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History Geography Colborne

  History Geography Colborne, Ontario

History and geography is very important to the residents of Colborne. If you were born in Colborne wouldn't you like to know who first came to Colborne, who named Colborne, who are the most important people of years gone by relating to Colborne. Most grade school children write essays on their city or town. If your child had to write an essay on Colborne, where would they go to get the right information quick and easy? Hopefully Virtual Walk because Virtual Walk tries very hard to find the most accurate information describing the exact details of who first came to Colborne and how Colborne came about. The other important part of Colborne is the geography relating to Colborne. If your someone new and moving to Colborne geography is something you'd really want to know about. For instance what's the Colborne weather like? does it rain all the time or how cold are the winters in Colborne. Then there's the population in Colborne what's the age ratio, population and employment rate, visible minority, some of those answers can be found on Colborne's demographics page. Farmer wanting to move their families to Colborne, you ask what's the vegetation like, can we grow this or that particular vegetable, or raise certain animals. All these questions should be answered on Colborne's history and geography page.

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Sir John Colborne the person the Village of Colborne derives its name from. John Colborne, who was later to become 1st Baron Seaton, was born in 1778 at Lyndhurst, Hampshire, England. Orphaned at 13 he was educated at Christ's Hospital, London, and Winchester College.  It is recorded that, subsequent to a visit by John Colborne with Joe Keeler the community of Colborne was up till then simply known as "The Corners", it was decided by the residents that henceforth it be known as Colborne in honor of Upper Canada's Governor.
At age 16 John Colborne entered the army as an ensign in the 20th Regiment. Colborne had a distinguished career in the Netherlands as Lieutenant; Egypt, Malta and Sicily as Captain; and in Spain under Sir Jon Moore as Lieutenant Colonel. Colborne served under the Iron Duke Wellington and assumed command of the 52nd Regiment Oxford Light Infantry, part of the famous Light Brigade, and fought at Waterloo.
With the subsequent peace Colborne still remained strongly attached to the military, but also undertook a series of civil appointments, in which he was greatly aided by the charm and grace of his wife Elizabeth, daughter of James Younge, an English clergyman with two of their sons becoming generals.
Colborne's tenure as Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Guernsey, 1821 to 1828, strengthened his reputation for effective administration and popular leadership. Colborne was serving as an apprenticeship with Upper Canada's ablest Governor. In August 1828, Colborne was given the title of Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, arriving at York later known as Toronto but at that time a village of 2,200 residents. Judgment of his early performance led to the growing confidence in Colborne. In 1829-1830 a strong, sound legislation was passed supporting road construction, commercial improvements, with relief from losses of the War of 1812 and the encouragement of agricultural societies.
Colborne concentrated on making practical improvements in communications, roads, bridges and market facilities, much needed in a sparsely settled colony. Colborne was also eager to increase the size and quality of the British community by immigration and education, matters in which Colborne considered the government should provide assistance. At Cobourg, Peterborough and London Colborne deployed new agencies for the settlement to immigrants. His colonizing purpose was twofold to attract more immigrants from Britain and reduce the immigration and influence of Americans in Upper Canada. Consequently, in the year 1830 to 1833 the provincial population grew by 50 percent, and that of York itself more than doubled.
Colborne's most controversial act was the designation of rectory lands for the Church of England, timing of which was extraordinarily inappropriate, arousing opposition from radicals, reformers and many moderates; an act which later precipitated the unrest of 1837 and prompted the colonial secretary, Lord Glenelg, to recall him in 1837. Colborne journeyed to Montreal and in 1837 quelled an insurrection in Quebec City with 2,000 men and artillery and a second in 1838, becoming known to Quebecois as "le VieuxBrulet," the old firebrand, mainly because of the excessive measures of Colborne's offices and men, though Colborne himself had been regarded as efficient rather than ruthless.
In Quebec on October 19, 1839, Sir John Colborne yielded office to a new governor general, Charles Powlett Thomson, and was invested with the title of GMC. Sir John Colborne left Montreal aboard the frigate ‘Pique' bound for England. There Colborne was widely recognized and rewarded for his distinguished military career and his 16 years of service in Guernsey and Canada, being named a Privy Councillor. Sir John Colborne was rewarded with a pension of 2,000 pounds annually and elevated to the peerage as Lord Seaton of Seaton Devonshire, on December 14, 1839. Colborne continued to take an interest in Canadian affairs.
From 1843, when Colborne was made a GCMC, till 1849 Colborne served as Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands. In 1854 Colborne was again promoted this time to General. From 1855 to 1860 Colborne served in Ireland as commander of the forces and as a Privy Councillor. In 1860, upon his retirement, Colborne was raised to England's highest rank and honour, Field Marshal. After a short period of ill health he died, age 85, in Torquay, England.

The first settler in the Village of Colborne was Joseph Keeler I, who came here from Rutland, Vermont, in 1787. Keeler for many years was the representative for East Northumberland in the House of Commons of Canada.  Joseph Keeler returned to Vermont in 1793 coming back with forty settlers who were the earliest settlers in this part of the country. One of the settlers was Aaron Greeley, a surveyor, whose family lived in the Rutherford neighbourhood." 
Joseph Keeler I known as "Old Joe" was very much an entrepreneur Keeler laid out the Market Square and the main street of the Village of Colborne. Joseph Keeler I was a Loyalist as well as a very good practical engineer a seeker of new horizons and fresh challenges. Not much is known of his early life in Vermont or the problems he may have had after the American Declaration of Independence in 1776.
It was later said that Joseph Keeler came to the Village of Colborne in 1789 two years later than previously stated. Apparently Keeler was on an exploration trip returning to Vermont, coming back again in 1793. In the meantime two important events took place. It was in 1788 that this part of the Village of Colborne, the part on the North shore of Lake Ontario an area about ten miles back from the lake, was acquired from the Indians by treaty. This dates the taking over of this area by the Crown. In 1791, Augustus Jones was commissioned to set out the first survey in this area.
Jones set out with his survey party from York, starting at Scarborough proceeded east along the North shore of Lake Ontario, staking out a traverse, a series of measured lines and bearings. With continuous measurements and calculations, Jones and his party returned to York, on the return marked out the sidelines for each Township, starting with the Township of Murray, then Cramahe, Haldimand, Hamilton, Hope, Clarke, Darlington, etc. For each Township, the sidelines were run back to the first concession and the base line marked. Thus the start on laying out the Township surveys and the defining of the county boundaries paved the way for the first Parliament of Upper Canada which met at present-day Niagara-on-the-Lake in 1792.
When Joseph Keeler returned in 1793, with his band of forty families, this area was in position to receive the pioneers who began by clear the area and build farms.  The fact that one of these settlers Aaron Greeley was in fact a surveyor he assisted the newcomers in getting settled on organized lands. One hundred and ninety-one years after the group of forty families came to the Village of Colborne area. A number of the descendants of these settlers are still in Colborne today.
These people of 1793 experienced all kinds of hardships. They went without many of the comforts of life, endured hard labour. They strove to conquer the forest and create farms. living and dying many more buried in graves long since forgotten. Their deeds, accomplishments, experiences, many of which went unrecorded and lost with their demise.
However, from time to time, there are pages from the past that come to light. People today are turning more to the record of their roots. Families tracing back to their genealogy find and uncover interesting stories and history unknown to the present generation. In this area there are tales worth re-telling, recollections of events of yore worth placing on record. Writing down and recording the past gives one much satisfaction and a deeper appreciation of what our forefathers accomplished, the benefits of which we have inherited.
Colborne owes a good deal of its existence to roads that were pretty bad. Merchants and tradesmen settled along those roads that existed offering some contact with their customers and with the outside world. When a ten-mile trip took a half-a-day and more, the Village had to offer goods and services that people drove fifty miles to reach. Bad radiators and slow-moving vehicles were good for the small town. The first road to pass through Colborne was built by the American contractor Asa Danforth, in 1799 it was the only link by land between Kingston and York. During the winter, travel on that road was barely possible, but during the spring and summer it was almost completely out of the question. Because settlements were very sparse along its route, the Danforth Road soon fell into disrepair.
Where the Danforth Road from Cobourg to Grafton ran north of the later Kingston Road and the name "Danforth Road" on the street signs is still there. In Grafton it seems to have crossed Highway 2 and proceeded south, where it actually passed through Colborne, is unknown. The only clue is on the Reid survey map of 1863. On the map Toronto Road is referred to as Danforth Road. There is a possibility that the later Kingston Road, present Highway 2, conforms the route of the old road ran through the immediate area of Colborne. The Kingston Road was completed in the winter of 1816-17 and regular mail coaches were able to use it except in the spring, when only couriers on horseback could get through.

