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Monthly Archives: March 2008

The Brockville Volunteer Firemen

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Hook & Ladder Co. - Brockville Volunteer Firemen ca1890

Brockville Volunteer Hook & Ladder Company No. 1 – ca.1890

[Listed individually below, along with their daytime job, if known]

Back Row (from left): Patrick S. Roberts (railwayman), John York, William J. Reynolds, John L. Upham (bookseller), James Connors (moulder), W. Kelly, James H. Stewart (butcher), W. Ezra Amond (labourer)

Middle Row (from left): John Woods, Henry Mathen (boat livery), Michael Collins (machinist), William Mathen, D. Brady, John Flanigan, James H. Hall (carter), George K. Dewey (tax collector).

Front Row (from left): John R. Reid, Henry Jennings, J. Owens, Thomas Miller (moulder), William Dodd, James S. Dodds, Joshua E. Timlick (machinist), John Botham (packer), William McKay, Thomas Nicol, William H. Harrison (stoves).

Early Steam Pumper
Here’s a picture of one of the earliest steam fire pumpers remaining from the 1860s.
[Any of these photographs can be viewed full size in a separate window by double clicking on the picture on this page until you reach the enlarged version further in the system]

Black Line 2

Some Fire Company History

The creation of a formally organized volunteer fire company was one of the first important pieces of business undertaken by the first Board of Police created in Brockville in 1832.

The year before, this item was published in the pages of the Recorder on November 24, 1831: “Through the spirited exertions of Mr. Norton and other individuals, means were lately raised, a fire engine purchased, and a fire company formed in the village of Prescott. Brockville is thus outdone.”

With this impetus, the members of the Police Board representing the citizens of the newly incorporated village of Brockville passed a motion to set aside 125 Pounds for the purchase of one of the latest hand-pumped fire engines. They then ordered that Alexander Grant be appointed captain and engineer of a fire company of 48 persons. Each member was to provide themselves with a proper fireman’s uniform at their own expense.

Local blacksmith, Stephen Richards was sent off on a scouting trip to the U.S. to find a suitable engine. On March 4, 1833 Mr. Richards appeared before the board and recommended that one of the latest and largest models made by the John J. Rogers & Co. of New York be purchased for 125 Pounds. The order was placed and this was the beginning of the Brockville Fire Company.

For over fifty years, the Fire Companies were operated by volunteers, but in 1886 the first group of paid firemen were hired by the Town of Brockville, who then established a fire department. The first fire brigade was made up of John Hall,(later to be Fire Chief), William Seaton, Joshua Bedlow, and Thomas Devereaux.

At the same time, a new Hook & Ladder Company was organized with 33 members of the volunteer group. This group, it appears, operated out of one of the older fire halls in the east end on King Street just east of Garden St. Twenty-seven of this group are shown in the photograph above.

Brockville Fire Co ladder wagon & volunteers
Some of the civilian members of the Brockville Hook & Ladder Co. posing on their wagon in 1899.


Sources: The first group photograph of the Hook & Ladder Co. appears to have been taken away from Brockville, perhaps before or after a firemen’s parade, because the stone building behind them is not recognizable. A short history of the Brockville Fire Company, accompanied by this picture and others, was printed in the 1906 Souvenir supplement published by the Brockville Recorder on the occasion of the Old Boys’ Re-union held in Brockville from July 28th to August 3, 1906. Many of the volunteer firemen’s first names and their regular jobs were gleaned from other sources.

The other two photos are from an extensive collection put together by the late Merv McKay. Merv was a career fireman, as were some of his forebears.

copyright March 2008 - Doug Grant, ON

The Halladay Block

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175-210 King St. W., Brockville

Built in Brockville

The two photographs below show views of one of Brockville’s more interesting west-end commercial blocks at two points in its history. This property on the south side of King St. W. east of Mill St. was originally owned by the Daniel Jones family and contained the large Jones home and grounds. In the 1880s the property was purchased by Ezra H. Halladay (ca.1839 – 1886) who was also elected Mayor of Brockville in 1883. Halladay had this large block of stores, offices and apartments built on King St. In addition he also opened a new street between Kincaid & Mill (now lower John St.) which has become misspelled as “Halliday “St. The Jones house was retained and the remaining land was subdivided into house lots.

