Welland History .ca

The TALES you probably never heard about

Gretchen Hoover Parsons (1889-1979)

[Compiled by S]

Gretchen was born August 7, 1889. Her parents were Dexter D. Hoover and Freddie F. Wilson. Dexter was a grocer in Welland. They lived at 97 West Main St. in Welland.

Gretchen attended Central school in Welland and the Welland High School.

Her grandfather was Elias Hoover (1823-1892). He was an early municipal councillor of the Village of Welland. He built the Dexter Hotel on Main St Welland.

Miss Gretchen Hoover entertained a number of young friends at her home on Tuesday night. The evening was spent in games, music etc. and a lunch was also served.

[Welland Tribune  February 19, 1904.]

Miss Gretchen Hoover entertained the T.W.S.C. on Wednesday evening. A very enjoyable time was spent by all present.

[Welland Tribune February 19, 1909]

Miss Gretchen Hoover entertained about thirty young friends on Friday evening last at progressive pedro and dancing. Favors were won by Miss Manie Brady and Mr Tom Bradley. Consolations going to Miss J. Chapman and M. Garner.

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[The Welland Tribune and Telegraph, 8 April 1924]

Many friends will regret to learn of the passing away of John Phelps at his home in Port Colborne, on Thursday last week in the 81st year of his age. Mr. Phelps had been enjoying unusually good health for a person of his years, up to the time of his death. On the day of his death, he was feeling well and retired to bed at night not complaining, but in a short time after retiring he was taken suddenly ill and passed away shortly after the arrival of a doctor. The late Mr. Phelps was born in the Township of Wainfleet and at an early age came to Welland and engaged with the late David Cooper, father of Robert Cooper, and learned the milling trade at the Aqueduct Flour Mills, and where he was employed for nine years. After leaving the Aqueduct mills he went to Medina N.Y., and worked for a time at his occupation, when he returned to Welland and again went into the employ of Mr. Cooper at the Aqueduct Mills, where he worked for a number of years. Later, with his brother, the late Joseph Phelps, they purchased the flour mills of the late Mr. Everingham, situated on the land where Tompkin’s bakery is now located, which they conducted for a number of years. Later he was for a number of years milling in Hamilton, then he took a government appointment at Port Colborne, where he since resided. He was twice married, his first wife being Miss Henderson of Wainfleet, and his second wife Mrs. Tufford of Beamsville. Both wives predeceased him.

The funeral was held on Sunday at St. James Church, Port Colborne, the services being conducted by the Rev. Davis.

The late Mr. Phelps was an honorary member of Merritt Lodge, A.F. & A.M., being a member for over 50 years, and which society had charge of the burial services under the Masonic Ritual. Wor. Bro. L.J. Brennan, Wor. Bro. J.W. Marshall and Wor. Bro. J.W. Holstock giving the beautiful ritualistic burial service of the Order. The pallbearers were: Bro. A.P. Forster, Rt. Wor. Bro. J.H. Crow, Wor. Bro. G.T. Cook, Wor. Bro. F.D. Milo, Wor. Bro. J.W. Marshall and Bro. J. Bradley. Interment was held at the English Church Burying Ground, Welland.

He was also an honorary member of Willson Chapter, No. 64, R.A.M., Welland.

He lost his eyesight some years ago, but always retained his happy disposition, which he had always carried through life, being a man of a kindly heart and always ready to help the needy.

[Related TALE-General News: WHAT MR. PHELPS SAW]

[Related TALE-Early Citizens: ALICE ELIZA PHELPS]


In the Early Days Girls Were Not Admitted to School

Present Building Was Erected in 1915

[The Welland Tribune and Telegraph, 17 June 1924]

The Welland High School, while not one of the oldest schools in the Province, can yet claim a place with the older schools of its class; its establishment dates from 1854, before the hamlet, formerly known as “The Aqueduct,” later the Village of Merrittsville, after much rivalry with other places won the county buildings, became the capital of the county newly separated from the united counties of Lincoln and Welland and was incorporated in 1858 as the Village of Welland. The founders of our present city, descendents of an intelligent stock, people who had had good schools in New England and of a people whose forefathers had enjoyed liberal educational advantages in the old world, were not unmindful of the care of education and, though a school had been in existence for some years previous to incorporation, the need was felt for a higher institution of learning, resulting in the establishment of the Welland Grammar School in accord with a new Act of Legislature making provision for such schools.

