protected by the cable fenced with its white posts. Every curve ahead is indicated by those sign posts.

             Do we ever think of the difficulties the pioneers met when they first pierced the woods?

             The long toilsome journey on foot from Pennsylvania, or Vermont, or New Jersey, or other of the states of new-formed nation, away from comfort and plenty in most instances, toward toil, privation, loneliness, poverty-not a landmark on the route-not a welcome at its close. These men carried the Flag in their hearts. They did not need it to be waved before their faces to know it was; is, there. For the love of it they surrendered all, dared all, won all.

             “A sacred burden is the life ye bear,” all ye in whose veins the blood of these flows.

             A family of three people wended their way wearily, yet hopefully, through the forest away from the land that had thrown off its allegiance to the Flag they loved, toward the new British territory to the north, lately wrested from the French.

             They had heard little to attract them about this land excepting this-that above it, the Union Jack waved.

             They were more fortunate than many other groups who also travelled northward in those days, for they had horses, cattle and money for necessities. They had been preparing for this journey, for they carried with them bags of seed, grain and fruit. The women and children rode in comparative comfort. The men walked and drove the herd which pastured. Speed in travel was an unknown quantity a hundred and fifty years ago.

             They reached the border at the head of the Niagara river. From the Indians they obtained canoes, and loaded their effects into them.

             Warily they paddled down the river to the mouth of the Chippawa creek, and turned into it, for the increasing current and the roar of the falls warned them.

             Up the shadowy stream for some miles they went, not a sound but the dip of their paddles, not an opening in the “forest primeval” which skirted the creeks banks. At last they halted. “This will do for our home,” said the leader. They made camp. Their name was Misener. Two of them with a guide set out for Newark, the “capital” of Canada.

             We know it now as Niagara-on-the-Lake. Here they received patents for their homestead, the allotment which the government made to those U.E. Loyalists. Those deeds were written on parchment and a great seal attached to them. When they returned the walls of a log cabin had been built, a home established.

             If they longed for the comfort-yes luxury-of the homes they left, no one mentioned it. Sturdily they set to work-and now every year hundreds gather at the great Misener re-union-proud, justly so, of their descent from these men and women.

             It must be thirty years ago or longer, since the writer taught at the little “Dew-drop” school____ with that dear old English _and Mrs. Hern.

             Just at that time the “Misener woods, (so called yes, though the title of the property was no longer held by the family) were being _by a Thorold firm. But the then owner reserved the land and a huge oak tree known as “The Bear Tree.” High up in its branches were the remains of a platform which Adam Misener built in the big tree. Here he, and one or sometimes two of his friends, would sit with their old muskets to watch for bears and other big game, and many a bear met death there.

             Doubtless, those woods are covered now with a thick sound growth, and the Bear Tree spreads its wide branches yet. Or was the prophecy of the old man who told the story of the tree fulfilled-“Poor thing,” he said, “how lonely it must be, it will not stand long.”

             One gathereth, another scattereth was certainly true of that wood lot which Adam Misener prized so highly, and guarded so carefully.

             One of the Misener homesteads stood a few miles east of this one, and about half way between Lyon’s Creek and the Chippawa. This home was built on a gravel ridge, and an orchard from seeds brought from New Jersey surrounded the home. Gnarled and twisted though most of these trees were, they still bore fruit a few years go.

             There was a seedling from one of the old trees in the orchard, too. It was a beautiful and delicious fall apple. Large, red and yellow streaked, and so crisp. “The Farmer’s Favorite” Mr. Misener named it for a customer one day on the market. How long ago? Well, when J.F. Beam first got other people besides himself talking about good roads.

             We had “Jip” and the buggy, and had proceeded with great labor on Jip’s part, and the constant fear that the traces would break from her efforts, to Archibald Grey’s. I got out to lighten the load so many pounds anyway, and picked my way along the fence where the sod had been but was not.

             Some one, who, in the township council strongly opposed the “good roads” project, came along with a team and democrat and greeted us. We told him that any one who would talk against “good roads” should be sentenced to walk down the middle of this road right now. He drove on laughing. Do you remember, Lew?

The Welland Tribune and Telegraph

18 January 1927




              This time we will go to the county west of this one-Haldimand-for our story of the old times.

             Perhaps no county in the province, certainly none along Lake Erie, is richer in pioneer history, other then military history.

