Welland History .ca

The TALES you probably never heard about


[Welland Tribune 1943]

By A. B. Rice

To write, after a lapse of many years, about social conditions of a given time, is to realize afresh the fluidity of circumstances, the unceasingness of change. While the present writer’s aim is to awaken the minds of his readers to a like realization he knows that this will not be easy to do except perhaps in the case of the native Wellanders and their progeny.

When a visiting Welland old boy tours the city and admires the beautiful homes, the large factories, the excellent stores, the modern schools, churches and parks and hears of the Arena soon to be, he marvels at the mighty change for the better that has been wrought during his lifetime by science, industry and enterprise working hand in hand.

  • How Well The Old Timers Built

It is only when the old boy stands on the massive Main street bridge and glimpses the landscape to the east and then to the west that he sees the skylines of many buildings that were familiar landmarks when he used to cross the little old wooden bridge fifty, sixty or maybe seventy years ago. It gladdens the old boy’s heart to notice that, while the Main street has been surfaced with brick where used to bone-shaking macadam, it is for the most part lined by the same structures that he saw a building when he was a boy and in some cases that were there before he was born. Of course these buildings have been modernized with plumbing, electric wiring, etc., as the old town has kept in step in the march of progress, but the fact that the foundations and walls have so long defied the ravages of this indicates how sound building materials were and how honest and capable the building craftsmen were in the old days.

One recalls the names of few of the builders of those days, but Marcus Vanderburg was perhaps the most famous of the masonry contractors and Henry Buchner was a well-known carpenter. Much of the handiwork of those two thorough mechanics is still in evidence in splendid old buildings along Main Street.

Most of the good red bricks which so long resister the elements of nature.

Along Main street were the products of a famous brick manufacturing plant owned and operated by Thaddeus W. Hooker, who was born in the state of Vermont in 1823 and who established his business in Welland, then called Merrittsville, in the eighteen fifties to make the bricks used in the construction of the county buildings. For the rest of his long life he was an esteemed Welland citizen. As long ago as 1860 he was reeve of Welland and later was many times elected to the council and school board.

Bricks and lumber were the most important materials used in building in the Victorian era. Plumbers and electricians were neither known nor needed for the water supply was pumped from wells in the back yards and modern sanitary conveniences were unknown in Welland home in that period. Electrical science was still in its infancy and homes were lighted by kerosene lamps and the latter only succeeded the tallow candles of pioneer days about midway in the nineteenth century.

But before the twentieth, with its amazing inventions and the two bloodiest wars that have convulsed the human race since the dawn of creation, had been ushered in, many Welland homes were lighted by electricity and streets were made bright at night by arc lamps hung high over the intersections. The electrical current was generated by steam power, for no Adam Beck had yet arisen to point the way to economy and happiness throughout Ontario with a publicly owned hydro-electric system.

  • Lumbermen of Other Days

Something about the men who supplied the lumber that went into the construction of Welland’s durable buildings in those happy days when cordwood, hauled in by the farmers, was plentiful and the best anthracite could be had for $5 per ton, may be interesting. In 1867, the year of Confederation, Moses Betts was reeve of the village of Welland. He was then and for several years later, proprietor of the community’s largest lumber yard. Later Jacob Crow, whose forebears were among the earliest settlers of the township of Pelham and who for a half century was conspicuous in the lumber trade of Welland county, opened a lumber yard in the village in which he lived to a great age. He is remembered as a most capable and honorable business man and for his devotion to the cause of temperance and to the Methodist church. When the  infirmities of age necessitated his retirement his son, William H. Crow, carried on the business until his deeply regretted death in the prime of life Another son of Jacob Crow, John H. Crow, so recently stepped out of the ranks of Welland business men, to grow old gracefully in a life of retirement, that his name seems unfitting in the story of Welland’s Horse and Buggy Days. He is however, the writer believes, the golden link between that period and this in his city’s history. Maybe he long be spared to adorn the title of Welland’s Grand Old Man which his useful career has so justly earned for him.

