History of the Welland Climate Station
Updated April 2015
In October 1872, one of the first weather observing stations in the Niagara Peninsula was established in Welland, Ontario. With the exception of a few missing records in the early part of its program, weather observations have continued in Welland ever since. This gives Welland the distinction of being the longest continuing weather observing station in the Niagara Peninsula, and one of the longest in all of Ontario. By researching archived climate records, station inspection reports, early newspapers and local history books, I have been able to come up with a chronological history of the Welland climate station as well as some of its weather history.
THE EARLY YEARS (1872 - 1904)
In 1871, the federal government of Canada established a national weather service. Weather stations were set up across Canada to monitor the weather in various capacities. In October 1872, a class II weather station was established in Welland (class II referred to a climate station that recorded temperature and precipitation on a daily basis - usually 2 or 3 observations a day) The observer responsible for this inaugural station was H. Alfred Willett - Welland's first climate observer. Very little is known about Willett or where his station was located. An 1871 census listed Willett as a "divisions court clerk - age 49". The only other reference found on Willett was that he helped build a church in nearby Fonthill where his brother was a reverend. Willett died of pneumonia on April 26 1875 but the weather station continued operating until August 1879, at which time it ceased operation for one full year. It is not known who took over observing duties upon Willett's death.
Welland's first climate report - October 1872
In September 1880, William B. Raymond took over the
observing duties for the Welland station. A
site plan drawn by
Mr. Raymond around 1881 shows that during his term, the weather station was located on the
south side of East Main St, just east of Burgar St. This was most likely Raymond's
residence in Welland at the time. Raymond kept meticulous records during his brief
observing period, recording temperatures to the tenth of a degree Fahrenheit, applying
temperature corrections and noting precipitation start and end times.
Raymond stopped observing in March 1882, only 18 months after starting, presumably to pursue his legal education at Osgoode Hall in Toronto (Raymond went on to become a barrister in Toronto with the firm of McCarthy, Osler, Hoskins & Creelman). In October 1882, the observation program was continued by Robert Grant, principal of the Welland County model school since 1877. The school was located at the corner of Dorothy St. and Hellems Ave, on the banks of the Welland River. Grant took observations until December 1886 when he accepted a more lucrative position in Brockville, Ont. No record is available to indicate where the station was during Grant's term, but it is assumed it was at the school or possibly his residence. Although the period of record was only 4 years at this location, it holds the distinction of registering the coldest temperature ever recorded in Welland, -32.8 C (-27 F) observed by Grant on the bitter cold morning of January 25, 1884.
From January 1887 to February 1892 inclusive, no weather records exist for Welland. This 5 year gap represents the longest stretch of missing data in Welland's entire climate record from 1872. In an August 9th, 1888 site inspection, inspector H.V. Payne had this to say about the Welland site in his report to the federal weather service:
"Instruments in an unsatisfactory state and poorly placed. Minimum thermometer broken; rain gauge complete. Observer was too ill to interview, which will account for the state of this station at this time." - MSC Annual Report of 1888, page xv
Two and a half years later, a followup inspection on Feb 13 1891 had this to report on the condition of the Welland climate station.
"The rain-gauge at this station was in good order, also one upright thermometer No. 15,081, the other thermometers were destroyed, and the shed and screen all to pieces. It would be useless to attempt to have observations taken here under the existing circumstances, and it is extremely doubtful whether another observer could be found in the town."
MSC Annual Report of 1891, Appendix E, page 122, Charles Carpmael
It is not known who the inspectors were referring to in the above reports, but it is obvious no one was taking responsibility for the weather station upon Robert Grant's departure in December 1886. Carpmael's concern about finding a new observer however were alleviated within a year of his report.
In March 1892, James A. Gilchriese took over the weather observing program in Welland. Mr. Gilchriese was a turnkey at the Welland County Jail from 1874 until the winter of 1903. From this and later information, it is assumed the weather station was located at the governor of jail's residence on the front lawn of the Welland Courthouse on E. Main St. and Cross St. (see photo below) Gilchriese took observations until July 1904 - around the time he died. A look at his climate reports reveals a man quite interested in nature, with Gilchriese often noting remarks on the state of ice in the nearby Welland River, bird migration, and plant life in his monthly reports. The 1958 centennial edition of the Welland Tribune carried an article on James Gilchriese noting his role in the early history of Welland.
Welland Courthouse - climate station location 1892 - 1914
This photo shows the Welland Courthouse as it appeared around 1910 at the corner of Cross St and Main St E. At the far left is a darker brick building on the front lawn of the Court House. This building was the governor of jail's residence. It is believed that Welland weather records were taken from the grounds of this residence from 1892 until 1914 for both Gilchriese's term (1892 - 1904), and John Coulson's term (1904 - 1914). The governor's residence was demolished in 1954 when a new addition was built onto the courthouse.
It should be noted that in the early years of the weather service, the screened shelter that housed the climate station thermometers were "walled screens" rather than the familiar stand alone Stevenson screens that are used today. These walled screens (known as "Kingston" screens) were simply louvered boxes attached to the side of a wall, which was installed with the screens facing north (see photos below) Around 1903, the now familiar Stevenson screens started first being used to house weather service thermometers, and this screen gradually became the weather station standard over the next decade or two. It is not known what type of thermometer screens were used in Welland in the late 1800s or early 1900s, but it's possible that Kingston screens were used through at least 1904, and possibly until 1914 when Charles Coulson started taking over the climate observing duties and moved the station from the Courthouse Lawn to his residence. Photos courtesy of Ken Devine.
"Kingston" screen of the late 1800s used to house
Photo of Kingston screen still in use in 1935 at the
THE COULSON YEARS (1904 - 1957)
Gilchriese's death, the governor of the Welland County Jail, John
continued the weather observing program in December 1904 from the governor
of jail's residence on the Courthouse lawn. Coulson, former mayor of Niagara
Falls, continued taking observations until his death in April 1914.
At that point, Coulson's son and city engineer Charles L. Coulson took over the observation program moving the observing site west of the canal to his residence at 99 Maple Ave. In August 1916, Charles left Welland to assume military duties for World War I. A photo taken during this time shows Charles Coulson with the 98th battalion along with his cousin and brother-in-law, Colonel Hugh Alexander Rose. At this time, Charles' sister, Jennie Coulson Rose (wife of Col. Rose) assumed observing duties in Charles' absence. While Charles was overseas, the station was moved a few houses down the street to Mrs. Rose's residence at 41 Frazer St (corner of Maple and Frazer - now a bed and breakfast known as At Home Bed and Breakfast - Rose Manor)
Upon Charles' return from military service in 1919, the weather station was moved to Mr. Coulson's new home at 53 Maple Ave (home of his new wife Mary Reilly) where he continued daily weather observations until his death in January 1957. Thus, weather observing in Welland was a Coulson family tradition for over 50 years. Charles Coulson's daughter, Mary Lou Peart, who continued to reside at 53 Maple Ave. remembers her father as a man obsessed with the weather and the sky, maintaining meticulous records, and never missing an observation in his almost 40 years of observing. So dedicated was Charles to his weather station that he never took a holiday, and would only trust his daughter or sister to take an observation for him if he was unable to. It was this vivid memory of total commitment that caused Mary Lou Peart to decline a request from Transport Canada to resume the weather observing program upon her father's death.
Coulson Residence -
53 Maple Ave, Welland
took weather observations from the backyard of this residence from 1919 until his death in
1957 (see Welland Tribune obituary from Jan 19
1957) His daughter, Mary Lou Peart, resided at this historic home until her death in 2000.
The home, built in 1873, is officially recognized by the Welland chapter of the Local
Architectural Conservation Advisory Commitee (L.A.C.A.C.)
I interviewed Mrs Peart in 1990 to get more information about her father. She told me her father would take 2 main weather observations per day.. one at 9 am, and the other at midnight. However, he would frequently make additional observations during the day noting start and end times of precipitation, intermediate temperature observations, and any interesting celestial phenomena such as auroras, meteor showers, etc. She recalled how it wouldn't be unusual for her father to wake her up at 3 or 4 in the morning to show her some interesting feature in the night sky. Coulson was very interested in weather, and never complained about a "bad" weather day. Any type of weather was interesting to him - a gentle rain, a hard rain, snow, etc. People would often phone him to ask what the weather would be, to which he would give an educated guess by tapping his barometer hanging on the living room wall.
