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

Discover ‘Discover’!

Now you can explore the holdings of the Community Archives from home, if you have access to the internet. We are beginning to share descriptions of the materials we hold through a new service, which we are calling Discover.

Discover uses the open-source archives management software AtoM (which stands for Access to Memory). AtoM provides archives with the ability to log new additions to their collections and to describe materials and share those descriptions online.

There are currently over 100 archival collections available in Discover, with more being added every day. Recent additions include the papers of Gerry Boyce and the County of Hastings.

Discover also allows for the addition of digital files and there are over 50 digital objects in the system. Some of these are finding aids and others are digital images from our collection, such as this image of the Reliance Aircraft staff in Belleville in 1943:

This new service makes it possible to find out whether the Community Archives holds records that will be relevant to your research before you visit. We hope it proves useful!

By | July 21st, 2016|News|0 Comments

A Poster in Pieces

By Laurel Bishop and Kieran Delaney

The Archives receives many donations, but few as intriguing as the colourful rolled-up newsprint poster brought in to us last year. The owner, Dr. Charles Bateman, had found the poster among his belongings, but knew nothing of its provenance. Its origins were a mystery. When carefully unrolled, it measured 1.25 metres in width by 2.5 metres in length. It proved to be in a delicate condition—fragments of the poster had disintegrated, but one thing was clear—its message was to announce Belleville’s Coronation Day Celebration in 1902. The problem was the date: Thursday, June 26. Queen Victoria had died in January of 1901. The coronation referred to had to be that of her son, King Edward VII, and his wife, Queen Alexandra, but a quick check on the internet showed that the event occurred on August 9, 1902. What was Belleville planning when it commissioned this elaborate poster? We were interested in both restoring the image of the poster, while conserving the original and researching the circumstances of its publication.

Coronation poster in pieces

The digital restoration process presented significant technical challenges. Scanning of the poster would have provided images that were consistent in scale and orientation. However, after the passage of 113 years, the poor quality of the newsprint meant that some disintegration had occurred and posed the problem of handling such paper without further damage to it. It was necessary to photograph what remained of the poster with the result that photos available for the restoration were neither consistent in scale nor in orientation. They had to be constantly adjusted for both size and alignment.

Coronation poster pieces (2)

Image restoration of the Coronation poster was done using the software program Photoshop whereby separate images can be assembled into a single composite picture. Digital photos of the various pieces of the poster were assembled into a whole, similar to completing an electronic jigsaw puzzle on a computer screen. Where pieces of the coloured portions of the poster were missing, it was possible to use Photoshop to copy one part of an image to another. For example, if a fragment was missing from a flag, it was possible to copy a similar portion from the same or even another flag. Where a suitable portion was not available, it was necessary to copy one from the internet or from a like image.

Re-creation of the original text was difficult and time consuming. The fonts used were over a century old and quite unique, and there were a significant number of them. If a letter was missing in a line of text, it was sometimes possible to copy an identical letter from the same or another line. If copying was not possible, then it was necessary to create that letter from scratch in a size and style consistent with the rest of the text in that same font. This meant copying portions of other letters where applicable or producing them by freehand drawing.

While this time-consuming digital restoration was being carried out, the task of researching the historical background of the poster was in progress.

In 1901 it had been over sixty years since a monarch of Britain and her Empire had been crowned. In December of that year, an Executive Coronation Committee was formed in England to plan Edward VII’s coronation. In Belleville, on May 13, 1902, a public meeting was held with the purpose of planning a celebration in honour of the event. An article on page 1 of The Weekly Intelligencer on May 15, entitled: “You’re All Invited and the Band’s Engaged,” gives details of the early discussions and the appointment of various committees with their chairmen to handle such matters as finance, advertising, sports and music. A limit of $1,000 was established to cover expected costs.

