Port Maitland "On the Grand" Historical Association

Port Maitland, Ontario, Canada

A birds-eye look at Port Maitland in 1929. Part 6

By William A. Warnick

Published May 27, 2001
in The Dunnville Chronicle

Since March I have been telling you of buildings that no longer remain along the west shore of the Grand River at Port Maitland but are found in an aerial photograph taken about 1929. This has not been a complete inventory but has highlighted some of the more interesting ones.

For over seventy years there were a succession of passenger ferries that crossed the river. At first they were powered by hand; the operator cranking a winch and cable pulling the ferry from shore to shore. Our 1929 aerial photo showed approaches and a dock on either side of the Grand. During the 1929 era a motorized ferry which bore the name OLD SPARK PLUG, was operated by the government. In 1949, after a couple years absence she would be replaced by one owned and operated by Gordon (Chummy) Clark and his uncle Almer (Heaps) Pyle. It was named CHUMMY HEAPS.

As we move up river from the passenger ferry dock we see Elmer Moyer’s fish house where he processed fish caught on the ORIANA. Elmer would later own the MAITLAND CLIPPER. Behind Elmer, Percy Siddall had his twine house. Just as we reach the creek we find Jack McKee’s and Maitland McKeown’s establishment. An interesting little building sat here. In it cork was cut to shape for floats used on the gill-nets. Once cut they were then baked dry which sealed them from the ravishes of water.

From the creek to a few hundred feet beyond the present day Port Maitland Sailing Club the river widens. This may seem natural enough, but when view from the air you can clearly see that it is the result of mans’ medaling. When the TH&B arrived in Port Maitland in 1915, they needed a larger turning basin for the much longer ships that would be using the river. The property was purchased and the river widened. As on the east side of the Grand, the railway would not resell the land, but did rent it to a number of fishermen where they built their fisheries.

North of the creek was the fish house owned by Arnold, (Hickery) Clark and Fred Vorwerk, Anyone in the Dunnville area who enjoys following the fish tugs will remember the VAC, an acronym for Fred Vorwerk, and Arnold Clark. Aside from his interest in fishing Fred enjoyed racing airplanes and often traveled to different cities to attend air races as he did in September 1932, when he flew his plane from Buffalo to Cleveland.

Leo Franklin had his fisheries next. It sat back from the river with the road passing between the fish house and the dock where he moored the ROMER. Then came John S. Wheeler’s who would later fish with the W. H. WHEELER and Lorne (Fuzzy) Featherstone’s who much later would fish with the DOLLAR BOAT. This property is now owned by Robert Chambers and is located just south of the Sailing Club building.

Finally we come to where the Port Maitland Sailing Club is today. This is where the McIntee Bros., who originally fished with seine nets in the river had their fishery. Their father Barney, never did much gill net fishing however he did share ownership of the gill net tug C. C. LLOYD with Frank Ross. Barney was an old-time seine net fisherman having fished the Grand for rough fish as early as 1900. Son Bill, trapped netted on the lake with licences from Dunn, through Wainfleet Townships. Bill would later enter the gill net business and in 1949 had Harry Gamble of Port Dover build the PLAYFAIR. Until the formation of the Port Maitland Co-operative in 1948, which included Jack McKee & Mait McKeown, Hickery Clark, the Minor Bros., Allan Jones, John S. Wheeler, Elmer Moyer and the McIntee Bros., the McIntee’s packed and shipped fish from the family fishery. In July 1959, the McIntee Bros. fish house burnt to the ground and shortly thereafter Bill passed their lease onto the Port Maitland Sailing Club who built the current building.

We also see a small building behind the McIntee fish house. I am told the Tom Siddall lived in this building as he grew into old age. Growing up, I had heard of an old-timer who had once lived in the little house by the sailing club, but I never knew who he was or what house they meant. I now understand it was this building and Tom Siddall to whom they were referring.

Today we see very little remnants of the Fishermen’s Co-op, the Moyer, Clark, Franklin, Featherstone, Hall and McIntee family’s fisheries. Many of these docks and building were not even the 1929 photograph. In that sixty years they have risen and performed their task only to be replaced with business such as Terry Powell’s Ship Yard and the Port Maitland Sailing Club.

My research of Port Maitland has provide me with names of gill-net licensees and their boats for various years. My 1925 list is earlier than this photo and is clearly missing some names, but for what it is worth here it is. John Percy Siddall CALDERA, Harry, Lorne and John Siddall GLEN ERIE, Dougher & Jenkinson DOROTHEA D, John A. Mossip ELLEN V, John McKee & Stephen McKeown MAITLAND ROSE, C. Ross & E. Moyer ORIANA, John Percy Siddall EARLEEJUNE. The EARLEEJUNE was not built until 1931, so clearly you cannot believe everything you read!

Here is a more complete list, from various years in the early 1930's but without the names of the boats. I will attempt to add the names following the owners, but since I was not yet born you will just have to take my information with a grain of salt and you must remember these boats changed hands frequently. Elmer Moyer FRANCES J.; Charles & Roy Ross NELLIE R., ORIANA, NORFOLK; Jack McKee & Maitland McKeown MAITLAND ROSE; Leo Franklin ROMER & GEORGE T.; George Siddall ELLEN V.; Lorne Wardell, Austin Park, Roy F. Jackson, John Percy Siddall CALDERA, SAIDI, EARLEEJUNE; Arnold Clark, Frederick J. Vorwerk, Harry Siddall GLEN ERIE, George Hedges, Fred B. Clay, Thomas B. Cooper, Milan Culp, W H Wheeler, Stanley Wardell & Joseph Weideick, J. R. Fletcher, Arnold Clark & Fred Vorwerk, William Siddall GLEN ERIE; John Wesley Weiderick, Alex P. Grant, Bert Phillips RUTH L.; Jacob Weaver, William Ross, John A. MacDonald, Lorne Siddall, Edward Moss LENA; International Fisheries own DOROTHEA D; James Crumb SAIDI; John A. Mossip ELLEN V.

Much has changed in sixty years. I wonder how an aerial photo of the same area taken to day will be viewed in another sixty years.

VAC on Lake off Port Maitland Photo from Art Clark ac155

VAC as she arrived in Port Maitland with primer coat of paint
Photo from Art Clark ac149

VAC on Lake off Port Maitland
Photo from Art Clark ac155

Maitland Rose Port Maitland from Earl Siddall collection ems001
Maitland Rose Port Maitland from Earl Siddall collection ems001

Fish Tug CALDERA in Feeder Canal House in background once stood across the road from Wayne Siddalls Fisheries circa 1925
Fish Tug CALDERA in Feeder Canal
House in background once stood across the road from Wayne Siddalls Fisheries circa 1925

If you have items you wish written about or pictures you would be willing to loan, please drop me a note. Let me know how you feel about these articles.

William (Bill) Arthur Warnick