8 Church Street East, Colborne

(c. late 1800s)
Roll No. 1411-012-010-30700 – Cramahe Township Ontario

Late Victorian

The property at #8 Church Street East in the village of Colborne anchors the corner of Church Street East and Maybee Lane. It has a front door on the Lane and another on Church Street East. the latter seems to be the principle entrance for tax purposes. Its close proximity to the Street and the Lane would usually indicate that a road widening or allowance for sidewalks long after the build date reduced the lawn around the house. Since it is hypothesised that this portion of Church Street East and Maybee Lane were very early additions to Colborne’s landscape (1820-1830s) this seems unlikely.

The house is two story with a square footprint. It has a hip roof and it has some echoes of the tall, narrow windows common to Italianate architecture. It has an offset front door and two windows up and one down on the front facade with two up and down on each of the other sides. It is now painted but was probably originally red brick like many of its neighbours. The windows are of a newer vintage, with decorative shutters.

There is a gable roof addition on the Lane side of the house, but plantings/fencing obscure it completely from the road.

History or Associative Value

J.Keeler III sold the lot where #8 stands today to Addison Vars in 1858. Vars was a wheelwright, then the captain of company 7-40th Batallion of the Canada Militia, then the county clerk for Northumberland. He lived in #7 prior to 1864 when he lost control of the property under the Insolvent Act of 1864 to Andrew Frederick Gault of Montreal, and subsequently to Edward Harrison in 1870, Neither actually lived in Cramahe and in 1878 the property was transferred back to Vars wife. Vars died in 1881.

Additional Historical and Genealogical Information

8 Church Street East, Colborne, Ontario
Cramahe Township, Concession 2, Lot 31, Reid Lot 162

The modern lots at 8 and 10 Church Street are made up of Reid Plan Lot 162, with a strip from Lot 163 added to the southern end of each. Reid Lot 163 is of no interest from the point of view of the houses on Church Street, because said houses are located on the eastern and western halves of Lot 162.

The first settlers in Cramahe Township arrived from Rutland, Vermont, in 1793 under the leadership of Joseph Keeler (1763-1839). Among the early settlers were George Asahel (1761-1833) and Hannah (1765-1832) Palmer (LINK). On their arrival, the Palmers took possession of the 200 acres of land in Concession 2, Lot 31. This land was officially deeded to George Palmer by the Crown on 15 July 1802.

Palmer sold his 200 acres to Joseph Keeler on 18 January 1812, on the same day buying from Keeler 150 acres in Concession 1, Lot 30, just to the south and one lot east of the property they sold. Basically, Palmer and Keeler appear to have simply exchanged the two properties.

Joseph Keeler transferred the “front part” of Lot 31 to his son Joseph Abbott Keeler (1788-1855) (LINK) on 15 January 1824. On acquiring the land from his father, Joseph A. Keeler proceeded to subdivide it.

On 23 September 1854 Joseph Abbott Keeler transferred title to the land he still owned in the area bounded by what is now Percy, Church, and King Streets and Victory Lane, to his son Joseph Keeler III (1824-1881) (LINK) and all of the rest of his property in the southern half of Lot 31 to his daughter Eliza Jane Gilchrist (1812-1897) (LINK). The land transferred to his son consisted of what is now the two westernmost blocks in the downtown section of Colborne, north of King Street. Eliza’s land consisted of the property north of Church Street.

Joseph Keeler III sold Lot 162 to Addison Vars (1826-1881) on 6 July 1858. Vars has been referred to as a wheelwright in 1851, a merchant in 1870, a gentleman in 1871, and the county clerk in 1881. There are also records of his having been captain of Company 7 in the 40th Battalion of the Canada Militia in 1876, 1877, and 1880. Some records list him as Addison A. Vars, and others as Andrew A. Vars or Andrew Addison Vars. His marriage certificate lists his given name as Addison while his death certificate lists it as Andrew. “Addison” seems to appear more often in records (for instance in all census records), so it will be used for this write-up.

