History of Willowbank
Built to impress in 1834. This was trickery as Alexander was living well beyond his means.
Alexander, unlike his father, was terrible at business. It made him dependent on small jobs like being Postmaster and a local court judge (like his father) for the tiny town. Also as an assessor and a collector of Customs.
And the job he despised most… Sheriff of Queenston Heights.
Being Sheriff is blamed for Alexander’s death. Starting on the day he was forced execute the hanging of criminal James Morreau (Morrow).
Left over Rebellion – –
1838 was one year after William Lyon Mackenzie led a rebellion dedicated to overthrowing British control in Canada. Feeling the government weakened, a small group of rebels gathered by the Niagara River.
Their leader was Morreau, a 32 year old American with delusions that British Canadians will support the rebels. They didn’t. Morreau then gave up command but remained a rebel.
They defeated a troop of British soldiers. Seven of them were hanged as revenge for the hanging of rebels in Toronto. This alerted a larger British regiment who went and captured the rebels including Morreau.
Sentenced to hang for his deeds, the task was given to the town of Queenston and fell of the lap of Sheriff Alexander Hamilton. The peaceful man tried to pass it off by offering $100 to any man who’d stand in his place. Everyone refused.
He was careful to do it right. Personally provided a long rope for an 18 foot drop, ensuring Morreau’s neck snapped. Everything went perfectly. The government complimented Hamilton on his “cool and firm manner”.
But Alexander didn’t agree. The weight of taking a man’s life stayed and he never recovered. Stress led to a deep depression and the end of his life only one year later in 1839.
Hannah Hamilton the Ghost
Today the old house is a school of historic structure restoration. Students, workers and teachers all believe Alexander’s wife, Hannah Hamilton, is the resident ghost.
Said to have pushed Alexander to be richer and show well for the Hamilton name. She wanted to be seen as a woman of station even if not true. And she loved Willowbank… maybe why she never left.
Playing the Piano – –
A piano still sits in the first floor parlour. Students in nearby rooms hear the light piano music. Some stay put and wait for it to stop, but the curious excitedly rush into the parlour.
Most report that the parlour empty and quiet. But a few saw something. A woman hunched over the piano keys. As if knowing the students are watching, she stops playing stopping, gets up and walks across the room. Hannah vanishes into the hallway.
**Photos below are from inside Willowbank Mansion & the secret Hamilton Family Cemetery located on the grounds