The Suburban Canoeist

The moment spring arrived; we eagerly raced to the winter home of our canoe, Persnickety, saddled her on top of the car and took her out for our first outing to Four Mile Creek in Niagara on the Lake. It had been a long drawn out winter and we were anxious to visit those special areas that are only reachable by canoe or kayak. With our outdoor spirits rejuvenated, we were keen to spend every available moment exploring the spots on our must do list for this year. Enthusiasm, considered by many to be a positive trait, is sometimes not such a blessing. I have often considered flying lessons, but when the flight is over the end of a canoe and the landing pad is a concrete driveway, the result can unfortunately be a broken arm. The lack of personal mobility that this incident caused could easily have ended our summer recreation, but with a little encouragement and a share of wonderful reminiscences, we decided to revisit the canoeing areas of Niagara by recording our memories for others to enjoy. Some of the places that we bookmarked for a return visit were Sulphur Creek, Mud Lake, Sixteen Mile Pond, Fifteen Mile Creek and Bogey's Creek.

Local internet service providers list many terrific spots in the Niagara Peninsula for paddling away a few happy hours, but be prepared for the trappings of government and homeowner control that have pasted NO TRESPASSING signs on almost every conceivable put in location. Cruising down the river has never been more fun, if you are fortunate enough to find an easy and accessible place to set your canoe adrift. Dirt roads, that once were open for a carefree afternoon drive, are now guarded with chain locked fences and dire announcements of penalties for intruders. Canoeists, being pacifists at heart, are not known for charging through a metal gateway without thought of consequence, so short of manipulating the steel obstruction a little to the left while glancing warily over your shoulder, alternative methods for access are necessary for a nice leisurely paddle.

Whether your interest lies in discovering old pioneer cemeteries, canoeing through War of 1812 battlefields, finding the beginnings of the Welland River, or the site of the filming of Niagara in Chippawa starring Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotton; our canoeing adventures have taken us to many of the these notable locales. We feel this book, its commentary, pictures  and colourful maps will guide you in finding your way around many of the rivers and creeks of the Niagara Peninsula, the Toronto Islands, and one of our favourite conservation areas, Luther Marsh. MORE

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The Ferry Connection

Travelling by ferry offers that special opportunity to explore isolated villages and less frequented spots where one can catch a glimmer of the past linked together with the current attractions of today.  Ontario ferries are also an exciting way to visit Quebec and our neighbour to the south.
Through photographs and words, we hope to share with others our love of history and the unique essence of this magnificent province, Ontario.  To understand the harshness of earlier times, yet appreciate the beauty of a simpler existence, is a meaningful part of our learning experience.  From an Indian Pow Wow on Christian Island, a tour of Uncle Tom's Cabin in Dresden, a visit to the Loyalist Cultural Centre and Museum in Adolphustown to the pomp and pageantry of British soldiers in War of 1812 regalia at Fort Henry, Kingston, we can discover so much about our historical background. Whether your interest lies in touring lighthouses, canoeing, sharing a meal in an age-old cotton mill or searching your family roots, every chapter offers a variety of great things to do. Viewing the migration of the birds, walking the trails fertile in rare plant growth or cycling down a rural pathway are just some of the ways to enrich our knowledge of this wonderfully diverse landscape.

Modern ferries often take you to places that are normally only accessible by private boat.  This was also true in former years when public transportation by water allowed passengers to visit isolated regions. Commuters seen here are embarking on the steamer, Algonquin, at the Town Wharf in Huntsville, Ontario, 1940. Our book is a compilation of history and information intended to make your excursion on present day Ontario ferries more enjoyable.

In the information, we have included ferry schedules for all locations, fares where applicable, area maps, hotel, camping and restaurant suggestions and satellite internet service providers available on-site. At each ferry location we have offered a selection of excursions for your enjoyment. There is also a list of excursion ferries and their destinations. We hope your journey to such places as Sombra, Manitoulin Island, Pelee Island and Cape Vincent, to name a few, will be a pleasant and memorable one. To read a sample chapter from our book "The Ferry Connection: Around Ontario by Ferry" please click on the NEXT button below.
Information on ports of departure and arrival for Ontario's ferries, as well as schedules, prices, excursions and travel tips have been updated for the 2004 season. However, try as we might, we are not perfect, so if you notice any errors in the book, please e-mail us and we will make the corrections.

