Robert W Johnson
The Evening Guide June 1, 1951
WHY NOT A HISTORICAL SOCIETY?by
R. W. Johnson, St. Thomas
Port Hope — All former residents of 'The Prettiest Town in Canada' will regret that no Historical Society now exists in the good old town. The organisation of such a body has been delayed far too long already, as is evidenced by such an apparent lack of knowledge on the part of present-day residents of many interesting things which happened only forty
cursor over or tap Robert Johnson's face
or fifty years ago. Many interesting events in the history of the community are already forgotten, while many others are recalled only vaguely by older residents, and told sometimes as widely divergent stories.
In most rural districts the Women's Institutes have been for several years preparing 'Tweedsmuir Books,' often in the form of scrap books, containing old newspaper articles and pictures, and papers written by members on various topics on which they can write with authority. How simple it is, for example and yet how desirable, for a member to do a little research work and write up, to that it can be preserved, a history of her own church or of her rural school. These papers would put on record the names of all the former preachers and teachers of the district, their outstanding characteristics, and the results of their labours. The noteworthy graduates of the schools could be followed up, the trustees and church officers given due credit for their efforts, etc.
Other members could delve into the makeup of their town or township councils and school boards, hospital boards, etc., and put on record the names of all those who have helped in local government over the years. Trade and industry, manufacturing and transportation provide other subjects for study, and thus broken down into topics which can easily be handled by the average writer, would together form a comprehensive history of the whole district. Why not get busy on such work while the information necessary is still available?
The Guide mentioned recently the finding of a souvenir pictorial folder which someone had lovingly preserved for fifty years, but which had last been 'heaved over among the rubbish.' This little pamphlet and other similar documents are what give the historian the necessary data on which to work, and should be filed carefully in the archives of the town or in the vaults of a historical society.
Without proper preservation of such articles and records errors creep in such as the recent tendency to refer to a part of what has always been Monkey Mountain as Pigeon Hill. Let It be known that Pigeon Hill was the locality back of the CNR station formerly occupied largely by members of the Catholic Church, and as distinguished from Protestant Hill and Engishtown.
Let us then get started on the preservation somewhere of everything available which bears on the early days of the district, and the preparation of papers on various subjects by present-day teachers and students and older residents interested in local history. The research work will be found to be interesting instead of laborious, and also prove of lasting benefit to all who take part.
The Evening Guide January 4, 1955
In the eighties there were about fifteen licensed hotels in Port Hope, some catering to the travelling public, others to farmers, and several that were only
drinking places. All were required to have at least two or three bedrooms and a small dining room in order to qualify for a license, but most of them existed only
because of the bar trade.
The St Lawrence Hall under William Mackie was the leading hostelry, but a fire about 1890 in the adjoining Opera House (entrance
from John Street) resulted in the hotel being closed down for several years. The Queen's under Allan Adams then handled all commercial business alone for several
years. The Royal at the foot of Walton Street, under Charles Nixon, the American on Walton, opposite Queen, under Lawrence Haw, and Lambert's on Ontario Street, later called the Ontario House,
under Louie Bennett, and now the Ganaraska, all did a thriving business especially with farmers as all had ample stable accommodation.
The smaller outfits
were Dick Christopher's at the GTR depot, Tom Plain's, a frame building on John Street that still stands at the corner of Park, Blackham's, a brick building on Dorset
between John and the Midland Railway, Martin Griffin's just south of the Queen's, Dicky Pethick's British Hotel on Queen, between Walton and the Post Office, the
Turner House on the south-east corner of Mill and the Cobourg Road, Silas Winters' farther down Mill Street near Caldwell, Johnny Lee's on Mill Street nearly opposite
the end of Ward, and another on Cavan Street a little north of Walton kept towards the end by William Gamble. Most of them found the going hard as the years went by
and were converted into residences or put to some other use.
Martin Griffin's had the reputation of being a highly reputable place, where business men and
others could meet for a social hour, and where nobody was allowed too much. When necessary he is said to have had an ultimatum - "Ye are up to the mark. Ye will get no
more here." His place had also a reputation as an oyster house where many a delicious stew was served on cold winter afternoons. His younger son, Vincent, played
football with us, and I remember one fall day when the young American Consul of that time entertained our club at Griffin's after school. We had elected him to be our
honourary president, and moreover he was at the time paying attention to one of the sisters of Walt Ross who was our captain. It may be seen that we showed good
judgment in the choice of our officers.
