1742 Percy Street (House), Castleton

(c. mid-1800s)
Roll No. 1411-011-050-02300 – Cramahe Township Ontario

Gothic Farmhouse

This very imposing one and a half story Gothic farmhouse sits on the south side of the village of Castleton, on Highway 25 in behind the historic Purdy’s Mill which is also part of the property.

That early mill was built in the vicinity of the present Purdy’s Mill around 1830, and the settlement grew up around it. Its twenty or so millstones were imported from France and in use until 1906 when they were replaced by a metal grinder. The Purdy family bought the mill in 1875 and it was in their hands until 1948.

A sketch of the house and mill appear in the 1878 version of the Durham and Northumberland Atlas.

The steep peaks of the Gothic Farmhouse are well present here and the windows are tall, slim and Italianate in appearance with two over two panes. The “eyebrow” is unique with its “eye” and pointed mold hood. The exterior is clad in the horizontal narrow clapboard of the era, a large variety of timber being readily available in the forests of early Upper Canada.

There is a three window bay on the south side and the front gable end, and a ghost door in the south “L” lending credence to the probability that the now slanted roofed porch below the door was, at one time, a second floor porch. In fact this is confirmed in the 1878 Atlas sketch.

There is a “tail” which houses the kitchen and other utility spaces, and a side porch with its own entry.

The mill is in derelict condition. A number of large pieces of machinery remain in the building. It is ripe for adaptive re-use but the costs may be prohibitive.

History or Associative Value

The earliest mention of Castleton is that Joseph A. Keeler (1788-1855), the founder of Colborne and son of the original settler of the township, built a mill there around 1806. In that year, Joseph A. would have been 18 – young to be in the building business, but just one example of his ingenuity and pioneer spirit. (he also founded the village of Norwood). At first the settlement was known as Piper’s Corners, given its location on Piper’s Creek, then Centreville and later the British sounding name Castleton was adopted,

Additional Historical and Genealogical Information
1742 Percy Street, Castleton, Ontario
Cramahe Township, Concession 7, Lot 34 Castleton Lot 97

This property is the site of the Purdy Mill and its accompanying house.

When Cramahe Township was first surveyed in the 1790’s a seventh of its land was set aside for crown reserves and another seventh was set aside for clergy reserves. These reserves were rented to tenant farmers. The revenues from the crown reserves went to the government. The revenues from the clergy reserves originally went only to the Church of England (Anglican), but after 1824 the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) was granted a share, and by the 1840s all of the major protestant denominations were included (except the Baptists, who refused to participate). The clergy reserve system came to an end in 1854, when all revenues reverted to the government.

The first official owner of the land on which Castleton Lot 97 now sits was the Canada Company. The Canada Company was a private British corporation incorporated in 1826 to aid in the development and colonization of Upper Canada with an emphasis on the Crown and Clergy Reserves. Among the lands acquired by the Canada Company were the southern 100 acres of Concession 7, Lot 34, Cramahe Township, where the western part of Castleton now sits. The Company was granted this land by the Crown on 28 May 1830.

By 1834 the 100 acres were in the hands of Joseph Abbott Keeler (1788-1855). No record has been seen of his acquiring them from the Canada Company, although there is an 1881 document certifying that the transfer had indeed been made.

The Keelers were involved in the history of the area long before they were official owners of this property, having built a mill in Castleton as early as 1806 (How Firm a Foundation, Argyis 2000). Presumably this mill was at least approximately where the Purdy Mill later stood, or perhaps just upstream on the west side of what is now Old Percy Road opposite Spring Street. There is as sawmill illustrated at the latter site in the 1877 Plan of Castleton, the map on which the village lots were originally laid out. The stream on which both the Purdy mill and the sawmill were located is the only one in the vicinity of Castleton of adequate size to support a mill. In most references this stream is called Piper Creek. Interestingly, the 1877 Plan refers to it as Mill Creek, with Piper Creek being a much smaller tributary arising in town and flowing in to Mill Creek downstream from the mills.

During his years of ownership Keeler sold of bits and pieces of his land, and what was left went to his son Joseph Keeler (1824-1881) on 23 September 1854. Joseph Keeler and his wife Octavia (née Phillips, 1827-1899) mortgaged the property, along with many others, with the Commercial Bank of Canada on 29 March 1855.

On 14 April 1863 the Commercial Bank sold Lot 97 to Chester P. Lapp (1820-1890). Lapp was a grist and sawmill operator, so clearly the mills were in operation in 1863. Lapp was from Hamilton Township. In 1863 he was married to Emily Charlotte Kelley (1820-1877). They had ten children: Charles Henry (1840-1909), Robert Jason (1843-1905), Chester (1847-1920), George Albert (1847-?), Hamilton Stephen (1851-?), Susan (1856-1924), Norman (1858-?), Louisa Matilda (1858-1903), Albert (1862-?), and Levi (1866-1936).

The southeastern part of Lot 97, which included the sites of both the grist mill and the house, was transferred to Chester Lapp’s son Charles Henry Lapp (1840-1909) on 15 September 1865, but returned to Chester Lapp on 16 September 1866. Charles H. Lapp was a photographer (“photographic artist”). He was married to Sarah Melissa Griffis (1842-1938) and had four children: Orren Henry (1867-1957), Charles Frederick (1869-1929), William Albert (1871-1942), and Frances Gertrude (1876-1878).

On 26 October 1874 Chester Lapp sold the mill property to Trenton miller Samuel Lester Purdy (1842-1930). Lapp was still a resident of Castleton in 1875, but by 1880 his wife had died and he was living in Michigan. He returned to Castleton, however, and died there in 1890.

Samuel Purdy was married to Mary Elizabeth Palmer (1839-1911) and had six children: Louis Philpmore (1871-1937), Albert E. (1873-?), Annie Laura (1875-1920), Walter Palmer (1877-?), Mary Alice (1880-1882), and William Wesley (1882-1919).

On 19 March 1887 Samuel Purdy and his wife sold a strip of property along the Cramahe Gravelled Road, which would appear to have included the mill but not the house, to Cramahe Township millers Frederick William Jones (1860-1934) and William Delos Gardiner (ca. 1860-?). Jones was unmarried at the time, but Gardiner had married Amy Irena Vassaw (1867-?) in 1886. This sale is curious. Perhaps

Jones and Gardiner were employees of Purdy? At any rate, they sold the property back to Purdy on 14 December 1888.

Purdy transferred the property to his son William Wesley Purdy (1882-1919) on 27 November 1911. Like all the other owners of this property, the younger Purdy was a miller. When he died in 1919, the land went to his wife Sarah Maud (née Gaffield, 1884-1967). The Purdy family continued to own the property until 1948.

How Firm a Foundation (Argyris 2000) lists several men who functioned as millwrights involved with this property. They were Samuel Turney in 1833, Ebba Wright from 1834 to 1836, James Bowan from 1840 to 1842, William Blakeley in 1843, Gilbert Weller from 1846 to 1847, and John Banta Miller in 1848. None of these men owned the land; all would have been the tenure of ownership of Joseph Abbott Keeler. Samuel Turney could have been either Samuel D. Turney (1787-1867) or his nephew Samuel David Gould Turney (1805-1885). “Ebba” Wright was probably Eben Wright (1800-1886). No information has been found regarding James Bowan. William Blakeley was probably William Blakely (or Blakley or Blakeley) (ca. 1811-?). Gilbert Weller (1809-?) would become proprietor of the Castleton (later variously named Temperance, Oriental, and Union) Hotel in 1848. John Banta (1825-1869) (“John Banta, miller”, not “John Banta Miller”) was still a miller in the 1851 census so presumably he still ran the mill on Lot 97 at that time.

Argyris also states that the house on Lot 97 was built by Samuel Purdy around 1880.


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