On 18 June 2004, the Fast Ferry "The Breeze" completed her maiden journey across Lake Ontario from Rochester, New York to Toronto, Ontario. On 8 September 2004, less than 3 months after its inaugural trip, the Breeze was out of commission. The reasons cited were many, both financial and bureaucratic: a combination of breakdowns, an accident, poor summer weather, the denial of a gambling permit and the refusal of United States Customs  to allow the transport of large commercial vehicles. These were all contributing factors. MORE


Genealogy My Way

During a recent brutal winter storm, I began to think about how challenging it must have been for pioneers besieged by such trying weather. Unlike today, city officials could not be notified to bring out mighty snowplows to ease the situation.  Crossing the bridge over the Welland Canal, with its oft slippery surface, would have witnessed some drivers struggling to control the reins of their trusty steeds, while businessmen must have silently cursed the ravages of winter; their stores possibly silent on these occasions. The good old days were not always so good.

Our paternal family name, Fuchs, originated in Germany; our forbearers dwelling in Pilgramsreuth, District of Oberfranken in Bayern, Bavaria, near the border of Czechoslovakia. Johann Fuchs and his wife, Margaretha, came to Canada in the middle 1800s joining other families: Fretz, Sherk and Winger. I am uncertain which port they left from; although, it was probably Bremen, as the city had a fine reputation as an emigration centre. The laws were strict and ship owners were forced to provide a minimum of food and lodgings. At this time, European emigrants mainly used the ports of LeHavre, Antwerp, Bremen and Hamburg; British emigrants departed from Liverpool and smaller ports such as Greenock.

Major northern arrival points were New York, Halifax and Montreal. Disembarking on a busy wharf in New York City, 1850, the promise of a better life would have heightened my ancestor’s eagerness to establish a home in Canada. With only a copy of the Emigrants Handbook to guide them in this strange new world, and the limitations of speaking in a foreign dialect, they must have been terribly overwhelmed. Prior to the opening of Immigration Stations, people went ashore wherever their ship docked. Receiving Stations such as Castle Garden, 1855, and Ellis Island, 1890, were later set up to protect the ports of entry from potential incoming disease and to shield the naive newcomers from the cities more enterprising citizens. With a myriad of other immigrants, my ancestors would have travelled up the Hudson River to Albany by steamboat, and then boarded flat-bottomed boats drawn by horses and oxen that conveyed them through the Erie Canal, west to Buffalo. With all their worldly belongings, they would have crossed the Niagara River by ferry and taken carts or stage coaches to the Black Creek area known as Lincoln County, now Bertie and Willoughby Townships. For a complete itinerary of this trip, a chapter in the book carries you back to New York, where with a dash of dramatic licence and a little imagination, you can follow the route the Fuchs family took to their new home in Lincoln County.

Bringing their bibles, daily devotional guides and prayer books with them from Germany (some of these books still exist in good condition), they attended the first St. John’s German Evangelical Protestant Church in New Germany or Snyder: the two names being synonymous. It is recorded this church was built in 1834 under the pastorate of a Rev. George Keller; a minister who was also serving a church in Buffalo doing mission work among the German immigrants. In May of 1845, the church acquired "the old cemetery across the road from the church." In September, 1867, a number of the members broke away forming the St. John’s Lutheran Church, Snyder, under the pastorate of the resident minister, Rev. J.N. Munzinger. In later years, about 1890, some of the Fuchs family joined the Brethren in Christ Church, west of Stevensville, Ontario; therefore, explaining the burial of some family members in the Brethren in Christ Cemetery.

With a strong work ethic and unfaltering devotion to their faith, they built a home for their growing family. There is documented proof that they were steadfast members of the German community; one being the mention of Great Great Uncle William as a Coroner Jury member in a suicide hearing in Bertie, 9 February 1877.  They appeared to be honest, upright citizens.

