Crime after Crime

Archivists are guided by collecting policies, also called acquisition policies, when it comes to deciding what to add to our collections. These might be determined by the geographical area that an archives covers, or perhaps by subject matter. In the case of the Community Archives of Belleville and Hastings County, our general remit is a geographical one: we collect materials which reflect the activities of people in our area. If materials are brought to us that would be more appropriately kept by another archival institution we normally advise the owner to take it there, or send it there ourselves.

But there are always exceptions to rules and when this old volume arrived at the archives a few weeks ago, it became clear that this was going to be one of those cases.

The volume is ‘Circular Book 2’ and it was originally created by the Toronto Police Service, between 1929 and 1931 (and is therefore clearly outside of our collecting area!). However, the owner did not want to donate the book to an archives; they were just looking for some advice.

The book has seen better days: the spine is in a sorry state and the pages are very brittle, acidic and crumbling. We were concerned that the volume would only deteriorate further and suggested to the owner that we photograph the pages, so that the information could be saved and made available to researchers before the condition of the book got any worse. They agreed and were happy for us to share the images online.

Pasted on to 273 pages of this book are wanted posters (or circulars) from police departments and private detective agencies across North America. Sometimes the pages were annotated with information on the date and location of the arrest of the suspect. The photographs of these pages have now been added to our collection as digital files (2017-70) and are all available on Flickr.

These notices were produced at the height of Prohibition in the USA and they include one for Fred Burke, the man suspected of committing the Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago in 1919.

There are many posters about men who escaped from prison, including Frank Grigware, who escaped from the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas in 1910 (on a hijacked locomotive) and ultimately settled down in Alberta under the name James Fahey.

The faces staring up from these posters are overwhelmingly male: there are only two female criminals out of around 500 identified in the book. One of these was Dorothy Cherris, who was wanted in Houston, Texas for involvement in gang murders.

Dorothy and her husband, John were members of a gang of bank robbers.  John was shot in the head by fellow gangsters on August 30th, 1931 and his body was dumped in the Brazos river near East Columbia, Texas. Two weeks later, Dorothy was killed in a car accident near Bonne Terre, Missouri.

Cross-references from inside the volume suggest that there were at least three other ‘Circular books’ maintained by the Toronto police service. This one somehow ended up in Belleville and was rescued by its current owner during someone else’s house move. We don’t know if any of the other volumes survive, but at least the contents of this one are now available for research. Its pages give us an interesting glimpse into police procedure and criminal activity across North America between 1929 and 1931.

By | August 25th, 2017|Featured item, News|0 Comments

Fire Insurance Maps online

The fire insurance maps produced in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are a valuable resource for researching the history of settlements and buildings. They show all the structures in a locality and are colour-coded and annotated to show the materials that each building was made of.

As an example, here is a detail from page 2 of the 1878 map, showing St. Michael’s church.

Detail of map showing St. Michael's church

The blue colour tells us that this building was made of stone, while the X in the bottom right corner indicates that it had a shingle roof.

The next map shows a big change in the footprint of the church and notes that it was “Under Construction” in May 1888. The replacement church was taller than the earlier one, by some ten feet. Instead of shingles, the O indicates that the roof was now made of slate.

Detail of 1888 fire insurance map showing St. Michael's church

Between one publication and another, the maps were updated with patches to show changes to buildings. You can see the corner of one such patch in the image above, while the map page below carries more than forty patches, representing alterations to buildings in residential Deseronto streets between 1893 and 1911.

1893-1911 Deseronto Fire Insurance map with patches

In the Community Archives there are six of these maps for Belleville, ranging in date from 1878 to 1957, and one for Deseronto.* They are one of our most heavily used resources and years of use have resulted in wear and tear to the maps. By photographing the maps, we can share them online and protect the originals from further damage.  You can now explore Belleville as it would have been in 1878, 1888, 1904, 1915 and 1942 and Deseronto between 1893 and 1911.

*Note that the Lennox and Addington County Museum and Archives in Napanee also holds a Deseronto fire insurance plan (from 1922).

By | July 25th, 2017|Buildings, Featured item, News|0 Comments

Senior of the Year!

