Outside Town Hall stands the statue of one of Port Hope’s native sons and one of local history’s most disputed heroes. Lt-Colonel Arthur Williams, also known as “The Hero of Batoche” reaches towards the sky, sword in hand. An infamous moment in history frozen in time, serving as a reminder for generations to recall how this courageous leader urged the men of the Midland Battalion to follow him into what history refers to as The Battle of Batoche.

Swirled in controversy, Lt-Col. Arthur Williams was considered a hero by some, and a glory-seeking dissident by others. In 1885, the adoring townspeople of Port Hope had no doubt. To them, he was far and away a heroic leader and soldier who fought his way to victory and earned his place in history as a National hero.

Print of the Battle of Batoche during the North-West Rebellion, based on sketches by Sergeant Grundy and others, published by Grip Printing & Publishing Co, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Print of the Battle of Batoche during the North-West Rebellion, based on sketches by Sergeant Grundy and others, published by Grip Printing & Publishing Co, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Individuals on the other side of history’s fence felt Williams was in this battle against Louis Riel and the Métis forces, to fulfill his own greedy desire for glory. Williams, disobeying his commanding officer, General Frederick Middleton, led his troops in a disorderly charge on the rifle pits of the Northwest Rebellion and caused the deaths of a number of the men under his command.

Regardless, Wiliams efforts and those of his men lead to the end of The Battle of Batoche and the surrender of Riel and Plains Cree leader Chief Poundmaker. Dying just three days later of a fever, Williams’ body was returned in state to his home Port Hope. A huge funeral was held, and citizens erected a statue in his honour. To learn more about the Williams statue and the history of our contentious hero, please visit porthopehistory.com

Men of the 46th Regiment on the Port Hope Town Park hill, 1883. Lt-Col. Arthur Williams seated centre.

Louis Riel as a prisoner at Gen. Middleton’s camp. Riel surrendered to Canadian soldiers on 15 May, shortly after the Battle of Batoche.

The Surrender of Poundmaker to Major-General Middleton at Battleford, Saskatchewan, on May 26, 1885
(Painted by R.W. Rutherford in 1887)

The Williams Afternoon Tour is a one-of-a-kind opportunity that will present the facts around the events that unfolded and give participants a chance to decide for themselves. During the tour, guests will also have the opportunity to pursue his life in Port Hope as a highly successful and popular politician, businessman – and farmer, as he liked to be called.

Starting at the statue of Lt-Col. Williams (Place #1) we’ll move to the Penryn Homestead (Place #2) his childhood home. Here the guests of his parents, Commander and Mrs. Williams, danced in a ballroom the Commander had built to imitate a ship’s cambered deck. It’s still there though repurposed.

After that, participants will continue to nearby Penryn Park (Place #3), for a tour of Arthur’s marital home guided by James Sculthorpe and Tom Cruickshank.

The tour will end at Arthur’s grave in the Union Cemetery (Place #4), where Peter Bolton will brief us on what a significant event Arthur’s passing was. We’ll enjoy a handsome tea at the Caretaker’s Cottage, where we can relax over a cuppa and decide on a verdict for our contentious but valiant soldier!

There will be three stops in total, including refreshments. Numbers are limited. Car-sharing is encouraged, and maps will be available.

The cost is $20 for members and $25 for non-members.

Cheques should be made out to ACO Port Hope, and reference “Batoche” Please mail or deliver your cheque to:

Helen Kucey
24 Harris Street
Port Hope, ON
L1A 4G6

Please include your email, phone number and address.

For more information regarding the tour call 905.373.4512, or preferably email pbeeson@eagle.ca