The Keeler-Campbell House
150 County Road 31, Colborne (Lakeport Sector)

Roll No. 1411-011-010-08801 – Cramahe Township Ontario

Cape Cod (built in Georgian era) – Designated

The Keeler-Campbell house is a true three bay Cape Cod, native to the early Canadian Maritimes and the New England States, but a rare find in Ontario.

The house is post and beam construction with hand hewn timbers. It is thought to have been built in three stages with the initial 20 x 24 “cabin” in place between 1795 and 1800. The house is no later than 1810 when it appeared in a formal assessment notice, as “a frame house” on its current site. It was enlarged perhaps 10 years later and much later a 44 foot “tail” was added. In the last 20 years, that “tail” became part of the house rather than a home for livestock, its original purpose.

Among its most notable features is the massive “Rumford” brick fireplace which dominates the main floor. Along with the efficiency of its tall, shallow firebox, the Rumford has a massive stone hearth, enhancing the distribution of heat. And there is a bake-oven.

Many of the wide plank floorboards, some of which are 22”, have been painted deep, rich carmine, an era appropriate colour.

While most of the windows have been replaced since the early 19th century, they are nonetheless fine examples of very early multi-paned windows. The front facade windows are 12 over 12 and they are 8 and 9 over 6 elsewhere in the house. The transom window over the front door is thought to be original.

The original knob and latch hardware is in place throughout the house and there is a hand forged Suffolk door latch.

An extensive and faithful restoration that took place in the 1980-1990 period is responsible for the restoration of many of the original features, structural integrity and charming aesthetics in this historic property.

History or Associative Value

Joseph Keeler’s (1763-1839) ancestors date back to 1560 in Scotland. In 1795, he left the American colonies and landed on Lake Ontario shores with 40 United Empire Loyalist families at “Cat Hollow” now Lakeport. He built saw and grist mills and established the economic foundations of the area. He built significant homes and ran a tavern. The Keeler dynasty was carried on by Joseph II and III and via judicial land grants, these pioneers were the first developers of Lakeport, Colborne, Castleton and Norwood.

Additional Historical and Genealogical Information
150 County Road 31, Cramahe Township, Northumberland County, Ontario
Keeler-Campbell House

Joseph Keeler (1763-1839) was officially granted the 200 acres making up Concession 1, Lot 35, on 29 June 1803. He was obviously the owner of the property when the house was built, and it is safe to assume that he and his family lived in it. His family consisted of his wife Olive (1765-1845) and his children Joseph (1788-1855), Clarissa (1790-1851), and Sophia (1792-1870). The children would have been 15, 13, and 11 years old in 1803. Keeler’s wife Olive was the sister of Jeremiah Scripture, another prominent early resident of Cramahe Township.

Keeler transferred title for the part of the Lot north of the road (now County Road 31), including the Keeler-Campbell house, to his son Joseph Abbott Keeler on 25 February 1814. On 1 January 1824, Joseph A. Keeler transferred the property back to his father, so that Joseph the elder again owned all of the 200 acres in the Lot.

Joseph Keeler sold the area north of the road in Lot 35 to Benedict Dewey (1787-1842) on 15 March 1828. Benedict Dewey was from Berkshire County, Massachusetts, and was the husband of Keeler’s youngest daughter Sophia. This may have occurred coincident with Keeler moving to his son’s house in Colborne. He died there in 1839.

Dewey appears first in Cramahe censuses in 1818, unless one considers that he was the “Benjamin Dewett (?)” in 1813. According to the 1818 census he had two children so, unless he had another wife before he married Sophia Keeler he would have had to have been present at least by 1817 (probably 1816 if the kids weren’t twins). Unfortunately, it is not known when Benedict and Sophia were married. Some genealogies say 1822, but this can’t be true if the censuses and childrens’ birthdates are accurate. One reference says 1809, which yields reasonable ages for the newlyweds (22 and 17), but, if so, where is Benedict in the censuses before 1818 (or 1813)?

The eldest Dewey child I can find reference to was born in 1819. If we look at the numbers of children listed in the various censuses:

YearMales>16Females >16Males <16Females<16

and compare them with the known children, Clarissa (b. 1819), Olive (b. 1822), Alonzo (b. 1824), Josiah (b. 1829), Elizabeth (b. 1830), Charles (b. 1833), and Martha (b. 1835), all of whom lived beyond 1840, we can get a picture of the Dewey family in their early years. This discussion, of course, assumes that the census figures are accurate.

One boy and one girl are present in the 1818, both under 16 years old. By 1819 there are two young girls, one of whom likely is Clarissa. The boy has disappeared (died?). In the 1820 census, the two girls are still present, and now there are two boys as well. If the 1818 boy really disappeared by 1819, these two boys had to be two new ones. Since they both appear in the same year, one might guess that they are twins(?). By 1821, one of the two unnamed 1820 boys has gone (again, died?), leaving unnamed girl (age>3), Clarissa (age 2), and unnamed boy (age 1). The same children are present in 1822. In 1823 we have the same three children plus another girl, presumably Olive. Another boy (presumably Alonzo) is added by 1825, so by that year we now have unnamed girl (age >7), Clarissa (age 6), unnamed boy (age 5), Olive (age 3), and Alonzo (age 1). The censuses from 1825 until 1839 are not available; by the latter date all of the known children had been born and should have had ages >21 (unknown female), 20 (Clarissa), 19 (unknown male), 17 (Olive), 15 (Alonzo), 10 (Josiah), 9 (Elizabeth), 6 (Charles), and 4 (Martha). The census shows exactly this arrangement, except that there is one extra girl over 16 years old. It is unclear who she might have been (maybe the wife of the unknown male, although he was only 19?). The unknown female and unknown male are gone by 1851, which is the first census for which the names of household members are provided, but they would have been >33 and 31 years old, so it is not surprising that they have moved away.

It is common for children who died young to be missing from genealogical lists, but is worrisome that the preceding discussion suggests that two Dewey children made it to adulthood without being noted anywhere. If this wasn’t the case, however, who were the extra children listed in the censuses? Cousins? Errors in the census numbers?

It is known that Benedict, Sophia, and their family lived in the Keeler-Campbell house, because documentation for the sale in 1833 of a property on the south side of the road refers to one boundary of that property starting just opposite Benedict Dewey’s house situated 8 chains, 89 links (586.74 feet) from the western edge of Lot 35.

When Benedict Dewey died on 29 August 1842, the land went to his eldest son Alonzo William Dewey (1826-1893). Here we have another wrinkle in the discussion of the Dewey children: Land Office documentation refers to Alonzo as Benedict’s “eldest son and heir”. If so, what about the hypothesized unnamed elder brother? Had he died, so that the documentation should have said “eldest surviving son and heir”, or did he never exist?

Alonzo, whom we can assume continued to live in the Keeler-Campbell house, lived there in 1851 with his widowed mother and his siblings Josiah, Olive, Elizabeth, Charles, and Martha, as well as with hired men Walter Boswell (age 35) and Thomas Padgington (age 26), and with a 16 year old servant girl whose name is transcribed from the census by as “Mary Kuber”, but it’s hard to make out and it may actually be Mary Keeler. There was a granddaughter of the original Joseph Keeler’s brother Martin named Mary who was 16 in 1851. She would have been Alonzo’s second cousin. Was she perhaps working for her relatives? No information is available about a Walter Boswell that can be definitely connected with this one, but Thomas Padgington is interesting. He was probably the father of Eliza J. Padgington of letter-writing fame.

In 1861, the inhabitants of the property (and remember that at the time Alonzo owned all of lot 35 north of the road) were Alonzo, his mother, his sisters Olivia and Martha, and hired men Walter Boswell (still age 35 according to the census!), Dan Kelly (age 15) and William Cullen (age 18).

Alonzo Dewey sold the area between the modern Keeler House property and the western edge of Lot 35 to his brother Josiah Burghardt Dewey (1828-1901). This land was known as the “Plaster Mill Property” and included some local industry. It extended north from the road to the “Plaster Mill Pond”, which no longer exists but which had been created by damming Colborne Creek. It must have lain just on the north side of (or perhaps partly under?) the modern Canadian Pacific Railway tracks (which weren’t present at the time).

Alonzo Dewey married Mary Eliza Cruickshanks (1845-1922), 20 years his junior, in 1868 and had seven children, none of whom appear to have lived in the Keeler-Campbell house, because he lost the property before any of them were born:

No details are available, but the part of Lot 35 north of the road (minus the Plaster Mill Property) appears to have been foreclosed upon on 14 April 1870 (Valentine’s Day—bummer) by Joseph Keeler (1824-1881), the son of Joseph A. and grandson of the first Joseph. This means that Keeler foreclosed on his cousin and his cousin’s wife. Also, this occurred six months before Joseph’s aunt Sophia died. It is unknown if she was still living with Alonzo when the foreclosure took place, but she lived with him from 1842 at least until 1861, so she probably still lived with him in 1870.

At any rate, the next transaction was a sale by Keeler to James Cowey (1827-1915) and his brother John Cowey (1832-1912) on 20 May 1878. John transferred his interest in the property to James on 26 March 1884. The Cowey (sometimes spelled “Cowie”) brothers arrived from England with their family in 1840.

Joseph Keeler didn’t live in the Keeler-Cambell house while he owned it between 1870 and 1878, but James Cowey lived there during at least part of his ownership: he is listed as resident on Lot 35 in 1901. If we assume the Coweys lived there starting in 1878, who were the other residents? John Cowey was unmarried when he turned the property over to James. James Cowey married Ellen Kerr (1838-1903) sometime before 1857 and had seven children: John (b. 1857), Margaret (b. 1859), William (b. 1861), James (b. 1865), Elizabeth (b. 1868), Jane (b. 1875), and Robert (b. 1878). All of them were living with their parents in Cramahe Township (presumably in the Keeler-Campbell house?) in 1881.

James Cowey sold his property to the Campbellford, Lake Ontario, and Western Railway Company on 17 January 1914. This company was one of several set up in the heyday of railway construction around the turn of the 20th Century, having been incorporated in 1904. It was opened for traffic on 19 June 1914, but it had already (1913) been leased to the Canadian Pacific Railway for 999 years. The Campbellford, Lake Ontario, and Western Railway Company really existed only on paper.

The railway company had bought its narrow strip of right-of-way land in 1913 from the various local landowners whose properties it traversed; it is unclear why it bought 128 acres from James Cowey. This is especially odd because 2 ½ months later on 1 April 1914 it sold the property (minus its narrow right-of-way) to Donald Conacher Matthews (1859-1930). Perhaps it had always been Cowey’s intention to transfer the land to Matthews, and there was some legal or monetary advantage to doing it through the railway company? Perhaps this was part of the deal made by the company to enable it to purchase its right-of-way through the property? It is interesting that the railway company purchased the property from Cowey for $11,000 and sold it to Matthews for $5500. The difference of $5500 is considerably more than other landowners had received for rights-of-way through their properties (mostly between $200 and $1500). Was the right-of-way acreage that much greater through Cowey’s property? Did Cowey drive a hard bargain?

It is unknown if Donald Matthews lived in the Keeler-Campbell house, but he bought it in 1914 and was living in Coborne by 1921, so likely not. If he did live there, who lived there with him? Matthews married Catherine Pomeroy (1865-1946) in 1879 (at the ages of 20 and 14??) and had nine children. Of these, five had either died or married and moved away by the 1911 census. Any of the others might have still been with their parents in 1914: Charles (b. 1880), Frederick (b. 1882), Isaac (b. 1891), and Lorne (1897). Only Lorne was still living with his parents by 1921.

There is a record in the Land Registry Office of Donald C. Matthews transferring the property to his son Claude Matthews (1888-1971) on 29 March 1919, but the next transaction is on 12 December 1935 when Frederick G. Matthews (1882-1965) and Rupert J. Clarke (1876-?), as executors of the will of Donald C. Matthews (who had died in 1930), sold the property to Charles Bruce Alcorn (1904-?).


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