Yesterday evening, the Council of the City of Belleville made Lorna Garbutt its Senior of the Year for 2017. Lorna has been volunteering in the Community Archives since 2009 and is a key member of the volunteer group. She has been responsible for cataloguing the Archives’ map collection (over 2,000 items!) and sorting and listing all the newspapers held in the Archives. The photograph below shows the newspaper collection after it has been boxed, sorted and labelled by Lorna and some of our other volunteers.

A far cry from the way it used to look before the move downtown:

Here is Lorna receiving her award from Councillor Denyes and Mayor Christopher:

And here she is, alongside fellow Community Archives volunteer, Lois Foster, who won the same award five years ago.

Congratulations, ladies, it’s a pleasure to work with you!

By | June 28th, 2017|News|0 Comments

Sir Gilbert Parker

The Community Archives received a significant new accession this month in the form of a large shipment of records relating to author, politician and former Belleville resident, Sir Gilbert Parker (1862-1932).

Many of the papers were contained in metal trunks which were packed up by Parker in London in 1918.

Several packages and scrapbooks in the collection were wrapped in editions of The Times dated in July of that year (the year he stepped down as the MP for Gravesend in Kent, England).

You can read more about Gilbert Parker in this month’s newsletter. Our next task is to arrange the records and describe them. Archives volunteer and history student Trevor Parsons is making good progress on arranging the records. Here he is in the reading room, surrounded by Sir Gilbert’s papers:

And cutting through a small mountain of red tape:

By | March 15th, 2017|News|0 Comments

The Camera Never Lies…

One of the largest collections in the Community Archives is the series of negatives produced by staff members of The Intelligencer, Belleville’s daily newspaper. The negatives range in date from the 1950s to 2001 and were donated to the Hastings County Historical Society in 2008. The series is not complete, but it is extensive, and the negatives often contain images that were not published in the newspaper, making these an interesting and valuable resource.

On 25th Janaury 1960 The Intelligencer covered the closure of Belleville’s old Post Office, on the southwest corner of Pinnacle and Bridge streets. The building had opened to the public in 1883 and was being replaced by a new Federal building on the southeast corner of Pinnacle and Station streets.

The photographs used in the article correspond to a set of negatives taken on 23rd January, which we have scanned and made available through Flickr. Comparison of the negatives with the published photographs in the newspaper brought to light an interesting discrepancy. In the newspaper, we see Postmaster Albert Clare locking the doors of the old building, standing alone on the Post Office steps.

In the negatives, we discover that Albert was not standing on his own, but was accompanied by assistant postmaster, John H. Smith:

The image does not show the words ‘Post Office’ above the door. However, another negative in this group does show the text and also two white notices on the door:

In the final version the two images have been combined to create a more pleasing composition, carefully excising Mr. Smith in the process.

A reminder that even before the days of Photoshop, although the camera does not lie, a photograph most certainly can!

The old Post Office was taken down in the early 1960s and replaced by a new building for The Ontario Intelligencer. Here is the empty lot, looking north, in June 1964. The Quinte Hotel is just visible on the right of the image.

This photograph in the newspaper for 7th November 1964, taken from City Hall, shows the new building under construction, with the Quinte Hotel in the background.

CABHC: 2017-13 Newton Thompson collection

By | January 30th, 2017|Buildings, News|0 Comments

The records we lost

Sometimes the surviving records of an organization give us tantalizing glimpses of the materials that were not so carefully preserved. A recent addition to the Community Archives is one such example.

Added to our collections as Accession 2017-07 last week were a collection of By-Laws from Hastings County. Most of these were the official final by-laws, which carried the dates they were read at Hastings County Council meetings, as well as the seal of the County and the signatures of the Warden and the Clerk.

Here’s an example from 1912, of By-Law Number 715. The back has the dates the by-law was read (in later years by-laws tended to be read three times on the same day, but in 1912 they were read on consecutive days):

The front has the date on which the by-law was passed, together with the seal and the signatures of the Clerk (Arthur M. Chapman in this example) and the Warden (Denis Hanley).
For some of the earliest by-laws, only drafts survive, and this is the case for the earliest one in this accession: By-Law Number 5 of the County of Hastings, which was passed in 1850. This was passed with the aim of putting offenders to work, and it entered the record books as a by-law “To provide for the opening of a House of Correction.” Incidentally, the draft shows that there was some indecision about the name of the institution: in the drafting process it was changed to House of Industry and then back to House of Correction.

