Port Flamboro / Browns Wharf
By Scott Forsyth

     If you look through any Directory from the 1850's and into the 1900's you will find many pages of towns and villages in Wentworth County. Some have disappeared over the years and many have survived. Each has a brief description along with a short list of business's and their proprietors. Of course this is not a complete list of citizens as there would have been a fee to have your name listed. Aldershot, also known as “Aldershott” is always mentioned but on a few occasions you will find “Port Flamboro”.  The location is 5 miles from Hamilton and 1 mile from the Waterdown/Aldershot Station on the Great Western Railway and the nearest post office was Aldershot.

     When Alexander Brown (1812-1880), son of Colonel Alexander Brown (1776-1852) of Waterdown, married the widow Sarah Applegarth (1815-1869) in 1842, he acquired all the property on Lot 6 and part of Lot 7 in the Broken Front and first Concession that Sarah had inherited when her father William Applegarth died in 1839. It consisted of the land where La Salle Park is and extending north past the railway tracks to the border line of Concession 1 & 2. The eastern property line is at St. Mathews Ave. and running straight down to the Bay. Going through his will we learn that William Applegarth Sr. owned lots 6, 7, & 8 so in order to divide the property fairly and equally he split up Lot 7 between his two children and his widow Martha. So Sarah also received a small portion (30 acres) of the east side of Lot 7.
     This William's brother John (1784-1854), who operated the mill in Hidden Valley had owned the remaining property in the first and second concession starting at the northern half of Lots 7 & 8 and extended north to the falls in Waterdown.
    The dividing line for Sarah's portion ran from an Oak tree on the shores of Burlington Bay near the wharf, north through the land where the La Salle Towers apartment building is, and along the embankment west of Park Avenue W. to Plains Road. This allowed road access to what would become Browns Wharf, not to be confused with the “Browne's Wharf” across the bay in Hamilton at the foot of MacNab or James Street owned by M.W. Browne.
     The Applegarth homestead was left for his widow Martha and the remaining portion of Lot 7 and all of Lot 8 from the shore of Burlington Bay to just north of Plains Road was willed to his son William Applegarth Jr. (1832-1880) when he became of age. The western boundary is the present day Boothman Ave. This William was responsible for the building of Oaklands Park & Pleasure Grounds.  He lost all of this property around 1858-59 due to financial problems.
     It is not known exactly when Alexander Brown had his toll road built or where the gate was but we know it ran along his property line between Lot 6 & 7 in the 1st & 2nd concession which is now known as Waterdown Road. We do know that a bylaw was passed by the Gore District Municipal Council on February 15th, 1849 to lay out the road. It also mentions “that no part of the public funds of the District be applied towards the payment of the road”.
     Back in 1888 when the county was thinking of removing the tolls it was recorded as being 2.5 miles in length and a value of $3000. If this measurement was taken from the wharf the end of the road would be around the Line between the 1st & 2nd concession. If it was taken from Plains Road it would be closer to the intersection with the Old Waterdown Road.
     We first hear of a toll gate keeper in the vicinity on the 1871 Census close to the 2nd concession. A different person is the keeper on the census for 1881 and by 1891 that census had only one toll gate keeper mentioned in Aldershot. It was the one located at Plains Road and Kings Road.
      This toll road allowed the farmer direct road access from Waterdown to the wharf to bring their grain for export and lumber to export and fuel the steamboats. Those who did not want to pay the toll would use what is called the Old Waterdown Road to the east which still exists in Concession 2 and continues down at Plains Road and now called St. Mathews Avenue, close to the border line of Lots 6 & 5. The Snake road was out of the way and it too was a toll road.
     Alexander Brown is listed as a farmer on the 1861 Census but his other titles during the next two decades include Justice of the Peace, Post Master, Forwarder, Commission Merchant and Reeve and Warden for Wentworth County from 1865-67. It is not known how much time he actually spent at his wharf. His son, A.W. Brown still operated it into the 1900's. He never remarried after the death of his wife Sarah Applegarth.
     A directory from 1865 lists four residents in Port Flamboro. Of course Alexander Brown is mentioned and he is also on the Aldershot directory. Others include Henry Mullin, a laborer, Thomas Schouldice, tavern keeper and a steamboat captain named John Walsh. If we look at the Census from 1861 we get a better idea of these and other people.
     Captain John Walsh and his wife Elizabeth came from England. In 1861 they lived in a single story frame house and owned 5 cows and 2 sheep. John Walsh operated the steamboat ferry that ran between Hamilton and Oaklands Park & Pleasure Ground from Browns Wharf. This boat was built in 1850 by James Good a foundry owner at Queen & Younge Street in Toronto. The 25 horsepower, 50 ton berth boat was the first steamer built to replace the slower horse-boats that ran to Toronto Island which back then, was actually a Peninsula. The boat was owned by the Privat brothers who operated the Peninsula Hotel and they named it Victoria.

