County Registry Office – 51 King Street East, Colborne

Roll No. 1411-012-020-07200 – Cramahe Township Ontario

Ontario Registry Office – Designated

There are municipal buildings all over Ontario that are built like the Colborne Registry Office. If viewed from above, it looks like a big “T”. The main door is in a gable end which opens to the principal wing, which is dissected by the side wing.

The building is red brick as are many, many properties in Cramahe Township and the most interesting feature is the round head windows with an array of mullions presumably meant to provide an aesthetically pleasing form of security.

The building was built in 1860 and was decommissioned in 1992, at which time it was repurposed to become a thriving art gallery which provides a “destination” for the village.

Colborne’s Registry office was memorialized in a mural painted on the side of the adjacent building. It shows the county clerks receiving blueprints or deeds in the “County Registry Office” and clearly dates the erection of the building to 1860 and its closing to 1992.

County Registry Office Mural

The multi-mullioned windows are clearly shown from the inside in the mural, which highlights the ambiance they create. The well executed mural, with its modern contractors and “ghosts” of the past, was a fitting and lasting tribute to the sturdy little village building and the public role it played for 132 years. Sadly, this picture is the only memory we have of the mural, it has been painted over, erasing its contribution to Colborne’s history. 

History or Associative Value

Eliza Gilchrist, eldest daughter of J.A. Keeler, (founder of Colborne), sold 51 King Street East (lot 167) to the County of Northumberland and Durham on 13 May 1861 for $100.00. It was sold for the express purpose of building a County Registry Office. And so it was for the next 132 years. A mural painted on the East wall of the building next door indicates that the Registry was built in 1860, one year before Mrs. Gilchrist sold it. That is puzzling and a bit ironic given the mandate of a Registry office.

Additional Historical and Genealogical Information
Land Registry Office, Colborne, Ontario
Cramahe Township, Concession 2, Lot 31, Reid Lot 167

Lot 31, Concession 2 was first settled by George (1761-1833) and Hannah (1765-1832) Palmer, who arrived with Joseph Keeler (1763-1839) in 1793 or shortly thereafter (LINK). George Palmer was officially granted the 200 acres comprising Lot 31 on 15 July 1802 and he sold them to Joseph Keeler on 12 January 1812 (LINK). On 15 January 1824, Joseph Keeler transferred the southern 100 acres of Lot 31 to his son Joseph Abbott Keeler (1788-1855).

Throughout the rest of his life, the younger Keeler periodically sold off parcels of land from this property. On 28 September 1854, the year before he died, Keeler sold much of what was left of his holdings in Concession 2, Lot 31, to Eliza Jane Gilchrist (1812-1897). Eliza Gilchrist was Keeler’s eldest child, and the widow of the late Matthew Craig Gilchrist (1796-1850), a physician. Eliza was the elder sister of Mary Anne McKeyes and Anne Casey, the two Keeler daughters who each briefly owned the Seaton House (LINK).

Eliza Gilchrist sold Reid Lot 167 to the Corporation of the County of Northumberland and Durham on 13 May 1861 for $100. The deed expressly states that the land was to be used for the construction of a Registry Office. It was a government-owned Registry Office from then until 1991, well after our 1921 cut-off date.

The 1991 date in the previous paragraph comes from the township history flier. I am assuming it is correct, even though some of the other information in the flier appears not to be. The flier has John M. Grover buying the property from Joseph Keeler (presumably Joseph III, since his father died in 1855) in 1859, whereas the Land Registry records have the purchase being made by the County from Joseph III’s sister Eliza in 1861. Possibly John M. Grover was instrumental in the purchase for the County, but the rest of the statement appears to be inaccurate.

Since the land was bought specifically for a Registry Office in May of 1861, it is likely that the building was constructed later that year, or maybe in 1862. This is just an assumption, though; for all I know there might have been a delay in construction and it was built sometime later.


Colborne Art Gallery

Cramahe Township Logo