The text of the by-law was as follows:

By Law to provide for the opening of a House of Correction

Whereas it is expedient and proper to provide for the Correction of persons committed to Gaol for minor offences; and whereas this cannot be accomplished by permitting offenders to spend their time in idleness during the period of their confinement.

1 Be it therefore enacted by the Municipal Council of the County of Hastings, and it is hereby enacted by the same. That a part of the present Gaol of this County shall be set apart and used as a House of Correction for all person convicted for any offences either against the Statute Law or against the By Law or By Laws of any Municipality within this County, and who shall be put to Labour, according to the Provisions of this By-Law hereinafter provided.

2 That any mechanic who shall be convicted and sentenced shall during the period of his confinement, work at this own proper trade the County furnishing materials, and the produce of the labour shall be disposed of for the benefit of the County and the funds paid into the hands of the County Treasurer.

3 That any person not a mechanic who shall be convicted and sentenced shall during the period of his or her confinement be set at such work as the Guardian of the House of Correction shall deem advisable, and the produce of their labour shall be disposed of in like manner and for the same purpose as set for the in the second section of this By-Law.

4 That it shall and may be lawful for the Guardian of said House of Correction to contract with any municipality for the labour within the Walls of the House of Correction of any number of the persons sentenced to hard labour, at all times submitting his contracts for the sanction and approval of the Warden of the County.

5 That it shall be lawful for the Guardian to confine any prisoner to solitary confinement in any cell, who shall refuse to labour or work as required by the provisions of this By-Law and pending such solitary confinement the fare of such prisoner shall be bread and water.

6 That the Treasurer shall keep a separate account of the costs and charges incidental upon the establishment and maintaining of the House of Correction and of the receipts of the same, and shall submit annually a separate account of the same to the Municipal Council of this County.

7 That the Gaoler of the County shall discharge the duties of Guardian and shall be given the annual sum of fifty pounds in compensation for said duties

8 That it shall be the duty of said Guardian to enter upon a Book the value and proceeds of each person’s labour, and when discharged shall close the account against said person. He shall keep a report Book in which he shall make daily entries of the conduct of prisoners. He shall call in the aid of the County Surgeon upon the sickness of any prisoners confined in the House of Correction and shall at all times carry out the instructions of the Surgeon with reference to the sick or ailing.

9 That an estimate shall be given by the County Surveyor of the costs of erecting a stone wall 12 feet high in lieu of the present Board enclosure and so soon as this shall be handed in the Warden shall advertise for tenders for building the said wall, to be paid for by debentures at two and three years.

The terms of the by-law seem harsh to a twenty-first century reader, but from a recordkeeping perspective it is section 8 which is the most intriguing. How interesting it would be to read the Guardian’s log book, to gauge the success of this enterprise by seeing how much money each individual generated while they were in the House of Correction, and to read his reports on the behaviour of the prisoners. Sadly, none of these records has survived to satisfy our curiosity.

By | January 16th, 2017|Featured item, News|0 Comments

Harry, the last Fire Hall horse

Al Cleary

In 2015 the Community Archives lost one of its regular volunteers, Al Cleary. 2016 would have marked Al’s fifth year of volunteering in the Archives, and in memory of him we are sharing this story, which Al researched, wrote, and presented in 2012 as a ‘Story from the Archives’ for the Hastings County Historical Society.

When Belleville was incorporated as a police village in 1836, the Fire Regulations stated that all citizens from 15 to 60 were to help pull the fire equipment if so directed by any town official.  Later years brought bigger and heavier equipment that was drawn to the fire by horses.

CABHC: HC05266 Hose wagon and hook and ladder wagon at No.2 Fire Hall, before 1901

CABHC: HC05266 Hose wagon and hook and ladder wagon at No.2 Fire Hall, upper Front Street, Belleville, before 1901

By the turn of the century the firemen were still volunteers, the horses were under contract to the City, and only the drivers or teamsters were paid.  These were sometimes young boys and paid accordingly.

Jan. 1, 1916 saw the fire department made into full time permanent paid positions, with professional teamsters.  Stanley Pomeroy, at 18 years of age, was hired in 1920 as a teamster because he was considered an expert with horses.

CABHC: HC04478 Two new motorized fire trucks, with Harry and team mate hooked to the ladder wagon, at No. 1 Fire Hall, lower Front St., circa 1922.

