The Curse of One Market Street
Fiery lore of our downtown core.
Scott Egan, September 08, 2022 // Brantford, OntarioOne Market Street, today in Brantford, Ontario. Stock photo.
DISCLAIMER: The writer would like to express his gratitude to Lori Greene for her time and insight, and to honour the memory of Alma Greene.
Downtown Brantford has been under a curse for over a hundred years. It's surprising how often this story has come up in my life. I've heard versions of it ever since I was little, never told the same way. What's more surprising is how many people have never heard this story and that should change. So, allow me.
A long time ago the curse was placed on the land that is now occupied by the Market Square building, the old Eaton's Market Square. The curse promised that "no one other than a native can live on the land, to prosper or even to have a clear mind." To understand why this curse was placed a little history is needed first. Then we need to talk a bit about Alma Greene – this cannot be discussed without her as well. First, the history.
In some way the Market Square has always existed in some fashion and was always supposed to. A trading post/market operated in this basic area long before white faces ever showed up here. In an attempt to keep it this way, in 1858 a court decision made it clear that any presiding government had no authority over this land and it was to be kept an open and free market. The decree, fought by local hotel owner James Kirby also stated that "The sole purpose of the market square to be used for market purposes only and ought to be kept open and free from any erection or any building thereon other than for market purposes..." For now and forever an open and free market for everyone to use, made law. Made completely legitimate on February 9th 1859. Since the town hall was almost immediately built on the site, it didn't seem like the town was too interested in following this decree to the letter and quickly it was figured out who "everyone" was meant to mean.
Various photos of the old Eaton's Market Square in Brantford, Ontario. Stock photos.
Now the local Haudenosaunee (hoh-dee-noh-sho-nee) had used this area as a trading post and held ceremonies there for what seemed like ever. As the area began to be more and more invaded by settlers, they seemed to be pushed out more and more. The reason is pretty simple. Racism. Even traveling to the market could be a dangerous venture and over the next 50 or so years things became worse and worse. The event that "broke the camel's" so to speak, took place in the first decade of the 19th century, in either 1907 or 1908. It centres around an elderly Mohawk chief that had brought his load of hay to trade at the market. After this man refused to pay the unwarranted, new and illegal market fees he was mistreated, arrested and took into custody. Indignities like this at this time could easily be counted in the thousands, hundreds of thousands. You must remember that at this time our country didn't even recognize the First Nations as people. Let me say that again – as people. Canada didn't recognize the First Nations as people until 1956, so most people had no issue with being absolutely terrible to the Haudenosaunee and they decided to combat it in a special way. At some point not long after this incident a Mohawk Witchcraft Society began a trek of many miles to an abandoned log cabin somewhere in this area. These highly gifted and learned people performed a ritual and placed a curse on the Market Square. This ritual, however it is conducted, also includes a talisman: the walnut turtle. One of the people present at this ritual was a young Alma Greene. From what I understand this curse cannot be removed, it can only be lifted when the Market Square is returned to its pre-1908 status . The curse would need to be renewed yearly with the use of the walnut turtle, but it was here to stay. Now… well, now is when the fires start.
This is part one of a three part series. The continuation of this article will be available within a couple weeks.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Scott Egan, best described as an extroverted hermit. Scott is an afficionado of all things old, odd and esoteric. An avid reader and collector, he’s accumulated a backlog of legends and lore that he loves to share with most anyone who will listen. A father of two, Scott lives along with his feline soulmate amongst thousands of books and hundreds of objects of the strange and unusual.