Before Brighton Beach
by Scott Forsyth  

   Lot # 12 is situated between the Catholic Cemetery on the east and the Mausoleum to the west. The area of Aldershot that we talk about is of the Broken Front (Land from the Bay to Plains Road) and the first Concession.  This borderline is basically Plains Rd. but when the road is half-way through Lot 12 it veers toward the Bay but the borderline keeps running straight.  Before the bridges along the western entrance to Hamilton were built, Plains Road or Nelson Gravel road as it was known back then, ran along what is now Spring Gardens Road across the marsh and up to York Boulevard.

   In the late 1700’s the Crown granted the land on the Broken Front and Concession One of Lot # 12 consisting of 236 acres to Alex MacDonnell.  In December of 1825 he sold this land to Thomas Clark of Niagara.  Clark was a Forwarder, land speculator and owner of several mills.  He never lived on this property but he did serve on the commission superintending the construction of the canal between Burlington Bay and Lake Ontario.  He lived on his estate overlooking Niagara Falls in a forty room mansion.

   Thomas Clark held on to Lot 12 until June 29, 1837 when he sold the east half to Daniel Blain for 148 pounds 15 shillings.  The west half was sold to Peter Smoke.  Both parcels were 118 acres in size.  These two men likely knew each other as both had come from New Jersey to the Hamilton area with their large families prior to 1812.

   Daniel Blain’s family consisted of six boys and two girls.  They were not children when they came to Lot 12.  Their ages ranged from 10-30 years old.  Their father Daniel passed away in 1850 and it is not known when his wife, Elizabeth died.  On the 1851 Agricultural Census his second eldest son Jacob is mentioned as having 60 acres of cultivation and 58 acres of “under wood or wild”.

   For whatever reason the property was sold one year later on July 28th, 1852.  All of the Blains’ left Aldershot for other parts of southern Ontario except for one son David.  The Census for 1861 has him on Lot 11 as a Hotel Keeper.  It was called the Farmers Hotel and by 1871 David’s occupation was a farmer.  David Blain married his long time neighbor Dorothy Smoke and his brother John married Dorothy’s sister Hannah Smoke.

   On the title for the east half Lot 12 Daniel’s eldest son Leonard is the person selling all of the 118 acres for 1250 pounds to the Honourable James Morris of Brockville.  The town of Morrisburg is named after him.  James Morris never resided on Lot 12. The house and farm was likely leased.

Honourable James Morris

Part of Surtees Map of Wentworth Co. 1859

   James Morris was first elected to the Legislature of Leeds County in July, 1837.  On February 27th, 1851 he was appointed as the first Canadian Post Master.  During that time he arranged for Sanford
 Fleming to design and engrave the first Canadian postage stamp.  He is better known for negotiating the terms for a Postal treaty with the United States and also for standardizing the postal rate by reducing the cost from 16 cents to 5 cents.

   Mr. Morris was also a member of the Board of Railway Commissioners and a Government Director of the Grand Trunk Railway from 1851-1854.  This is the same time period that a railway was put through Aldershot and of course it ran across his land.  The land title states that James Morris sold 2.59 acres to the Hamilton & Toronto Railroad Company for 39.15 pounds.

   The Honourable James Morris passed away on September 23rd, 1865 from paralysis.  He had suffered a stroke two years prior.  On February 16th 1864 James Morris either sold or willed the land on the east half of Lot 12 to his son James H Morris, a Barrister in Toronto.

   As mentioned before it was not known who was residing on Lot 12 during this time but a death notice in the newspaper on December 20th, 1867 has a Donald Henderson 35 passing away at Sunnyside Farm, Lot 12.  Also, a City Directory for that year has him on Concession 1 and his brother Alexander Henderson on the Broken Front section.

   On October 28th, 1868 the Sunnyside Farm was advertised for sale but it did not sell because on the Census from 1871, Alexander Henderson, brother of Donald, is living on Lot 12 as a tenant and occupying the 118 acres.  In this advertisement it mentions a large brick house while the 1871 census states that Alexander is living in a 1.5 story frame house.

