From a tavern to a winery: 150 years of family history

Calling all history buffs: we’re sharing, in its entirety, an article written by Shirley Kanen-Smith about great-great-great grandpa Henry’s tavern—reputed to be one for the first taverns in Upper Canada—including what came before it, and what came after. It’s a fun piece of Canadiana, told in a style that is itself historical. You’ll be on the edge of your seat as family members are born and die. Marriages are celebrated. Wars are fought. And land changes hands. There is brawling. And prohibition-era smuggling. Illegal cock-fighting. And ties to Laura Secord’s farm. Read between the lines for all the family drama!


By Shirley Kanen-Smith

FEW FAMILIES IN ONTARIO CAN BOAST the fact that an existing tavern built 150 years ago is still in the family. One such tavern is the Henry Smith Tavern or Mountainview Inn located where three Townships, Louth, Pelham and Thorold, come together. Henry Smith owned and operated the tavern/inn from on or about the year 1842 to February 10, 1856 when he died. This is the story of that inn.

NICHOLAS SMITH PETITIONED FOR LANDS as a fifer in Butler’s Rangers, having joined that corps in 1778. In this petition, he states that he was married to the daughter of William May who also served in Butler’s Rangers and “that the family came into this place in the year 1785.” Nicholas Smith married Catherine May, the daughter of William May and Lena Jansen, on August 26, 1788, and by 1797 they had five children: Frederick, 8; John, 7; James, 5; Magdalen, 4; and William, 2. They eventually had fourteen children: seven boys and seven girls.

THE FIRST LANDS upon which Nicholas and Catherine settled were in the Township of Grantham. By 1797, Nicholas had purchased lands in Pelham and Louth townships, (the latter now part of the City of St. Catharines) and had sold the lands in Grantham. The lands upon which they eventually settled were Lots 2 and 3, Concession 1 Pelham and Lots 4, 5 and 6, Concession 8 Louth. These lands are adjoining and across from each other at Pelham Road and Fifth Street, Louth in the present City of St. Catharines.

THEY ESTABLISHED A FAMILY CEMETERY behind the buildings located on Lot 5, Concession 8 Louth where existing stones divulge that the following family members are buried: Catharine (May) Smith, consort of Nicholas Smith; James Nicholas Smith; Henry Smith and Catharine Ann Smith. All signs of any other stones have disappeared other than a part of one that appears to be identical to that of Catharine (May) Smith; family members feel it may be that of Nicholas Smith.

THERE IS A COPY OF THE LAST WILL and testament of Nicholas Smith, made during 1841, together with a codicil to the will written in 1842, wherein, amongst many other bequests, he leaves Lots 4 and 6, Concession 8 to his sons John Smith and James Smith and Lot 5, Concession 8 to his son Henry Smith. In the codicil he bequeaths Henry Smith an amount of money in return for which a piece of land from Henry’s lot was to be reserved. Nicholas Smith died March 18, 1843, and his will was proved April 10,1843.

IT WOULD APPEAR that Henry, knowing that he would inherit Lot 4, Concession 8 from his father, commenced the erection of a building which was to become the inn during 1842 as, engraved near the front door of the building, is ‘1842.’ Henry must have commenced the operation of the Henry Smith Inn shortly after that as is evidenced by this item from the Niagara Chronicle: “List of licences issued in the Niagara District for the year 1845 by W. D. Miller, inspector of licences to the 1st of February, 1845 inclusive.” In this list appears “Henry Smith, Residence – Louth – Rate Paid – £4.”

APPARENTLY THIS INN WAS KNOWN variously as the Henry Smith Tavern and Mountainview Inn. In an article in the St. Catharines Standard on September 12, 1960 by Joan Wittig, a Standard reporter, the inn was described as follows:

[One of the most popular wayside inns in the Niagara Peninsula, it] was the setting for the largest public dances, fairs and social gatherings in the district. [It contained a] large ballroom, 44 feet by 22 feet with its high ceilings and kerosene chandeliers, the bar and bagatelle room, the dining room and the exhibit room for country fairs. In those days it was not unusual to see as many as 22 teams of horses tied to the front hitching post at one time. At the time of the Inn’s popularity, the roads were made of stone and a tollgate was located at the corner of Pelham Road and Fifth Street Louth. Across the way from the inn was a county racetrack where race and show horses were bred and trained.