These schools previous to this time had not been in any sense popular schools; their founders had in mind the great English public school whose curriculum was largely classical and whose benefits were confined to the wealthy; they were essentially for the benefit of the ruling classes and though Governor Simcoe’s proposal in 1789 was to have “Free Grammar Schools,” they levied considerable sums in fees and received considerable legislative grants. Neither were they High Schools as we now use that term. The curricular had no uniformity; each school was a law unto itself and depended almost wholly on the teacher; if he were scholarly and earnest, he could accomplish much and many did so. Often young boys who could scarcely read were admitted and their later progress was affected by the teacher’s skill in mending goose-quill pens once and twice a day. But although these schools were not for the mass of the people, it was a decided advantage that the rulers should have some educational advantages. No one can read the list of names of men educated in these schools and afterwards prominent in Canadian public life without recognizing that their establishment was a blessing to the whole of Canada.

The Welland school, coming into existence late among schools of its class, was to a large extent free of the limitations and objectionable features of the old-time Grammar Schools; under the new act it received from the outset good popular support. Under its first headmaster, Nelson Burns, who labored wisely and well and whose memory is held in high esteem, it was housed in a dwelling or “old pottery” on the site of the dwelling of A.J. McAlpine, later in the court house and in a school building on the site of the present Y.M.C.A. In 1866, after Mr. Hodgson’s removal, a system of union Grammar and Common School was inaugurated with J.W. Jolly as head master. Four years later increased attendance earned it again a home of its own, a brick building diagonally opposite the present building and later well known as the “Third Ward School,” since removed and the site built up with residences. Mr. Jolly was succeeded by Ira DeLamater, B.A., E.M. Bigg, M.A., and William Oliver, B.A., during whose term of office by the Act of 1871 the same Grammar School was changed to High School, and in 1874 a uniform standard of entrance examination was established throughout the Province. Mr. Oliver resigned during this year and George Baptie, B.A., was in charge till J.M. Dunn, B.A., L.L.B., took charge in January, 1875.

Under the new Act, with a new name and a new principal, the school gained in strength till in 1879 it was moved to a new site just in front of the present building and a new building, “A beautiful building,” the History of Welland County says of it, “of red brick trimmed with white, in spacious grounds, with basement, well furnished, and heated throughout by hot air from a huge furnace.” This building was replaced by the present building in 1915. Mr. Dunn, not a young man, died in office ten years later, a zealous painstaking teacher, who sent on many students to the University whose courses reflected great credit  on his work; indeed, it is claimed that the first lady to graduate from a Canadian university was prepared in his classes.

It is not known at what date girls were first admitted to the school; the spirit of the old Grammar Schools was decidedly opposed to such procedure; this attitude will strike the students of today as decidedly queer; now-a-days a school without ladies as teachers and girls as students would be regarded as “a home without a  mother,” and without sisters, too. It must be remembered however, that accommodations and affairs generally now are very different from those of the early pioneer days. The association of boys and girls in school, so easy and even desirable today, would have been under the old conditions difficult and intolerable.

After the death of Mr. Dunn, John Lennox, the teacher of mathematics and science, was acting principal till the appointment of H.M. McCuaig, B.A., the principal. The school at that time had three teachers less than one hundred students on its roll and made good effort to cover all the work of the curriculum; today there are seven teachers with a trifle less than three hundred students on the roll and the work has been greatly specialized and the curriculum extended, noticeably the science, art and commercial departments.