     The ship made its first appearance on Burlington Bay near the end of the season in September 1853 shuttling visitors from Dundas to Hamilton. The city was hosting the Provincial Exhibition the following month so this service was probably needed. It was also quicker and more enjoyable than the “noisy and dusty macadamized road” between the city and Dundas. Louis Privat advertised that it would also take freight at fair charges and tow schooners through the canal. The boat returned to Toronto at the end of the season.
     In the spring of 1856 William Applegarth is selling 50 acres of land laid out in lots from 2 to 5 acres fronting on the gravel road to Wellington Square, Nelson Township and Toronto. In a newspaper ad he states that a steamboat is being prepared to run from Browns wharf to the city and that the lots will be within a quarter mile from where there will be a Station of the Toronto Railway and that these would “add materially to the value of the land”. The boat and train station would also add value to him and his investors as Oaklands Park & Pleasure Grounds would be opening the following year.
      Sometime during the same year the steamer Victoria was sold to George Tate of the Great Western Railway and still continued plying between Toronto and the Island until 1857 when it was sold to a Joint Stock Company in the Hamilton area. According to an article in the newspaper it was being repaired under the direction of “Mr Applegarth”. It was advertised to run from Browns wharf to the Railway wharf in Hamilton touching at Oaklands at a newly erected dock. Also offered were excursions around the Bay.
     When Oaklands changed hands due to financial problems with William Applegarth, the boat was put up for auction on April 11th, 1860. It was then that we learn Peter Carroll of Carroll's Point fame, Dennis Moore, tin-ware merchant in Hamilton and Applegarth were likely the owners of the Victoria. It is also likely that this is when John Walsh purchased the vessel. The steamer Victoria continued for the next four years sailing on Burlington Bay going to Victoria Pleasure Grounds at Browns wharf, Oaklands, the Beach and Rock Bay House by Carroll's Point, later renamed Bayview by the proprietor at the time, George Midwinter in June 1883.
     On April 20th, 1864 a new steamer was launched at Browns wharf. She was built there by A Leclaire of Hamilton over the winter and named ``Princess of Wales``. This boat replaced the Victoria which was too slow and not large enough for the pleasure seekers from Hamilton. “The dimensions were as follows: 120 feet keel, 25 feet over all guards and eight feet hold”. The ship could also be steered from both ends. She ran regular trips to Oaklands and the beach from Hamilton as well as moonlight excursions on the bay. There is an error in the article that gives the location as “West” Flamborough.

     In August 1865 an article in the paper informed people that Captain John Walsh and his steamer Princess of Wales were moving to Toronto to work with the other Island ferries. One year later in October of 1866 he sent a telegram to the current proprietor of Oaklands stating his intensions of returning to the Bay. Captain Walsh stayed for one more year and by the end of 1867 he returned to Toronto. Captain Walsh passed away on September 4th, 1880.
     In March 1884 the ship was sunk due to moving ice while it had been out of commission since the summer of 1882. It was owned by a Mr. Geddes who was confident it could be repaired. This is possibly the same vessel that was rebuilt in Oakville and renamed the “General Woseley”. If so this vessel returned to Burlington Bay in the summer of 1885 plying between Browns Wharf, Bayview and the Beach. It later served the Owen Sound area for a brief time. While working on Georgian Bay she broke down and drifted ashore. A broken coal lamp started a fire and it burned on September 11th, 1886 off of Cape Croker, north of Wiarton.

