October Reflections from the Digital Archive Ontario

October 1, 2018 | Ann

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The month of October fills our minds of late harvest, chilly weather and Halloween.

The library's Digital Archive Ontario provides some interesting historical moments in October to contemplate with the changing season...


Battle at Queenston Heights


The Battle of Queenston (Niagara-on-the-Lake  Ontario)  October 13th  1812
Battle of Queenston on October 13, 1812

 During The War of 1812 (over two hundred years ago), the Battle of Queenston Heights occurred on October 13, 1812 between the Americans and the British troops. 

Portrait of Sir Isaac Brock  1769-1812
Portrait of Sir Isaac Brock 1769-1812

As the Americans were moving northward to try to take control of Upper Canada, Sir Isaac Brock, military commander and administrator of Upper Canada, planned and fought valiantly to protect the land from the American troops. Sir Isaac Brock died on October 13, 1812 during the Battle at Queenston. He was eventually buried at this battle ground with a monument placed in his honour. This first monument was destroyed in 1840 but a replacement monument was erected shortly afterwards.

Sheaffe's Path to Victory on October 13th  1812 (Niagara-on-the-Lake  Ontario)
Sheaffe's Path to Victory on October 13, 1812 (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario)

Unlike Sir Isaac Brock, Sir Roger Hale Sheaffe applied a different tactic. The Globe and Mail's "Unsung hero of Queenston Heights finally gets his due" points out that "Sheaffe surveyed the scene. Rather than scale the escarpment from below in the same manner as Brock, he took a longer route, marching his men inland to barrage the Americans from above. 'Sheaffe used his head and won the day,' Mr. Dale said. "'He is the true victor of the Battle of Queenston Heights.'" A monument on Sheaffe's path to victory is noted in Owen Staples' painting above.

Ironically, the article also discusses the Sheaffe's abandonment of the City of York. The Americans outnumbered Sheaffe and his troops who guarded the City of York. Sheafe chose to detonate York's gunpowder ammunition before fleeing to Kingston, Ontario. Eventually, Sheaffe was removed from major command and quietly moved back to Britain where he lived until two days after his 88th birthday. 


Fallsview from the American Side in 1860


Niagara Falls  From the American Side
Niagara Falls from the American Side in 1860 

Want to see Niagara Falls from the American side in 1860? This art piece by George Henry Andrews shows a partially cloudy sky with a hint of a rainbow reflected on the churning waters. Some white buildings dot the Canadian side but the rest of the landscape is essentially green trees, shrubs, boulders and tons of greenish-yellow water cascading over stony cliffs. The painting was created in May 1860 but was then printed and released on October 27, 1860 – a five-month lag from its original painted date. In today's digital era, pictures captured are shared within seconds!


To King or Not to King?


The Prince of Wales in the North York at the Toronto Hunt Club
The Price of Wales at the Toronto Hunt Club in North York on October 1924

The Prince of Wales shown above might easily be mistaken for his younger brother, the Duke of York because they both share a similar facial profile. The elder brother would inherit the royal title, King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth and Emperor of India, and then pass this title onto his younger brother.

Edward VIII became King when his father, King George V, died January 20, 1936. Edward VIII served as King for less than 11 months before abdicating the throne to his younger brother, Duke of York. The younger brother, Albert Frederick Arthur George, who would become King George VI.

This photograph was taken almost 12 years before King George V's death and five years after the Great War. The Prince of Wales appeared relaxed as he prepped for an upcoming fox hunt in North York, Ontario. Future events – such as meeting Ms. Wallace Simpson along with the abdication of the English throne, the relocate to the Bahamas during the rise of the Nazi Regime, and witnessing another World War on the horizon – have yet to rattle this tranquil scene.


Burlington Bay Skyway Bridge


Aerial photo of the $19 000 000 Burlington Bay Skyway
October 30, 1958 aerial view of the Burlington Bay Skyway– the first toll bridge in Ontario

This beautiful bridge over Burlington, Ontario was completed on October 30, 1958. The Hamilton Spectator on September 23, 2016 emphasized the need for this highway to relieve traffic congestion between Toronto and Hamilton.  More images of the Burlington Skyway (as we refer to it now) are available on available on our Digital Archive Ontario.

Cyclists Pay Up at the Burlington Skyway in 1959
Cyclists pay up at the toll booth on the Burlington Bay Skyway bridge in 1959

Yes, the bridge required tolls to pay for its operation an its $19,000,000 construction. (The toll booth operator and the two cyclists shown above appear to be happy enough!) To pay the toll booth operator, tokens were issued and exchanged. The toll booth program ended on December 28, 1973 when higher traffic demand significantly slowed the flow of vehicles over the bridge.

Mass of supports which carry the Skyway above Burlington
View from underneath the Burlington Bay Skyway 

 This view of the Burlington Skyway shows the intricate detail in the construction work to ensure the safety and stability of the bridge for many decades to come. 


More October Photos


October snow storm: this car crashed on the Queen Elizabeth Way just west of Port Credit
October 1969 snowstorm on the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) just west of Port Credit

On a colder note, snow could suddenly appear in mid-October to create a slushy chaotic commute for Ontario drivers. The carabove crashed into the railing on a dark cold snowy evening. Luckily, the driver appears unharmed. The driver came prepared wearing ear muffs but clearly was not completely ready for the surprise snowstorm.

Digging to plant tree
Planting a red oak sapling in mid-October, 1988

 If the season remains relatively warm, mid-October would be an ideal time to plant a tree. Container-grown saplings will have time before the winter to take root and prepare for the coming spring. For this gentleman, October provides cooler temperatures to work comfortably and enough time after the harvest season to plant new tree saplings.

Horning in on Halloween
 Oxen at Puck's Farm near Schomberg, Ontario horned some interesting pumpkins, October, 1991

Halloween season arrives at Puck's Farm near Schomberg, Ontario. Here, farmers had their oxen's horns decorated with mini pumpkins to entertain the families who drove far and wide to visit Puck's ripe pumpkin patch and see other attractions on the farm.


Octobers in Ontario fill with historical awe and intrigue. May your days through the month of October remain fair and mild.