   Living with Alexander in 1871 is his mother Margaret, his sister Christine and her daughter Christina, and another sister Margaret.  It is very possible that the entire family was on the land when the brother Donald passed away.  It is not known when they came to Canada.  They can be found on the 1851 Scotland Census, minus their Father, in Halkirk, Caithness County.  Ten years later they are on the 1861 Census in the city of Hamilton.  Alexander Henderson purchased the property in March of 1874.  Later in 1877 he sold 53 acres in Concession 1 to William Hendrie.

1875 Wentworth County Map

   It must be mentioned that down the road on Lot 13 there is a David Henderson listed as a Hotel Keeper.  He owned five acres including the Rock Bay Pleasure Grounds as well as the Station Hotel on Stuart Street in Hamilton.  Rock Bay’s name was changed to Bayview in 1883.  Extensive research has shown that these two Henderson families were not related.

   Only two mentions of Alexander were found in the newspaper during his time in Aldershot.  One involved the Rock Bay Hotel on the lot next door and the other was about a burglary.

   The accusations made by Henderson were not far from the truth.  Several disturbances at the Rock Bay Pleasure Grounds were reported in the newspaper in April, 1882 while under the proprietorship of Wm McComb.  On May 5th his liquor license was refused by the North Wentworth Commissioners and he left the area shortly after.

   The 1881 Census shows all the same Henderson family members that are on the Census from 1871 except for Alex’s sister Margaret.  Margaret Henderson married Benjamin Foulds, a Fishermen from Hamilton beach in March 1875.  On the morning of December 11th, 1883 Benjamin Foulds and another fisherman, Edward Homewood, set sail to go four miles out on Lake Ontario to take up their nets. It was a windy day and the small sailboat “came broad to the wind” and capsized.  Both were thrown to the water.  “They both climbed on her bottom, but the first sea washed Foulds off. Edward helped him back on, but again he was washed off and sunk”.

   Edward would ride the waves sometimes rolling over but he clung on.  When at the top of a wave he would wave his hat to catch the attention of anyone.  It was noticed by the caretaker of the Ocean House at the beach and other fishermen located by Van Wagners.  Captain Campbell, the Lighthouse Keeper was notified and he got two others and rescued Homewood after rowing for an hour and a half.  Foulds was 49 years old.

   Margaret Foulds, 48, married again on November 14th, 1889 to James Hinchcliffe 57, a merchant/grocer in Hamilton.  The 1891 Census shows James Hinchcliffe as being married but Margaret is not with him.  The only other mention of her was found under the name Margaret Folde and still living on Hamilton beach.  It is not known what her marital situation was or why she kept her first married name.  I will get back to this beach residence later on.

   In 1891 Alexander Henderson is still living on the east half of Lot 12 with his sister Christine and her daughter Christina.  It is not known who or where Christine’s husband is.  Mother Margaret has passed away.  On Saturday December 10th, 1892 a sad and terrible incident was discovered near Sunnyside Farm.  On Friday evening Alexander and his sister were preparing goods to go to market for the next day.  Christina, Alex’s niece was in her room.  The two siblings were in the Barn and when they returned to the house Christina was gone.

   The search party that was looking for Christina consisted of Constable David Blain,  Charles Shears and Patrick Hagarty, all being neighbors.  Hagarty being the Sexton or Caretaker of the Catholic Cemetery.  In a lengthy obituary that followed Christina’s death notice goes into great detail about her life and the supposed love affair with her minister.  It also mentions that Margaret Fouldes, not Margaret Hinchcliffe, is still living at Hamilton Beach in 1892.

   Christina’s funeral notice from December 14th, mentions the names of her pallbearers.  They were Albert Shears, Hugh Johnston, John & Allen Lemon, George Unsworth and Joseph Hunter.  Rev. Mr. McCartney conducted the service.  All pallbearers were young men, Albert was the son of Charles Shear, Hugh Johnson was a neighbor living with the Pearsons, John and Allen were the sons of Thomas Lemon, George the son of Albert Unsworth and Joseph Hunter, was a farm laborer living with the Lemons.

