As you may recall from a past blog post on Oliver Seymour Phelps (1816-1902), “A Walk Around Town” was a series of articles written for the St. Catharines Journal newspaper in 1856-1857 that tell the stories of people, places and events that occurred in city. Phelps was the writer of the column, however he wrote under the moniker “Junius”.
While the articles were being published, the true identity of Junius was never revealed, however citizens were intrigued and wanted to know his real identity. There were a number of investigations and many guesses as to who wrote the column but it is not known when his true identity was discovered.
The column was bursting with extravagant and embellished language that some people found to be over the top, however he was shrewd and insightful; each article packed with detail, thoroughly documenting factual, historic accounts. The articles were titled as “Walks” and categorized sequentially using the alphabet (Walk A, Walk B and so on until he reached Walk Z).
An example of his extravagance can be seen immediately in the opening paragraph of the very first article he wrote which was published on May 15th, 1856:
“In our various peregrinations in and around Town, we design giving an Alphabetical number of, a hop, skip and jump sketch, a promiscuous and random version, and an off-hand Sam Slick, Punch and Junius-like relation, of Facts and Folks, Men and Things, Incidents and Affairs, Business and Professions, Sense and Nonsense of St. Catharines, as it was, is, and ought to be hereafter; and we will endeavor to pen what pops into our mind, what we can think of, what we can pick up, and what may be worthy of remembrance in this Polyglot Town, and among this fast people.”
So in the true fashion of Junius….I plan to endeavor down a road of discovery and intrigue into the history of this great city, for its fast people, beginning with “Walk A”. In that same 1856 column, Junius said of St. Catharines that; “It needs no Prophet to tell; no seer to state, nor no Magician to predict its future greatness; it is the bud and birdling, the germ and embryo, from whense hereafter will arise up, and forth, a second Manchester or London. It has all the elements of greatness within itself”
Join me here, every second Friday to discuss the greatness of this City, all that it has been and all that it has become.
(Photo Attribution: Graphite Sketch “Old Welland Canal” by Professor Archibald David Logan. St. Catharins Museum, 1998.286.1)
Alicia Floyd is the Archival Collections Technician at the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre.