Historical Society of St. Catharines

Celebrating the history of St. Catharines and its vicinity

Posts Tagged ‘Niagara’

Meeting Recap: Snapshots of the Home Front – Niagara in 1939 to 1941

Posted by dsharron on April 27, 2009

Using images from the St. Catharines Standard Collection from the St. Catharines Museum, Graham Phair took the Society back to the Niagara area during the early years of World War II.  When Hitler invaded Poland and Great Britain declared war, Canada was quick to support their British allies.  The people of Niagara were equally ready to put their best efforts forward.

One of the major centres of activity was Camp Niagara in Niagara-on-the-Lake where local units trained as well as those from Hamilton and the far west of Canada.  Even professional hockey players such as Turk Broda and Syl Apps spent time in Camp Niagara.  Soldiers practiced such skills as machine gun firing, gas mask use, bayonets, semaphore, rifling and more.  The 2nd/10th Dragoons had to march from St. Catharines to Niagara-on-the Lake to conduct their artillery training.  The St. Catharines Flying Club and similar clubs across Canada, under the direction of Murton Seymour, agreed to start to train pilots for the war.

The First Battalion of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment was fully active at the outbreak of the war.  Both young and old enlisted at the outbreak of the war.  The uniforms and equipment of the Canadian military were still largely based on those from the First World War.  Servicemen had some perks around the cities and towns.  For example, they were allowed free entry into the local YMCA’s as an opportunity for recreation. 

The City of St. Catharines, itself, witnessed a change in its manufacturing sector.  Many of the factories were retooled to make the implements of war.  The Collegiate even changed its programs to focus on factory work.  The Decew Power Station was expanded to provide more energy.  Women began to find jobs in the absence of men.  And wartime houses sprang up all over the city.  One St. Catharine company was indirectly present for a major capture of a Nazi figure.  When Rudolph Hess crash-landed in Scotland, the man who captured him, David McLean, held him at bay with a two-pronged pitchfork made at the Welland Vale Company in St. Catharines.

Everyone did his or her part to support the war.  Individuals collected scrap metal to be recycled for the war effort.  People also rationed their food, gas and other amenities – all as a part of doing their part.  Local companies such as McKinnons made raising money for the war a competition.  Neighbourhoods, schools, social clubs, churches, and ethnic groups all came together to hold dances, parades and other events to raise money for the war.  The Red Cross was a major recipient of these goodwill efforts. 

If there was one thing to take away from the April meeting, it was the fact that all of the Niagara area either directly or indirectly did their part to support the Canadian military during the Second World War.  A fact that we should all be proud and thankful for.

Graham Phair’s book, Snapshots of the Homefront: 1939 – 1941, is available at the St. Catharines Museum.  He is currently working a second book on World War II.  Keep an eye out for it.  

Posted in Historical Society, Meetings, St. Catharines, World War II | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Meeting Recap: The Datebooks of Ransom Goring

Posted by dsharron on March 28, 2009

On March 26, Mary Friesen introduced the Society to the Goring family of Niagara.  

Francis Goring was born in England in 1755.  On the eve of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Goring arrived in Quebec.  He soon moved to Fort Niagara where he worked as a clerk in the fur trade.  Through surviving letters and journal entries, it is apparent that Francis enjoyed living in the Niagara area.  He settled permanently and raised a family.

One of Francis’ children was Abraham Hamilton Goring who also settled in the area and had a family including a son – Ransom Goring (born in 1842).  Like his grandfather, Ransom was a dedicated journal writer.  He would comment on the day’s events regularly and would even take extra time on Sundays to reflect on the previous week and add to his entries.  Mary Friesen found three years of Ransom’s journals in the Niagara Falls Library and was compelled to transcribe and publish his words.  The journals span the years 1867 to 1869 – critical years in Canada’s history.  Not only does Ransom’s works chronicle the daily life of a Niagara resident but it also sheds light on a number of other interesting topics such as Canada’s militant feelings following the Fenian Raids, the spas of St. Catharines, weather, the social culture of the area, politics, education, courtship and marriage, and shipbuilding.  What better way to understand the past than through the words of one who experienced it.

Friesen’s book is entitled “Renascentur: The Datebooks of Ransom Goring”.  Renascentur was the family’s motto and means “They will rise again” in Latin.

Posted in Meetings, St. Catharines, Villages | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

April 24 Meeting – Some Vanished Villages of Niagara –

Posted by dsharron on April 21, 2008

Generations ago, there were villages throughout Niagara that held much promise for the future.  They had general stores, schools, churches, mills and more.  Fast forward 100 years and some of these villages are not even on a modern day map.  Perhaps merely a footnote in a history book.  What happened to these villages?  Why did they disappear?  And what evidence is left of their existence?

Join the St. Catharines Historical Society on April 24 at 7:30 in the St. Catharines Museum to hear Society President John Burtniak reveal the fate of these villages of yesteryear.

Posted in Meetings, Niagara, St. Catharines, Towns, Villages | Tagged: , , , | 1 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 »