             It must ever be remembered that while the heroes of the wars especially that of 1812, protected the rights of the land-these same men as they hewed from the wilderness their homes and ours, established their rights.

             Canada-the empire-owes much to her military heroes, and they receive due recognition. She owes more even to the pioneer civilian, and too often his exploits are “unhonored and unsung.”


             Up the Grand river the Indian U.E. Loyalist, Joseph Brant, led his tribes of dusky warriors. Through forest and swamp that then bordered the river they travelled, on and on. At last they came to a shallow place, and Brant forded the river. We call the city situation at that spot Brantford. One of the great factories there issued a calendar depicting the scene a few years ago.

             Six miles on either side of the river was granted the great chief in perpetuity, hence settlement of the whites along was deferred. Hence people here of the writer’s generation remember pioneer times and ways.

             The farms all along the river are held, not by deeds, but by 999 year leases.

             The town of Cayuga, whose boundaries extend east and west and south, much farther than the apparent limits of the burg, was a gift. It and the townships were named after the Indian tribe. So also the townships of Seneca and Oneida.

             Only a few evenings ago a guest in our home related how as a little boy he had seen the Indians gather in a council house on the Thompson estate, the right to meet there having been retained by the tribe when the present owner’s father received the grant of land.

             Near it was built the first Presbyterian church in this district. The building was torn down and forms a barn on the Wadel property her in Cayuga.  The bell is in the tower of the town hall.

             There was also a large R.C. church. It, too, was razed, and St. Stephen’s at Cayuga replaces it.

             A few stones remain of the foundations of the old woolen mill at Indiana, two miles up the river from here.

             Seventy years ago it was a thriving town with breweries, distilleries, saw mills, and the first offices of the Grand River Navigation company. Hon. Rich-that company. 

             Now not a vestige of the town is left. Some ten or twelve children attend the little school house where once a (for those days) imposing two-roomed school stood.

             The woolen mill came down the river forty-eight years ago or thereabouts in the spring freshet. It struck the bridge over which the Airline railway crosses the river, and was broken to some extent. A few rods down the river it came in contact with the Talbot road bridge and moved it six feet on its abutments, then floated down in fragments. Pieces of the machinery of the mill jut up the shallows even yet.

             Driving along a weed-grown ditch, on one spot a green depression in “the flats” marks the course of the canal.

             Old “Bill” Mellanby of Humberstone had a controlling interest in the gypsum mines, which employed fifty men. Twenty years ago these mines were still operated but on a smaller scale than in the old days.

             Recently a company has been testing the locality. Gypsum of fine quality abounds, but the clay “roof” necessitates too expensive operations. In the old days timber was not specially valuable.

             The little town of Selkirk was founded by the earl who afterwards founded the Red River settlement in the west, where Selkirk, Manitoba commemorates his work.

             The first settler in this section of country was one “Captain” John Dochstader. His wife was a squaw, and with her he obtained from Brant a grant of 1200 acres of land, still known as the “Fradenburg” tract. He was a roamer and crossed back to the American side soon after his marriage, but returned with his wife and child in 1799. They crossed Lake Erie in a canoe hewed out of a log, and paddled up the river to the site of his grant of land.

             He had some difficulty to renew his title; indeed 400 of the 1200 acres had to be given to those who aided him. His daughter married an American “skedaddler,” Fradenburg, and he finally got the title clear, so that the tract is named for him.

             Most of this land is still in the possession of his descendents. He had three sons, all of whom played an important part in the development of this section of the country.

             What volumes could be written of Lachlan MacCollum, Senator, of “old” Doctor Harrison, who still successfully practiced medicine qt 90, who thrice refused a senatorship; of the days when Wm. Lyon MacKenzie was candidate for the riding, successful, too; of T.C. Street who played his part in Welland county too. You will find them interesting I know.

             Welland county was settled then. To Chippawa they went for supplies, and as a previous letter remarked, their mill was at Windmill Point, until the one at Indiana was built.

The Welland Tribune and Telegraph

28 June 1927




              Welland County played no small part in the life of the whole district in early days.

             Of course, it was not “Welland County,” then, but a part of “Niagara District.”

             Haldimand County formed a part of Long Point district.

             The history of Haldimand does not date back quite so far as does that of Welland, because so much of the county was held by the treaty which gave to Brant’s Indians, a territory extending six miles on each side of the Grand river.

             But the progress made by Welland aided the pioneers of Haldimand some of whom, at least, came from that county.

