John G. Mullen Family and Belle Vue

 

(Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a series of articles by historian/genealogist Debra Honor regarding the Belle Vue house and its history. Honor is a member of the Belle Vue Conservancy.)

 

By Debra Honor UE, PLCGS

 

John Gallagher Mullen came to Amherstburg as an employee for a Cleveland Ohio coal company. Three years later, he bought out the coal company share in Amherstburg and started the Mullen Coal Company that had docks in Amherstburg and Sandwich to service the steamships on the Great Lakes. His docks at Amherstburg were large enough to fuel two steamships at the same time.

John G. Mullen

His office was an old fire hall on Dalhousie St. heated by a potbellied stove with the second floor used by himself and his friends to play poker. When he opened the office, he took the key and threw it into the river, stating that his office would never be important enough to be locked. Many nights, homeless men would find a warm place to sleep and never was anything in the office touched.

John G. Mullen was a philanthropist. Once he caught a needy man from town carrying a couple of bags of coal in a wheel barrow. Mr. Mullen responded, “Why didn’t you come to me and ask for coal? I never want anyone in town to be cold.”

In the 1870’s, John G. Mullen was involved in other new technologies such as the Great North Western Telegraph Company. By 1892, Mullen, along with Colin Wigle, John A. Auld, and W.D. McEvoy started the first commercial electric plant supplying electricity for the street lights and to those families who could afford it. He also ran for mayor for four years and was successful in 1893, 1894 and 1896.

The Mullen family undertook several renovations to the Belle Vue house, including adding the front portico to the home. Belle Vue is located at 525 Dalhousie St. in Amherstburg.

In 1927, St. John the Baptist Church was building a new vestry and the Mullen family pledged ten to twenty thousand dollars.

For about 45 years, the Mullen family lived at the old Gordon House. In 1925, at the age of 77, John and Isabella Mullen, bought Belle Vue. It took the family three years to remodel it into the house we now see. They removed most of the Italianate style William Johnston added in the 1870’s and added the gazebo at the end, the front portico and the little dock down by the water. Though John G. Mullen passed away in 1930, his wife and children lived in the house until 1944 when Mrs. Mullen passed away.

Please support our fundraising campaign. One hundred per cent of your contribution will be used for restoration of the Belle Vue House. You will receive a full tax receipt and a Belle Vue gift. Visit amherstburg.ca/donate to help us open up Belle Vue once again!

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