Quite a Fisherman’s tale – A sea monster in the St. Lawrence - 1922!
There has been a long history of tall tales of creatures living in the local waters. Some consider these to be myth or legends, somewhat akin to fairytale stories. One’s imagination can work havoc on one when they are not sure what they have seen. Others have taken these stories much more seriously.
There have been indigenous oral traditions of fantastical creatures in the St. Lawrence River. They were known as Kaniatarowanennah by the Mohawks. According to Mohawk legends, there have long been creatures living in the river, and they were known to be highly territorial. They were allegedly known to attack anyone who ventured onto the river alone. These creatures were known as Wakandagi.1 The stories tell of long, serpent like creatures which were covered in scales. They were told to be capable of tipping canoes and would focus their aim on those canoes who had only one occupant.
The earliest official reporting that was noted for a “monster serpent” in the St. Lawrence River took place in 1822. Ten witnesses in a voyageur canoe stated that the saw a sea serpent ascending into the St. Lawrence. Two of these individuals were willing to sign an affidavit in front of a judge as evidence.2 Unfortunately, I was not able to locate said document to confirm. It is not known if any further investigation occurred. Newspapers of that date do not seem to be available to research.
In 1833 there were numerous reports of a creature seen close to Kingston, Ontario, especially by Captain Kellogg, and several crew members and passengers. In fact, there were so many sightings that the mythical creature was assigned a nick name: “Kingstie.” Most of the reports were of a huge snake-like creature ranging from 20 to 40 feet long.3 Some reports were that it had devilish eyes and horns, others said the creature made a terrible roar.
The next big fish story of the St. Lawrence River was published all the way in Wilmington, North Carolina, on June 11, 1857. The Wilmington Commercial reported an article about such a sighting with the headline of “A monster serpent in the St. Lawrence."4 In this article it states that a resident of Mallorytown has reported a sighting of an “enormous water serpent,” seen numerous times. A Mr. L. Parker of Three Mile Bay and a D. Ladd have also seen such a creature. They described the creature as having raised its body at least 6 feet out of the water and it allegedly pursued the boat and chased them. They further described the creature as being over thirty feet long. There were further corroborating sightings by a boat crew around that time.
Fast forward to 1888 to another story of Kingstie. Two men canoeing near Kingston claimed to see a large water serpent. They reported that “the monster passed us so close that when we stopped, that we could see him distinctly and judged him to be at least 15 feet long. He was six feet out of the water."5 Apparently, the story had enough of a following that young ladies were refusing to go into the St. Lawrence or Lake Ontario.
Dundas County was the hotbed of sea creature sightings in 1922. A search through newspapers of 1922 brings up all kinds of reports on sea creatures around North America so the topic was certainly one of interest to the public.6 There were reports of monsters attacking near Florida, as well as on the Pacific coast and several reports around Newfoundland.7 But more significantly there were several reports at Iroquois in the summer of 1922. While some reports label these sightings as a hoax, such as the Kingston Daily Standard of Monday July 24, 1922,8 said that they failed to find any confirmation to the recent dispatch stating that a monster, resembling a sea serpent has been seen in the St. Lawrence at that point. No person has been found who has seen anything out of the ordinary, in the waters near Iroquois.
On August 10, 1922, the Daily British Whig (Kingston) claims there is “No Hoax whatsoever.”9 Quoting the Iroquois Post and Lt Col Lorne Mulloy stating that “the persons who reported seeing such a monster must have been under the influence of homebrew.”10 This was also copied in the Ottawa Citizen, the Cornwall Freeholder and Kingston Daily Whig. Whether you believe the stories or not, there were those who were convinced that they saw a large volume of water rising abruptly in the river. There was no one dynamiting the river at the time, yet several others saw the water disturbed the height of a house. The Kingston Whig states that since there were significant reports of either water being displaced or a sighting of a sea serpent, then it must have been true, “therefore the Whig believes that the story sent to is no hoax, and that some kind of water monster has made it way up the river from the sea.”11
It is interesting to note that an article that appeared in the Newton Alabama Southern Star blamed climate change for the recent reports of sea monsters appearing in the Northern Hemisphere.12 It was reported that many sea creatures that would normally been only found in the southern hemisphere or deep in the sea are appearing where they were never before been seen. The cause must be “Climate Change.” This was in 1922! Whether the sea monster stories outside Iroquois were to be believed or not, it is certain that the reports gave Dundas County a moment of fame. I could find no other reports of a creature after 1922 in the newspapers. The construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway certainly changed the path of the river and which species would thrive or perish. While sturgeon were prevalent prior to the Seaway, they are rare now. Maybe these people saw a large sturgeon? We will never know for sure.
Do you have any monster fish stories you might want to share?
Dundas County Archives
-  Haunted Montreal May 13, 2020, The 57th installment of the Haunted Montreal Blog
-  “Sea Serpent” Written by Lynn E. McElfresh in Thousand Island Life Posted March 14, 2018
-  Lynn E McElfresh “Sea serpent” March 14, 2018, in Thousand Islands
-  Wilmington, North Caroline The Tri Weekly Commercial. June 11, 1857, reporting from the Brockville Monitor
-  “Sea Serpent” by Lynne E. McElfresh
-  Kingston The Daily British Whig Wed March 29, 1922, page 13 Vancouver machine guns and traps set to exterminate sea monsters
-  El Paso Herald (Texas) Friday August 25, 1922, page 1; The Brantford Expositor Brantford Ontario Wed August 30, 1922, page 7; The Kingston Daily Standard Sept 14, 1922; Kingston Daily Whig Sept 19, 1922, page 1
-  The Daily Standard, Kingston Monday July 24, 1922 page 2, citing a report from Brockville
-  Kingston The Daily British Whig. Thursday August 10, 1922, page 6
-  Cornwall Ontario, “Hubub in Iroquois” Cornwall Freeholder 12 Jan 1922, page 2 and Cornwall Freeholder “The Iroquois Monster” 24 August 1922, page 6
-  Kingston The Daily British Whig Thursday August 10, 1922, page 6
-  Newton Alabama Southern Star Wed December 20, 1922, page 1
The British Home Children of North Dundas
On September 28, people across Canada commemorated British Home Child Day. But who were the British Home Children?
In 1869, religious and philanthropic organizations in Britain began to send orphan and pauper children to Canada to give them a chance at a better life. Young children were to be adopted, and older children were to be indentured as domestic servants and farm labourers until they turned 18.
The emigration program operated until 1948, by which time over 100,000 children had been sent to Canada. While some found loving homes and fair employers, others suffered severe abuse and trauma.
Over 10% of Canadians are descended from Home Children. However, the stigma attached to these children led many to hide their pasts, meaning that descendants are often unaware of their family history.
British Home Child Day is an opportunity to recognize this history. It was first observed in Ontario in 2011 after a bill tabled by former Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry MPP Jim Brownell was passed in the Ontario Legislature.
Brownell, a Home Child descendant, chose September 28 to commemorate the day that his grandmother arrived in Canada.
The late Judy Neville, Brownell’s sister, spearheaded the effort for a federal British Home Child Day. She and others worked with the office of former SDSG MP Guy Lauzon to put forth a motion in the House of Commons, which passed in 2018.
More than 300 British Home Children came to North Dundas, both as indentured children and as adults. Some were here for a short time, while others remained in the district for the rest of their lives. Regardless, they left their mark on this community and their legacy endures through their contributions and those of their descendants.
Written by Ashley Harper
Chesterville and District Historical Society
Dr. Marion Hilliard (1902–1958)
Hero of women in Dundas County
Dr. Marion Hilliard was born and raised in Dundas County, but her impact was felt nationwide.
In fact, she impacted the lives of women throughout the world. And yet, not that many people are aware of her or her place in Dundas County history.
As one of the first female gynecologists to be licensed in Canada, she earned her place in our history books. She was part of the team that developed clinical testing for women’s cancers. She also helped to promote women’s health initiatives through her clinic in Toronto and her series of articles for women (and men) published in Chatelaine Magazine between 1954 and 1957. She certainly paved the way for women’s health.
