Saturday, May 17, 2014
Bela Shaw - First Postmaster - Rebel Suspect?
St Thomas Times Journal
17 July 1958 – Page 16, c4
Submitted by Carol Van Harn
BELA SHAW, FIRST POSTMASTER HERE, A REBEL SUSPECT
Bela Shaw, believed to have been the first of at least one the earliest of St Thomas postmasters, had a most interesting and in some respects painful experience while a resident of the little settlement that had is beginning in the Kettle Creek Valley and gradually climbed the hill to the east to what is now West Talbot Street. Shaw, according to Judge C. O. Ermatinger’s “The Talbot Regime”, was an amiable American, with republican ideas, became in the rebellious years (the 1830’) a suspect and after having been prosecuted - or as some thought, persecuted - finally left the country.
Shaw, like many others of that time came to the St Thomas district from the United States, probably Ohio, sometime it is presumed, in the 1820’s. Judge Ermatinger classifies him as one of the earliest business men, the then thriving village and records that he succeeded the Bigelow’s in the black salts and potash trade, which was established by the head of the Bigelow family, Lucius. This industry, then quite important was located in the valley near the VanBuskirk brewery, but apparently Shaw also had a store or business of some sort in premises at the top of the hill on Talbot Street near King Street.
Just when Shaw was appointed postmaster is not known. It may have been at the time the first post office was established in 1831, or later, nor is the actual time of his dismissal or resignation from that post known. The facts concerning his connection with the rebellious element and his decision to return to the United States are recorded in “The Talbot Regime”, as follows:
‘The rebellion was the cause of many incidents which would have been amusing were they not fraught with serious consequences to the persons most affected. Americans and advanced Liberals were alike regarded with extreme suspicion. Many were the victims of prosecutions, some of petty persecutions. It has been seen that John Talbot’s Liberal newspaper at St Thomas was suppressed. The inoffensive merchant, Bela Shaw of the same place, being an American, whose store was a sort of Liberal rendezvous, was regarded with the greatest suspicion. He was invited to join the Volunteers who went to meet Dr Duncombe (one of the leaders in the movement) and his army, and considered it impolitic to decline the invitation. He was not a man of war and in witnessing the rough treatment and sportation of some of his political friends by the loyalist. After his return Colonel Mahlon Burwell made an effort to have him imprisoned, but could not prevail on the magistrates to do so on insufficient evidence. Eventually he sold out and left the country for the States, where he lived to a good age.”
Bela Shaw was succeeded in the postmastership by Edward Ermatinger, whose place of business was in the block at the south-east corner of Talbot and Church streets.