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The 1860s and Roselawn

Winter 2016 Newsletter

Our Roselawn mansion began its existence in an extraordinary decade in world history – the 1860s

What was it like to be alive then in the little village of Port Colborne?
Let’s look into the beautiful double parlour through the eyes of imagination and picture the Carters at home.

Surely the room would have been furnished in traditional Victorian style – perhaps there was an ornately carved sideboard or a round tea table set with fine china, and a couple of comfortable wing back chairs by the fireplace. It is likely that the bay windows were hung with heavy draperies in the fashion of the time.

Since people made their own music then, I wonder if they had a prized pianoforte in the corner.
I hope they had bookcases , displaying the family Bible and perhaps the works of favourite authors like Dickens whose “Great Expectations” was first published in 1861.

LEWIS GREEN CARTER (1828 – 1896) has been described as “a leading figure in the life of the village,” and “a moral and progressive force.” He was the proprietor of a general store by 1851 when he married Mary Fielden Scholfield. He became Post Master and agent for American Express and was instrumental in building the first church in Port Colborne – “free for all denominations of Christians.” He was active in the field of real estate for many years. In 1861 he purchased the house that would become known as ROSELAWN.

News travelled slowly in those days but since Port Colborne was situated by the canal and at the junction of two railways, we can probably assume that newspapers from around the province would make their way here.

We can picture Mr Carter reading the local papers and pamphlets and perhaps John Ross Robertson’s Toronto Telegram , or the Toronto Globe founded by the Reform politician and founder of Confederation, George Brown. On a table beside him we might see the St Catharines News or the Hamilton Spectator.
Let’s picture him seated by the fire and imagine the headlines he might have seen over the decade of the 1860s.

He would have learned of the death of SIR JOHN COLBORNE in 1863.
Colborne became Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada in 1833 and had been knighted for his military accomplishments.
During his tenure, he assisted in the funding of the new harbor at Gravelly Bay after the canal was extended southward to Lake Erie. The decision was made to name the new port after Sir John, PORT COLBORNE.

There would have been articles about the Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences in 1864, followed by the London Conference that ultimately led to the birth of CANADA on July 1, 1867 with its provinces – Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
He would have learned about Louis Riel and the Metis of the Red River Settlement and the Manitoba Act of 1870.

He might have heard of the Great Universal Exhibition of Paris in 1867 which showcased Emperor Louis Napoleon III’s energetic programme to rebuild Paris. Gaslight illuminated glorious buildings – the architectural inspiration for our “SECOND EMPIRE” mansion.

It must have been disquieting to read about the AMERICAN CIVIL WAR so close to home and to hear for the first time those names that have resounded through the years including Grant, Lee, Jackson, Sherman, Antietam, Harper’s Ferry, Gettysburg and Appomattox.
He would have known of the Emancipation Proclamation and the assassination of Lincoln.

What an eventful time to have been alive!! Perhaps now, we should leave the Carters contemplating the enormity of the events of the 1860s.
In the next issue, we’ll look at local issues in the same period.


Carole Black Brisley