Welland History .ca

The TALES you probably never heard about

ROBERT A. LAMBERT

[The Welland Tribune and Telegraph, 22 March 1923]

Robert A. Lambert, one of the oldest residents of this city, passed away at noon yesterday, at the home of his daughter, Mrs. C.N. Patten, 26 Griffith street. A week ago Saturday, Mr. Lambert, who had been quite active, and in good health, suffered a stroke of paralysis and never regained consciousness after.

Born in Gainsboro, about 84 years ago, he had been a resident of Welland for over three decades. He was a member of the Methodist church and a life-long Conservative. His wife predeceased him twelve years ago, and he is survived by one daughter, Mrs. Patten, and one sister, Mrs. Wilkinson, who resides in Michigan.

The funeral service will be held tomorrow at 2 o’clock in the Methodist church.

Mr. Lambert was a man true and upright in all the relationships of life.

DISQUALIFICATION BRINGS TO LIGHT INTERESTING HISTORY

Reeve Moses Betts was Still in His Seat in 1867-

His Opponent Hill who got 19 Votes Sought to Oust Him

[Welland Tribune and Telegraph, 1 February 1923]

In the action heard last week touting the qualifications of James Hughes as Mayor, one case cited on authority was that of Hill vs. Betts, a citation that turns back the scene of history in this town to the year 1867.

The Betts named was Moses Betts, Welland Reeve, and a well-known figure in his day. The plaintiff was Andrew Gregory Hill, later Police Magistrate in Niagara Falls, father of General F.W. Hill. The two were opponents for the reeveship, Betts got 59 votes and Hill 16. Mr. Hill began disqualification proceedings on the grounds that Reeve Betts had been one of the bondsmen for James McGlashen, County Treasurer, and had not been discharged from his liability.

Moses Betts in his day was one of the “big men” of the village, for he owned the village saw mill, the planing mill and a general store, besides other properties within village limits. The general store was situated on what was then known as the gothic building on the corner of North and West Main Street, where Hilder’s Furniture store now is. The saw mill occupied a place out of town, or otherwise located where the citizens of today enjoy an exciting hockey match-where Lambert’s Rink now stands. Moses Betts lived on the corner of Merritt Street and North Main Street, where his property stands.

Betts opened up a subdivision in the village. A handsome plan of the subdivision is in the County Registry Office. But the name did not _. Across the top of the plan is written the word “Merrittville.” Merrittville was the village of yesterday-Welland is the city of today.

The plan disclosed the fact that Betts owned the property on the west side of the canal from North Main Street to Denistoun Street, on the bank of the river and over to Main Street. Across the river there was another property that was at one time owned by Mr. Betts. These were lots lying between North Main and Seeley Street, and south of Merritt Street with the exception of a small piece of land which is now known as the old Beatty factory. The plan, but slightly faded with age, gives the following information: Surveyed by Henry T. Ross, C.E., and certified by Jacob Misener, Provincial Surveyor, May 1857.

Moses Betts was elected Reeve of the Village of Welland in 1865, 1867 and 1870. A.G. Hill was elected Reeve for the years 1869, 1871, 1872 and 1873.

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THE PASSING OF AN INSTITUTION

Today’s Boys are Missing Something Their Fathers Enjoyed

[The Welland Tribune and Telegraph, 15 November 1923]

              “Dad, what was a livery stable?”

             Maybe this question had never fallen upon your ears, but it is a very possible query these days from your small son; and it marks the passing of an institution, both equine and social, that may have played no small part in your own boyhood days if you are far enough along on life’s journey to rank as one of the old-timers.

             The livery stable is passing, if it has not already passed; which statement is corroborated by the last issue of the Welland city directory, in which but one such enterprise is listed.

             Gone is White’s, where once all the latest stories, slang and general news of the world were wont to be told and discussed-around the stove in the copy office when chill winter held Welland in his grasp, and in back-tilted chairs within the hospitable doors when summer’s heat lay heavy upon Main street.

             And there was more than one rendezvous of the sort in the then town, for, if memory serves alright, the Dexter House, the Mansion House (now gone, alas!), the Commercial Hotel and the present hostel where Harry Rice once reigned, all boasted similar appurtenances; where kindred spirits foregathered to “set and filloserphise.”

             And, when you were a small boy, you liked nothing better than to peer in upon those gatherings, getting a bit of their observations, perhaps, and maybe picking up a few choice cuss words, which, displayed at home, probably led to mother’s performing a drastic operation termed, ‘washing your mouth out with soap” following which, you retired to the woodshed, and longed for the day when you would have attained manhood and be free to rip it off with any of them.

             And in those “Days of Real Sport” the air was not contaminated with the odor of gasoline, which you get in passing the garage of today; you had a good stringent whiff of Sabean perfume from the livery, the like of which is not to be had now, and with the olfactory organ of the rising generation will never be pleasantly titillated.

             Picturing the livery stable of earlier years, James C. Young, writing in The New York Times, says:

             If it was a big stable there was a runway starting not far from the door, which went up to a second floor. It was the immemorial custom to have a row of stalls on each side of the main floor, all whitewashed and kept in order by Jerry and his cohorts. Sometimes the harness hung on nails at the ends of the stalls and there was always a little of straw, oats, and such like on the ground. The main floor in a fair sized stable would hold from thirty to forty horses and away back in the last corner was a box stall when the thump of hoofs and a great champing and snorting proclaimed that the stallion was at home. A brave boy once in a while would crawl up to the lattice work at the top of the stall and look over at the stallion, his fiery eyes shining in the dark. A few chickens ran about the door and got fat off the waste grain. Generally there were plenty of fresh eggs in the hay loft.

             But our livery stables are passing, if they have not already passed. The Colonel Taylors of yesterday are pretty old men now, such of them as still hold out against the encroaching automobile. Soon we will have no more livery stables unless something is done to uphold this most typical of institution. But just that much the boyhood of the race will be made poorer.

“BONELESS” THE BOY WHO WAS TARGET FOR PRANKS AND JOKES

A Tale of The School Days of Long Ago

[The Welland Tribune and Telegraph, 18 January 1923]

            Boneless came into this world under very inauspicious conditions. His parents were not rich, but that mattered little, as no one was rich in those days. His father was a farm laborer receiving seven dollars and a half a month the year round and a hovel to live in free of rent. His mother was laid away beneath the sod of McColl’s cemetery when he was but five days old, and he was left to the care of a sister, eleven years old. True, for several weeks Aunty Sinclair, the neighborhood mid-wife, gave him her attention and quarts upon quarts of catnip and senna tea. Moreover, she never neglected an opportunity of visiting the home and rendering whatever of assistance as was necessary to the “wee bairns.” She was a kindly soul, who smoked her clay pipe beside the old fireplace in ecstatic enjoyment, when alone, and stuck its stem through her garter for safety and secrecy, when anyone approached her sanctuary. For the rearing of Boneless and numerous other newcomers to the neighborhood, she has her reward.

             Boneless was as plump as a roll of butter, and that was prodigious in plumpness before the fifteen-ounce print was invented. He had a nose inclined to be “pug” and sleepy, blue, lack-lustre eyes, and with long struggles with the erstwhile “sugar tit” acquired the habit of sucking his tongue, which habit he retained until well on in boyhood years. He was finally persuaded to desist by Susie, his sister-mother, who, touching his tongue with a drop of turpentine whenever she saw it make its appearance in its wonted role. He was slow to learn the process of walking, owing to a certain looseness in his joints, and when he had learned to walk was very clumsy and would fall on the least pretense and on account of the smallest obstacle in his path. This gracelessness followed him through life and applied to his every joint as well as to those of his nether limbs. When he was sent to school this feature secured for him the nickname Boneless, and that, too, remained with him throughout his life. His every habit of mind was colored with the same deficiency of which his companions took decided advantage.

             The school was a “tough” one, comprised of boys and young men (and girls too) whose only ambition was to learn to read a little, write their own names and “cipher” simple questions by simpler rules. Boneless was there to amuse their crude fancies and because of his easy disposition fulfilled their expectations. They made up races, the winner of which was to receive a jack knife worth about twelve cents. There were only two entries allowed. Boneless was one of these. The knife was buried deep in the earth at the finish of the distance and the best two in three to unearth it claimed it. The first two runs were a tie and the third was won by Boneless, but instead of the knife he plunged his hands into some sort of filth. He did not show anger or sorrow. He seemed to know instinctively that the whole thing was meant to be pleasant and went off to the pumps to wash his hands, laughing as loudly as any of them.

             The teacher was showing sly, but determined addresses to a young woman whose home was just across the road from the school house. Boneless was sent to her with the request, from the teacher of course, for a needle and thread and a button for his shirt. These he dutifully handed the teacher during school hours and was compelled to explain where they came from and for what purpose they had been sent. The teacher’s chagrin was not lessened by the fact that the button was needed, or by the titter which went round the room. Several boys joined Boneless in a taste of “the hickory” for this prank.

             Boneless was studious-he need be, and acquired a liking for history. One day the teacher had labored at considerable length and with much care to explain the why and the wherefore of the Gunpowder Plot. At the noon hour while he was absent to his dinner, the queries of Boneless concerning the how of the “plot” led to a practical demonstration. Some giant powder was secured and placed in a heavy earthenware ink bottle, a fuse was inserted and the neck of the bottle filled with brick dust well ‘tamped” into place. This was fastened under the teacher’s desk and the fuse run through a mouse hole in the floor. The arrangement was only completed when the teacher returned and seated himself at the desk. Boneless with unabated curiosity crawled under the floor to investigate the fuse and its influence on the fixture. “Six-foot” gave him a match with instructions and a warning to “come out lickety scoot.” He followed directions and the result was fearful. Several girls fainted; the desk was blown to fragments. But the teacher escaped personal injury. He was scared but not scarred, only loosing about two thirds of the left leg of his trousers. There were two or three suspensions over this affair, but Boneless was not one of them.

             Boneless had ambitions, though one could hardly guess it, they were so well controlled. But he had. He continued to attend at the old blue school house during the reign of some half score teachers- until his rosy features were hidden by a tawny beard, somewhat between a butternut and a sumac brown, curled up at the ends to match his pug nose. Then he taught school for two hundred dollars per annum, and saved so much of it and studied so persistently that with the aid Suzie’s savings gave him, and urged on by her encouraging faith in his powers, went to college, where he was still the same Boneless to his classmates. He shared a room with another and lived frugally, studying early and late. The only occasion which gave him a moment’s worry came to him during his college days. His room mate used to complain of his habit of studying audibly. His college mates knew of this complaint and urged him that the only manly course was for him to settle the difference by the use of arms. A challenge was prepared, which he signed, all arrangements were made with the complaint, who, of course, was in the secret. A lonely spot was found, pistols were secured, seconds were named, distances were measured, the combatants were stationed in their places and the word was given. Boneless closed his eyes and fired-a blank charge. His opponent fell. His vest was torn open, a bottle of red ink was spilled upon his shirt front, and when Boneless looked upon the work of other hands, he fled for safety. It was several days before he was located. Hunger drove him from cover. The joke was explained to him, and he returned to his studies.

