Apr 8, 2010

Destination: Thorold, ON

Locks 4, 5 & 6 at Thorold, Photo courtesy Welland Public Library
We set out Monday morning for a day trip to Thorold, Ontario where we were meeting a couple of cousins that I recently discovered and connected with. Thorold is the location where our Irish ancestors finally settled after leaving Ireland in the 19th century. It is located atop the Niagara Escarpment between St. Catharines and Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada. It is where the ships ''climb the mountain'' on the Welland Canal to travel between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, bypassing Niagara Falls. The cousins I met are the great grandchildren of Francis J. Manley who was the youngest brother of my great grandfather, John J. Manley. I love day trips to the Niagara Peninsula because it is where I was born and raised and all of my family roots on both my mother's and father's sides are there.

Photo courtesy of LSImages on Flickr
We started at Lakeview Cemetery which is divided in two sections, the 'old' and the 'new'. When you drive in the main drive you can see the 'new' sections. If you didn't know about the 'old' section it's not likely you would ever find it. There is a small opening in a fence with what looks like a narrow road going off in the distance and ending at a forest, but if you actually take that road it leads you right into the forest which is really the 'old' cemetery. It sits right along the Welland Canal and is the most beautiful hidden gem you've ever seen. This is where most of my paternal family is. I showed them the grave of our Irish Ancestors, Edward and Margaret Manley and from there we walked around and I pointed out everyone else that is there. There are many and they are all very close together.

From there we headed over to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary RC Church. This is the church that so many of our ancestor's attended. The cornerstone was laid in 1876 but it was not consecrated and ready until 1892 in an effort to avoid debt. My ancestors would have attended this church from it's beginning and the last family funeral that was held there was in 2002 when my Aunt Mary passed. One of the original stained glass windows is dedicated to the memory of our 2x great grandmother Margaret (Dixon) Manley. Even though I didn't attend this church I can remember being there many times throughout my life for weddings, baptisms and funerals.

Church photo's courtesy of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary
Our next stop was at the Thorold Museum, maintained by the volunteers of the Thorold and Beaverdams Historical Society. The museum isn't open to the public a lot so my new friend Cathy arranged to have Diane from the society meet us there. I've never had a private tour of a museum before. It was awesome. The museum is located in a house called Chestnut Hall that was originally built in 1862 for John McDonagh who had a lumber business. My ancestor Edward Manley worked for Mr. McDonagh for many years according to his obituary in 1903. This building is now a designated 'Heritage' property.

Photo courtesy of the Thorold & Beaverdams Historical Society
The rooms in the house both upstairs and down are filled with local history including household items, linens, quilts, jewelry, tools, license plates and just about every imaginable item you could think of. The walls are covered in photographs and maps. There are books and binders filled with local news articles about people and places and events. It was a family historian's dream come true. I asked if I could move in for a while ;-) We were told that there are a couple of boxes full of beautiful portrait quality photo's in the attic that are unidentified. How I wish we could identify these photos.

We ended the afternoon by gathering at a local watering hole for a drink with Cathy. Since she and my cousins are also cousins, she had some information that she wanted to share with them. It was nice to watch their enthusiasm talking about family history and getting to know each other. It's great to come from an area so rich in history.

Thanks to Cathy, Frank, Marian and Diane for another great road trip!

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