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Documents from the Front: The American Civil War and Fenian Raids in the 1860s - Page Banner

Two recent additions to the Archives' collection show, through the private lives of Ontarians, how wider military conflicts and political issues affected Ontario (Canada West) in the 1860s.

Photo: Fenian Monument, Queen's Park, Toronto, [ca. 1890]

The Darroch donation consists of over fifty rare letters of Canadians serving in the American Civil War . The Willson acquisition is the unique minutes of the Committee of Safety, formed in Welland, in response to an incursion of Fenians near Fort Erie in 1866.

Thanks to Lois Darroch and Barbara Willson Smith these documents are now part of the Archives of Ontario's rich holdings.

Click to see a larger image (195K)
Fenian Monument, Queen's Park, Toronto, [ca. 1890]
Josiah Bruce
Black and white print
Reference Code: F 1125-1-0-0-37
Archive of Ontario, I0001819

The Darroch Donation

Lois Darroch’s grandfather was Alonzo Wolverton from Wolverton, Oxford County, Ontario. Like many other Canadians, Alonzo and his three brothers, Alfred, Jasper and Newton participated in the American Civil War. They served in the Union Army, but Canadians also enlisted in the opposing Confederate Army.

Letter, Rose Goble, Gobles Corners to brother Alonzo Wolverton, Nashville, Tennessee, 28 April 1865
Letter, Rose Goble, Gobles Corners to brother Alonzo
Wolverton, Nashville, Tennessee, 28 April 1865
Lois Darroch fonds (F 4354)
Reference Code: F 4354-6
Archives of Ontario

The Darroch donation consists of over fifty letters; the primary correspondents are Alonzo and Newton Wolverton, and their married sister Roseltha (Rose) Wolverton Goble.

Lois Darroch, the donor of the records, wrote an historical novel, Four Went to the Civil War, based on these family letters and other materials. Her research and writing files associated with this book and other of her publications, as well as research materials related to the Wolverton family and Wolverton village are included in her recent donation to the Archives.

Materials included in the Darroch donation will be available to researchers in spring 2004, including microfilmed copies of the Wolverton family letters. Materials previously donated to the Archives by Lois Darroch are described in the Archives Descriptive Database (F 4354).

The Barbara Willson Smith Acquisition

Committee of Safety

The Committee of Safety minutes relate to the same time period and similar concerns. The Committee of Safety was a local citizens’ committee formed in Welland to address the threat of a Fenian raid at Ridgeway on June 2, 1866.

The minutes provide reports of patrols sent out by the Committee, thus providing a rare record of a local response to a national threat.

The Archives was able to purchase this document from Barbara Willson Smith of New Jersey, a descendant of Isaac Pemberton Willson, who was the secretary of this Committee of Safety.

Committee of Safety Minutes, 1866
Reference Code: F 4416
Archives of Ontario