Sunday, 14 June 2020

Summer Speed bathing in Victorian Guelph

As is true today, swimming was a popular summertime recreation in Victorian Guelph.  In fact, the town of Guelph could boast one of the classiest bathing houses in Canada West. It was built by the Allan family along the banks of the Speed River in front of the Priory, their home, and was described as follows (Allan 1939, p. 29):
Under the ownership of David Allan, he made many improvements to the property such as building a stone bathing-house in the design of a fort (with turrets) at the river side, and the stone wall which still surrounds the property, which he had built in a style to conform to that of the walls supporting the approach to the C.N.R. Bridge across the street.
A lovely sketch (and also painting) of this structure was made by David Kennedy in 1864:


(A sketch by David Kennedy showing a view of the Speed River, Guelph, from the Grand Trunk Railway Bridge. The Priory bath house is in the left foreground. Courtesy of Guelph Civic Museums 1980.6.5)

A similar vantage point is available from Google Street View for comparison:



It must have been fun for the Allan family, on hot summer evenings, to don their bathing costumes in their miniature medieval folly and tread carefully down the narrow stone stairway into the cool embrace of the Speed.

The Allan family may have had the only bathing house in town at the time, which would have been a distinct advantage in a place where bathing (or swimming) in the river was practically illegal in daylight. Guelph's first by-law (ca. 1850) was quite stringent on the matter (Johnson 1977, p. 233):

That no person or persons shall bathe within the distance of 80 rods from any inhabited house, bridge, or thoroughfare, except before sunrise, in any river or other public water in the Town of Guelph, or in any way indecently expose his or their persons.
Given that a rod is about 5 meters, the by-law forbids bathing with 400m of a house, bridge, or other roadway, a restriction that would seem to apply to the entire Speed River within town limits!

An important reason for the restriction on bathing was decency, the dress and decorum that characterized respectable townsfolk. Bathing involved dressing down, to a level that might be inappropriate for the eyes of ladies and gentlemen. (It also often involved vulgar language, a point to which I return below.)

This consideration is elaborated in a debate in the Town Council, when a petition from the townsfolk prompted the city fathers to revisit the restrictive bathing by-law. The matter of regulation of bathing costumes took up much of the Council's time (Daily Mercury, 20 July 1880):

The length of the bathing dress to be worn and what it should and should not cover was the theme of a lengthy and warm discussion.
Ald. Stevenson and the Mayor did not consider that the bathing dress was sufficient for the sake of decency, the by-law providing that the body of the bather be covered from the loins to the thighs.
...
It was moved and seconded in amendment, that the body be covered from the neck to the knee.
Some councillors expressed the view that this much coverage was excessive:
Ald. Fairbank thought that some member might move an amendment to the effect that an umbrella be worn while bathing. He could not see the force of having bathers clothed from head to heel.
...
Ald. Doran had always been accustomed to see people swim naked. They were under the water and could not be seen. It was different from climbing a greasy pole. The other day Scotch pipers went through the street with their legs bare, and all the women looking at them, which was just as bad in his opinion.
Ald. Fairbank wished to know how mechanics; who worked hard all week and were dirty, could get properly washed with a bathing dress on.
In the end, considerations of decency won out and neck-to-knee covering was adopted.

A related issue was that of proximity to bridges, etc. Again, decency required that bathing not occur too close to places where bathers might be seen by the good townsfolk traveling on their roadways. In this regard, Council saw fit to reduce the distance from 80 rods to 50 feet (about 15m). By significantly increasing the area of bathing costumes, it seems that the distance from bathers to bridges could be proportionately lowered.

The by-law also regulated prices that could be charged for rental of bathing costumes provided by commercial bathing houses. At the time, the town's only commercial bathing house had recently gone under.  Mr. James Hazelton, a prosperous local furniture maker, had set up a commercial bath house on the south shore of the Speed, a little downstream from the Eramosa bridge (Mercury, 16 July 1874).  The facility provided small plunge pools and showers, with warm and cold water, a small swimming pool out back, and access from there to the river itself.  An ad from the Mercury (5 July 1876) provides a idea of the offering:

The business carried on until the death of Mr. Hazelton in 1879.  Certainly, Hazelton's baths did provide an opportunity for decent bathing and so it is understandable that the Town Council hoped that another businessman would jump into the market soon.  Yet, there were few takers and little prospect that one or two commercial bath houses could meet the deep local demand for swimming.

So, as is sometimes the case with regulations, restrictions on bathing were more often honoured in the breach than in the observance. For the most part, bathing in the rivers took place illegally and indecently. Every summer, the Mercury published new complaints about illicit bathing by gangs of youths. Complaints can be relied upon to cover certain features, including a description of the conduct itself, in what ways it is indecent in general and offensive to ladies in particular, and what remains to be done about it. Consider, for example (Mercury, 6 July 1883):

Bathing in the river.—During any period of the day from 9 a.m. till 10 p.m. a large number of boys make a practice of bathing in the Speed at the end of the lot occupied by the new rink. This is done in the broad daylight by boys from the age of 8 to 16, and at times by even grown up men, and this without the slightest pretence of wearing anything in the shape of bathing dresses, and during the whole time they are in the water they make use of the most profane and filthy language that can be conceived. Until this disgraceful practice is put a stop to, it is simply impossible for ladies occupying houses on the opposite bank of the river to walk or even to appear outside their own doors during the most enjoyable period of the day. The river makes a slight bend at this spot, so that the bathers are in full view of every garden on the opposite shore. We doubt if there is another town in Canada where such a disgraceful exhibition is allowed to pass without the slightest effort on the part of the public to put it down. They have been spoken to on several occasions, and ought either to put a stop to this bathing altogether or insist upon these boys going into the water under the cover of darkness.
The rink mentioned above is the Speed Skating rink, where the River Run Centre is now located, and whose facade stands in John Galt Park.

Here is another example (Mercury, 5 August 1887):
Bathing at Gow’s bridge.—Numerous are the complaints that are made about young men and boys bathing at Gow’s bridge in broad daylight and in the evening. They run around the bridge, and dive from from the parapet as naked as the day they were born and the language they use is most offensive beyond imagination. Ladies living on the other side of the river, and whose direct road home is over this bridge, are compelled to walk around by Dundas bridge. This state of things ought not to be, and the police authorities should see to it at once. No one objects to parties bathing so long as they secure a reasonably secluded place, but for them to be allowed to bathe on a public thoroughfare the whole summer through is a little too much. So far as bathing at night these moonlight nights in public places is concerned it might as well be daylight.
Of course, the young men themselves delighted both in bathing in the river in the hot weather and making an indecent exhibition of themselves. In later years, many reminisced fondly about cavorting in the rivers, typically much too close to passers-by, while clad only in their birthday suits. In these young men's minds, the rivers were a chain of "swimmin' holes" to be enjoyed as circumstances (and authorities) allowed. Mr. Jim Ritchie's recollections are typical (Mercury, 1 May 1948):
Swimmin’-hole memories

Who among Guelph’s real old-timers does not remember Crib’s hole, near Russell Daly’s present home? Or Fraser’s hard by the Sterling Rubber Company’s plant, or the staircase near the old Goldie’s Mill? Nor can they forget Macdonald’s Spring, just below what is now Cutten Fields, or Kate's hole, near the spurline. This, of course, was the special resort of the “Spurliners.” Howitt’s Pond at the rear of the present G.T.C. bus sheds on Waterloo Avenue was also a popular spot. These are among many others inseparable from old swimmin’ hole memories. No swimming in the nude anywhere these days. If the boys try it they will be chased away, no matter how far they are from the city. How unlike the days before the motorcar era.
Ritchie's mention of the "Spurliners" is interesting, as it reminds us that the young men involved saw the town's geography in territorial terms. In other words, each group had a claim to "its" area, and associated swimming holes, that groups from other areas did not.

This fact is most dramatically illustrated in the recollections of John Higginbotham, scion of an established Guelph clan. He narrates a physical encounter between his group and another that saw their use of the swimming hole at Hood's Bay as an intrusion (Higginbotham 1933, pp. 27–28):

Contrary to all by-laws and regulations, we assumed all risks and bathed in birthday attire. Usually a watch was kept for the police, and on their arrival, everything would be found quite proper; but on one occasion the sergeant was too crafty and speedy for most of us, for all our clothing was seized, with the exception of that of my brother Harry who hastily threw his into an empty barrel which he steered, as he swam, to the opposite bank of the river.

In going to or returning from swimming, and when taking our cattle to pasture, our way was frequently opposed by other boys in gangs, and we were obliged to fight to a finish, or seek another road.