Screen used at Coulson residence
Coulson ca 1916, age 34
This photo was taken when Charles was serving with the 98th Battalion during World War I. He would return to Welland in 1919 as city engineer and Welland's weather observer until his death in 1957
THE WESTSIDE FIREHALL YEARS (1957 - 2014)
By the fall of 1957, a new home for the Welland climate station was found at the newly built Westside firehall on Prince Charles Drive, near the banks of the Welland River. (See photo below) Official observations at the firehall began in October 1957 and had been part of the daily ritual for Westside Firehall staff for over 50 years. In July 1990, the Westside staff were presented with a plaque from Environment Canada for their 30 years of continuous service in keeping weather records for Welland (photo below). Observations from the firehall became increasingly intermittent after 2007, and in August 2014 the observing program ended there permanently. This would mark 57 years of weather observations at Westside Firehall and 142 years of nearly continuous volunteer weather observations for the city of Welland. Unless a new volunteer climate observer is found in the city, official weather data for Welland will now come from an official Environment Canada automated weather station at the Niagara Central Airport (formerly known as Welland-Port Colborne airport) located about 6 km west of the city. (see details below)
Left: Westside Firehall staff
receive 30 year award for weather observing (1990)
Right: climate station at Westside Firehall - July 2004 (view looking southeast)
THE MODERN ERA: WELLAND GETS NEW AUTOSTATION (NOV 2005 - PRESENT)
In November 2005, Environment Canada installed a new automated weather station at the Niagara Central Airport (formerly known as Welland-Port Colborne Airport) about 6 km west of Welland on the north bank of the Welland River near O'Reilly's bridge. The station (identifier CTWL) takes automated readings every hour of temperature, humidity, wind (10 m and 2 m), pressure, and melted precipitation. Snowfall observations are no longer taken, although the station does estimate snowdepth with a sonic snow sensor. Based on comparative data, it appears that the airport location is slightly cooler (about 1C) than observations in the city of Welland, due to its more rural location. For the latest Welland airport weather readings, see current conditions or current raw data. Click here for monthly data summaries.
CLIMATE STATION HISTORY - WELLAND, ONTARIO (1872 - present)
|Oct 1872 - Aug 1879||
Alfred Willett (Oct
1872 - Apr 1875)
unknown (Apr 1875 - Aug 1879)
Alfred Willet was Divisions
passed away Apr 26 1875
|Sep 1879 - Aug 1880||no data||no data||no data|
|Sep 1880 - Mar 1882||William B. Raymond||East Main St & Burgar St||good meticulous data|
|Apr 1882 - Sep 1882||no data||no data||no data|
|Oct 1882 - Dec 1886||Robert Grant||
Welland County Model School
Dorothy St and Hellems Ave
Grant was principal of
Welland County model school
|Jan 1887 - Feb 1892||no data||no data||longest period of no data in Welland record|
|Mar 1892 - Jul 1904||James Gilchriese||Welland Courthouse lawn||Gilchriese was turnkey at Courthouse jail|
|Aug 1904 - Nov 1904||no data||no data||no data|
|Dec 1904 - Mar 1914||John Coulson||Welland Courthouse Lawn||Coulson was governor of Courthouse jail|
|Apr 1914 - Jul 1915||Charles L. Coulson||99 Maple Ave||
took over for his father
who passed away Apr 3 1914
|Aug 1915 - Jun 1919||Jennie C. Rose||41 Frazer St||
Rose was Coulson's sister
obs while Coulson was overseas (WW1)
|Jul 1919 - Dec 1956||Charles L. Coulson||53 Maple Ave||Coulson was Welland city engineer|
|Jan 1957 - Sep 1957||no data||no data||no data|
|Oct 1957 - Aug 2014||Westside firehall staff||
Prince Charles Dr and Colbeck Dr
|observations became intermittent after 2007|
|Nov 2005 - present||
Niagara Central Airport
435 River Rd (6 km west of Welland)
|automated weather station (CTWL)|
Welland observing sites 1892 - 2014
Welland Courthouse (1892 - 1914)
53 Maple Ave (1919 - 1957)
Westside Firehall (1957 - 2014)
climate statistics 1872 - present
(for daily weather averages and extremes, click here)
All time records
|Hottest temperature||37.8C (100 F)||
|Coldest temperature||-32.8C (-27 F)||Jan 25 1884||Grant|
|Most rain in 24 hrs||118.4 mm (4.66 in)||Sep 30 1959||Westside Firehall|
