December 6, 2023

Tied to the land from almost the beginning, the Goodwillie family served as Welland’s answer to E.D. Smith’s fruit preserve empire for generations.

The Goodwillies were a family of pioneers, whose roots stretched back through America to Scotland.

The first member of the family to emigrate to the new colonies in 1773 was Joseph Goodwillie, from the town of Leslie, in Fifeshire, Scotland. Born in 1751, by the time of his emigration at age 23, Joseph had landed in New York, in Mohawk Valley, working as an itinerant blacksmith. By 1777 he had joined the Loyal Rangers provincial regiment, to fight for the Loyalists in the American Revolutionary War. Later in the Saratoga Campaign, he was captured along with other soldiers in the British defeat. Held in a prison in Albany, he managed to escape in 1778 and travelled north with the other refugees to Montreal.

By 1784, he had settled in the town of New Carlisle, where he established a farm. In 1792, he made the decision to move to Barnet, Vermont, to reunite and subsequently to live with his brother David and his family for the rest of his life.

Circa 1818, Joseph’s son Joseph the younger heeded the call and joined the wave of other settlers that came in response to promises of cheap land in the Niagara Peninsula.

Marrying into the Hellems family, also of Loyalist stock, Joseph worked as a farmer and carpenter in Wainfleet, making and selling furniture and wooden coffins. In 1836, he and his wife Elizabeth (Elize) Hellems were finally able to buy 40 hectares of land on the north side of Quaker Road, which became the family’s first house in Welland. In 1837, the building burned down, and Joseph was forced to rebuild in the following year, this time with fire-proof precautions.

In 1852, the house was sold, and the same year the family purchased Lot 231 and later 232 on the southern side of Quaker from James Swayze, to create a farm that would become the Goodwillie homestead for the next three generations of the family. The house that is currently recognizable as 209 Quaker Rd. was built in the 1870s to make room for Joseph’s children and grandchildren.

Originally a small cottage, it was rebuilt as a two-frame house, and in 1905 it was further renovated into the current iteration that remains outwardly unchanged, from the 1930s photo to today’s. Hosting 14 rooms total, only three rooms of the original building were incorporated into the renovated structure, including the bay window in the front parlour.

The inside boasted a 12-inch thick Canadian chestnut finish for all the rooms, and the family/dining room and office floors were all oak, inlaid with light maple and cherry hardwood. One side of the front hall held two parlours, the front room had a fireplace with an elaborate high mantel, and the back had triple windows facing the front, the flooring covered with wall-to-wall carpet. The upstairs had balconies and here was enough gas to supply the downstairs thanks to a drilling experiment. Electricity arrived on the farm in 1910. The family lived in the tenant house next door during the renovations.

The Goodwillie family owed much of its success to its fruit farming and canning business. It was Joseph and his son Hiram, and later on Hiram’s son John, who worked starting from 1867 to transform and improve the family farm into a veritable venture. With the farm originally preoccupied with general farming, Hiram and John made a deal with nearby Fonthill Nurseries in 1881 to receive improved grapevine and fruit stock, which was then grown, harvested, and sold off at the nearby markets.

With the emergence of new bottling and refrigeration techniques in the following years, Hiram and John decided in 1886 to try preserving fruit “under glass,” opening the first iteration of the Goodwillie canning factory on the farm. Fruit was delivered from all across the Niagara region, and the canned produce was sold all over Canada, as well as Britain, the rest of Europe and even the West Indies.

Hiram died in 1903, leaving John to manage the still-growing business, and in 1912 a new canning factory was constructed on the corner of Hagar and Burgar streets. However, John died unexpectedly in 1922, and the four boys of the family were considered to be too young to inherit the business. It was decided to sell the factory the same year to Martin’s Dairy. In 1982, the old Welland Goodwillie’s factory burned down.

After John’s death, his wife Luella and oldest son, Tim, continued to farm at the Goodwillie homestead, but further circumstance forced the family to sell the farm in 1938 to John McKinnon. In 1940, it passed down to the Faragalli family, who lived there until 1952. In 1980, it was again put up for sale. Currently, it is a private house with some additional remaining territory from the original farm, and one of the few remaining reminders of the Goodwillie legacy in Welland.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *