Some Reminiscences of Grantham Township by Bob Bell

On November 27, Bob Bell recounted some of his varied experiences as a local politician in Grantham Township from the 1950s through to the 1980s. 

Bob Bell was born in 1921 in Louth Township decended from the Loyalist families Secord and Pawling.  He worked at McKinnon Industries (now General Motors) for forty-seven years before retiring in 1986.  During the second World War, Bob served in the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Bell’s political career began in 1959 as a councillor on the Grantham Township Council and then as an alderman for the Grantham Ward on the new City of St. Catharines Council.  He remained an alderman until 1969 when regional government came to Niagara.  From 1970 to 1985, Bob was a Councillor on Regional Council.  Among his body of work includes time on the Planning and Development Committee, the Shaver Hospital Foundation, the St. Catharines General Hospital Board of Governors, Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and currently is the Executive Director of the Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Foundation.

What Mr. Bell brought to politics was the farmer’s mentality of never promising what you cannot deliver.  He and his fellow representatives strived to get things done without wasting a vast amount of time.  They were closer to their constituents than today’s politicians. 

In 1961, Grantham and St. Catharines had grown to the point where amalgamation was necessary.  Mr. Bell was among the group responsible for naming all of the streets affected by the amalgamation.  From 7:00 to 12:00 pm, a mere five hours, names were called out, checked by the clerk and voted on for all of the streets in the newly aligned city.

In 1972, Bob became the Chairman of the Regional Planning Committee – a position he held for a number of years.  After eight years of preliminary work, the Committee met with the provincial cabinet to get the Region’s first Offical Plan approved.  Niagara thus became the first municipality with a policy plan in Ontario.

Mr. Bell was also part of the initiative in 1959 to create the Lester B. Pearson Park.  It came about when the opportunity arose to get the properly for a dollar a year.  The space was ideal for a public recreation area as it remains today.

Mr. Bell’s talk was quite informative and highlighted the accomplishments of those who dedicated their time to making Grantham Township, St. Catharines and the Region a better place to live.  He ended his talk with the words, “Grantham was a great town with great people.  The good old days were all not that bad.”

Some Reminiscences of Grantham Township – November 27

Historical Society of St. Catharines meeting

Programme: “Some Reminiscences of Grantham Township” – Former City Alderman and Regional Councillor Bob Bell will share his reflections on his political career.
Time / Place: Thursday, 27 November 2008, 7:30 P.M., Burgoyne Room of the St. Catharines Museum at Lock 3 (the Welland Canals Centre), 1932 Welland Canals Parkway (formerly Government Road). Wheelchair accessible. Free admission.

From Glass Negatives to Digital Images

During the September 25 meeting, Dennis Cahill recounted some of the highlights and insights into his 43 year career as a photographer at the St. Catharines Standard newspaper.  Cahill’s talk was coupled around the recent opening of a new exhibit at the St. Catharines Museum entitled “Niagara Through the Lens: the Shots that set The Standard”.  The Museum recently acquired over 600,000 images covering over 70 years of photographs taken by 19 photographers at the Standard.  Cahill was personally responsible for over 100,000 images himself.


Cahill reminisced about listening to the police scanner by his bedside, having one of the first car phones, and being witness to some of the most important, tragic and amazing events in the Niagara area over the last 40 years.  Being a media photographer means being on call 24 hours a day.  There is more to taking a photo than pointing and clicking.  It takes a lot of skill to position oneself properly to catch an image that tells a story.  And for every picture that ends up in print, there are dozens of other quality photos that are never seen.  Cahill gave an idea of how the newspaper industry has changed over time.  He also spoke of the changes in camera equipment over the years from massive 4×5 cameras of the 1950s and 1960s to today’s digital cameras. 

The meeting was informative, artistic and nostalgic and the record crowd of over 120 people thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Cahill’s presentation.

