Monday 30 June 2014

Happy Canada Day, 2014

Canada Day (formerly Dominion Day) seems like a good time to bring out the patriotic postcards. These fall into at least two types. First, some postcards depict patriotic occasions, such as Victoria Day or Dominion Day. For example, we have already encountered this card of St. George's Square taken on Dominion Day 1954.

A second type of patriotic postcard imposes patriotic decorations on a normal scene. An example of this type can be seen in the card below. It was printed by Warwick Bros & Rutter and was postmarked on 18 Oct. 1904. Typical of early cards, it has an undivided back; that is, the back is reserved entirely for the address of the recipient, leaving only a small space on the front for a message.

The message is a very brief, "Our joint, notice the crowd. Jim." The card is addressed to Miss F. Leslie of St. Marys, Ont.

The photo on the card provides quite a nice view across St. George's Square as it appeared around the turn of the 20th Century. In the foreground is a view of the Blacksmith Fountain with the streetcar paraphernalia surrounding it.

In the background is the old Bank of Montreal building built in 1858 to the designs of architect William Thomas. To its right in the picture is the bank manager's residence, designed in the Chateau style by George Miller in 1892 (Anderson et al., 2000). On the left of the bank lies Quebec St. West with Chalmers and Knox Churches prominently in view.

The Street View photo best corresponding to this view would be the one below:

View Larger Map

The new Bank of Montreal building is visible in the place of the earlier structures, razed in 1961.

The special "Industrial number" of the Guelph Mercury of 1908 has the following to say about the bank:

The Guelph branch was established more than sixty years ago and occupies a handsome stone building which was erected by the bank about half a century ago. This was the first bank established in Guelph, and is one of the strongest and most popular in the city, a condition largely due to the able and conservative business methods under which, for the past ten years, it has been conducted by its manager, Mr. H. Lockwood. He has been identified with this bank for the past 30 years, and is one of its most honored and trusted officials. He is one of Guelph's most representative and substantial business men.
The item includes a photograph of Mr. Lockwood.

A Henry Lockwood, age 48, is listed living in Guelph in the 1901 census, along with wife Anne, children Kathleen and Norman, parents William and Eleanor, and Teresa Weiler, a domestic servant. It seems as though the manager's house on St. George's Square was both comfortable and well used.

The image of these fine bank buildings in the postcard, run by substantial, middle-class men, surely captures the image that the Royal City wished to project to the world.

The photograph is framed by patriotic symbols. On the right are the British and Canadian flags along with that odd set, a beaver with a lion and unicorn. On the left is a shield sporting the symbols of all the provinces, along with another Union Jack, topped by an imperial crown and supported with crossed sprigs of maple leaves.

In spite of the heavy use of symbolism, I do not think that the card was intended to celebrate a particular occasion. Printing photographs on paper was a costly process in that era, one that could be reduced in price by printing a smaller photo and in halftone rather than in colour. Coloured drawings could be added to take up the leftover space at relatively little additional expense. So, it is price more than patriotism that may explain the design of this card. Even so, it is an appropriate card for the country's birthday.

That leaves us with the issue of the identities of card's sender and recipient. There is a J. E. Leslie listed as a teller at the Bank of Montreal in the Vernon's City Guide of 1905–07. That is probably "Jim", who is listed as listed as a 15-year old in St. Mary's in the 1901 census as the only son of the six children of John and Mary Leslie. Miss Florence Leslie, 19 years old, is listed as his one of his sisters and is likely the addressee. So, when Jim mentioned "our joint," he did indeed mean the Bank. When he commented ironically on the "the crowd" at the bank (only one figure is visible), was he in jest, or was he another young man a little bored with his clerical job?

Since we are dealing with Canada Day and 1904, it seems appropriate to close with the Dominion Day activities planned in Guelph that year. A short article in the Mercury (30 June) gives the details. The Maple Leaf baseball team was to play a double-header against Galt in Exhibition Park, followed by a concert by the Guelph Musical Society band. As a special treat, there was to be a "throwing contest" between Guelph's Bert King and a "great throwing outfielder" from Galt.