One afternoon, when returning from Hood's Bay, a favourite swimming hole, twelve of us were marching three abreast, when we were suddenly confronted by a large gang of hoodlums, much bigger and older than ourselves, who had been playing "shinny" or field hockey, and were, therefore, armed with these "weapons." The rowdies were led by a negro named Jake, who advanced at their head, in a most threatening manner, shouted defiance, and informed us that we would not be allowed to pass without a fight. My companions urged me to meet him, which I did, with some trepidation, when his headlong charge was blocked with a strong kick on his shins, and a right-hand swing to the point of his chin. He went down like a felled ox. A kick was something I had never done before, and hoped never to do again, but having learned of the negro's vulnerability, used it as an offensive against a more powerful adversary. One of his companions next attacked me and, while I was engaged with him, the negro, having got his feet, hurled a stone which struck me full in the face. An old coloured man, who had been watching the proceedings from the porch of his cabin, now interfered, as peacemaker, and we were enabled to wend our homeward way without further molestation.
Confrontations over swimming holes were not confined to gangs of boys and police. Landowners blessed with bathing-worthy riverside property did not always relish their uninvited guests. George Sleeman recalled an incident when a landowner took extreme measures to keep bathers away from his stretch of the Speed (Mercury, 29 April 1922):
A Mr. Harrison owned two acres of land where Johnson’s boat house now is. It was known as ‘Harrison’s Meadows,’ and was a pretty lot, and, as the river fronted it, it was a favorite place for bathing. (Richardson, who had the store on Gordon Street, agreed with Harrison to keep him as long as he lived, for the lot. However, Richardson died years before Harrison.) After Richardson came into possession of the meadow he became annoyed at people going through it to bathe, and dumped a lot of broken glass into the river, which created a bad feeling against him.
Johnson's boat house is occupied by the Boat House and Tea Room today. Happily, the broken glass seems to be long gone.

The list of Guelph's Victorian-era swimming holes is lengthy but one of particular interest is Kate's Hole, mentioned by James Ritchie as in the territory of the Spurliners. In one story, this location is described as a deep hole near the south bank of the Speed River, opposite Dr. Clarke's grounds. In another, it is located near the end of Marcon street. In today's terms, this would place it at the upper end of Herb Markle Park, where the Speed bends towards the east. This location would put it in the foreground of the postcard image below, looking southward from the top of the Goldie Mill pond.


Note the two swans from James Goldie's menagerie swimming near the small boat on the south shore.

The Speed river was much wider there in that era because of the mill pond and its bottom much deeper in places as a result. Kate's Hole was a place where the river bottom dropped away steeply, near the boat in the image above. The area was quarried early in Guelph's history for construction stone, so it is possible that the hole was formed in this way before the mill pond was established.

In any event, the site was said to get its name from a woman named Kate who drowned there in the town's early days (Mercury, 23 June 1877). As noted above, Kate's Hole was associated with the spur line, that is, the railway line built through the neighbourhood by the Great Western Railway to a short-lived passenger station sited at the foot of Norwich street. (The route is now part of the Spurline Trail.)

Whether or not Kate's story is true, Kate's Hole was a dangerous place for bathers because of its depth and several drownings occurred there. For example, one John McGorin rode a horse into the river at that point in order to wash it off after a long week's work with the Stewart Planing mill (Mercury, 1 June 1874). Unfamiliar with the river, McGorin and the horse tumbled into Kate's Hole. The horse drowned while McGorin was saved by some passers-by who threw him planks wrenched from a nearby sidewalk.

In another incident, a young woman named Minnie Chace fell victim to "the remorseless waters" of Speed (Mercury, 23 June 1877). She and two companions had taken a boat (like the one in the picture above?) up the stream from Kate's Hole searching for a secluded spot for bathing. They went ashore on the west bank in front of the house of Donald Guthrie, the local MP, which later became the main building of the Homewood Sanitarium. This would put the young ladies near the foot of George Street, on the opposite side of the river. They donned dressing gowns in lieu of bathing costumes and waded into the river. Unknown to them, the gentle slope of the bank ended suddenly, and two of the girls went in over their heads. One was saved by a passer-by but Miss Chace was not so lucky.

Although this drowning occurred a little ways upstream of Kate's Hole, it is interesting because it provides one of the few accounts of women bathers in the rivers. If their example is typical, then it seems that women and girls did bathe in the Speed but made less of an exhibition of themselves than did the young men.

Repeated drownings finally prompted a response from authorities. The town purchased six grappling irons from a local carriage maker and placed them in the vicinity of especially risky swimming holes (Mercury, 21 July 1885). The Mercury noted that having grappling irons close at hand would make it easier to retrieve the bodies of the drowned before they lay in the river too long. The sites chosen show how busy the Speed was during Victorian summers:

Your [Town Council] ordered and got made by Mr. C. Thain six sets of grappling irons to be used in cases of drowning in the river and would recommend that the same be placed in the following positions: Frank Heller’s, Marcon street, near Kate’s hole; James Goldie’s mill; Frank Webber’s coopershop; W.J. Fairbank’s, Eramosa bridge; new skating rink and Johnston’s boat house.
As distressing and unwelcome as drownings were, they were evidently regarded with some resignation, a regrettable risk of the joys of bathing in the rivers and, perhaps, simply one of the downsides of an activity indulged on the margins of decent society.

However, around the end of the the Victorian era, the situation began to change with the appearance of supervised swimming places, though that is a story for another time.


Sources
  • Higginbotham, J.D. (1933). When the west was won. Toronto: The Ryerson Press.

Monday, 25 May 2020

The pride of Mountain Town: Guelph's standpipe of 1909

Because they were souvenirs, old postcards of Guelph (like many other towns) put churches, train stations, public buildings, and beauty spots at the centre of attention. However, it is sometimes interesting to peruse the periphery of these images. There may lie items that were not deemed of interest to casual shoppers but are of interest in the city's history.

Consider the image below, from a postcard printed for Charles Nelles around 1910.


This picture was taken from the Central School and looks towards St. George's Square. A number of buildings still present today are visible in it, such as Knox Church, Chalmers Church (now Royal City Church), St. George's Church, and the Wellington Hotel.

Scan the horizon on the right and an unfamiliar cylinder appears on the brow of what was then called Horsman's Hill in the St. George's Park neighborhood. This was the Royal City's first standpipe, then the tallest item in town. At the time when the photograph was taken, the standpipe was very new, a highly visible symbol of the city's progress and, according to its admirers, the pride of Mountain Town.

In this case, a standpipe is a cylindrical tower used as a water reservoir. Guelph acquired one because it was experiencing trouble delivering water to its residents, businesses, and fire fighters—a perennial problem for modern cities.

From its early days, Guelph's central water supply system consisted of an iron hand pump. This "town pump" was located at the corner of Wilson and Carden streets, and had four sweeping handles that could be cranked manually to produce water from a well. To fight fires, water was pumped from such fixtures into a tank incorporated into a horse-drawn fire truck.

As the town grew and fire posed a greater threat to life and property, such a system was found inadequate. Schemes to provide centralized water distribution through pipes were proposed as early as Confederation but design and construction of a waterworks began in 1879, the year Guelph became Ontario's ninth city and acquired the moniker "The Royal City." A pumping station was erected along the Eramosa River and ten miles of pipe had been laid by the end of 1880.

As time went on, shortcomings of the system became more acute. Water drawn from the Eramosa river could be discoloured at times. Tests revealed "colon bacilli" in the water. As more residents, businesses, and services joined the system, its capacity became inadequate. Also, changes in pressure from the pumps damaged the pipes, resulting in leaks and breakages.

A standpipe helps to deal with problems of variations of pressure. Instead of feeding water to the system directly from a pump, which causes a surge whenever the pump is turned on and then a subsidence when it is turned off, a standpipe provides constant pressure as water can flow steadily downhill through the system from its fixed, elevated reservoir.

In 1907, the City set up a Water Commission to recommend changes to the system. The Commission advocated the idea of bringing clean water to town from springs at Arkell in Puslinch. The City adopted this plan, bought about 70 acres (about 28 hectares) in Arkell and had a pipeline laid to bring spring water to Guelph.

The standpipe was built to deliver the water in abundance and at an even pressure. Naturally, the structure had to occupy a high point in town and near the waterworks, so Horsman's Hill was an obvious choice. A special section of the Evening Mercury (13 March 1909) provided a gushing account of the new system, including the Royal City's outstanding new cylinder.


("The Stand Pipe", Evening Mercury, 13 March 1905.)

The enormity of this towering achievement is described in every way possible. It is said to be the largest standpipe in Canada at the time, of prodigious proportions:

The standpipe is thirty feet in diameter and 100 feet from base to top. An iron ladder runs perpendicularly up its south side to an iron platform and railing which encircles it near the top. The capacity is 500,000 gallons.
...
The base is of concrete. The first two rings are of 13/16 inch steel plates and these gradually decrease in the ascent to 3/8 inch. The structure itself with base, with water, when full, weighs 3,200 tons.
...
The work on the foundation for the standpipe was started on June 1st, and was satisfactorily completed within eleven days. A staff of fifteen men were employed on this contract. The foundation is 32 feet square and is 7 feet thick, and its immense strength can be judged by the tremendous weight that it must uphold. The excavation amounted to 428 cubic yards.
The amount and uniformity of the water pressure delivered are also spelled out in detail:
When it is full it gives 43 pounds pressure at the base. At the post office it gives 75 lbs. pressure when full. There is 50 lbs. pressure on the ground floor of the General Hospital. Pumping direct it is possible to give as high as 140 lbs. pressure at the Hospital. At other points in the city, of course, there are different degrees of pressure, according to the elevation. The load is always the same. The latter does not vary more than two pounds in the 24 hours. With the old pumps, the pressure varied from 45 to 110 pounds. So long as the standpipe is full there will be exactly the same pressure at a given point, whether one or ten streams are being drawn from it.
The system was also admirably suited to the demands of fire fighting in 1909:
The fire underwriters standard stream requires that a 1 ½ inch nozzle at the end of a single line of hose 250 feet long, will discharge 500,000 imperial gallons in 24 hours, with 80 lbs. pressure at the nozzle. That equals 200 gallons per minute. The fire underwriters call for ten standard streams the same as this for a town the size of Guelph. Such, then, is the capacity of the pump that the department can run 50 per cent, overload, or 4 ½ million gallons per 24 hours, in addition to having ½ million gals. in standpipe.
Residents of the Royal City could be forgiven for beaming with joy when they saw this new monument to progress overlooking their fair city, on the brow of "Mountain Town," opposite the Central School and the Church of Our Lady.

The standpipe appears in other postcards as well, though always in the background. Perhaps the best image is in the real-photo postcard below, with the standpipe looming behind a house on the Speed River, ca. 1910.


The message on the back of the card adds:
Xmas Greetings
Minnie & girls on River Bank on our lawn 34 Queen Street Guelph
That address is now 34 Arthur street N. Built in 1866 for Robert Melvin, who was Mayor of Guelph 1875–1876, the house was originally called Calderwood (Partridge 1992, p. 16). The name "River Bank" is very suitable, as it sits on the bank of the Speed directly opposite the onetime location of the Priory.

One hopes that the residents of River Bank appreciated the chance to live in the impressive shadow of the giant new standpipe.

The standpipe appears in the background of another postcard, printed by the F.H. Leslie Co. of Niagara Falls around 1935.


In the foreground is the house where Guelph's early musical celebrity Laura Lemon was born. In the background is the great standpipe.

The standpipe was located in the space between Grove street and Prospect avenue, in behind the current location of Hillcrest Park. In the map below, its approximate location and footprint is represented by the big black circle.


In 1968, the city waterworks were updated and the mighty standpipe removed. Yet, its sizable silhouette still lurks in old photos and postcards of the Royal City, where it stood ready to deliver fresh water for nearly 60 years.



Good sources of the early history of Guelph's Waterworks can be found in these issues of the Guelph Mercury:
  • 13 March 1909, "Water works section," pp. 11–16.
  • 20 July 1927, "Town pump yields place to modern electric equipment," p. 6.32.

On the name "Mountain Town" for the St. George's Park area, Ross Irwin (2008, p. 2) explains:
In 1829, John McDonald, PLS, the Canada Company surveyor of part of the township, acquired 186 acres east of the River Speed bounded by Metcalfe Street, Eramosa Road, Grange Street, and Budd Street. It was named "Mountain town".
Though the height of the drumlin on which the St. George's Park area sits is considerable, the term "mountain" does seem like an overstatement, of the sort usual with real estate developers. The name was very rarely applied, that I am aware of, though it is interesting that it persisted long enough to appear in the Mercury in 1909.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

William Macalister' falls

One Guelph postcard that puzzled me when I picked it up is the following, purporting to be of McAlisters Falls, Guelph, Ont. Guelph is well known for being sited along the Speed and Eramosa rivers but it is not noted for any waterfalls, unlike, say, Niagara Falls or Hamilton, which bills itself the "city of waterfalls."


I have never found another reference to this site, so it seemed as though the card might be an in-joke on the part of the publisher, Mr. A.B. Petrie. Indeed, the card was mailed in 1909 to a Mrs. M. MacAllister of Ameronto, Ontario, from someone who did not sign his name but said that, "you will notice me on the other side of this card." The spelling of M(a)cAl(l)ister is different but niceties of spelling were not always top of mind with people dashing off postcard messages for the next mail pickup.

More light was shed on the mysterious Mr. McAlister when I saw the following (Courtesy of the John Kelleher collection):


The name is spelled differently but Mr. W.W. MacAlister is much easier to place. William Wilson Macalister (1855–1930) was born in Kingston, Ontario, and moved to the Guelph area young enough to have been educated at the Rockwood Academy (Mercury, 11 April 1930). He lived and worked in Guelph his whole life, being a bookkeeper and later business manager in the Mercury office for 25 years. His obituary adds that, "Curling and bowling were his favorite pastimes, and he was a charter member of the Royal City Curling Club, and the Guelph Lawn Bowling Club."

Macalister's love of lawn bowling would explain the postcard of the bowling green with his name on it.

The location of "The Camp" were Macalister had his summer home was Victoria Park, a private park along the south shore of the Eramosa River on what is now the east end of the Cutten Club, abutting Victoria road. The Park was set up by the local Boating Club as a destination for pleasure seekers from Guelph and its environs. People could rent a boat and supplies in town and paddle or row up the Eramosa to the Park, where they could enjoy walks, swings, picnics, music, light shows, and lawn bowling.

It was also possible to camp there. Serious campers could take tents, furniture, cooking utensils, etc. and stay the whole summer. During the week, residents of the "camp town" could paddle into town for work and paddle back for dinner. For locals in the late Victorian era who wanted to camp but had not the time, money, or inclination to rough it in the Muskokas, pitching a tent in Victoria Park was a welcome alternative.

William Macalister was such a man. He and his family spent every summer camping in the park for many years. He was so closely associated with the facility that his comings and goings were sometimes mentioned in the paper, e.g., (Daily Mercury, 7 September 1892):

Mr. W.W. Macalister has pulled up stakes after camping for six weeks at Victoria Park, and has moved his family back into town.
No doubt, it didn't hurt that he was a long-time member of the Mercury staff.

Mr. Macalister so adored Victoria Park that he purchased the property. The following notice afterwards appeared in the Daily Mercury (10 July 1894):

Notice to trespassers.

Any person found trespassing on the property as described below, will be prosecuted. That place known as the Macdonald Farm, south of the river and the back part of the same farm, now owned by W.W. Macalister, between the Brock Road and the Victoria Park, also on the roadway to last mentioned property from the York Road.
Note—The only public entrance to Victoria Park is by the river and the York Road by Victoria Bridge.

James Taylor
W.W. Macalister.
The Macdonalds were the farmers who owned the property and from whom the Boating Club rented the land on which Victoria Park stood. People from town sometimes reached the park by walking across the Macdonald's property on the south bank of the Eramosa. The notice in the paper was intended to dissuade people from accessing the property in this way. Access was supposed to be by the dock on the Eramosa river or the path from the nearby Victoria road bridge.

This point brings us back to McAlister's Falls. Between the bank of the Eramosa and the camping grounds of Victoria Park is a shale bluff. Boaters landing at the dock had to climb up steps cut into the bluff in order to reach the campground and its attractions. Flowing in the other direction is a creek that rises in what is now the University of Guelph Arboretum. This creek cuts cross the Cutten Field golf course, tumbles down the bluff and into the Eramosa river just opposite the City Waterworks.

Could the site where this creek drops over the bluff be McAlister's Falls? Here is a photo of the site I took in 2020.


This "falls" is filled with rocks and fallen tree limbs, whereas the postcard falls is clear and more presentable. However, the scale and rough layout of both falls are similar and a little imagination suggests that, if the modern site were cleaned up, the two might resemble each other closely.

So, it appears that, although William Macalister was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, his marker may really be this little waterfall next to the campground that he loved so much.


(The location of Macalister's Falls, along the south bank of the Eramosa in Guelph.)

Friday, 3 April 2020

Guelph is now baseball mad: The Maple Leafs were Inter-County champions of 1921

"Guelph is now baseball mad," said the opening line in the Mercury's article of 25 August 1921. Only the day before, thousands of Guelphites had converged on Exhibition Park to witness the sudden-death game for the Inter-County League championship, played between the Guelph Maple Leafs and the Galt Terriers. The two teams were tied in the best-of-three tournament, each having won a closely-fought contest in the previous week. Given that the Guelph team had won the previous two seasons' pennants, a victory would mean not just bragging rights for the year but a historic three-peat such as the Royal City had not witnessed in decades. Guelphites and baseball nuts from miles around made their way to the Park to take in the tilt for themselves.

Both the Maple Leafs and Terriers had finished the regular season with 9 wins and 3 losses, far ahead of Brantford and Kitchener with 2 wins and 8 losses each. However, the smart money remained with the Maple Leafs since they had won 3 out of 4 contests with the Terriers during regular play. Given this advantage, the first game of the series had been held in Guelph's Exhibition Park on 13 August.

This game was played before an (enthusiastically) estimated 4,000 fans, crowded into the grandstands and circling the field. Tension mounted as the 3:15 start time came and went, as the visitors launched a "childish" dispute over who was to umpire the game. Just as Lee of Brantford and Murray of Toronto were set to officiate, the Terriers' staff "waltzed" (not literally, one assumes) out onto the field to demand that Hett of Toronto work in place of Lee. After half and hour, Galt won the debate and Hett donned his pads and assumed his place behind home plate.

It was the only thing Galt won that day. The Terriers' pitcher, Fred Graham, had a rough first inning, hitting three batters with wild pitches and finally allowing three runs to score. The rest of the fixture was rather more even, with both sides scoring an additional run each, producing a result of 4 to 1 for the Maple Leafs.

The pattern was somewhat reversed in the succeeding game played in Galt on the following weekend. On this occasion, the Galt management tried to have Guelph's catcher, "Patty" Patterson, disqualified for a violation of the League's residence rule. This protest was denied but the team proceeded to win the match itself (Mercury, 22 August 1921). A close-fought affair led to Guelph starting the ninth inning down 2 runs to 4. With two men out and two on base, Ralph Pequegnat pinch-hit a triple to the far right field. Luckily for the Manchester City squad, the ball took a big bounce off the fence right to the fielder, who relayed it home just in time to prevent the tying run from scoring.

All agreed that it had been a fine game with an exciting finish for the roughly 3,500 in attendance. A coin was tossed to determine home field for the tie-breaker on the following Wednesday, with the Royal City coming out on top.

With the game set to start at 5pm, fans began flooding into Exhibition Park by 3 o'clock. The grandstand was jammed an hour in advance, and people began to crowd around the outfield. Motorists parked their cars in a ring around the outfield, two or three deep, starting at noontime so as to have special "box seats" to take in the game. More and more vehicles arrived, bringing more and more spectators (Mercury, 25 August):

The grounds were fairly black with motor cars, and in addition to the immense circle of autos around the diamond, hundreds of others were parked in the vicinity of the race track, while as many more weren’t even brought into the park, but were lined outside the fence, and along Exhibition and Kathleen streets.
Somewhere around 500 cars were parked on or around the grounds. Estimates of the crowd size varied from 3,000 to 6,000, with the Mercury preferring the latter figure. In any event, it was a record gathering.


("Galt at Guelph, Inter-County Final, Aug 24, '21." Image from a real-photo postcard taken from the top of the Exhibition Park grandstand. Note the new Victory School in the background. Fans were held back with help from a rope and local police. From the author's collection.)

The game was a close-fought contest. The twirlers Freddy "Whet" Whetstone for Guelph and Leeds for Galt both threw good games, though the Terriers' fielding seemed a little shaky.

The Maple Leafs scored one run in the opening frame, with the Terriers responding with one of their own in the top of the fifth. The Manchester City fans, a thousand or more having made the trip from Galt, cheered wildly. Yet, Cockman's Maple Leafs answered McFadyen's Terriers straight away with another run in the bottom of the inning. At this point, the Mercury informs us, the Galt fielders seemed to lose heart and were increasingly outplayed thereafter.

Guelph touched up Leeds for two runs in the eight inning, taking a 4 to 2 lead. This prompted the Manchester City's manager McFadyen to pull Leeds and put Graham on in his place, a move that met with the catcher's disapproval and was said to "smash the morale" of the Galt team. Nevertheless, the Terriers' responded with a run in the top of ninth but were then shut down by "Whet's" pitching. After Oliver was thrown out easily at first base, the game was over and the crowd erupted with joy: "Three times Inter-County champions. All hail the Maple Leafs."

In fact, the game may have been over before it started. The day before, Guelph pitcher Freddy "Whet" Whetstone had placed a horseshoe under the Maple Leafs' bats piled up in the park, thus ensuring good luck. On their way to Guelph on game day, the special bus hired by the Terriers had broken down, delaying their arrival and causing their manager "Mac" McFadyen to wonder if their appearance was not ill-omened.

Whether is was due to fortune or the quality of their play, the Maple Leafs had covered themselves and their hometown in glory. The three-time championship was most welcome and for a number of reasons.

For one thing, it brought back distant memories of Guelph's former baseball dominance. Baseball was introduced into Guelph in 1861 when the Maple Leafs were formed and named after a club in Hamilton (Johnson 1977, pp. 328–331). The team steadily improved and won the Canadian Championship in 1869, which they defended successfully in the next two seasons, making for their first three-peat. Their high-water mark was reached in 1874 when the team won the American championship in semi-professional competition, thus making them world champions.


("George Sleeman with the Guelph Maple Leaf baseball team," 1874. Sleeman (lower right, front row) was then the owner and prime mover of the team. Courtesy of the Guelph Civic Museums 2009.32.2071.)

By that time, baseball was becoming more broadly organized and Guelph was later unable to compete with richer clubs for players who could win at such a high level. The Maple Leafs did win the Canadian semi-professional championship in 1894 but could not repeat the success and popularity of their glory days.

Yet, the conclusion of the Great War marked a new beginning. A number of local boys had acquired significant baseball experience in the previous years, among them several returned soldiers who played during their military service (see below). When these men took up places in local factory teams, they proved to be quite competitive in intra-city and regional competition.

When the Inter-County League was organized in 1919, its championship was won by the local Partridge Rubber Company team (Mercury, 25 August 1921). In 1920, the championship went to the local Spring and Axle Company team. It was decided that the team should then be named the Maple Leafs, to recall the glory days of yore:

Early in 1921 it was decided that instead of having the Guelph team run by an industrial concern, it would be a timely move to revive the name of the once famous Maple Leaf club, of Guelph, champions of the world.
Of course, this change also helped to broaden the appeal of the team beyond the factory it happened to represent at a given time. All residents of the Royal City could identify with, support, and pay to attend the games of the Guelph Maple Leafs Baseball Club. Biographies of the players in the Mercury emphasized that almost all were local boys, long-time or born-and-bred.

Both elements were combined in the person of Jimmy Cockman, the team's manager. Born in Guelph in 1873, Cockman played with the Maple Leafs of the newly formed Inter-County league in the mid-1890s and then gone on to an illustrious career in a variety of American and Toronto teams. He had retired and returned to Guelph in 1912 but returned to the game to manage the Maple Leafs during the 1921 campaign.

With their victory, the Maple Leafs had earned a berth in the Ontario League championship, where they finished a highly creditable second place. The team remained competitive for the next decade, although the Terriers won most of the League championships. In any event, it remained a famous victory and restored baseball as a key pastime and entertainment in the Royal City for many years to come.



The Guelph Mercury (25 August 1921) published a photo of the championship team, which was also printed as a real-photo postcard:


Original caption:
Standing left-to-right—V. King, trainer; J.H. Runstadtler, outfielder; J. O'Connor, left field; F. Murphy, pitcher; F. O'Connor, first base; F. Whetstone, pitcher; J.N. Jones, second base; "Sandy" Little, centre field; Jimmy Cockman, coach.
Middle row—H. Pequegnat, catcher; "Tim" Elliott, outfielder; R. Stewart Clark, Business Manager; A.J. Hewer, President; Mort Johnston, Treasurer; Harry Nunan, right field; Tom Patterson, catcher.
Front row—P.M. Clark, short stop; "Bob" Fennix, mascot; Ralph Lindsay, third base.
Note the Victory School in the background again.



The Mercury (25 August 1921) provides the following biographies of the champion Guelph Maple Leafs:

Secured experienced coach.
During the first season in O.B.A.A. company the locals battled away under a heavy handicap owing to the fact that they were unable to secure a capable coach, but towards the latter part of last year this trouble was remedied when Jimmy Cockman, the well known Guelph boy who had a distinguished career as a ball player in the various professional leagues for seventeen years, came to their rescue and volunteered his services as official coach. Not long after Jimmy took over his duties, the local lads showed marked improvement in their playing, and it is no doubt due to his valuable assistance, that the “home brews” are today rated in a class with the best amateur clubs in Ontario.

17 years in “Pro” company.
Jimmy Cockman, as the majority of Guelphites are aware, received his early baseball schooling with the world’s famous Guelph Maple Leaf team. After making a name for himself with the Maple Leafs he journeyed to the Virginia League, where he played with the Roanoke team in 1896. The following year saw him performing with the Indianapolis club in the Western League, while in 1898–99 he accepted a handsome offer to play for Reading in the Atlantic League. In 1900 Jimmy drifted over with the Wheeling club in the Inter-State League and in 1901 he went back to the Western League as a member of the Minneapolis team. As Captain of the Milwaukee nine in 1902–03 he had one of the most successful seasons in his baseball career, and piloted his club to the top position in the Western League in the latter year. 1904 saw Jimmy with Newark in the International League, and after completing a four year contract with this club, played with Toronto in 1908. Jimmy, although owned by Newark, finished the 1908 season with the New York Yankees. In 1909 he went to St. Paul in the American Association, while in 1910–11 he shifted back to the Western League, playing with Lincoln. Jimmy closed a long and successful professional baseball career in 1912, when after managing the Grand Island team in the Nebraska State League, he returned to Guelph and retired from the grand old game.

