Artifact of the Week: “History of the Niagara Peninsula and the New Welland Canal”

“History of the Niagara Peninsula and the New Welland Canal.” Written by A.E. Coombs, M.A. B.Paed

Artifact of the Week is coming back to Erie Media. We are currently working with the local museums to make this a regular feature.

Leading off the return of this series is an artifact from the Welland Museum.

It is a book that was recent donated entitled “”History of the Niagara Peninsula and the New Welland Canal”

  • The book is about the general history of the Niagara area from just before the War of 1812 up to the publish date (1930) with sections on prominent people and events.
  • The book was written by A.E. Coombs, M.A. B.Paed.
  • The book was Printed in Toronto, Ont by Historical Publishers Association in 1930, 428 pages
  • 25 copies were signed by the author this is no. 7 (as denoted on page 8)

This copy was owned by Armour Livingstone McCrae (1916-2007) Mayor of Welland 1953 – 1958.

About the Author:

Albert Ernest “Scout” Coombs (1871 – 1957) – Albert was born on the family farm near Richmond Hill, Ontario on April  2, 1871. He attended the University of Toronto, receiving a B.A. (with honours) in Classics in 1892, followed by an M.A. in 1895.

Albert began a long career in teaching in 1892. In 1897 he received a Bachelor of Paedogogy degree.

Between 1895-1899 he was principal of the Richmond Hill High School. In 1899 he became the principal of Newmarket High School and held that position until 1909.

While in Newmarket he served as Alderman.

In 1909 Albert moved to St. Catharines and became principal of the St.  Catharines Collegiate Institute and Vocational School (in the building which is now the Folk Arts Center, and formerly Robertson School on Church Street). He was principal there from 1909 through 1923.

Albert was noted for his promotion and part in the organization of the first Boy Scout Troop in Canada in St. Catharines. In January 1909 a group including Coombs, William Griffiths and Harris Neelon, who became the first Scoutmaster, organized the first troop of Boy Scouts in St.  Catharines that was officially recognized by Baden Powell in a letter dated Dec. 22, 1909.

In 1923, he stepped down as principal of the Collegiate and became the Classical instructor, a position he held until he retired in 1935.

Albert was a Freemason and was a Grand Senior Warden of the Grand Lodge of Canada in Ontario and Grand Scribe N., in the Grand Chapter of Royal  Arch Masons. He was a Past Master for over 50 years and was a member of Temple Lodge.

He received both the 50-year Masonic Jewel and the Past Masters Jewel.

From 1927-1953 he held the office of secretary of the St. Catharines Maple Leaf Lodge, and was member for over 46 years of this Lodge. He was also secretary of Mount Maria Chapter, Royal Arch Masons for many years.

Following his retirement, he taught at Ridley College and in addition, became an examiner at Normal College for 3 years.

He sought a seat on St. Catharines City Council and was successful, serving as an Alderman  for 6 years from 1940-1946.

Albert resided at 197 Church Street where he passed away on Wednesday, January 9, 1957.

About the book’s owner:

Armour Livingstone McCrae (1916-2007) -He was elected President of the then Association of Ontario Mayors and Reeves 1956-57. In 1958, as Mayor he presided over the centennial celebrations of the city, and in that same year was the first to be honoured in receiving the Citizen of the Year Award for Welland-Crowland.

He was invited by the Queen to attend her Coronation at Westminster Abbey, and was the recipient of the coronation medal. A well-known after-dinner and convention speaker, he addressed the British Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in Belfast, Ireland in 1953.

On two occasions he was the speaker representing Canada (France and the United States also being represented) at the Annual Flag Day Celebration at Old Fort Niagara, Youngstown, NY, USA.

He was also a Member and Vice-Chairman of the Ontario Municipal Board 1958-83; seconded from the Board to be Chief Hearing Officer for the Parkway Belt West hearings in 1976, and seconded again to be Chief Hearing Officer for the Niagara Escarpment Plan hearings from 1980-83.