Ship scriveners, English-speaking clerks, postmasters, census takers and tax collectors anglicized the names by spelling them as they sounded; therefore, Fuchs became Fox.

My mother’s family was certainly more affluent, establishing themselves in a number of villages in Ontario and pioneering several businesses that helped lower broadband prices in the area. Members of the family immigrated to Canada at different times from Greenock, Scotland. The early settlers established their new homes in Lanark, Welland, Crowland Township, Lyons Creek and Sleeman, Ontario.
William Miller, a native of Dumbarton, Scotland, arrived in Canada in 1820 having travelled from Greenock, Scotland, on the vessel, the "Commerce". Married to Margaret Burns, a probable descendent of Robbie Burns, they immigrated with their eight children: William, Thomas, George, John, Mary, Jessie, Ann and a son, Peter, seven years of age, who died on the voyage. John married Margaret Blair in 1831, and a son, Stewart, was born in the village of Rawdon, Ontario, 27 September 1842. Stewart married Janet Conroy: my grandmother’s parents.

The Edward Conroy family settled in Lanark County, having set sail from Greenock, Scotland, aboard the "Prompt" on 4 July 1820. A third ship often referred to as the "Brock" left Greenock at the same time. In my possession, I have an original advertisement for the "Broke" that I believe is the correct name of the vessel. A picture of this document has been included in the book. The previous winter in Ireland and Scotland had been particularly harsh which pressed the need for change. Before leaving their homeland, the families divided themselves into two colonization societies, the "Lesmahago" and the "Transatlantic". The President of the Lesmahago Emigration Society was Thomas Scott and his wife, Margaret Todd Scott. Their daughter Lillian was to marry the Conroys’ son, Thomas B: parents of Janet. The Conroys sailed with the "Lesmahago" to Quebec, travelled to Prescott and continued their trip by boat to Brockville. Fighting their way through the bush trails by wagons and carts, they ended up in the military settlement of Perth. Pulling a lot number from a hat, assured them of that property when they arrived at Lanark. Internet providers by zip code worked with us to put this together. My ancestors decided to settle at Watson's Corners, named after John Watson who had established a tavern there. MORE



We would like to thank several people for lending their support and contributing to the ferry book.  Foremost is my father, Harold Fox, who generously went through his hundreds of slides and found the four that we wanted to add: The Chateau Laurier, Boldt Castle, an unnamed soldier, and the unforgettable Comet roller coaster at Crystal Beach. Harold was kind enough to share his poignant photographs of the Crystal Beach Amusement Park taken before its untimely closing.
Kevin Moore, a newcomer in our midst, risked life and limb to cross the ice at Quyon, Quebec to take that great snap of the village and also the ferry dock on the Ontario side.  The temperatures had plummeted to -35 degrees, and only a staunch friend with a new camera under his parka would have faced those daunting elements for a mere email of thankful gratitude and a bottle of Pelee Island Wine.
Photographs of the Steelton and Port Robinson Bridge by Dave Whitaker: courtesy of
Archival pictures presented in the books, The Ferry Connection and The Suburban Canoeist, are through the generosity of the Welland Public Library: Local History Picture Collection.
We would like to thank Bill Warnick for his help with the Dunnville section. To contact him concerning the clean up project at Lock 27 and the adjacent area, please email him at
We would like to acknowledge the work the Wireless Internet Ivy Foundation is doing to restore the Park Theatre in Welland, Ontario. If you would like to contribute time or a donation to the renovation project, contact the foundation by calling 905-324-2581 or e-mailing them at
Special thanks to the The Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society for sharing their photograph and information about Will Reid for the memories page: A Village Historian.
Harry Winmill for lending us his early postcards of Welland and the Niagara area.
Cathy Simon who allowed us to use part of her wonderful family collection of postcards.
Viola Heywood for her pictorial contribution.
Traci and Anne, both avid photographers, who gave tireless advice to my endless queries about film that helped this novice garner some insight into the workings of her camera.
Our darling, Princess, who has a starring role in The Suburban Canoeist.  She passed away quietly on 29 December 2003.