One of the people in Niagara Falls who contributed most to an early recording of local history had no idea he was recording local history. His name was William Dalton. All he was doing was going home at the end of the day and writing down his recollections of the day’s activities.
Dalton was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario on 15 November 1846, the son of George and Mary Ann Dalton. At the age of nineteen he enlisted in the Northern Army to fight in the American Civil War. He was discharged in Raleigh North Carolina on 28 August 1865. His discharge papers record that
he was five foot seven inches tall with a fair complexion, blue eyes and was a baker by trade. He soon found himself in battle again at the time of the Fenian Raids and in 1866 he was awarded a medal for defending this country in those raids.
Dalton’s wife Louisa was born on 1 October 1845. She was the daughter of John Latshaw, the well-known architect of Niagara Falls and his wife, Mary Durham. The date of their marriage is not known, but by the census of 1871 they were already married. Louisa’s sister, married Samuel Morse. Dalton had begun as a baker, but after the construction of the Stamford Town Hall, he became clerk and caretaker there and served in that capacity from 1875 to 1913. Having a father in law who had put the building up probably helped him find the position. The building was used for all kinds of public
meetings and concerts. It was at this time he developed the habit of keeping a record of all his activities in order to account for his time in this public building. From 1845 to 1916 Dalton was the Sexton responsible for the care of the Drummond hill cemetery. It is in that capacity that his daily
reports become important. He kept a record of who was buried and where their funeral plot was in relationship to other plots or some geological feature. In addition he usually noted who had conducted the funeral and who the undertaker was. He very often indicated who were the other members of the family, what the cause of death had been and sometimes what he thought about the deceased. He was also asked from time to time to dig graves in other cemeteries as well In spite of spelling problems
with names and quaint grammatical style his records provide a good account of the citizens of Drummondville. One short quotation will provide an idea of these daily recordings.
“WK Knapp was taken up out of his grave by William Dalton and Mr. M. Morse and put in a tight box and sent home to Utica, N. York State. He was the man shot himself at the falls and jumped in and was found at the whirlpool.”
Dalton died in Guelph Ontario on 20 December 1916. His funeral was conducted by Canon Beven of All Saints Anglican church in Drummondville. Members of the lodges of the Masons, Orangemen and Odd Fellows were all in attendance at the funeral. In addition to these organizations he was a member of the Canadian Order of Foresters. The inclusion of these organizations in his funeral indicates the involvement of Dalton in his community.
By Fred Habermehl
see Burial Records and Notations of William Dalton 1845 - 1916
Niagara Falls Canada : A History
4 Directions Speaker Series: Elaine Berwald
4 Directions Speaker Series: Brian Kon
4 Directions Speaker Series: Indigenous Diabetes Health Circle
The Poppy Project