On page 4 of The Weekly Intelligencer that same May day, in a column entitled “Timely Topics,” the anonymous writer pens these words:

“The Coronation Day celebration is off to a good start. Tell your country cousins there’s going to be ‘doings’ in Belleville on June 26. They can all come in and have the time of their lives. … The right men have got hold of the matter, it will be a success as sure as shooting, and we’re going to help crown His Majesty King Ned in up-to-date style.”

Two weeks later, a preliminary version of our poster appeared in The Weekly Intelligencer advertising the coming event. June 26 would be “One Solid Day of Amusements & Rejoicing.”

Weekly Intelligencer, May 29, 1902

Weekly Intelligencer, May 29, 1902

Finally, on June 5, 1902, The Weekly Intelligencer published the details of the programme planned for Coronation Day. Here we can read about the prospective activities which match very closely those listed on the poster in the Archives. The morning programme was to consist of a military and civic trades’ procession with the participation of the 15th and 49th Regiments. The afternoon would feature a balloon ascension, trick bicycle riding on a steel wire, races, Highland dancing and a lacrosse match. And finally, in the evening, a grand Kalithumpian parade would wend its way from the Market Square to the Agricultural Park where a fireworks display would take place under the personal supervision of Professor Hand.

For the uninitiated, in old Ontario, a Kalithumpian parade referred to a noisy, boisterous parade marked by discordant music and outrageous disguise and was often organized to celebrate the Queen’s birthday or Dominion Day.

The Professor Hand referred to in this article was not Professor William Hand, the founder of the Hand fireworks company, as he had died following an accident the year before, in October of 1901, but his son, Thomas William Hand.

The “Timely Topics” writer did his utmost to encourage participation: “We haven’t had a celebration of any kind now for some time, now let’s make up for lost time and have a memorable jollification on the day King Edward gets his crown. All together, now.”

But no one counted on the King getting appendicitis—just two days before his coronation, he underwent an operation to save his life. As the writer of “Timely Topics” put it, “Who can tell what a day will bring forth!” By mid-July, Edward had rallied sufficiently so that official notification could be issued to the effect that the Coronation of King Edward and Queen Alexandra would take place on Saturday, August 9th.

King Edward VII

King Edward VII

However, the Coronation Committee of Belleville decided to give a grand fireworks display and band concert at Corby’s Driving Park on Monday night, two days after the coronation. Belleville City Council referred in their Minutes to Coronation Day as being on August 11, 1902. The reason can be found in the words written by our “Timely Topics” columnist writing in The Daily Intelligencer:

“It is pleasing to note that Belleville is going to celebrate the coronation of King Edward. The gentlemen who had arranged the celebration for June 26 were hit pretty hard, and no one would have blamed them very much if they had fought shy of things of that kind for some time to come. However, like loyal men, they thought the city should do something to mark the recovering and coronation of His Majesty.

“Of course, nobody expected anything would be done on Saturday. It was hardly in reason to ask our merchants to shut up their stores on the night of the busiest day of the week. But on Monday evening next there will be a demonstration on the Corby Driving Park, when the band will give a patriotic concert, and the grandest display of fireworks ever seen in Belleville will be shown under the personal supervision of Prof. Hand, of Hamilton, the man who makes ’em. Turn out and show your loyalty, join in the chorus of the National Anthem and let out a whoop or two for Good King Ned and the British Empire, which never took a back seat for anybody yet and doesn’t mean to.”

As can be seen from the above, the men who invested in the originally planned coronation celebration lost a good deal of money. They had the sympathy of the “Timely Topics” reporter:

“The gentlemen who engineered the proposed celebration on June 26 went behind many dollars owing to the unfortunate postponement. If there is a good attendance at the Driving Park to-night it will, though not altogether covering the loss, go a long way towards it. Turn out and enjoy yourself and give them a hand.”

Although far below the hoped-for attendance, on a somewhat chilly evening, at least 1,000 persons witnessed the display of fireworks and enjoyed the musical selections by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Band. Belleville’s Coronation celebration was complete. “Timely Topics” writer felt “the show was a good one, and nobody got his whiskers singed, so let’s be thankful.”