     The tavern at Port Flamboro was located on the west side of La Salle Park road near the dock and south of present day Oaklands Park Crescent. A directory for Aldershot from 1857 has only one hotel belonging to John Oliver. It was located at the railway tracks so it is believed that the Port Flamboro tavern was built shortly after 1857 and coincidently the same time frame that Oaklands was opening. The first known proprietor was Alexis Hills.  On the 1851 census he and his family lived in the City of Hamilton.  He along with his wife Olive they acquired 29 perches from Alexander Brown on Dec. 25, 1859.  They only had the inn for 2 months when they sold it to Thomas Reid on Feb. 24th 1860.  
    On the 1861 Census Thomas is 45 years old, his wife is 43 and both were born in England. They had 3 children, Joseph, 5, born in the States, Fredrick, 2 and William, and both were born in Upper Canada. They lived in a 2 story frame house with no livestock mentioned.
     The next Inn keeper according to an advertisement in the Hamilton Spectator on September 26th, 1863 is Thomas Shouldice. In 1861 he was a baker living in Waterdown with his wife and seven children. An ad in the newspaper on September 26th, 1863 said that along with the Victoria Hotel at Browns wharf, he has also leased and reopened Oaklands. This did not last long as the grounds at Oaklands always closed in the winter and by the 24th of May, 1864 a new proprietor is there.  Mr Shouldice put another ad in the paper for a yacht found on the bay on October 1st, 1864. It is being held at Port Flamboro.  An 1865 Directory shows him operating the “Waterdown” Hotel. An 1867-68 Directory has Thomas Shouldice, proprietor of the Victoria Hotel but this directory most likely got reprinted before being updated.

     By April 1866 another proprietor appears only now the tavern is called the Victoria Pleasure Grounds. The manager is John Quirk 30, from Hamilton. He is married to Bridget, 39 and they have 3 children under the age of six. An advertisement says that extensive preparations have been made including a ballroom attached to the house. Apartments had been fitted for “boarders who prefer the quiet life”.
     The quiet life wasn't always had at Port Flamboro. On February 8th, 1867 an event titled “Brutal Amusement” made the pages of the Hamilton Spectator. A dog fight occurred at Quirks Tavern. A charge of 25 cents was exacted from the visitors to watch the bull dogs mangle each other till exhaustion. Four men including John Quirk were charged ten dollars, the highest amount laid down for the offence. Two weeks later one of the accused was in Hamilton trying to sell his dog. He sold the dog for a low price to a hotel keeper on James Street. It was the second time he had sold the animal which always found its way back to his master. It is not known how long the Quirks stayed at Browns wharf but on the 1871 & 1881 Census John Quirk and his family are living in Hamilton and his occupation is listed as a varnisher.

     An 1868-69 Directory has a Jared Mosgrove listed as a Hotel Keeper in Aldershot. The only reference found for him is in Hamilton on the 1861 Census as a cigar maker.
     A directory from 1871 has a Henry Mullin Junior as an Innkeeper in Aldershot. The Mullin family lived at Port Flamboro and Aldershot for decades. At the time there were two other taverns/hotels in Aldershot. James Kenney's place was located on the south west corner of Plains and Waterdown roads and Hamilton Oliver's hotel (formerly his father John's place) on Waterdown road at the railway tracks. The census for this year was taken in the month of April and has Henry and his wife Margaret as being 27 years old and they have a son George one year of age. His occupation was a carpenter and they lived on one acre on the Broken Front of Lot 7, probably close to the dock. Sometime during 1871 Henry Mullin Jr. must have changed occupations. For the record this is the last known mention of the name Victoria Park and Pleasure Grounds, the tavern continued on.
     On a Hamilton City Directory in 1874 it shows a “Hial” Yakes as an Inn Keeper. James Kenney still has his hotel on the corner as does James Roderick who now owns the hotel at the railway tracks. This is probably a spelling error as there is a Hiram Yake (1846-?) near Rock Bay / Bayview on the Broken Front of Lot 14 in 1871. He is the son of John & Mary Yake. Mary Yake was previously known as Mary Baker. She was married to George Baker and had 7 children by him. George's parents were Abraham Baker & Esther Yakes. John was Esther's nephew. One of their sons, John Baker, had the Rising Sun Hotel on Centre Road north of Waterdown in a village called Bakersville. She was born Mary Anderson in East Flamborough on November 3rd, 1805. This makes her 12 years older than second husband John Yake. They were married in Waterdown sometime after 1836. He is believed to be the same John Yake owning land on Lot 1, Concession 3 in Waterdown.
     John Yake was a carpenter and he and the family are living as tenants on property in Lot 14. It is said that he built the 2nd version of the Valley Inn and operated it for a few years.  The original building was destroyed by fire. On March 23rd, 1865, John Yakes is charged with selling liquor without a license as he was the proprietor of the Valley Inn for a brief time. Their other children were Matilda, Mary E. & John W. Yake.
     Hiram's brother, John W Yake is listed as running a hotel in Aldershot on the 1883 & 1884 Directory. Unfortunately these directories were re-printed and never properly updated because John W died on April 18th, 1882 at the age of 21. His death certificate also says that he was a hotel keeper in East Flamboro. John W. is buried in St. Mathew's Cemetery along with his father JohnYake.
    On November 1st, 1876 an article appeared in the Hamilton Spectator called “sheep stealing”. Two men who were butchers and operated a wholesale type business at Browns wharf were arrested. Their surnames were Yates and Lacey. It was most likely a spelling error as there were two butchers by the names of Charles Yakes and James Lacey living in Aldershot in 1881.
    After many searches I have only seen one source that would suggest that Charles is Hiram's brother. On two of his wedding certificates it indicates that his parents have the same first names as Hiram's. He is not on the 1871 census anywhere but he did get married locally in 1872 to Elizabeth McMahon (1855-1873). She is the daughter of Daniel and Elizabeth McMahon who lived on the broken front of Lot 6. Daniel was a Blacksmith and his shop and home are more than likely the same one that George Sinclair rented as a Grocery & Post Office from Alexander Brown on the south-east corner of Plains & Waterdown road sometime between 1895 & 1901. The McMahons lived there from 1865-1874. Charles's wife Elizabeth died 8 months after their marriage on March 28, 1873. She is buried in the St. Thomas RC Cemetery in Waterdown.
     Charles Yakes`s second marriage is to Annie Magee on November 30th, 1874.Their marriage certificate says that Charles is a butcher.  On the 1861 Census the Magee family are living in Aldershot somewhere between Lots 1 & 3. This family cannot be found on any 1871 Census.  By 1881 Annie's parents and siblings are living in Burlington, Halton County and Charles, Annie and their 4 children are living very close to the Valley Inn on lot 13 or 14 and his occupation is still a butcher.
     The other man involved in this crime, James Lacey is 15 years old and living at home with his family in Hamilton in 1871. This would make him 20 years old at the time of the crime. His father Isaac is a butcher and would have been 64 years old in 1876. By the 1881 Census they are living very close to the Rock Bay/ Bayview Hotel. Isaac is still a butcher and his son James has taken up the profession. Both Lacey Sr. & Jr. could be the suspects. The results of their trial is not known as of yet because it was never published in the paper but it was interesting to see that it was James Kenney the tavern keeper up the road from the wharf that turned them in.
     On August 14th, 1883 a story appeared about the Bayview resort and mentions a butcher extraordinaire. He is only identified as “Mr Lacey” so it could be James or his father.  The article mentions that now there is a slaughter house at Rock Bay and how picnicers could be enjoying the grounds unaware that a sheep, calf or pig could be being slaughtered close by.
     By 1891 both Charles Yakes and James Lacey are married with young families living in Hamilton. Charles is still a butcher and John's occupation is now a laborer.
      In the Vernon's Directory for 1898 it indicates a “Chas. Take” as having a hotel in Aldershot. Again this is more than likely an error because a 1902 Directory shows that Charles Yake has a hotel in Aldershot. This hotel cannot be the one located on the SW corner as the 1901 Census indicates it is now operated by a Chas. Bamberger and no other tavern exists in the area nor is there a Charles Yakes living there.
  According to the Aldershot Tweedsmuir Papers the house pictured below was moved from Brown’s wharf to the south side of Plains Road approximately 100 yards west of La Salle Park Road prior to 1925 when George (Shorty) Briggs purchased it. The exact date of the move is not known but here is a suggestion. On the 1861 Census there are two 2-storey houses located near the wharf. One of them being the residence of the Tavern keeper along with 4.5 acres (taken from land titles). The other was rented to an Alex Angus. One large family that was living near the wharf was the Mullins but their house was a 1.5 storey frame house.