The new building opened in March, 1915, stands well back from West Main street on a slight knoll with a green lawn sloping gradually to the fine maple trees that border the grounds. The building is of red brick; its straight sky-line and the absence of stone-work at the basement gives the appearance of greater length and less height. A circular walk with off-shoots to the boys’ and girls’ entrances at either end curves past an imposing main entrance at the centre. The interior has, at the right of the main entrance, the office, on the left a fine, large room, for the library; immediately opposite the entrance a “convenience door” leads to a balcony overlooking the great gymnasium which in height from basement to second store extends from the rear of the main building; to the right and left wide well lighted corridors, lined by class-room doors with glass panels, lead to the students’ entrance at either end and to stairways leading to the hallway above. Here are more class-rooms, science laboratories, an art room, a suite of rooms for the commercial department, and a large room for domestic science classes. The basement contains a manual  training room in addition to lunch-rooms and locker rooms for students and is finished in concrete as are all the lavatories. The building is heated by steam, lighted throughout by electricity and ventilated by shafts admitting outdoor air that is warmed by radiators. There are study-rooms, cloak-rooms and all provision for comfort. The building is practically fireproof and has emergency locks on outside doors that open to pressure from within even when locked.

The administration of the school is vested in a Board of Trustees appointed by the councils of the city and county respectively, and to the gentlemen who have given their services on this Board the progress and strength of the school is due in no small degree. Its income is from grants from the councils mentioned and from the Legislature. No fees have been charged since 1891.

The opening of the new building with its fine gymnasium gave an impetus to the work of physical training and the athletic interests of the students; the school has the usual quota of boys’ and girls’ clubs, a good Cadet Corps which has provided from its ranks some fifteen men for overseas service, and a school paper “The Student” published now and then.

High Schools were organized in the beginning to prepare students for the universities and the training schools of the professions; among these the profession of teaching took by far the greater share. Of late greater recognition has been given the claims of others, students destined to industrial, commercial and agricultural work find their requirements better met by the regular courses of the school. The Industrial Evening Classes and the encouragement given to the Junior Farmers’ Improvement Association were extensions along this line, and the addition of manual training and domestic science seems to be a step of the near future. It is questionable whether this arrangement will long satisfy the demand; later years will in all probability see specialized secondary schools growing out of the many departments now included in the High School scheme.



Gutted by Fire in 1913

Corner Stone Was Laid at Port Robinson but Later Was Changed

[The Welland Tribune and Telegraph, 17 June 1924]

Welland County’s massive stone courthouse, built in 1856 at a cost of over $100,000 was practically gutted by fire on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 11th, 1913. Only the first floor remained partly untouched by the flames and when the fire was brought under control, the great stone shell was practically all that was left of the handsome structure. Defective electric wiring was said to be the origin of the fire.

County Court was in session in the court room when the fire was first discovered in the big dome directly over the centre of the building. In a moment the court room was emptied, the judge, attorneys, witnesses and spectators making a hasty rush for the stairway. Charles Stewart, one of the constables of the court, ran through the building warning the occupants of the different offices of their danger and giving them time to place valuable documents and papers in the vaults.

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In the Initial Years all the Pupils Paid Fees


By John McCaw

[The Welland Tribune and Telegraph, 17 June 1924]

The establishment of the first common school in Welland dates back to 1836. No records appear to have been preserved as to the manner in which the school was supported or conducted from that date to 1858, but it must have been supported largely by pupils tuition fees.

The first school house erected by the municipality was a frame building, situated on the east side in the year 1848. Christopher McAlpine being the first teacher, he was succeeded by Gilbert Cook, Hy Brown and E.R. Hellems, the latter in more recent years being village and town clerk and police magistrate.

The building served till 1858 when it was replaced by a substantial and more commodious brick, two-room school on the same site, with Mr. Hellems as teacher. As time went on and the population increased, it was found necessary to build another school for the accommodation of the junior pupils residing on the north side of the river and in 1862 a brick one-room building was erected on the north side with a Mr. Brainard as teacher, who remained in charge for several years.

During this period and for some time after, the Rev. Chas. Walker and Rev. Joel Briggs were local superintendents, respectively.

In 1854 a higher institution of learning known as the Welland Grammar School was conducted by Nelson Burns and later on, or about 1860 and for some years later, by J.E. Hodgson, who was afterwards public school inspector for the County of York.

This institution was located on what is now known as the River Road, on the A.J. McAlpine farm, afterwards moving to the vacant room in the east side school building.

In January, 1866, the first Grammar School, under the new Grammar School Act, was established in the village. It was an experiment and at the first meeting of the Board, the secretary was instructed to communicate with the chief superintendent and ascertain on what basis the school would be entitled to the Government Grant in case it was not kept open the whole year. Chas. H. Mackridge was installed as head-master on April 1st of the same year and terminated his engagement one month later, owing to financial embarrassment of the board.