Fall Programs with the Historical Society

September 25 – Dennis Cahill on “From Glass Negatives to Digital Images”.  Dennis will be speaking about the changes that have taken place in photography and probably also about the very extensive collection of pictures from the past 70 years or so that were recently donated to the St. Catharines Museum by the Standard newspaper.
October 23 – Reverend Dr. Phil Cline on the history of St. Paul Street United Church (now the Silver Spire)
November 27 – Bob Bell on Reminiscences from 27 years on Grantham Council

The Historical Society of St. Catharines generally meets in the Burgoyne Room of the St. Catharines Museum at Lock 3 (the Welland Canals Centre), 1932 Welland Canals Parkway (formerly Government Road) unless otherwise posted. The facility is Wheelchair accessible. Free admission to the Society meetings.  All interested parties welcome.

Early Governance as it Relates to Grantham Township

Information gathered by Society member Bill Stevens:


The settlement of what is now known as Ontario was precipitated by the declaration of American Independence and subsequently the fall of British rule in what is now the United States of America. Some of those wishing to remain Loyal to the British Crown fled to Fort Niagara. In May of 1781 the British purchased lands on the west side of the Niagara River from the Mississauga Indians. A small number of settlers had settled on the west side in 1780 and this number grew quickly with the land purchase and survey in 1782. In 1783 the Peace Treaty was signed and England officially recognized the U.S.A. The growing number of Loyalists resulted in the purchase of additional lands from Mississauga Indians on May 22, 1784 (and confirmed by a treaty signed on December 7, 1792). It was this second purchase that now allowed settlement in Grantham Township. Soon after the purchase settlers began to make their way into the area that would become Grantham Township. But it wasn’t until after the survey undertaken between December 27, 1787 and March 31, 1788 by Daniel Hazen of Township Number 3 (which was later called Grantham Township) that these settlers could claim their land holdings with the Land Board.


During the above time period of 1780 and 1791, the area of Grantham Township was part of the British Province of Quebec and the following were the Governors of the Province of Quebec:


1778 – 1786 – Sir Frederick Haldimand
1786 – 1795 – Sir Guy Carleton, 1st Baron Dorchester


By proclamation of July 24, 1788 Upper Quebec, now known as Ontario, was divided into four districts for the primary purpose of administering justice and land distribution. The area of Grantham Township would become part of Nassau District.


On June 19,1791 royal assent was given to the Constitutional Act which split the Province of Quebec into Lower Canada and Upper Canada. From December 26, 1791 to February 10, 1841 the area now known as Grantham Township was in the British Province of Upper Canada. The Legislature for Upper Canada consisted of 16 representatives elected by the people and the Legislative Council consisted of 7 councillors nominated by the Crown.


On July 8,1792 John Graves Simcoe was appointed the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada. He served in this position until 1798, but was in England for the last two years of his term.


On July 19, 1792 a proclamation divided the Province of Upper Canada into 19 counties. The counties would provide a basis for elections, the distribution of lands and organizing the militia. Sixteen representatives were elected to the first Legislative Assembly. Some of the representatives represented more than one county. For example, Lincoln County was divided into 4 ridings. Riding #1 shared representative Nathaniel Pettit with York and Durham counties; riding #2 returned Benjamin Pawling; riding #3 returned Isaac Swayze and riding #4 shared representative Parshall Terry with Norfolk.


The first parliament of Upper Canada met on September 17, 1792 at Newark (now Niagara On-The-Lake). At this first session of the Legislature, the names of the four districts (previously named by Lord Dorchester in 1788  were changed and the Nassau District became the Home District.


On April 9, 1793, there came into operation “An Act to provide for the nomination and appointment of Parish and Town Officers within the Province.” The era of town meetings and quarter sessions began and lasted until 1841, when Upper and Lower Canada were reunited.

