34 King Street West, Colborne

(c.1873-1998)
Roll No. 1411-012-020-35200 – Cramahe Township Ontario

Georgian Vernacular

34 King Street West sits at the corner of King Street and Ontario Street on a large and treed corner lot in the village of Colborne.

It most closely resembles the Georgian architectural style with its plain symmetrical facade, evenly spaced windows and central door. It does, however have the tall, narrow windows of the Italianate, a three panel, single story bow window on the South facade, and the decorative double “S” brackets associated with Italianate design, in this case also found under the bow window roof. It has a hip roof and a long “tail” on the rear, also in brick, with a garage built into the footprint of the house, a common practice in the mid 19th century.

It has a rubble foundation and is clad in the red brick common to Northumberland County. The front of the property was once so overgrown that it was hard to even see the house, but now it is revealed more as it was in its past, as a stately brick century home. The porch, with its delicate gingerbread and decorative posts is once again revealed, adding charm and balance to the house.

Some of the windows are two over two pane, common in the mid 1800s when it is assumed this house was built and some have obviously been replaced. The “tail” has an interesting array of multi paned windows giving it a unique appearance.

The Canadian Northern Ontario Railway Company was incorporated in 1899 as an alternative to the Canadian Pacific Railway. From 1905 on the company purchased land for a new right-of-way across Canada but the Canadian Northern was a financial failure and the government took it over and combined it into the Canadian National Railway Company (CN) in 1917. The Canadian Northern line was abandoned, otherwise this house may not have remained standing for over 100 years.

History or Associative Value

The first sale encompassing present day 34 King St.W. was from Joseph Keeler to Albert Borzer Porter in 1828. The sale was for a much larger portion of land including properties on King St.W., Ontario Street and Church Street West. In 1846 William Henry Colton acquired the property to add to his portfolio (see No. 3 & 5 Church St E.) According to records, it is most likely that Malcolm McFiggins built the house between 1873 and 1898, 12 years (at least) before it was acquired by the Canadian Northern Railway Co.

Additional Historical and Genealogical Information

34 King Street West, Colborne, Ontario
Cramahe Township, Concession 2, Lot 32, Reid Lot 141

Nathaniel Gaffield (ca. 1755-ca. 1838) (LINK) was the first owner of Concession 2, Lot 32, a 200 acre parcel part of which would later become Reid Lot 141. Lot 32 is bounded on the south by King Street West, and on the north by Orchard and Purdy Roads. On the east it is bounded by the undeveloped road allowance running north from Ontario Street. On the west the southern half of the Lot is bounded by Percy Street. Percy Street angles northwestward in the northern half of Lot 32, and the western edge of the lot is along the line Percy would have taken if it had headed straight north.

Although he had probably lived there since at least 1797, Gaffield wasn’t officially granted Lot 32 until 13 May 1804. He sold it to Joseph Keeler (1763-1839) on 23 January 1806 (LINK). .

Albert Borzer Porter (ca. 1804-?) purchased what would eventually be Reid Lots 141 and 142 from Joseph Keeler on 22 January 1828. This corresponds to the present property at 34 King Street West, plus the western part of the property at 32 King Street West, the properties at 1179 and 1181 Ontario Street, and the southern parts of the properties at 45 and 47 Church Street West. Porter was a farmer who married Abigail Pettit (ca. 1814-?) and apparently had six children, although these are gleaned mostly from the 1851 and 1861 censuses rather than genealogies and are a bit confusing. Their eldest was a boy named Ryerson (b. ca. 1827) who doesn’t appear in either census. Then came an Elam listed in the 1851 census and a Maurice in 1861 of about the same age (b. ca. 1837). There is no Maurice listed for 1851, though he would have been about 14 at the time. Elam and Maurice (or Morris as listed in Ancestry.com genealogies) were probably the same person. The next two children were daughters, Harriet (b. ca. 1839) and Adelaide (b. ca. 1841) who appeared in 1851 but not 1861. They may have married by 1861. Then there was Maria (b. ca. 1843) in the 1851 census and Parthena (b. ca. 1839) in the 1861 census. Parthena’s full name, it turns out, was Parthena Maria, so likely these were the same girl, despite the discrepancy in ages. Ages in these censuses are notoriously inaccurate. Finally there was Henry (b. ca. 1848) who was present in 1851 but absent in 1861. Perhaps he died?

Porter owned the property only briefly, selling it to John Thomas (?-?) of Colborne on 29 September 1832. Unfortunately very little information is available concerning John Thomas. There are lots of records of men by that name in Ontario in the right time period, but it is a very common name and it is impossible to be sure if any of them refer to this particular John Thomas. The only references specifically to a John Thomas of Colborne are the censuses of 1839, 1840, and 1842, and two newspaper articles dated 1831, one listing him as winning second prize in a contest for “the best and greatest number of choice varieties of apples” and the other written by Thomas himself announcing the opening of a new store (type unspecified) on the village square in Colborne. He was probably the John Thomas who married Festus Bennett’s daughter Louisa (ca. 1813-?).