In addition, the 11th and 16th Field Batteries were to stage a mock battle during a break in the morning game, followed by a tug of war between the two units in the afternoon. The winner would receive a silver cup from Adjutant Petrie. (Any relation to A. B. Petrie?) Also, the day would include a raffle in with the following prizes: 1st, a ticket to St. Louis; 2nd, a set of dishes; 3rd, a rocking chair; 4th, a silver cake-basket; and 5th, a lemonade set.

And so it was in the City of Guelph at Canada Day 110 years ago.

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Wells' bridge

In the early morning hours of 13 May 2014, lightning struck the old manor at 25 Manor Park Crescent in Guelph. The old stone home caught fire, requiring the efforts of five city fire stations to extinguish. Witnesses described the conflagration as "fierce."

As noted in the Mercury article, the old Manor was built ca. 1857 for Arthur Wells (1824–1900), in the midst of his property just south of the Speed River, west of Edinburgh Rd. In those days, the location was known to locals as "Wells' Grove" and was considered to be at the very western edge of town at the time. Perhaps having property at the edge of town allowed Arthur and his wife Georgina Dora (née Rideout) to have a house and property of the grandeur they preferred.

As you can see below, the house is indeed striking. Gordon Couling (1976, v. 16) notes that it was probably designed by Wells and built by noted local mason Matthew Bell. Couling describes it as, "One of the finest stone homes in the city - of major architectural significance," and made from "limestone quarried on the property." Fire damage to the roof over the front gable is clearly evident.

In addition, pictures of the house are available at the Public Library Archive (here also), and the Wellington County Museum and Archives. The Library also has a portrait of Arthur, Georgina, and the family taken at the Grove ca. 1870. (The photo seems to show all eleven of their children and the youngest, Ralph, was born in 1866.) Plus, the Guelph Civic Museum has a photo of the stone barns that also sat on the property. The Wells family lived in style.

The story of Arthur Wells is related in some detail by a descendant, Jane Wells with Kathryn Bassett. Arthur was born and raised in Toronto and went to Upper Canada College. At the age of fifteen, he journeyed to Avignon in the South of France to study civil engineering at the University there. After graduation, he worked on building railway bridges in France and then returned to Canada to work on bridge building for the Grand Trunk Railway.

That work brought Arthur to Guelph where he supervised building of railway bridges at Rockwood and Guelph, at Allan's Dam. He must have liked the place as he settled in the town with Georgina and worked in various capacities, such as Deputy Postmaster, for a number of years. To all appearances, the family were upstanding citizens.

Then, in 1880, (proverbial) lightning struck the household. Arthur ran off with his housekeeper, Martha Glover. Stephen Thorning says that Wells experienced "a serious case of mid-life crisis" (Wellington Advertiser, 23 March 2007) and, indeed, Glover may have been pregnant when the pair left Guelph for Pueblo, Colorado. There, Arthur married Martha and the couple had a family of eight children in the United States.

Wells' Grove and Manor does not feature in any postcards of Guelph that I am aware of. However, the bridge over the Speed nearby at Edinburgh Road had become known as "Wells' bridge" and is labelled as such in the card below. This card was published by Warwick Bro’s & Rutter of Toronto, probably ca. 1905. (On some printings, the bridge is mislabeled as Gow's bridge, which stands further upstream.)

In those days, the Speed River flowed in not one but three channels at Edinburgh Road. Or, to put it another way, there were two large islands in the Speed at that time, requiring three bridges to span the gaps. (See this later aerial photo where the bridges are at the bottom centre.) The bridge in the postcard seems to be the three-span middle bridge, as seen roughly from the west. Look at this photo from 1928 for a similar view. Note that the Spring Bank Brewery, built by Sleeman's in 1900, is not visible in the postcard image, suggesting that it was taken before the turn of the century.