Ezra Halladay - ca1866

Ezra H. Halladay as he was photographed in the 1860s. He was elected Mayor in 1883, but passed away in 1886 at the age of 47.

175-201 King St W - Halladay Block, Brockville, ON
ca.1920

In this earlier picture, the Halladay Block was home to these merchants (from Mill St. now John St. eastward): [201] James L Greenwood, grocery; [197] D. Derbyshire Co. Ltd., butter & cheese, etc.; [193] Robert H. Smart, hardware; [183] Robert Sheridan, furniture & undertaker; [175] Alfred H. Swarts, furniture& undertaker; [171] N. Stuart Cuthbertson, real estate & insurance; [169] Lovell & Christmas Ltd., butter & cheese. Equally interesting is the garage and gasoline station on the near corner (the big letters say: “VULCANIZING”). The old wood framed building being used at that time was the early grocery store of William Gilmour.

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Smart’s Hardware - Halladay Block fire Nov 28 -1949
November 28, 1949

The disaster of fire has struck this block at least four times. The first fire was in 1924 from which businesses were able to rebuild. But this picture shows the widespread damage following the fire of November 27, 1949 which started in the Smart’s Hardware business and spread in each direction. The Halladay Block was mostly destroyed and could not be re-used. The present buildings were subsequently built but in recent times were also involved in unexpected fires. The service station on the right was then operated by Theo R. Gates and John F. Sheppard.

[For any architectural buffs, it is my guess that the architect for the Halladay Block was Owen E. Liston. This is solely based on the fact that he was advertising his office here on the second floor in 1886.]

Sources: A copy of the earlier 1920 photo is in the collection of the Brockville Museum. The second post-fire 1949 photo was taken by Walter C. Barkley, a professional photographer in Brockville and was kindly loaned to me by the late Ronald C. Barkley of Mallorytown. The portrait of Erza H. Halladay was in the Reid family collection and was taken by A.C. McIntyre about 1866. The details on store owners was taken from a Vernon’s Brockville Business Directory published in 1919.

[Any of these photographs can be viewed full size in a separate window by double clicking on the picture on this page until you reach the enlarged version further in the system]

copyright March 2008 - Doug Grant, ON

King Street, looking west from Market Square – ca.1869

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King St & Market looking west ca1869

[This photograph can be viewed full size in a separate window by double clicking on the picture on this page until you reach the enlarged version further into the system]

This is one of the most important and informative photographs of King Street that has been found. It is a real encapsulated moment on a quiet sunny summer day when Brockville was unaffected by modern technology.

Some of the signs that are visible here, help to date the scene. On the left is Campbell’s Hotel (the former Willson’s Hotel) while operated by John L. Campbell. He owned it from 1867-1873. On the right is the International Studio of Photography, purchased from A.C. McIntyre in 1869 by George B. Murray, who moved here from Montreal. This photograph is probably one of his first advertising efforts The smooth stone-faced building was known as the City Block.

It is possible to see how King Street takes a bend as it goes westerly. In the middle background is the round-cornered Castle Block at Kincaid St., and next to it, the open grounds of the David Jones homestead. At the far end we can see the pointed tower over the Town Hall (now the Arts Centre).

In the first block on the south is George Landon’s Saloon, and beyond that is he big black boot outside William Hope’s Shoe & Boot Store. Further on we can see the golden key above Field’s Hardware in the Round Corner Block.

On the north side beyond the City Block are Edward Lawless’ Grocery, and John McMullen & Co’s. Bookstore. Just beyond the billboard is George Houston’s new grocery and liquor store. At the far end of the block is the jewellery store of Thomas B. Steacy (under the big watch).

Then beyond Court House Ave. is the drug store of William M. Fulford. This business was later taken over by his younger brother, George T. Fulford. The sign says “Exchange Broker and Tickets” Just west of Fulford is Robert Lipsett, selling shoes and boots at the sign of the ‘fancy boot’.

The road surface is dirt, smooth and dry, being groomed and cleaned regularly by labourers working for the Street Surveyor. The wooden sidewalks are about 10 feet wide, and the intersections are lighted by gas lamps, lit every evening at dusk by the town lamplighter.

