Cyrus Sumner Nelles Reached 89th Milestone - Romance of 131 Years Ago Told About - Lieut.-Col. Nelles Places Regimental Colors Over Tomb of Great, Great Uncle.
(Toronto Telegram, October 9th) - A romance of the early years of last century, in which a staff-surgeon of General Brock and the daughter of a pioneer heroine were principals, had its setting in the pretty village of Grimsby, Ont., then known as The Forty.
The marriage took place about 11 years after the lady in the case, Miss Mary Bell, then a little girl of 8, nearly lost her life by drowning while on her way to Canada.
It was in September 1792, when the mother, Mrs. John Bell, started from the State of New Jersey with her 8 children to join her husband, two brothers and a sister, in Grimsby Township. the brave woman, then about 35, walked most of the distance, for there were no trains, and their only help in the way of conveyance happened to be three pack horses. The oldest child, a daughter, was 15 years old, and the youngest 9 months.
Indians Were Kind - On the pack horses were placed their provisions - there were no hotels or inns on the way - a few articles of clothing, a tent they had made by sewing sheets together, and of course the younger children were given the place of honor amidst the packs. Each night the weary travellers pitched their tents and rested as best they could. During their journey over the mountains and rivers they met many Indians, but the red men never molested the little family. On the contrary they were kind and often presented them with venison and corn.
Canada at Last - When the weary family at last arrived at Fort Niagara they found it occupied by British troops. These proved to be friends in need, conveying the Bells across the Niagara to Canada, the long-looked for land of promise.
Eight years afterward a talented young physician, Dr. Cyrus Sumner, a Loyalist, came from the United States and soon became known on the Niagara frontier as a man of skill and high character.
Acquaintance with Miss Bell ripened into deeper feeling and in 1803 she became the wife of Dr. Sumner.
When the war of 1812 broke out, General Brock requested the young Dr. Sumner to go with him to Detroit, and Dr. Sumner was the only staff surgeon on the expedition. He continued with the troops until 1815, serving with distinction.
To Dr. and Mrs. Sumner were born 10 children. Of these two daughters married sons of Col. William Nelles.
Honored Citizens - Many descendants are honored residents of Ontario cities, and none more so than Cyrus Sumner Nelles, nearly 89 years of age, who last week visited his niece here, Mrs. Ernest D. Watkins, of Edgar Avenue, Rosedale.
Of fine physique,a non-smoker and a lifelong teetotaller, Mr. Nelles bears his years well. "Reminiscing" to The Telegram, he mentioned the story of his grandmother, Mrs. Sumner, who as a child escaped a watery grave. On his father's side (Peter B. Nelles) there was a brief reminder of the time that his grandfather, Col. William Nelles, landed as a boy with several brothers in canoes on the south shore of the lake at Grimsby. The family were strong United Empire Loyalists and during the Revolution left their home in the Mohawk Valley, New York, for Canada, rather than fight against Great Britain.
Long Life at Grimsby - It was in Grimsby that the two sons of Col. William Nelles met the two daughters of Dr. and Mrs. Sumner and later the two couples were married. Mr. Nelles has live practically all his long life in Grimsby, coming from New York, where he was born on the Grand River, in March 1835, to the fruit town when he was 6 years old. He has farmed and latterly has been in the fruit business.
His pleasant home, the "Stone Shanty", is known to all the Grimsby people. When the Fenian Raid took place in 1866 he joined a company which had been raised by his brother, Capt. William Nelles - a part of the 19th Battalion of St. Catharines - and marched to the Niagara frontier.
"People were not much alarmed around our home although there were such disturbing rumors," said Mr. Nelles.
Has Fenian Raid Medal - "I remember that one night a stable was burned near where we were billeted and of course rumors were rife that the Fenians fired the place, but it turned out afterward that the cause was the knocking over of a lantern by a farmer." Mr. Nelles proudly displayed a Fenian Raid medal granted him many years ago.
Mr. Nelles remembers when Forty Mile Creek, now dry except for a few weeks in the spring, was a full sweeping stream 6 months of the year and when, upon its banks, there were two saw-mills and three grist-mills in full operation. In those days, the venerable narrator said, a fourhorse coach carried the mail from Hamilton to Grimsby.
In the last war 1914, a strange coincidence occurred when Mr. Cyrus Sumner Nelles' son, Lieut.-Colonel Stephen Bell Nelles place his colors in the Mother church (Canterbury Cathedral) for safe keeping. They were hung over his great, great uncle William Sumner's - Arch Bishop of Canterbury - tomb.