CABHC: HC04478 Two new motorized fire trucks, with Harry and team mate hooked to the ladder wagon, at No. 1 Fire Hall, lower Front St., Belleville, circa 1921.

In 1921 the City of Belleville bought two new motorized fire trucks to replace the two horse drawn hose wagons, and the horses that drew them were retired.  Stan Pomeroy’s main job had been to look after the horses, so he stayed at No. 2 Fire Hall to work with the remaining team that pulled the hook and ladder wagon.

Stan had special feelings for Harry, his favorite horse.  Harry was a real character with a special personality, somewhat like Stan himself.  If he could get down by the river after being washed, groomed and curry combed, he was very likely to get down and roll in the mud, almost on purpose.  When it was time to bring him back to his stall at the fire hall, he would get all upset if he wasn’t treated to a chocolate bar or a plug of chewing tobacco.  In 1926, the city bought a motorized International hook and ladder truck.  Harry and his partner in the team had pulled the old ladder wagon for 22 years.

When Harry’s  partner died at the fire hall, the City decided to sell old Harry to a market gardener, but the firemen refused to allow their faithful old horse to spend his last days being worked to death pulling a plow.  They agreed to keep him in a stall at the fire hall, and exercise him in the yard behind.

CABHC: Intelligencer 'Time Capsule' of May 25th, 1993 showing Harry's Fire Hall stall. Stan Pomeroy is second from left.

CABHC: Intelligencer ‘Time Capsule’ of May 25th, 1993 showing Harry’s Fire Hall stall. Stan Pomeroy is second from left.

Later Harry was pastured in Bleecker’s Woods north of the city for his well-deserved retirement, but within a few months of leaving the Fire Hall, the old horse died at the age of 23.  Stan Pomeroy claimed he died of a broken heart.  The Fire Department turned out as a guard of honour for old Harry at his funeral, the last of the Belleville Fire Department’s horses.

CABHC: HC04108 Burial of Harry the horse

CABHC: HC04108 Burial of Harry the horse


By | November 22nd, 2016|Featured item, News|0 Comments

Death of a Salesman

The Daily Intelligencer of September 23, 1873 gave the following report:

On Sunday morning last (September 21), at about 8 o’clock, the dead body of a man was found on a wheel barrow in the yard in rear of Mr. P. H. Hambly’s saloon on Front Street…

On Saturday afternoon the man, who appeared to be perfectly sober, was seen about Hambly’s saloon, and witness learned that, seating himself at one of the tables in a room in rear of the bar, he drank one or two glasses of whiskey and a glass of ginger beer. When the hour for closing (7 o’clock) arrived, he was found to be still sitting at the table, and a summons failing to arouse him, Mr. Hambly and a man in his employment named Neal, thinking he was drunk, placed him upon a wheelbarrow and wheeled him into the back yard, where it was supposed he would awake and take himself off. It was his intention, Mr. Hambly said, to look after him in an hour or so, but he was so busied that he forgot all about the matter, and thought no more of it until the man was found on the following morning…

Deceased, whose name was E. J. Castree, was an Englishman apparently about fifty years of age, and was engaged in selling wire toasters. He was a large, stout man, apparently a fit subject for apoplexy or heart disease. He leaves, it is said, a wife and three children, who reside in England.

The saloon where Castree died was at 258 Front Street (later occupied by Greenley’s bookstore). There is an advertisement for Philip Hambly’s business in the 1869-1870 directory for Hastings County which shows that it sold an interesting range of goods:

Advertisement for Philip H. Hambly's store, 1878

P. H. Hambly

Bread & Biscuit Baker

Pastry Cook & Confectioner

Would say to his friends and customers from all parts that he is now prepared to furnish



Wholesale and Retails at prices defying competition.


Of all descriptions made to order


The dead man, Edward James Castree, was born in the city of Gloucester, England, in 1830 to Josiah Castree, a land agent, and his wife Mary. He was baptized at the parish church of St. Mary-de-Lode on June 29, 1830. On October 7, 1856 he married Emma Wells, in a double wedding with Emma’s sister, Maria, who married Richard Rice on the same day. Emma and Maria’s father was Thomas Wells, a farmer of over 1,000 acres who employed 65 men.