             Oh, yes, I forgot. You wanted to know what became of Boneless. Well, he made a very good lawyer and is still practicing his profession. No doubt much of his success lies in his habit of mind being “Quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”

CHARLTON

SOMETIME BOY OF QUAKER RD. PASSES 95TH YEAR

Old Wellanders will Welcome Word of Old Page Family

[The Welland Tribune and Telegraph, 27 March 1923]

              The Tribune and Telegraph is indebted to an old friend of the paper and of many of the older generation of this city and vicinity, A. Wright Page of New York City for the following clipping from a Michigan newspaper regarding the 95th birthday celebration of his brother, once a Quaker Road boy and, before his departure for the West, proprietor with another brother, William Page, of a store which A. Wright Page describes as being located “on the old Sawdust Road, now your North Main Street, at the second north-east corner from the Chippawa Bridge.”

             A cut of Robert W. Page, which illustrates the Michigan story, is not reproduced here, but in referring to same, Mr. Page says, “The cut makes Robert look somewhat old, but they write me that he is quite active for a young fellow of 95 years of age.”

             What was written at Ionia, Mich. follows:

             Ionia, Feb. 16, Uncle Robert W. Page, Ionia’s oldest male citizen celebrated his ninety-fifth birthday Friday, in the best of health. He was born in Canada, on Quaker Road, a few miles from Niagara Falls, and came to Ionia at the close of the Civil War and has resided here ever since. He saw the big kite that carried the rope from the Canadian side to the American to get the lines for the first suspension bridge at Niagara Falls, and was in the employ of the bridge company much of the time while the bridge was under construction. “Many a time,” said Uncle Robert, “I crossed from one side to the other in a basket running on a wire, and after the bridge was completed, I rode across on the first engine, and even away back in those days when it was far more daring I walked under the falls. Know how far it is from the Niagara to the Detroit river? Just 229 1-2 miles. I know, because I helped survey the Great Western railroad across Canada. When the Welland Canal was made I drew many a load of grub to the army of workmen.

             Mr. Page kept a hotel in the Niagara Falls vicinity for some years then came to Michigan in the face of his father’s offer to give him 310 ? acres of land to remain at home. After he came to Ionia he was in the hotel business many years as proprietor of the old River House and then the Eagle hotel.

             As he took his box of fine cut from his pocket for a bit of chew, he remarked that he had used it ever since he was 15 years old. “Might have lived to a ripe old age if I hadn’t used it,” he said, “but I can’t get along without it now.”

MEMORIES OF YESTER YEAR

[The Welland Tribune and Telegraph, 8 February 1923]

             “Yes, I remember when the piece of property you referred to in the last issue, in connection with Moses Betts, was nothing more than a vacant commons,” stated John H. Crow to the Tribune and Telegraph yesterday.

             “Way back in ’72 when I was a boy my home was at Fenwick,” stated Mr. Crow. “I remember coming all the way to Welland to attend a circus on that property between North Main street and the High School, West Main and the creek. VanAmburghs Golden Menagerie was the name of the show and I remember it quite well. That would have taken place just this side of the high school.

             But circuses were not the only events that occupied the commons in those days as now Welland had a cracker-jack baseball team and it was there where their big games were played. Some of the players were Cyrus Handcock, C.B. Crow, and Frank Rounds. Some of the players were heavy hitters and the ball on various occasions nearly went into the creek.

             There was also another ball park on the east side of Hellems Avenue, south of where the new packing plant has been erected. It was there where all the grand cricket-matches were staged.

             I also remember A.G. Hill quite well. He must have been about 35 when an exciting hitch-and-kick contest was staged on the cricket grounds, and to which Mr. Hill was an interesting spectator. After watching the contest for some little while Mr. Hill decided to try his hand, or rather his kick, and in a valiant attempt beat out his contestants.”

OTHER MEMORIES OF LONG AGO

[The Welland Tribune and Telegraph, 23 January 1923]

Welland, Ont., 17th, Jan. 1923

Editor Tribune-Telegraph         

Dear Sir:

             I noticed in your issue of the 16th inst., an account of the sleighing and dancing parties among the young people of sixty years ago, and it brings to my mind pleasant memories, as I was one of the youngsters at that time. As I am now past 85, and there is but one living person of my age left in our whole neighborhood, and that is an old lady. I have attended a number of parties in my younger days where Blind “Oliver” furnished the music and I have always understood that Oliver was not quite blind, from the fact that if there was any trouble or dispute, while the party were getting set on the floor, I have seen him get right up and in among set, and settle any dispute that may have happened and get to their places before he would start the music or leave the floor. The most of the dance music up to a few years ago was furnished by The Dean Brothers of Caistor Centre, of the late Calvin Lymburner, who lived in our school section, and about 25 years ago, I built a good sized store in our village with a hall overhead 22×24 with a stage, where many dances, shows, medicine men and political meetings were held, and where five townships and three counties met inside of an area of a few hundred yards, and where I have been D.R.O, the last 27 years in our division without a break. I intended to mention that the youngsters of today are practicing the old reels and hornpipes, including Money Musk, Devils Dream, Rocky Road to Dublin, Irish Jig, Sicilian Circle and Colitions.

             I remember the old “Acorn” paper and the old “Niagara Mail.”

Yours truly

J.K. Tisdale

MEMORIES OF THE OLDEN DAYS IN WELLAND COUNTY

Dances and Sleighride Parties of Sixty Years Ago

[The Welland Tribune and Telegraph, 16 January 1923]

             Back about sixty or sixty-five years ago before the advent of automobiles, there used to be good sleighing nearly all winter with plenty of snow.