Who the players are.
J. Sanders Little—centre fielder; ago 26, born in Guelph; playing manager for three years; broke into baseball in local city and church leagues, later going to Toronto, where he performed with St. Mary’s Judeans, Belwoods and St. Pats teams in Stanley Park league. While in the army “Sandy” was with the W.O.R. nine.

Fred J. O’Connor—Better known as “Big Dan” first baseman on the Inter-County team three years; age 26, born in Guelph. All old time sports in Guelph will agree that “Big Dan” handles himself around the initial sack after much the same style as his dad, Daniel O’Connor, who held down first base on the original Maple Leafs. Fred, before breaking into Inter-County company was for several years with various local city and church league teams.

John N. Jones—Second baseman, age 22, has also been with the Inter-County team three years. Joner started his career with that snappy local junior team, the Strathconas, with which he played for six years, while in 1918 he was a member of White’s team, City League champs. He is one of the most promising young ball players in the city, and has played a good steady game with the Leafs all year. “Joner” as his many other team mates, is a native of the Royal City.

Harry A. Nunan—Right fielder, age 21 years. Although still quite young, “Nunie” has been at the game a long time, making his debut with the St. Aloysius team in this city in 1914. The two following years he played in the Inter-Catholic League, and in 1917–18, was with the Strathconas, Western Ontario junior champions. He has also been with the Inter-County nine for the past three seasons. Harry was born in Guelph.

Ralph J. Pequegnat—Catcher, age 20; “Peggy” as his is more familiarly known to the baseball enthusiasts of Guelph is rated as the best catcher for his age playing in senior amateur company in the Province. “Peggy” caught for the Strathconas from 1914 to 1918, when he signed on with the Inter-County. He was also born in Guelph.

James P. O’Connor—Left fielder, age 20; “Jimmy” broke in with the Leafs in 1919. Although only 17 years of age at that time it was to be seen that he had the making of a real ball player, and today he is classed as one of the niftiest outfielders in the league. Jimmy had no previous experience, but just broke in as a natural player. He is a wicked hitter, and is considered one of the most valuable men on the local line up. Jim has lived in Guelph all his life.

Fred. C. Whetstone—Pitcher, age 25; as a twirler Fred has made a remarkable showing this year, and it is largely due to his steady work on the mound that the Leafs have forged their way to the top in the last two years. “Whet” joined the Leafs last year. Before signing on with the Inter-County team he had previously played with Taylor-Forbes, St. John’s and the Malleables in the City League. He was born in Guelph.

Fred M. Murphy—Pitcher, age 22; Fred is also one of the old timers on the Inter-County line up. He has been a regular moundsman for three years, and although suffering from a sore arm for the greater part of this season, has commenced to show his old time form of late. “Murf” formerly hurled for St. John’s in the Inter-Catholic League, and while overseas pitched for the 3rd D.A.C. team, runners up for the Third Division championship in 1918. Also born in Guelph.

Ralph W. Lindsay—Third baseman, age 23; although only two years with the Inter-County team, Ralph, with his lightning speed has developed into a real nifty third sacker. He plays his position like a veteran, and his snappy work on the field this year has featured many a game in which the locals figure. In 1919 Ralph played with the G.W.V.A. team in the City League, and while in France was on the 9th Brigade nine, runners up for the Divisional championship in 1918. He is another member of the Leafs born in Guelph.

Thomas Patterson—Catcher, age 28. Since joining the Leafs this year “Patty,” by his good natured disposition, and happy-go-lucky manner, has made himself one of the most popular players on the local line-up. As a receiver “Patty” is there a thousand ways, as was shown in the important series with Galt just finished, in which he distinguished himself in every performance. He is an old timer at the game, and while overseas had the distinction of being picked on the all-star Canadian team which trimmed the Yanks in London, England, and Bonn, Germany. “Patty” also played with the 18th and 25th Battalions and the 2nd Division Machine Gun teams in France.

Percival M. Clark—Shortstop; age 28. “Clarkie” came to the Royal City from Toronto three years ago, and while in the Queen City played on the St. Andrew’s Crescents and West Enders teams. He has been with the Leafs three seasons, and besides playing shortstop performs as relief pitcher. “Clarkie” is also a returned man and while overseas was a member of the 4th D.A.C. team. He is a native of Toronto.

T. Arnold Elliott—Centre fielder, age 35. Although the daddy of ‘em all, “Tim” can still show the majority of amateur players in these parts the finer points on how to play the outer garden. He is lightning fast on his feet, and a sure catch. “Tim’s” baseball career dates back to the old city league in the days of the Park Nine and Alerts. He was with White’s championship team in 1918, captained the Veterans nine in 1919; managed the Carpet Mills team in 1920, and is managing the Arenas, city league leaders this year. “Tim” was born in Guelph.

J. Herman Runstadtler—Left fielder, age 26. “Runny” came to Guelph from Walkerton to enlist with an artillery unit, and since his return from overseas has made his permanent residence here. He has played for three years on the Inter-County team, and in 1919 held the distinction of being the best hitter on the club, winning a gold watch donated by Mr. Pequegnat. Before coming to Guelph “Runny” played around Walkerton and Owen Sound.

George Stapleton—Catcher, one of the most valuable all round players on the team is George Stapleton. George is Johnny on the spot no matter what position he is assigned to. He is a Guelph boy, and has played in the various local city and church leagues for several years.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Guelph's first automobiles

Marjorie Armour sent this postcard to her brother J.C. in Allan's Mills, Ontario on Easter Sunday of 1913. In it, she assigns her sibling a bit of holiday work:
Suppose you are having great time in your holidays. Would you get a flat box with earth in it ready for us to plant our slips in when we go home as we intent to take our little plants home.
The postcard is a promotional, generic type known as a "banner card" for the obvious reason that it has a banner in which the name of the promoted town is printed—Guelph, in this case.


The card was printed by the Samson Brothers, prolific printers of generic postcards from New York City.

The card is interesting here because it depicts an automobile and because it was sent in 1913. By all accounts, that year was the one in which car ownership took off in the Royal City. Up until that point, automobiles were regarded primarily as amusements for the well-to-do, good only for larks in the countryside during the summer months when roads were dry and (mostly) passable. Afterwards, cars came to be regarded as a reasonable means for personal mobility, perferable to streetcars and horses.

The parade of automobiles during the Old Home Week of 1913 perhaps helped to push this transition in Guelphites' thinking. Indeed, automobiles can be seen lurking in postcard views of the occasion, such as the three below.




There is a nice photo of Russell Daly, a newsseller and tobaccanist in St. George's Square, with his new Studebaker in 1913.


(Courtesy of Guelph Public Library; F38-0-10-0-0-5.)

Daly later operated the Pioneer Bus Line with routes as far as Mount Forest.

Earlier photos of automobiles in Guelph are more difficult to come by. A picture of Carden street during the Old Home Week of 1908 shows a car involved in the proceedings in front of the old City Hall.


(Courtesy of Guelph Public Library; F38-0-15-0-0-459.)

Going further back, there are a few contenders for the earliest car owned by a Royal City resident. Provincial automobile registration records for 1903 (when registration was first required) identify the following Guelphites as car owners:

Name Make License No. Address Occupation
Geo. Williams Cadillac runabout 121 107 Wyndham Baker
John McHardy Autocar (4 seats) 144 96 Glasgow Butcher
L.C. Wideman Conrad (4 seats) 177 16 Arthur Architect

George Williams's claim is supported by the photograph below of a woman in what may be a driving cap seated behind the wheel of a car.


(Courtesy of the J.W. Kelleher collection.)

The back of the photo has the following annotation:

Cadillac, Ada Walker at the wheel; first car in Guelph. // 1902 Cadillac Ada Walker at the wheel of the first car in Guelph. // From E. Hart
The car does appear to be a Cadillac Model A, sporting head- and side-lamps, although it is clearly a four-seater and not a runabout and was first available in 1903. The Evening Mercury (28 Apr 1923) says that George Williams and George Walker got a car between them, so it may well be that Mrs. Walker drove the car too. Mrs. Walker's given name was Ida, so the name on the annotation may represent a slight confusion. (The Walkers had a 10-year-old daughter named Agnes, often known as Ada, which may explain this issue.)

John McHardy's claim to the distinction of first car-owner of Guelph is backed up in the Evening Mercury (20 Jun 1921). It says that, in 1901, Mr. McHardy, a former alderman and co-owner of a pork-packing business, had a garage built especially to house his new toy. The Autocar was the first shaft-driven automobile, had a two-cylinder motor, and was steered by a crank handle on the left-hand side of the car.


(Courtesy of the American Museum of National History.)

However, the Evening Mercury (28 Apr 1923) identifies Major Louis Wideman as the first car owner of Guelph. Wideman was a prolific builder responsible for many structures still standing in the Royal City, as well as an officer in the local militia. The car was described as a "one cylinder affair, of the crude touring body type then in vogue" while the registration records describe it as a Conrad four-seater. Altogether, it sounds as though the car may have been a Conrad Touring Car. The Conrad Motor Carriage Company, of Buffalo, originally produced steam-powered cars but began producing gas-powered ones in 1903, including the Touring Car.


