Tuesday, December 27, 2016

William WALLACE (1844-1929)

William WALLACE, Esther MCLEOD
William WALLACE and his daughter Esther MCLEOD
1924 Owen Sound

George SIM > Mary Ann WALLACE-SIM > William WALLACE

BIRTH - William Wallace was born July 27, 1844 in Ireland.  Per his marriage certificate, his parents were Thomas Wallace and Betty Dickie (or Decker).  However, on his Sarawak, Ontario death record his parents were listed as William and Esther which happened to be the first names of his wife's parents.  His son, William Wallace, was the informant and we believe he confused his grandparents.

IMMIGRATION - We are not sure of William's immigration year to Canada,  On the 1901 census it is listed as 1862 and on the 1911 census 1864 is recorded.

MARRIAGE - On August 1, 1865, William Wallace married Mary Huston in Grey County, Sarawak Township, Ontario, Canada.

FAMILY - William and Mary had 12 known children.  From the Canadian Census Reports they were listed as Jane, Mary Ann (George's mother), Hester, Bessie, Esther, Robert, John, William, Sarah, Thomas, Elizabeth and Rachel.

William Wallace and his family are found on the 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 Canadian Census Reports. The family lived in Sawawak, Grey County, Ontario, Canada.  The family was Presbyterian and William was listed as a farmer on all the reports.

William WALLACE  William WALLACE
William WALLACE, 1923 Owen Sound
Photos courtesy of cousin Mary Ellen F.
DEATH - William Wallace died at the age of 85 on October 22, 1929 in Sarawak Township, Ontario, Canada,  He was a widow.  His causes of death were dilated heart, valve leakage and old age.  He was buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada.

At this time our research on the Wallace family has concluded.  We will continue searching for new leads on the Wallace family from Ireland.

Visit  his on-line memorial (note the black lab statue on bottom of stone):

Can you help ID the people in the Mystery Photos of Owen Sound?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Alexander WHYTE and Janet WALKER Married in 1788

 George SIM > John W. SIM > Elizabeth GRUER-SIM > Magdalane WHYTE-GRUER > Alexander WHYTE and Janet WALKER

Alexander Whyte and Janet Walker were the parents of Magdalane Whyte, who was born September 6, 1807, and married William Gruer.  The birth certificates of Magdalane's twins stated Alexander and Janet Whyte were from Denhead, County of Perth, Scotland,

Alexander was born about 1750 in Newtyle, Angus, Scotland.  Janet Walker was also born in Newtyle around 1763.  Her father was James Walker and her mother is unknown.

Alexander and Janet were married in Newtyle on January 27, 1788.  They had 10 children which included Margaret, Jane, Isobel, Agnes, Christian, Adam, Elisabeth, Magdalane and two children whose names were not recorded on the baptism certificates.

The Whyte Family was associated with clans MacGregor and Lamont.  The Walker Family was associated with clans MacGregor, MacMillon, Stewart of Appin and Wallace.
MACGREGOR tartan from www.scotclans.com
For now, this will conclude our research on the Whyte and Walker families.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Alexander GREWER and Flora PATERSON - Married in 1799

GREWER Coat of Arms from www.scotsclan.com
George SIM > John W. SIM > Elizabeth GRUER-SIM > Wm. GRUER > Alexander GREWER and Flora PATERSON   
At this point we have found on various documents the Gruer name also spelled as Grewer and Grewar.

We have no positive information on the births of Alexander Grewer or Flora Paterson.

Alexander Grewar married Flora Paterson on November 2, 1799 in Dundee, Angus, Scotland.  All the records we have found spell Paterson with one "t" not the usual Patterson.  In researching we found many Paterson families in Scotland at this time.

We are quite positive these are William (Grewer) Gruer's parents as he named his first daughter, Flora, likely after his mother.  He, also, named another daughter, Isabella Stewart Gruer, after a brother and sister we found.

We found nine children born to Alexander and Flora.  All were born in Dundee, Angus, Scotland.

Alexander Grewer                  Born September 8, 1800  
William Grewer                       Born August 2, 1802        
James Gruar                           Born April 16, 1805
Stewart Gruar (male)             Born December 22, 1807
Flora Gruar                            Born March 17, 1810
Ann Gruar                              Born April 10, 1812
Margaret Gruar                      Born May 31, 1819
Elizabeth Gruar                      Born October 1, 1821
Stewart Grewer (female)        Married James Campbell  
                                              on March 12, 1832

The Grewer family was located around Braemar, Aberdeenshire, Scotland since the 11th century.  Shorted form of MACGRUER, they were associated with clans Fraser, MacGregor and Lamont. The Coat of Arms is no longer recognized today.  They are one of the oldest families in the region. They were noted for their running ability, and their name means either ‘fleet of foot’ or ‘greyhound’. Note the greyhound on the former coat of arms.  We will need further research to continue this line.
Tartan plaid for GREWER from www.scotclans.com
The Paterson Clan was located around Loch Fyne.  The name means "son of Patrick" and is a common Scottish surname today. 
Tartan plaid for PATERSON from www.scotclans.com

Friday, December 16, 2016

Elizabeth’s Twin Sister - Mary Ann GRUER-SIM (1832-1916)

Photo courtesy cousin Sherry T.
George SIM's grand aunt, paternal line
 Mary Ann was the twin sister of our ancestor Elizabeth GRUER (1832-1907).  We do not know if they were identical or fraternal twins.  They were born 12 May 1832 in Hastings, Sussex, England and were christened 17 March 1833 at St. Clements Croft Congregational Church in Hastings.

Mary Ann had a relationship with William ANDERSON that produced a son, William Gruer ANDERSON in 1855 Scotland.  This child remained in Scotland and was reared by his father.  The photos of Mary Ann were obtained from William's descendants.  On the back of the photo #1 (above) is written, "To my dear Willie from his dear mother, Mrs. Wm Sim, Trinity Square, Toronto, Ontario, December 22, 1879" according to cousin Sherry T.  Photo #2 (left) was dated 12 May 1892.

Mary Ann married William SIM (1823-1881) who was the younger brother of our ancestor James SIM (2 brothers married twin sisters).  By 1861, they moved to Colborne, Northumberland, Canada.  (James and Elizabeth moved there about 1855-56.)  William was a baker/confectioner and a tea merchant.

In the 1861 census, they had one child, Sarah Ann SIM-CROWDEN (1853-1886).  If this date of birth is correct, she is likely not the biological daughter of Mary Ann.

Between 1861 and 1870, the family had returned to Aberdeen.  Sarah married in 1870 in Aberdeen and remained in Scotland.

By 1881, William and Mary Ann were living in Toronto, Ontario.  Elizabeth’s daughter Maggie SIM was living in their home in 1881.  In August of that year, William passed away of "uremia" or "disease of the kidneys".  On his death registry, he was listed as a commercial traveler, so he must have continued with his tea trade while in Canada.  He is buried in the Necropolis Cemetery in Toronto and interestingly, the plot was owned by “J SIMS”.  James must have helped pay for his burial.

William's obit from the Sim Scrapbook
Mary Ann was still in Toronto for the 1891 census.  In 1911, she was living in Elizabeth’s daughter’s (Sarah COX) home in Northumberland.

Mary Ann died 24 November 1916 in Wooler, Ontario, age 84, due to old age and myocardiac gastritis.  She is laid to rest next to her twin sister in Salem Cemetery in Colborne.  James, Elizabeth and Mary Ann share a gravestone.

Visit her on-line memorial:

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Magdalane WHYTE (WHITE)-GRUER (1807-1893)

George SIM > John Wm SIM > Elizabeth GRUER-SIM > Magdalane WHYTE-GRUER

BIRTH - Magdalane Whyte was born September 6, 1807 in Forfarshire, Angus, Scotland.  Her father was Alexander Whyte and her mother was Janet Walker.

On the early documents she was listed as Whyte.  After her marriage, Whyte changed to White on the records of her children's births.  Her first name had been recorded with several different spellings on various documents.  However, her birth record stated Magdalane.