Edward and Emma had two children, Sarah Wells Castree (born 1857) and Edward Henry Castree (born 1859). At the time of the 1861 census the family were living in the village of Elmstone Hardwick, Gloucestershire and in the Post Office directories of 1853 and 1863 Castree was listed as being a farmer at Uckington Farm.

But then, for some reason, Castree’s life took an intriguing turn and we next find him in the records in 1871, when his home address is given as 256 Queen Street West, Toronto, and his occupation is ‘Commercial traveller’. At the time of the 1871 census of Canada, Castree was a patient at the Toronto General Hospital.

His commercial travels took him to Belleville in 1873, when he breathed his last in Hambly’s Front Street saloon, thousands of miles away from his wife and children. The saloon is the two-storey building in centre of this photograph from the 1860s:

Detail of HC01443, view of Front Street, Belleville, north from Campbell.

Detail of HC01443, view of Front Street, Belleville, north from Campbell.

The Daily Intelligencer of September 24th reported that the post-mortem carried out by Dr Robert Tracy and Dr James Curlett showed Castree had died from internal bleeding after the rupture of an artery. They could not tell whether he had died when he was inside the saloon or after he was placed in the wheelbarrow.

A look through online records tells us a little more about Castree’s abandoned family in England. His wife Emma did not remarry: she went on to work as a housekeeper and we find her in the household of ‘gentleman farmer’ George Fletcher at Radley Farm in Avington, Berkshire from 1881 to 1901. She died in 1905.

Edward junior died young in 1884: he is described as an invalid in the 1881 census, when he was 22 and boarding in Margate, Kent (possibly he was suffering from tuberculosis and living there in the hope that the sea air would do him good). Sarah Wells Castre was living with her aunt, Mary Wells, in 1871 and by 1881 was working as a private governess for the Chapman family at Manor Farm, Shipton, Gloucestershire. After 1881 she seems to vanish from the records: we could not find a death or a marriage for her.

Unlike his unfortunate customer, saloon-owner Philip Hele Hambly lived a long life. He was also born in England, in 1836, six years after Castree. In 1841 the Hambly family were living in Baker Street, Plymouth. They moved to Canada in 1845 when Philip was aged nine. By 1855 they were living in Belleville and Philip was working with his father as a baker at the time of the 1861 census. He retired from the baking business in 1880 and in 1886 was forced to sell the Front Street property to pay his debts. In 1887 Hambly was appointed to be a customs officer in Belleville. He died in his home at 237 Ann Street on January 14, 1930 at the age of 94.

By | September 23rd, 2016|News|0 Comments

A New Home for Deseronto’s Archives

Archives room in Deseronto Public Library

Archives room in Deseronto Public Library

Today the Deseronto Archives transferred 100 boxes of material from its former location in Deseronto Public Library to the Community Archives here in Belleville. The Community Archives is jointly funded by the City of Belleville and the County of Hastings. Each municipality in Hastings County gives financial support to the Archives through their contribution to the County, and they are all able to take advantage of the Community Archives’ facilities to care for their records.

In Deseronto, the small Archives Room was running out of space for archives. Since the establishment of the Archives in 1997, a lot of material has been collected about the town. Here are all the boxes once they had been shipped to Belleville, before they were transferred into the vault:

Deseronto Archives in CABHC reading room

Deseronto Archives in CABHC reading room

Materials in this collection include:

  • Minute books of the Town from 1872
  • Records of Deseronto Public Library going back to its foundation in 1885
  • Records of Deseronto Cemetery
  • Photographs of the town
  • Maps of Deseronto
  • Subject files on aspects of the history of Deseronto and the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory

Many of the photographs from this collection have already been digitized and are available on Flickr. We will continue to add posts on Deseronto’s World War I history to the Deseronto Archives’ blog.

The collection is now safely housed in the CABHC vault, where there is plenty of room for additions! Deseronto-area residents can continue to bring archival materials to the Deseronto Public Library, from where they will be transferred to Belleville for preservation in the Community Archives.

Deseronto Archives on shelves in CABHC vault

Deseronto Archives on shelves in CABHC vault

The Deseronto Archives Board will continue to meet, and is planning a number of history-related activities in Deseronto for 2017. We look forward to sharing news of those with you in the months to come.

By | September 9th, 2016|News|0 Comments