307 Mississagua St. – The Schoolmaster’s House
The house at 307 Mississagua St. has an interesting history, which begins in 1816 with a Crown grant of lot 159 to John Dease Servos. This is a rather late year for a patent, probably partly explained by the house’s less desirable location away from the centre of town. John D. Servos was the son of Daniel Servos and Elizabeth Johnson. Daniel Servos was a pivotal figure in the history of Loyalists in Niagara, and was a lieutenant in the Indian Department. John D. Servos was the captain of the 10th Company of the 1st Regiment of Lincoln Militia in the War of 1812. He was wounded at Black Rock in December 1813, and commanded the Militia at Chippewa in 1837/1838.
We know that by 1818 the property was owned by Garry Camp, as he mortgaged the property in that year to Robert and Peter McDougall, merchants from York. Little is known about Camp, other than that he was a millwright and cabinet maker, and presumably had some business relationship with John Servos as he used him as a reference. It is possible that Camp may have built some of the equipment that Servos used in the family grist mill at Palatine Hill near 4-mile Creek. An advertisement from the Niagara Spectator in 1818 reads:
Garry Camp, Mill-Wright, Has established himself in the town of Niagara, where those wishing to transact business in his line can see him as his Cabinet Factory. […] Any persons wishing to satisfy themselves as to his qualification in the said business, will please to call on Mr. John D. Servos, at the Four Mile Creek, or Mr. Peter Robinson at New-Market in the Home District, where they may inspect for themselves.
Again in that year Camp sold the property to the McDougall’s (the mortgage holders) for £250, double what he mortgaged it for, suggesting he probably improved the lot by building a house, thus making 1818 the probable building date. After changing hands several times, the house and lot was purchased by John Wilson, the son of Irish John Wilson (who had attached the ‘Irish’ to his name to differentiate him from all the other John Wilson’s) a Loyalist from New Jersey. (The transaction is not listed, but we know he owned it by 1833 as it was willed to a descendent.) Wilson, the younger, rose to prominence in the town of Niagara, operating an inn on River Road, now known as the McIntyre Farm, as well the Exchange hotel in the town, at the corner of Queen and Gate Streets. He married three times – his second wife was Ann McFarland, the daughter of John McFarland, whose home is now McFarland House.
Other notable occupants were Horatio Nelson Phillips, and his son Thomas D. Phillips. T.D. Phillips first purchased the house in 1854, selling it to his father in 1861, who subsequently mortgaged it back to T.D. H.N Phillips operated a boarding school out of this house, the same one taught at by Dr. John Whitelaw, whose term had ended in 1851. This was a predecessor of the Niagara High School, which operated out of the current Niagara Historical Museum building from 1875, although Mr. Phillips is known for having his students sign their exercises ‘Senior County Grammar School’. T.D. Phillips served as his father’s assistant, and was known as a famous international cricket player, and the school cricket club started while Phillips taught there.
The structure of the house has changed since its construction – it is likely that the ell (the wing facing Gage St.) was added later, probably in the 1830s to house the school, most likely with the school house below and the dormitories above. Several architectural features remain from its use as a school, including recessed cupboards above the mantels on the second floor that were likely used as book cupboards by students.
Courtesy of the Niagara Historical Society & Museum