Despite the strong winds, with ever-stronger wind gusts, and threats of rain and thunder showers, more than thirty people showed up at the Allanburg Community Centre for a walking tour of Allanburg. Led by John Burtniak, local historian and retired Brock University Special Collections librarian, and on behalf of the Canadian Canal Society for Canada’s 150th, this small crowd was first filled in on the background of the former Village of Allanburg.
Allanburg started off as an essentially agricultural community on the ancient, mainly east-west trails used by Indigenous peoples for centuries. It quickly grew when the first Welland Canal cut it in half and businesses quickly arose to take advantage of the transportation system, as well as the population growth.
In fact, Allanburg is the place where all four versions of the Welland Canal can be found. In fact, this is where the ground was broken for the very first Canal, as noted on a cairn found on the west side of the Allanburg Bridge.
But, as Mr. Burtniak pointed out, the Canal giveth and the Canal taketh away. Subsequent adjustments of the canals would cause a great deal of upheaval each time, as houses had to be moved and businesses left to get out of the way. An additional slap came from the then Department of Highways of Ontario (DHO) as they built a by-pass that took the Highway 20 traffic out of the main street in the village by way of the S-curve by-pass that is now known for its accidents (Hwy. 20 used to go up Centre St. to the bridge).
Once Thorold’s Town Crier (yours truly) did his bit, the walking tour took everyone to heritage buildings, a few yet standing, but many no longer with us. Next door, where a park now sits, was as the building that used to house the seats of government for, variously, the Township of Thorold and then the Town of Thorold. On the southwest corner of Reg. Rd. (former Hwy.) 20 and Centre St. you’ll now find someones private property. At one time, however, it was the site of a hotel, which was originally constructed as an army barracks during the events surrounding the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837.
Still there are a designated UEL (Untied Empire Loyalist) cemetery, founded in 1813 and the Allanburg Methodist (later United) Church, built in 1858.
It was an educational walk, despite the fact that Mr. Burtniak’s voice was, at times, drowned out by traffic or wind or sometimes both. And even a little rain didn’t dampen people’s interest, at least figuratively.