Fonds - William Porte family fonds

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William Porte family fonds

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  • 1862-1898, predominant 1881-1898 (Creation)

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30 cm of textual records

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Name of creator

Biographical history

William Porte, the eldest son of James and Mary (née Patrick) Porte, was born December 19, 1823 at Mount Heaton, near Roscrae in King’s County, Ireland. After his mother’s death in 1832, William and his father immigrated to Canada, landing at Culbertson's Wharf (now Desoronto, Ontario) on August 8, 1837. Having spent several years in the Belleville, Ontario area, the family built a log home on lot 4 of the North Proof Line road (now Richmond Street) at the north edge of Lucan (then known as Marystown) in Biddulph Township, Middlesex County. After farming for several years, Porte was selected in 1843 as the teacher at the area's first school, the building having been recently vacated by the Society of Friends' Wilberforce Settlement. In 1845, Porte returned to Belleville and married Catherine Murphy (b. 1 Nov. 1835) on October 22, 1851. Returning to Lucan in 1856, William and Catherine purchased land at the intersection of what is now William and Main Street. That year, Porte succeeded his father as township clerk, and he was appointed Lucan's first postmaster in 1859 - a position he would hold for almost 40 years. Porte was, politically, a dedicated Conservative, an adherent of the Church of England, and a charter member of the Freemasonic Irving Lodge #154. He helped form Lucan's Mechanic's Institute and was appointed to select Lucan's first library book collection. According to local lore, Porte was one of the three "Williams" after which Lucan's William Street was named, and Alice Street was named after his daughter. During their 48 years of marriage, William and Catherine had nine children: George Allan (b. 27 Aug. 1852, d. 1 Aug. 1887) James Royal (b. 26 Dec. 1857, d. 4 Mar. 1858) Mary Alice (b. 15 Feb. 1860, d. 1952) Elizabeth Emma (b. 12 Jan. 1862, d. 1945) Frederick William (b. 8 July 1865, d. 1943) Maude (b. 28 Mar. 1867) Ida Kate (b. 22 May 1869, d. 28 Mar. 1871) Ida Kate (b. 21 Mar. 1871, d. 1968) Ernest Arthur (b. 16 Feb. 1873, d. 1906) William Porte died at home in the early hours of September 12, 1899, his wife having predeceased him by exactly three months. He, along with most of his family, now rests at the St. James Anglican churchyard near Clandeboye, Ontario. After Porte's death, his son Frederick carried on as Lucan's postmaster; after Frederick's 46 years of service, Porte's daughter, Ida Kate, succeeded her brother as postmistress. Upon her retirement in 1946, Ida Kate reminisced that her father "had us help in the post office where we sorted mail after school. He was very strict. He would not allow us to open even the family's mail, not even the newspapers."

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Custodial history

The fonds appears to have remained in the Porte family until its donation to the University of Western Ontario Archives in 1976. The papers seem to have been passed to Mrs. Maude (Porte) Bawden and then to her daughter, Ms. Katherine M. Bawden, although the exact custodial history is unknown.

Scope and content

The fonds consists of materials related to the personal and business activities of William Porte. Included are diaries, ledgers, and albums and scrapbooks of newspaper clippings. Some material from two of his children (Fred W. and Ida Kate Porte) is included. William Porte’s papers provide an excellent snapshot in the life of a growing Ontario town in the late 19th century. In recent years, Porte's personal papers have been studied and cited extensively, most notably by those researching the infamous February 4, 1880 murder of the Donnelly family. Fonds is comprised of the following series: Diaries Newspaper clippings and scrapbooks Ida Kate Porte’s journal Added material

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Donated by Katherine M. Bawden in 1976.


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No restrictions on access.

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General note

Complete transcripts of William Porte’s diaries have been made by G. Stott, and publication is expected (as of September, 2009).

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