MARRIAGE - Magdalane married William Grewer (Gruer) on October 27, 1829 in Dundee, Angus, Scotland.  They had at least 11 children which included Flora, twins: Elizabeth and Mary Ann, William, Jesse Magdalen, Isabella, John, Alexander, Daniel, David and James.

England, Wales, Scotland Census Reports:

1841    Age 32     Living with husband and 6 children on Grant Street, Moray, Duffus,
1851    Age 43     Living with husband and 7 children and one grandchild on Nether Mill
                            Street, Aberdeenshire, Aberdour, Scotland
1861                    Not listed on census that included her husband, 2 children and one
                            grand child living on Church Street, Banffshire, Rathven, Scotland
1871    Age 63     Magdalane is living with her husband who is retired and her daughter,
                            Isabella Stuart,  who is 26 and unmarried in Moray, Drainie, Scotland
1881    Age 73     Widow, living at 27 King Street, Moray, Drainie, Scotland
1891    Age 83     Widow, annuitant, living on King Street, Moray, Drainie, Scotland

On September 9, 1888, Magdalane wrote the following in the Sim Scrapbook:

Maggie Gruer      Mount Forest, Ont     Arrived from Scotland

Signature from the Sim Scrapbook

DEATH - Magdalane Whyte Gruer died on September 3, 1893, age 85, in Branderburgh, Lossiemouth, Scotland.
Obituary from the Sim Scrapbook

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

William GRUER (GREWER) (1802-1878)

George SIM > John Wm SIM > Elizabeth GRUER-SIM > William GRUER

BIRTH - On August 2, 1802, William Grewer was born in Dundee, Angus, Scotland.  His parents were Alexander Grewer and Flora Paterson.  His baptism and marriage records recorded his surname as Grewer.  All later documents, including his head stone and children, are listed as Gruer.

MARRIAGE - William Grewer married Magdalane Whyte on October 27, 1829 in Dundee, Angus, Scotland.  They had at least 10 children.  They have been recorded as Flora, twins:  Elizabeth and Mary Ann, William, David, Isabella, John, Alexander, Daniel and James.

OCCUPATION - All records found showed he was in the Royal Coast Guard.  The family moved around due to his job in the coast guard.

1832-1834    - He was in the County of Sussex, Hastings, England.  Three of his children
                        were born in England.                              
1841 Census -  He was in Duffus, Haddingtonshire Cty.,  Scotland.
1844              - His daughter, Isabella, is born in Aberdeenshire, Aberdour, Scotland.
1851 Census - Listed as living in Aberdeenshire, Aberdour, Scotland.
1861 Census - He was in Banffshire, Rathven, Scotland.
1871 Census - He was retired and lived at Moray, Branderburg, Scotland.

HONORS - On December 19, 1855, he was awarded the silver medal from the National Lifeboat Institution for his gallant conduct in swimming to the rescue of the master of the schooner, Thor, that had shipwrecked.

From January 1, 1856, The Illustrated London News, Vol. 27
“Preservation of Life from Shipwreck – On Thursday a meeting of the Royal National Life boat Institution was held at the society’s house, John-street, Adelphi, Thomas CHAPMAN, Esq. in the chair.  Mr. LEWIS, the secretary, having read the minutes of the previous meeting, the silver medal of the institution was voted to Mr. William GRUER, of Lossiemouth Coast-guard Station, in testimony of his gallant conduct in swimming to the rescue of the master of the schooner THOR, when he found, notwithstanding that his vessel was going to pieces, in a state of incredulity having locked himself in his cabin.”
This is what the medal looked like:

ORGANIZATIONS -  He was a charter member of the Braemer Royal Highland Society.  This society raised funds to help members during times of sickness, pay for funerals and set up annuities for widows.  He was, also, a member of the Braemer Club of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.  This curling club still exists today.

RETIREMENT - William Gruer was discharged from the coast guard on February 28, 1863 from the Buckie Station.  He was the Chief Boatman in Charge.  The reason was listed as "super" which means superannuation, a way to save for retirement.