The school on the north side of the river was at this time in charge of Miss H. Cook and that on the south side was presided over by Robt. Lamont.

As a last resort, the Grammar School Board decided, if possible, to amalgamate with the common school board, this union having been effected was continued till 1871. J.W. Jolly was engaged as head-master, occupying a room in the east side building till February, 1868, when he resigned, being succeeded by W.A. Delematter.

In 1871, the union board was dissolved. It was also in this year that the names, “Grammar” and “Common” Schools were changed to “High” and “Public” Schools by Act of Parliament.

The children of school age in the town at this period numbered 280.

The next master was E.M. Bigg, who was succeeded by Wm. Oliver.

In 1870 the increased school population now numbered 328 and necessitated the building of a school house exclusively for the use of the Grammar School, so that the building on the east side of the canal could be used entirely for common school purposes.

The Grammar School continued to occupy this building till 1879 when a commodious two-storey brick building was erected on the west side, exclusively for High School purposes. J.M. Dunn was master at the time and continued as such till his decease, a period of about 15 years.

In September, 1877, the County Model School was established in Welland, with the late Robert Grant as Principal, continuing in operation till abolished by the Educational Department some years later. In 1903 a kindergarten department was added to the public school.

In 1900 the need for increased public school accommodation was manifest and the board purchased a site of nearly three acres, very conveniently situated and erected a commodious eight-room building known as the Central School, abolishing the ward schools. This was thought at the time to be ample provision for the school population for years to come, but the growth of the town demonstrated the need of more accommodation and in 1909 a four-room addition was added to the Central School and a three-room building erected on the north side of the river.

As the town continued to grow the need for more school accommodation was apparent and since 1909 three additional eight-room buildings have been erected to provide for the 1500 pupils of public school age in the city.

The public school staff at present is composed of 36 teachers, including the supervisor, with an annual pay roll of over $38,000.

In 1878 the estimates were $2,000 with 3 or 4 teachers; in 1908, $6,570 with 9 teachers; in 1911, $12,000, with 14 teachers; in 1902, $57,000 with 36 teachers.

J. Flower was appointed as head teacher in January, 1905.


A century ago there were meagure beginnings of a system of education in this community. Then there was a Board of Education for the Niagara district, of which Ralph Clench was secretary.

Mr. Clench sent out to the teachers a circular of instruction which we reproduce here as an item of historic interest.


1-The master to commence the labors of the day by a short prayer.

2-School to commence each day at nine o’clock of the forenoon, and five hours at least to be taught during the day, except on Saturday.

3-Diligence and emulation to be cherished and encouraged by rewards judiciously distributed, to consist of little pictures and books according to the age of the scholar.

4-Cleanliness and good order to be indispensable, and corporal punishment seldom necessary, except for bad habits learned at home, lying, disobedience, obstinacy, and perverseness, these sometimes require chastisement; but gentleness even in these cases would be better with most children.

5-All other offences in children, arising chiefly from liveliness and inattention are better corrected by shame, such as gaudy hats, placing the culprits by themselves, not admitting any to play with them for a day or days, detaining them after school hours, or during play afternoon, and by ridicule.

6-The master must keep a regular catalogue of his scholars and mark every day they are absent.

7-The forenoon of Wednesday and of Saturday, to be set apart for religious instruction; to render it agreeable the school should be furnished with at least ten copies of Barrow’s Questions on the New Testament, and the teacher to have one copy of the key to these questions for his own use. The teacher should likewise have a copy of Murray’s Power of Religion on the Mind, Watkin’s Scripture Biography, and Blair’s Class Book, the Saturday Lessons of which are well calculated to impress religious feeling.

These books are confined to religious denomination, and do not prevent the master from teaching such Catechism as the parents of the children may adopt.

8-Every day to close with reading publicly a few verses from the New Testament, proceeding regularly through the gospels.

9-The afternoon of Wednesday and of Saturday, to be allowed for play.

10-A copy of the rules to be affixed up in a conspicuous place in the schoolroom, and to be read publicly to the scholars every Monday morning by the teacher.

