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Family Life at Roselawn

Summer 2023 Newsletter

By Lynn Millar

As a great granddaughter of Charles E. and Alice E. Steele, Lynn Millar shares highlights about the history of the stately building as it relates to the original owners, the Carter and the Steele families, and into the current centre for arts, culture and events

The Cornwall period

Roselawn 1870 to 1902

Levi Cornwall was born in Port Colborne in 1806, the son of English immigrants. In 1818, when Levi was 12, his family moved to Howard in Chatham Kent Municipality.
Levi Cornwall married Sarah Hoover and they moved back to Port Colborne and raised their family of four, Hiram, Elizabeth, Ann and Jane.

In 1860, Levi built the original two-storey home. He was a farmer and lived with his wife and children in the house until 1870 when they moved back to Howard.

The Carter period

In 1870, Lewis Green Carter and Mary Fielden Schofield Carter purchased the acreage from Levi Cornwall. It was then the home was named “Roselawn” for a favourite flower of Mary’s, and the home was changed into the Italianate three-storey building. I have been told that the same master architect, John Latshaw, who built Ruthven in Cayuga also renovated Roselawn.

L.G. Carter

L.G. Carter was born in 1828, in Brighton NY, near Rochester. His parents Levi Carter and Hannah Green Carter then relocated to Port Colborne. L.G. Carter was a prominent businessman, owning a successful mercantile business as well as serving as the Postmaster and Justice of the Peace. He was known as a man of integrity who lived his Baptist faith, helping others and improving the village of Port Colborne.

As a testament to his faith he financed four Baptist Churches, Port Colborne (corner of Clarence/Catherine), Bethesda, Wainfleet and Perry Station.
L.G. and Mary had no children. They were the proud uncle and aunt of many nieces and nephews such as Dewitt Carter and Charles E. Steele, my great grandfather.

The 1881 census shows Mary’s sister Martha listed as living with the them. As Roselawn was a working farm, young men were hired as farmhands. In the census of 1881, a Robert Griffith, age 23, is listed. In 1896, Dewitt Carter’s diary states “Dec. 30th, Uncle Lewis Carter died.” In the 1901 census, Mary is listed as the Head, and living at Roselawn with her sister Martha E Schofield. Martha died in 1902 and Mary in 1904. Dewitt Carter’s diary again records the passage of the property to his cousin in his 1902 entry: “May 22 – CE Steele purchased Roselawn.”

The Steele period

Charles E. Steele and Uncle Lewis Green Carter

In 1902, Charles E. Steele and Alice Emeretta Zavitz Steele moved into Roselawn with their five children. Clara, age 14, Mervyn, 12, Forest, 10, Mary, 8, and Lewis, 4. Their youngest child, Dora Alice was born at Roselawn in 1904.

C.E. Steele was the nephew of L.G. Carter, as his mother Hannah B. Carter was L.G. Carter’s sister. The Carter and the Steele families were family-oriented Christians who lived their faith in their everyday life. They were ardent believers in education. C.E. Steele began his life as a farmer and then was in the gas business. As a public servant, he was active in the town’s activities and served as the Mayor of Port Colborne, and Warden of Welland County.

C.E. and Alice Z. Steele’s life at Roselawn was focused on family and Baptist church activities. The home itself had two renovations during the Steele’s life there. The first was the two-storey addition to the north which replaced the kitchen, added a second floor bath, a bedroom for the youngest Dora and back staircase to the kitchen below. Later in 1930, the sunroom and expanded bedroom areas were added to the west side.

The third floor was fully occupied by this growing family with two bedrooms, one for the three girls and one for the two boys. My grandmother, Mary Zavitz Steele Shore, told of watching out the front upper bedroom window as her beau Harry J. Shore came to visit down the long walk through the gate off Fielden Avenue.

As with the previous generations, faith and education were deemed very important and the boys went to Woodstock Baptist College and the girls to Moulton Baptist College in Toronto after elementary school in town. Youngest son Lewis was 16 years old when he signed up with the Port Colborne boys in 1914 to fight for King and Country in the First World War.

Throughout 47 years, Roselawn was a busy family home where all occasions were centred; Christmas gatherings, weddings, births and funerals. It had barns and horses and a working dairy called Rosalie Dairy.

As the children grew and married, the 10 grandchildren would regularly come by after high school to visit and help with chores: cutting the lawns, setting the den fireplace, and taking care of the horses.

Charles E. and Alice Steele wedding portrait, and 50 years later, on their golden anniversary

Charles E. and Alice Steele wedding portrait.

…and 50 years later, on their golden anniversary

Family Life At Roselawn

Clara, Mervyn, Forest and Mary

Family Life At Roselawn

Family get-togethers were simply family. For Charles and Alice’s 50th wedding anniversary the newspaper stated they had a quiet dinner at home with their family. Charles E. died in 1947 and Alice E. in 1948. As the couple aged, they had extra help with preparing meals. Alice’s cousin Sadie Augustine came to help as Alice became more frail. After Alice’s death, the family kept the home and rented it to the Lincoln Regiment until 1959. From 1902 until 1959 Roselawn was owned by the Steele family. In 1959, it was sold to become the Port Colborne Club.

Today, there are many great grandchildren living in the Port Colborne area who have fond ties to Roselawn. It is through the preservation work, of the Friends of Roselawn and the City of Port Colborne that this historical home has survived and is now a cultural and arts centre for all.