7 King Street West, Colborne

(c.1840)
Roll No. 1411-012-020-33600 – Cramahe Township Ontario

Regency Cottage – Designated

No. 7 King Street West in Colborne is a Regency Cottage with just a touch of the Georgian features that were already out of style in England by the time this cottage was built. This architectural style began in Europe, and was honed by the harsh necessities of Upper Canada and the skills and materials at hand.

Whatever style it is, this house has a fascinating secret – the low overhanging roof and square, simple facade belies the fact that there are five distinct levels: the full height basement with its massive fireplace and various servants’ rooms; the attic currently used as a sewing centre; the two story tail, one room wide, which houses the kitchen and dining area and the bedroom level above; and the main floor with its generous Georgian inspired rooms.

The house nestles into the garden of 1.2 acres, in a pleasing asymmetrical position. The large 12 over 12 windows, 4 ground level entrances with sidelights, and sheltered patio/room make the outdoors and indoors feel intimately connected and inseparable. The layout of the garden was planned and developed by Mrs. Elya Chestnut who lived in 7 King St. West from 1977 to 1987. It is evident from her gardening notes and blueprints that she had a firm grip on the principles of the Regency Style.

Early photographs of 7 King St. West clearly show a white picket fence across the front and sides of the property. An 1892 photograph of the Cumming family shows a plain but modestly elegant and generous verandah across the front and on both sides of the house. Both fence and verandah have been lost to the effects of weather and changing tastes. A plain unobtrusive “shed” gable provides light and ventilation to the attic area which was probably the servants’ sleeping quarters.

The Cumming house is one of the most charming and historically important buildings in all of Cramahe Township.

History or Associative Value

In 1846, Cuthbert Cumming and his wife Jane McMurray acquired a portion of this property, and the balance in 1852. Cumming was born in Scotland and after working in the Canadian west and Quebec, he retired as a Chief Trader for the Hudson Bay Company. He remained in Colborne for many years, listed in the census records as “a gentleman” until his demise in 1870. He is buried in the Trinity Anglican Church cemetery where headstones tell a tale of Cumming family tragedy with the deaths of multiple children.

Additional Historical and Genealogical Information

7 King Street West, Colborne, Ontario
Cramahe Township, Concession 1, Lot 32, Reid Lot 512

John Ogden (1762-?) (LINK) was the first owner of the 200 acres that make up Concession 1, Lot 32, the Lot lying south of what is now King Street West. These 200 acres are now bounded by Ontario Street on the west, Division Street on the east, King Street on the north, and the western part of the Ogden Point Quarry on south. Ogden was granted this property by the Crown on 11 March 1809.

The next Land Office record for the south side of King Street West was the sale on 17 January 1821 of the northern 90 acres of Concession 1, Lot 32 by Jane Hodges, George G. Kent, and Hannah Kent (LINK) to Festus Bennett (?-ca. 1851) (LINK). Unfortunately, the transfer of the land from Ogden to Hodges et al. was not recorded.

Festus Bennett sold off only a little of his land during his lifetime, but what would later be Reid Lot 512 was among them. He sold the northeastern part of that Lot (which would have included the house if it was there at the time) to his daughter Louisa (ca. 1813-?) on 29 March 1837. Louisa and her husband John Thomas (ca. 1805-?) sold the property to Lewis Moffatt (1809-1892), a Toronto Merchant who was never resident in Colborne, on 20 April 1846 and Moffatt turned around and sold it to Cuthbert Cumming on 15 October 1846. Norman Bennett, as executor of his father’s will, sold the remainder of Lot 512 to Cumming on 17 June 1852.