As with Albert Porter, Thomas retained the property only briefly. He sold it to William Delong (1782-1846) of Haldimand Township on 20 February1835. As far as can be determined William Delong never lived in Cramahe Township although there is a John Delong in the 1842 census who may have been his brother. After William’s death, his son Ephraim, as executor of his will, sold the property to William Henry Colton (1809-1882) on 1 October 1846.

Colton also owned Reid Lot 81, now 3 and 5 Church Street East (LINK). It is known that he lived on Lot 81 in 1859, but where he lived before that is unknown. Perhaps Lot 81, perhaps lots 141/142.

Colton sold the property to William Henry Finney (ca. 1820-?), “gentleman” of Colborne, on 10 March 1855. Also included in this transfer was Reid Lot 131 immediately to the north. Lot 131 had been purchased by Henry Porter (ca. 1806-1871) from Joseph Keeler on 1 February 1828, but there doesn’t seem to be a record of the transfer from Porter to Colton. Henry Porter was Albert Porter’s brother and he purchased Lot 131 only 11 days after Albert had purchased the adjoining land.

William H. Finney married Mary Ann Gray (1823-1852) in New York in about 1843. In 1851 Finney, who was employed as a teacher, resided in Colborne with his wife and her sister Sarah Elizabeth Gray (1832-?). Mary Ann died in 1852. When he sold his property in Colborne in 1871 (see below), Finney was still a teacher living in Lindsay, Victoria County, and his wife’s name was Margaret (surname unknown). According to later censuses the Finneys had several children, the eldest born in about 1855. Since Finney purchased the property in Colborne in 1855, this would suggest that he was still living there when he married Margaret (ca. 1838-?).

Joseph Abbott Keeler sold Reid Lot 119 on the north side of Church Street West to the Council of Newcastle District in 1849 for a school. Since this is less than two blocks from 34 King Street West, it is likely that Finney was among the first, if not the first, teachers in that school.

Ontario censuses other than that for Cramahe in 1851 include a schoolteacher named William Finney of the appropriate age, and likely they all refer to the same man. If so, he was living in Blenheim, Oxford Co. in 1861 with Margaret and three sons. In 1871 he was living in Lindsay with Margaret and seven children. By 1881 (still in Lindsay), an eighth child had been added. Interestingly, there is also a teacher named William H. Finney, of the right age, living on his own in Tay, Simcoe North in 1881. Was this the same man recorded in two separate censuses? Finney disappears after the 1881 census, so he may have died. Margaret was living in Toronto without him in 1900.

William Finney borrowed the money to purchase Colton’s property from John Lutman (1807-1855). The mortgage was inherited by Lutman’s wife Elizabeth (née Spencer, 1813-1894) a month later on 9 April 1855 and she sold it to William H. Donaghy (ca. 1827-1896), who also owned the properties now occupied by 10, 28, 30, and 32 King Street West, on 28 January 1868. Finney apparently never repaid the loan and relinquished his rights to the property in a quit claim grant to Donaghy on 30 December 1871. Donaghy sold the southwestern part of his property, the part containing 34 King Street West, to Peter James Peterson (1844-1929) on 24 January 1872.

Peterson was a blacksmith born in Ameliasburgh, Prince Edward County. He married Charlotte Maria Graham (1845-1884) some time before 1864. Judging by the birthplaces and dates of their children, the Petersons moved to Colborne sometime between 1864 and 1869. They brought their eldest child, Addie (ca. 1864-?) with them. Four children were then born in Colborne: William (ca. 1869-?), an unnamed stillborn child (b. 1869), Wodga (ca. 1870-?), and Anna Mabel (1874-?). It is not known when the Petersons left Colborne. As of 1881 they were living in Trenton.

On 1 November 1873 Peterson sold his property on King Street to Malcolm McFiggins (ca. 1824-1898), a Scottish immigrant and plasterer by trade. He first appears in Cramahe records on his first marriage certificate, on which his residence is listed as Colborne. McFiggins’s first wife was Mary Ann Skinner (ca. 1838-1888), whom he married in 1874 in Haldimand Township and with whom he had two children: Arthur James (1875-?) and Elizabeth Isabelle (“Bessie”) (1878-?). Mary Ann died in 1888 and McFiggins remarried at the age of 66, this time to Catherine Thompson (ca. 1834-1895), in 1889. Both of his wives were also Scottish immigrants.

Malcolm McFiggins died of heart failure in Colborne on 16 January 1898, and Alexander Wallace Skinner (1862-?) of Haldimand Township, McFiggins brother-in-law by his first wife and executor of his will, sold the property to Robert Martin (1840-1921), butcher, on 12 February 1898.