             There used to be a fine friendly community spirit among the people of those days both in the towns, and in the country. It was not necessary to belong to “our church” to be a “Daughter of Rebecca” or “Son of a Gunn,” in order to get an invitation to attend those gatherings.

             The people of those days in this part of the country were all respectable Canadian farmers and business men. There was among us also a few Americans about the same class of people as our own, nice congenial jolly folks.

             Winter was a season of enjoyment and pleasure. It was not an unusual thing for the young folks to drive off as far as sixteen or eighteen miles to attend a party at some private house where they were always welcomed and on departure were told “hope you have had a good time, and be sure and come again whenever you feel inclined to, only let us know just a few days ahead.”

             Blind Oliver Clark and Jimmison (Jamieson) generally furnished the music on such occasions around here and Wooliver and Laribee and sometimes Uncle John Hardison in Bertie.

             At larger parties held in halls and hall rooms, Mr. Weeks orchestra from Thorold or musicians from the cities furnished the music and the following is what we used to dance. (Round dances, the Waltz, Polka, Danish Polka, Polk Redowna, Polka Mazourka, the Gallop, Rochester Schottische, Highland Schottische and Varsourivenne, (Contra dances), Money Musk, Sailor’s Hornpipe, Spanish Dance, Opera Reel, Sir Roger de Coverly, Sicilian Circle, and Virginia Reel, Square Dances, Quadrilles, Lancers, the Kenbal Lancers, Saratoga Lancers, Basket Cotillion, Pop goes the Weasel, Scotch Reel and the Jig, “Hands-All –Round,: eight bars and you know the rest.

             With a spanking good team or road horses, lots of sleigh bells, a good big sleigh load of young people with plenty Buffalo robes, and several sleigh loads following, those were cheery times and with cheery sons and laughter on our road home after a good night of innocent amusement we were a  happy lot of young people.

             The good sleighing at present reminds me of those days but the people now are different and they do not appear to have that kindly jolly community spirit that they had in them days.

             These thoughts just remind me of a piece of poetry that appeared in a paper published in Fonthill about sixty years ago by Hosmer L. Stone, I think the paper was called The Acorn, it contained a number of verses only a few lines of which I remember and it struck me when I read them as being very amusing. Should any of your readers recognize the verses which I quote perhaps they might give you the whole of the poem which is as follows as near as I can remember.

Sweet Susie Brown, my pretty one
I suppose you must remember
If not for love, at least for fun, the sleigh rides of December.
When all the belles and all the beaux
In spite of frost would go forth
And squeeze beneath the Buffaloes, each other’s hands etc.

And don’t you mind the village inn, the supper and the revel,
And how Cupid all at once shot his arrow level,
And don’t forget how Harry Kidd embraced you in the buttry
You kissed his lips I know you did and he kissed yours, etc.

And don’t you mind the forfeit game how one old maid resisted
Until the others all cried out a prude they all detested.
“Desist!” she cried this ancient Ann,
Her modesty to show forth
“I’ll never yield to any man my virgin lips, etc.”

An Old Port Robinson Boy

STEWART FOUND GUILTY OF MURDER

WIFE SLAYER NOW FACES GALLOWS

Verdict Returned After Two Hours’ Deliberation

EXECUTION  FEB. 7

             Guilty was the verdict rendered at 1:15 this afternoon by the jury in the case of Herschell Stewart, charged with the murder of his wife at the home of his parents in Allanburg on June 12.

             His lordship Mr. Justice Rose deferred passing sentence until the resumption of court, which, at the time the verdict was brought in, had taken recess in another case then on trial.

             The verdict came at the end of a hard-fought battle between A. Courtney Kingstone, K.C., who prosecuted and who made a most skilful presentation of the case, and H.W. Macoomb who ably marshalled forces in what, at the outset, gave much evidence of being a hopeless cause.

             The prisoner heard the pronouncement of the foreman of the jury, Thomas S. Disher, with the same air of stolidity and indifference maintained, save for a brief period when he was upon the witness stand, throughout the trial.

             His mother was the only one of his immediate family present in court when the jury returned. There was no demonstration upon her part.

             The charge was murder in the first degree, the verdict carrying but the one penalty, that of death.

             Throughout the trial, Stewart displayed no further emotion than he did at the previous hearings. For the most part he sat with head downcast only occasionally looking at the witnesses. Outwardly he appeared to be taking little interest in the proceedings. He continually played with his fingers suggesting he was working under a nervous strain.

The Jury

             Considerable time was taken up in selecting the jury, owning to a number of jurymen being challenged by both the counsel for the prosecution and defense.

             The jury was impaneled as follows: Jas. H. Chambers, farmer, Pelham; David McGruer, machinist, Welland: S.A. Haist, florist, Pelham; C.O. Teal, contractor, Bridgeburg; Sanford Dell, farmer, Willoughby; Wilson Teal, farmer, Bertie; T.S. Disher, farmer, Pelham; Eugene Koabel, farmer, Humberstone; Merrit Shisler, laborer, Crowland; George F. Mann, farmer, Bertie; Chas. Cosby, employee, Niagara Falls; E.A. Near, farmer, Humberstone.

             Immediately behind the accused sat his mother and members of his family, while his father who was seated near the legal fraternity, also was close to him.

             The first witness called was Provincial Constable Hough, of Thorold, who visited the Stewart home the day following the tragedy and made measurements and a sketch of the house which is situated north east from the Black Horse tavern.

             Provincial Constable George Jorgensen stated he was called to the scene of the crime at 6:30 on the morning it occurred. He found Mrs. Stewart lying dead in bed. The accused was lying beside his wife. He placed Stewart under arrest and warned him saying “he was not obliged to say anything, if he did, it would be taken down in writing and might be used against him.” Stewart simply replied, “Yes.”

