Windjamming in Port Stanley

A short 30 minute drive south from London, Ontario on the South Shore of Lake Erie lies a once important portal of entry to Canada for landed immigrants; settlers who poured into Southwestern Ontario between the years 1825 and 1875 – Port Stanley. In 1804 John Bostwick was granted 100 acres of land at the mouth of Kettle Creek by his friend, Colonel Thomas Talbot. He settled in the area in the early 1820s and ran an important warehouse and mill. Bostwick can be referred to as the founder of Port Stanley but there were many other early settlers; like Zavitz, Minor, Smith, Stephens, Price, Begg and Mason. Port Stanley was a central as a portal of entry to Canada during the 1800s. 1822 a road had been opened linking the port to St. Thomas and London, and in 1856 the London and Port Stanley railway started operation, connecting Port Stanley to the vast rail network which was spreading across North America.

In 1844, a record number of boats – 148, arrived into the busy little harbour. Along with the droves of people, large merchant ships also arrived carrying bulk cargo; such as, lumber, grain, ore, and coal. The grandest of these merchant sailing ships were known as Windjammers. They had between three and five large masts with square sails. Legend has it, these ships were called “windjammers” because of the sound cast from the large sails. They were designed for long voyages and had the capability to circumnavigate the globe.

A prominent businessman, Samuel Shepard, was a Windjammer engineer, designer, builder, and commander-“Captain” to some of the finest ships to grace Port Stanley harbour. Each year he would award “Shepard Top Hat” to the first boat into the harbour each spring – a tradition that continues today.

Shepard built a beautiful landmark home in 1854 on a corner lot in the SW part of Port Stanley nearly a half kilometre from Lake Erie. Today it remains a beautiful depiction of life in the Victorian Era and a true expression of early settler influences. The inspiration of his house reflected his wealth. It featured classical details known in that era, including a steep roof, and a central chimney. Interestingly, the post at base of stairs as well as the fireplace mantle in the dining room came out of one of Shepard’s Ships. The family-friendly plans supported 4 – 5 bedrooms, including a servants quarters which was upstairs over kitchen (there was a staircase).

Today, there are three bedrooms and a carriage house. Very much a part of our Canadian history, this heritage location, is now a Bed & Breakfast with a contemporary dining room that rivals that of fine dining in large suburban areas.

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