(Courtesy of Grace's Guide to British Industrial History.)

Of John McHardy, the 1923 articles describes him as, "another early motorist, and from the first an enthusiast." The paper goes on to repeat an interesting story about his early experiences, with the proviso that it may be apocryphal:

Whether true or not, it is said that on one occasion, while driving along the Brock Road (Gordon street), he was about to overtake a wagon, in which there were a man and his wife. The team stopped and the woman climbed down from the high seat and ran to the side of the road. Mr. McHardy pulled up his car and one of the party got out and went ahead to hold the horses. The farmer was not at all alarmed about them though, and jocularly remarked, “I think I can hold the horses if you will hold my wife.”
The 1921 article relates another story about the attitude of local farmers to McHardy's vehicle, though of a different tenor:
Mr. McHardy informed the Mercury today that at the time he purchased his first car, the farmers in the vicinity of Guelph were so anxious to see the wonderful invention, that they often ‘phoned to him from miles around wanting to know in which direction he was traveling with his bus on the following Sunday.
Perhaps McHardy was exaggerating or did not fully comprehend why local farmers were concerned about his travel plans. In any event, it is unclear how literally we should take his claim to be absolutely the first car owner of Guelph.

Clearly, though, early automobile ownership was not easy or straightforward. For example, the 1923 article relates a tale about J.W. Lyon, another early car enthusiast, and his encounter with a farmer who did not look kindly upon his contraption:

On one occasion when he was on his way home with a party late at night they got lost. The country roads were not then known so well to drivers as they are now. They stopped at a farmer’s house to ask directions, but the farmer obstinately refused to give these, and they had to get the necessary information elsewhere.
As this anecdote suggests, many Ontarians, rural or urban, viewed automobiles as playthings of a wealthy elite, whose only effect on them was to run them down or frighten horses unnecessarily during heedless jaunts down country lanes.

Early news about horseless carriages could be unpleasant. On 8 Aug 1902, the Mercury carried the news that Mrs. Annie Merlihan, a long-time Guelphite who had relocated to Chicago, had been killed rescuing her daughter Genevieve from being run down by an automobile (Globe, 9 Aug 1902). After pulling her daughter out of the vehicle's path, she was herself run down and her skull crushed under the hooves of a horse that the car had just frightened. The occupants of the car did not stop, perhaps unaware of the carnage in their wake.

Complaints about dangers from automobile use became a regular feature in the Mercury, such as the following letter to the Editor (14 Nov 1904):

Dear Sir—As I was driving home from church to-day, Sunday, the 12th inst., I very near had a serious runaway accident by an automobile driven by some citizen of Guelph. In all justice and Christianity they should have waited until people attending church could get home. There should be a law prohibiting the horrid and dangerous nuisance from the public highways. An elderly lady in Guelph had her arm broken by the same nuisance causing her horse to run away.
There were occasional attempts to sabotage automobile travel in the township, as when a log was thrown across the road at night in Eramosa, apparently with the intention of causing a wreck (Evening Mercury, 13 Sep 1912).

Of course, the situation changed as more people drove cars and government efforts to pave the roadways made travel by automobile easier and more reliable. As noted above, registration of automobiles surged around 1913. In 1922, the Guelph Motor Club was formed, which lobbied for road signage, paving, and construction of intercity highways. As the automotive age began, Guelphites took a last look back at the time when horseless carriages were an oddity whose future was far from certain.



For more information on the early history of automobiles in Guelph and Ontario, see:

Monday, 30 December 2019

Winter was a big one in Guelph, 1911–12

In the so-called golden age of postcards, people often printed pictures on postcard stock so they could send interesting views to wow their friends and relations. Extreme events like train wrecks or fires were especially popular subjects for this treatment. So, it is not shocking to see these three well-dressed ladies posing beside some prodigious snowbanks in Guelph's winter of 1911–12.


(Courtesy of the John W. Keleher collection.)

The caption on the front reads, "Winter scene in Guelph City. Delhi Street, March 23rd 1912." On the back is the message:

May 19th, 1912 // My Dear Molly // Don’t be suspicious if Marg. Wolfe & I am up some Sunday morning when the days are a little warmer. This is a snap I took this winter but is not very clear as the cards & plates are old. It is the sidewalk leading to the Homewood Sanitarium. With love from Ella
The postcard was addressed to Miss Gertie Maitland of nearby Ponsonby, Ontario.

It is always welcome when such real-photo cards include details of the views they depict. It seems likely that one of the women in the picture is Ella, though the identity of the trio remains uncertain. Of course, the remarkable feature of the scene are the heaps of snow on either side of them. Surely, the winter of 1912 is what is now called an "old-time winter". Of course, some strategic shoveling may have been used to exaggerate the extent of the recent snowfall for photographic purposes.

Looking back on this scene from over 100 years later invites us to recall the winter season of 1911–12, starting with the Xmas holiday.

The Christmas season of 1911 began with an athletic spectacle in the form of a ten-mile footrace between Tom Longboat and Fred Meadows (Mercury, 1 December 1911). Longboat was an Onandaga (Haudenosaunee name Cogwagee) distance runner from the Six Nations Reserve and already had an international reputation after winning the Boston Marathon in 1907 and turning professional.


(From left to right: Meadows, Wood, Queal, and Longboat, ca. 1910–1915; Bain News Service/Wikimedia Commons)

The race took place at the Victoria Rink (since demolished), situated behind Knox Presbyterian Church. Since there were 12 laps to the mile in the Rink, the race would go for 120 laps. Over 1000 people crowded into the rink to see the event, which Longboat led all the way, winning in 51.5 minutes, a lap and a half ahead of Meadows.

Longboat also served in the Great War as a dispatch runner and survived the conflict in spite of being wounded twice. June 4, his birthday, is now known in Ontario as Tom Longboat Day in his honour.

Guelph enjoyed a visit from another fine performer on the same day in the person of Miss Mabel Beddoe, a contralto singer from Toronto who was at the outset of a distinguished career spanning North America. The Norfolk Street Methodist Church (now Lakeside Church downtown) put on a choral performance with Miss Beddoe as feature soloist. The Mercury (1 December) expressed the crowd's delight with her singing:

Miss Mabel Beddoe, of Toronto, was the soloist of the evening and her numbers were a veritable treat to the music lovers of the city, who were present. She possesses a mezzo contralto voice of richness and purity, of volume and elasticity, which was delightful to listen to. Her enunciation was perfect, her control thorough, and she possesses dramatic qualities and expression, such as few of the many vocalists who come to Guelph possess. Kipling's beautiful "Recessional" to the music of Reginald DeKoven was especially fruitful in dramatic force, as was Bruno Huhn's "Invictus." Her second number, "I am far frae my hame," the delightful old Scotch air, was a favorite, and brought tears to the eyes of many of the land of the heather. Her other numbers, all of which were heartily appreciated, were the arias, "God shall wipe away all tears," Sullivan; "He shall feed his flock," from "The Messiah," and E.L. Ashford's "My task."


(Mabel Beddoe, Courtesy of The Globe, 11 September 1929.)



Perhaps an idea of the performance can be gained from Robert Merrill's performance of Invictus in 1947.

Besides these special visitors, Guelphites awaited the arrival of old man winter, whose snow and ice afforded pleasant, seasonal recreation. There was both bad news and good news (Mercury, 4 December). The bad news was that Mr. Foster, Manager of the Street Railway (streetcar), had decided against providing a toboggan slide in the park behind the car barn on Waterloo Avenue. The children, and some adults, of the Royal City could take consolation in the use of their usual toboggan venues, which often included the precipitous hills on Cork Street and Eramosa Road.

The good news was that the skating rink behind the car barns was to open in a few days. So, anyone looking to get an early start on skating could simply ride the streetcar down Waterloo Avenue and skate on the pond at the current location of Howitt Park.

Of course, the most anticipated visitor of the season was Santa Claus. To judge from the pages of the Mercury, no one looked forward to this night with more gusto than the storekeepers of the Royal City. Many ads urge Guelph's citizens to shop early and often so as not to disappoint the many good girls and boys of the town. Pictures of Santa generously imparting gifts are included as a model of the appropriate behaviour.


The ad above, from 9 December, announces the opening of Toyland at D.E. Macdonald & Bros. emporium, on the southeast corner of Wyndham and Macdonnell streets.

With the fireplace in the background, this first ad refers to the tradition that Santa flew from house to house in a magic sleigh and entered each dwelling down its chimney. Other ads testify that Santa was progressive and could change with the times.


This ad on 15 December, from the Kandy Kitchen on Wyndham Street, shows that the jolly old elf grasped the advantages and perhaps the pleasures of the automobile, anticipating by many years the modern reliance on delivery vehicles to bring Christmas home.

