The Township Papers
of Bertie Township, Welland County
The following description of Bertie Township and its villages is quoted from The History of the County of Welland, Ontario, Its Past and Present. Welland Tribune Printing House, 1887.
In 1784, the actual settlement by Loyalists, chiefly members of Butler’s Rangers commenced. These men, as a rule, came from the Mohawk and Susquehanna valleys, and were of German or Swiss extraction, About ten families were established in that year on free grants of 200 acres each, and among these appear the still well known names of Benner, House, Platow, Riselay, and Wintermute. Seed grain and a few agricultural implements were supplied by the Government and they were provided with food and a certain quantity of clothing for each person during the next two years. A ferry was soon afterwards established between Fort Erie and Black Rock, and most of the emigrants that entered Western Canada during the ensuing thirty years, came by this route, as well as a majority of travellers on their way to visit Niagara Falls. During the latter years of the century, the zealous efforts of Governor Simcoe were successful in attracting many immigrants from New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, and among those early settlers we observe the names of Bowen, Haun, Hershey, Laur, Miller, Sherk, Troop and Zavitz.
In 1791, Thos. Proctor, and American Indian agent, reported to his Government that the British had begun a new fortification some distance above the old fort, but this statement was probably unfounded, as the foundations of the present fort were not laid until 1896. In Jun 1795, the Duc de la Rochefoucauld-Liancourt visited the place, which he described as consisting of a few log houses surrounded by tottering palisades, entirely unprovided with ramparts or covert-way. Outside the entrenchment there were four large buildings of rough-hewn logs, intended as storehouses and dwellings for the workmen employed about the fort, and a large private warehouse stored with goods for the Indian trade stood within the palisades. Twenty voyageurs were employed in loading and unloading vessels, and the cargoes were transported between Fort Erie and Chippawa in large bateaux, manned by five men each. The garrison consisted of a company of the 5th Foot, under Capt. Pratt, and a large garden was cultivated by the soldiers. The ferry was situated about two miles below the fort, and was conducted by a British boat large enough to accommodate five horses at a time. The passage of the river from Black Rock to the Canadian side occupied four or five minutes, and the return about a quarter of an hour. A tavern and a few houses stood near the landing in Canada. The British armed schooner, “Chippawa,” arrived at Fort Erie while he was there, and another vessel was undergoing repairs at the wharf.
Ten years later, Robert Sutcliff, and English Quaker, observed a number of good houses along the river road, and hers of cattle grazing in the fields then in the end of November, still very fresh and green. He lodged one night at the hours of one D.—P.—(Daniel Pound?) near Black Creek, where he noticed a loom, several spinning wheels, and a number of young girls plaiting straw bonnets. A boy had just killed a bear that was chasing his father’s hogs.
Christian Shultz, in 1807 found the British garrison of 28 men engaged in building a new fort. The village consisted of about thirty houses, inhabited principally by emigrants from Pennsylvania. Fish and small game of all kinds were remarkably abundant, and he relates that himself and a companion shot 187 black squirrels in three hours.
The first town meeting of which any record exists, was held in Andrew Miller’s house on March 7th, 1808. Joseph Senn was elected Clerk. Alexander Douglas and Thos. Otway Page, Assessors, Henry Trout, Collector, Benjamin Wilson and John Warren, Wardens. Among the subscribers to a fund for the purchase of a town book and the relief of certain persons, appear the names of Christian and Abraham Hershey, John and Thos. Baxter, Peter and John Wintermute, Alex. Douglas, James Smith, Henry Trout, Jacob Haun, Jos. Marth, John Warren, Sr., Jos. Hanins, Daniel Pound, Asa Oliver, John Hirrot, H. Nigh, J. Harper, M. Sherk, J. Winger, G. Zavitz, J. Tuttle, Peter Learn, Peter Platow, C. Hibbard, M. Buck, and Ed. Karr.
