industry


The Deseronto Public Library and Deseronto Archives were delighted to welcome Frances Itani back to town to mark the culmination of the Tri-County Reads events for 2015. Tri-County Reads is a joint program of the Public Libraries of Northumberland, Hastings and Prince Edward County and this year the book chosen was Frances Itani’s Deafening, a First World War novel which is partly based in Deseronto.

Guided tour walkers at the Dockside Tavern, Deseronto

The Deseronto event on October 17th began with a guided walk for around 45 people around Mill and Main Streets. The photograph shows the tour group as it passed what is now the Dockside Tavern. This building was originally the Empress Hotel, owned by William Jamieson. Jamieson’s widow sold the lot to John Freeman, Frances Itani’s great-grandfather, who ran it as the Arlington Hotel. Itani’s grandmother, Gertie Freeman,  was born in the house adjoining the hotel in 1898. Gertie became deaf at 18 months and her life experiences formed the inspiration for Grania, the main character in Deafening. Like Grania, Gertie attended the Ontario Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb (now the Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf) in Belleville.

The house where Gertie Freeman was born can be seen in this late nineteenth century photograph of the property, taken by Herbert A. Osborne:

The Empress (later Arlington) Hotel, c.1895

At the time the Freemans owned the hotel, Deseronto was at its industrial peak. This picture was taken from an upstairs window, and shows the mills and factories of Mill Street:

View from Arlington Hotel, c.1895

The walking tour also stopped outside the Post Office and Naylor’s Theatre, both of which featured in Deafening and its sequel, Tell. Afterwards, the group convened for lunch at the Legion, followed by a fascinating talk from Frances Itani on the inspiration and process of writing the novel Deafening and Tell.

Frances Itani

Frances Itani

Fans of the novelist will be pleased to hear that Frances is currently working on the third novel  in the Deseronto trilogy.  This one will take a particular interest in the experiences of people who are adopted and Frances is keen to interview individuals who are adopted and who are willing to share their thoughts with the author. Please email the Archives at deseronto.archives@gmail.com if you were adopted and would be happy to be interviewed by Frances for her next Deseronto-based book.

Advertisements

A recent accession to the Archives gives us an insight into what life was like for the men who worked in the lumber shanties which supplied firms like the Rathbun Company with their raw materials.

James R. Hill was born in Tyendinaga in around 1863, the son of Isaac and Lucinda Hill. Isaac died before 1871. The photograph below shows James with his mother and two sisters, Susan (on the left) and Elizabeth Josephine (standing), and Elizabeth’s daughter, Elsie. The picture was taken by Herbert Osborne, a Deseronto photographer who was active in the early 1890s.

Members of the HIll family in around 1892

The Hill family, c.1892 2015.19 (1)

James married Lucretia Hill on October 14th, 1896 and the couple had two children: Ruth, born in 1898 and Selma, born in 1900. In the 1901 census, James and Lucretia were living next door to Lucinda, Elizabeth and Elsie. Susan had married a Maracle and in 1902 was living in Rochester, New York.

In October 1902 James was working in Collins Inlet, near Manitoulin Island, in a lumber camp. He wrote a letter to his sister, Susan, talking about his life in the camp and his feelings about his distant family members in Deseronto.

Letter from James Hill to Susan Maracle, 2015.19 (13)

Letter from James Hill to Susan Maracle, 2015.19 (13)

Collins Inlet Nov 30th 1902
Camp No. 1
Dear Sister Susan
I must write a few lines to you to-day, its almost six weeks since I have been at this camp. I like this place very much nearly all that are working here are from Deseronto and Reserve, we are getting good board, nice clean Camp. The Weather is fine to-day, it snowed yesterday for a little while, but it turned into rain, I got a letter from home last Friday. I am very glad to hear that Elsie likes the school so well and its also a good thing that the officers all think so much of her. I intend to go and see her before I go home and I must write to her before Christmas. I wrote to Lucretia the second Sunday I was here but she never answered me yet, and perhaps is’nt going to. Charlie Claus is here with me and we are going to stay all winter and drive the river in the Spring if we keep our health, there was about forty Indians here from our Reserve, and about sixteen Chippewa Indians from Manitoulan Island, but most of our Indians have left here for some other Camps. I suppose you see Ruth & Selma some times. If I can draw some money some time before Christmas I will send the children some money for presents, and you try and get their picture together and send it to me I think if I even had their picture I wouldn’t get so lonesom after them some times, tell them I cannot go to see them until Spring. I hope the poor children are both well kiss them both for me. This will be all Good Bye
From Your Brother
James R. Hill
Collins Inlet
Algoma District
Camp No. 1

It is not clear what happened to James after this. His wife moved to Rochester in 1906 and was working as a servant for the Babcock family in 1910. In 1911 Lucretia married William Charles Holley, with whom she had another three children. She died in Brighton, New York on September 2nd, 1957.

Perhaps the reason this letter survives is because James died young and it was kept as a memento of his life and his affection for his family. It was found in a house in Main Street, where Lucinda Hill, James’s mother died in 1933.

If you missed the history talk on the nineteenth century development of Deseronto this weekend, there’s a chance to catch it again on YouTube:

Due to a technical hitch on the day, the visuals weren’t available, but this version includes the slides!

2015.09 two pairs of glasses made by Canada Optical

After the iron we featured a few weeks ago, here are two more examples of Deseronto-made items. These glasses frames were manufactured at the Canada Optical Company’s factory on Main Street in Deseronto, the building which was until recently the Deseronto Fleamarket and which originally contained drying kilns for the Rathbun Company’s lumber business. It is marked number 15 on the detail of the 1895 map below:

Dry kilns and sash factory. c.1895

According to an article in the Quinte Scanner newspaper of October 4th, 1972 this building had several other uses between these two:

The building which is occupied by Canada Optical at present housed a match factory in the 1920’s, a meat packing plant in the early ’30’s and a cheese factory after that. Canada Optical started operations in 1946; in 1947 an extension was added to the factory, this consisted of an old hanger from the nearby wartime airfield.

At this time the firm was called the Canada Zyl Company, (it is still known by this name to local residents) and was producing four or five different types of spectacle frames in only two colours. They were made of a highly inflammable material and had to be stored in thick walled buildings well away from the main plant.

Here is how the building looked in 1972:

The factory moved from this location in 1996 to a building at the airport on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. It closed down in 2002.

Thanks to Andrea Hinz for the donation of these frames, another piece of Deseronto’s manufacturing past.

The Archives has recently been in contact with Silvy Embury of Lethbridge, who sent us some photographs of an iron which belonged to her grandmother, Helen Boyle.

2015.01(1) left view of iron

On the back of the iron is an information panel which records details of the iron’s manufacture, including the fact that it was made in Deseronto by the Redi-Heat Electric Company Ltd.

2015.01(5) iron information panel

There is not a lot of information in the Archives about Redi-Heat, but there is an advertisement for the company in the May 28th, 1948 issue of the Deseronto Post newspaper:

1948 May 28 Redi-heat ad

REDI-HEAT

ELECTRIC COMPANY LIMITED

A DESERONTO INDUSTRY

MANUFACTURERS OF NEW MODERN LINES

OF ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES

HOT PLATES

IRONS

TOASTERS

HEATERS

RANGETTES

DESERONTO                  TELEPHONE 76

The February 4th, 1948 edition of the Post (held here on microfilm) notes that the company was originally based in Belleville, from 1921, and had been in Deseronto since 1932. The firm was based in the building which originally housed the head office of the Rathbun Company, on the east side of Mill Street, south of Water Street. In the Rathbun era, the building looked like this:

RATHCO-06-48.3

We don’t have any twentieth century photographs of this building. A newspaper report from 1967 notes that Redi-Heat had been bought out by Dravo, although there is no date given for this. If you have any more information about Redi-Heat or the building it was based in, please leave a comment below!

A recent accession from Edward Wright (2014.18) has added considerably to the Archives’ stock of information relating to the match companies which used to exist in the town. Mr Wright is a collector of matchboxes (a phillumenist) and has done a lot of research into the matches made in Deseronto in the first half of the twentieth century.

The Rathbun Match Company was only in operation for a short time between 1915, when this advertisement appeared on the front of the Canadian Grocer, to 1916, when the Town Council minutes note that it ceased operations in June.

Canadian Grocer - Rathbun Match Company advertisement

Canadian Grocer, August 20th, 1915

The Dominion Match Company seems to have taken over from the Rathbun concern, and it is clear from the Council minutes that the firm was offered tax exemptions for its site in Deseronto. The factory was on the northwest corner of Mechanic Street and Main Street, as shown in this extract from the town’s fire insurance map:

Detail of fire insurance plan showing the Dominion Match Company

By 1917 the Dominion Match Company was looking to expand. At a Council meeting on July 17th of that year the firm asked:

…the Council to provide for the closing of Quinte Street [the road immediately to the west of the factory] and the diverting and altering of Mechanic Street…and for both portions of said streets to be conveyed to the Dominion Match Company for use in their business and as the enlargement of their premises will necessitate the employing of a great many more hands than they have at present, it will enduce to the prosperity of the town. If the request is granted the company will waive its right to exemption from municipal taxes for the year 1917 to which they are entitled…

The Council approved the request, effectively wiping Quinte Street off the map of Deseronto, and giving Mechanic Street the shape it has today.

The postcard below shows the factory at the height of its operations.

Postcard of the Dominion Match Company, from the collection of R.N. Goodfellow

Mr Wright has a collection of boxes which were manufactured at the Dominion Match Company, including this one of the Dominion Silent Match:

Dominion Silent Match box

A third firm called the Beacon Match Company began operations in Deseronto in September 1919, but it is not clear where this factory was located. It may have used one of the vacated Rathbun Company sites.

A report in the Deseronto Post from March 17th, 1948 notes that the Chamber of Commerce was seeking a new owner for the Dominion Match building, which had “been vacant for many years”. It was in good condition, as it had been used by the Department of Defence during the Second World War.

1948 Mar 17 Match factory future

Today, the Deseronto Community Recreation Centre occupies the site of the Dominion Match Company’s factory and Mechanic Street still has a kink in it: the only visible evidence of Deseronto’s match-manufacturing history and the only curving road in the whole town.

Mechanic Street in 2014

The north-south streets at the eastern end of Deseronto are numbered, like those in many North American towns. We have First Street, Second Street, Fourth Street and Fifth Street, but Third Street is nowhere to be seen.

Numbered streets on map of Deseronto from Bing

Well, that’s actually not quite true: you can see it in the Archives.

Here is a detail of a plan of the town made in about 1895:

Third StreetYou can see Third Street in the middle of the map and there’s also a Sixth Street on the far left. As you can see, Third Street was never a very long road, stretching only from Main Street down to the flour mill on Water Street.

On this day in 1896 (the Victoria Day holiday), most of this side of town went up in flames, destroying docks and many buildings. Newspapers across North America reported on the fire. This clipping is from the May 27th 1896 edition of the Daily Public Ledger of Maysville, Kentucky:

Daily Public Ledger report on Deseronto fire of 25 May 1896

Fire destroyed two-thirds of the east end of the town of Deseronto, Ont., and nearly a hundred families are homeless. The Rathbun Co.’s big flour mill, storehouse and elevator, the shingle and lumber docks, the Roman Catholic church and about one hundred dwelling houses were burned. Most of the houses were occupied by workmen. The total loss will exceed $300,000.

The original Roman Catholic Church of St. Vincent de Paul stood on the north side of Dundas Street in this part of Deseronto. The church had been built in 1883 at a cost of over $4,000. Herbert A. Osborne took this photograph of it in around 1895:

St. Vincent de Paul church, c.1895

When the church was rebuilt, it was located further west; still on the north side of Dundas Street but away from the more industrial areas of the town. It was completed in November 1896.

Unlike the church, it appears that Third Street was never rebuilt after the fire. By the time the map below was made for the Canadian Northern Ontario Railway in 1912, the road  had vanished.

Detail of 1912 map of the Canadian Northern Ontario Railway

A neat example of history affecting geography!

Next Page »