Built in 1834 as a way to impress. It was trickery, as the family was living beyond their means.
Alexander, unlike his father, was terrible at business. This made him dependent on small jobs, like being Postmaster and a local court judge. Also served as an assessor and a collector of Customs. And the job he despised, Sheriff for the historic town of Queenston Heights.
His being Sheriff is blamed for Alexander’s death when he was forced to be an executioner during the hanging of criminal James Morreau (or Morrow).
Left over Rebellion – –
1838 was one year after William Lyon Mackenzie led a rebellion dedicated to overthrowing British control in Canada. Feeling the govenment weakened, a small group of rebels gathered by the Niagara River.
Their leader was James Morreau, a 32 year old American with delusions that Canadians will rise up and support the rebels. They didn’t and Morreau gave up his command but remained part of the group.
They defeated a troop of British soldiers, hanging seven of them as revenge for the hanging of rebels in Toronto.
This alerted the British who went and captured many of the rebels, including James Morreau. Sentenced to hang for his deeds, the task was given to the town of Queenston.
Sheriff Alexander Hamilton, a peaceful man, tried to pass it off. He offered $100 to any man who’d stand as executioner. Everyone refused and the job was his alone.
Careful to do it right, he provided an 18 foot drop to ensure Morreau’s neck would snap. A merciful execution believed to be done right as the government complimented Hamilton on his “cool and firm manner”.
But Alexander showed his peaceful nature again and spiritually took the blame for it. He never recovered from the stress, going into a deep depression leading to the end of his life only one year later in 1839.
Hannah Hamilton the Ghost
Today the old house is a school of restoration focused on old houses. Students, workers and teachers all believe Alexander’s wife, Hannah Hamilton, is the resident ghost of Willowbank Mansion.
Said to be the one who pushed Alexander to be richer and show well for the Hamilton name. She wanted to be seen as a woman of station, even though it wasn’t true. And she loved Willowbank, maybe the reason why she never left.
Playing the Piano – –
A piano still sits in the first floor parlour. Students working in nearby rooms have heard the light playing of piano music.
Some would stay put and wait for the music to stop, but the more curious would excitedly rush into the parlour. Most report that the parlour was empty and the music stopped.
A couple said different. That a woman was seen hunched over the piano keys. Then stopping, she’d get up, walk across the room and vanish into the hallway.
**Photos below are from inside Willowbank Mansion & the secret Hamilton Family Cemetery located on the grounds