|Most snow in 24 hrs||81.3 cm (32 in)||Mar 1 1900||Gilchriese|
|Hottest month||July 1921||25.3 C (77.5 F)||Coulson|
|Coldest month||Feb 1885||-12.3 C (9.9 F)||Grant|
|Wettest month||Sep 1977||240.4 mm (9.46 in)||Westside Firehall|
|Snowiest month||Feb 1901||177.8 cm (70 in)||Gilchriese|
Monthly temperature extremes (1872-2014)
|RECORD MAX||RECORD MIN|
|JAN||20.0 Jan 25 1950||-32.8 Jan 25 1884|
|FEB||20.5 Feb 26 2000||-31.9 Feb 16 2015 (-31.1 Feb 9 1934)**|
|MAR||27.0 Mar 31 1998||-27.8 Mar 4 1873|
|APR||32.5 Apr 28 1990||-18.3 Apr 1 1923|
|MAY||34.0 May 30 2006||- 6.1 May 6 1932|
|JUN||36.1 Jun 29 1933||1.1 Jun 11 1972*|
|JUL||37.8 Jul 4 1911, Jul 1 1931||3.9 Jul 11 1945|
|AUG||37.8 Aug 26 1948||0.5 Aug 29 1982|
|SEP||35.0 Sep 6 1881||- 2.2 Sep 10 1883|
|OCT||32.2 Oct 2 1927||- 8.9 Oct 29 1965|
|NOV||25.6 Nov 3 1961||-20.0 Nov 26 1880|
|DEC||20.6 Dec 4 1941||-27.8 Dec 27 1925|
37.8 Aug 26 1948*
-32.8 Jan 25 1884
* denotes latest of several occurrences
** The -31.9C reading on Feb 16 2015 was registered at the automated weather station at Welland Airport, beating Welland's previous all time coldest February minimum of -31.1C on Feb 9 1934.
About the author
Rob Paola is a meteorologist with Environment Canada currently working in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Rob was born and raised in Welland where his fascination with weather evolved, especially after the infamous "Blizzard of '77" that paralyzed southern Niagara and western NY in late January 1977. Although he has been away from Welland since 1981, he still maintains a great interest in the weather and history of the Niagara region.
If you found this page interesting or have information to share with me regarding the contents of this page, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for visiting!
Sketches (from "History
of Welland County")
ROBERT GRANT, late principal of the Welland County model school, is a native Canadian, having been born in the township of Bristol, county of Pontiac, province of Quebec, on the third day of July, 1834. His parents, William Grant, a Glasgow weaver, and Janet Murray, both natives of Sutherlandshire, Scotland, emigrated to America, were married, and settled at the birthplace of our subject. Robert Grant was one of a family of five. His two brothers, the Rev. Alexander Grant, the present pastor of St. Mary's Presbyterian Church, and the Rev. George Grant, inspector of public schools for Parry Sound district, were students from their boyhood, and our present subject remained on the farm to the age of 23. He then attended the Toronto normal school for three sessions and graduated with a first-class provincial certificate. He then taught two years in the city of Ottawa and one year in the county of Wellington. He again engaged in the business of farming for 5 years, at the end of which time he resumed the teaching profession, and was master of schools in Portage Du Fore, Clarendon and Bristol, all in the province of Quebec. From the last named place, he moved to the town of Simcoe, Ont. where he accepted a position as second master in the high school of which his brother, the Rev. George Grant, who taught there for 12 years, was principal. In 1877, when the county model school system was inaugurated, he received the appointment as principal of the Welland county model school, which position he filled with marked ability from that date until the end of 1886, when he resigned to accept a more lucrative position in Brockville. The school under his management was a model one in every respect. He not only is an excellent disciplinarian and instructor of public school pupils, but effectively instructs teachers-in-training with regard to the theory of education. Mr. Grant is very popular with the people of Welland on account of his fine social qualities, and the ability with which he filled important offices in various associations in the town and county. He is P.M. of Merritt Lodge, A.F. & A.M., and was president of the Welland County Teachers' Association in 1879 and 1886. He was president of the Welland Mechanics' Institute for four or five years, and by his energy did much to advance the interests of that useful institution. He is a member of the Presbyterian church. He married a daughter of Thomas Stewart, esq. of South Drumfries Township, county of Brant. They also have a family of eight children.
