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Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial

Honour the Fallen - Donate Now.

Donate to the Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial

In early 2013, stories of the major losses of life during construction of the current Welland Canal were brought to light. The stories of 137 men who lost their lives inspired more than 2,200 people from across Canada and the United States to sign a petition supporting a memorial to honour the "fallen workers." Political representatives from Niagara's four canal communities came together, forming the Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial Task Force to finance, design, and build a suitable memorial. Keep updated on the memorial by signing-up for the Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial Newsletter.

On August 6, 2015 the Task Force unveiled the design for the memorial and announced a $150,000 grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage to support the project. Mayor Sendzik introduce Greg Wight as the fundraising campaign chair and the first corporate donation of $25,000 from Algoma Central Corporation kicked off the fundraising for the project.

The Gates reflected in the Veil, south view of the Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial




The Task Force continues to seek support from the marine and business sector, community partners, the labour community and, members of the public. Once fundraising is complete, the memorial will be installed in 2017 next to the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre at Lock 3 along the Welland Canal.

A Community Fundraising Campaign aimes to raise $50,000 for the memorial and parkette. Your donation will honour the fallen. 

Open new window to view the Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial Facebook pageClick here to connect with the Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial on Facebook 

 

Triumph and Tragedy:  The Welland Ship Canal

Triumph and Tragedy:  The Welland Ship Canal is a publication that will profile each of the fallen workers.  It will shed light on the construction work, its immensity and diversity.

Touching upon the communities impacted by the works, the construction railway, and the problems of health and safety, this book brings together in one source the many aspects of this engineering marvel.

This book will ensure that the men who lost their lives during the course of the work will not remain just nameless, forgotten workers.

The stories of their lives provide an insight into the past.

The book will sell for $39.95 and will be available early in 2018.  Pre-orders of this publication are available until October 1st, 2017.  Pre-order discount price is $31.95.   Click on this link to download the pre-order form.

This book will be a limited edition and will not be available once the print run sells out. We encourage you to pre-order to get the best price and make sure you don't miss out on this must-have publication!"

Cemetery Tours - August 5 and 7th, 2017 

Take a guided tour of 4 Niagara Cemeteries and hear the story of the Welland Canal Fallen Workers who died during the construction of the Welland Ship Canal.

Saturday August 5, 2017 - Victoria Lawn Cemetery

480 Queenston Street, St. Catharines

10:00 a.m. Old Cemetery (south side)

2:00 p.m. New Cemetery (north side)

Monday, August 7, 2017 - Thorold and Welland

10:00 a.m. Old Lakeview Cemetery, 3651 Thorold Town Line Rd. W., Thorold

2:00 p.m. (a) Woodlawn Cemetery, 708 Niagara Street, Welland

2:45 p.m. (b) Holy Cross Cemetery, 50 Woodlawn Road, Welland

These free tours will be 90 minutes long and will run, rain or shine. Participants should meet at cemetery entrance.

Please wear comfortable footwear, sun protection, and bring a portable stool if needed.

For more information call 905.984.8880

 

 

Memorial Design

The Veil in the grove, north view of the Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial

The Memorial, design by Dereck Revington Studio Inc., has four primary elements: the Gates of Remembrance, the Veil, the Timeline and the Lock, all within a contemplative grove The Veil: from the north, visitors will see a large blackened steel wall. This side of the Veil is sombre and shadowed, looking back in time. From the south, the veil is a mirror-polished stainless steel, reflecting the surrounding trees, visitors and the Gates of Remembrance.

The Gates of Remembrance rise from the Lock bed of the site, their shape inspired by the lock gates of the canal. Their steel panels are inscribed with the names of the Fallen, their ages at death and places of birth. 12 countries, 8 provinces, 137 men.

The Timeline is embedded on the floor of the site, set below ground level. Each year is marked by a line, its length reflects the number of fatalities in that year. From 1914 to 1932, from the Gates to the Veil: the longest line is 1928, the worst year of fatalities. 29 men fell that year, 10 in one accident, when the crane and gate fell at Lock 6. The shape of the site reflects the deaths within each year of construction.

Fabrication of the memorial has begun. View the project album on Facebook for updates.