In these articles she wrote about topics that were simply not discussed in polite society at the time. They embraced topics such as female sexuality, menopause, postpartum depression and parental fatigue. She was early to point out that a medical doctor’s role was to be a sociologist as many ailments are rooted not in the physical but in mental and emotional causes.
Her articles in popular press were important as she realized how little most women knew at the time about their own health. Her articles were then combined into several books and translated into many languages and available worldwide.
Dr. Marion Hilliard also played a role in the development of the PAP test, to detect cervical cancer. The procedure was first developed by George Papanicolaou in the 1920s, but Hilliard and a team of other doctors developed a more simplified form of the test in 1947. It was for this accomplishment that in 2018 she was nominated to appear on the new $10 bill, but Viola Desmond was selected instead.
She was also extraordinarily successful in her drive to make the Women’s College Hospital an accredited teaching hospital under the University of Toronto Medical School. She eventually became the head of the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Department in 1947, a position she held until retiring in 1957.
Unfortunately, she did not enjoy a long retirement as she died of cancer in 1958. She was buried in her hometown of Morrisburg.
It is my hope that people will remember Dr. Marion Hilliard for her selfless dedication to women’s health. It was a personal goal of mine to nominate her to the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. Their mission is to honour medical heroes – those of the past, present and future. In their description, a medical hero is one whose work has advanced health and inspires the pursuit of careers in health sciences. That certainly describes Dr. Marion Hilliard.
However, she was not one of the people selected for this honour. Dr. Marion Hilliard is my hero and the hero to the women of Dundas County and those who have loved them.
Written by Susan Peters
Dundas County Archives
William Bow (1825 – 1915)
Longest serving postmaster in Dundas County
William Bow was born on May 18, 1825 in Aberdeen, Scotland to Thomas Bow and Mary Jack. He immigrated to Canada around 1840 and settled in Mountain Township, where he farmed for a number of years.
In 1846, he married Charlotte Fleming and the couple had four children: Thomas, Emily, George and Margaret.
He gave up farming in 1848 to become a schoolteacher, spending five years at Cass Bridge. He and his family then moved to West Winchester, where he taught for two more years before opening a grocery store, then a general mercantile business.
When a post office was established in the village in February of 1855, William was appointed postmaster—a position that he would hold for the next 57 years. It originally operated out of his general store on the north-west corner of Main and Ottawa Streets.
Winchester became an incorporated village in 1888, and later that year the post office was moved to William’s newly built store on the north-east corner of St. Lawrence and Caleb Streets (now Mary’s Restaurant).
William continued as postmaster until December 1912, when he was relieved of his duties at age 87. To date, he is the longest serving postmaster in the history of Dundas County.
William was involved in all aspects of the community. He served as Winchester’s police magistrate for over 30 years and became known as a strict but fair enforcer of the law, especially during the years of local option when the sale of alcohol was prohibited. He was also the superintendent of the Methodist Sunday school for several decades.
In addition to the post office, he owned several businesses during his career. He operated his general store until 1879, when he passed it on to his son George and son-in-law Alex Ross in favour of becoming a druggist.
By 1910, the druggist business had been taken over by his grandson George H. Challies (future MPP for Grenville-Dundas) and William had moved on to selling stationery and fancy goods.
William Bow passed away on April 2, 1915, just one month before his 90th birthday. He was laid to rest beside his wife at Maple Ridge Cemetery.
His dedication to the village and its people made him a much loved and respected man, and the loss of Winchester’s ‘grand old man’ was keenly felt throughout the community.
Written by Ashley Harper
Chesterville and District Historical Society
Helping to solve a historic murder
A day in the life of an archivist
I’m often asked about what happens on a daily basis at the archives. The answer is that it depends on the day. Every day can be a new adventure.
Some are spent searching for building permits or drain records, others I catalogue boxes of By-laws and Minutes of Council. One day I might search through newspapers for someone on the phone, including the odd professor wanting to settle a bet with a colleague.
As an archivist, I collect, preserve and make available the records of the region.
I have visited a farm house where coroner investigation records were found in a sealed envelope between walls of the home. How they ended up there is anyone’s guess.
The Dundas County Archives has only been around for a few years and a major focus has been put on historic newspapers. We have brought in the entire collection of the back issues of the Winchester Press and Chesterville Record.
Through generous individuals, we have received donations of Iroquois Post, Iroquois Chieftain, the St. Lawrence news, Morrisburg Banner and several other publications.
This is all part of a huge project to collect and digitize the historic newspapers of the county, in partnership with the Lost Villages Historical Society and the Glengarry County Archives, through generous donations from local service clubs and funds from the United Counties Council.
What is truly remarkable is that these are accessible to the public free of charge.
This has been a huge undertaking because in many cases, the old papers are in pretty bad shape. They are brittle, fragile and in many cases ripped or fragmented. Before they can be scanned and digitized, they must be repaired to archival standard. One can get a little bleary-eyed with all this piecing together, like a long-forgotten puzzle with no visual guide.
Some days I self-identify as a newspaper whisperer.
But back to what happens at the archives on any given day. I was asked recently if I could help the police in an investigation of a possible historic homicide, believed to have taken place in 1925.
There was a tip that an individual may have been murdered and his body buried in the basement of a rural home. My job was to look through records and try to identify where the house was located. I also searched for death records because odds were that a story like was reported on.
The challenge is that due to the fragile nature of newspapers, not all periods are covered by the existing collection. Fires, rodents and other issues have caused many of these back issues to be destroyed over time.
Luckily, we did have copies of the Chesterville Record and Morrisburg Leader from that period. After a thorough examination, I determined that this murder did indeed occur.
On February 8, 1917 William St Pierre was murdered. His body was hidden in the basement of his home and the case was covered by local newspapers, along with publications all across Canada and the United States. Initially the suspect was 17-year-old Nettie Richmire of Williamsburg. Eventually it was determined that her confession was intended to protect her boyfriend, Emerson St Pierre, the son of the victim.
The investigation was covered by newspapers as far away as Saskatoon and Vancouver and the further afoot, the more sensational the story. By March 12, American papers reported that St Pierre had murdered as many as 20 infants, allegedly all of whom he had fathered.
The South Bend Tribune in Indiana said that these 20 infants were all born to St Pierre’s widow and that he had murdered mostly male infants.
The St Louis Star in Missouri reported that Mrs. St Pierre stumbled on her late husband’s grave in their basement while collecting coal for the fire, after he had been missing for three weeks. It also said that her son Emerson was arrested while on route to Syracuse, New York with a large sum of money.
The coroner’s inquest began on March 13 with at least 600 people in attendance, many of whom were reporters. Apparently, people were injured in the rush to get access to the inquest.
The reports of the case were highly variable, but most attested that Nettie was sexually assaulted by William - more than once - and she acted in response to her concern for her own safety.
She was given a more lenient sentence of 5 years in prison. Emerson was convicted of manslaughter and served a life sentence at the Kingston Penitentiary.
But their story doesn’t end there. They did eventually get married after Emerson served his sentence and they lived out the rest of their lives together in Dundas County.
As for what happens next at the archives, only time will tell. Every day is a new adventure.
Written by Susan Peters
Dundas County Archives
Chesterville King Street Fire, 1909
In the early hours of April 6, 1909, Chesterville residents were awoken to the alarm of fire and the smell of smoke. Within hours, an entire block of the village’s business core was reduced to rubble. It would become known as the worst conflagration in the history of Chesterville.
It originated in a wooden-framed building on the north-east corner of King and Water Streets, which housed W. J. Nash’s tailor shop on the first floor and the Masonic Hall on the second. The flames quickly spread east down Water Street to the Chesterville Record office, destroying the printing presses, then travelled north up King to Ralph Street.