JOHN COULSON (b Mar 1841, d Apr 3 1914) Governor of Welland county gaol (jail), was born in Stamford Township, March 21st 1841. His parents were John and Charlotte (Griffiths) Coulson, both natives of England - the father from Yorkshire and the mother from Gloucestershire. Our subject was brought up on his father's farm, and learned the baking business at Niagara Falls, at that time known as Clifton. He engaged in business on his own account in Drummondville in 1866, and remained in that village two years, at the end of which time he removed his business to Niagara Falls and continued to carry it on in that town until the spring of 1884, when he accepted the appointment at the hands of the Ontario government to his present position. Mr. Coulson was a successful businessman and enjoyed the respect of his fellowtownsmen at the Falls to such extent that he was selected reeve of that place for 7 consecutive years, and the following year was chosen as the occupant of the mayor's chair. He was married July 18th 1866, to Louise Bell, a daughter of John Bell, formerly of Port Robinson. Mrs. Coulson's parents came from England when she was a child. Our subject's family consists of five children: Florence E.L., born June 25th 1867; Alice M.M., January 12th 1871; Mabel M.C., August 26th 1875; Jennie G.B., September 21st 1879; and Charles H.L. November 30th 1881. Mr. Coulson is a member of the Masonic, Oddfellow and Canadian Home Circle fraternities, and attends the Methodist church.
CHARLES LAKE COULSON: (b. Nov 30 1881, d. Jan 18 1957) Charles L. Coulson was born in Niagara Falls in Nov 1881, the youngest of 5 children, and the only son in the Coulson family. The family moved from Niagara Falls to Welland in the spring of 1884 when Coulson's father John accepted a position as governor of the Welland County Jail at the Welland Courthouse. The family lived in the governor of jail's residence - a brick home located on the Courthouse grounds before moving to 99 Maple Ave. Charles graduated from the University of Toronto in 1904 as a mining/civil engineer and embarked on engineering projects in Saskatchewan and Pennsylvania before returning to Niagara in 1909. Upon his father's death in 1914, Charles took over the Welland climate station duties. He married Mary Elletta Reilly (b. 1889, d. Aug 1947) on June 29 1916, before going overseas for World War I in August 1916. He returned to Welland from overseas duty in the summer of 1919, and as newly appointed Welland city engineer resumed climate observations in July 1919 from his new residence at 53 Maple Ave (Reilly household at the time). He would continue this responsibility until his death in January 1957 at the age of 75. Coulson retired as Welland city engineer in 1953 at the age of 71, but stayed on as an engineering consultant for the city until his death. Charles and Mary Reilly Coulson had two children, John Coulson (b 1929, d 1991) and Mary Lou (Peart) (b 1931, d Feb 3 2000). Mary Lou and husband Robert (Bob) Peart resided at 53 Maple Ave until their deaths. (bio information on Charles Coulson obtained from personal discussion with his daughter, Mary Lou Peart)
HUGH ALEXANDER ROSE, merchant, is a native of Welland County, having been born in the township of Stamford on the 18th day of May, 1840. On his father's side he is of Scottish descent. His grandfather, whose name was also Hugh Alexander, came to America from Scotland, at an early date. He lived for a while in the state of New York before coming to this country, but arrived in Canada previous to the war of 1812, and took an active part in that great conflict, participating in the principle battles. He purchased the Hamilton place near Queenston, and on it Rufus H. Rose, our present subject's father, was born. Subsequently the family removed to Bertie Township. Rufus H. Rose married Jane A. Oliphant, of a Pennsylvania family, who settled in Canada early in the present century. Our present subject attended school at Wellandport, and afterwards at Stonebridge. In 1856 he began business as a clerk in the store of James McCoppen in Welland. He continued to work for Mr. McCoppen, and afterwards for Messrs. McCoppen & Morwood for some time. Subsequently he bought out Mr. McCoppen's interest in the business, and continued in the same store as a partner of Mr. Morwood until 1864, when he sold out to Mr. Morwood and retired from the firm. He next purchased the business of Mr. Betts, which consisted of the general store known as the Gothic, situated on the corner of West Main and North Main streets, and there he has continued to do business ever since. In 1878 he replaced the old gothic building by the fine three story brick block that ornaments the corner now. He occupies a part of the block with his business, which consists of a finely selected stock of general dry goods, shoes, etc. Mr. Rose has been twice married. His first wife was Jane, a daughter of the late John Morwood, and a sister of Richard Morwood. She died in 1862. In 1867, Mr Rose married Mary, a daughter of the late David Ellsworth of Bertie. This union has been blessed with a family of three - two daughters and a son, named as follows : Jennie M., Mabel E., and Hugh Alexander. Our subject was for a long time a member of the Welland high school board, and for a number of years its treasurer. He was several times elected to a seat at the council board. He was one of the early members of Merritt lodge, A.F. & A.M., and is a member of the Ancient Order of Foresters.
LORENZO DALMAGE RAYMOND, clerk of the peace and county attorney for Welland County, was born in the county of Leeds, Ontario, on the 28th day of September, 1811. The Raymond family is of English origin, the ancestors of our subject having emigrated from England and settled in one of the eastern states as early as 1630. L. D. Raymond's father, Dr. Truman Raymond, was a native of Massachusetts, who came to Canada early in the present century, and was stationed at Gananoque as a surgeon in the militia during the war of 1812. His wife, our subject's mother, was Elizabeth, the youngest daughter of John Dulmage, a native of Limerick, Ireland, who came to America in 1760 landing at New York on the 10th of August of that year. He took up land on the Batten Kill, in the state of New York, and at the outbreak of the American revolutionary war joined the British forces. At the close of the war he came to Canada as a U.E. Loyalist, and settled in Grenville County. After the close of the war of 1812, Dr. Raymond removed his family from Leeds to Prescott, and there our subject received his primary education. In 1824 the family removed from Prescott to the old town of Niagara, and L.D. Raymond finished his education at the Niagara district school. Subsequently he studied law at Niagara with Charles Richardson, Esq., at that time clerk of the peace for the Niagara district. He was called to the bar in Michaelmas term of 1835. He began the practice of his profession at Chippawa, and subsequently removed to St. Catharines, where he continued to reside until the final separation of the counties of Lincoln and Welland. On the 12th of May, 1856, he was appointed clerk of the peace for Welland County, and on the 5th day of March, 1858, became county attorney. He has held the two offices, in connection with which he has practised his profession in Welland, ever since. In his younger days, Mr. Raymond was connected with the militia. At the outbreak of the rebellion of 1837, he was a sergeant in Captain Heburne's company, of Chippawa, under Colonel Kerby. In December, 1837, he became ensign of the company, and in 1847 was made captain of a company of No. 2 battalion, Lincoln militia, under Colonel Clarke. He has been for a long time a member of the A.F. & A.M. fraternity, and was a charter member of Merritt lodge, previous to the organization of which he was a member of Welland lodge at Fonthill. He has long been a prominent member of the Episcopalian church, and has frequently been appointed a delegate to the synod of the diocese. Mr. Raymond was married on the 30th October, 1855, to Mary J. Cochrane, a daughter of Samuel Cochrane, Esq., a native of the county of Armagh, Ireland. The union has been blessed with a family of three sons and one daughter. Samuel D., the eldest son, is assistant accountant of the head office of the Imperial Bank of Canada. William B. is a barrister, practicing his profession in Toronto, where he is connected with the firm of McCarthy, Osler, Hoskins & Creelman. L. Clarke, the third son, is a barrister, practicing in Welland as a partner of his father. Mr. Raymond's only daughter, Minnie, married Rev. T. C. Street Macklem, rector of the parish of St. Simon's, Toronto. Dr. Raymond, our subject's father, died at Welland in 1861, in his 78th year. It is now about fifty-two years since Mr. Raymond was called to the bar. Few, if any, of the practicing lawyers of the province have been so long in the profession, and few public officials have won for themselves the same degree of popularity that Mr. Raymond's courteous manner and sterling integrity have won for him during the thirty odd years that he has held a prominent public office in Welland County.