Another ad on 18 December from D.E. Macdonald & Bros. shows Saint Nick riding the cutting edge of contemporary technology, delivering presents from an airplane resembling a Wright Flyer.


This advertisement eerily foreshadows the use of drones to bombard houses with Xmas presents greatly anticipated by Guelphites today.

Perhaps because it was then old hat, Santa was not depicted making deliveries by streetcar. Yet, a significant development in Guelph was the expansion of the streetcar network into St. Patrick's Ward (AKA "The Ward") in 1911. On 14 December, shortly before 11am, the first streetcar made its way from St. George's Square into the Ward (Mercury, 14 December). Inside it were the usual dignitaries, including Manager Foster and Commissioners Lyon, Ryan, and Drew, and reporters from the Mercury, Herald, Toronto Globe, and the Mail and Empire.

The procession made good time and was observed by many of the Ward's residents from their sidewalks and doorways. The route went down Neeve street, over the bridge, along Ontario street and then York road. The route was originally conceived by J.W. Lyon for freight only, to help service the factories that were springing up in the area. However, passenger service was added in 1912, which proved to be popular with Ward residents who commuted to work in other parts of town.

The highlight of the maiden trip of the new line was when James Gow, of Ontario street, stopped the car and presented each passenger with a cigar.


(Streetcar on York Road, 1920s. Courtesy of Guelph Civic Museums 2014.30.1.)

Xmas day itself passed quietly in the Royal City in 1911. This calmness may have had something to do with the general satisfaction derived from Santa's use of new technologies to delivery presents more efficiently. Also, as noted in the Mercury (26 December), festivities may have been affected by the closure of bars and liquor stores on the day itself, due to the recent Ontario Liquor License Act:

Never in the history of Guelph has there been such a lack of evidence of excessive use of intoxicants on the streets as there was yesterday.
One hopes that Xmas 1911 was a merry one in Guelph nonetheless.

As the postcard above suggests, the winter of 1911–12 brought a heap of snow to the Royal City. That was great for Santa Claus and winter recreation enthusiasts. However, the all the snow and ice did not go quietly.

A peculiar incident presaged a precipitous end to winter. Around 10:30pm on 4 April 1912, residents of Cardigan street heard cries of "Help, help!" coming from the river (Mercury, 6 April). Through the gloom, they eventually spotted a man floating down the Speed River through Goldie's Mill pond on an ice floe. Although the block of ice was not far from the bank, the man refused to launch himself to shore. As the cake of ice sank beneath his weight, it swung towards the bank and the man was saved from an icy dip in the flood.

Once safely ashore, the man gave his name as Richardson and said that he was a resident at Cardigan street. He claimed to have no idea how he ended up on an ice floe in the Speed River at that hour. However, his rescuers gained the impression that Richardson was suffering the influence of alcohol and had wandered onto the ice "in a dazed condition." At any rate, he seemed not much the worse for wear.

A bout of mild weather produced a quick and heavy melt off. The result was the biggest flood in Guelph since 1869 (Mercury, 8 April). Several bridges were swept away, including the footbridge to Homewood above Goldie's dam, the footbridge from Goldie's mill to the cooperage across the river, and the centre span of Well's bridge (Edinburgh Road today).

Goldie's dam nearly burst its banks. However, flour sacks filled with earth by a gang of workmen were employed successfully to shore up its sides. Of course, this success meant that floodwaters were squeezed downstream into the centre of town.

The rushing water broke up the river ice north of Allan's dam, which then piled up and burst the mill race there. Combined with a pileup of debris from the washed out bridges upstream, Allan's bridge was put under a great deal of pressure. Water poured over the occluding mass in what the Mercury described as a "miniature Niagara." Happily, the debris was dislodged before the bridge collapsed. Nonetheless, the flood tore up the earth next to the nearby Light and Power substation, recently converted to Niagara Power, undermining a critical transmission pole, which was then held in place solely by its guy wires. The Taylor-Forbes plant next door was flooded well above the 15 inches for which it was prepared, destroying thousands of dollars of tools and materials.


(Allan's bridge during the the 1929 flood, which perhaps gives an idea of the 1912 event; Courtesy of Guelph Civic Museums 1971.6.2).

Ice built up against the low arches of the Neeve Street bridge. The bridge remained intact but floodwaters rose up and spilled over into the neighboring streets. The Guelph Spinning Mills on Cross Street was flooded to a depth of two feet.


(The Neeve Street bridge in calmer times, 2018. From the author's collection.)

Water flooded up Huskisson Street (now Wyndham Street south) and Wellington Street. The Guelph Waterproof Clothing factory there was flooded. Little damage was done, not because the goods were waterproof but because workers had spent the previous day moving everything to higher ground. Floodwaters scooped dirt from the Wellington Street roadbed, to a depth of three feet in places, and piled it up on the far sidewalks.

In spite of the extensive damage done, the flood was not without its lighter side, duly noted in the pages of the Mercury:

Mr. J.M. Taylor, of the Taylor-Forbes Co., was down at the factory on Saturday night at about eleven o'clock, having a look around to see what could be done. He was walking on the York road behind the moulding foundry, when he saw a lady standing at the corner of Cross street, evidently desiring to get to her home, which is in the flooded section. He volunteered to carry her home, he having long rubber boots, and she mounted on his shoulders, while he painstakingly walked through the water, with Chairman John Kennedy acting as rear-guard with a lantern, shedding some light on the situation.
Mr. Taylor dropped his burden at the first house, having been nearly choked as she hung on to his windpipe, and though there was a good deal of pleasure in assisting one of the fair sex, it would not be out of place to say that he was pleased to have the pressure on his windpipe released.
"This is not my house," said the lady in surprise as he dropped her, and again he had his burden to carry further down the street, while John Kennedy chuckled with laughter, adding to Mr. Taylor's injured feelings.
Mr. Taylor was not the only one whose rubber boots led him to folly. The Mercury also relates the following tale about Mr. H.H.O. Stull, a dealer in animal hides and tallow, who donned his galoshes to probe the floodwaters at the south end of Huskisson Street:
Mr. H.H.O. Stull waded out in the stream, clad in a pair of rubber boots. Suddenly he put his foot into a washout, and went in, only his head and one arm remaining out of the water. The large number of spectators had a hearty laugh at his expense.
It is sometimes said that comedy and tragedy are each the mirror image of the other. Here, the flood of 1912 gives us further grounds to reflect on the truth of this statement.

At any rate, some kind soul got out a canoe and rescued the many stranded residents of the Cross Street area who did not possess rubber boots.

Certainly, the winter of 1911–1912 was a memorable one, mostly because of how it ended. Yet, memories, like floodwaters, recede over time. Happily, we have old accounts, photos, and postcards to remind us.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Guelph postcard producers: The Waters Bros.

The Waters Bros. were regular advertisers in local newspapers like the Guelph Mercury. A typical ad might run like this:
Waters Bros., Guelph
Headquarters for O.A.C.
And School supplies
For
Nature study
Botanical
Entomological
Drawing
Painting

41 Wyndham Street
Phone 350
So, it was likely a surprise to readers when the following ad appeared in the usual space (Acton Free Press, 29 Apr 1915):
No reasonable offer refused

Show cases and equipment
Picture frames, china and glassware, etc.
Everything must be sold

Waters Bros., Guelph.
Suddenly, the Waters Bros., a long-established Guelph enterprise, was going out of business. What happened?

The Waters Bros. was a Picture and Art Supply business founded in Guelph in 1878 by Frederick and Florance Waters. Frederick (b. 1853) and Florance (b. 1854) were sons of Charles and Frances Waters. Charles was a customs official in the southeast of England. In 1877, the two had immigrated to Canada, where Frederick had set up a business in Guelph. When his brother Florance joined him there in 1878, they formed the Water Bros., and placed the following notice in the Daily Mercury (23 April):

Important.
Frederick Waters begs leave to inform the public that he has taken into partnership his brother Florance Waters. The business will be carried on under the style of Waters Bro’s.
The new firm offers a large and varied assortment of oil paintings, chromos, engravings, frames, mouldings, &c., at lowest prices.
Upholstering as usual. Carpets made and laid. Mattresses re-made and made to order.
Parties furnishing will find it advantageous to call and inspect the stock of Waters Bros.
148 Quebec street, Guelph, West of McCrae’s Wood Yard.
The address would be approximately where 33 Quebec St. stands today.


(Quebec street west in 1874, roughly as it appeared when Waters Bros. set up shop there a few years later, about half-way down the south, left-hand side. Courtesy of Guelph Civic Museums 2013.72.94.)

The partnership did not last long. In 1881, the brothers dissolved it and Frederick moved on to Stratford. Florance took over the business but kept the "Waters Bros" name. It seems that Florance was not the brother interested in upholstery and carpets, since these are left out of the description of the business in the "Industries of Canada" (1886):

Waters Bros.—The Picture Gallery, near Post Office; Picture Frames, Oil paintings, steel engravings, mouldings, poles, cornices, and mirrors, well known in Guelph as a reliable house in every respect at which to purchase pictures or get them framed; also artists’ materials, and every article required by amateurs and professionals—established their business eight years ago, on their arrival in this country from England, the land of their nativity. They occupy very neat premises, near the Post Office, which are 25x25 feet in dimensions and two stories in height
The title "The Picture Gallery" remained the slogan of the business in future. Note this title in the ad below, from the 1882 Evans City Directory:


One of the benefits of owning a prosperous business is that Florance could get married. On 12 April 1879, Florance married Fanny Lacy, also an English immigrant, who resided in Palmerston at the time. By 1882, the couple had moved into a lovely house at 94 Liverpool Street (now 86), as shown on Google Street View below.



Charles and Fanny had a large family, Charles Jr. (b. 1880), Florence (a girl, b. 1881), Edith (b. 1883), Caroline (b. 1885), Fanny (b. 1887), George Percy (b. 1889), William (b. 1892), and Arthur (b. 1894) (1901 Census). It seems that the picture and arts supplies trade paid decently enough.

Of course, the future is never certain. By 1884, the Waters Bros. had moved a couple of times and then occupied a space on the south side of Quebec street opposite the Bank of Montreal, facing out on St. George's Square. This spot must have been considered prime real estate for trade. Yet, shortly after noon on 31 May 1887, the block in which their store sat caught fire (Mercury). The blaze imperiled the whole block, from Mr. Copeland's barber shop at the south end, Nunan's book bindery, Hall's tailor shop, Clark & Thompson's carpet store, as well as the Waters Bros.

One advantage of the locale and time was that many people were on hand to pitch in:

Soon a crowd gathered, and when it was discovered that Mr. Copeland and his family had removed, efforts were directed to saving the property of Waters’ Bros, for nothing could be done in the bindery. Willing hands were soon at work, and succeeded in getting out the most valuable portion of the stock in an increditable short space. Those engaged in the work seemed to “keep their heads,” and rescued the contents in such a safe manner as it seldom witnessed now.
The Waters Bros' loss was estimated at $1500, with a $1000 of insurance.

Alderman Hearn, who had recently purchased the block, had insurance and decided to rebuild. However, the Waters Bros. had to vacate their building. They moved temporarily to the store previously occupied by James Nelles (father of Charles Nelles, subject of a previous blog) at 25 Wyndham street to hold a fire sale, "Where they are preparing to sacrifice their tremendous stock."



(25 Wyndham St., currently the location of Wimpy's Diner; courtesy Google Street View)

The Waters Bros remained at this site for a couple of years. However, when the new Hearn Block was ready, they relocated back into the fancy, new digs, with double the space. The announcement was made as follows (Mercury, 25 July 1889):

Going west.—Stock must be reduced. No reasonable offer refused as Waters Bros., will remove in a few days to the double store in Hearn’s block, St. George’s square.
The phrase "Going west" usually applied to people who were moving to western Canada; Florance was using it here to refer jokingly to his move from the east to the west side of Wyndham street.

The Waters Bros. store in the Hearn Block, ca. 1895, can be seen in the photo below. It lies in the middle of the block, in the right background of the photo, behind the tall pole.


(Courtesy of Guelph Public Library, F38-0-15-0-0-22.)

The sign below the attic windows reads, "Waters Bros. // The Picture Gallery." A sign over the awning reads, "Wall paper," always a good seller, and other things that are hard to make out.

Apparently, the west did not suit the Waters Bros store for long. In September 1898, the store returned east to 39 Wyndham street, just south of St. George' Square, currently the location of a nightclub. A few years later, they moved one door up the street to 41 Wyndham street, currently the home of Guelph Today.



(41 and 39 Wyndham street, courtesy of Google Street View.)

At around the same time, the Waters family moved from Liverpool street to a substantial stone house at 27 Arthur street (now 86), backing on to the Speed River. It seems that The Picture Gallery had made Florance Waters and his family a picture of prosperity!



(86 Arthur street; Courtesy Google Street View.)

When the picture postcard craze swept the Edwardian era, the Waters Bros was a perfect position to capitalize. The store had always carried souvenir goods for special occasions such as Christmas. This, and their attention to pictures, made postcards and related phenomena a natural extension of their product line.

Postcards bearing the imprimatur of the Waters Bros. seem to come in two groups. The first group have postmarks in the date range 1908–1911 and have the same backs (in brown ink) as those published by the Pugh Mfg. Co. of Toronto (in blue ink), suggesting that both used the same printer. The views on these cards are typical for Guelph postcards of the era. For the most part, the pictures seem to have been borrowed from other producers, although a few may have been taken especially for the Waters Bros. stock.

For example, here is a nice view of Massey Hall at the Ontario Agricultural College, with a gentleman standing outside of it:


This card was addressed in 1909 by Stanley R. Dayton of Little Britain, Ontario to H. Smith of Ingersoll as part of a postcard exchange, a common arrangement of collectors who sent each other postcards of interest. The text sounds like the sort of thing that two enthusiastic, young postcard collectors would ask of each other:
Many thanks for your pretty card. How many cards have you? Do you get many out of the exchange? What do you work at? I am going to school all the time and soon.
The picture is the same as one found in a contemporary Warwick Bro's card, even to the awkward cropping on the right-hand side.

On the back, the card is identified as "Published by Waters Bros, Guelph, Ont."

Another interesting picture shows a view taken from the top of Goldie's Mill, looking down the Speed River, over the Norwich street bridge towards the spire of St. George's Church.


This card was postmarked on 3 September 1908 and was addressed by "Cousin Neil" to Miss Sadie McPherson of Guelph as follows:
Dear Sadie, You will be at school now. Ida & Tina did not get up in the holidays. Maybe they’ll come some Saturday. Our flower Sunday at Sunday School is on Sunday, the 6th Sept. How are Uncle Donald & Aunt Christie & John & all you girls? I had a good time at your place.
This image is the only version I know of issued as a colour lithograph. There is a halftone version with no publisher's mark that may have originated with Charles Nelles.

The second set of Waters Bros. cards are reprints of cards issued by the Illustrated Post Card Co. of Montreal, with postmarks in the 1911–1913 range. For example, here is a view of the then-new Carnegie Library, with a well-dressed couple posing in front:


The postcard was sent from Fergus by Harold to Harry and Florrie Lewar of London, England on 14 June 1913:
Many thanks for letters. so pleased to hear that you are not moving from London. I went washing sheep for Hastings the other day & then took a swim. I will write that character for you Harry before I leave here.
Swimming with sheep sounds like it might be highly therapeutic.

Another nice postcard from this set depicts Gow's Bridge, now often known as the McCrae Bridge, when the mill and other buildings were still present:


The subdued, watery palate of the series shows the river to good effect.

Certainly, the Waters Bros were selling postcards with their own imprimatur in the 1908–1913 period. It is quite possible that they sold postcards from other producers beforehand and even at the same time. In all, it seems likely that postcards formed a nice side line for the business

As with so many other things, the Great War changed all that. Shortly after war was declared, young William Waters volunteered for the British Columbia Horse (Mercury, 11 August 1915). The previous year, he had taken a job with Guelph's Taylor-Forbes foundry, which sent him to their Vancouver office. Finding that horses were too scarce, Waters travelled to the training camp at Valcartier, Quebec, and joined the 5th Battalion, infantry.

His military records reveal that Corporal Waters's service was not long or easy. He suffered a case of the flu in December, followed by bronchitis in January 1915. His regiment was among the first sent to France, where it became involved in the Second Battle of Ypres, where poison gas was first deployed by German forces. At Langemarck, Corporal Waters was reported to be wounded on 25 April and evacuated to a field hospital, which authorities reported to his father, Florance.

Corporal Warron, a friend of Corporal Waters who had been lightly wounded in the same attack, noted that his friend was not to be found and instigated a search. It turned out that the field hospital where Waters lay was overrun by German forces and Waters had become a prisoner of war. In August, German authorities listed Waters as dead, with no details given as to the cause. The Canadian military listed Waters as deceased and informed his family in Guelph on 10 August.

It seems likely that this string of events precipitated the sudden decision to liquidate the Waters Bros. business in April 1915, as noted above. The process was completed in September, shortly after news of William's death reached home. Curiously, advertisements for the liquidation sale are to be found in the Acton Free Press but not in the pages of the Mercury itself. It may be that the news was all over town anyway, so that local advertisements were unnecessary but that is only a guess.

A picture of Corporal William Waters was published in the Mercury on 18 August:


Curiously, for the family of a picture business, this is the only photograph of a family member that I have yet come across. (If anyone has more, let me know!)

In a few months, Florance and Fanny packed up and moved to Vancouver, for reasons that remain unclear but may be connected to William's residence there. Even at such a large distance, the family was not forgotten in the Royal City. A marker is to be found in Woodlawn Cemetery, commemorating Florance and Fanny, Fanny's parents, and William:


(Courtesy of CanadaGenWeb Cemetery Project.)

Besides this marker, we have their postcards to remind us of the Waters family, their business, and the Guelph that they lived in before the Great War.