Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Backus-Page Museum - War of 1812

Elgin researchers with roots involved with the War of 1812 will find the May 10th weekend at the Backus-Page museum a valuable event. Elgin OGS will have a small display at the event.

Chief Mazeppa - Talbot Street St Thomas Ontario Tourist Attraction - Talbot Times Tidbit

St Thomas Times Journal
7 July 1959
Page 1, c1 - with Photo
Submitted by Carol Van Harn
Mystery Solved

            The mystery surrounding the disappearance of Chief Mazeppa, the cigar store Indian which was a tourist attraction on Talbot Street for many years has been cleared up.  At the end of this month, Chief Mazeppa will again stand on Talbot Street in front to the remodeled Camera Shop to interest visitors to the city.  A Plaque inscribed as follows will be attached to the life-size figure: “Chief Mazeppa”.  This cast metal statue is one of the last of the famous tribe of Cigar Store Indians on the North American continent.  It was acquired in 1883 for display purposes outside the old Honsinger Cigar Store.  Its first owner was Ben Honsinger, later being passed on to Pat Honsinger, Perry David and I. B. Carnes, who eventually sold it to A. E. Maxwell, retired tobacconist, whose retail and wholesale business was conducted at this location until 1954.”

            Chief Mazeppa is presently undergoing a face lifting in a local workshop in readiness for his debut a the end of this month.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Old Home Town Boys Make Good - Talbot Times In Review - December 1986


“My first recollection of St. Thomas was the day I decided to take my baby brother, Percy Webb, on a sled to my father’s china store, in the old Claris opera house block in Talbot street, from our home in Medcalfe street, where I was born,” writes Mrs. M. E. Daniels, a practicing nurse in Los Angeles, California. “We had our two dolls made from long stockings.”

As we reached the Michigan Central Railroad tracks at the Medcalfe street crossing a train was almost upon us. The street covered with snow and ice went downgrade into the tracks. I stuck my foot under a rail and laid my head on the sleigh to keep my little brother and the sled from slipping and the train passed over us. People on the other side of the crossing stood in horror, expecting us to be torn to pieces; but I got up and trotted on with the sleigh and my little brother to N. Webb’s China Hall. You saw that sign advertising my father’s business on the rail fences all over the country.

“I recall on Sunday, in July 1885, of father taking me to see Jumbo’s body lying beside the Grand Trunk tracks, with a large piece of flesh torn from one huge leg.”

“I also recall sitting on the lap of P. T. Barnum’s famous midget General Tom Thumb, in the Claria Opera House over Webb’s China Hall. I attended the matinees for children and admired the watch and chain Tom Thumb wore.

“And then I recall holding my father’s hand at Alma College and seeing the cornerstone laid for McLachlin Hall. My father was one of the members of the College board and we entertained members of the faculty at our home, then at Queen and Wellington streets. My father died there on April 7, 1889. We moved to Margaret street from Medcalfe street where my brother Frank was born. How well do I remember my mother in her dark tea-gown showing me the baby basket a short time before Frank arrived. I was taken across the street to “Eden Lawn”, where my mother’s father A. J. Allworth, manager of the Southern Loan and Savings Company lived. John Farley and the M.A. Gilberts were neighbors of my grandparents.

Returning to our home my father carried me in his arms and as we entered our house, the doctor was coming down the winding stairs. There was a fishing basket in the hall with divided compartments. The doctor said to me: “You see that basket — one side had a colored baby and the other a white baby. The side I
 opened had your little brother in it.”

A Great Actor

“How I adored my little brother,” Mrs. Daniels continues. Frank Webb, who became a great actor under the professional name of Frank Allworth. Years later as I sat in a box in the Mason Opera House in Los Angeles, to see the play, “It pays To Advertise,” Frank Allworth, the star of a hundred Broadway plays gave his usual marvelous performance. I think of his passing later on the stage in Philadelphia in the arms of Lenore Ulrich, his leading lady. That made the front page news of the world and came over the March of Time film in 1936 of Frank Allworth in action. Recordings of his magnificent voice are in the archives of the Lambs Club in New York City, also that film for future generations to hear and see. He was another St. Thomas boy who made good on the stage.

How well do I remember also the first day that my brother Percy, attended school in the red brick school (the old Central) in Wellington street. I laid an apple on his desk. Shortly after the teacher appeared in a black dress. Her parents had lost their lives in the Port Stanley excursion train wreck and holocaust on Talbot street. She was so brave and so calm after that awful tragedy.

Percy Webb, who was a master technical sergeant of the United States Marine Corps and a great writer, made the front pages of the papers as Percy Webb, the Rudyard Kipling of America. Barnes Gibson Raymond Division of the Association Spring Corporation of Detroit and Ann Arbor published a card carrying the caption “I Am Old Glory.” I have letters from the company’s head quoting my brother’s now famous words. “I Am Old Glory,” stating: “I firmly believe that your brother’s words will be handed down as long as Old Glory waves. We obtained permission to use the inscription from Brigadier General Robert L. Denig of the United States publicity bureau. We have received quite a number of offers from others who would like to reproduce the idea but we have not tried to commercialize it.”

My brother Percy Webb passed on in May 1945, in New England Hospital at Atlantic City. He had full military honors and would have rested in Arlington Cemetery, Washington, but wished to sleep with his wife and her family in Waterbury, Connecticut. Percy Webb is another St. Thomas boy who made good in the field of letters. His books and writings are well known.