Equipped with only one hand pump and pails for water, there was very little that could be done. The fire destroyed everything in its path, including Wilford Saucier’s jewellery store, Isaac Pelletier’s confectionary and fruit store, Gordon Robinson’s blacksmith shop, Joseph Fisher and Colborne Robinson’s butcher shop and the Sanders, Soule and Casselman general store.
The village was left rattled by this tragedy - it was not the first they had dealt with that spring. Exactly three weeks before this incident, the Temperance Hotel and Foster’s Hall, situated at the north end of King Street, burned to the ground, and the train station and water tower narrowly escaped with minor damage.
In light of these incidents, steps were quickly taken to improve the village’s fire protection. By May, the village council was preparing a new by-law to mandate that only ‘fireproof’ (e. g. brick, stone) buildings could be erected in the business section. That summer, a steam pumper fire engine was purchased and a proper fire department was formed with Frank McCloskey as fire chief.
Meanwhile, life went on in the village. The Chesterville Record was back in print on May 6, operating from a temporary office in a blacksmith shop. By the end of the summer, bigger and better buildings replaced those that were lost. Sanders, Soule & Casselman rebuilt on their former site (now Mike Dean’s). The Fisher Block (burned in 1989, now the Mike Dean’s parking lot) was erected, where Fisher and Pelletier carried on their businesses. The new Record building (demolished in 2018) was constructed and Saucier rented part of the space for his jewellery store. Wesley Hamilton built the Hamilton Block on the corner of King and Water Streets (now Louis’ Restaurant).
The response to the King Street fire demonstrates the resilience of this village and its people - something that we continue to see today.
Written by Ashley Harper
Chesterville and District Historical Society
The furniture makers of Dundas County
Dundas County was originally settled in 1784 by loyalist refugees of the American Revolution. As refugees, they brought with them only basic necessities for their new life in the wilderness. While they did have furnished homes in the Colonies, their loyalist leanings necessitated their departure and all their worldly goods were confiscated by the Americans. As they resettled into what became Dundas County, they had to start fresh.
It was not until 1847, with the completion of the St Lawrence Canal, that industry could build. Iroquois was the industrial center of Matilda Township, as Morrisburg was for Williamsburg Township. The Williamsburg Canal enabled the harnessing of water power so that mills could be built in Morrisburg, along with the construction of the Grand Trunk Railway in 1854. It was not until 1884 that Mountain and Winchester townships were serviced by rail courtesy the Canadian Pacific.
As industrialization was slow in Dundas County, so was the development of furniture making. For many years, rural settlers could only afford the absolute bare necessities for survival. The first furniture makers did not advertise in local newspapers until 1842.
The first known cabinet maker in Dundas County was William Marsh. His son continued with the business until at least 1900. They were listed in directories, census and newspaper ads in Iroquois. By 1884, his son W.J. March was also listed in an advertisement as ‘furniture maker and undertaker.’
Between 1840 and 1900, there were 112 cabinet or furniture makers in Dundas County.
Several were long-term businesses, such as M. F. Beach. Nearly two-thirds were located in Iroquois. Other communities have supported furniture makers, including Pleasant Valley, New Ross, Glen Stewart, Brinston and Dundela.
As Mountain Township did not have water access, it was slower to develop industries. Mountain was home to 13 per cent of the furniture makers of the county. Two were in Inkerman, three in South Mountain and two in Van Camp.
Elijah Gregory was in business in South Mountain from 1874 to 1900. Earnest Hunter served the same region from 1896 to 1900. Inkerman was the base for William Suffel from 1864 to 1871. George Hope served Van Camp from 1881 to 1895. His business included a general store as well as furniture and he was succeeded by his son Wesley in 1881.
Williamsburg produced 32 cabinet makers between 1842 and 1900. About half of these were short lived. Twenty-one lived in Morrisburg and two in East Williamsburg. Five were in North Williamsburg. Brothers John and William Kilgour ran their business out of Morrisburg from 1873 to 1900. In 1895, they began manufacturing coffins as well.
They were only surpassed by Mahlon Beach of Winchester and Iroquois. In 1865, the Morrisburg Cabinet factory was established by E. W. Kellogg. He produced chairs, bedsteads cabinets and ‘other furniture.’ By 1871, they were also building coffins.
Winchester Township was a challenge to research due to the fact that a large percentage of the furniture makers had a very short tenure. The other challenge was the constant name changes of the communities.
Armstrong Mills became known as Winchester in 1845. In 1875, it was changed to Chesterville. Bates Corners was at one point known as West Winchester. By 1892, it was known as Winchester Village.
The township produced 33 of the 112 cabinet makers in the County.
In West Winchester (later known as Winchester Village), John Ross operated as a furniture maker and undertaker from 1890 to 1896.
The most noteworthy of cabinet makers in Dundas County was Mahlon Beach. He moved to Winchester in 1856 and set up a saw mill. Between 1861 and 1878, he also operated a general store, cheese factory and a grist mill. In 1883, he ran a roller mill in Iroquois.
On July 12, 1884, the entire plant in Winchester was destroyed by fire. But he was undaunted and built a bigger factory. He was by far the largest player in the furniture business, employing over 100 people in 1900. His success could partially be attributed to a long-term contract with the Eaton’s Company during this time: selling ready-made furniture through their show rooms and catalogue.
Beach was also involved in local politics. He was Warden of SD&G Counties in 1873. He left a legacy with 10 children, many of whom continued in his business endeavours.
Written by Susan Peters
Dundas County Archives
North Mountain Consolidated School in Hallville
The first and only of its kind in Dundas County history
This year marks one century since construction began on the North Mountain Consolidated School in Hallville. On August 8, 1922, four hundred people gathered to witness the school’s cornerstone being laid at the southwest corner of County Road 43 and Shaw Road.
Founding a consolidated school, which would accommodate students from kindergarten to Grade 13, was an ambitious plan for this little community. At the time, the school was said to be only the second of its kind in Eastern Ontario, and it remains the first and only consolidated school in the history of Dundas County.
It began in 1921 when residents of Hallville discussed the need for an advanced education facility in the area. The first meeting of trustees was held at St. Andrew’s Church on October 28th, 1921. Soon it was decided to amalgamate four nearby schoolhouses: SS No. 9 Hyndman, SS No. 12 Loughlin, SS No. 13 Kerr’s Ridge, and SS No. 14 Reid’s Mills.
The North Mountain Consolidated School was officially opened on September 19, 1923. Over 150 students were enrolled, and the first staff consisted of principal Orville E. Ault and six teachers: Misses Morrow, Smith, Bates, Pack, Bradley and Millar.
The school was a source of pride for the community but falling enrollment over the years threatened its survival. In 1960, all secondary students were transferred to South Mountain Continuation School, which became known as Mountain District High School. The consolidated school became Hallville Public School.
The same issue of low enrollment caused both schools to close just ten years later in June 1970. While secondary students were split primarily between Seaway High School and North Dundas District High School, elementary students got a new facility: Nationview Public School. The old buildings were temporarily revived during the 1970/71 school year when the construction of Nationview was delayed.
To mark the end of an era, a giant reunion for students of the two schools was held in the summer of 1970 with about 1,200 people in attendance. Another was held in 1995 and a third was planned for 2020, which would have marked the 50th anniversary of the closing. However, it was postponed due to COVID-19.
Unfortunately, the school no longer exists. In the early hours of February 15, 1979, fire ripped through the structure and firefighters could do nothing but watch as it was engulfed by flames. Herbert Scarf, who purchased it in 1973 and had been living there while renovating the building, was away at the time of the blaze.
On 11 October 1980, the crumbling, burnt-out shell of the once bustling school was demolished. Now, all that remains of the North Mountain Consolidated School are memories and photographs.
Written by Ashley Harper
Chesterville and District Historical Society
Aaron Sweet (1854 – 1937)
It is often stated that the level of respect for a person can be measured by how many people attended their funeral.
In 1937, when Aaron Sweet died, his funeral had one of the largest attendances in Winchester history. He certainly touched many lives. He was viewed by many as ‘a man apart and unusual in many respects, popular, capable and willing to an unusual degree…and to be without pretense or sham.’