Addison Vars was a bachelor when he purchased Reid Lot 162. He married Anna Marie Haight (1830-1867) in 1863 in Colborne and had one child, Henry Thorp (1864-1926, apparently called Harry). It is unknown for certain whether Vars lived on the property, but he owned no other properties in Colborne, so it is a reasonable working hypothesis. Maybe he even conducted his wheelwright business from there…

If it is assumed that Addison Vars lived on Lot 162, his wife and son would have lived there as well. Apparently Vars had money problems, because under the provisions of the Insolvent Act of 1864, he lost control of the property to one Andrew Frederick Gault (1834-1903), a merchant in Montreal, who was designated as assignee under the Act.

Gault never lived in Ontario, let alone on Reid Lot 162 in Colborne. He transferred the property to Edward Harrison (?-?) on 23 June 1870. No Edward Harrison appears in any Cramahe or Colborne census, although references have been found to several men by that name elsewhere in Ontario about this time. One of them lived in Cobourg and perhaps he was our man. In any case, it doesn’t look like Harrison lived in Colborne either and on 10 August 1872 he sold Lot 162 to Mary Elizabeth Vars (1842-1880), Addison Vars’ second wife, whom Vars married in 1870. Her maiden name was Pomeroy, and her parents owned Reid Lot 160, just 25 meters west of Lot 162, from 1873 to 1905.

So Addison Vars likely lived on the property prior to 1864, then lost control of it to a sequence of two men, neither of whom lived there but who 16 years later transferred it back to Vars’s wife. It seems likely that the Vars family continued to live there right through the period. Addison Vars was a resident of Colborne in the 1871 and 1881 censuses and there is no record of his having owned any other property in town. If this is true, the residents of Reid Lot 162 in 1871 were Vars, his wife Elizabeth, his son by his previous marriage Henry, a daughter by his present marriage, Ida Grant (1871-?), and his mother Catherine (1800-?). There was at least one other daughter, Mary Gertrude (1874-1945). Although Addison Vars appeared in the 1881 Colborne census, he was living alone, not with any of his family. His wife had died in 1880 but he had a 15 year old son, a 10 year old daughter and a 6 year old daughter who do not appear with him in the Colborne census. Harry was living with his grandmother in Peterborough, but no reference has been found to the girls.

The story gets even more convoluted. On 1 August 1876 Addison and Mary Vars mortgaged Lot 162 with the Hamilton Provident and Loan Society. On 13 September 1880, which is after Mary’s death but before Addison’s, the Society sold the property to Thomas P. Kelso (1833-1894), a merchant from Belleville. Kelso never lived in Colborne, but he was married to Louisa Victoria Pomeroy (1839-1931), who was the sister of Mary Elizabeth Vars, and hence Addison Vars’ sister-in-law. A few months later, on 13 June 1881, Kelso transferred the property to Rebecca Pomeroy (1808-?), the mother of Louisa and Mary, the Mother-in-law of both himself and Addison Vars, and the owner of Reid Lot 160 just down the street.

Rebecca Pomeroy sold Lot 162 to Stephen Alanson Boyce (1820-1894) of Haldimand Township (profession: “gentleman”) on 30 July 1881, just a month and a half after receiving it from her son-in-law. If the preceding discussion is any guide, one might expect Boyce to somehow be associated with the Vars/Pomeroy families, but no connection has been found. This is not necessarily because his family doesn’t connect with theirs, but rather because nothing has been found about his family. He was a farmer in the Haldimand Township censuses for 1871 and 1881, and living in Colborne in the 1891 census (no profession listed), but no unquestionable reference to him appears before 1871. There is an intriguing record of a Stephen Boyce of the right age and born in Canada residing in Las Vegas, New Mexico Territory in 1850, but it can’t be confidently claimed that this was the same man. The 1871 and 1881 censuses provide no evidence that he had a wife and children, because he was living with a single domestic servant in 1871 and with an 89 year old man named John A. Boyce, who was presumably his father, in 1881. Of course he was already over 50 in 1871 and may well have had a family before that. Part of the problem with finding his records may be the spelling of his name. Records exist for people known to be named Boyce with spellings Boyce, Boice, Bice, Boyd, Bois, and Boyer.