For instance, Adam Fralick’s brother, John, took his family up the Chippawa creek, and settled somewhere near Wellandport. One of his descendents was the District Deputy Grand Master who officiated at the I.O.O.F. installation in Welland recently.

Adam Fralick as young man was in business, teaming on the Portage road between Queenston and Chippawa.

             B.F. Canby, whose wife was a sister of Col. “Billy” Buchner, was a grandson of the B.F. Canby who laid out the township of Canboro which he named for himself. That township never was surveyed by the government. The three roads which Canby laid out converge at the sleepy little hamlet of Canboro which its founder dreamed would be an important town some day.

             One road, still known as “The Canboro road,” was a part of Talbot street-a second meandered along Oswego creek, then busily turning the wheels of a grist mill and a saw mill; now all but dry in summer time. This road led to the Chippawa creek, near the mouth of the “Oswego.” The third road led to the little hamlet of Dunnville and is now part of provincial highway No. 3.

             Driving down the south-east side of the Grand river from York to Cayuga, we pass the Harcourt homestead-a beautiful home overlooking the river. Here Hon. Richard Harcourt was born. He was the first superintendent of schools in the county. For years he represented Monck in the Ontario legislature and during that time held the portfolio of education in the Ross government.

             The old “Davis” home is near York. An old atlas lies open before me in which is the business card of A.A. Davis, Miller, York.

             This road once led through the thriving village of Indiana, whose very ruins have disappeared.

             Yet we talk with men who remember when there were distilleries, breweries, mills, at this spot; when a two-roomed school was required.

             Wild grape-vines cover and tangled Virgina creeper cover completely the few crumbling stones left of the foundation of one of these buildings.

             But near-by is Ruthven Park, where Colonel Andrew Thompson spends the summer months in the beautiful home built by his grandfather. One relative of this family lives at Port Colborne-a woman who certainly possesses the gift of growing old beautifully-Charles Carter’s widow.

             She could throw valuable light on the pioneer history of this district, and doubtless Welland County’s Historical society with much valuable data.

             But the intention of this letter was to speak of the important part the old windmill at Windmill Point played in the life of the early settlers of this Grand river district. But the letter is already too lengthy. 

             Hiram MacDonald, a cousin of Sir John A’s, was one of the early settlers along the river.

             He and his stepsons have made the journey from their home, 20 miles up the Grand river from Port Maitland to this mill more than once. Their canoe was hollowed out of a big log and provided with a rude sail.

             Rafts of timber, and scow loads of cordwood, or grain, found their way down the river and lake to Buffalo in those days.

             The Grand River Navigation company, whose ancient papers, the Six Nation Indians are bringing into the limelight again, in an attempt to prove that they were defrauded by the company, or government, or both, did a thriving business then.

             Reminders of the “canals” they constructed are to be seen in the ditches nearly overgrown with reed and rushes, as we drive along the river road.

             Remains of the locks they built still exist.

             Every spring freshet brings some of the great timbers down. The River road drive is beautiful now as then.

             Folk from the nearby cities are just beginning to learn this and are invading the silence which has settled over the once busy scene.

             Instead of the scows and occasional schooner of fifty years or so ago, the canoe of the fisherman is seen. Here and there along the bank are the tents of the campers.

             Some one will buy the hermitage or some other of those beautiful old homes and a summer hotel will be established. There could be no more beautiful spot.

             But the dreams of the pioneers of an ever increasing commercial importance attaching to the district have not, and will not be fulfilled.

             Yet, who shall measure the national influence and worth of those who won from the wilderness, these fertile farms, and of their successors, the farmers of this banner section of Canada’s banner province?

The Welland Tribune and Telegraph

17 February 1927





             That was a very interesting article in a recent issue of The Tribune and Telegraph relating to the five (four) survivors of the Q.O.R. who fought at Ridgeway, June, 1866.

             What a peculiar friendship must exist between them!

             Dr. Brewster of Ridgeway was one of the veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic.

             One day he told us how year after year the number that met in their annual gathering grew smaller, and the bond between each of them stronger. How in the last years the once great gathering was but a small meeting of close, close friends.

             Doubtless the same feeling exists among these five (four).

             How often as a child sitting in the pew half-way down the church, have I looked at the white marble tablet which gave the Memorial church its name.