Admission of Guilt

             At this point, the Crown Counsel, A. Courtney Kingstone, of St. Catharines sought to bring out evidence concerning a conversation which the witness had with Stewart in which the latter admitted killing his wife. On the grounds that such evidence might not be admissible however, His Lordship decided that the jury should retire while it was given. This course was adopted, and His Lordship agreeing that the testimony should be admitted, the jury returned and the evidence was repeated.

             Continuing, Constable Jorgensen stated he asked the accused if he had committed the crime to which he replied, “Yes.” “What did you do that for,” he then enquired. “Jealousy, I suppose,” returned Stewart, who also admitted that the gun found in the room was that with which the deed was committed. The witness declared he made no inducement or threat to Stewart prior to this conversation. Constable Jorgensen stated he examined the gun and found powder in the barrel which suggested it had been recently fired and at close range when he arrived. He found two empty shells on the floor of the bedroom, one under the bed and one about four feet away.

             Dr. John Herod, Coroner of Thorold and also private physician for the Stewart family, in his evidence stated he arrived at the Stewart home between 5 and 6 o’clock on the morning of the tragedy. He found Mrs. Stewart dead and the accused who was shot through the groin, lying beside her. He asked Stewart why he had done this, the accused replying, “Well Doctor, if your wife had been unfaithful_”

             “That’s enough. I don’t want to hear any more of that. Do you know you have committed a murder?” the witness declared.

             “He looked at me in a queer sort of way as though he did not realize,” added Dr. Herod.

             Under cross-examination by H.W. Macoomb, counsel for the defense, the witness replied he did not think Stewart was in his right mind at the time. He had seen the prisoner at different times while visiting the family home and thought his mental calibre was below normal.

             Answering the Crown Counsel as to why he did not think Stewart was in his right mind at the time, witness said he judged this by the blank stupid way in which Stewart looked at him. Stewart had led an idle sort of life. He could never hold down any job and was repeatedly going home with some trivial excuse.

             Dr. Binns was then called and stated that with the assistance of Dr. Boyd he performed the post-mortem ten hours after Mrs. Stewart was killed. Death was practically instantaneous and was caused by shock and hemorrhage.

             That the accused purchased four gun shots, twelve gauges, from him the day previous to the shooting was the evidence offered by Robert Robins, general merchant of Allanburg, who added that Stewart had never made a similar purchase before. Under cross-examination however, he admitted that a brother of the accused had bought 12 gauge shot.

The Confession

             The next witness called was Magistrate John Goodwin and as evidence regarding a confession alleged to have been made by Stewart was to be brought out. His Lordship again directed the jury to retire pending his decision as to whether same should be admitted. Deciding in the affirmative, the jury returned when His Worship proceeded with his testimony. He declared that with Provincial Constable Jorgensen he visited Stewart at the Welland County Memorial Hospital around 3 o’clock on the afternoon of June 13th. He went to the bedside informing Stewart he had been brought by the Provincial Police to take a statement which he (the accused) desired to make. Stewart answered “Yes.” Magistrate Goodwin continued, he took the confession, in which Stewart admitted shooting his wife with a twelve gauge shot-gun and afterwards going from the room when he turned the gun on himself and then returned to the bedside getting into bed by his wife. He described jealously as the motive for his act.

             Answering Mr. Macoomb, the witness stated at the time the confession was made; Stewart was suffering physical pain, giving evidence of this when he was trying to talk.

Father’s Story

             When Charles Stewart, father of the accused entered the witness box, the prisoner seemed ill at ease. For a few minutes he was quite restless, turning from side to side in his seat, He lowered his head as his father related how he arose in the morning of the tragedy at 4 o’clock, leaving for work at 4:40. He returned at 6 a.m. when he found both the dead woman and his son lying on the bed. “I spoke to Herschell, asking him why he did it,” said the witness in a voice which trembled with emotion. “He did not answer me.”

             Replying to counsel for the defense, the father said his son was 24 years of age. When at school Herschell made little progress and so commenced work when he was 14 years old. He was a laborer, but hunting, fishing and shooting were the only things he seemed to enjoy.

             Continuing witness declared his son had been out of work for some time which lead to his mother, his wife and himself, talking to him a great deal, about securing employment. Herschell however, only gave excuses.

             The father gave details of the son’s different conduct after leaving home and of peculiar actions following his return, when he seemed to be listening to imaginary conversations and when there was a marked change in his demeanor towards his mother.

             As to the shooting, he testified that the son had told him it was all a blank to him; but that he made the statement: “I know that she is dead.”

             The father said that when he pressed for a reason for the deed, the accused replied, “They say I am jealous.” Witness stressed the point that the son replied, “They say,” and not “I say.”

             He stated that so far as he knew no cause for jealousy existed; that the son had never quarrelled with his wife and that their conduct to one another had been of a kindly nature.

             A question as to whether the father had any relatives insane was dropped after an argument between counsels.

             Upon redirect examination, witness testified that he had observed no unusual actions in his son until after the latter’s attack of grip in March.

Stewart on Stand

             At 4:30 Tuesday afternoon, defense counsel sprung a dramatic surprise upon the crowded court room, where he called to the stand Herschell Stewart, the accused; it being but seldom that the defendant in a charge of capital crime gives evidence on his own behalf.

             With faltering footsteps, due to his self-inflicted wound, from which he has not fully recovered, the accused man made his way from the prisoner’s dock to the witness stand where, in view of his physical condition, he was granted seating by His Lordship, and where, chin cupped in hand, he prepared to take the stand of examination.

