Aldershot’s First General Store
by Scott Forsyth

   There were two General stores that were operated by George Sinclair in Aldershot but not at the same time. The first one was situated on the Broken Front of Lot 6 and the second was on Concession 1. Both were directly across Plains Road from each other on the east side of La Salle Park and Waterdown roads. This land originally belonged to William Applegarth (1780-1837). His daughter Sarah inherited this property when her Father passed away. Her brother William received the Broken Fronts of Lot 7 & 8. Sarah’s first husband, Dr. George Foxton Wells, died in 1832. Her second marriage was to Alexander Brown (1812-1880) in 1842 and this is how the land became known as being owned by the Browns from Waterdown.

   Sarah Applegarth Brown died on January 8th, 1869. One month prior on December 7th, 1868, her daughter Martha also passed away. Martha was likely married to John Thompson,as a marriage certificate cannot be found for them. They had one child, a daughter named Mabel. A birth certificate cannot be found for her but she was born in 1868. It is not known what became of John Thomson. Perhaps Martha died from child birth and he didn’t stay with his daughter. Mabel was left to be raised by her immediate family which consisted of her Grandfather Alexander Brown and his remaining children,A W Brown and Mary. It is likely that Mary raised Mabel as her own as she never married. Alexander’s other daughter Elizabeth was married to John Sproat Jr. and she passed away in 1874 and is buried in St. Mathew’s Cemetery. They were living in Milton. Researching this couple was confusing at first this Elizabeth’s father, Alexander Brown, had a sister named Elizabeth who had married John Sproat Sr. of Milton.So she married her cousin. To make it even more confusing her husband had a sister named Elizabeth and his 2nd marriage on February 15th, 1876 was to an Elizabeth Douglas making her another Elizabeth Sproat.

   In his will Alexander Brown gave the southwest half of Lot 6, Concession 1 to his granddaughter Mabel and the northeast half plus all of the Broken Front to his son Alexander W Brown.His daughter Mary received all of his household furniture and effects. Mary & Mabel also shared the surplus of his personal estate after payment of debts, funeral and testamentary expenses. All rents and income that was derived from the south-west and north-east halves of Lot 6, Con. 1 were bequeathed to his daughter Mary until Mabel reached the age of 21. This was meant for their maintenance and support. Both Mary and Mabel moved into Hamilton and lived together at 235 Locke Street South all of their lives. Mary passed away in 1925 and Mabel died in 1955. Mabel held on to the property that she inherited until she died.  The following years later her remaining property on Concession 1, Lot 6 was sold.

Portion of Alexander Brown's will.

   An advertisement for a General store in Aldershot first appeared around 1884 and it was located on the southeast corner of La Salle Park& Plains Road. The originial wood frame building and attached blacksmith shop burnt down and was completely destroyed on Aug. 29th, 1889.  It was quickly replaced by a two-story brick building. At this time the blacksmith shop was relocated just to the east where Russell Williams restaurant is now located.  There is no mention of a Store Keeper on the 1871 Census or any Directory from the 1870’s. The building and property that this was on is now owned by A.W. Brown (b1853-d1937), the son of Alexander. According to the 1881 Census and Directories from the 1880’s and 90’s, John Reiger was the Blacksmith in Aldershot and he also operated the Post Office starting in 1883. The Post Office has now moved from the Roderick Hotel that was located by the railway tracks. By 1884 he has now opened the General Store and is called the “Grocer” on that years Directory. The Post Master is A.W. Brown, a position that is Father previously held. Other Blacksmiths at this location were William Johnson from 1875-1880, Daniel McMahon from 1865, possibly earlier, till 1874 and Alexander Gracy who is mentioned in a Directory from 1857.

   John Reiger remained in Aldershot till sometime in 1898. His wife Elizabeth died October 25th, 1897 from tuberculosis and he moved to the small town of Appleby and continued as a Blacksmith. This town was situated in the area of Appleby Line and the QEW Highway. An article in the Canadian Champion from 1900 says that he is leaving Appleby and moving to Burlington. This is confirmed by him living in the village of Burlington on the 1901 Census and still working as a Blacksmith. He is listed on this Census under the misspelled last name of “Ridger”. The 1911 Census tells us that he is living in the east end of Hamilton with his daughter Sadie/Sarah and her family. Sadie died on Nov. 25th, 1918 of influenza, her husband passed away from tuberculosis a few days later. John Reiger passed away on June 12th, 1920 at the age of 73. He is buried with his wife Elizabeth in St. MathewsCemetery on Plains Road, Burlington.