In a military chart of this period, besides the little cluster of houses near the fort and landing, nine farmhouse are indicated between the ferry and Frenchman’s Creek, along the riverside, seven between Frenchman’s and Black Creek, six between Fort Erie and Point Abino, on the Lake Shore, three near the Garrison or Concession Road, as it was then called, three along the Ridge Road, seven west of that road, near the lake, and three or four isolated dwellings in other parts of the township. The cultivated land was confined to a narrow strip along the river, and isolated clearings surrounded by thick woods. Practically, there were but two roads passable for wagon, one following the margin of the river, the other running along the summit of the ridge of limetone rocks in a southwesterly direction from the mouth of Miller’s or Wintermute’s Creek to Point Abino, but there were several horsepaths, the chief of which ran along a ridge nearly parallel with the present Garrison Road.
[Following the War of 1812] most of the former inhabitants soon returned to their desolated farms, and in 1817 had already made such progress in the work of restoration that Robert Gourlay estimated that the Township of Bertie, including Fort Erie, contained two hundred houses, a Quaker church, and six schools, and had a population of 1600 persons. Subsequent events, such as the rebellion of 1837-8 and the Fenian raid of 1866, are fully described in other chapters of the present work. The progress of the municipalities has been gradual but continues. In 1842 members of a district council were first elected, Edmund Riselay and Lt.-Col. Wm. Powell being chosen.
The Township of Bertie is nearly ten miles in extreme length from east to west, by about seven miles in extreme breadth and contains about 16,000 acres. The shore of Lake Erie is bounded by a low range of sand hills, varying in height from six to fifty feet. Point Abino, near the southwestern angle of the township, projects nearly a mile into the lake and forms a tolerably secure anchorage for vessels of light draught. This peninsula is chiefly composed of mounds of fine sand, which is valuable for building purposes, and much of which is annually shipped to the United States. A height of land known as the Limestone Ridge extends quite across the township in a south westerly direction, from near Miller’s Creek, on the Niagara, to Point Abino. There are several valuable quarries of limestone in different parts of this municipality, and a considerable quantity of lime and building stone is exported yearly. A kind of clay which is suitable for making brick is found in many parts of the township. Much of the soil is a light loam with a considerable admixture of alluvium and a clay subsoil, and varies in depth from eighteen inches to several feet. Nearly 6,000 acres are still in woodland. Bog iron ore has been discovered in several places. Nearly all the hardier varieties of fruit are grown to perfection. This township has now a population of nearly 4,600, and contains seven post offices, thirteen churches, and fourteen public schools.
In 1885, according to the assessment roll, there were 1,400 horses, 1,700 hogs, 3,100 horned cattle and 3,255 sheep in the township, and 971 acres of orchard and garden and 4,100 acres sowed with winter wheat.
Among the principal churches are the McAffee Church, on the Niagara River, about a mile below the mouth of Frenchman’s Creek, founded in 1845; the Memorial Church at Ridgeway, built in 1872, and the Wesleyan Methodist Church at Victoria, completed in 1878.
The schools in Bertie Township are good. The township is remote from all of the high schools in the county, and the young people in order to attend one of those institutions are compelled to board away from home. As a consequence, the number of pupils in the township who take a high school course is less than those localities where the high schools exist. The public schools, however, do more advanced work in places where the high schools are not within reach. Before the present regulations as to school inspection came into effect, in 1871, the office of local superintendent was filled by the Rev. John Baxter, who held the office for thirteen years. Dr. Kempson was his predecessor.
Village of Stevensville
Stevensville lies about four miles due north of Ridgeway, and is a station on both the Canada Southern and Loop Line branch of the Grand Trunk. It contains fifteen stores and shops of different descriptions, a grist mill, a saw mill, a planning mill and two churches, with a population of nearly 600.
Village of Victoria
The village of Victoria is situated at the western end of the International Bridge, and is a station on the Buffalo and Lake Huron and Loop Line branches of the Grand Trunk, the Canada Southern and Erie and Niagara. It is connected with North Buffalo by a steam ferry, and contains about twenty stores and shops, a number of good hotels, a grist mill, an elevator, and a Methodist Church, and has a population of nearly 700. The name of the post office at Victoria is called International Bridge.