It is just supposition, but it looks like Boyce probably bought Reid Lot 162 and moved into Colborne when he retired from farming in 1881. He probably lived there until he died of mitral insufficiency in 1894. His father was living with him in Haldimand Township in 1881. It is unknown if he also moved to Colborne. If so, he probably died later in the 1880s, because he wasn’t living with his son in 1891.

After Stephen Boyce died in 1894, the executors of his will sold Reid Lot 162 to Etta Frances Shannon (1866-1906), Boyce’s niece. In the 1901 Colborne census, Etta’s last name was Shannon, but as of a land transaction on 28 February 1906, she was Etta Alger. When she died on 29 December 1906 (of tuberculosis of the larynx), she was registered as the wife of George Elisha Alger (1853-1931) and her birthplace as Haldimand Township. The only wife of George Alger found in records was Mary Ellen Hubbard (1855-?), whom he married in 1878 and by whom he had five children between 1878 and 1888. No death date has been found for Mary Alger, so presumably she died and George married Etta Shannon sometime between 1901 and 1906. It is unclear if Etta ever lived on Reid Lot 162; when she died she was living on King Street. Just prior to her death she owned Lots 160, 161, and 162 along the south side of Church Street.

After the death of Etta Alger in 1906, the property passed into the hands of her husband’s brother Harry Herbert Alger (1866-1938), a physician who had been born, lived, and studied medicine in Colborne (listed as a medical student in the 1891 census there), but who had been living in Stirling since 1896. He remained in Stirling for the rest of his life, and never lived on his new property in Colborne. He lived to survive service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in World War 1, and died in 1938 following four heart attacks that resulted from complications following surgery for an intestinal blockage. A tantalizing bit of information is that his mother (and the mother of George Alger) was Frances (“Fanny”) Boyce (1828-?) from Haldimand Township. There is a real temptation to think she might have been Stephen Boyce’s sister, which would make her the Etta Alger’s aunt as well as her mother-in-law. If this is true, Etta and George Alger were cousins. Of course this may not be the true relationship between Stephen and Fanny. Although probably related, they may not have been siblings.

Harry Alger sold the eastern half of Lot 162 to Charlotte A. Lennox (1882-?) on 9 October 1913, but he retained the western half, with the house of interest, through 1921. Charlotte Lennox was listed in the land transaction documentation as a resident of Colborne in 1913 but she doesn’t appear in any Colborne census, suggesting she arrived and left again between 1911 and 1921. She was a resident of Oshawa when she sold her half of Lot 162 to William Pickworth (1844-1923), a Cramahe farmer (likely retired, since he was 74 years old), on 20 September 1918.

Harry Alger didn’t live in Colborne, so the occupancy of Lot 162 between 1906 and 1921 is unclear, except that it was occupied by Ethelbert Elijah Latta (1877-1945) and his wife Carrie (1879-1949) in 1911. Latta was a physician who undoubtedly knew Alger through his profession. The Lattas appear in Colborne Censuses only in 1911, but he was a resident of Castleton when he married Carrie Muirhead in 1904 and a resident of Kingston when the 1921 census was taken. He was still a resident of Colborne, and presumably of Lot 162, when he signed up for the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1916. It is unclear when he originally arrived in Cramahe Township; he doesn’t seem to be in any 1901 census, Cramahe or otherwise, perhaps because he was in South Africa serving with the 10th Canadian Field Hospital during the Boer War when the census was taken. In 1891 he was living with his parents in Thurlow Township, now part of Belleville. The Lattas apparently had no children.

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