Robert Martin was born in Yorkshire, England in 1844. He emigrated from England with his parents and brother and sister in 1857 and was living with them in Portsmouth, Frontenac Co., Canada West in 1861. By 1870, the family had wandered as far as Corinne, Box Elder Co., Utah Territory. By 1881, Robert was back in Ontario, working as a butcher in Colborne. His father, Richard Martin (1821-1903), was working as a bartender in Bannock, Montana when he was gunned down by a disgruntled patron by the name of George Pollack.

Robert married Elizabeth Porter (1845-1919) before 1873. Their children were Ralphena (1873-?), Augustus (1875-?), Mattie (1878-?), Maud Lavinia (1879-?), and Robert Waddingham (1885-1927). All but one of these children was born in Colborne. Mattie’s marriage record states that she was born in Salt Lake City. It seems a little odd her siblings born both earlier and later were born in Colborne. Of course, it may be that the Martins were visiting Utah when she was born. The Martin family appears in Colborne censuses for 1881, 1891, 1901, and 1911. Robert died of pneumonia in Colborne in 1921.

Robert Martin sold the property of interest here to the Canadian Northern Ontario Railway Company on 15 April 1910. The company would retain ownership until 1942. The CNOR tracks ran diagonally northwest to southeast pretty much across the intersection of King Street West and Ontario Street. The station was across King Street to the south from 34 King Street West (i.e., south of King Street and east of Ontario Street).

The Canadian Northern Ontario Railway Company was incorporated in 1899 as an alternative to the Canadian Pacific Railway. From 1905 on the company purchased land for a new right-of-way across Canada. Service between Toronto and Trenton started in 1911, but the Canadian Northern was a financial failure and the government took it over and combined it, along with several other railways, including the Grand Trunk, into the Canadian National Railway Company (CN) in 1917. The Canadian Northern line was abandoned shortly after the takeover.

Who lived on the property, and when was the current house built? The sequence of ownership, after Joseph Abbott Keeler, was Albert Porter 1828-1832, John Thomas 1832-1835, William Delong 1835-1846, William Colton 1846-1855, William Finney 1855-1871, William Donaghy 1871-1872, Peter Peterson 1872-1873, Malcolm McFiggins 1873-1898, Robert Martin 1898-1910, and the Canadian Northern Ontario Railway Company after 1910. Porter paid Keeler £12/10, and Thomas paid Porter four times as much (£50) four years later. This might suggest some improvement to the property (a house?). Then again, Delong paid Thomas three times as much (£150) as Thomas had paid, so what improvement occurred when is unclear. Delong probably never lived in Colborne, and he sold the property to Colton for only £75 anyway. Finney paid Colton £127/10, which is still less than had been paid by Thomas 23 years earlier. There was some fancy footwork mortgage-wise between Finney and Donaghy, Finney basically giving up any claim to the property in exchange for only $15. Peterson soon bought the property from Donaghy, and paid $500. This was the equivalent of about £125, so again it doesn’t indicate a big jump in price. Nor does the sale for $600 by Peterson to McFiggins. On the other hand, Martin bought the property from McFiggins for $1650, and increase of 275%. McFiggins probably improved the property (again, perhaps a house?). Martin sold the property for almost twice as much ($3000) as he had paid for it, but he sold it to the railway company, so the price might have been inflated. Anyway, the railway wouldn’t have built the house.

Many of the owners of the property didn’t own if for very long. Porter for four years, Thomas for three years, and Donaghy and Peterson for a year or less. Delong, Colton, Finney, McFiggins, and Martin owned it for longer (11, 9, 16, 25, and 12 years, respectively). Delong probably never lived in Colborne. Colton probably lived on Church Street East, between the Methodist Church and the Keeler house, and not at the corner of King and Ontario Streets, but that is not certain. William Donaghy owned several properties along King Street West, as well as elsewhere in Colborne. He probably just owned the mortgage to the property, not the property itself. He probably lived elsewhere, but again this may be mistaken. None of the men on the list owned any other property in Colborne at the time they owned the property of interest except Malcolm McFiggins, who owned some lots three blocks north along a part of Cedar Street that no longer exists between 1889 and 1896. There is no a priori reason to think that Porter, Thomas, Finney, Peterson, McFiggins, and Martin lived anywhere else. If this is true, we can also say that Porter’s wife Abigail and son Ryerson; Thomas’s family, if any; Finney and his wife Mary Ann and her sister Sarah (and possibly later his second wife Margaret and their first child Merton; Peterson’s wife Charlotte and their children Addie, William and Wodga; McFiggins’s wife Mary Ann and their children Arthur and Bessie (and later his second wife Catherine); and Martin’s wife Elizabeth and their children Augustus, Mattie, Maud, and Robert all lived there too.

Combining this hypothesized ownership list with the discussion on sale prices, it looks like houses may have been built on the property by Porter or Thomas and later by McFiggins. Since the current house there certainly wasn’t built in the 1820’s or 1830’s, McFiggins, who had the longest tenure on the property anyway, was the most likely builder.

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