Cuthbert Cumming (1786-1870) was born in Tomintoul, Banffshire, Scotland and from his youth worked for the Northwest Company, a fur trading company based in Montreal and the primary competition for the Hudson Bay Company. He was a clerk at the Northwest Company post at Fort Dauphin, in the Swan River District of what is now southwestern Manitoba, starting at the age of about 18 in 1804. He was still there when the Northwest Company was subsumed into the Hudson Bay Company in 1821 and he continued working for the Hudson Bay Company thereafter. He became Chief Trader in 1827. In 1828 he was transferred to the Montreal Department, but didn’t like it. In 1832 he was sent to the Saint-Maurice region (near Trois Riviere, Quebec?). He apparently always wanted to return to the west, and after a leave he took in Britain in 1832 he was supposed to be posted to a western area but at the last minute he was shuffled to Mingan on the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Finally in 1841 he was posted to Fort Pic on Lake Superior and he returned to the Swan River District (Fort Pelly) in 1843. He supposedly retired to Colborne in 1844. This is the year before he bought the property at 3 King Street West and two years before he bought 7 King Street West. Either 1844 is a bit inaccurate, or he lived somewhere else in Colborne briefly before buying the properties.

While at Fort Dauphin, Cumming married an Indian woman named Susette Mackie (ca. 1790-?) and had seven children. Names of six of these are available: Margaret (1806-1833), Charles (1810-?), Hannah (1812-1846), John (1820-?), Malcolm (1822-1908), and Cuthbert (1825-1896). In 1842 he married Jane McMurray (1814-1893), daughter of another Hudson Bay Company trader, at Ft. Pic, and Jane is the wife he brought with him to Colborne. It is unclear if Susette had died by then or if Cuthbert just conveniently ignored his previous marriage to an Indian woman (a common practice at the time). Apparently he didn’t simply abandon his “half-breed” family, though, and was always concerned with their welfare. Three of his sons by his first wife appear in his will.

Cuthbert Cumming’s first wife was definitely an Indian, and it is possible that his second wife Jane was in part as well. There is a Manitoba government website that lists Jane as an “adopted and natural” daughter of Thomas McMurray (1776-1849) and Jane Cardinalle (ca. 1790-?). Jane Cardinalle is in turn also listed as the “adopted and natural” daughter of Joachim Cardinalle (?-?). It wouldn’t be at all surprising if Jane McMurray was at least a quarter Indian herself. But this is just supposition.

Cuthbert and Jane Cumming had six children: James Cuthbert (1843-1933), Walter (1845-1849), Thomas Wallace (1846-1880), Jane Helen (1850-1851), George William (1851-1895), and Dougall McMurray (1856-1861). James was born at Fort Pic. The rest of the children were born in Colborne, probably in the house at 7 King Street West.

Why did Cumming choose to retire to Colborne? There were several men named Cumming in early Cramahe censuses, notably Isaac Cumming (1769-1850), starting with the 1809 census and several other Cummings who may have been his sons because they appear in later censuses. Was there some relationship between Isaac Cumming and Cuthbert Cumming? Cuthbert was born in Scotland while Isaac was born in Vermont.

A man by the name of George Barston visited Cumming in Colborne in 1846 and left the following description: “We found Cumming the ‘Noble Burgundy’ seated in all his breadth and majesty, on the Hall Bench, a perfect picture of ease and contentment. As soon as we entered, with great agility, he squared up to John George [McTavish, a friend from his days in the Swan River District], and set himself in boxing attitude, seemingly jealous of the honour of rotundity being contested with him. You would have laughed to have witnessed the graceful movements of these sparring birds of so like a feather.”

The property at 7 King Street West was inherited by Cumming’s wife Jane when he died in 1870 of “paralysis” (a stroke?). It then passed on to her only two surviving children James and George when she died in 1893. George in turn died in 1895, leaving the property solely to James.

James Cuthbert Cumming had married Catherine Ann Strong (1853-1894) in 1877. They had three children: Mary A. (1879-?), Cuthbert W. (1880-?), and James W. (1894-1894). James followed in his father’s footsteps and worked for the Hudson Bay Company.

James Cumming sold the property to George L. Schaffer (ca. 1856-1917) on 15 July 1912. Very little has been found about Schaffer. He appears in the 1911 census with his wife Estella (ca. 1864-?) and daughter Fern (ca. 1890-?). The occupation listed in the Land Office record was hotel keeper and residence Colborne. Schaffer died in 1917 and the property passed into the hands of the Toronto General Trusts Corporation, where it remained through the 1921 cut-off.

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