DEATH - William Gruer died in Lossiemouth, Morayshire, Scotland on September 3, 1878
at the age of 77.  He was buried in Kinneddar Cemetery in Lossiemouth, Scotland.

The inscription on his tombstone reads:
To the Memory
              WILLIAM GRUER                
 Aged 77 years
Universally respected
and deeply regretted

Photo courtesy of GariochGraver on www.findagrave.com

Visit his on-line memorial:

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Children of James SIM and Elizabeth GRUER

isabella palmer

Isabella, 1935

Photo courtesy cousin Sherry T.

George's aunts and uncle, paternal line
Isabella SIM-PALMER (1855-1938) was born in Scotland and immigrated to Canada with her parents.  James is listed as her father on the birth certificate.  We do not know when Elizabeth married James SIM or where (Scotland or Australia). 

Isabella married Samuel PALMER (1852-1941) of Ontario in Jan 1874 in Michigan.  Sam was a Quaker and a furniture maker.  They settled in Woolert, Ontario and had at least 4 children (Mabel DUNN, Harold, Loaella ANDERSON and Alice HENDERSON).  She died of chronic myocarditis at age 83.  Her headstone has different dates. 

Mary SIM-STROHM (1857-1926) married George Beck STROHM (1855-1937) of Rochester in Jun 1874 in Michigan.  They settled in Rochester and had at least 3 children (Ada HINSDALE, Harry and William).  Mary was the first SIM sibling to relocate to Rochester – her siblings Maggie (in 1880), Mima (in 1882), Jessie (in 1883) and John Wm (in 1898) followed.  George was a wealthy land developer in Rochester.  Mary died at age 69.  Her will stipulated that George would receive her inheritance, but it would go to her children if he ever remarried.
mary strohm, mima lewis
Frederick and Mima LEWIS, Mary and George STROHM
Photo courtesy cousin Mary Ellen F.

Sarah SIM-COX (1859-1920) married Edward COX (1850-1915) and remained in Ontario.  They had at least 2 children (Emma DRURY and Stuart).  She died at age 61.
Obituary from the Sim Scrapbook

Margaret Gruer SIM-NEVIN (1861-1887), known as "Maggie",  immigrated to Rochester, NY in 1880.  Her middle name Gruer was her mother’s maiden name.  She married Hugh NEVIN (1858-) in 1883 in Rochester.  They had attended Sunday School together.  Hugh was a clerk.  They had 1 son (Hugh Jr.).  Maggie died at age 26 after an illness.  Hugh remarried and eventually moved to Ohio after having some legal trouble in Rochester.   There is no headstone for Maggie, she is near the NEVIN family headstone.
Obituary from the Sim Scrapbook

Emma SIM (1864-1872) died at age 8 of typhoid fever.

Willie SIM (1866) died at age 1 day. 

Jemima SIM-LEWIS (1868-1950) was known as Mima (My’-ma).  She moved to Rochester in 1882.  She married Frederick LEWIS (1856-1925) of Rochester, NY in 1895 at the home of Frederick’s former roomie and Mima’s brother-in-law Hugh NEVIN in Rochester.  Frederick was a book keeper.  They settled in Rochester and had at least 3 children (Ada Louise CLOW, Mildred and Frederick).  After Frederick passed away, Mima took a job at age 57 as a companion to a wealthy woman, Mrs. LIKELY.  Mima died at age 82.   There is no headstone for Mima or Frederick.  I found a few items in the society pages for Mima and her sisters (Old Fulton NY Postcards web page).

Rochester Democrat Chronicle, 1917
(Old Fulton NY Postcards website)

Rochester Democrat Chronicle, 1918
(Old Fulton NY Postcards website)

John William SIM (1870-1954) was the baby of the family and only known son to pass down the SIM surname.  (James was quite a bit older than Elizabeth and he may have had a previous marriage.)
This is John Wm with his sister Mima LEWIS in 1948 and
taken at CLOW residence in Rochester (60 Berwick Road).  On mantle are photos
of Mima's son-in-law Frank CLOW and his daughter Elaine.
Mima is wearing a corsage and this is likely her 80th birthday.
Photo courtesy of cousin Mary Ellen F.
Information from cousin Susan L.