             His tone of voice, faltering at the outset, gained strength in the course of the interrogatories, the first of which led to his admission of his identity as the defendant and the statement of his being 24 years of age upon April 29, following which he testified to his marriage with the slain woman on February 23 last. Should be January.

             There was a marked difference in his demeanor and in his answers as he passed from-the questions of his own counsel to the cool deliberate queries of the attorney for the Crown as the latter, never once raising his voice, sought to entangle him in the meshes which might mean the gibbet were caught therein.

             His replies at first came slowly and in low voice, with nervous play of hands across his features; but when Mr. Kingstone had him fairly in hand, more semblance of life came into his crouching frame; and he talked back as the saying goes, displaying a grasp of the purport of the questions of the Crown, much lacking when his gruelling got underway.

Weaving the Net

             Calmly, but implacably, the Crown drew from him the admission that he had not felt like working and that he harbored the idea that his wife and his mother were taking measures to compel him to go to work; following which he made the admission that he must have intended to shoot his wife when he entered her bedroom.

             The shooting he had previously admitted, under direct examination; but in reply to Mr. Kingstone he made the statement that he did not know why he had fired the shot.

             The Crown, then supplementing the attempted establishment of motive, in the defendant’s statement that his wife and mother were compelling him to go to work, and premeditation in his admitting his intent to shoot the former when entry to her room was made, reverted to the former by the introduction of Stewart’s statement to Provincial Constable Jorgensen that jealousy was the impelling cause.

             Mr. Kingstone’s attempt to thus strengthen the motive theory advanced by the prosecution was met by the accused’s statement that he had no recollection of the statement to which Constable Jorgensen had testified.

             Neither did he recall the statement made Magistrate Goodwin while a patient in the hospital; but he did admit recollection of holding the weapon close to the body of his wife, who was sitting up in bed when the fatal shot was fired; and he also testified that no words passed between them previous to the commission of the deed; and made admission that his subsequent attempt to end his own life must have been due to his sorrow following the killing of his wife.

             At this point the Crown ended cross examination and His Lordship, following consultation with the jurors, some of whom were in favor of an evening session, adjourned court to Wednesday morning.

             The opening of Stewart’s examination by Mr. Macoomb brought out the dead wife’s age as 21 years at the time of the marriage and that the accused had first met her at the home of Mrs. Lambert, her sister, the latter being the woman who, with her children, was returned to England, following their desertion by the husband and father, who left them in a shack in Thorold Township.

             He testified to the establishment of illicit relations between himself and the girl within a month of their meeting, which relations, he gave evidence, continued regularly; the two living as man and wife until they were legally wed, through the intervention of his mother.

             Stewart told Mr. Macoomb that he had been subject to headaches following an attack of la grippe in the spring, and related other details of physical ailment.

Left School at 13

             He said he had left school at the age of 13 years, and that while he could read and write, although not following either practice, he had gone no further than the second book.

             He could not explain why he had jumped from a second storey window following an interview between his mother and a neighbor, to which act she testified; but he did remember the episode the morning of the day before the tragedy, when Chief Collins of Thorold had been called to the house by his wife, who was seeking legal action to compel him to go to work and support her and their child.

             He also acknowledged recollection of buying the shells with which the fatal weapon was loaded, stating that he had purchased them for the purpose of killing rats, and that he had shot a rat that afternoon in the barnyard, following which he had reloaded the barrel and placed the gun in the house.

             His father had told him, he said, to remove the shells, which he failed to do; and he then related his going to bed in the room adjoining that occupied by his wife and his mother; but he could not recall the incident of his going into their room in the middle of the night, as his mother had testified.

             Answering a question, he stated he was not a drinking man.

             “I have never tasted booze,” was his declaration.

             He acknowledged memory of getting up upon the fatal morning and of re-entering the house after being outdoors, stating that he thought he then lay down and went to sleep.

             He testified that when he again arose, he went and got the gun.

             “Why did you get it?” asked counsel.

             “I do not know,” was his reply; following which and in answer to a question as to what he did next, he made the direct admission, “I shot my wife.”

             He then described his entry into the room, where he found his wife with their baby, sitting up in bed; and related that daylight was just breaking and that he had said nothing to her nor she to him.       

 “I Shot Her”

             “What happened then?” queried Mr. Macoomb.

             “I shot her,” was the answer; followed by the statement that he did not know why he did it, and the admission that there was no quarrel between them and no anger upon his part against her.

             He then told how he had placed the gun close to his own body and pulled the trigger; claiming that he could not remember exactly what he had done; the examination finishing with his statement that he thought he had told Constable Jorgensen that he fired because of jealousy.

             A recess was here ordered by the Court, following which Mr. Kingstone took the defendant in hand for cross-examination; at the onset of which a visible stiffening of the man was plainly evident.

             Calmly and almost casually, but the while weaving the shuttle in and out, the Crown Prosecutor started to spin the web in which he hoped to enmesh the accused man.

             He drew from the tale of his first meeting with the murdered woman, then living with her sister, Mrs. Lambert at Niagara Falls, of their intimacy and of his mother’s insistence upon marriage, when the girl’s condition was discovered by her.

             He asserted that he was not of a jealous disposition, but admitted that his likes and dislikes were strong.

             He maintained that he was not afraid of any one winning his wife’s affection away.

             At 6:30 the court rose, concluding a two hours session in the witness box for the accused.

The Mother’s Tale

             The mother of the accused testified to the young couple coming to the Stewart home in February following their marriage the previous month.

             She gave evidence that at 2:00 a.m. the morning of the murder, Herschell had come into the bedroom she occupied with the latter’s wife and baby, and had looked at her and at his wife “with a wild glare.”

