by Scott Forsyth  

     Of all the articles about Aldershot or Burlington Plains from the Hamilton Spectator the one name that appears the most is that of James Kenney, hotel keeper.  From turning in criminals to fighting with neighbours and strangers, Mr Kenney definitely had his fifteen minutes of fame.  

     Born around the year 1835, James is only listed as a male above five and under 14 years of age on the Census of 1842.  His father Aaron Kenney is listed as a tavern keeper occupying two acres.  For the census taken in 1851 only the agricultural section exists so there is no mention of the Kenney's until the census of 1861.  On that census Aaron Kenney is still listed as an Inn Keeper.  James Kenney is not listed but there is a male member listed as “members of family absent”.  Their house is identified as being a two story frame building.  Aaron Kenney died after 1861 and prior to his wife Ellen who passed away April 1866.
     The first mention we find of James in the newspaper is in the winter of 1865. He is the proprietor of the Valley Inn and he "has prepared three first class double (mile) tracks on the bay extending from his tavern , Valley Inn, at the marsh bridge to the Great Western Railway Depot".  Known as the Dundas Trotting Races, they were held one week before the Hamilton and Dundas Races. They ran from March 1st -3rd.  There were 1000 people attending and besides false starts on the first day, inclement weather on the second day and on the third day all races went well until the last race where there was some kind of interference with the running horses and an all out brawl took place.