The Community Archives possesses a number of City of Belleville minute books providing a written record of Belleville City Council meetings. During the research process, a number of entries in Book 3 were found pertinent to the investigation. An example from the meeting on January 23, 1901 follows.

City of Belleville Council Minutes of January 23, 1901

“The citizens of Belleville Ontario join in the world wide sorrow felt for the death of the Empire’s beloved Queen, and wish in common with all Canadians to assure His Majesty King Edward of their fealty to His throne and attachment to His person.”

And finally, we come to the probable connection between our donor Dr. Bateman and the Coronation poster. Near the bottom is printed the name: Chas. Sulman, Chairman Finance Com., a man who became Mayor of Belleville from 1905 to 1908.

2016-30 Charles Sulman as Mayor of Belleville

2016-30 Charles Sulman as Mayor of Belleville

In The Daily Intelligencer of August 7, 1902, his generosity is recognized for having presented to the City of Belleville a Union Jack to be flown on the City Hall. Plans were for the flag to be hoisted for the first time on Coronation Day and Alderman Charles Nelson Sulman was to be asked to raise the flag. Dr. Bateman is one of Mr. Sulman’s grandsons.

After a year of work, the pieces of the digital puzzle that is the Coronation Poster (and the story behind it) have been put together and the end result can be shared with the citizens of Belleville again.

Restored Coronation Poster




By | June 16th, 2016|Featured item, News|0 Comments

Official opening of the new Community Archives

Front window of the new Community Archives (photo by Robert House)

Front window of the new Community Archives (photo by Robert House)

April 7th saw the official opening of the Community Archives in its new location at 254 Pinnacle Street, Belleville, on the second floor of the Belleville Public Library. Around 100 people gathered in the John M. Parrott Art Gallery for the event, including MP for the Bay of Quinte (and former Mayor of the City of Belleville), Neil Ellis, shown here with Gerry Boyce in one of the Archives’ vaults, surrounded by boxes of Gerry’s own records and those of the Hastings County Historical Society.

Neil Ellis and Gerry Boyce

Neil Ellis, MP and Gerry Boyce (photo by Mark Fluhrer)

Mayor of the City of Belleville, Taso Christopher, kicked off the formal proceedings by thanking all those involved in developing the project to build a new archives and County of Hastings Warden, Rick Phillips, added his thanks. Both stressed the significance of the cooperation involved in bringing the construction work to completion. MP Ellis, Councillor Garnet Thompson, Chair of the Belleville Public Library Board and Richard Hughes, President of the Hastings County Historical Society also spoke.

Retired Archivist Sharon White received a certificate of appreciation for her work for the Archives.

Mayor Taso Christopher and archivist Sharon White (photo by Donna Fano)

Mayor Taso Christopher and archivist Sharon White (photo by Donna Fano)

As part of the event, it was announced that the new Archives reading room would be named the Gerry Boyce Reading Room, in honour of Gerry’s nearly 60-year association with the Historical Society and its collections. The audience gave Gerry a standing ovation.

Photo by Donna Fano

Announcing the Gerry Boyce Reading Room (photo by Donna Fano)

Chief Privacy Officer and Archivist of Ontario John Roberts addressed the room, welcoming the opening of the new archives and bringing some volumes of local records with him from the Archives of Ontario, including the second volume of minutes from the Town of Belleville, 1860-1870. Further local materials currently held at the Archives of Ontario will be returned to the Community Archives later this month.

John Roberts, Chief Privacy Officer and Archivist of Ontario. Photo by Robert House

John Roberts, Chief Privacy Officer and Archivist of Ontario (photo by Robert House)

Gerry cut the ribbon (well, the archival cotton tape), to officially open the Archives with broad smiles all round.

