St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church

(1947-1999) Now demolished – Lot adjacent to 89 King Street East, Colborne
Cramahe Township Ontario

Church (now demolished)

Mass was celebrated for the first time in Colborne’s St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church on the Feast of the Immaculate conception, December 8th, 1942, by the Rev. John V. Ryan. The sermon was preached by the Rt. Rev. Francis O’Sullivan, Vicar Capitular of the Diocese of Peterborough.

The building was formerly the home of the late Hon. W.A. Willoughby, M.P.P. and was purchased by the church from the estate of the late G.E.R. Wilson. At the time of the opening, extensive alterations had already been made, but only half of the present accommodation was ready for use at that time. Father Ryan planned and supervised the building changes and much of the work was done by the men and boys of the parish.

Two “I” beams installed on concrete pads were needed to support the second floor of the chapel. The tower was transformed to a peaked roof and topped by a cross and a bell which was donated by the Grosjeans of East Colborne. The Stations of the Cross and statues of the Sacred Heart and Blessed Virgin Mary were donated anonymously. The organ was given by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Barry. Memorial windows were installed in August 1943.

The building served the Catholic population of Colborne for 50 years, but the congregation numbers in the 1990s was the same as in the 1940s and so the congregation was transferred to St. Mary’s in Grafton and St. Francis de Sales was closed.

History or Associate Value

Monsignor Francis O’Sullivan, searching for a site for a Catholic church in Cramahe, found “a commodious lot and dwelling on the corner of Elgin and King Street East in Colborne.” The doors opened to its first mass December 8, 1942, and the first Solemn High Mass occurred on Christmas day that year. Many structural renovations took place, ongoing upkeep was prohibitive, and critically, the Catholic population did not increase as expected after the war. The last mass was held August 8, 1999.

Additional Historical and Genealogical Information

Colborne Catholic Church
Corner of King Street and Elgin Street,
Colborne Cramahe Township, Concession 2, Lot 30, Reid Lot 176

The earliest land ownership records for the southern part of Lot 30, Concession 2 are a bit confused. The Lot was granted by the Crown to King’s College on 3 January 1828. Scattered parts of it were then sold by Colborne entrepreneur James D. Goslee (1794-1865) in 1846, 1847, and 1848, although no record has been found of a transfer from the College to Goslee. It might be assumed that this was simply a case of a missing Land Office record if it weren’t for the fact that all of the southern part of Lot 30, including the parts sold by James D. Goslee, were sold by King’s College (by then the University of Toronto) to James’ son George Goslee (1823-1882) on 28 September 1855. Apparently the University didn’t recognize the right of James Goslee to sell off property, although ownership titles to the properties sold by him were apparently valid after the 1855 sale to George (probably because George honoured his father’s commitments). Although there is no Land Office record of James Goslee acquiring the properties he sold in 1846-1848, there is a comment in a later document pertaining to some legal difficulties he had that he had acquired at least some of those properties from Joseph Keeler. There is a Land Office record of an “assignment of lease” from Moses Hinman (1784-1872) to Joseph Keeler in April 1810. It rather looks like Hinman rented the property from the Crown and transferred his lease to Keeler, who then passed it on to James Goslee. Either Hinman, Keeler, or Goslee, it is unclear which, took upon himself the rights of ownership, even though they didn’t legally exist.

Reid Lot 176, on the corner of King and Elgin Streets, was the site of a house that Goslee built for himself in about 1850. The property then became embroiled in Goslee’s legal difficulties, whatever they were, so that the next transaction involved a sale by Northumberland County Sheriff James B. Fortune (1814-1864) to Andrew Jeffrey (1800-1863) on 9 October 1858.

Jeffrey was not a resident of Colborne, but was probably involved in this transaction as a bank official (he was on the Board of the Northumberland and Durham Savings Bank). He retained Lot 176 for only about a month, selling it on 18 November 1858 to James Hall (?-?). Hall then passed it on to James Cockburn (?-?) on 13 January 1862 and Cockburn transferred it to Colborne businessman John Merriam Grover (ca. 1815-1888). This brought the property back into the Goslee family, Grover being married to James D. Goslee’s daughter Elizabeth (1817-1903).

Legal wranglings continued with the next land transaction, dated 22 November 1872, when the property came into the possession of James Goslee’s widow Phoebe (née Wood, 1797-1877). This transaction is listed in land records as a “Cert. of Foreclosure” with Phoebe as plaintiff and John Grover, among others, as defendant.

When Phoebe Goslee died, her will, dated 4 January 1877, transferred Lot 176 to George Goslee (1823-1882) and Mary Ann Bowen (née Goslee, 1824-1878), the two of her children who weren’t married to Phoebe’s former legal opponent John M. Grover.

Mary Ann Bowen herself died the next year and Lot 176 came under the control of the executors of her will: barrister William Lazarus Payne (1847-1928) and physician William Armson Willoughby (1844-1908). Somehow or other the property was retained by Willoughby and included in his will dated 4 July 1908, at which point it went to printer Henry Smith Keyes (1869-1944), who retained it for only 2 weeks, selling it on 18 July 1908 to one of the executors or Willoughby’s will, insurance agent George Edward Rowcliffe Wilson (1854-?).

On 29 February 1940 George Wilson transferred ownership to his second wife Alta May (née Thompson, 1874-?). Alta sold it to Monsignor Francis J. O’Sullivan (?-?), Vicar Capitular of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Peterborough, on 31 October 1942. It came under the ownership of the Catholic Church proper on 19 November 1943.

The large house already standing on the property was transformed into a Catholic church and the first service was held there on 8 December 1942. It is not certain, but there is a good chance this house was the one originally built by James D. Goslee in 1850.

The Colborne Catholic Church was decommissioned in 1999, and has since been demolished.

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