9 Church Street East, Colborne

Joseph A. Keeler House

(1820)
Roll No. 1411-011-010-28000 – Cramahe Township Ontario

Neoclassical – Designated

No. 9 Church Street East in the village of Colborne was built one year after the Barnum House in Grafton ON, that is 1820. Barnum House is the earliest example of Neoclassical architecture in Canada and a National Historic Site.

The Colborne property, built by the founder of the village, Joseph Abbott Keeler, is an exact replica of Barnum House, probably designed and constructed by the same person. It is one of the oldest buildings in the township.

These homes were inspired by the Neoclassical style, intended to reproduce elements of classical Greek architecture including a central temple front with flanking wings, articulation of the facade with pilasters linked by elliptical arches, and extensive use of delicately scaled details. The neoclassical elements of the houses’ exterior are echoed in the ornate woodwork of several interior rooms, particularly the parlour.

These two houses represent the finest examples of the second important Georgian architectural style, that is Neoclassicism, which came into fashion around the mid 18th century, a period just previous to the United Empire Loyalists’ emigration to Upper Canada.

The Keeler House is a large timber framed house with a two story centre block and one-story wings extending to each side.

There is a large utility wing to the rear of the building. The side wings and verandas have delicate treillage in the Regency manner. The Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee of the day (1999) rated the Keeler House on Church Street East, as one of, if not the most important historical and architecturally unique buildings in the village.

Behind the house is an original old barn unusual in its central village location.

History or Associative Value

The land for Market Square, the park around which the village of Colborne grew, was donated by J.A. Keeler in 1815 (see plaque). His home, the Keeler House at 9 Church St.E. built in 1820, no doubt had a main drive (now Maybee Lane) connecting the house to the Kingston/York road and another carriage drive leading to Market Square (now Victoria Square). The Methodist (now United) Church was built in 1823 at the corner of the Square and Church St.E. under the patronage of the area’s most prominent family.

Additional Historical and Genealogical Information

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.

Eliza Gilchrist sold off two parcels of this property to her daughters Martha Jane Weller (1832-1898) and Mary Louisa Ketchum (1838-1878) on 1 September 1859. 7 and 9 Church Street East both sit on Reid Lot 73, which is the property Eliza sold to Mary.

Mary Gilchrist married Colborne barrister and later county court judge Jay Ketchum (1835-1909) in 1858. Since the Keeler House (now 9 Church Street East) had been there since 1820 and since the Ketchums were Colborne upper-crust, they probably lived in that house, not in the house at 7 Church Street East. The Ketchums had three children, Charles Vincent (1860-1918), William Herbert (1864-1924), and Josephine Anne (1869-1887), who undoubtedly lived in the house as well. In 1892, 14 years after Mary’s death, Jay Ketchum at the age of 57 remarried Margaret Jane Davidson (1863-1917) of Woodbridge, ON, age 29. They had a further four children: John Davidson (1893-1962), Edward Jay (1894-1969), Hugh Ferrar (1897-?), and Philip Allan Cheyne (1899-1963). It is likely that the new Ketchum family also lived in the Keeler House until Jay sold it in 1900 (see below), but the first three children were long gone by the time their father remarried. Charles had married Carrie Ella Wood (1863-?) in Toronto in 1885. William had married Florence Crouter (1869-?) sometime between 1891 and 1901. Josephine had died at the age of 18 in 1887, probably in the Keeler House.

Jay Ketchum sold the southwestern part of Reid Lot 73, which included the modern lots at 7 and 9 Church Street, to Robert S. Coyle (1845-1905?) on 20 March 1900. He retained the rest of the Reid Lot, including the modern lot at 11 Church Street, until he sold it to Harriet Coyle (1849-?), Robert’s wife, in 1904. Robert and Harriet (née Williams) had married in 1865 and had six children: Mary (1866-?), Benjamin H. (1867-1933), Robert J. (1869-1930), John (1871-1916), James (1876-?), and David William (1877-?). Robert and all of his sons were all fruit dealers. None of their children were living with Robert and Harriet in 1901, and presumably not in 1900 when the Coyles bought the Ketchum property.

The date of Robert Coyle’s death is uncertain, but ownership of his property on Church Street and numerous other properties in Colborne passed to his wife in 1905, so it is likely that he died that year. Harriet Coyle lived on the property in 1911 along with her son James and his family.

On 18 November 1914 Harriet set up a series of trust deeds for several of her properties with various of her sons as head trustees. It is a bit confusing, but it looks as if the property where 7 Church Street East now stands came under the trusteeship of her son David. The Keeler House was not among these trust properties, so presumably Harriet and James continued to live there.

As with her husband, the date of Harriet’s death is unclear, but she is absent from the 1921 census so she may have died between 1914 and 1921. According to land ownership records, 9 Church Street East was still in her name in 1921, but likely it was James who lived there at the time. David continued to control 7 Church Street through 1921.

James Coyle married Mary C. Vandervoort (1873-?) of Frankford in 1892. There is something strange about James Coyle’s age.

According to his marriage certificate he was 23 in 1892 when he married 19 year old Mary Vandervoort, suggesting he was born in about 1969. On the other hand, census records invariably place his birth in about 1876. If true, he would have been only 17 when he got married. In any case, James and Mary Coyle had two children, Harry James (1894-1958) and Gladys Marian (1899-?). Both of them were living with their parents in 1911, but both were gone by 1921. Harry probably left when he married Eleanor May Brown (1893-1979) in 1912 and Gladys when she married Gerald Edwin Fox (1903-?) in 1921.

David Coyle married to Mary’ sister Maud Elizabeth Vandervoort (1878-?) in 1894. They had three children: Pearl Lilly (1896-1944), William David (1898-1983), and Marie (ca. 1915-?). If the David Coyle family lived in the house now known as 7 Church Street East, it means that the Vandervoort sisters (who were also sisters-in-law), were next-door-neighbours.

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