Niagara, Aug. 5, 1817

Dr. John Emerson Hansler (1860-1924)

The Hanslers were pioneer families of Welland County. George Hansler was born on a ship, 1756, coming to America from Germany. The family lived in New Jersey. George fought in the American Revolution. He was a farmer and tanner. George came to Canada about 1786 as a United Empire Loyalist. He acquired crown land near Twelve Mile Creek. The original Hansler homestead was location of Bissell’s Hideaway, north side of Hansler Road.. The residence was built by Andrew Hansler in 1830, from solid brick made on the property. The Hansler cemetery was also on the property.

Andrew Hansler, son of George was a fruit farmer, deputy Reeve of Pelham. They had six children. John Emerson Hansler was born November 11, 1860. He attended Hansler School, Fonthill Grammer School and St Catharines Academy. He graduated from Toronto Medical School in 1883, He first practiced in Lynden  then moved to Fonthill.

Dr Hansler may have practiced with Dr, Fraser then moved to the Willson home at 90 Canboro Road. He spent the remainder of his life here. The residence is still standing.

Dr, John Emerson Hansler married Wealthea Jane Davis Willson, a widow  on September 15, 1890. She was born May 30, 1860 in Pelham

Wealthea died April 15, 1923 at age 62 of myocardial failure.

Dr. John Emerson Hansler died April 1, 1924 of myocardial failure.

Dr. Jacob Harrison Howell (1861-1924)

He was born January 20,1861. His father was Amos Howell of United Empire Loyalists. His mother was Catharine Kline from Germany. Jacob was raised on a farm on Foss Road, east of Haist Road., educated in Fonthill and Welland High school

Jacob taught school then attended Toronto School of Medicine.

Dr. Howell began practice with the firm of Burger & Howell in 1885. He was a member of the Masonic Fraternity. December 28, 1887 he married Julie Josephine Reekie, born 1859. She was from Shedden in Elgin county.

After a year, Dr. Howell left Welland to establish a practice in Shedden. Later he came back to Welland for the remainder of his life.

Dr Howell’s residence and office still stand on the north east corner of Bald and Fraser Streets in Welland. Dr. Howell was the jail surgeon and medical officer of health and served on the school board. He played an important roll in the  construction of the Welland High and Vocational School. Later he served on the Ontario Committee for Crippled Children.

His children were James Harrison Howell born July 28,1892, he was a soldier in World War 1. He became a physician.  On September 20, 1922 he married Lillie Isabel Murray in Frontenac. They lived in Galt.

Dr Howell’s daughter was Helen Doris Howell born  January 29, 1898, another son was Frederick Howell born 1895.

Helen Doris Howell became a Doctor. She accompanied her father in a horse drawn cutter down the old feeder canal to see a patient of Dr. W.B. Hopkins of Wainfleet. After her father’s death Dr. Doris Howell carried on the family practice 1927-1938. She retired from general practice and became a pathologist. She moved to Galt. Dr. Doris Howell died August 9, 2005 in Cambridge Ontario.

Dr. Jacob Harrison Howell died in Welland of a Cerebral Hemorrhage on November 15,1924. He is buried in the Fonthill cemetery.


Editorial Louis Blake Duff

[The Welland Tribune and Telegraph, 20 March 1924]

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

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

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

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



The late N. Brewster M.D., Ridgeway

20 June 1837-23 November 1923

[The Welland Tribune and Telegraph, 16 December 1924]

             The following article was written by Dr. Brewster in December 1911, for the Ridgeway Historical Society and has not hitherto been printed:-

             On the well remembered morning of the sixth of June, the inhabitants of the village were attracted by the sound of whistling from a train from the west, the first in two days; and we soon learned the troops were here. We had earlier learned by carrier of the approach of the Fenians from the north.

             Profiting from my three years’ experience in the great civil war in the U.S.A., when I was often in battle, I soon learned our solders had nothing to eat since the day before, and I went along their line of march and asked our people to bring out for them all the cooked food on hand.

             They responded liberally; and so many of the solders got at least a lunch.

             I never learned who was in fault, but surely some one blundered, that men were sent into battle without food in this part of the country.

             About an hour after the troops marched away, the sounds of battle so familiar to my ears, were heard and I again went among the people and told them there was fighting going on down there, and there would soon be wounded to care for and advised them how to prepare for their reception.

             I then gathered up such of my surgeons outfit as I had left, namely, instruments, bandages, adhesive plaster, chloroform, a canteen full of whiskey, another of water, and started for the front. Just as the bend of the road to the north of the village, I met such a mixed and confused mass, as I have never seen elsewhere, before or since. Soldiers and citizens, men, women and children on foot and in all varieties of vehicles, with horses, cattle, sheep and pigs, all mingled together, and all hurrying along the road south; it brought to my mind Russel’s description of Bull Run.  

             I saw two soldiers without guns, running, and close behind them an officer with revolver in hand, crying halt, and firing in the air occasionally, but running as fast as he could, and close behind him more soldiers running.

             Soon after I saw that some of our men had taken possession of the buildings on the corners at the first cross road north of the village, then owned by old Joseph Danner, uncle of J.O. as he was called, and were gallantly trying to hold the enemy in check. And how I wished there were even a few veterans tried in battle, among them, to hold them steady; -but it was not long until I saw wavering among them, and soon they broke and continued their retreat.

             Being now in the line of fire, I hastened to the left and made a circuit around the contending forces to the rear, and while in the fields, I heard shouting and firing but paid no attention, until I heard bullets whistling over my head, the other being ordinary noises of war. Then I observed, (the Fenians) were hailing and trying to halt me and call me in. I was soon among them and a prisoner. I was surprised to see that the only ones among them in any kind of uniform wore that of the U.S. army. A captain among them wore the full fatigue dress of his rank, who being asked why he had that on over here, he said he not taken it off since the war. I told him it was time he did, as this was no place for it, and that I thought too highly of that uniform to see it worn in such a cause,-as I had myself worn it for three years.

             The Canadian solders retired through the village and so on to Port Colborne, and we saw them no more.

             The Fenians took possession of the village and anything else they wanted; posted their advanced picket at the cross roads, on the hill west; then they settled down for rest and food, in some cases cooking and eating their dinners in private houses, even setting the table in my own house. They took very little loot beside food and did practically no damage to private property.

             After waiting about three hours for orders or news, they retreated toward Fort Erie and we saw them no more.

             The captain I have mentioned on learning my  profession, and object, sent me on to the field, saying I was needed there, and that I should call on any Fenians I  met for assistance and I did so freely. I scoured the fields, road and buildings, gathering in the wounded, all of whom I cared for, taking their names, rank, company and regiment, on my list recording alike friend and foe, and at the conclusion had twenty-six names on the list, which I regret to say, is lost.

             Of these, two Canadians were dead and there were four Fenians dead, whose names I could not learn.

             One of the Canadians died from heat and exhaustion in my presence, being wounded, a student of the University of Toronto and a member of the university rifles brought in from the field while still living.

             Of the five houses used as shelters for the wounded, but two remain, namely Mr. Athoe’s and Mr. Pierce’s. One stood where Benjamin Weaver now lives; one at Mr. Bort’s, and one, the Smugglers’ Home Hotel has not been replaced.

             One of our wounded officers thinking he must die, gave me his sword and belt, gold watch, rings etc., and exacted a promise from me that I should visit his wife, be the bearer of certain farewell messages, giving her all but the sword and belt, which I was to keep. I afterwards had the pleasure of returning all to himself in his wife’s presence, except the messages.

             A passing Fenian saw the sword and tried to take it from me, but I secured the assistance of a guard, left on duty by their commander, who drove off the marauder, and I concealed the sword.

             Our troops marched down the Ridge Road to the Smugglers’ Home on the corner formed by the Ridge crossing the Garrison Road, where they deployed into line reaching to and into the bush on the east, and a few rods below the hill on the west, and advanced across the fields and along the road to the north. They soon met the fire of the advanced Fenian picket, hidden in a clump of bushes in mid-field, which has only lately been cut down. I was told by our men that they were sanguine of success, until the fatal blunder that ordered them into squares to resist cavalry, which they obeyed. But instead of cavalry they found a line of veteran infantry trained to service in many hard fought battles in the American war, facing them who were quick to see and profit by the false move. They tried again to get into line, but being pressed, fell into disorder, then broke and began their retreat. The extreme right continued to advance and occupied a part of the enemies’ breast works, and in their retreat a number of them being cut off from the main body; continued easterly until they reached the lake near Winmill Point.