Besides the many hotels in those early days two breweries continued to operate. James Calcutt's was on Mill Street,
about opposite Barrett's Terrace. One can hardly imagine now that he had an ample supply of good spring water right there on the property. Where has it gone? [The
spring continues to flow
]. When business dwindled his building was dismantled and the bricks used in the construction of two or three houses [a
], one of which is now occupied by lived next door to the brewery on the north. Ambrose & Winslow's big new brewery out Cavan Street,
cursor over or tap the label
Miss McLean. Our good friend Will Williamson
prospered for some years, but it also had to go out of business
in due time.
The Port Hope Times December 11, 1879
Mr. James Calcutt, Fountain Brewery, has engaged a new brewer and maltster, and now
offers for sale, in casks or bottles, pure Ale and Porter of superior strength and flavor. Warranted.]
It may be worth recalling here that the Molsons, now
of Montreal, were in business in Port Hope very early, and I often heard the big pond at the head of Hope Street called Molson's Pond. Later it was Orr's Pond, and
then Corbett's. The Molsons had, I think, a distillery, but moved it to Montreal as a more promising location. Their water power later turned Orr's grist mill, then Dr
Corbett rebuilt the dam for his electric light plant, managed by Tom Tuer and Vince Coleman, and still later for gristing and other purposes. A complete history of
this water power would be of much interest. Who can write it? When I last saw it, the dam had again gone out, and all that was left there was a swimming pool and some
old buildings which were said to be used as a summer school by Toronto Communists for their young people.
Skating at Duck Pondfrom
Evening Guide Wednesday January 10, 1956
At one time there was a big frame skating ring on the east side of Mill Street some distance south of the viaduct. This
burned down about 1880, so that in our early school days we skated outdoors on one or other of the various mill ponds. These were Helm's below Walton Street bridge,
McCabe's at Ontario Street, Barrett's farther up, and Beamish's which later was called the File Factory Pond. It was the biggest and most popular of the four, but after
Dr Corbett rebuilt the Orr's Pond dam to provide power for electrilc lights we flocked up there where we could skate a whole mile from the dam up to Boice's Bridge. On
this big sheet of ice the horsemen used to lay a kite-shaped mile track and hold trotting races every winter.
A few days' skating was generally followed by a
snowfall, so that we always had more bob-sledding than skating. After a thaw, however, the snow on the ponds would be washed away, and one or two cold nights would
give us skating again. Often such a change would give us ice all along the lake eastward.
The accumulated barrier of ice ten feet high, formed by the
splashing of the waves along the beach, would hold back the flood waters long enough so that the return of cold weather would enable us to start at Old Mac's swamp,
cross Gage's Creek, go on to the Cedars, hobble through there a couple of hundred yards to Duck Harbour, and proceed past Green Point all the way to Hon. Sydney Smith's
estate on the outskirts of Cobourg. Stops could be made anywhere along the way to rest, eat lunch, or dry out wet feet at a cheerful bonfire. Combining skating with
exploration down through the alders and musk-rat houses we had a pleasant and easy-going way of spending a Saturday afternoon. It was much better than the steady,
monotonous exercise at Corbett's, where there was no protection from the cold north wind. There, however, the big boys would willingly face it, and put on a game of
shinny (this was before the days of hockey sticks and hockey skates) with fifty players a side and goals about half a mile apart. Sometimes it was Protestant Hill
against Englishtown, but nobody ever knew how many players came on or went off or what the score was at the end of the day.
At Duck Harbour we had similar games
of shinny, sometimes Town against TCS, that enabled us to renew acquaintance with boys against whom we had played rugby during the fall months.
days we met Paddy Renison, Billy Broughall, Joe Seagram, one of the Ogilvie's from Montreal, a dark-skinned lad from the West Indies named Daykin, who was a wonderful
cross-country runner, and many other fine fellows. On new ice there were always weak spots caused by current or weed-patches, and at such places there was always some
lad who could blunder in up to his neck. I remember that one Saturday afternoon we were half an hour rescuing one of the TCS boys at Duck Harbour, and he was thoroughly
exhausted before he was hauled out. We got results in such cases by forming a living chain, one of the bravest of us getting as close to the victim as possible on his
stomach, with a fence rail or a long pole from somewhere, and others holding each the heels of the fellow ahead of him. There were many rather narrow escapes but the
luck was with.
On one of the winter bathing parties I remember that 'Joe' Vincent, who was, I think, a cousin of Mrs. Haultain, went through into four feet
of water and lost one of his skates kicking to keep afloat before he found out that he could touch bottom. After we got him out he decided that he couldn't get any
wetter, and he was unwilling to give up his skate. So as we stood by to help him out again he dove in again, located the skate and came up smiling. Can boys take care
of themselves and work out their own problems as well now-a-days when they play their hockey indoors with factory-made equipment?