BY THE 1861 CENSUS OF LOUTH, George Haynes was on the property with Ann Smith, aged 45, and Frances, 16. By the 1871 census John Hennegan, 31, born in Ireland, hotel keeper, was on the property with wife, Mary A. (formerly the wife of George Haynes); Adam Haynes, 5; Theresa Haynes, 3; and Mary A. Hennegan, 5 1/2 years old; together with James O’Brian, 15; and Catharine O’Brian, 21.

THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT of Henry Smith was dated February 21, 1849, and was proved February 21, 1856. In it he nominates and appoints his trusty friends, Peter Davies of Township of Grantham, Yeoman; David Davies of Township of Louth, Yeoman; and Adam Haines of Township of Grantham, as executors. The witnesses are William Adams, Louth, Esquire (the brother-in-law of Henry) and James Nicholas Smith of Louth (the brother of Henry). Probate of the will was issued in St. Catharines on December 27th, 1867.

IN HIS WILL, Henry provides “that Lot 5, Concession 8, Louth is to devise to George Haines of Louth and the west half of Lot 33, Concession 7, Township of Nissouri is devised to Henry’s son, John Henry Smith. He states that eighteen pounds is to be paid yearly to his wife, Catharine, for the support of his daughter, Frances, and that all honest and lawful debts of his are to be paid out of the estate.”

THE WILL ALSO STATES that “George Haines is to support and maintain Henry’s wife, Catharine, and daughter, Frances, during the term of 10 years in decent and comfortable manner, provided that his wife, Catharine, accepts such support in lieu of dower. If the said George Haines pays unto the executors the sum of £300, he shall not thereafter pay said sum of £18 yearly for support of daughter, Frances, but said sum shall be invested in securities by the executors, and the interest there from is to be used to pay the legacies before mentioned to said daughter, Frances and her heirs aforesaid. If Frances dies, then the said amount is to be paid to wife, Catharine. The rest and residue of estate is to be paid to George Haines.” It would appear that Henry and Catharine Ann had only two children, John Henry Smith and Frances Smith.

BY OCTOBER 6, 1872 Frederick Smith, the eldest son and heir-at-law of Nicholas Smith and brother of Henry, conveyed this property to Adam Murray Haynes and Theresa Ellen Haynes, children of the late George Haines, who claimed to devise title under the will of the late Henry Smith.

SIMILARLY, ON LOT 33, Concession 7 Township of Nissouri a memorial to probate was registered February 2, 1857 in favour of John H. Smith, registered as the son of Henry Smith. Then on September 8, 1865 John Henry Smith conveyed this property to George Haynes, yeoman, of the Township of Louth, registered September 12, 1865 at which time John Henry Smith was of Clinton Township, Lincoln County, yeoman and the witnesses were David Davis and J. C. Rykert.

IT WOULD APPEAR that George Haynes (Haines) continued to operate the inn as a tavern from 1856 to the date of his death, April 18, 1868, for an article which appeared in the St. Catharines Constitutional dated February 13, 1868, states:

Disgraceful – Rowdy individual created a disturbance at Mr. George tavern in Louth last Tuesday eve, where a Ball was being held. The proceedings were conducted in a most orderly manner until the party in question commenced quarreling with Mr. D. Hainer, which caused some interruption in the festivities.

AFTER GEORGE HAYNES’ DEATH this inn became known as Hennegan’s Hotel, located at Hennegan’s Corners, so it would appear that the widow of George Haines and her new husband, John Hennegan carried on the business until such time as Adam Murray Haines (Haynes) and Teresa Haines (Haynes) were old enough to take over the property.

FURTHER RESEARCH SHOWS that on November 12, 1888 George Joseph Adam Murray Haynes of Louth, farmer, unmarried, granted a quit claim on Lot 33, Concession 7 Township of Nissouri, to Theresa Ellen Haynes, spinster, which was signed by John Hennegan, farmer, and Mary AM Hennegan, his wife. It is believed that Adam Murray Haynes quit claimed this property to his sister Teresa (Theresa Ellen) in exchange for the sole ownership of the property on which the inn is located.