The Valley Inn
    Dissatisfaction in the way the races were conducted and a "wholesome fear prevailed that a repetition of bad conduct on the bay might take place" led to the cancelation of the following weeks races. We believe that Mr Kenney`s involvement was only in the building of the tracks and promotion of his Inn and not the way the races were conducted.
     During the summer of 1867 James was seeking a refund of monies paid to the City of Hamilton for his Tavern Licenses and school taxes for the years 1862 and 1863 claiming that his premises, The Valley Inn on Lot 13, are in the Township of West Flamborough.  Legal proceedings were communicated through his lawyer to the City but it is believed that he did not receive a refund.
     Land titles show that James Kenney sold two acres of Lot 10, Con. 1 to an Edmund Brown on March 1st, 1864. On November 2nd, 1867 an article from the Police Court section of the paper appeared saying that James Kenney was charged with an assault on Ed. Brown. "The parties were occupants of adjoining premises and got in to a dispute concerning their respective rights".  Mr Kenney appealed.  
On December 3rd, 1868, one year later, another article appeared in the paper saying that a daring robbery occurred in broad daylight at the premises of Edmund Brown.  Mr Brown was a tavern keeper and had recently sold his place and was preparing to leave. Two hundred dollars was stolen. The article finishes by saying that "Mr. B has his suspicions".  A Mary Potter purchased these two acres and shortly after it was bought by William Hendrie.
     On the Census for 1871, James Kenney is an Inn Keeper on Lots 7 & 8 of the Broken Front. There were two taverns on the BF of lot 7.  One down at Brown's wharf and the other at the SW corner of LaSalle & Plains road.  From other articles read, it is believed that his tavern is the one on Plains Rd. The mention of Lot 8 on the broken front could possibly be land rented for agriculture purposes. He is listed as a tenant on this one acre property on the corner and all land to the south to the bay and on the west side of La Salle Rd. to Park Ave. belonged to Alexander Brown.
     We believe that James remained at this location into the 1880`s. During this time there were more mentions of him in the Hamilton Spectator.  In October 1876 he had two men arrested for sheep stealing. The two were butchers who had a wholesale business down at Brown's Wharf. They were accused of driving out to the country at night and returning before daylight with loads of sheep. They were reports of a large number of sheep missing and fingers were pointed towards two men named Yates and Lacey. These two names are local residents of  ldershot. The outcome of the trial has yet to be learned.  Kenney is the one who had them arrested. He is also mentioned as a witness in the case of the Aldershot fire of 1877 which can be reviewed in James Roderick's hotel section on Lot 6, Con. 1.
     In the winters of 1879 and 1880 James Kenney crossed the ice to Hamilton marking out a road that was perfectly safe for travel avoiding the cost of toll roads and probably promoting his business across the bay.  In 1879 a sleighing party of employees of Hendrie & Co. to the number of 30 couples visited Kenney's Tavern for supper and dancing.  Due to the large attendance we think that this possibly took place at Hendries Valley Farm house and that Kenney might have just supplied the food and drink. Another sleighing party from the Commercial Hotel in Hamilton visited Kenney's on the Plains in February 1881.
     On July 1st, 1881 James Kenney was assaulted by two men who came to his hotel in a drunken state. The article says that he had been previously assaulted just one week prior.  Two teams of horse and buggy with two men and two ladies arrived at the Tavern at nine p.m. The two men entered the bar room in a quarrelsome manner and were ordered out. Upon leaving Kenney was hit in the head and threatened with murder.  The party left and the tavern was closed but shortly after four men returned and broke down the door and Kenney received several blows. "Calls were lustily made for assistance and as the sound of carriage wheels was heard in the distance the ruffians hastily took to their heels".  Fines and court costs of $11.20 each were given to the first two assailants.
     This season was a busy one for James Kenney. Three men had escaped from the Toronto Jail and were on the loose somewhere in the country side. All were awaiting trial for burglary. On August 1st the Hamilton Police were alerted that the three men were on their way from Waterdown to Hamilton on foot. They made their way up York Street and spotted the three around the Dundurn Castle area. After a short foot chase they were captured.  A reward of $50.00 was offered to the Police for the capture of Squib Mitchell, Fred Jacobs and Thomas Jones who was also known for biting the nose off of one knownby the alias of “Paddy Rats”.
     Their capture would never have taken place if the Police were not notified by one James Kenney of Burlington Plains. The three men had come along the road and stopped at his tavern for beer. Kenney had read about the escape in the paper the day before and he was suspicious of them. At first he was reluctant to do anything about it as he had done so on other occasions and got nothing for it. After consideration he at last hitched up his horse to the wagon and drove to the Telegraph station and sent word to the Police in Hamilton.  After doing so, he made his way towards the city, passing the escapees and upon arriving at the station, alerted them of their location.
   The Chief of Police had divided the reward money amongst his men and ten dollars was offered to Kenney but he refused to take it. He felt that he was entitled to the whole sum and took legal action to get it. The case came about in The Division Court in Toronto in December of 1881. After consideration that the Police officers were paid officials and Kenney had acted promptly in the matter to which the arrests would never have been made, the verdict of the full amount of $50.00 went in favour of Kenney.
     On December 18th, 1883 a burglary occurred at the home of James Kenney. The intruders stated that they were there strictly on business. While holding a revolver to his head they went through his trousers and confiscated $58.00 in bills, a gold dollar, some silver dollars, a watch and chain, some tobacco and a knife. They also helped themselves liberally to liquor from the bar room. Before they left they returned his watch and chain proving to be more conscientious than professional thieves.
     Six months later in July 1884, Mr Kenney is charged with unlawfully pointing a loaded pistol. A lot of young men had been annoying him by hanging around his place and he thought that shooting into a field would frighten them away. He was not aware that there was a law against pointing a revolver. The magistrate imposed the lowest fine which the statute would allow, $20.00 and $22.95 in costs.
     On a Friday afternoon in the month of March, 1885, James Kenney drove into Hamilton to seek out the Police Magistrate to tell him how he and his son had been badly beaten by two men from Hamilton.  According to his story John Early and George Greenless came into his hotel, ordered drinks then began abusing him. Fearing that a fight would ensue he called for his son Peter, who would have been 16 years of age. When his son came inside he was knocked to the floor, punched and kicked him, bit his hand, scratched his face and gouged his eye. James came from behind the bar to help his son but was prevented by the other man. He too also received injuries.
     The two men denied being the aggressors and that they had been assaulted by the two Kenneys and their faces showed as much. They claimed to have come to Aldershot from Cummingsville through Waterdown and stopped at Kenney's as one was an old friend of Kenney. When they went in to the hotel they found Kenney in a peculiar state and looking out the window. “He was talking about 99 cats in the window and swearing a great deal”. He also mentioned that his son “could lick creation”. When his son arrived he began the quarrel after which the brawl commenced.
     A.W. Brown was Kenney's lawyer, his father being the late Alexander Brown of Brown's Wharf fame. This lawyer could possibly still be the owner of the property where the hotel was situated. He asked for a one week adjournment due to the son being delirious and in critical condition and Mr Kenney Sr. not yet being able to leave his house even though he had driven into the city two days prior.
     On March 23rd the case was brought forward to the Police Magistrate in Hamilton. By permission of the counsel for the prosecution and defence the evidence in the charges against Early and Greenless was applied to the counter charges brought by them against James and Peter Kenney. The Magistrate fined James and Peter $2.00 and costs or 30 days in jail and dismissed the charges against Early and Greenless.
     On July 29th, 1885 James Kenney was brought before the Police Magistrate for assaulting Anson Vollick. Anson was an employee at the Oaklands Jersey Farm and often passed by Kenney's hotel on his way to and from work. Kenney's dog would always bark and growl at the man whereupon he would throw sticks and things at it. Mr Kenney would retaliate by throwing things back at him and one day followed him down the road and hit him. Kenney was fined $5.00 and bound over to keep the peace for one year. A few days later Aanson was brought before the court for using indecent and threatening to assault Kenney. He was fined $2.00 and bound over to keep the peace.
     On the 1891 Census the Kenneys have moved east down the Plains Road to lot # 4 on the first Concession. His hotel is believed to be beside where East Plains Church is located.  He is also listed on the Farmers Directory as a tenant on the broken front of lot 4. This could mean that he rented land there for agricultural purposes.
     The Kenney’s did not stay too long at this location. When James Kenney died on December 13th, 1895, his obit says that his residence was the Vineyard Hotel on Waterdown Road. This is not the present day Waterdown Road but the road known as Snake Road. The building which still exists as a home is located at the intersection of York Road. It was also known as the Halfway house and the Grapevine. On the 1901 Census his widow Catherine is still living there as the Hotel Keeper.   She eventually moved to Detroit to live with her youngest son Robert around 1911-12 and she passed away there on July 5th, 1913.

    James Kenney is buried in St. Mathew’s Church Cemetery on Plains Road in Burlington along with his 10 year old daughter Eleanor.  James’s parents, Aaron and Eleanor are buried further down the road with their infant daughter Catherine in East Plains Church cemetery.

Vineyard Hotel corner York and Snake Rd.