A.L. Eberts leased Chatham’s finest hotel, The Garner

Article content

In previous columns I have told you about the Eberts Brothers, William and Walter, their sister Nancy, and her husband John Waddell. The four were business partners in the 1840s to 1850s in Chatham.

This family would become the earliest of Chatham’s premier business clans.

In this story I would like to tell you about one of their relatives, A.L. Eberts, who I think, was the grandson of their father’s brother, Richard Eberts. It was, to say the least, an extensive family.

Alexander Leopold Eberts was born at Chatham on Dec. 11, 1859, and as is unusual for that age, obtained a substantial education having attended the original Central School (Post Office site) and the Chatham Grammar School, which was the forerunner of Chatham Collegiate Institute.

Alexander later attended an educational institution in Cincinnati, but I have not been able to learn the circumstance of his instruction there.


Story continues below

Article content

As a young man he became a purser and a steward on a ship known as the City of Montreal, which travelled the Great Lakes, but there is a conflict of information regarding this vessel.

Data regarding the City of Montreal indicates that it is an ocean-going vessel, but Beer’s Biographical Record (1904) identifies Alexander’s service to be on the Great Lakes, thus the dispute.

Nonetheless, Alexander had opted to depart his mariner vocation after three years for the safe and reliable function as a retailer of groceries in his hometown of Chatham.

The local directories of the latter 19th century are spotty, but I have been able to trace Alexander back to 1876 and having a grocery store at the corner of what is now Grand Avenue East and Thames Street. I have not been able to designate the exact spot, but I think it to have been at the southwest corner of the intersection.

The 1885 Soutar Directory indicates that he is still a grocer at Thames and Grand Avenue East, but something happened the following year, which would serve to change his occupation.

In 1886, the voters of Kent, along with two other Ontario counties, opted to vote in the Scott Act which was a rudimentary form of prohibition. It was an off the wall kind of law that really did not accomplish what its proponents had hoped for. The Scott Act made it illegal to manufacture and distribute alcohol in Kent County. The law, however, made no mention of consumption. Those persons wishing to obtain whisky need only travel to Lambton or Essex, by train, and bring it back to Chatham, albeit, clandestine and this would be the rise of the bootlegger.


Story continues below

Article content

By 1889 the local voters came to the conclusion that the only people benefitting from the Scott Act were the courts and the previously mentioned bootleggers.

On the first day that the Scott Act was eligible for repeal, it was voted out.

At this point Alexander and his partner, A.C. Pace, were able to lease the Garner Hotel and they made a success of their undertaking.

The Garner was Chatham’s largest and finest inn, charging $2.50 per night where the other hotels could only charge $1 to $1.50 per night.

By 1904 Alexander was out of the hotel business and is not listed in the local directories again until 1914 when he is recorded as living at 139 William St. North.

He died on Oct. 25, 1922 and reposes in the family plot, Maple Leaf Cemetery.

I think the Eberts family are important to Chatham history and in future columns I will tell you more about this wonderful family.

News Near Wallaceburg

This Week in Flyers