  The 1871 Census does not give descriptions of house but it does tell us locations and number of acres for residents. The Marriott family are now living as tenants near the wharf with five acres. This would indicate that they are now living in what was the Tavern keepers house.

   The 1881 Census does not help in this situation but the one for 1891 does. It indicates two 2-storey houses near the wharf except one of these homes now belongs to Alexander Brown's son, A. W. Brown (1853-1937) and it was located above the wharf in what is now La Salle Park. A George Harrison and his family of six are the tenants in the other 2-storey house. This might indicate that this is the approximate time that Shorty Briggs house was moved. During this time the land along Plains Road may still have been owned by the Browns. The house was demolished when Aldershot Equipment Rentals purchased the property from Shorty Briggs around 1954 to expand their business.

Home of George “Shorty” Briggs from 1925 - 1954

 As mentioned before, the Mullin family lived in Aldershot for decades. Henry Mullin Sr., 52, is living with his wife Maryanne, 50, at Port Flamboro on the 1861 census. Both were born in Ireland and his occupation was a laborer. They had a large family Mary 26 and James 25 were born in Ireland, John 22 was born in Quebec and Henry 18, Rachel 15, Sarah 12 and Joseph were all born in Upper Canada. This shows that the Mullins came to Canada around 1836 and possibly Wentworth County between 1839 and 1843. They do not appear on any Census's in 1851because the nominal East Flamborough census for that year is missing or destroyed leaving only the Agricultural Census.  It is quite possible the Mullins were living at Brown's wharf that year and that Henry Mullin worked for Alexander Brown in one form or another.
     One child that is missing from this family is Roseanne Mullin, 22. In 1861 she can be found in Grimsby, Lincoln County married to Robert Smiley 29 with one child, Andrew, one year of age. They lived on 50 acres located on Lot 24, Concession 9. By 1871 Robert & Roseanne Smiley are living in Aldershot on 63 acres of Lot 8, Concession 1, on the west side of Howard road. According to the Tweedsmuir Papers, Robert Smiley lived at the foot of the hill near Brown's wharf in 1855 and if true, it was probably how he met his wife Roseanne. Robert Smiley is believed to be a cousin of another Robert Smiley who owned the Hamilton Spectator back in the mid 1800's.
     Members of the Mullin family are noted as being in Aldershot for over 30 years. John Mullin born 1839 is living with Robert Smiley and his family in 1901. His relation is brother-in-law to the head of household. On the 1871 census there is a child named William H Smiley, 8 years old, living with the Mullin family at Brown's wharf. To date it is not known of his origin. One other connection between the Mullins and Smileys is a marriage in Wentworth County on October 24th, 1862 for a Joseph Smiley and Mary Mullen. These dates do make it possible that young William H Smiley could have been their son.
     There is one other connection with the Mullins and Aldershot. Henry and Maryanne's daughter Sarah married a James Dagnell Slatterie from Hamilton. Sarah passed away in 1883 and James got remarried to Amelia Bauer, daughter of Leopold Bauer, a brewer in Hamilton. Between 1877 and 1881 Leopold Bauer owned Oaklands Park and Pleasure Grounds.
     After selling Oaklands Leopold returned to Hamilton for a few years but eventually moved back to Aldershot and lived across the road from the Smileys on Howard Rd. The property that Leopold purchased was basically the south half of Lot 7, Concession 1 extending from Plains Road to just past the railway tracks. The house was built around 1860 for William Proudfoot, a prominent lawyer and Chancery Judge in the Hamilton & Toronto area. After Leopold`s death in 1917 the house and property were sold to Niram Henry Howard (1868-1936) who started Howard Sand and Gravel. The business lasted almost 50 years in Aldershot then sold to CBM, Canadian Building Materials around 1972. The house was destroyed by fire in the 1920's. This property was originally owned by William Applegarth Sr., willed to his son who then lost possession when Oaklands was taken from him.

