The following article was published in our periodic newsletters. The Friends of Roselawn Centre Newsletter is one of many benefits of our membership.
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Life In The Village

Spring 2019 Newsletter

Carole Black-Brisley Friends of Roselawn Historian

By Carole Black-Brisley, Friends Or Roselawn Historian

In past newsletters, I have followed the history of the Roselawn mansion and the lives of Lewis and Mary Carter who
lived there from 1861 until Lewis’s death in 1896. I may have left you with the image of Port Colborne as an idyllic and peaceful spot.
This is undoubtedly true in part, but as always, there is another side to the story.

In 1870, with a population of 1,030, Port Colborne was incorporated as a Village. About that time, some citizens had become alarmed about lawlessness in the area and in 1871 they appealed to the Provincial Secretary for the appointment of a magistrate.

An east-side storekeeper, Joshua Manly wrote: “There is a vast throng of people here from opening to close of navigation and all strangers and Foreigners act as they please; in fact, there is no safety or protection for anyone…” And a petition signed by 54 citizens stated that “frequently large fleets of vessels are detained by contrary winds and consequently large influxes of sailors are added to the population.”

There were 21 taverns and 3 liquor stores on East and West Streets that year. In 1873 a new Town Hall was built on the southeast corner of Charlotte and King Streets
where the Belmont is today. A “Lock-Up” with three cells was added at the rear of the building, so the new local magistrate was able to deal with incidents quickly.

Don Anger in his book “The Age of Sail” recorded several excerpts from the local papers in the 1870s and 80s regarding the issue of law and order. I am reproducing a few of them here:

Telegraph Aug 13, 1876: “Served Him Right” One of the drill men at the Port Colborne Harbour, having missed some of his cordwood for some time, thought he  would try and find out the culprits. Charging one of the remaining sticks with gunpowder, and putting it in a position where it would likely be taken first, he awaited
further developments. The same day, there was a terrific explosion in the home of a neighbor, which brought the residents of the locality to see what was the matter. As the thief will think it is better economy to pay for his own wood rather than a new stove very often, and as he was pretty well punished, the owner of the wood has
agreed not to prosecute.

Tribune Feb 20, 1880: The other morning Mr. Patrick Fahey found his roost stripped of 6 chickens, the thief having chopped their heads off and left them in the coop. That was where the thief made his mistake. “Blood will tell,” and in this case it did tell where the chicken embezzler lived, by a bloody trail on the beautiful
snow from the coop to a resident not far away. Constable Boyle was seen at work and landed two prisoners (alive) and five chickens (dead).

Tribune Nov 13 1891: Some covetous cuss walked off with half a dozen pairs of pants from the front of Mr Stanley’s store the other day. If the thief will call at the store, he may procure coats and boots to match at ½ price.

Tribune July 21 1893: The lads who bathe in the harbor without even a fig-leaf for covering up are going to get into trouble. Sadly, there were many young men who were homeless and unable to find work or shelter. They were often treated without sympathy and found themselves in the lock-up behind the Town Hall for a night and then on their way out of town. Our Mr. Lewis Carter who was known and loved for his philanthropy and many kindnesses to the citizens of Port Colborne, disagreed with those who saw these men simply as miscreants and vagabonds and set out to help them.

This wonderful oil portrait of Lewis Green Carter hangs at the present Baptist Church in Port Colborne. I was very excited to discover it and was given gracious permission to photograph it.

Telegraph Jan 25, 1878: L.G. Carter with commendable liberality, is erecting a building for the accommodation of deserving men who are unable to procure  employment. The building will be 20 X 14 and will accommodate a dozen persons at night. Comfortable bunks will be provided and the inmates will be served two
meals a day. The building will be heated and the whole expense of maintaining the establishment will be borne by Mr. Carter.

I have spent some years now researching our mansion and the people who lived there in the last half of the 1800s and reporting my findings to you in our newsletter. I have come to admire Lewis Green Carter as a remarkable man, a wealthy and successful businessman who strove to better the lives of the citizens of Port Colborne. Our restoration of Roselawn is not only the preservation of a fine architectural treasure but a tribute to a citizen without equal… Lewis G. Carter 1828 – 1896