             I was assisted by men living along the line of the Fenian march from Black Creek, that there were but two mounted men in the Fenian ranks, and I could not but reflect upon the fitness for command of a man whose excited imagination could multiply two mounted men into a troop of cavalry. I was assured by many of our men, officers, as well as privates that all was going well, and they were sanguine of success, until that stupid order to meet cavalry, which they saw did not exist, threw a pail on their spirits, and I have not spoken with one of the participants since, who did not believe that was the cause of the disaster.

             As to the numbers engaged, I estimated the Fenians a little more numerous than the Canadians, and a very large percentage of them were seasoned veterans used to war and battle; while ours were to a man, raw recruits, not one of them had ever before heard the whistle of hostile bullets or, as the phrase is “smelled powder.”

             The phrase “shot in the back” has a tinge of disgrace in it, but not always justly so, for on this occasion Ensign McEachren of the Queen’s Own, observing that his men, while crossing the fence and fields, were in disorder, stepped boldly out in front and turning and facing the men, was trying to get them in line again, when he fell, dangerously wounded, by a ball in the back, and which passing within an inch of his heart, came out in front. He recovered and was living a few years ago and I have seen no report of his death. I have often thought it had been better had that bullet found a victim in the commander, and that the history of the “Fenian Invasion” would have had a very different ending.

             I have never seen the Fenian loss reported, but I found four of their dead, and learned from people living on those roads, that at least six wagons carrying dead and wounded were seen going forward Fort Erie, but I have never heard the numbers estimated.

             Some of our less seriously wounded were helped in the retreat by comrades and given rides by our fleeing citizens, and I did not see them. But they were all properly reported.

             The Fenian line was formed along the cross road by Athoe’s, and they took the rails from the north fence, and placed them on end on the ground and the other resting on the south fence, and so constructed a very fair breastwork and defence.

             A homeguard was formed here in the afternoon of the day the Fenians came over with E. Morris, Esq., now of Fonthill, as captain, and mounted men, armed, patrolled all roads north and east all night and moved west with the retreating troops, but returned and again patrolled the roads east with a good degree of efficiency, a fact brought home forcibly to myself, as they twice halted on my rounds.

             A good joke was circulated about them and their retreat to the effect that they established their headquarters in the marsh west of the Welland Canal, to assist in its defence; doubtless, they would have given a good account of themselves.  

             Very few of the inhabitants of the village remained in their homes, but went with the crowd and so gave the Fenians full liberty, but they took very little from the houses, chiefly handkerchiefs, stockings and little items to keep as souvenirs. From mine, what I most highly prized was the gold lace and insignia of rank, from my uniform which I was keeping as a souvenir. Probably someone has it for that purpose now.

             An object of interest to the many visitors to the battle field was for many years the marks of the bullets on the brick walls of the Athoe house, but I believe they not show now.


[The Welland Tribune and Telegraph, 5 February 1924]

News That He had Escaped The Rope Received With Indifference by Herschell Stewart

Official announcement of the reprieve and the sentence to life imprisonment of Herschell Stewart now lying in the county jail was received by Harry W. Macoomb, solicitor for the accused, and Sheriff V.L. Davidson late Thursday. The former received a telegram from Thomas Mulvey, Under Secretary of State, which read, “His Excellency, the Governor-General has commuted to life imprisonment the death sentence passed on Herschell Stewart.”

Word to Stewart that he would not hang was conveyed to him by Governor Kottmeir. The prisoner expressed no surprise and maintained the same indifference that marked his arrest and trial.

It is understood that Stewart will be operated upon as soon as his is removed to his Majesty’s Prison. He is at present in a poor state of health. The accused was to be hanged on Thursday.

FOOTNOTE by WellandHistory.ca: There is no record in the local newspaper about the death of little Nelson Lloyd Dunsford Stewart. Nelson died of pneumonia. His mother, Lilian, is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Welland.