             She arose that morning at four o’clock and after Stewart Senior had left for work; her son appeared and went outside, watching his father’s departure, then coming in and “looking wildly into my face.”

             She then heard the sound of a single shot, following which she roused her sleeping sons.

             At this stage, the mother broke down, but upon recovering, continued her story of going to the door of the bedroom, where she saw her daughter-in-law “lying upon the bed with a big spot on her side and fire all around her.”

             Under cross-examination, she testified that she had married at 17, and was the mother of nine children. When she discovered the condition of the girl, she had insisted upon the marriage, which was performed January 22, her grandchild being born May 24.

             Her son had changed altogether after the commencement of his relations with the girl.

             She stoutly defended the character of the latter, testifying that there had been no clandestine or other intimacy with other men upon the part of her son’s wife.

             The mother narrated details of the tragedy, subsequently confirmed by the evidence of the accused; and in reply to Mr. Kingstone, said that it was the tragedy itself that first made her feel there was something wrong with her son’s mind.

             Wm. Stewart, a brother, age 22, told of being awakened by his mother’s screams following the shooting, and described the scene in the bedroom where the victim and her husband lay.

             He gave testimony to a change in his brother’s actions a short time preceding the shooting but did not advance any material details on this point.

             The Crown here rested its case.

             Wednesday’s morning session opened with the calling of Mr. and Mrs. M.J. O’Reilly, neighbors of the Stewarts both of whom gave unimportant evidence of their observations of a change in the dress and habits of the accused after his return to his home as a married man and of his different attitude towards them, which assumed that of enmity rather then one of a friend, which had previously marked their neighborly relations.

Brilliant Fencing

             There then came the first of a three-round forensic battle between Mr. Kingstone and three members of the local medical fraternity.

             The first of these witnesses, called by the defense to establish the accused’s mental incapacity was Dr. W.G. Reive who testified to such incapacity and who rated Stewart as a 10-year old in brain power.

             Dr. Reive stated he had made several mental examinations of the accused, all of which had found him below par; and he stated that these examinations revealed no real motive for the admitted deed and that, in his judgment; Stewart might be rated as a sexual pervert, who was not in his right mind when he shot himself; basing that opinion upon the belief that no suicide was wholly sane.

             Dr. Reive further stated, after much pressing, that he was unable to make any sworn statement as to the insanity of the accused at the time of the commission of the crime.

             Upon redirect examination by Mr. Macoomb, testimony covering the nature of dementia praecox was introduced; and the doctor stated that the defendant might possibly stand as an example thereof.

Mind Against Mind

             Mr. Kingstone then crossed swords with Dr. E.E. Binns, who proved no mean antagonist and who may be set down, appeared to give the learned counsel as good as he sent.

             All in all, it was a highly enjoyable clash of wit and wit.

             Dr. Binns related his examination of Stewart in the jail; the results of which examination and his hearing of the testimony given at the trial formed basis for his opinion that the accused was more of the animal than a normal nature; which opinion he followed by testimony regarding the defendant’s cranial structure and his physiognomy, both of which, in the opinion of the witness, were indicative of degeneration and lack of inhibition.

             The doctor further held that the accused was laboring under the uncontrollable impulse at the time of his purchase of the shells, the day proceeding the shooting; and he gave testimony of what he termed sexual complex, and advanced the belief that Stewart’s action in wounding the murdered woman and himself in that portion of the body into which the shots were fired followed the trend of Jack the Ripper and other sexual perverts recorded in criminal and medical science.

Stewart Out to Kill

             His testimony was concluded at 1:30 following which adjournment was taken, the reopening of court finding Dr. W.K. Colbeck, the third of the medical witnesses of the defense, upon the stand.

             Dr. Colbeck made the statement that in his opinion Stewart did not know the difference between right and wrong the morning of the shooting.

Knew What he Was Doing

             This concluded the defense, and at 4:30 p.m., Dr. William Murray English, Superintendent of the Hamilton Hospital for the insane, was called by the Crown in rebuttal.

             The witness stated that he had made two examinations of the accused in the jail and had heard all the testimony introduced at the trial; as a result of which he was prepared to say that “On the morning of the shooting I believe Stewart knew what he was doing; I believe he knew his act was wrong; I believe he knew what the consequences would be.”

             Mr. Macoomb sought to attack this opinion in his cross examination, bringing out the statement that Dr. English regarded Stewart as a man of fair mental standard and normal for one of his class.

What The Defense Claimed

             At 5:30 Wednesday Mr. Macoomb commenced his summing up, which occupied him for thirty minutes.

             After defining the charge of murder, he submitted to the jurors that the whole issue lay in the question: “Was the accused in his right mind?” because first–degree murder implied intent and if the defendant was not in his right mind, intent was lacking and no charge of murder could lie.

Brutal and Callous Murder

             Mr. Kingstone occupied forty minutes in his address, which he opened by terming the killing a most brutal, callous murder, unless the perpetrator was actually insane.

             At 6:40 p.m., His Lordship adjourned court until this morning, when his charge to the jury would be delivered, committing the jurors to the custody of Sheriff Davidson, who had arranged quarters for them at the Hotel Reeta where they also spent the previous night.

The Charge

             The charge of His Lordship Mr. Justice Rose occupied one and one half hours at this morning’s session, the salient point delivered at its close appearing to be his reference to the prisoner’s testimony in the witness box, which virtually demolished all defense and swore his own life away, and which he asked the jurors to consider in its bearing upon the mental capacity of the man as being even at this late date in a condition to appreciate this acts and their results.

             ‘It must be an extraordinary honest man who would thus testify,” was His Lordship’s comment, “or weight must be given to the testimony of Dr. Reive that he believed Stewart could not now appreciate what he might say or the effect thereof.”