In the absence of Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe, on July 21, 1796 Hon. Peter RUSSELL was appointed President of the administrative council of Upper Canada, a position he held until 1799. During his term, on October 15, 1797 the Provincial offices in Newark closed with the move of the capital to York.


On August 17, 1799 Hon. Peter HUNTER was appointed Lieutenant Governor and held this position until 1805. During his term of office, on January 1, 1800 the four districts were revised and the number of districts expanded, at which time the Home District area was changed and the District of Niagara was created. Niagara consisted of four ridings of Lincoln and Haldimand.

In 1800 the following officials of Grantham Township are known: Clerk of Peace – Ralfe Clench; Sherriff – James Clark; District Court Judge – William Dickson; Surrogate Court Judge – Dr. Robert Kerr; Surrogate Court Registrar – Allan McNabb.


The following is a list of the head of government for Upper Canada:
September 11, 1805 – 1806 – President, Administering the Province of Upper Canada  – Hon. Alexander GRANT
August 25, 1806 – 1812 – Lieutenant-Governor of Province of Upper Canada – Hon. Francis GORE (he went back to England between 1811 and 1815- in his absence the civil administration was committed successively to the senior military officer in the province)


Presidents Administering the Government of Upper Canada
October 9, 1811 – October 13, 1812 – Major-General Sir Isaac BROCK
October 20, 1812 – June 18, 1813 – Major-General Sir Roger Hale SHEAFFE, Bart.
June 19, 1813 – December 12, 1813 – Major-General Francis Baron de ROTTENBURG


Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada
December 13, 1813 – April 13, 1815 – Lieut. -Gen. Sir Gordon DRUMMOND, G.C.B.
April 25, 1815 – Lieut. -Gen. Sir George MURRAY
July 1, 1815 – Major-General Frederick Phipps ROBINSON, K.C.B.


Lieutenant-Governor (2nd Administration)
September 25, 1815 – 1817 – Hon. Francis GORE


June 11, 1817-1818 – Hon. Samuel SMITH


Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada
August 13, 1818 – 1828 – Maj.-Gen. Sir Peregrine MAITLAND, K.C.B.


Accession on March 8, 1820 – Hon. Samuel SMITH


Accession on June 30, 1820 – Maj.-Gen. Sir Peregrine MAITLAND, K.C.B.
Accession on November 5, 1828 – Maj.Gen. Sir John COLBORNE, K.C.B.
Accession on January 25, 1836 – Maj. Sir Francis Bond HEAD, K.C.B.


Accession on February 27, 1838 – Maj.Gen. Sir John COLBORNE, K.C.B.


Accession on- March 23, 1838 – Maj.Gen. Sir George ARTHUR, K.C.B.


Grantham Township records can be found in the Special Collections area of the St. Catharines Public Library. These records list the following Township Clerks as of the first meeting in January of each year: 1818 – 1819 – William CHISHOLM; 1820 – Samuel WOOD; 1821-1842 – Charles ROLLS.


February 10, 1841 – June 30, 1867 – Upper and Lower Canada became the united Province of Canada. Upper Canada became known as Canada West.


In 1841 the “District Councils Act” was passed and continued through 1849.


1849 – the “Baldwin Municipal Act” was passed which provided for the creation of municipal councils. Thus on January 1, 1850 Grantham Township was incorporated and Township Council was elected and a Reeve was elected from the elected council members by those members.


On July 1, 1867 the name Canada West was changed to the Province of Ontario

Happy Birthday Mr. Merritt

Statue of William Hamilton Merritt in downtown St. Catharines, Ontario.It isn’t everyday that you turn 215!

The Historical Society will be celebrating William Hamilton Merritt’s birthday on Thursday, July 3.  The event will take place at 7:00 p.m. at the Merritt statue on St. Paul Street at the east end of the Burgoyne Bridge (opposite of the Cenotaph).  It will include a historical walk around Mr. Merritt’s old neighbourhood including sights of the first and second Welland Canals. 

All are welcome to attend.