Peter Landry tells me
that bird-lovers make interesting discoveries in summer in the swamps below Duck, and I hope that the many rare botanical specimens that we used to get there still
thrive. He finds several birds there now that were not summer residents then. The swamp was almost impassible with water waist-deep in May and June, and wading in
the muck was rather difficult. How we would love to be able to explore those swamps again, and to note the many changes that have taken place in the [last] sixty or
Deplores Lack Of Historical Society
Old Timer Also Locates Pidgeon Hill To North of C.N.R. Station In P.H.
by R. W. Johnson, C.A.from
The Evening Guide Thursday March 5, 1959
Please correct your reporter who refers from time to t ime to
Monkey Mountain but persists in calling it Pigeon Hill. A few years ago I pointed out this error, but apparently without result. Any old timer knows that Pigeon Hill
was the couple of blocks back of the Grand Trunk Station, now CNR, where most of the Roman Catholic residents lived.
It is too bad that no action was taken on my
suggestion some time ago to form an Historical Society in Port Hope, for there are few places in Ontario where there is such a store of historical data available.
Remember that the town was an early trading post long before Western Ontario was opened up. When my great grandparents and their friends settled in 1840 the town had
already spread east to Hope Street where they took up their land. St. Mark's Church (then St John's), the Blue Stone House, and several substantial residences had
been erected on Protestant Hill, and the community was ready to boom. There was not much of a harbour, but small steam boats brought emigrants from Kingston. There
were no railroads of course for another twenty-five years.
I would again recommend the organization of an Historical Society, so that authentic records and
place names be preserved. It is already getting late. How many of the present generation can identify or can locate, for example — the Flange Poll Corner, Johnny Lee's
Hotel, Pillsworth's corner, Gillespie's corner, the Guide Board, Bletcher's corners, the Valley, Sandy Dump, Calcutt's Brewery, Johnny Riordan's Rotten Row, Tom
Plain's Hotel, the Turner house, the Round House, the (old) Fair Grounds, Penryn Park, Wildwood, Choate's Woods, the Shinny Bush, Duck Harbour, Ravenscourt, Noble
Brown's, Sammy Davidson's, Renwicks, John Helm's, Seth Smith's, Dave Smart's, Dr Purslow's, Gladmans Crossing, Charles Stuart's, Martin Griffin's, Patsy Connell's
Wedge, Beamish's Mills, Harry Shepperd, the Choke-dog Maker, Mrs. Philip's Tuck Shop, Molson's Pond (later Corbett's), the Shoe-lace Factory, Paul Lachner's Glue
Factory, Chant's Button Factory, W. T. Black's Horse-Collar Factory, Coleman's buckle factory, McLean's Pants Factory, Mat Gill's Planing Mill, Tate's and Crowhurst's
Brick yards, McCabe's Mill, the old Masonic Hall with old paintings of all the past members, the Drill Shed, the Bicycle Track, the skating rink and Wrights Coal Yard
near the south end of Mill Street, the Ship Yard, the Midland Elevator, Sculthorpe's and King's, O'Briens' and Chalks' Carriage Factories, Walker's Furniture Factory,
Hayden's and Helm's Foundaries, the Engine House and the Upper-town Fire Hall, the Cobourg Road Toll Gates, Craig's and Robertson's Tanneries, Jimmy Addy's Harness
Shop, Sime Marshall's and Manley Raymond's Shoemaking shops, Ward's Hill, the East Primary, the old High School on Brown Street, the Canning Factory at the Harbour,
the Distillery, Ross' Pasture, Benson's Pasture, Hatton's Lane, and so many others?
Similarly a list of prominent business and professional men of sixty or
seventy years ago would be found interesting. One of these comes to mind in connection with the proposed extension of Pine Street north to Monkey Mountain, for I told
in an article a few years ago of the efforts of Johnny Riordan to compel the town to build a bridge across this deep valley to give him access to a small shack or
summer house he had built up there. Maybe I should look up my files and tell you this story over again.Editor's Note: Mr. Johnson who has contributed
to the Evening Guide for many years is correct in stating that he has corrected the paper before on the location of Pidgeon Hill (correctly spelled).
he is mistaken however, as it is shown on the town map West from Cavan Street. Monkey Mountain is a part of this ridge and lies north of Bedford Street in line with
Pine Street. We are supported in this assertion by other old-timers. We agree that an historical society is desirable and hope Mr. Johnson's article promotes one.
Pidgeons Flock To Defence Of Family Homestead Location
Also Spot On Port Hope Mapfrom
The Evening Guide Wednesday March 11, 1959
Pidgeon Hill which lies, according to the town map, west of Cavan Street towards Monkey Mountain, and the road which leads to the refuse disposal area, Hillcrest
Drive, is now being defended against the attack of Mr. R. W. Johnson of St. Thomas, who refuses to recognize the map by members and decendants of the Pidgeon family
who settled in the area more than 100 years ago.
