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Niagara Falls
Monday, April 22, 2024
Pieces of NOTL history: The McMillans date back 160 years

Julie (Sciara) McMillan
Mabel (Stevens) Hunter
Special to The Lake Report

When the McMillan family’s ancestors first arrived in Niagara-on the Lake, Canada was not officially a country. There were no paved roads (and no bed and breakfasts or Shaw Festival) but there was an opportunity for a life to be made. And the McMillan family still has strong ties here.

Here is a small piece of their history. Steve’s grandfather, Charles “Short” McMillan, born in NOTL in 1897, was once a bellhop at the Queen's Royal Hotel, great-grandfather John McMillan, born in NOTL in 1870, worked for the town’s water department and was the lighthouse/foghorn keeper and his great-great-grandfather, James McMillan, ran the American Hotel and also owned the ferry that went from NOTL to Youngstown, N.Y.  James had come from Ireland in about 1860.

Fast-forward to more recent history: Mabel (Stevens) was born in Niagara Township in 1926 and just turned 95 in January. She went to the old Railroad School that was on Concession 1. Then she attended the Niagara High School where the museum is now.  

Mabel married Jack McMillan and Steve was born in the old Cottage Hospital on Queen Street in 1949. Steve married Willo Hunter in 1970.  

In 1952, Jack built a house on Gage Street, between King and Regent streets, and after he passed away in 1970 Steve and his new bride moved into it.

Steve has been a member of the NOTL Golf Club since about 1959 and one year he was the junior champion. He also played Slo-pitch when he was younger. His father, along with Harry Steele, coached the team that won the Ontario Championship in 1967 – Centennial year!  That was a big feat for our little town.

After Jack died, Mabel married Eddie Hunter, who had four sons. So the family suddenly got much bigger.

A big fan of bridge, Mabel helped found the present duplicate bridge club in town. Before the pandemic came along she was still playing multiple times a week, on Thursday nights at the NOTL Community Centre as well as other days at friends' homes.

In recent years Steve and Willo have sold their house and moved to Virgil. Steve’s brother, Tom, and his sister, Julie still live here with their spouses.

The town is much different these days, as it’s geared more to the tourists than the locals. There was a time we had at least four grocery stores along Queen Street along with a couple of gas stations.  

There were stores you could do all your shopping at and there was no need to go elsewhere. Times have changed. In our eyes, for the better?  We are not sure.  As the saying goes, “The good old days!”

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