Directory 1884

   The 1901 Census shows us that George Henry Sinclair is now the proprietor of the General Store and likely took the business over in the year 1898. George’s Father Robert was the local shoe maker and had lived in Aldershot from as early as 1854. Robert Sinclair married Mary Carson in 1865 and they had nine children, George being the oldest. The family were tenants living on La Salle Road. The Blacksmith shop is no longer attached to the building and searches for a Blacksmith on this Census does not show one being there. There is a Directory from 1906 that shows a Chas. Gridley as a Blacksmith in Aldershot. Further research found that his last name was “Gidley” and that he was living in Hamilton in 1901 then again in 1911. This tells us that he did not last long in Aldershot and it is believed that the Blacksmith shop had moved a few doors east, roughly where the Glover Basket factory was or in today’s terms, where the Russell Williams Restaurant is.

Brick building that replaced the wood structure that burnt down Aug. 29th, 1889.  

    George Sinclair married Charlotte Moodie on May 24th, 1899. By 1912 they have 7 or 8 children. Likely the business was expanding steadily and with George and his family living upstairs it was decided to build a larger building across the street on the northeast corner around 1913. Another reason could be that A.W. Brown was preparing to sell his property which he eventually did to the City of Hamilton who in turn built Wabasso Park, later renamed La Salle Park. George Sinclair is now the tenant of Mabel Applegarth Thomson. The entire former store was turned into a residence and remained that way till the mid 1950’s when it was torn down. The new building was divided in half by a wall providing space for other business’s to establish. The General Store and Post Office was located in the western side of the building.

Sinclair moves to new building across the street ca 1908

    George Sinclair likely remained the Grocer and Post Office clerk at this location until he passed away in 1927. His son Bruce, the eldest and only son, took over the store and remained there until the late 1940’s. There was a second son, Salem Leighton Sinclair, but he had died in 1901 at the age of 4 months. A.W. Brown resigned from being the Post Master in 1931 and it was then that Bruce Sinclair took over that position. It has been said that there was a bank in the east side of the building.

January 1912

Bruce Sinclair advertisement mid1930's
George & Bruce Sinclair advertisements both courtesy Russell & Ron Hunsperger

   According to Phil Sherwood who was born in Aldershot in 1918 there was a bank located in this building. Speaking with him during his 96th year he told me that sometime after WW2 the bank moved to an office in a small frame building on the property on the east side and was eventually moved into the brick structure currently standing on the same land in the late 1950’s. This was later confirmed by the Royal Bank Archives saying that they opened inside the Sinclair store in June 1919 to March 1932.  It re-opened on July 2nd in a small fame structure beside the building and in January 1958 they opened in the brick building  currently standing there today.  In the late 1940’s and early 50’s there was a barbershop in the east half of the building operated by Robert Casion. On a Voter’s List from 1949 Bruce’s sisters Jean and Edith are his assistant post masters and another sister Ora is a clerk.

Safe door removed from Murray's during demolition.  
Possibly what was referred to as the bank door.

   F.J. Huffman’s Pharmacy took over the west side of the building when Bruce Sinclair gave up the store to run the Post Office full time out of his home behind his former store. His sister Jean eventually took over as post mistress when he transferred to the main Post Office in Burlington in 1956. The drugstore stayed there along with Marg’s Beauty Salon until Carl Rudolph bought the building and moved from his original Variety Store which was located diagonally across the street on the opposite corner around 1959 or 1960.  At this time the store was renovated on the inside by taking down part of the wall that divided the building in half and also a two storey addition was added on the north-west corner providing an area for ice cream cone sales on the main floor and a family room above on the top floor. Later a cement swimming pool was also put in the back yard.  Sometime in 1966 the Rudolphs sold the premises and it was renamed Bennett’s Variety. On January 4th, 1967 Carl Rudolph passed away.The Bennett’s only had the store for a couple of years and in 1969 Don Murray from Peterborough purchased it.
Aldershot News, Feb. 1952

Old Aldershot residents still remember Hoffman's Drug Store and later Rudy's Variety.
Rudy's advertisement courtesy Russell & Ron Hunsperger

   The Murray’s operated the Variety store until 1988 when Don Murray sold the store and building to the Lee’s from Korea. They kept the name Murray’s Variety and held on to the property until late 2014 when the City of Burlington expropriated the property and demolished the building for the widening of Waterdown Road in March 2015.

Murray's Variety