above photo courtesy of David Howard

     One last but sad story is that of a long time resident of Aldershot, John Marriot from England He was a farmer living on Lot 6 in the Broken Front with his family as a tenant of Alexander Brown in 1871. On the 1861 Census he is living in a 2 story stone house with his wife and six children. More than likely he did not live at Browns wharf but in the vicinity. On the 1881 Census he is still in Aldershot listed as a Laborer. In an 1871 Directory there is a John “Marrat” living in Aldershot as a butcher. There is always spelling errors for names on Census`s and Directories and I believe this is the case.
     On November 22nd, 1886 John Marriot was helping out at the Oaklands Jersey Farm, formerly the Oaklands Park & Pleasure Grounds. His son, Thomas worked there and often John Sr. would visit there when “special work” was being done. On this particular day they were killing pigs. John Marriot was accidentally shot in the forehead from a distance of 2 feet killing him instantly. An inquest was held the next evening and the jury found the incident to be accidental. John Marriot was 66 years old when he died and he is buried in East Plains Church Cemetery.
     When Alexander Brown died in 1880 the property was willed to his son, Alexander W. Brown (1853-1937). On the 1881 census he too is a Forwarder and most likely operating the wharf. On the 1891 census he is a coal and wood dealer, on the 1901 census he is a barrister and a 1902 Directory has A.W. Brown Jr. listed as Post Master & Grain Dealer. Sometime between then and the 1911 Census he and the family have moved to the city of Hamilton and are living at 174 George Street. The house no longer exists. By 1921 they are living at 131Chedoke Ave.
     He sold the property to the City of Hamilton around 1913 for $52,673.00. The city turned the property into Wabasso Park. The name was changed to La Salle Park in 1926 after the explorer Sieur de La Salle. At this time it is not known who owned the wharf but it is believed that it was the city of Hamilton. The major export from this port was no longer wood and grain but fruit and vegetables. The dock still allowed access for ferry boats from Hamilton to the Park but that stopped by 1960 or so.
     The dock was also used to temporarily store sand that was dredged from the bay from the early fifties into the sixties. It was a convenient place to unload the sand to allow it to sit and drain. Afterwards it was trucked to Cooke's Concrete where the sand was filtered and used for cement. The water that was used for this filtering was pumped from the bay.  The pump was located in a small concrete block building at the dock by the foot of the hill.  A pipe ran from this pump house, through the park and up La Salle & Waterdown Roads to the cement plant.  This may not be the exact route as nobody remembers but it seems to be the logical way.  The sludge/waste was sent to a settling pond that was dug out in Hidden Valley. The area was located on the north side of the road before you crossed the creek and was fenced off as it was similar to quick sand. Every so often it was cleaned out for environmental reasons.

courtesy Hamilton Public Library      

Pump House
     The dock quickly turned dormant and dilapidated throughout the late 1960`s and into the 70's since being built over 50 years ago. Work began in 1976 to improve the dock and by 1981 it was the present day Marina which continues to grow and prosper.      

"Brown's Wharf" today

Marina at Sunset

"The more it changes the more it stays the same"
Tallships last summer--"Port Flamboro" under bowspit