   Alexander Henderson sold the property in 1897.   On the 1901 Census he and his sister Christine are living on Hamilton Beach with their sister Margaret Foulde.  The next owners of the property are William and Clara Stuart.  They did not have this property very long but before we move to the next inhabitants of Lot 12, let me continue and conclude with the Hendersons.
   On the afternoon of July 13th, 1902, Christine Henderson disappeared from the home of her sister Margaret at the beach where she and her brother Alexander lived.  She was last seen in the morning walking along the road to Van Wagner’s Beach.  It is believed that the death of her daughter Christina ten years prior had affected her mind and she had lost her reasoning.

   On December 17th, 1912, 10 years after her disappearance, a partial body surfaced in a pond by Stoney Creek.  Many of the old residents from the beach thought there was no doubt it was the body of Christina.  It was mentioned that her brother Alexander had left the beach shortly after his sister’s disappearance and at the time (1912) is residing in Australia.  The sister, Margaret Foulde, had died some years prior.  No death record has been found for Christina or Margaret or for Alexander in Australia.

   The next owners of the east half of Lot 12 are now William and Clara Stuart.  William Stuart was born on June 30th, 1850 in Ancaster Township and was the youngest of six children born to Alexander and Elizabeth Stuart.  William was a Public School teacher when he married Clara Smith on December 26, 1878 in Aldershot.  Clara was born to Thomas and Rebecca Smith in Aldershot on December 24th, 1851.  Thomas Smith owned property on Lots 1, 2 and 3 in the Broken Front. More can be found about this family in the story about Aldershot Brick making.

1875 Wentworth County Map

   On November 29th, 1879 William and Clara’s son William H Stuart was born.  At this time their residence was in Jerseyville, Ancaster Township.  The family cannot be found when searching the 1881 census but by 1891 they are living in Aldershot somewhere on Clara’s father Thomas Smiths property.

   The earliest record found for William Stuart being associated with the property was on November 8th, 1890 purchasing 5.5 acres from Alexander Henderson.  This is likely what is known as the “water lot”, the actual beach area, later to be known as Brighton Beach.  The next transaction came on October 9th, 1897 where an additional 25 acres was purchased from Henderson.

1903 Imperial Atlas East Flamborough Map

   According to the Land titles a Daniel Harrison leased property from William Stuart for $325.75 for the first year on October 30th, 1897.  On the 1901 Census Daniel is still on Lot 12 with his wife Mary and their five children and his occupation is Gardener.  Also on this census is William Stuart and family living along the Nelson Gravel Road in the Broken Front of Lot 1, land once owned by his father-in-law, Thomas Smith.  They are living on 3.5 acres in a single story brick house with 9 rooms.

   On Octber 1st, 1902 William Stuart sold the 25 acres to Daniel Harrison for $5500.  William Stuart passed away on October 20th, 1905 from heart failure at the age of 55.  It is believed that his wife Clara and son William H Stuart continued living on that property in the Broken Front Lot 1. Their son William H. died on June 11, 1921 and Clara Stuart passed away on December 8th, 1935. All three are buried together in Greenwood Cemetery on Francis Road.  Daniel Harrison and family came to Canada from England in 1887.  A newspaper article from July 28th, 1905 states that a Cucumber Growers Association was formed with Daniel being the Secretary.

   Around 1911 or 1912 the Harrisons sold just over half of their property to W. D. Flatt who had it surveyed for 75 lots. Daniel Harrison kept the east quarter of Lot 12.

   Daniel Harrison passed away on March 8th, 1921 which is why he is not on the Census from that year.  Only Daniel’s wife Mary and their daughters Ethel and Henrietta are living on the property now.  The land eventually was purchased by the Roman Catholic Cemetery.

   The Brighton Beach survey was very community orientated all through the help of volunteers who owned lots there.  The Seagers family built a tennis court on their property and had it accessible to any of the properties.  It was located on the north-west corner of Bonnieview Ave. and Bayshore Blvd..  There was also a baseball team who competed in several championships and the community also had their own Post Office.

   Included in the purchase of a lot each property owner had a stake in the 5.5 acre water lot which was mostly a beach area.  This would be available for camping and picnics.  This ownership still exists today to all property owners of the Brighton Beach Survey.

  Special thanks goes out to the helpful volunteers at the Hamilton Branch of the OGS and  the Flamborough Archives.