“Yes, I lived in the St. Thomas of boardwalks and long dresses trailing in the dust,” Mrs. Daniel states. “I lived in the era of gas jets and copper-lined bathtubs. I remember our first residential telephone a box on the wall and a crank that we turned to ring central. Professor Jones was my music master and I was so little I could hardly sit on the stool of the big square piano. Mother was an Episcopalian: father was a Bible class teacher in First Methodist Church. Father Flannery from the pulpit of the Catholic Church commended father for supplying dishes etc. for teas given in that church. Father Flannery would say: How much do we owe you, Nat?” and Father would reply: “I’ll send you the bill.” Which he never did. He and Father were great friends.

Crossley and Hunter the evangelists had their meetings in the Central Methodists Church, called the Crossley and Hunter Church in 1889. Dr. Crossley gave me a small Bible marked:” Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, Oh, God, my Strength and my Redeemer.” I think now of my parents, my little brothers and I listening to a chapter from the Bible then kneeling in prayer before my Father left for his China Hall. On some of our billboards were painted these words: “The Family that Prays Together, Stays Together.” Memory to me proves the immortality of the soul. The roots of my life are in Canada, the Land of the Maple, and its children. God bless them all and keep them good citizens, wherever they may be.”

Mrs. Daniels maiden name was Mabel E. Webb.

Submitted by;    Mary E. Young, Santa Rosa, Ca. December 1986

Weekly Dispatch Elgin County Website

The Weekly Dispatch online image extractions are pretty much complete on the Elgin OGS website, to view visit:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Interesting St Thomas Ontario Canada link

Interesting historical photographs and information for researchers can be found on a Facebook site "You know you grew up in St. Thomas when" located at:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Royal Canadian Legion - Rodney Branch 525 historical documents

Researchers searching in the Rodney area of Elgin County may find the following site a valuable source of information.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Eagle's Nest - A Talbot Times Tidbit

St Thomas Times Journal
9 May 1959
Second Section
Page 13, c6

Submitted by Carol Van Harn
Eagle’s Nest, Original Name of Village on Talbot Road, Aldborough Township
          Every once in a while the question is asked:  Where did the village of Eagle located on No. 3 Highway 26 miles west of St Thomas, and 3 miles south of West Lorne, get its name?  The answer is:  From the eagles, which in the early days of the Talbot Settlement (and still do) make their home in the vicinity.
          Originally the place now known as Eagle was called Eagle’s Nest.  Mrs Sidney Cosan, of Eagle (R. R. 2 West Lorne) tells The Times Journal that the late Daniel Humphries, one of the early settlers of the district, had given her the information that in a large balm tree, standing in early days at the southwest corner of the Talbot road and the road running north from the lake, the bald Eagles built their nests, several of them in one tree, and there raised their young.  Thus the crossroads came to be commonly known as Eagle’s Nest.  Later as the place developed and a post office was established there the ‘Nest’ was dropped from the name and it became plain Eagle.

Eagle in Early Days
          Back in the 60’s and 70’s, perhaps earlier, Eagle was one of the most important points on the famous Talbot road.  That was natural because traffic, mostly horse drawn of course, was quite heavy from the lake, where there was a dock, northward, as well as along the Talbot Road.  When the railroads (the Canada Southern and the Great Western) built their lines east and west across Southwestern Ontario, the importance of Eagle, along with Wallacetown, Fingal, New Glasgow, Iona and other places along the Talbot Road dwindled and such places as West Lorne also known as Bismarck, Shedden, Dutton and Iona Station in West Elgin, sprang into being and Rodney, in 1870 with only 100 population developed into a more prosperous village.
          Just how important a place Eagle was in those early days can be secured from Armstrong and Company’s Gazetter and Directory published in 1872.  It gives the population as 150 served by mails daily and says:  ‘The village has a good shipping harbor on Lake Erie, where a large quantity of timber, lumber, shingles and staves, and all kinds of farm produce are exported.  The village contains a Baptist Church, erected in 1868 at a cost of $1,000 (still in use); a good school, etc.
          Mowbray and Loud’s Steam Saw mill has capacity to cut one million feet of lumber annually and the planning mills and shingle factory are carried on extensively; 12 hands are employed and a 40 h. p. engine is used.
          P. J. Lindeman and Co’s large planning mills, door, sash and blind manufactory is wrought with equal energy and success; 6 hands are employed.
          ‘There are two good hotels.  The Elgin House kept by John Partridge and the Dominion Hotel, kept by John Livingston and both worthy of patronage and supply public comfort and accommodation.’

Still an Eagles Nest
          Today, although Eagle is a different looking place from what is was in the 60’s and 70’s or 80’s it is an important and busy point on the busy No. 3 highway at the intersection of highway No. 76, leading to West Lorne.  And while the large balm tree that stood on the southwest corner of the crossroads, where the bald eagles raised their young, is gone the name ‘Eagles Nest’, remains.  It is carried by a well kept restaurant on the northeast corner, where once stood a busy blacksmith shop.  The eagles too, inhabit the neighbourhood but are more inclined now to build their nests in the tall trees that border the lake.  Incidentally, shooting or otherwise killing of bald eagles is prohibited by Ontario law.