Lost Sons, Fathers, Husbands and Brothers

Lock 6 crane and gate collapse - Aug. 1, 1928.

Extensive research is being undertaken by Task Force volunteers to ensure that all the men who died during the construction of the Welland Canal are remembered. In 1932 the count was 115. Today it has reached 137.

Construction projects of the time assumed one man would die for every $1m spent. The Welland Canal cost $130m. Here are just a few stories of some of the Fallen Workers: each man of the 137 has a similar story behind him.

William James Gordon was crushed by a construction train in 1924. He left behind six children to mourn his death. They were raised by the eldest son as their mother had died two years earlier of tuberculosis.

William James Gordon and family 1923c.

Francis Fernley Bassett and William Francis BassettThree families suffered the loss of fathers plus sons. Two of these events occurred on the same day near the same location, August 1st at Lock 6, but separated by three years (Elzéar & Leo Lynch 1925; James & James Campbell McArthur 1928). The third father-son fatalities died in Port Colborne in 1929 (Francis Fernley Bassett and William Francis Bassett - 1929). The father witnessed his son's death when his body was crushed between the arm of a crane and the car at the Clarence Street lift bridge. Six months later, the senior Bassett was crushed to death by the bridge's huge concrete counterweight, only fifty yards from where his son met his untimely death.

Onyschuk, MichaelOne of the last killed, 7 days before the Canal's Official Opening in 1932, was Michael Onyschuk. It was his first day on the job and he died within an hour of arriving at the job site. They were clearing trees that were too close to the Canal channel near Allanburg. The very first tree fell the wrong way, crushing the fleeing victim. Despite having a fractured spine, broken leg, internal injuries, and severe shock, Onyschuk made it to the General Hospital, but died just as his wife arrived. Originally from the Ukraine, Onyschuk had emigrated in 1928, seeking a better life for his family. In 1930 he brought over his wife and children to share in this dream. The job on the Canal was welcomed as it was his first work in two years. His widow was left with no money, little English, and six children to provide for, from a baby in arms to ten years old. Despite their loss, she persevered, keeping the family together and raising her two girls and four boys in their new home of Canada.

The Welland Ship Canal has played a key role in the Canadian economy, and has had a profound influence on the local community: on Niagara's culture, way of life and economy. This amazing feat of engineering, which carries more than 3,000 vessels each year, is an economic driver for two nations. It's time to build A Place to Remember, to honour the men who lost their lives during its construction.

The Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial is set to be unveiled in 2017, the year of Canada's 150th birthday celebrations. Please check back for project updates.

Historical images from top to bottom: Lock 6 crane and gate collapse - Aug. 1, 1928. Photo courtesy of St. Catharines Museum - John Kennedy Collection, 1986.131.7 | William James Gordon and family 1923c. Photo courtesy of Maggie Parnall. | Francis Fernley Bassett, 23 (middle) - d. April 6, 1929, crushed by locomotive crane and William Francis Bassett, 43 (left) - d. Oct. 11, 1929, crushed by bridge counterweight. Photo courtesy of Gail Fritshaw. | Onyschuk, Michael - Steel Radiation Co. 1930. Photo courtesy of A. Connon.

 

Project Support

Thank you to our major donors.

Niagara Rgion

 

 

Department of Canadian Heritage

This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada.
Ce projet est financé en partie par le gouvernement du Canada.

Platinum Crane Sponsor ($25,000+)

  • Algoma Central Corporation
  • ArcelorMittal Dofasco
  • Canada Steamship Lines
  • Fednav
  • Heddle Marine Service
  • McKeil Marine
  • Niagara Regional Labour Council
  • Ontario Paper Thorold Foundation
  • Rankin Construction Inc.
  • St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation
  • Unifor Local 4212 

The fundraising campaign is now underway. Click here to donate online or please contact canalworkersmemorial@stcatharines.ca for more information.

 

Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial Newsletter

The Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial e-newsletter provides regular updates progress, news and upcoming events related to the project.

The newsletter is prepared by the City of St. Catharines on behalf of the Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial Task Force. Sign up to receive regular updates.

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Copyright © 2014 The Corporation of the City of St. Catharines