The Keeler's:
Joseph Keeler I
"Old Joe" was a practical engineer, two hundred years ago, meant using streams of water for power to run flour mills, saw mills, woollen mills, tanneries, distilleries, etc.  Keeler was involved with several projects of this kind on Keeler Creek in the Lakeport and Colborne areas. Most of which has since disappeared with exception being the old mill to the west of Colborne, the walls of which are still standing. Keeler was also involved with mills at Salem, Castleton and Norwood and assisted with a very substantial mill on the Ganaraska for Elias Smith in 1795 at Smith's Creek, which is now Port Hope. Records say Keeler "Old Joe" built Keeler's Tavern in East Colborne in 1832. The building still stands at the north east corner of King and Parliament Streets now owned and occupied by Edward Corbier and his family. This inn was a prominent stage coach stop for stages that travelled on the Danforth Road and the York Kingston Road. Keeler was also largely responsible for the building of shipping docks at the waterfront and a road to the north. Joseph Keeler's wife, Olive was six years younger than he, outliving him by about six years. Their son Joseph A. Keeler, "Young Joe", was born in 1788, barely a year before his father came to Keeler Creek for his first time. "Old Joe" lived the rest of his life dying in1839 at Keeler Creek, which became officially known as Colborne Harbour. The place has kindly been referred to by many as Cat Hollow and is now generally called Lakeport.
Joseph Keeler II
Referred to as "Young Joe" is actually credited with being the founder of Colborne. The valley of Keeler Creek or Colborne Creek two hundred years ago was completely wooded having no buildings, roads, railway, nothing but a few forest paths. "Young Joe" grew up in this valley. His father Joseph Keeler I a successful business man in the Village of Colborne, and "Young Joe" well educated  and well coached in the commerce and trade of the day by his father. Records say  "Young Joe" at 27 opened a small store in 1815 that included the first post office.
During the forty years from this beginning in 1815 until his death in 1855, "Young Joe" was very prominent in the community. As well as being a merchant and postmaster, he was Justice of the Peace and his father's extensive land holdings made them the most important people in the area. Keeler House on Church Street East, presently owned by Mr. Walter Carter, was built in the 1820's by "Young Joe".
Little is known of log and frame buildings making up the business section of Colborne but in later years they were replaced by brick structures we know today. "Young Joe", in cooperation with his father, laid out the streets and the public square giving away land for the building of several churches. One being Old St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church built in 1830-33 of limestone that came from the Keeler Quarry at Lakeport. It's of very similar construction to the old mill, which was probably built by the same stone masons.
Joseph Keeler III
Born in Keeler House known as "Little Joe", in 1822, it's said "Old Joe" died there in 1839. Early in the 1840's, "Young Joe" began the construction of Kelwood, which took nearly 20 years to complete. He died in 1855 and "Little Joe" was left to supervise the completion and he made it home.
"Little Joe" Keeler followed very closely in his father's and grandfather's footsteps was prominent in the family business and a merchant. "Little Joe" was about 33 when his father died. "Little Joe" Keeler was now the owner of considerable property. Keeler III established the first newspaper the Transcript. Keeler III was also a Major in the militia he was instrumental in having the first bank established in Colborne. Later Keeler III became a member of Parliament from 1867 to 1873, and from 1878 until his death in January 1881.
Keeler was a Conservative a strong supporter of Sir John A. MacDonald. His death came only a few days before the final vote on the formation of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and MacDonald had publicly stating it was a close vote appearing likely, he lamented that "Keeler of Northumberland was very ill."
"Little Joe" was also a strong supporter of the building of the Murray Canal, and since it wasn't completed until after his death, his widow Octavia was asked to officiate at the official opening. The token shovel that she used is on display at the Barnum House.
"Little Joe" was the builder of the three-storey Keeler Block in1872 at the corner of King and Victoria Square. Over 50 years ago this building contained four stores on the ground floor, numerous shops, offices and lodge rooms in the upper floors. A number of years ago the third floor was removed to make a more compact buildings but the name plaque was re-installed on the shortened building.
"Little Joe" also built a public hall in 1878. Located in the upstairs of a building that used to be located on the north side of King Street East. With commercial shops on the ground floor. Keeler reportedly died in the City of Ottawa while the House was in session in January, A.D. 1881. it was the end of an era. Within a few years his widow and their family had moved from the district. It appears that there have not been any residents by the name of Keeler living in Colborne since that time.

Road Building:
The greatest problem in road building in the early days was not technology, but rather lack of funds, manpower and to some degree, official interest. When funds were available contractors such as Joseph Keeler in Colborne, was hired. However, the authorities encouraged the settlers to build and maintain their own roads. The Highway Act of 1793 compelled all inhabitants to work on roads and bridges for a minimum of 12 days. Later the number of these statute labour days was tied to the assessed value of their property.
In Colborne in 1859 each day of statute labour was worth 40 cents, and you could pay the municipality to hire somebody to do it for you. The Village was divided into six divisions, each in charge of an overseer. In 1860 the overseers were N. Bennett, G.N. Gordan, W.N. Colton, T.S. Merriman, R.B. Scott and Levi Tuney. These overseers made sure everyone worked his assessed days or collected the money from those who would rather pay up. Refusal to do statute labour was punishable by up to six days in the nearest lock-up.
Over the course of time road building techniques were experimented with. One was the famous "corduroy road" making use of the almost unlimited supply of lumber. Trees had to be cut down for building the road anyway. Using these trees as a road they were split in half laid flat side down across the road, then a fairly passable crossing for soft marshy sections could be achieved. However, often logs would shift or be heaved out by frost. Initially, the low sections of Kingston Road and Percy Road were of this corduroy variety.
An improvement over the corduroy road was the plank road. Built of three or four inch boards that were laid tightly side by side and spiked to stringers. A good road was 16 feet wide, but usually only half was planked. The other half, called the turn-off, would be planked if traffic grew so heavy wagons constantly had to get off the good side of the road, as they passed each other. The final step in construction was to give the planks a light topping of sand or gravel then the traveler could glide along smoothly. On plank roads stages could achieve the dizzying speed of 8 miles per hour.
This type of road was economical only when lumber was cheap and in abundance. In 1835-36, large sections of the Kingston Road, including between Cobourg and Colborne, were planked. A private company built plank road between Cobourg and Rice Lake in 1848. According to the accounts of the municipality of Cramahe, over four pounds was spent on planking in 1853. As time went on, frost, poor drainage and neglect made the plank roads as bone shaking as the old corduroy roads.
At the same time the plank roads, "gravelled" roads were being built by either private companies or municipalities. These, in theory, had a base of large rocks over which progressively smaller gravel was dumped. It was usually dirt covered with loose gravel, or broken stones, the deepest potholes being filled with larger stones. Gravel was thrown into the ditch or the centre of the road and the wheels of carts then gouged deep ruts into the exposed road surface. Roads were completely impassable from the March thaws until the end of May. Then horse drawn scrapers would try to get the gravel back on the road and the whole process would start all over again. Cramahe Township waged a valiant battle in 1853, spending eight pounds for gravel for all its roads.
To pay for these improved roads municipalities charged tolls and tollgates made their appearance around Colborne. Rates for the tolls in Cramahe Township were established by an Act in 1853: "For every vehicle, whether loaded or otherwise for the horse drawing the same, one penny per mile; for each additional horse drawing any vehicle one half-penny per mile, for each head of neat cattle, one half-penny; for every score, of sheep or swine, one half-penny per mile." The Act allowed two tollgates within five miles of road, but no tolls could be collected until at least two miles of road became dangerous, through lack of repair and twelve freeholders tolls could be withheld.
There was no charge for crossing the road: exempt also were "Her Majesty's officers and soldiers on duty, persons attending funerals or going to and returning from worship on the Lord's Day, or farmers passing to and from their work. On the Cramahe gravelled road  all Ministers of the Gospel who obtain their support by virtue of their calling also travelled free. Apparently it became a game to beat the tolls an Act contained regulations to prevent this "Persons leaving the road to shun toll will be fined ten shillings and cost. Any person taking a horse from his carriage before passing tollgates, and afterwards adding will be fined a sum not exceeding 20 shillings".
An interesting article of furniture was located at the former Colborne Canadian National Railway station which was demolished in 1972. A desk which was in use every day on the under side of the lid they found the following notice dated August, 1926:
"This desk was once the property of Joseph Keeler, the first Postmaster of Colborne, and from its pigeon holes were distributed the letters brought into Colborne by stage coaches. It was given to the Grand Trunk Station at Colborne by Mrs. George I. Merriman, wife of George I. Merriman who, for thirty-six years was the Grand Trunk Station agent at Colborne. Mrs. Merriman is a granddaughter of Mr. Keeler. Mr. Keeler came to Colborne in the year 1797 and took up land in 1802. He was owner of all land on which the Village now stands. Therefore, at the date of this writing, the desk was in use in the Post Office considerably over one hundred years ago."  The desk was over 150 years old when it was found in 1959.

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