Mrs. Cornthwaite who lives with her daughter Mrs. Garnet Shields, is now 87 years of age and is the youngest and
last of a family of 13. She said the family owned four acres of market garden land, and she was born there. The house was not as far out as the brewery mentioned by
Mr. Johnson, but there were other families in the area when Mrs. Cornthwaite was a girl.
A telephone call from Jean Lingard identified the location as the
property now occupied by the Schoons and Coles. Mr. Harry Hills says he knew the Pidgeon sisters. Miss Fanny did not marry. Mr. Charles Pidgeon lived where Mr. Locke
now lives, for 75 or 80 years. Mrs. Lingard said her great-great-grandfather was Andy Pidgeon.
Mrs. F. Sculthorpe, who has lived here all her life remembers both
Pigeon Hill and Pidgeon Hill. She told of days when she was young, going to the beach to swim, and at one house on Pigeon hill they were privileged to change into
their bathing suits. There are descendants of former residents of Pigeon Hill still living in Port Hope.
All who have called the Guide Office remember Pidgeon
Hill, but few remember Pigeon Hill, west of the old Grand Trunk station.from
the Evening Guide April 7, 1959
In my articles of March 5
on the location of the original Pigeon Hill, the Cavan Street 'Pidgeon' Hill, Monkey Mountain, and the need of an historical society to keep such place-names
properly recorded, I asked your readers to try to identify such places, well known to everybody seventy-five years ago as The Flag Pole Corner, Patsy Connell's
Wedge, Hatton's Lane, Wildwood, The Guide Board, and various others. As a result I have had several letters on this subject, many of them reminding me also of
others I had forgotten, or which were before even those I had in mind. Some of the places these correspondents have now recalled include Barlow Cumberland's
residence, Hemmick's Golf Course, Sam Hughes' Lane, and Smith's Woods; and such well known characters as Big Jimmie Hadden, Lou Holland, Plinkus Paul, Mandy Lee,
Bruce Sisson, John James Floody, Tommy Hawthorne, Dave Hall, Fitzie Fitzpatrick, and others.
One very interesting letter from W A Murray of Rochester
says: 'The street which is now called Pidgeon Hill was in our time called Dodd's Lane. It ran up the hill past the old Dodds home, where later the Hansman family
lived, then Roberts and Charley Cornthwaite. When you got to the end of the lane there was the large Pidgeon family. I remember all of them well, Tom, Bob,
George, Dick, Bill, who married Fanny Firman, Martha, Fannie and Nellie. In time it became known as Pidgeon Hill.'
He also calls to mind Mrs. Hannah's
Grocery on the King Street corner of Ward with the Fire Alarm Bell opposite, and the Chemical Hose Company between Harry Ward's and St Mark's Church. He recalls
the time that Gull Lighthouse was struck by lightning while several boys were taking refuge there from a storm. He says they were General Welsh, who had a big
toe burned off, Charlie McMahon, Kid Jordan, John Sinnott and others.
He recalls Nick Winters' Hotel at the foot of King Street where Tom Burt lived
later, Irish's Green, where we played baseball, opposite the Turner House, Kellaway's Sash and Door Factory, John Record's Pump Works, Peplow's and Salter's
Flour Mills, later Dyers Woollen Mills for a year or two until destroyed by fire. He remembers the spring days when men speared 'Paddy Roach's Rock Rollers',
commonly called suckers, on the flat rocks below Helm's Dam, and the roller rink, Riordan's Brewery, Dick Smith's harness shop, where the Band boys used to
congregate, and Dick Blackham's Rochester House on Dorset between John Street and the Midland Railway. He mentions Miles Ogden's hotel on John Street, and the
St George on Cavan, not far from Walton which was run by George Hawkins and later by Bill Gamble, the crack rifle shot who went to Wimbledon and Bisley several
times. He says E W Barnett had the soap and glue factory, later owned by Paul Lackner, and he mentions Spooner's Copperine sign and small office on John Street,
Joe Hooper's marble works, Tom Leonard's blacksmith shop on Queen opposite the Post Office, Tom Van Horn's on Cavan Street, Barrett's octagonal residence on
Martha Street, afterwards P H Passy's, the ice races on Corbett's Pond, and various other points of interest.
He recalls the hot times on the Town
Council when one year under Jim Quinlan as mayor there was a deadlock for six months. Councillors were Jack McMullen, Pete Randall, Stan Burnham and Charlie
Merrifield. At one contest for council, Dr Might, after a door-to-door canvass that ended only in his defeat, said there were 300 liars in Ward One who had
promised to vote for him and didn't.
I trust this partial list of Bill Murray's will keep your readers busy for a few days in this off-season.