SOME TIME AFTER 1888, George Joseph Adam Murray Haynes married Mary Catherine Lambert. He died in 1951, and his wife Mary Catharine died during 1963.

IN THE ARTICLE PREVIOUSLY MENTIONED, published in the St. Catharines Standard on September 12, 1960, their daughter, Amy who married Nicholas Treanor, operated the inn as a tray, and gift shop. At some time after that her son, Nicholas Treanor, Jr., operated the inn as ‘Adam Haynes Antiques.’

IN 1982, PAUL SPECK (a descendant of John Nicholas Smith, son of Nicholas Smith and Catharine May) and his family purchased and rented lands around the inn to commence the growing of grapes. Some time around 1985 or 1986, Paul purchased Lot 5, Concession 8, Louth Township, on which the inn was located and commenced the restoration of the buildings and the operation of the Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery. Thus the Henry Smith Tavern was once again owned and operated by a Smith family member.

THIS AREA OF LOUTH AND PELHAM townships was commonly referred to as ‘Smith Settlement.’ From an article in the St. Catharines Standard written by Evelyn Glass, ‘The Tolls of Louth Long Ago,” it is learned that one of Ontario’s first toll gates was located in Louth Township, at Hennegan’s Corners, and was operated by Ellen (Lynch) Smith, the wife of Nicholas Smith.

WHILE NOT ALL INFORMATION in the article can be verified, we do know that “the gate was opposite one of the first taverns in Upper Canada. The tavern is now a home occupied by the descendants of Henry Smith, who received the land by crown deed and willed his 800 acres to seven sons.” The grant for the lot was obtained by Nicholas Smith and willed to Henry Smith, his son.

THE ARTICLE FURTHER STATES as follows: “The toll gate operator at Hennegan’s Corners was a Mrs. Nicholas Smith, no relation to the property owners.” In fact, Ellen (Lynch) Smith, wife of Nicholas Smith was the daughter-in-law of James Nicholas Smith and Permilia (Fletcher) Smith and was definitely related to the family.

IN 1880, letters of administration of the estate of Nicholas Smith were applied for by Hamilton Smith, Harmon Smith and John Smith, sons of James Nicholas Smith, in which they declared an asset of the estate, namely a stallion valued at $500. They requested permission to sell it as there is no one to take care of it and it would probably be disposed of. Is it possible that this stallion was used for breeding purposes at the county?

HENRY SMITH AND HIS WIFE, Catharine Ann, had a daughter, Frances Smith. She married Clarke Snure, as his second wife. Clarke and their son, Eldridge, set up an apple drying plant on the present site of the Jordan Winery in 1870. They also operated the Snure General Store and Post Office at Jordan. Sad to say, the general store was razed during September, 1992. Henry Smith’s sister, Mary Smith, married Squire William Adams, and they lived just up the road past the Rockway Church.

ACCORDING TO WILLIAM F. RANNIE, in Wines of Ontario, “Their son, Elias Porter Adams, was born during the year 1844. Apparently there were troubles in the Adams’ home and young Porter moved out, apparently to Queenston, to the former Secord farm, perhaps a gift of his grandfather.” It also stated that Adams may have planted the first commercial vineyard in 1857, at which time he would have been 13 years old! A grandson of Elias Porter Adams, Wilfred Woodruff Adams, questioned this claim. At any rate, Elias Porter Adams established his grape vineyards on “Spring Farm”.

IT IS TOLD, in family tales, that some of the Smith ancestors operated a still during the days of the prohibition and that airplanes used to come in from the United States landing on Smith lands to pick up their alcoholic provisions.

IN AN ARTICLE PUBLISHED in the St. Catharines Standard March l9, 1956, titled “Nine Charges in Sunday Cock Fight at Rockway,” we find more of this Smith family involved in yet another sport. The article states that nine St. Catharines and district men had been charged in connection with what provincial police described as a Sunday afternoon cock fight in a deserted Rockway area farm house. Another Smith relative, Archie Smith, was charged with permitting a cock fight and the article further lists the other area people charged at that time.