Source: The original of this great photograph is in the collection of the Brockville Museum, having been given to the Brockville & District Historical Society about 31 years ago, by the family of Col. F.C.“Ted” Curry.

copyright March 2008 - Doug Grant, ON

Hon. Christopher F. Fraser, Brockville Provincial Cabinet Minister [b.1839 – d.1894]

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Notable Brockvillians

C.F. Fraser 1873

This was the official government photograph of the Hon. C.F. Fraser, taken in 1873. He was the Commissioner of Public Works for Ontario from 1874-1894.

Sources: This portrait of C.F. Fraser is in the photographic collection of the Library Archives Canada, #PA 28663


The Story of His Life and Career in Politics

Christopher Finlay Fraser was a young Brockville lawyer who rose to the post of Commissioner of Public Works in the Ontario government.

He was born on October 24, 1839 at Brockville to John S. Fraser, a shoemaker, and his wife, Sarah Burke. He was born and raised a Roman Catholic, and promoted the interests of his religion all his life.

Because his parents did not have enough money to send him to school, young Christopher made up his mind to work his way, making whatever money was needed to provide his own schooling. One of his jobs as a youth was as a “printer’s devil” at the Brockville Recorder. He could work at a variety of jobs and go to school between stints of work.

He was apparently quite bright, and was able to express himself with brilliance, force and wit when a mere boy. He finished his high school education at the Seminaire de Quebec about the year 1859, and became a student-at-law in the office of Albert N. Richards, a Brockville lawyer who later became Lt.-Gov. of British Columbia.

In 1864 Fraser passed his legal examinations, and went to work with Alonzo Lafayette, a young lawyer in Brockville. In this office he began to handle cases on his own, having been admitted as an attorney in Easter Term, 1864. He was called to the bar early in 1865, and became a partner with Alonzo Lafayette in April 1865.

On January 10th, 1866, he married his partner’s sister, Mary Ann Lafayette, the daughter of John Lafayette. He also turned his attention to politics as a young lawyer, supporting the Liberal side. At the first Dominion Election in 1867, he offered himself as a candidate but was narrowly defeated. Four years latter he tried again in South Grenville for the Provincial seat, and was similarly defeated this time by McNeil Clark.

He was also during this time strongly working for Catholic rights, helping to form the Ontario Roman Catholic League about 1869. When Mr. Clark died in 1871, his South Grenville seat became vacant. Fraser received the nomination of his party, and was elected in March of 1872 to the Ontario Parliament.

A year later, his abilities being recognized, C.F. Fraser was appointed Provincial Secretary and Registrar in the Mowat administration. He held this post until April 4, 1874, when he became Commissioner of Public Works. He was re-elected again for South Grenville in 1875, and carried on in his cabinet position. He was made a Queen’s Counsel in 1876.

Christopher F. Fraser

In 1879 he was defeated by F.J. French of Prescott by 137 votes. Soon after, in the riding of Brockville, he was successful by defeating David Mansell, the Conservative candidate. Mr. Fraser was successfully elected as the MPP for Brockville in 1879, 1883, 1886, and 1890. He remained as Minister in charge of the Department of Public Works until 1894. He succeeded in having the Brockville Asylum for the Insane built just east of Brockville in his last term.

In 1868 he and his wife had purchased the stylish brick home in the centre of town at 8 James St. W. (still standing). This house remained in family hands until 1963. Christopher and Mary Ann Fraser had a daughter, Hattie born in 1868. She resided there with her mother, who died in 1929, and then until her own death in 1955.

Fraser was a lifelong member of St. Francis Xavier Church, a founder of the Roman Catholic League of Ontario, and president of the Roman Catholic Literary Association of Brockville.

He maintained a law office in Brockville in partnership with A.E. Richards for a while, and later with Edmund J. Reynolds in the Comstock Block.

In 1894, the Hon. C.F. Fraser resigned from the Government and was appointed Inspector of Registry Offices. Shortly afterwards he died at Toronto on August 24, 1894.

copyright March 2008 - Doug Grant, ON

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