The great Waterdown bank robbery

Before the arrival of The Royal Bank in Waterdown, other small private banks existed in the village, offering their services to residents of the area.

The most famous of these, the Trader’s Bank, operated from 1909 to 1921 and was located in the J. T. Stock Building on the north-west corner of the Mill and Dundas Street intersection. Less well known and located on the north-east corner of the Main and Dundas Street intersection was the Sealey Bank, owned and operated by William Oscar Sealey, the son of Waterdown’s first reeve, and later famous for his introduction of rural mail delivery during the years he was a member of the Dominion Parliament.

Sealey operated a small private bank in the corner building and lived on the floor above. It was here that he and his wife were involved in one of the most dramatic incidents in Waterdown’s history. During the early hours of April 14, 1887, burglars gained entrance to the building and began searching for the downstairs safe. The intruders drilled holes near the safe handle, inserted powder and ignited a fuse. The enormous explosion blew open the safe, shattered windows and woke the Sealeys, who were at home in bed.

Mr. Sealey grabbed his revolver and fired a number of shots from the top of the stairway, hoping to scare the burglars, but they returned the fire and four bullets pierced the bedroom floor. Several more volleys of gunfire occurred before W. O. Sealey attempted to open a side window and call for help. Finding them all stuck, he finally kicked out the glass in one of them and began shouting. All the noise brought the burglars out onto the street where they retaliated with a hail of bullets in the direction of the broken window.

The gunfire missed Sealey, who continued to shoot at the street below. Realizing that the disturbance would soon bring attention, the burglars began to beat a retreat, two running northwards and two across the Dundas Street intersection. The northbound pair carried the drawers from the safe, full of valuable papers, eventually throwing them under the Dundas Street Bridge where they were found later that day.

Throughout the morning, villagers visited Sealey’s business to see the bullet holes and hear details of the “bloodless battle.”

William Oscar Sealey assured those who questioned him that no money had been stolen as he did not keep it in the safe, “having learnt his lesson from an earlier robbery!”

Sylvia Wray is the former archivist with the Flamborough Archives. She can be reached through the Archives at

This article was originally published in the Flamborough Review, 13 January 2006.


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