Jessie GRUER-SIM-SKINNER (1851-1932)  was born in Scotland just prior to Elizabeth immigrating to Australia.  She grew up in the GRUER household.  Though she was likely not a biological daughter of James, the SIM surname was referenced in her obituary.  She married bookkeeper George SKINNER (1849-1905) in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1874 and they immigrated to Toronto, Canada prior to 1881.  About 1883, they immigrated to Rochester, NY.  They had at least 7 children.

Rochester Democrat Chronicle, 1932
(Old Fulton NY Postcards website)

Friday, November 25, 2016

Journey from Scotland to Australia

George SIM > John Wm SIM > Elizabeth GRUER-SIM
Imagine Elizabeth Gruer (1832-1907) and her sister Flora (1831-) leaving their home and family in Scotland for the chance at better lives (and rich husbands) in Australia.

In 1850 Scotland, people were being evicted from their farms.  Many took the opportunity to leave the country and the most popular destinations were Australia and Canada.  Australia needed women and young women were often given free passage.  Advertisements were targeted towards women in work houses and orphanages.  There was also a gold rush in Australia about this time.

From Sidney's Immigrant Journal

  News article advertising Austrialian immigration

The girls left Liverpool on 16 June 1851 on a ship called The Reliance (805 tons) under Captain Henry B. FELL.  The journey would take a grueling 3 months. 
Map of RELIANT route, 1851

View the passenger list (single women are at the bottom of the page)
You may note that there is also a James SIM on this manifest and there is a theory that this was Elizabeth's future husband, but no documentation has been found to support this. 

Ship manifest includes 313 emigrants and ships surgeon-superintendent J. ROBERTSON. Historical records tell of seasickness, disease and lice infestations. Rations were meager and conditions were similar to what they had been aboard the earlier convict ships. There was an unusually high number of deaths on this ship.  The first casualty was 24 year old female who died of a “disease of the heart” one month into the journey.  On July 22, a male passenger went insane and threw himself overboard.  Four adults and one child died of typhoid fever, 2 adults died of consumption, 1 adult died of diarrhea, an infant died of mesenteric disease and 4 other infants died of lung inflammation.

Enduring these dismal conditions, the girls finally landed in Port Adelaide, South Australia on 13 Sep 1851. 

If the GRUER sisters didn’t have a contact in Adelaide, there was a welcoming committee that took the girls into communal housing until they could get work.   Elizabeth and Flora planned on working as servants.  Conditions were poor in this housing and it is likely they started working right away. Both girls soon landed husbands.  Though things did not work out for Elizabeth, Flora married James SMITH (1827-) and had 11 children.  Her descendants are still living in Australia today.
* * *

Baggage, mail and cargo were not moved from the ship for several weeks because the crew deserted to seek their fortune in the gold fields.  Captain FELL wrote to the Adelaide Times on the 27th November 1851:

FELL Letter, 1851

Passengers that caused problems were placed in the brig and then, taken to court upon arrival (South Australian Register)


The Reliance stayed in port until February 1852 when she set sail for Bombay (Australian Register).


Details about the journey to Australia:

More information on Scotland emigration:

Advertisement for Australia immigration

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Elizabeth GRUER-SIM (1832 - 1907)

George SIM > John Wm SIM > Elizabeth GRUER-SIM
BIRTH - Elizabeth Gruer was born May 12, 1832 in Hastings, County of Sussex, England. Her twin was Mary Ann Gruer.  She was the daughter of William Gruer and Magdalane Whyte (White).  Her parents were of Scottish descent.  However, William Gruer was in the Coast Guard and they lived at various locations in England and Scotland.