Aaron Sweet was driven and very involved in the community. He was an active member of the Masonic Lodge. At least 300 members of various Masonic lodges attended his funeral at the Winchester United Church, illustrating how respected he was amongst the Masons. The event was also attended by respected church dignitaries.
Who was Aaron Sweet and how did he achieve this level of honour and respect?
He was born in Hemingford Quebec on February 12, 1854, but his family moved to Morrisburg when he was young. Why Morrisburg? It likely had something to do with the fact that his mother was the sister of Andrew Broder. If his name seems familiar it is because Broder had represented Dundas County in the Provincial Legislature from 1875 to 1886, and the Federal Parliament from 1896 to 1917.
The Broder/Sweet clan appeared to be close knit and Aaron was taken under the wing of his famous uncle. Aaron worked in his uncle’s general mercantile store in Winchester in his youth and by 1876, Sweet had become a partner. By 1881 the store was renamed ‘A Sweet and Company,’ so it appears that he became the owner.
Uncle Andrew had taught his nephew a little about community engagement and involvement. In 1876, Aaron was elected as the deputy Reeve of Winchester, while his uncle was serving in the Provincial Legislature. Sweet was later elected as the first Reeve in the newly incorporated Village of Winchester. He also served as a Councillor.
But his involvement in the community didn’t stop there. Aaron was an elder in the United Church, served as Treasurer for the Winchester Public Library, became a Director of the Beach Foundry, as well as the Winchester Arena Company.
The Dundas County Archives recently acquired the first ledger for this company. He was also very active with the Masonic Lodge, the Orange Order, the Agricultural and Horticultural Societies, the Canadian Club and various other organizations.
In his political leanings he was a Conservative. Aaron successfully ran in the 1923 provincial election as a candidate supporting Prohibition. He certainly wouldn’t have supported the move to create Ontario Government ownership of the Beer Store or LCBO. It was during the Prohibition era that Sweet was involved with the establishment of a Temperance Hotel in Winchester.
It appears that his wife, Mary Esther Boyd, was just as driven and community oriented as Aaron. Her commitment and generosity earned Mary the respect of her community as well. In one of his obituaries, it stated that Mrs. Sweet ‘reigned regally with subtle warmth of hospitality and sincerity that made those old ivy-clad walls the center of much charm and happiness.’
Mary was very active in the local church, where she served as the organist, along with many other local organizations, including: the Red Cross Society, Women’s Institute, Women’s Missionary Society, Horticultural Society and Ladies’ Aid Society.
Their daughter, Mabel Sweet, was born in Winchester on December 20, 1882. While she began her education locally, she was a highly educated lady for her time. She attended the Whitby Lady’s College and the Emerson College of Oratory in Boston.
On November 9, 1918, she married Benjamin Langton Carr, a land surveyor and civil engineer. They settled in Morrisburg and bought the former home of Millionaire J Wesley Allison.
During the Dr Locke era, they ran two different guest Homes: ‘The Ship’s Mate’ and the ‘Sign of The Ship.’ The Dundas County Archives is in possession of the ledger for the ‘Sign of the Ship’ Guest home (1931-1948), providing an interesting history of the business. The collections are building on this fascinating family and their businesses.
The Information for this article came from various newspaper articles ledgers, and materials donated by the Sweet Family.
Written by Susan Peters
Dundas County Archives
Temperance and Prohibition in Dundas County
In the pioneering days of Dundas County, liquor was cheap and widely available. It served as a persuasive tool in early elections, and as an easy incentive when one needed help to raise a building. But when the temperance movement gained popularity across Canada in the mid-1800s, some local residents began to reconsider their stance on the consumption of intoxicating beverages.
By the early 1850s, temperance organizations were being formed in Dundas, with chapters of the Sons of Temperance and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union popping up across the county in the following decades. Temperance hotels opened in many areas.
It wasn’t long before legislation was introduced that allowed communities to vote on whether to allow the sale of liquor in their districts—something known more widely as local option. Both Mountain and Winchester Townships voted to go ‘dry’ in the 1870s, but limited records from that period make it difficult to know how long the legislation was in effect in these communities.
Provincial and federal referendums in the 1890s and early 1900s showed that a majority of locals favoured banning the importation, manufacturing and selling of alcohol.
It appears that local option had been repealed in most areas of the county by the turn of the 20th century, but that was soon to change. Over the next decade and a half, almost every municipality voted on the issue, with Mountain Township adopting it in 1906, Winchester Village in 1907, Iroquois in 1909 and Matilda Township in 1914.
Prohibition was enacted in 1916, banning the sale of alcohol across Ontario. But tales of bootleggers, passed down through the generations, show that this legislation did very little to stop (or even slow) the flow of liquor in Dundas County. Those who wished to drink only needed to know where to go and who to talk to.
By 1926, public support for prohibition in the province was wavering. With an election scheduled for that December, Premier Howard Ferguson (Conservative MPP for Leeds and Grenville) made his position clear: if he was re-elected, prohibition would come to an end.
This troubled many locals, including Dundas MPP Aaron Sweet, a staunch Conservative and life-long prohibitionist from Winchester. Putting his principles before his party, Sweet chose not to seek re-election, and the county instead voted in a Prohibitionist candidate.
Premier Ferguson and the Conservatives were re-elected. True to his campaign promise, he ended prohibition in 1927 and established the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO).
Still, some areas of Dundas remained ‘dry’ for almost a half-century, preventing stores, hotels, and restaurants from selling alcohol. Iroquois went ‘wet’ in 1959, followed by Williamsburg Township in 1970 and the village of Winchester in 1973. Winchester Township held out until 1976.
Morrisburg was a unique exception, which saw an LCBO outlet and a brewery warehouse in operation by 1936. Iroquois and Chesterville opened LCBO stores in the early 1960s, and Winchester got one in 1977 after much resistance and delay. All four of these stores continue to operate today.
Written by Ashley Harper
Chesterville and District Historical Society
Winchester Springs Sanitarium
Did you know that Winchester Springs was once a thriving hive of activity as a resort destination? While it reached the height of its prosperity between 1876 and 1904, the discovery of the Springs dates back to 1799. Following up on local lore of a salt lick in the area that attracted wild creatures, a government surveyor named Fraser located two mineral springs on lot 5, Concession 1 of Winchester Township. However, after filing his survey, an exploratory crew was not able to locate the site when they later searched for it.
A few years later, the springs were once again ‘discovered,’ this time by lumberman Thomas Armstrong who owned a lumber yard in Winchester. Armstrong was in the area harvesting trees when he and his crew came upon the Springs. According to lore, they decided to drink the water and it allegedly cured their scurvy, which had developed due to poor diet. Whether the waters cured their scurvy is not known, but they spread the word and before long throngs of people started showing up, camping out at what was perceived to be the Fountain of Youth.
Of course, it didn’t take long for speculators to learn of the Springs. This was the era of people flocking to mineral springs all over the world. It was viewed as a cure or at least a way to treat a number of different maladies. Blue Licks Springs in Kentucky was thriving at the time, as was Sarasota Springs in New York, both harnessing the view that mineral springs can promote both physical and emotional well-being. In Canada, Carlsbad Springs near Ottawa was reaching its heyday in the 1870s.
Sometime in the late 1860s, James West purchased the property with plans for a large development at the site. His goal was to establish 78 lots over a number of streets. He also planned shops and the ‘Victoria House’ hotel. In the end, the development floundered after he had begun construction on the hotel.
This is where Dr William John Anderson enters the scene. The son of a Dundas County Presbyterian Preacher, he was born in Antrim, Ireland, but was educated in the Iroquois Grammar school and went on to Queens University. He graduated as a Doctor of Medicine in 1861 and first established a medical practice in Smiths Falls.