At Victoria there are flourishing lodges of the Masons, United Workmen, and Oddfellows. The latter of these societies has recently completed a commodious hall at an expense of upwards of $3000.
Village of Ridgeway
Ridgeway is a beautiful village of about six hundred inhabitants, delightfully situated in the midst of a fine agricultural district along the line of the Buffalo and Goderich division of the Grand Trunk Railway. Its history as a village dates from the time of the completion of that road. Ridgeway is not yet incorporated but forms a part of Bertie Township for municipal purposes. In fact it is the capital of the township, for the township hall is situated in the village. The business places consist of two hotels, three general stores, three groceries, two stationery stores, one drug store, one jewelry store, one stove and tin shop, one millinery shop and one gents’ furnishing store, a bakery, several blacksmith, harnesses, and shoe shops, a roller flouring mill, two saw mills, a planing mill, a foundry and machine shop, and the various other industries that usually make up a thriving country village. There is also in the place an office of the American Express Company, an agency of the Great Northwestern Telegraph Company, and a post-office with a savings bank and money order department in connection. The railway station at this village is called Bertie, although the village itself has borne its present name for a great many years.
Ridgeway has become known throughout the Dominion as an historic place, in consequence of its proximity to the spot where the brave Canadian volunteers met the Fenian invaders in 1866.
The village is provided with a very efficient public school, of which Mr. A. H. Kilman jas been the principal for several years.
There are two churches in
Ridgeway, a Methodist and a Free Methodist. In addition to these there is a
Presbyterian congregation who hold regular service in the township hall. The
Methodist Church was erected in 1872. It is known as the Memorial Church, from
the fact that it contains a tablet erected in memory of the volunteers slain at
the battle of Ridgeway. The laudable undertaking of erecting this tablet owed
its inception to the Rev. F. M. Campbell, who was at that time pastor of the
church. The base of the tablet was laid on the 15th September 1874, under the
auspices of the Grand Lodge, Ancient, Free, and Accepted Masons of Canada. The
ceremony was very imposing, and the proceedings were participated in by a large
number of the fraternity, embracing its members from the lodges at Port
Dalhousie, Dunnville, Cayuga, Welland, Port Colborne, Fonthill and other
places. The brethren from Port Dalhousie, Welland and Dunnville evinced a
special interest in the undertaking by turning out in very large numbers. The
Grand Lodge was opened by R. W. Bro. D. E. Broderick, Esq. D. D. G. M. of the
Niagara District, assisted by grand officers and brethren from various parts of
the Province, and especially of Dominion Lodge No. 213, W. Bro. J. N. Fullmer,
And may the G. A. O. T. U. smile on this undertaking.
After the conclusion of the ceremony, Miss Thompson, of Fort Erie, rendered the G…. Funeral, a piece of music appropriately chosen for the occasion, and the proceedings were brought to a close by brief and appropriate addresses by Messrs. J. Perry, I. P. Wilson, and R. Balfour. The present Pastor of the Church is the Rev. Mr. Mason.
There is also in Ridgeway a Free Methodist Church, of which there is no regular pastor. The Church—a red brick structure—was built in 1872, by the Methodist Episcopal congregation, who sold it to the Free Methodists at the time of the union of the Wesleyan and Episcopal Methodist Churches.
Ridgeway Lodge No. 59, Ancient Order United Workmen, was instated on the 26th February, 1880, with seventeen charter members, and the following staff of officers: P. M. W., Thomas Boles; M. W., E. H. Beaman; G. F., E. A. Dickout; O., H. N. Hibbard; Recorder, A. H. Kilman; Financier, N. Brewster, M. D.; Receiver, B. M. Disher, G. I. Nagel; I. W., N. Ellsworth; O. W., H. A. Haun. The lodge, which meets every alternate Friday evening, has now a membership of twenty-six. The present M. W. is J. E. Morin, M. P. P., while A. H. Kilman holds the office of Recorder.
Ridgeway Council, No. 18, Royal Templars of Temperance, was instituted on the 26th April, 1881, with thirty-two charter members, and officers as follows: S. C., P. W. Anthony; V. C., J. W. Ranney; P. C., J. W. Walrath, M. D.; Chap., Rev. R. J. Elliott; R. S., H. M. Disher; F. S. B. M. Disher; Treas., James Cutler; Herald, I. A. Beeshy; Deputy Herald, M. E. Disher; Guard, I. W. Kennedy; Sentinel, Lewis House; Medical Examiner, J. Walrath, M. D. The Council meets on alternated Friday evenings, and has for its principal officers, J. A. Beeshy, S. C., and Lewis House, R. S.
Ridgeway Circle, No. 59, Canadian Home Circle, was instituted Nov. 19th, 1886, with fifteen charter members and the following staff of officers;—Past-Leader, Col. J. F. Morin; Leader, N. Brewster, M. D.; Vice Leader, Mrs. J. E. Morin; R. S.,Mrs. H. Box; Treasurer, Charles Krafft; F. S. H. Box; Chaplain Z. Teal; Marshal, Mrs. G. Cutler; Warden, Mrs. C. Krafft; Guard, Alfred Wilson; Sentinel, Ed. Cathard; Medical Examiner, Dr. Brewster. The membership of the Circle is about twenty, and the meetings are held on the first Monday evening of each month.
Frontier Division, No. 60, Sons of the Temperance, was institute January 15th, 1885, with twenty-six charter members, and officers as follows:—W. P. J. F. Dunn; W. A., Flo. Brewster; R. S., E. S, Learn.; A. R. S. Nellie Walrath; Treas., Charlotte Moore; F. S., W. M. Thom; Chaplain, Rev. R. Burns; Conductor, W. I. Disher; Asst. Conductor, Jane Gerrard; I. S., Alice Brewster; O. S., G. B. Magee; P. W. P., S. Hibbard; Div. Deputy, J. W. McPhee. Meetings of the division, whose present membership is seventy-two, are held every Tuesday night. R. A. McIntosh is the present W. P.; W. M. Thom, R. S,; and J. F Dunn, Division Deputy.
In 1857 the village of Fort Erie was erected into a separate municipality under that name, having an area of about 900 acres and extending for nearly two miles and a half along river and lake. This village has at present a population of about 4,000, and contains a machine shop, green house, post office, three meat markets, four taverns, ten stores and shops of various kinds, a poultry yard, and a large drill-shed, the headquarters of No. 4 company, 44th Battalion. There are also Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist and Roman Catholic Churches,
St. Pauls (Anglican) Church was originally founded about the year 1835, but the present fine structure was built in 1877. The present rector is the Rev. Robert Arnold, B. A. The congregation numbers about 250, the number of communicants bring 116. The Church of St. Johns, on the Ridge, forms a portion of this parish and has an average attendance fifty and fifteen communicants. The Sunday school in connection with St. Pauls Church has 200 names on its roll, and that of St. John 25. The Presbyterian Church was built in 1873, and has about 50 adherents and 20 communicants, and in connection with it there is a congregation in Ridgeway, where services are held in the town hall, with 20 communicants.
Loyal Orange Lodge, No. 750, has its headquarters at Fort Erie. The original charter was granted Sept. 24th, 1871, and the charter members were: Wilson Lennox, W. M.; Robert Magwood, D. M.; John Magwood, Secretary; Wm. A. Wood, treasurer; John Anderson, Isaac White, John Palmer, Thos. Badgett and Lyman Wooliver. It at present numbers 52 members and its present officers are: Isaac White, W. M.; Jno. Briggs, D. M.; Jos. G. Ray, Secretary; Thos. G. Stamp, Treas.