It is not clear how or when exactly Wells' name became associated with the bridge. Although Wells was a bridge builder, there is no mention of his having constructed this span. Also, since Edinburgh road itself was designated by the Canada Company in 1828 (Ross 1998), it seems likely that the structure preceded Wells' arrival in town.

The earliest use of the term "Wells' bridge" that I am aware of is in the 19 April 1869 Mercury, in which it is noted that "Wells' bridge" remained "uninjured" by a spring flood that year. Perhaps the bridge became associated with Wells because he took a special interest in it. For example, on 20 August 1867, he sent a report to the Town Council stating that the span was in a "dangerous condition" and should be open only to foot traffic until it could be repaired. It may be that this report cemented the association between Wells and the bridge in the minds of the townsfolk.

In any event, one certain connection between Arthur Wells and Wells' bridge is matrimonial misadventure, for the bridge was the site of a kidnapping and forced marriage. On 25 July 1877, Miss Annie Mary Carr, a niece of Sheriff Peter Gow, received a letter, apparently from her father stating that he would be in town the next day and asking her to meet him at Wells' bridge (Mercury, 30 July 1877 ff). She complied.

Instead of her father, however, she was met by a carriage with three men who said that they had been sent to pick her up. Unsuspecting, she climbed in and was taken to the corner of Wellington and Gordon streets where the carriage was met by Frederick Sturdy, a local painter and the man with whom she had recently broken off an engagement! He and his daughter Louise pushed her into the back of the carriage and ordered her to be quiet. The carriage proceeded out of town by Victoria road and south to Hamilton, where Miss Carr was confined in a house in a secluded location. Plied with alcohol and threats, Miss Carr agreed to marry Sturdy, the ceremony being quickly performed at the residence of the Rev. D. H. Fletcher, who seems to have suspected nothing.

It seems, though, that Miss Carr was missed and Sturdy suspected. Two constables from Guelph were sent to Hamilton on Saturday to investigate. They located Sturdy's carriage at the American Hotel there. Although Sturdy's whereabouts were not known, he had left instructions to prepare his horses for Sunday afternoon at five o'clock, so the constables decided to wait him out. Sheriff Gow arrived at 4pm and the three of them arrested Sturdy when he turned up. Upon finding out the location of Sturdy's hideout—104 Locomotive St.—Gow drove out and rescued his niece. She was returned to Guelph, and Sturdy and his daughter (and Sturdy's other assistants) were brought there to prison to await trial.

The sensational story was evidently picked up by newspapers around the continent, even as far as the Feliciana Sentinel of St. Francisville, Louisiana (25 August 1877). The Mercury described the abduction and forced marriage as "one of the blackest crimes ever committed in Guelph" and a deed that,

... would make the blood of all respectable citizens boil over with righteous indignation, and at the same time ask the question, "Can such an outrage have been committed in a civilized community?"
Despite the infamy of the abduction, it is not recalled in later histories of the town, much like Wells' flight to Colorado with his housekeeper. Perhaps both were tales too painful to repeat.

In any event, Wells' bridge remained in continuous use for 100 years or more. By the 1950s, however, the City of Guelph and the Grand River Conservation Authority had decided on some major alternations to the Speed River downtown. The City wanted to widen the bridge at Edinburgh Road to increase the flow of cars. This improvement to Edinburgh would also help with plans for a major new road along the riverfront ("Memorial Parkway", now Wellington Road). The Conservation Authority sought likewise to increase the flow of water in the Speed and thus reduce the perennial risk of flood along its banks.

In 1957, contractors dredged out the middle channel of the Speed, widening and straightening it like a highway. The overburden was used to fill in the north and south channels of the river, where Wellington Road and the Royal Recreation Trails now lie (Mercury, 23 Feb. 1956; 18 July 1957). Mostly likely, the rubble from Wells' bridge lies buried there too, along with whatever other tales it might have had to tell.