In 1870, when he learned of the opportunity to purchase the property, he decided to take the leap. He expanded the Victoria House into a sanitarium and a resort destination. The difference between Anderson’s plan and the failed plan of James West was that he brought with him medical credentials and a league of colleagues. He was able to offer medical treatments along with the ‘water cure.’
Under his leadership, the property was greatly expanded: tennis courts and a croquet field were constructed between meandering garden paths, all of which were hidden behind tall privacy fences. Perhaps the fences also added an allure. A report from Toronto in 1889 described the grounds as ‘delightfully shaded with maple, chestnut, pine, oak, elm, apple and other trees and velvety lawns studded with flowers.’ The grounds were about 60 acres of parks, gardens, pavilions and gazebos creating a panorama of bewildering beauty.
At the centre of the property was the Sanitarium. This was a three-storey brick building, housing 60 bedrooms, parlours, a dining hall, clinical examining rooms and bathing rooms. This was pretty advanced for the 1870s. Heated mineral spring water was piped in to fill soaking tubs. The spring water was thought to have curative qualities for maladies such as rheumatism, biliousness, dyspepsia and urinary obstructions. The ads for the resort mentioned that they had a telegraph on site so that business men would be able to keep in touch with their office. As a further incentive, there was a daily coach to pick you up or deliver you to the train station in either Morrisburg or Winchester.
The resort thrived until the death of Dr Anderson in 1904. Unfortunately, the waters could not cure him of his chronic Bright’s disease. After his death, the resort fell into ruins and the sanitarium was eventually torn down in the early 1900s.
Written by Susan Peters
Dundas County Archives
Old Home Week
In the midst of the Great Depression, hundreds of people travelled to Winchester from all over Canada and the United States to attend Old Home Week - a grand reunion for current and former residents of the district.
The idea was first proposed in the summer of 1933 by village Reeve James H. Ross, who was also the owner and editor of the Winchester Press. The plan was immediately put into motion and the Old Home Week Association was formed with Reeve Ross as chairman and local insurance agent Walter Moffatt as secretary-treasurer. Committees were organized, and residents and businesses all did their part to bring the plan to life.
From August 4th to 8th 1934, hundreds of visitors came together in these streets to celebrate the one thing they had in common - their love of Winchester and its people. There were events for everyone - old and young - including parades, concerts, midway rides, horse races, street dancing and sporting matches. The Press dedicated almost three full pages to covering the reunion.
Four years after the overwhelming success of Winchester’s Old Home Week, Chesterville decided to hold a reunion of their own. William O. Dixon, the local funeral director, served as president of the Association, aided by treasurer Howard Fulton (owner of Fulton Bros.) and secretary William H. Casselman (former MPP for Dundas). It took place from July 30th to August 3rd 1938 and enjoyed the same success as their neighbours.
One of the surviving legacies of these Old Home Weeks are two short histories of Winchester and Chesterville that were written to promote the villages and their progress. A Historical Review of Winchester, Ontario, written by Fern Workman, a long-time employee (and later owner) of the Winchester Press, was available at the reunion for just 25 cents. A History of Chesterville, written by businessman and former Dundas MP Orren D. Casselman, likely cost about the same.
Today, these brief snapshots of our communities are priceless.
Written by Ashley Harper
Chesterville and District Historical Society
Royal Platinum Jubilee
Commemorating the Royal Visit
In June of 1959, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and His Royal Highness Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, came to Dundas County to officially open the St Lawrence Seaway. After flying from England, the Royal Couple joined the Royal Yacht Britannia after opening the Seaway at the St Lambert Lock in Montreal. According to the Cornwall Standard–Freeholder, the presence of fog ‘threw carefully timed arrangements into a cocked hat.’
While they were in Ontario for 14 days, the main focus of the tour was the official opening of the Seaway. Preparations for such an event involved many hours of logistics, security and protocol. Even local groups had their hand in the planning of the event that was to take place in Iroquois.
The local newspapers of Dundas County all reported on the plans. The Chesterville Record - dated June 25, 1959 - identified the schedule and route that the cavalcade was to take. This information would be considered high-risk for planning in our current era and wouldn’t be released to the public. In 1959 however, that was not on their radar.
There was also information regarding the planned speed of the cavalcade at certain stages. The route was to follow the Long Sault Parkway at 35 miles per hour. The speed would then pick up along the ‘Queen’s Highway,’ referring to Highway 2. They would slow down again at Riverside Heights as they expected a crowd to gather, along with Morrisburg.
There was no planned stop in Morrisburg so crowds only got a glimpse of the Royal couple. The highlight of the tour was an actual stop in Iroquois. The Queen and Prince Phillip made a ten-minute scheduled stop at the new Iroquois Plaza.
Written by Susan Peters
Dundas County Archives
RMS Empress of Ireland
The Dundas County Connection to the RMS Empress of Ireland
When one considers the best known maritime tragedies one thinks of the Titanic and even the Edmund Fitzgerald, made famous by Gordon Lightfoot. Virtually no one knows about the RMS Empress of Ireland. This is despite the fact that the Empress lost more passengers than the Titanic. This may be because the Empress of Ireland did not have passengers who were millionaires, and business magnates such as the Allisons of Chesterville and John Jacob Astor, and Benjamin Guggenheim. The Empress of Ireland was primarily a vessel to transfer immigrants and goods.
She was first launched on January 27, 1906. The ship was part of the fleet owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway in shipping goods and immigrants between Liverpool and Quebec. At the time the CPR was one of the most powerful companies in Canada, and had created a shipping and passenger empire between the CPR railway and the Empress Hotel line across the country.
Learning from the experience of the Titanic, the Empress was fully equipped with the latest Marconi wireless telegraph, and carried lifeboats and life belts sufficient for 1800 people. The ship would carry a capacity of 1500 passengers and 420 crew. The captain, Henry George Kendall, assumed command of the ship as of May 1, 1914, after a lengthy career. The rest of the 420 crew members were split between three departments: the pursers, engineering, and the deck department.
On her last voyage The Empress of Ireland had on board 1,057 passengers. Like the Titanic, there was a distinction between First and Second Class and Steerage, each having their designated relaxation and dining areas. On the last voyage there were 87 First Class Passengers, who dined in opulence in comparison to the 700 Third class passengers who dined in a crowded cafeteria like setting.
Many of the passengers aboard the Empress were immigrants. Some stories include men who were sailing back to England to bring their bride back to Canada. Some were men returning after a business trip. One such individual was Edward Adie who came from Birmingham to meet with clients in New York. They traveled by train from New York. Some were wealthy British tourists returning home after a vacation. The Canadian Museum of History hosted an exhibit to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of this ship and it included many such stories. Contemporary newspaper accounts also shed much light on these stories. On this particular voyage there were 171 passengers in second class who were part of the Salvation Army. They were heading for a World Congress in London. One such member of this group was a woman born and raised in Dundas County. Her name was Nettie Beckstead.
Jane Etta Elizabeth Beckstead was born on the family farm near Dundela on October 5, 1871 but she was known to family and friends as Nettie. She was the eight child of Joseph and Catherine Beckstead. At aged 20 Nettie joined the Salvation Army, following in the footsteps of her older sister, Caroline. She gained her credentials as a nurse and worked in a rescue home for women in Helena Montana and later in Hamilton and the Grace Maternity Hospital in Montreal. Ironically she was not part of the original group set to travel on May 28 1914 to the World Salvation Army Congress. At the last moment, she was asked to replace an individual who had taken ill.Image
The Empress set off on May 28, 1914 from the Port of Quebec with engines humming. At the same time the Norwegian ship, Storstad was traveling in the opposite direction from Sydney, Nova Scotia bound for Montreal, loaded with 10,000 tonnes of coal. Hidden in thick fog they would collide at 1:55 am on May 29. According to newspaper reports the Empress sank within 20 minutes. Reportedly 1,012 people lost their lives, 800 bodies were never recovered. None of the Salvation Army members were recovered, including Nettie. Most died of hypothermia in the cold water. Only 465 passengers survived. 134 children lost their lives. According to the coroner’s inquest that ensued, a contributing factor may be that the crash occurred when most people were asleep as well as the confusion that ensued. Reportedly there was no time to close watertight doors and portholes that were opened for ventilation. On May 29 we should remember those who were lost in the sinking of the Empress of Ireland and especially the Dundas County native, Nettie Beckstead.