  • Main Street Buildings

One of the landmarks that makes the visiting old boy, crossing the bridge, feel right at home is the red brick building which is now the home of the business founded by the late David Ross, canny Scot of revered memory. In earlier days this was known as the Mellanby Block, in honor of William Mellanby who built it. I hope that the name survives for Mr. Mellanby was prominent in the public life of the county. He was a Humberstone township reeve and was warden of the county in 1873 and in 1876-7. The corner store was occupied by Thomas Cumines whose business was drugs, and in conformity  with the drug store usage of the period huge containers of red and of green liquids stood in the show windows to proclaim to the world that it was a drug store and it was just that for when Victoria was Queen, druggists sold drugs and whoever wanted to purchase a hair net or a lawn mower did not seek it in a drug store. Mr Cumines

Was a county coroner and the most capable one I ever met in the course of my newspaper work. As a reporter for the Welland Tribune and the Toronto Globe I covered the inquest, over which he presided in the Easterbee murder case—the most gruesome tragedy in Welland county’s annals of crime. Perhaps I shall deal with it at a greater length in a future instalment of Welland history.

Another of the East Main street substantial buildings of the mid-Victorian era is the Dexter House, Elias Hoover, its proprietor, was one of the popular landlords of the period and a well-known citizen who sat in the village council in 1866-7. His son, Dexter, was a class-mate of the writer in the old Welland High School. Whether the fond father named his fine hostlery in honour of his son or of Dexter D’Everardo is not recalled. The latter gentleman was by far the most colorful of the county dignitaries of the old days and the story of his career will fill a whole column if and when it appears in this Horse and Buggy Day series.

  • Famous Orient Hall

Promoters of the Arena which 20,000 Wellanders now need could find inspiration in the study of the achievement of the community of 2,000 souls in 1877 in securing for itself the fine public hall which it needed. This is the story of another of the durable buildings on the south side of East Main street. The community needed a hall suitable for large assemblages such as political meetings, concerts and the like so Orient Lodge of the I.O.O.F. provided the leadership, organized joint stock company and sold the stock. Soon the building was an accomplished fact—a fine three storey structure with a mansard roof. The corner stone was laid on the 17th August, 1877 and the building was ready for formal opening and dedication on the following 26th of December. The leaders of the movement which achieved its object so speedily and so well have probably all passed away. They were: D. McConachie, N.B. Colcock, James Brown, William Lowe, Geo. A. Otis. A. Williams, Dr, Schooley. H.W. Hobson. Alex Griffith. M.S. Bradt, John Ennis, William Russell, J.R. Wrightson, I.P. Willson and C.J. Page.

In Old Orient Hall old time Wellanders  have been privileged to hear many of the intellectual giants who made history in the 19th century, including Edward Blake, Sir John Macdonald, Sir Oliver Mowat and many others.



Had Lived In Welland For Past 52 Years

[The Welland-Port Colborne Evening Tribune, 8 November 1943]

A resident of Welland for the past 52 years and the widow of one of the city’s most prominent citizens, Anna McNeff Patterson, wife of the late John Joseph Patterson, passing away at her home, 25 Young street, early this morning in her 80th year.

Born in Thorold, the daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. James McNeff, Mrs. Patterson was descended from one of the pioneer families of Welland county. She moved with her parents from Thorold to Brighton, where she married the late Mr. Patterson, and shortly after took up residence in Welland.

The late Mr. Patterson, who was for many years a prominent undertaker in the district, was a city alderman for a number of years and also a member of the city water commission when he died in 1930.

Mrs. Patterson was a devout member of St. Mary’s church, and belonged to the church Altar Society and the Catholic Women’s League, in which she took an active interest.

She is survived by five children: Mrs. George O. Darte (Maude) of St. Catharines; John F.; Mrs. Claude R. Korman, (Marguerite); W. Gerald and J. Harold, all of Welland. Two children, Anna and James T., as well as her husband, predeceased her. Two grandchildren, four of whom are in the armed services, also survive.

Funeral services will be held from the late residence, 25 Young street, on Thursday, November 11, at 8:30 a.m. to St. Mary’s church for requiem mass at 9 o’clock. Interment will be in Holy Cross cemetery.