Ribbon cut (photo by Robert House)

By | April 16th, 2016|Move to Belleville Public Library, News|0 Comments

Come to see our new location

AAW poster letter small right logo

Next week is Archives Awareness Week in Ontario, and the Archives Association of Ontario (AAO) and the Archives of Ontario (AO) are working together to help archives share information about their activities. There’s a list of events on the AAO’s website and the AO have produced this lovely poster to promote the week.

Here in Belleville, we will be celebrating the official opening of our new Community Archives and providing behind-the-scenes tours of the new facility. You can sign up in person at the archives’ front desk, or you can fill in an online form to book your place on a tour. There are eight tours available between 4th and 8th April, with a limit of ten people to each tour.

We look forward to welcoming you to our new space. We will be open for research in the week following Archives Awareness Week, starting Tuesday April 12th. Our regular opening hours are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 1pm to 4pm.

By | March 29th, 2016|News|0 Comments

We have moved!

It has been a long process, but this week the Community Archives of Belleville and Hastings County moved into its new, purpose-built location inside the Belleville Public Library.

Moving trucks filling up in Cannifton

Moving trucks filling up in Cannifton

Eight men and three trucks arrived at 154 Cannifton Road North on Monday morning, and by Wednesday lunchtime everything was safely transferred to the Library. We were lucky with the weather, managing to pick the three driest days of the past two weeks.

Archives on the move

Archives on the move

Covered wooden computer carts were used to move the archival volumes and small boxes, which had all been carefully colour-coded to show which vault they were going in to at the Library.

Carts ready to be filled

Carts ready to be filled

There were a lot of carts! Here are some of the boxes sitting on their new shelves:

Intelligencer negatives on their new shelves

Intelligencer negatives on their new shelves

The most challenging items to move were the eight map chests: these are very large and heavy and it took nearly all the moving team to get them onto dollies and then into place in the new reading room.

Installing the map chests

Installing the map chests

Our thanks to the movers for all their labours, and to the staff at Belleville Public Library for putting up with the construction work in their space for the past year and for being so helpful during our move.

Vaults B and C under construction

Vaults B and C under construction, August 2015

Special thanks are due to the Archives volunteers who worked incredibly hard to get everything ready for the move and to unpack materials at the Library during this past week. I hope they are all having a restful Easter weekend to recover!

By | March 25th, 2016|Move to Belleville Public Library, News|0 Comments

Proposing by post(card)

It may seem a strange idea today, but in the 1910s there seems to have been a ready market for postcards featuring the leap year tradition of women proposing to men. In the preparations for the Archives’ move to its new location, we came across four such postcards, published by the Gibson Art Company in 1911 and collected by Gerry Boyce.

This one is the least misogynistic of the four:


None of these were written upon or mailed, but it would be interesting to know if anyone ever did propose through the medium of a leap year postcard. You can see all four postcards on our Flickr pages, and if this topic interests you, there is an online database of Leap Year postcards which has been compiled by Katherine Parkin of Monmouth University.

By | February 26th, 2016|News|0 Comments

Wrapping and packing

The Archives is busy with preparations for the move next month. Fragile items such as old copies of The Intelligencer are being wrapped to protect them, while other records such as the Hastings County records in the picture below are being rehoused in archival-quality boxes which will fit on the shelves of our new space.

Wrapping and packing

We are in the process of assigning locations for all of our existing records in the new building: this has involved creating an inventory of everything we currently hold and a corresponding inventory of every shelf available in our new building. By doing this, we have identified some 2,500 boxes and volumes in our collection, with more than 1,300 shelves in the new building. Each shelf will be labelled with a unique number, and each box or volume will be assigned to a particular shelf and labelled with its destination. There are a lot of spreadsheets involved!

Our moving dates will be between March 21st and March 23rd, with the official opening of the new facility due to take place in Archives Awareness Week in April.

KeysWe took possession of the keys this week and are looking forward to opening our doors to the public in April. Watch this space for details of behind-the-scenes tours and other activities taking place in Archives Awareness Week.

By | February 22nd, 2016|Move to Belleville Public Library, News|0 Comments