Elizabeth's Birth Certificate and Registry for the twins


On May 15, 1851 at the age of 19, Elizabeth Gruer had a daughter, Jessie Coglan Gruer, born in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

One month later, on June 10, 1851 Elizabeth and her sister, Flora, left from Liverpool, England on the ship, Reliance, arriving in Port Adelaide, South Australia on September 13, 1851.  She is listed on the ship's manifest as a single woman who is a servant from Aberdeen, Scotland.  Her daughter, Jessie Gruer, remained in Scotland with Elizabeth's parents. Read more about Eliza's journey.

From an Adelaide Observer, Sep 1852
On March 8, 1852 at St. John's Church, Adelaide, S. Australia, Elizabeth married Thomas Holland Edge.  In the South Australia newspaper, articles were found showing that Elizabeth (Betsey) & Flora's parents along with the emigration agent were looking for them.

Government Gazette, 31 July 1852

In September 1852 an article was found that stated Elizabeth Edge charged Thomas Edge with beating her and threatening to take her life.  Another article found charged Thomas Holland Edge with desertion by his wife, Elizabeth Edge.  Yet another article listed Thomas Edge on the inquest of the murder of Thomas Cornell.  Thomas along with two other "bushrangers" escaped prosecution.

Adelaide Observer, 30 April 1853

A daughter, Eliza Edge, was born on March 10, 1853 from this union.  Eliza Edge died on May 6, 1854 at the age of one.  Cause of death has not been found.  Baby Eliza Edge is buried in West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide, Australia.

Elizabeth next showed up in Drainie, Moray, Scotland on May 27, 1855 with the birth of a daughter, Isabella Sim, with her husband, James Sim.  No divorce from Thomas Edge or marriage to James Sim have been found.

Later in 1855 the Sim family moved to Canada.  They settle in Northumberland, Ontario and appear on the 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1901 Canada Census Reports.  Elizabeth Gruer Sim lived in Canada for 52 years.

FAMILY - Elizabeth and James Sim had at least 8 children.  They are Isabella, Mary, Sarah, Margaret, Emma, Willie, Jemima and John.  Three of the children died young.  They include Willie who was one-day old; Emma, eight years old; and Margaret who was 25.  Elizabeth's daughter, Jessie Gruer, joined the family in Canada some time after 1861, and became Jessie Gruer Sim. Read more about their children here.

OCCUPATION - Besides wife and mother, a Sim scrapbook article on Elizabeth dated April 1889 stated Mrs. James Sim was an agent for home improvements in their village.  She appeared to be a well-respected member of the community.

From the Sim Scrapbook

DEATH - Elizabeth Gruer Sim died on Saturday, July 20, 1907 at the age of 75 in Northumberland, Ontario, Canada.  She was buried in Salem Cemetery, Cramahe, Ontario.

From the Sim Scrapbook

Visit her On-Line Memorial:

Thomas Edge Charged with Murder (prior to marriage to Elizabeth), Colonial News, 1845

Elizabeth Gruer-Sim was my favorite ancestor to research.  She was a pioneer, a risk-taker and a woman before her time.  I believe the Sim Scrapbook was started by her.  It shows she loved fashion, the Royal Family of England, poems about life and her religion.  For a short time, someone continued to place articles in the book after her death.  The scrapbook gave us a peek into her life.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

James SIM (1818 - 1902)

Flag of Scotland
George SIM > John Wm SIM > James SIM

BIRTH - James Sim was born May 12, 1818 in Elgin, Morayshire, Scotland. William George Sim had always said William was James' middle name. Bill said he was the fourth Sim to have William in his name. We have been unable to find James Sim until the time he is with Elizabeth Gruer.

OCCUPATION - 1871 and 1881 Canadian Census reports list James as a laborer. His 1902 Register of Death states he was a farmer.

FAMILY - No records have been found of his actual marriage, date or place. Many documents list his wife as Elizabeth Gruer. He was the stepfather of Jessie Coglan Gruer Sim. James was the father of Isabella, Mary, Sarah, Margaret, Emma, Willie, Jemima and John. Read more about their children here. James' brother, William Sim, was married to his wife's twin, Mary Ann Gruer. James had another brother, George Sim, who was married to his wife's sister, Isabella Stewart Gruer.

James, Elizabeth and their daughter, Isabella, immigrated from Scotland to Canada in 1855.


