Robert W Johnson
(cursor over or tap Mr Johnson's face and the Calcutt ad
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
Miss McLean. Our good friend Will Williamson
lived next door to the brewery on the north. Ambrose & Winslow's big new brewery out Cavan Street, 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.
The Evening Guide Wednesday January 10, 1956
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.
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.
In those 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 seventy years!
Deplores Lack Of
Old Timer Also Locates Pidgeon Hill To North of C.N.R.
Station In P.H.
by R. W. Johnson, C.A.
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, McCahe'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).
believe 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.
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.
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.