The Paffard Years
Niagara was no stranger to the era of frantic railroad construction that characterized the 1850's decade. The Michigan Central Railway laid tracks down King Street in 1854 that ran right past the Apothecary. (We see a train below, coming up King Street just at Queen Street about 1914-1922 during A.J. Coyne’s time as owner/pharmacist.)
The tradition continued of having a pharmacist on Niagara Council that started with Paffard’s predecessor, James Harvey. A few years prior to moving his pharmacy to the present location at the intersection of King and Queen Streets, Henry Paffard was elected Lord Mayor of Niagara. He served a total of 26 years in three separate terms between 1863 and 1896.
However, in 1866, during his first term, Paffard’s political activities generated personal threats that sparked the torching of both his home and pharmacy on Queen Street, along with the impressive Paffard business block, which was completely destroyed. Although Paffard’s home and pharmacy survived with considerable damage to both, it may have been a factor in making the noteworthy alterations to his then very recently purchased property at the corner of Queen at King Streets.
He moved his practice into those grand facilities in late 1869. A century later it was restored to its former impressive state to re-open in May 1971 as the present Niagara Apothecary Museum.
Fortunately, Paffard’s misfortune as the result of his public position and activities deterred him not in the least. Indeed, before he eventually sold his pharmacy in 1898, two years after completing his last term as mayor, he established a record of public service to what is now Niagara-on-the Lake as the most impressive before and after his time to the present. Indeed, during his last term as mayor, the town’s waterworks and its first electrical system (the Heisler) were installed.
Without going into any great detail, that list of devotion to various endeavors relative to the town also included:
- Establishing a local fire department;
- 45 of 46 years as treasurer and simultaneously secretary of the public library (originally the Mechanics Institute) during its existence;
- A charter member of and for 10 years vice-president of the Niagara Historical Society during his last decade in town before he headed to western Canada;
- President of the Niagara Choral Society for its first concert in 1880;
- President in 1867 of the provisional directors of the then new Royal Niagara Hotel on the waterfront
In addition to all these activities relating to the town and operating his pharmacy, Paffard was also an accomplished gardener. Apparently during the royal visit in October 1901 of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall (later to become King George V and Queen Mary), Paffard had provided fresh figs from his garden for the royal table. When the Duchess was so impressed with the figs that she requested more for breakfast the next day, Paffard, according to the published story, went out to gather them by lantern light the night before to honor her wish and have them as fresh as possible. (Incidentally, the hotel in which the royal couple stayed later became the Prince of Wales in their honor and still sits in a dramatically expanded state diagonally across from the Apothecary. Given all the publicity about the recent royal wedding of Prince Charles Windsor and Camilla Parker Bowles, it should be pointed out that the latest Duchess of Cornwall possesses the distinction of inheriting one of the earlier titles of the former Queen Mary.
Prescription and business records from the Niagara Apothecary survive from 1833 to 1964 that is from Harvey’s period as pharmacist-owner through to the close of the practice by Erland Field. Those records show that Harvey’s practice had indeed been an extremely profitable one and remained so when Paffard first acquired the pharmacy. Paffard continued to serve a clientele that included in addition to the townsfolk, members of the military still based in town, as well as those in other professions and businesses, area farmers, and others from the whole surrounding area.
However, the situation changed unexpectedly and most dramatically beginning in the early 1860’s just after Paffard was forced to deal with them as it affected his pharmacy, but also during his first term as Lord Mayor of the town. To his great credit, however, Paffard persevered, fought to stem the tide, and continued to invest personally in the town to try to bolster its drastically changing economy. Many different factors contributed to a major collapse of the town, beginning with the unexpected change of its status as the county seat in 1862, when that distinction was awarded permanently to nearby St. Catharines. Business, industry, and a large portion of the population moved as a result at the same time.
Thus, within a year the largest enterprise, the Niagara Harbor and Dock Company, closed. The military garrison, part of the town since its earliest days, was withdrawn. In general, many different industries closed.
Paffard fought at every turn for the town, at least gaining reimbursement for the cost of the relatively new, then abandoned, county building; promoting it as a major tourist attraction; persevering to open or re-open railway and boat services to bring tourists from Toronto, the USA, and other nearby centres of population. He also began to improve the long-term appearance of the town by planting a variety of trees, and to convert the abandoned military grounds into what survives as Simcoe Park across King Street from the Apothecary.
History did seem to conspire against Paffard in many ways. So that in 1866, in addition to the litany of woes already cited, during his first term as mayor, the Fenian raids into Canada disturbed US/Canadian relations with bullets flying in both directions. The opening of the third Welland Canal in 1888 greatly enlarged its ship carrying capacity and ease of navigation.
The 1890's were good years in Niagara. Frequent rail service and convenient lake boat schedules helped to stimulate a buoyant economy based on summer holiday and tourist trade. This thriving tourist business continued until World War I. Oliver Mowat, a Liberal, was elected the third Premier of Ontario in October 1872. He was to serve in this office until July 1896, just before Paffard sold his pharmacy.
In 1857, Queen Victoria selected Bytown (on the Ottawa River) to be the capital of the Province of Canada. In previous years the location of the capital was a matter of dispute. It had moved among Toronto, Kingston, Montreal, and Quebec City at great expense and confusion.
One year later, in 1858, Canada adopted the dollars and cents decimal system. This was a striking example of the growing influence of the U.S. over Great Britain.
Unquestionably, the most important moment in Canadian history to that point was July 1, 1867, when Canada East (Québec), Canada West (Ontario), New Brunswick and Nova Scotia became the first British territories in North America to come together as the Dominion of Canada and by a peaceful democratic process. Ottawa remained the capital and John Alexander Macdonald became Canada's first prime minister.
In 1873, the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, predecessor to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, were established to maintain order in western Canada.
Lucy Maude Montgomery, one of Canada's most famous writers--the author of Anne of Green Gables and many other works--was born in 1874 in Clifton, Prince Edward Island. A little more than a year later in February 1876, Alexander Graham Bell made the world's first telephone call in Brantford Ontario. 1885 was an important year for the young Dominion of Canada.
During the 1850's and indeed on through the remainder of the 19th century, a frenzy of railroad construction and speculation gripped Canada along with the rest of the world. The arrival of the railroad profoundly changed life everywhere. No longer were people so isolated. Methods of doing business changed and accelerated as firms were able to send travelling salesmen from town to town, even in far-flung areas to make calls.
An important year for the young Dominion was 1885, when Donald Smith, later Lord Strathcona, ceremoniously drove the last spike November 7th to complete the Canadian Pacific Railway's transcontinental track at Craigellachie, British Columbia. Another notable, yet still controversial event, 16 November 1885, remains the hanging in Regina of Louis Riel for murder and treason.