It all started with elephants in Amherst. Jim Milner became fascinated with the topic and fed me details while skating and by email.
I thought that the image of an elephant at Tidnish in 1905 or 1906 helping to lay the water pipe a couple of miles to the Curry Mansion (thank you, Reg Weeks) would be the oldest image…
The Pedersons found an artefact on their property near Blair Lake that has been identified as a mastodon tooth! For years they thought it belonged to Lindy, an elephant that was housed there from 1940 to 1942 when the property belonged to William Fillmore.
Several of our older citizens remember Lindy.
Lindy appears in a photograph of the Frank Elliot family taken in 1939 in front of the ferris wheel of their carnival (thank you Clyde).
Also in 1939 the firemen challenged Lindy to a tug of war and she hauled them right across the parking lot of the Blanche Arena.
Lindy belonged to the William Schultz Circus and was housed during a couple of winters at 1168 Warren (near East Amherst) on the Bill Teed farm, rented by Mr. Schultz. Doug Embree, 100, remembers hearing the elephant trumpet and thinks there was more than one. He heard lions roar. Doug Hawkes lived almost next door and remembers hearing the elephant, as well as tigers and lions. Doug Hawkes remembers seeing the elephant in the barn nearest the house and tethered by a chain at least twenty feet long to various iron pins driven into the ground around the barn.
Curt Chapman and his nephew, a very young Doug Chapman, delivered hay and straw to the farm for the circus animals. Doug remembers the elephant very well.
Alfred Harper helped to look after the animals during the winters. His daughter, Gladys Riley, remembers the family going to the farm by horse and wagon to see Lindy and the other circus animals. She still has a picture of the occasion.
Frank Holland told Jim Milner that his father, Stan Holland, looked after Lindy. Frank remembers that his father was kicked by one of the elephants. He said it was like being kicked by a bus.
Clarence and Eva Reid were married on March 21, 1940 and remember talking about the circus animals housed at the farm as they walked past on their wedding day.
In June 1940, Captain William Schultz was arrested by the RCMP in River Hebert, apparently because he was German and the Second World War was underway. He became a prisoner of war in Dorchester and then was moved to Quebec. According to Al Stencell on the Circus History Message Board, when released he ran a zoo outside of Quebec City until he died.
The RCMP and the Government of Canada seized the Schultz Circus, the animals were confiscated, loaded onto circus trucks and taken to the Fillmore farm where Bill Fillmore had agreed to house them. According to Bill’s daughter, Cairine White, the Fillmore farm was the biggest tree nursery in eastern Canada. It had been built up by First World War prisoners and had a large barn with stone sides. During the Second World War the workers went to war which was one reason the farm was available.
Lindy the elephant was kept in the barn. She would trumpet and rattle her chain which scared little Cairine who visited the farm on several occasions.
William Schultz’s wife/partner was Consuela Flores, a dramatic and colourful circus performer and trapeze artist who acted as the animals’ veterinarian. When Lindy got pneumonia and was coughing up phlegm, Bill Fillmore first consulted Dr. Hotchkis who protested that his was a small animal practice. Consuela “knew what to do” recounted Cairline from a favourite family story. She told Bill to obtain three bottles of gin, not easy during the Second World War when alcohol was rationed. For the sick elephant the three bottles were found.
Lindy was lying down in the barn. A chain was placed around her trunk and thrown over a beam to raise up her trunk so that her mouth was open. After smashing the top off one bottle of gin against the stone wall, Consuela climbed into Lindy’s mouth and poured the gin down her gullet. After pouring down the contents of bottles two and three, she got out, picked up a pitchfork and jammed Lindy’s back end twice. Lindy got up, coughed up a wash pan of phlegm and started eating hay, quite recovered.
However, during an extended cold snap at the beginning of 1942, Lindy developed pneumonia and died. The mystery is - what happened to her huge body? Even a small female elephant would have weighed two tons. Bruce Fillmore said she was cut into pieces which he saw carried out of the barn by wheel barrows. She was probably buried on the farm.
Watch for the Curry Mansion, the Elliot Shows, Bill Fillmore, and Consuela in future columns as there is much more to be told. Please share with me any information or pictures you may have.
Clare Christie is a member of the Amherst News Community Editorial Panel. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.