186l    Age 43    Percy, Northumberland, ON                Religion FC (Free Church or
1871   Age 52    Cramahe, E. Northumberland, ON      Religion Presbyterian
1881   Age 62    Colborne, Northumberland East, ON  Religion E. Methodist
1891   Family not found
1901   Age 83    E. Northumberland, ON                      Religion Presbyterian
           James is living with his daughter and son-in-law, Sarah & Edward Cox.

DEATH - James Sim died from general debility on Friday, June 27, 1902 at the home of his son, John Sim, who lived at 138 Summit Street, Batavia, NY. He was 84-years old.  His death transcript states his parents were Edward Sim and Mary Gala. No information has been found on his parents. He was buried in the Salem Cemetery, Cramahe, Northumberland County, Ontario, Canada.

Obituaries from the Sim Scrapbook
Death Registry

Visit his on-line memorial

SIM is included in Clan Fraser and more clan information is available on-line:

Read about SIM male Y-DNA test results

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

17 Wadsworth, Buffalo, NY

George and his associates
17 Wadsworth, Buffalo, circa 1926
Photo courtesy Uncle Jerry

During Prohibition (1920-1933), residents were allowed to keep all of the liquor that they stockpiled, but once that was gone, that was it.  Saloons and the 20 Buffalo breweries were closed and this resulted in the illegal manufacturing and distribution of liquor.

Because Buffalo was so close to the Canadian border, it was tempting for people to smuggle liquor to sell on the black market.  Canada had its own temperance movement in the late 1880s, but that was repealed.  Smugglers were called “rumrunners”.  And, they often employed boats across Lake Erie to deliver the goods to drop off points along Lake Shore Road outside of Buffalo.  The liquor was then distributed to local illegal taverns or “speakeasies”, which were often fronted by “soda shops”.  According to the Buffalo Mayor’s 1922 Annual State of the City Address, there were 8,000 soda shops inside Buffalo.

There were also microbreweries established during this period.  Many bakeries had the connections to obtain the needed large quantities yeast and grain and would set up breweries in their back rooms and cellars.

Amateurs would also produce “bathtub gin” where grain alcohol was diluted with water and juniper berry juice in a bathtub; gin being the preferred drink in the late 1920s.  The government even had a program in which toxic chemicals were added to industrial alcohols to prohibit their use in this activity.  Over 10,000 people died and it is suspected that George’s death in 1941 from aplastic anemia may have been a result of ingesting tainted liquor.

Both the manufacturers and traders of illegal liquor were known as “bootleggers”; a word that dates back to colonial times when traders hid liquor in their tall boots to sneak it into dry colonies.

From the following news article, we know that John W. SIM owned the “soda shop” at 17 Wadsworth as early as May 1926 (Buffalo Courier).  He also purchased a fire arm in January 1927 after George was stabbed (Buffalo Evening News).

George SIM’s stabbing occurred in December 1927 (Read the 10/18/16 post).  It is suspicious that the attacker was let go with no penalties. 

George's stabbing put 17 Wadsworth on the police radar.  On February 3, 1928, John W.’s bail was set at $1,000.00 after the saloon was raided (Buffalo Courier Express).  More liquor was seized on the 7th (Buffalo Courier Express) and John W. was arrested again on the 8th (Buffalo Evening News).  He was held for further reading on the 18th (Buffalo Evening News).



George and his brother-in-law, Fred OTWELL, were summoned for liquor law charges in May 1928 and it was established that George had sold the speakeasy to Fred by that date.

In October 1928, Fred is raided (Buffalo Courier Express).  He is fined $200.00 in November (Buffalo Evening News).


Soon after, Fred sold the fixtures from the bar according to this advertisement. (Buffalo Evening News)

John W. went on to establish another speak-easy on Grant Street.  It appears there were no raids at that location. 
The next owner turned the location into a furniture store and later, it became a children’s dance studio.  Today, it is an apartment.

Patrick B., 17 Wadsworth, Buffalo, 2013
Photo courtesy cousin Patrick B.