Historical Society of St. Catharines

Celebrating the history of St. Catharines and its vicinity

Archive for the ‘Townships’ Category

Some Reminiscences of Grantham Township by Bob Bell

Posted by dsharron on December 6, 2008

On November 27, Bob Bell recounted some of his varied experiences as a local politician in Grantham Township from the 1950s through to the 1980s. 

Bob Bell was born in 1921 in Louth Township decended from the Loyalist families Secord and Pawling.  He worked at McKinnon Industries (now General Motors) for forty-seven years before retiring in 1986.  During the second World War, Bob served in the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Bell’s political career began in 1959 as a councillor on the Grantham Township Council and then as an alderman for the Grantham Ward on the new City of St. Catharines Council.  He remained an alderman until 1969 when regional government came to Niagara.  From 1970 to 1985, Bob was a Councillor on Regional Council.  Among his body of work includes time on the Planning and Development Committee, the Shaver Hospital Foundation, the St. Catharines General Hospital Board of Governors, Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and currently is the Executive Director of the Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Foundation.

What Mr. Bell brought to politics was the farmer’s mentality of never promising what you cannot deliver.  He and his fellow representatives strived to get things done without wasting a vast amount of time.  They were closer to their constituents than today’s politicians. 

In 1961, Grantham and St. Catharines had grown to the point where amalgamation was necessary.  Mr. Bell was among the group responsible for naming all of the streets affected by the amalgamation.  From 7:00 to 12:00 pm, a mere five hours, names were called out, checked by the clerk and voted on for all of the streets in the newly aligned city.

In 1972, Bob became the Chairman of the Regional Planning Committee – a position he held for a number of years.  After eight years of preliminary work, the Committee met with the provincial cabinet to get the Region’s first Offical Plan approved.  Niagara thus became the first municipality with a policy plan in Ontario.

Mr. Bell was also part of the initiative in 1959 to create the Lester B. Pearson Park.  It came about when the opportunity arose to get the properly for a dollar a year.  The space was ideal for a public recreation area as it remains today.

Mr. Bell’s talk was quite informative and highlighted the accomplishments of those who dedicated their time to making Grantham Township, St. Catharines and the Region a better place to live.  He ended his talk with the words, “Grantham was a great town with great people.  The good old days were all not that bad.”

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Posted in Grantham, Niagara, St. Catharines, Towns, Townships | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Naming of the Niagara Townships

Posted by dsharron on March 30, 2008

On Thursday night (March 27), the Society was treated to another information packed presentation by Professor Alun Hughes. 

Portrait of Colonel John Graves Simcoe, ca. 1881Entitled “‘Lord’ Simcoe, Lady Godiva and the Naming of the Niagara Townships”, the talk looked at how many of the townships, towns and other landmarks in the Niagara Peninsula and throughout Ontario were named during the tenure of Lieutenant Governor John Simcoe in the 1790s.  Beginning with a wide view of all Upper Canada, Alun demonstrated that many of the counties in Upper Canada were named directly after the counties along the eastern coast of England – starting with Kent all the way through Northumberland.  The Niagara Peninsula was given the name Lincoln County after Lincolnshire County in England.  As such, many of the place names within Lincoln County can find their roots in Lincolnshire – examples: Gainsborough, Grantham, Grimsby, Louth, Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake), Saltfleet, Stamford and the Welland River.  Other place names stem from influential individuals and families from the time like Sir John Thorold, the Pelham family and Clinton Family.  Still more names were to come much later or were derived from contemporary First Nation place names.

One of the most interesting findings to come from Alun’s presentation was the discovery that Simcoe’s reputation of not being in favour of First Nation place names is false according to surviving evidence.  For generations, Simcoe has carried a legacy for changing established First Nation names to English names such as Toronto being changed to York and Niagara being changed to Newark.  Alun proved that the shift to these new place names had occurred prior to Simcoe’s appointment as Lieutentant Governor.  Plus, Simcoe was more apt to change place names of French and German origins rather than First Nation.  More importantly to this area, Simcoe openly advocated that Newark be renamed Niagara later in his term.  The English government agreed and adopted this change. 

Alun proved once again that there are a lot of errors in our history that are taken as fact after years of retelling and misinterpretation.  With sound research and use of good evidence, these local myths can be corrected.

Next month’s presentation will feature John Burtniak speaking on “Vanished Villages in Niagara” – April 24.

Posted in Grantham, John Simcoe, Meetings, Niagara, Townships, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »