17 Division Street, Colborne

(c.1858 – 1888)
Roll No. 1411-012-020-25200 – Cramahe Township Ontario

Italianate Vernacular

This house is known locally as “The Doctors’ House” as it served that purpose for a number of years and a number of doctors.

That is the best explanation for the architectural variations on its basically Italianate structure. Clearly function has dictated fashion in this case, as there is ample evidence, both historic records and photos, that No. 17 was both home and practice for a succession of doctors.

The base building is the ubiquitous red brick common to Northumberland county. It is tall and narrow in shape, it has an off-centre front door. The tall narrow square windows do not have the more commonly found Italianate round sash. There is a hip roof, a large vestibule on the front facade, a dormer cut into the roof, a large addition including a chimney on the North side and the main entrance is now on the South side complete with porch.

There is a reproduction barn on the property which, apparently, is a faithful copy of the original outbuilding, including a perfectly rendered century old style cupola.

Like many of the century homes in this area, No. 17 has a very large rear yard with mature black walnut trees.

Like some North Street properties, No. 17 has one section that backs onto the businesses of Colborne’s main street – King Street or Highway Two – once the original Kingston/York thoroughfare.

History or Associative Value

No. 17 Division Street, Colborne has always been “The Doctors’ House” over its long life. Beginning in 1888 with Dr. Richard Thorburn. In 1906 Dr. Thomas Bruce Hewson acquired the property and in 1911 he sold to Dr. James Archer Brown (who grew up in the adjacent No. 5 North Street property). The records must be interpreted, but the original house was probably built between 1858-1888. The earlier date is most likely because when Thorburn purchased in 1888 we imagine he moved his practice from King Street.

Additional Historical and Genealogical Information

17 Division Street

Joseph Keeler (1824-1881) bought Reid Lots 242 and 252 back from the Commercial Bank of Canada on 8/21/1857 and then a week later (8/28/1857) he sold Lot 242 to Adam King who already owned the property to the north (Reid Lots 241 and 241A). Reid Lot 242 corresponds to 17 Division Street and 252 corresponds to 19 Division Street.

Adam King (ca. 1817-?) was referred to as a merchant in the Land Office record of his purchase of Lot 242. Later census and gazetteer entries referred to him as a baker, grocer, or confectioner, and once (1861 census) as a bailiff. He was a Scotsman, who appeared in Cramahe censuses from 1861 through 1881. He was married to Eliza Ash (ca. 1817-?) and as far as I can tell they had a single child, William L. (ca. 1852-?).

King sold the property to the Ontario Loan and Savings Company on 3/5/1888. It was purchased a week later (3/17/1888) by Richard Thorburn. Since King didn’t appear in the 1891 census, my guess is he left Cramahe (or died?) soon after selling the property.

Richard Thorburn (1842-1900) was a physician who appeared in Cramahe birth and death records from 1876 to 1896. He was born in Queenston, Ontario and was practicing in Niagara in 1871, living with his mother and sisters. His office in Colborne was on King Street, at least in 1882 and 1885. After leaving Colborne in the late 1890’s he moved to Toronto, where he died of a stroke in 1900. He invariably appeared alone in Cramahe censuses, and I can find no evidence that he ever married.

The executors of Richard Thorburn’s will sold Reid Lot 142 to Thomas Hewson (1839-1926), a builder/contractor from Port Hope, on 3/20/1903. Hewson never lived in Colborne, but on 10/29/1906 he sold the property to Mabel Eveline Hewson (née Neelands, 1874-?), the wife of his son Thomas Bruce Hewson (1872-?). The younger Thomas Hewson was another doctor, who was listed in Colborne medical records from 1906 to 1911. The Hewsons had a son, Clifford (1902-?).

Thomas and Mabel Hewson sold Reid Lot 242 to yet another physician, James Archer Brown (1883-1948), on 7/26/1911, and Brown transferred the title to his wife Ruth (née Boyer, ca. 1880-1948) on 7/10/1916. Ruth was a granddaughter of Joseph Keeler III. James Archer Brown was a native of Colborne. He received his MD from Trinity College, Toronto in about 1904 and received further training at the University of Edinburgh in 1905. He married Ruth Boyer in 1906. He practiced in Cannington briefly after returning from Scotland and his son Thomas Boyer Brown (1908-1977) was born there. He is listed in Colborne medical records starting in 1911, taking over the practice of Thomas Hewson. One Ancestry.ca entry provides the following picture and refers to it as Hewson’s then Brown’s “home and practice” at 17 Division Street.

I have seen a death certificate for another child, Ruth, who was born prematurely and immediately died in 1913.

It is pretty clear that Thorburn, Hewson, and Brown lived in the house. In fact, Hewson was listed as living on Division Street in the 1911 census. I think Thorburn probably moved his practice there from King Street when he bought the house in 1888. It was then used as a home/ practice by a sequence of doctors to our cut-off date of 1921 and beyond.

I don’t know what King paid for the lot, but Thorburn paid $2500, Thomas Hewson paid $2350, Mabel Hewson paid $2500, and Brown paid $3500. This seems like a lot for an empty lot, so I think there was already a house there in 1888. Unless it was another house that was torn down to build the present one, this suggests that the house at 17 Division Street was built by Adam King, sometime between 1858 and 1888.

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