Harriston Browns: A Baseball Story

Early versions of baseball have been played in Canada since the rebellion of 1837. The first recorded game was played in Beachville, Upper Canada on June 4, 1838.  However, it was not until the organization of George Sleeman's Guelph Maple Leafs and the Canadian League in 1876 that local amateur baseball was popularized across Wellington County.

Used in the final game in 1878, this white leather baseball helped the Harriston Browns win the championship series for Canada against Detroit. It is our earliest piece of baseball history in the Museum collection.

photograph of baseball

Caption: Baseball, c.1878
Credit: WCMA, 1978X.31.2.

Although there is very little known about the team or the championship itself, the ball was in the possession of Emiel Welte, who played shortstop. He was 25 years old in 1878 and was a local cabinet maker, like his father Silas Welte of Harriston. The baseball was donated to the Museum in the 1950s by his son, Emiel L. Welte of Stratford.

 photograph of the Harriston Brown's Baseball Team

Caption: The Harriston Brown's Baseball Team, 1878. Front (left to right), J. Stapleton (left field and Captain), S.E. Robertson (scorer), J. Livingston (treasurer), E.H. Dewar (secretary), P. Lavin (shortstop and president). Back, A.W. Paulin (2B), J. Prentice (1B), J. Wilcox (3B), C. Johnston (centre field), E. Welte (shortstop), R. Emslie (pitcher), A. Robertson (right field), J. P. Thompson (catcher).
Credit: WCMA, ph 2845, A1978X.31.1.




The Harriston Browns belonged to the Canadian League which included teams from Guelph, Galt, and Woodstock. The winner of the year-end championship was presented with a silver-mounted rosewood bat given by George Sleeman.

In 1880, the Harriston Browns played against the Guelph Maple Leafs for the Amateur Baseball Championship
of Canada, only to lose to a disappointing four to six.

Professional baseball player Bob Emslie's pitching debut helped the Harriston Browns win some of their games against the Guelph Maple Leafs. He eventually went on to play with the Baltimore Orioles in 1883 and the Philadelphia Athletics in 1885. 

Caption: Robert Daniel Emslie (1859-1943) was a Canadian pitcher in Major League Baseball as well as an umpire. He was born in Guelph, Ontario.



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