             The justice also alluded to the accused’s actions immediately following the shooting, when his brother found him endeavoring to climb upon the bed where his dead wife lay and his subsequent request that they “move Lilian over because I am not comfortable.”

             Did this, ask His Lordship, seem compatible with a realization of what he had done?

             He said that the sole question before the jury was the prisoner’s mental capacity, which would decide his guilt or innocence, and that a verdict of guilt or one of not guilty upon the ground of insanity must be rendered.

             The major portion of his address was devoted to an exhaustive review of the evidence, particularly that of the medical witnesses, of which Dr. Binns’ received the most attention, it being contrasted with that of Dr. English, whose opinion in the mind of His Lordship, conformed more to the legal aspect, while those of the other physicians dwelt upon its medical phases.

             He held that the Crown alienist and the defense medical witnesses had apparently started from different points and that the formers’ was that of the legal interpretation.

             At the close of the charge, 11 o’clock, the jury retired to consider its verdict.

 The Welland Tribune and Telegraph

8 November 1923

STEWART ADMITS MURDER OF WIFE

Sworn Confession Produced at Inquest

              A confession under oath of the murder of his wife by Herschell Stewart at the Welland County Memorial Hospital, where he is still a patient was the main feature of the inquest held in the Thorold Township Hall at Allanburg Monday afternoon, when the coroner’s jury formally charged Stewart with the crime, as told in our last issue.

             While the outcome of Stewart’s self-inflicted wound is still problematical, the last report from the hospital is that his condition shows some improvement and each day strengthens the probability of his being brought to the bar of justice to face his crime.

             Coroner Dr. John Herod, of Thorold, presided, and T.D. Cowper was present on behalf of the Crown.

             Provincial Constable Jorgensen was the first witness sworn. He accompanied Chief Collins to the Stewart home at the Black Horse corner, arriving there about thirty minutes after receiving a message that a shooting tragedy had occurred. He found Lilian Elsie Stewart lying on the bed on one side. Beside her was her husband, who was also shot, and the infant baby. In the house were Charles and Mrs. Stewart, parents of the man, and his two brothers, Andrew and William Stewart.

             Charles Stewart, father of Herschell Stewart, was next sworn. He could not swear as to what time the tragedy occurred as he had left for work about 4:40 o’clock. When he arrived home, after being notified by a neighbor of the shooting, he found his daughter-in-law lying dead on the bed, and beside her was his son, Herschell. He asked the son why he had shot his wife, but to his enquiries he received no reply, though previously the son stated he had shot his wife. His wife was the only one up when he went to work.

             Mrs. Stewart, the mother, was next sworn. She had been up early to get her husband off to work. Shortly after he had gone out Hershell took a walk out the door to the sidewalk. He was only out a few minutes when he returned and went into the room where a bed had been temporarily placed at the time the baby was born. May 24th. The next thing Mrs. Stewart heard was the report from the shot-gun. She immediately called her two other sons who were still sleeping. They went to the room as soon as they saw what had happened, told the mother she had better not go into the room. They had already seen that Lilian was dead. Mrs. Stewart stated she was very much excited and could not relate everything that did occur. The mother did not see her son to talk to until she visited him in the Welland County Hospital.

             Andrew Stewart, a brother, was called to the stand, but refused to kiss the Bible, stating that he was not feeling well, and too nervous. He was told to return to his seat.

             William Stewart, another brother, said he was awakened by his mother, and until that time did not hear any of the excitement. Immediately he went to the room where his brother was, he saw Herschell on the floor on his hands and knees trying to get on to the bed, Lilian was lying dead on the bed, which was on fire, caused by the shot. He extinguished the flames. He did not know of any reason why his brother should take the action he did.

             Magistrate Goodwin read the statement which had been made by Herschell Stewart when visited in the Welland County Hospital, as follows:

“I hereby under oath make this statement that I shot my wife, Lilian Elsie Stewart in the Township of Thorold on the morning of June 12th with a 12 gauge shotgun. After shooting my wife I went into the other room and turned the gun on myself. I stood the gun against the wall and went back to bed. Jealousy is the only reason I can give for shooting my wife.”

Dr. Binns, one of the physicians who conducted the port-mortem examination, assisted by Dr. Boyd, gave the report of his finding. The liver had been shot to pieces. The intestines were not in any way injured, though some other parts of the body in close touch with the intestines were severed. There was a huge hole on the left side of the abdomen. Dr. Binns thought the gun would be about a foot from the woman when the shot was fired, and he was sure that the shot through the abdomen was the immediate cause of death.

Dr. Boyd was called and corroborated the report and statements made by Dr. Binns.

             Herbert Robins, local grocer at Allanburg, sold shells to Herschell Stewart about a week ago. Mr. Robins was told the shells were being purchased to shoot rats.

             Mrs. Reilly did not know anything about the tragedy until a neighbor wakened her and asked Mr. Reilly to go with his car and tell Mr. Stewart Sr. about the shooting. She went over and found Mrs. Stewart lying dead on the bed. Herschell Stewart was also on the bed with his two hands over his face. His body was kind of hanging over the side of the bed. Mrs. Reilly further stated she did not see the gun until it was carried out to show the constables.

             John Betts was called, but did not know anything about the case.

             The jury was as follows: Charles Upper, (foreman), Hugh Bouck, Raymond Skinner, Bruce Bouck, James Rees, Archie Pay, Robert Corey, Harry Theal, John Huffa, William Chambers, Bert Chambers, W.T. O’Reilly.

 The Welland Tribune and Telegraph

21 June 1923