Dundas County Archives
Queen Elizabeth II's Visits to Dundas County
In honour of the recent passing of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, we reflect on the times she has come to Dundas County to pay an official visit. She touched so many of our lives. For most of us, she is the only Sovereign that we have known in our lives. Having recently celebrated her Platinum Jubilee was indeed a milestone few monarchs reach.
During her 70-year reign, she visited this country 22 times. Four of those visits included Dundas County. The first Royal visit with the Late Queen Elizabeth was in 1957, however, she concentrated on opening Parliament and did not make it to our region. Her first official Royal tour which included Dundas County was in 1959. Her Majesty and His Highness, Prince Phillip covered a large area of Canada between June and August with a focus on Officially opening the St Lawrence Seaway.
The Royal couple flew to Montreal and officially opened the St Lawrence Seaway on June 26, 1959. They made official stops between Montreal and Cornwall. They met with US President Dwight Eisenhower and Vice President Richard Nixon at the Moses-Saunders Power Dam. Unfortunately, the thick fog of St Lawrence on the 27th altered their plans and caused some major delays. After several stops In Cornwall, their motorcade traveled along Highway 2 with stops at Long Sault, Ingleside, Morrisburg, and Iroquois.Image
The local newspapers offered details on the route of the motorcade, where they would stop, and even the speed at which they would travel. These are details that security would never release today. However, this was a different era. The motivation was to allow as many people as possible the opportunity to see the Royal couple. As it turns out the scheduling was off by about two hours. While the motorcade traveled along the Seaway Villages, the thousands of school children bussed into Iroquois from all over the region sat and waited. There were cub scouts, scouts, brownies, and girl guides waiting in the wing. Once the Royals arrived, they were finally able to have their parade. The queen was presented with flowers and gifted some towels manufactured by the nearby Caldwell Linen Mills. Shortly afterward, she and Prince Phillip left for her yacht Brittania docked at Iroquois Point. They sailed on to Brockville. The tour continued to the Great Lakes and on to the Yukon after that.
The Queen did not arrive in Ontario again until 1964. Between October 5 and 13th, she traveled between Ottawa, Quebec City, and Charlottetown PEI. In 1967 she was back to celebrate the Centennial with stops in Ottawa and Montreal between June 29 and July 5. In June 1973 she returned for stops in most of the provinces with several stops in Ontario. The main purpose of this visit was to celebrate the Centennial of the RCMP, the tercentenary of Kingston, and PEI entering the confederation. In 1976 there was a stop at Upper Canada Village. In 1977 she celebrated her Silver Jubilee by opening Parliament again. In April 1982 she was back in Ottawa to Proclaim the Constitution. September 1984 celebrated the Bicentennial of New Brunswick, the Bicentennial of Ontario, and a visit to Upper Canada Village. July 1990 was another visit to Ottawa and Calgary. June 1992 brought the Royal couple to Ottawa again, for the 125th Anniversary of Confederation. June 1997 brought them back for another celebration. In October 2002 they stopped at most provinces but did make a stop in Toronto for the Golden Jubilee. Finally, her last official visit to Ontario was from June 28 to July 6 of 2010. She was present at Parliament Hill for Canada Day.Image
It cannot be denied that we are presently experiencing a period of much nostalgia with the recent death of the Queen. She touched so many lives in Canada and around the world. Her image followed us on our currency, on our passports, on our government offices. No matter how you feel about the existence of the Monarchy in Canada or the drama of the younger generation, one cannot deny that Her Majesty served dutifully with much dignity and grace. For many, she was the honored grandmother figure that brought stability in a world of instability and chaos. Most of us at some point in our lives swore an oath to honor and serve our Monarch. So, with her passing it leaves a void in our lives, we are now missing an ever-present part of our lives.
Dundas County Archives
British Home Children in Dundas County
Between the years 1869 and 1948, over 100,000 British children were sent to Canada. These were known as British Home Children. These orphaned or abandoned children were sent to work as indentured farm workers and domestic servants. They came from an environment of extreme poverty. It is estimated that 12% of our population is descended from a British Home Child. While some did receive loving support and a caring work environment, there were many who were abused and traumatized.
Since 2011, September 28 is the British Home Child Day in Canada due to a private members Bill presented by former MPP James Brownell. The Act states that they were sent to Canada in the hope that they would have a better chance to live a moral and healthy life. However, with little monitoring by the agencies involved, many of the children faced tremendous hardships here. The Act goes on to acknowledge the enormous courage and determination of these children.
Dundas County is estimated to have received over 400 Home Children, with many enlisting in World War I. For some it was an opportunity to get back to the UK in a hope of finding their lost families. Dundas County pays homage to the British Home Children who served in the Great War. We will not forget them.
Private Frederick Thomas Baulch is named on the Van Camp Cenotaph, the Mountain Presbyterian Church Honour Roll and the Book of Remembrance of the Canadian Virtual Memorial. He was 11 when he was abandoned by his widowed mother and 13 when he immigrated to Canada in 1912. He was placed on a farm in Mountain Township. He joined the war effort from South Mountain in 1916. He was killed in action on September 27, 1918, and is buried in Calais, France.
William Campbell was born February 10, 1899 in Glasgow Scotland. He arrived in March 1913. When he enlisted on January 28, 1916, he was living in Inkerman. He served with the Eastern Ontario Regiment of the Canadian Infantry. He was reported as missing in action August 27, 1918 and is remembered at the Vimy Memorial.
Lance Corporal Arthur Endersby is remembered in the Inkerman Memorial. He was placed with William Higginson in Inkerman. He immigrated in March 1906 at age 11. He enlisted on November 6, 1914 and served with the 21st Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was presumed dead on May 9, 1917 and is memorialized at the Arras Road Cemetery at Pas de Calais in France. He must have been aware of his family in England, as his military records name a brother in Biggleswade who was to receive his medals and decorations.
Private Arthur Sidney Hollands was born on June 14, 1894 in Kingston upon Thames England. He immigrated to Canada at age 11. He enlisted September 14, 1915 in Morrisburg. He served with the 87th Battalion. He listed his mother as next of kin in Middlesex England, so he was not an orphan when he was placed. He died November 23, 1916 and is buried at the Contay British Cemetery at Picardie France. He is named on the Van Camp Cenotaph.
Private Walter Charles Lawrence was born in Harwich, Essex England in May 1894. His mother was identified as his next of kin in England, so presumed to be alive. He arrived in Canada in April 1912, at age 17. He was placed in Van Camp with Leonard Mills until he enlisted on February 1, 1916. He appeared to have survived the war.
Private William Edward Frederick Mead is named on the Mountain Presbyterian Church Honour Roll, and The Inkerman Veterans Monument. He was born in Hartfordshire England on December 27, 1894. He arrived in Canada in July 1903 at age 10. He was then placed with Henry Bellinger in Hallville. He enlisted in South Mountain on February 29, 1916, and identified a brother John at DePeyster Corners near Ogdensburg New York as next of kin. He served with the 4th Labour Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and later with the 38th Battalion. He was killed in Action August 10, 1918 and named on the Vimy Memorial.
Lance Corporal Horace Milne is named on the Van Camp Methodist Church Honour Roll and the Inkerman Memorial. He was born in Sheffield England on July 15, 1894, and arrived in 1909 at the age of 15. He enlisted in Morrisburg on September 14, 1915, and served with the 59th Regiment of the 77th Overseas Battalion. He died on April 10, 1917. He is remembered on the Vimy Memorial. His sister in Sheffield was listed as his next of kin.
Private Reginald Mundy is named on the Inkerman, Dixons Corners and Iroquois Veterans Memorials. He was born in London England on July 3, 1896, and arrived at age 11 in 1907. When he enlisted, he named Brinston as his address and identified his sister Annie in England as next of kin. He served in the 38th Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force and later 77th Overseas Battalion. He was killed in action on August 13, 1916. He is remembered on the Vimy Memorial.
Private Fred Quickfall was born on May 20, 1894 in London England. He came to Canada at age 13 in 1907. We know that he was placed with Arnel Johnston of Dixons Corners, who was accused of abusing him in 1909. He was subsequently placed with Jacob Barclay also of Dixons Corners. On March 28, 1916, he enlisted in Morrisburg. He served with the 2nd Battalion of the 154th Overseas Battalion. He died on May 5, 1917. He is buried at Bruay Communal Cemetery Calais France.
Lieutenant William Thwaite was born on March 15, 1892 in Newcastle in Tyne, England. He was the youngest of 11 children and only 3 months old when his father died of a heart attack. By 1903 his mother also died. The children were taken into care and by 1905 Willie was being sent to Canada at age 13. He’s a clerk in a Dry Goods store in Iroquois. In 1911 he was a salesman boarding in the household of the Jackson Family in Matilda Township. He enlisted in Iroquois on March 7, 1916, and served in the 38th Battalion of the Eastern Ontario Regiment and commanded the Iroquois Platoon of the B company of the 154rth. He died on August 10, 1918, and is buried in Somme, France.
If you descend from any of these men, the Dundas County Archives would love to hear from you.
Dundas County Archives
Remembering Local Veterans
Asking for assistance from the public as we remember those who served.
It is at this time of year that our thoughts go to those who served in the military for our country in war, and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Most people know of a father, brother, uncle, or grandfather who served in one of the world wars. Every year on November 11th we remember those who have fallen. Every November 8th is Indigenous Remembrance Day. However, as of November 12th, we move on to the next commemorative event and put it all on the back shelf of our memories until next November.
I personally feel that given their sacrifice; we should all do more to remember those who served. I grew up in the military and in military bases in France and Germany. As a child, I developed an extraordinarily strong appreciation for these brave individuals, as I toured many memorials and Cemeteries in France, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. One develops a strong view of our place in history with such firmly placed roots. I also worked in the National Defense Archives and on various contracts researching military history. I am also the daughter, mother, and granddaughter of serving members of the military. In fact, my family served for many generations. I guess you can say that the sense of duty is strong in my family, so this motivates me.
As a result, I am committed to a project which will provide a resource by which veterans will be remembered all year long. This is an online resource identifying the veterans who served from Stormont Dundas and Glengarry counties. As the archivist for Dundas County, I am working on building a collection of memorials for those from Dundas County. I need your help. I would like to be able to provide basic information about each veteran. I reach out to those who have family members who should be remembered in this collection of memorials. If you have a family member or know of someone who should be included, I would very much like to hear from you.Image
The site will be called S D G Veterans remembered. It is presently a work in progress. As previously mentioned, my responsibility in this project is for memorials for Dundas County. I would like to collect information, but also photos. It is my hope that we will be able to locate the story of every Dundas County Veteran, from any war, including the Boer War, the First and Second World war, the Korean war, and every conflict since then. But one step at a time and with respect. If you have anything to share with this project, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would very much love to hear from you. If you are related to anyone named on the Van Camp Cenotaph, I would love to hear from you. In another project, I am putting together the stories of these men named on the Van Camp Cenotaph on Levere Road in Mountain Township.
Dundas County Archives
New donations at the Dundas County Archives – the Williamsburg Times 1932 - 38
There have been lots of exciting donations coming into the Dundas County Archives in the last few months. We have large collections of photos of pre-1900 North and South Dundas County, there are letters from the mid-1850s, and a number of other correspondence which have recently been donated. I have also been working through the archive of the Syberon / George Beavers dental companies. These began with Briggs and Challies who produced dental powders and the first toothbrushes manufactured in Canada. There will be more on this later but for this installment, my focus is on Christmas.
A week ago I received an amazing donation of the full run of the Williamsburg Times. These were published in Williamsburg during the height of the Dr. Locke era. While they did focus on the activities in that village it did have a much wider interest. It was because of Dr. Locke that Highway 31 was paved. The Ferry from Waddington brought many people from Waddington to see Dr. Locke. People in Williamsburg, Morrisburg, and everywhere in between prospered by being able to run a business housing, feeding, and doing laundry for those who came to see Dr. Locke. The wheelchair boys were able to earn an extra income pushing wheelchairs with clients to see the Dr. The area saw movie theatres, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses thrive during the Great Depression. It was as if the depression bypassed the region. There was even a floating hotel in Morrisburg. There were advertisements in these newspapers for businesses in Winchester and Chesterville as well and the papers did cover the news for the whole County. They are essentially a window into the local world from 1932 to 38.
One of the ways in which these early newspapers can provide a glimpse of the world is through their coverage of more domestic aspects. Most of these issues in the Williamsburg Times had a column called “Good things to eat”. These were created by Miss Helen Lacey. Some of the recipes that she provided were commonly in use today. Others are reflective of a time gone by and are of foods that have lost their favor in our modern era. I was interested to see how she depicted the recipes for Christmas. Some might have lost their shine with a modern audience, such as a pineapple and cheese salad. The same can be said for liver salad, or scalloped liver and rice. However, some of the Christmas recipes are timeless.
Why not pay homage to those who lived in this area in the 1930s by trying one of these recipes for your Christmas feasts? According to Miss Lacey, we might have already missed the boat with being too late to prepare the annual Christmas Pudding as it will not have had the time to properly age in rum. But there are plenty of other things that can be prepared to celebrate or festive season. If you do try one of the recipes I would love to hear how it all went. Please send me photos.
December 3, 1937
- 2 cups cranberries
- 2 cups water
- 2 whole cloves
- ¾ cup of sugar
Wash cranberries and cook with the two cups of water and the cloves. When tender, strain thoroughly.
Add sugar to the liquid and cook long enough to blend thoroughly. When partly cooked, add lemon juice. Serve with ice cubes.
Christmas Salads – Jellied pineapple salad
- 1 pkg lemon jelly powder
- 1 cup shredded pineapple
- 1 TBSP lemon juice
- 1 cup boiling water
- ¼ cup blanched almonds
- 1 orange, diced
Add boiling water to jelly powder stir until dissolved. Add lemon juice and pineapple and cool until it begins to stiffen. Stir in chopped almonds and diced orange and pour into a jelly mould and chill. Unmould just before serving on lettuce leafs.
- 1 cup butter
- 1/3 cup fine granulated or fruit sugar
- 2 cups flour
Cream the butter, add sugar, and gradually cream together. Add flour slowly when a stiff dough is formed turn it out on a floured board. Gradually knead. Roll out ¼ inch thick and cut into fancy shapes. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a slow oven until golden brown.
Susan Peters, Culinary Historians of Canada
Dundas County Archives
Letters home from Dundas County soldiers on the Western Front – WW1 The Canadian Letters and Images Project
As I have continued with my research into the stories of veterans who served from Dundas County, I have made an amazing discovery. It is one thing to collect the data on an individual, details such as date of birth, parents, where they served, and such are all important. It is another thing, though, to be able to learn their voice and their most inner and personal thoughts. For two men who served for Dundas County in the First World War, I have found collections of their letters from the Front. One man is Private Clifford Shaver, who is named on the Van Camp Cenotaph. The other is Frank Beecher Doran from Iroquois.
I have found the military records for both men. Both died in service in the First World War. Both men died in their prime, in their early 20’s. Both men left behind family to mourn for them. Through the Canadian Letters project, we can see into the window of their world from the Western Front. It helps to put a face on these men. This is an utterly unique collection of documents, as very few of these personal letters still exist.
The Canadian Letters and Images Project is an online archive of Canadian War experience, as told through the correspondence of Canadians. The project is based in the Department of History of the Vancouver Island University. The letters are scanned and transcribed. Some collections include photos and other related documents. This is an incredible resource for individuals studying the daily life of soldiers in the First World War. If you are lucky enough to have a family member represented in the collection, this would be a rare chance to get to know your relative better. Of the two men in my study, Private Clifford Shaver and Lieutenant Frank Beecher Doran, both wrote to their sisters. There is a definite air of conviviality, and brotherly advice. Both report about the tedium of training and mention things missed from home.
Lieutenant Frank Beecher Doran was born in Iroquois, the son of John and Annie Doran. He was a teacher before he enlisted on March 28, 1916. He was married to Minnie Frances Caldwell on May 8, 1916, so went off to war as a newlywed. However, the 5 letters in the collection are to his sister Martha. They run from September 17, 1916, in Military Training Camp in England to July 10, 1917, in France. He teases her about her name. He wrote about how exhausted he is at the end of the day. Iroquois was referred to as “Gods Land.” This denotes an air of home sickness. He said that drills and discipline was simply tyrannical. It is sweet that he did give his sister some brotherly advice such as “be nice, don’t be selfish and have a sunny disposition.” You can tell that there is a connection between them as he signed his letters, “your ever affectionate brother.” Something that only a brother would ask, Frank did ask about her current flame but suggested that she would have more fun if she was not going steady with one beau. When he was not giving her advice, he was describing the conditions in the trenches. His last letter was July 10, 1917. Sadly, he was killed in action August 14, 1917.Image
Frank Doran served with the Canadian Infantry Central Ontario Regiment initially but when he was killed in action in Ypres, he had been transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. He was 23 years old when he died. Frank is buried at the Mendinghem Military Cemetery in Belgium. He is also named on page 229 of the Veterans Book of Remembrance.Image
Clifford Shaver was born in 1896, in Mountain, Ontario, the son of William and Jessie Shaver, the youngest of 10 children. Clifford enlisted in the Canadian Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regiment) on February 1st, 1916. In the letters Clifford shared an incredibly challenging experience in the Front, doing 40-day rotations in the trenches, interspersed with episodes in quarantine back in England. The letters to his sister Teena are dated January 21, February 4, April 1, June 21, September 7, and December 20 in 1917.
In these letters home he covers the topics of local boys who are there with him. He writes about the tedium in training camp and the desire to get on with it. He also critiqued the food in camp. By June he is in France and getting training for gas attacks. Clifford mentioned that he was writing the letter on top of his helmet as there was no other place to do so in the trenches. He did thank his family for the care packages. Apparently mail from Canada was coming in about once a week that the packages brought comfort. The letters also shared the hope that the war would be over soon, and they would be able to go home. Sadly, Clifford did not make it home. The last two letters notified his mother that he was killed in action on October 30, 1917, and buried on the ridge at Passchendaele. He was 21 years old. He is remembered at the Van Camp Cenotaph and the Menin Gate, Ypres Belgium.
Letters home from the Western Front were deeply personal. Over the years very few of these precious documents have survived the ravages of time. As such, this is an exceedingly rare collection for researchers of the era of World War one. The University of Vancouver Island is to be commended for this project which offers a unique window into the world and into these soldiers' life. It certainly helps to put a face on the names of those remembered on our cenotaphs.
Dundas County Archives
Celebrating Black History Month in Dundas County
The Dundas County Archives has conducted research in honour of Black History Month. It is important to look at the Big Picture within the context of the time. Under the Imperial Statute of 1790 settlers were permitted to bring their enslaved servants to Upper Canada. Since this region was settled by United Empire Loyalist refugees from the American Revolution, they were within their rights to bring with them any property, and under the law that included those who were enslaved by them. Unfortunately there are few records about any of these individuals in this immediate area.
According to Judge Pringle in his book Lunenburgh or the Old Eastern District, (1890), we do know of one family of enslaved under the name of Baker, who settled in Cornwall along with the Loyalists. John Baker was one of the last loyalist slaves living in Upper Canada when he died in 1871 in Cornwall. His great grandfather Cato Prime, had been born in Guinea Africa. He was owned by John Low of Newark New Jersey. Cato’s daughter Levine, gave birth to Dorine, who was the mother of John Baker. Their owner, through marriage, became Captain James Gray of the 42nd Regiment, the Black Watch. It was through this family that Dorine came to Upper Canada. She married either a German or Dutch man, depending on the source, and had a large family. John was the second son. Although the father was a free white man, under law the child of a slave maintained the legal status of the mother, so her children were also enslaved. In 1804 the children were all freed due to manumission papers in the Will of their owner, Robert Gray. John was also left 200 acres of land near Cornwall.
John Baker, once free, enlisted with the New Brunswick Fencibles and served in the 104rth Regiment in the War of 1812. He also served with the British Army in Europe during the Napoleonic War. Afterwards, he returned to Cornwall and became an active member of his community.
Captain Justus Sherwood of Prescott, another loyalist, brought with him his slave Caesar, (also known as Scipio) with him when he settled in the area. Very little is known of his story but apparently he was freed and married a black woman and settled in Brockville.
Daniel Jones, of Brockville, had a slave by the name of Elizabeth. One record exists pertaining to the sale of Elizabeth on August 30, 1788. Jones had sold her to Doctor Solomon Jones of Augusta for 25 pounds Halifax currency. In Kingston, the pioneer loyalist Anglican Minister, the reverend John Stuart, mentioned his slaves in his Will. He left his wife his slave Louisa and her children. Another member of the clergy, Reverend John Bethune of Williamstown Presbyterian Church in Glengarry had slaves.
Lieutenant Governor Simcoe created the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada in 1793. This was the first legislation in the British Colonies to restrict the slave trade. While there was strong opposition to the bill. It legislated that no more slaves could be brought into the Province. Those who were born enslaved prior to that date would gain freedom at age 25. In 1819 The Attorney General, John Beverly Robinson declared that enslaved individuals were declared free if they resided in Upper Canada. In August 1833, the Imperial Parliament freed all slaves in the British Dominions. This was almost 30 years before slavery was abolished in America. With the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act in USA in 1851, any slave who escapes can be retrieved by their owners or an agent and returned to slavery. This created the incentive for enslaved runaways to travel to Canadian soil. The region of Southwest Ontario became the hotbed of the abolition movement and home for many of these fugitive slaves. There is little information about blacks escaping to the St Lawrence River region, however, due to the fact that this was an underground movement.
Census records of 1851 and 1861 do name very few black individuals in Dundas County, but we have no idea if they are fugitive slaves of free. London Derry resided in Williamsburg in 1851, he was also known as London D Lunn in 1861. But spelling was very inconsistent in the census records. I could not find any background information on this man or his family.Image
Isaac Johnson (1844 – 1905) was born in slavery in Kentucky. He joined the Union Army during the Civil War and gained his freedom through the Emancipation Proclamation which freed all slaves in America. While he did write an autobiography, he never really states how he ended up in Dundas County. After the Civil War he wandered for a number of years, as a labourer, and ended up in Morrisburg and then Winchester around 1870. He served as a contractor and stone mason. He was employed in the construction of a number of buildings, including the Winchester United Church, and the St James Anglican church in Morrisburg. In December 5, 1905, he married Theodosia Allen of Morrisburg. A notice of this marriage appears in the local newspaper. Together, they had six children. In those days the border was pretty fluid, and he was engaged in a number of other projects in Ogdensburg and Waddington, New York. He wrote Slavery Days in Old Kentucky as a means to provide income to his family when he was injured on a job. Isaac died on December 5, 1905.
The records pertaining to blacks in Dundas County are very sparse. Records of the United Empire Loyalists could provide more information as to their property, but that is a challenge to decipher. As such, we know very little of those who lived in this region or their stories. Upper Canada Village is hosting a special exhibit in the coming season on the history of Blacks in the region. I look forward to seeing what records they have been able to find. In the meantime if you have any knowledge about any Black history in Dundas County I would love to hear from you.
Dundas County Archives