             One morning father took me up to it after church and read the names and the stanza of Thomas Campbell’s inscribed on it:

“To live in hearts we leave behindis not to die.”

is the closing line.

             We drove home that day the “long way round” by the Athoe home, whose porch pillars were marked by the bullets.

             How often he told us the story for we never tired of it of how grandfather took the horses and cattle back to the marsh, which then extended for miles, just a little north of the Maple grove and its adjoining farms. Grandfather wanted his wife to come with um, but she refused. She “had her bread started” and father and Uncle Duncan stayed with her, of course.

             Auntie Sloan too, stayed in the stone house on Point Abino alone. They were the only two women of that neighborhood who did not leave their homes.

             Mrs. Zachariah Teal (Nancy Alexander) was the only woman who stayed in Ridgeway.

             About four in the afternoon, father told us, the firing was so distinct that he and his brother went to Ridgeway. The five (four) survivors spoken of in that article could not have been among those whom grandma fed, as they retreated she gave them all she had prepared in the house. When she told us the story she never failed to say, “The poor tired boys! I was glad I had stayed at home.”

             Charlie Lugsdin, whose name was mentioned, was left in Auntie Sloan’s care by his comrades, who carried him that far about five miles.

             Father used to tell that cattle in the near-by bush wood frightened the Fenians, who thought the noise was the approach of cavalry, and turned and fled after the Q.O.R. had retreated.

             Years after, while the writer taught at Ridgeway, a white-haired old clergyman visited the church.

             He stood a few moments before the marble tablet, and when he rose spoke first of one whose name we had so often read-Malcolm MacEchren, sergeant, who died of wounds.

             “He was my classmate and chum,” the old man said, and he described the stalwart young Scot to us, and then preached on “Sacrifice,” not the sermon prepared for the occasion, he said afterward.

             A few weeks later Rev. Mr. Dobson, now gone “home” too, occupied the pulpit and he told us of “Willie Temple,” whose name is also engraved there-“ a delicate winsome lad who gave his all.”

             “To what purpose is this waste,” was the text he chose.

             In the entry of the remodeled Methodist church that tablet has been placed, and beside it another bearing the names of those who made the supreme sacrifice in the last great war.

             Ah me! How many “boxes of alabaster, very precious,” have been broken-Sacrifice.

             Not long ago another story of this time came my way. The House’s lived in the vicinity but north and east of the battlefield. Mr.House took the horses back into the country, but his wife and the children stayed home.

             Toward evening little Charlotte and her brother drove the cattle to the pasture, for everything seemed quiet.

             They had some distance to go, and had just reached the “bars” of the field when a group of the Fenians came out of the woods near them. The poor children were dreadfully frightened and began to cry.

             The cattle had been shut in all day and were impatient to get to their feeding ground, and the little ones could not manage them.

             The leader of the Fenians halted his men and asked the boy what was wrong, told him that men didn’t cry, let down the bars and helped them drive the cattle in.

             Long afterward Charlotte (Mrs. Shrigley) lived at Maple Grove farm, and her niece, Mrs. John White, told the story to me as she had heard it

             You young people are missing a great deal of enjoyment if you do not cultivate the acquaintance of the few-so few old people who could tell you stories of these old days.

             History-is it not?

             In June ‘96, I think, the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Ridgeway was observed. The lieutenant-governor unveiled a monument on the battle ground.

             Elgin county has, through the efforts of their Historical society, marked by stone tablets the first registry office, which was a small log structure, They have a fairly accurate record of the first families who settled there.

             Norfolk county, too, is systemically searching out early records.

             Welland county should give the Historical society there more appreciation. There should be a branch in every township, and the fragments of pioneer history should be gathered quickly and pieced together. For every township had its great men and women, whose life story would be a tale of romance, adventure, yes, and accomplishment.

             They, too, like the heroes of the Q.O.R. fought, and won, and died. Few of them saw the result of their heroic sacrifice. Most of them would, like the old soldier in Tennyson’s poem, scorn praise for their valor, in his words-

“I have only done my duty as a man is bound to do.”

             Not even five nor one of them is left but we in whose veins their blood flows; we who owe to them the best we have and are; we bow our heads by the too-often neglected churchyard where their ashes lie and whisper of them, too, that-

             “Their name liveth forevermore,” for of them, as of the soldier dead, it is true that the words inscribed on the memorial tablet are true.

The Welland Tribune and Telegraph

4 June 1927