The history of Kettleby by J. M. Walton tells an exciting story of the beginnings of the village or hamlet, its churches and industries. Having come on the scene at a later date, 1915 to be exact, many or most of the hotels, factories etc. were gone. The flour and grist mill was still a going concern; two grocery stores, a carpenter’s shop, one Blacksmith shop and a green house were still in operation.
It’s the people that I like to remember and being born into a village of mostly retired folk I had no playmates. I believe my parents were the only young people living in its confines at that time, and certainly I was the only child until John Cull arrived to take over the blacksmith shop. Their daughter Huldah was three years younger than me and as soon as she was allowed out we became companions and life-long friends.
The mill pond was a source of continuing pleasure to us and a constant worry to our parents as we fished and swam, caught frogs and paddled the old punt someone had left there. In the winter, we skated. You could always count on skating by Christmas Day. Our kitchen was a perpetual change room. We put a big old rug on the floor and many people came in, left their boots and put on skates for the short walk across to the pond. There were blocks of ice cut there too and packed in sawdust in a building behind the store up the street, to be used in summer to keep things cool.
The depth of the pond was considered to be 15 to 20 feet at the waste gates where the miller regulated the flow of water by opening or closing the gates in the dam. On several occasions on a dare, some of us climbed down inside the gates to the bottom. It was a very risky business, I realize now, as it was very slimy and slippery. We could have been badly hurt. We were discovered by the miller (Sammy Waldock) and severely scolded and forbidden to cross the dam for some time. I should mention that at the end of the dam nearest to us there was an old gas house, a relic of the days when the village was lighted by gas. Our house never had it installed, but I remember the old fixtures in Grandpa’s house and the pipes that ran down beside the sidewalks.
The two people who stand out in my earliest memories are my grandfather, who lived on one side of our house, and Mrs. Dutcher, who lived on the other side.
I’ve been told that when grandpa was raising his own family, he was very strict, so much so that his oldest boy left home at 16 and never returned until he was a grandfather himself. My grandfather was extremely kind and indulgent. Many a candy from behind the counter of his little store came my way and lumps of brown sugar that came from the big wooden barrels.
He was always ready with a joke and started out each story with " I heared tell on a man once…" He had one short leg, having had hip disease as a young man, so he walked with a cane and a limp. I used to walk up the street with him limping exactly the same way in imitation.
My grandparents kept a cow or two which grandma milked. She used to skim cream from the pails and make butter once in a while. I was always there ready for buttermilk when the churning was done. Grandma wasn’t quite so generous a person as grandpa, but I realized when I became older that it was she who had to worry about having enough to eat. Grandpa would give away his shirt and trust everyone, especially those who no one else would trust.
Mrs. Dutcher, or Dee Tee as I caller her, was a dear old soul who, having raised 10 of her 12 children, now found her hands strangely idle. So she used to mind me while my mother sewed. As a dressmaker, mother sewed for most of the community and in the winter time when dad was working at the saw mills up north, she and I used to go several places for a week at a time making families clothing for the following season.
Mr. Dutcher took care of the cemetery and many times I went up with Mrs. D as she helped to clip the grass from around the gravestones. There used to be wild strawberries and daisies growing all over the unused portion of the grounds.
The Dutchers had lots of sorrow in their lives. I recall one of their sons and two daughters died while they lived next door to us. One of the girls left behind a baby girl of her own, which they then helped to raise. Mrs. Dutcher was a very calm person and took life as it came with remarkable composure. To me, she was another grandma.
The number of homes in the village has not grown considerably. The one between the two old churches and the two past the Anglican church and the one at the back ‘The Carters’ and of course, the old Methodist church is also a dwelling now and the house across from us, now the Blacks.
The greenhouse used to be west of the old church and was run by Martin Robinson. I believe he died about 1919. His wife carried on for a while after he died. I remember getting a box of pansies for my birthday for several years. Aggie Seymore lived with her until she married Alfred Hambleton. Aggie was a great friend of Aunt Dolly. Next door to them where Mrs. Brown lived and then Mrs. Wallas, was a character by the name of Lizzy Lloyd, a maiden lady. As I recall, she was tall and slim, and, as most ladies then, wore her skirts to the ground. She was noted for her petticoats with big pockets and it’s said that while resting by a big table in the store, the pockets would be filled with everything within reach. The storekeeper would present her with a bill occasionally, which she paid without a murmur.
The house next to Lizzy changed hands several times, but the people I remember most is the Lewis family. Their daughter Maude was about my age, so I had another friend. We were regular tomboys, climbing all the trees up and down the street and playing cowboys and Indians with visiting boys.
Sometimes mother would give us material and try to teach us to sew. Maude usually had something made to take home, but I don’t think I ever made anything worth keeping. Maude had five other sisters and one brother. Her sister Jenny did beautiful crocheting and was artistic in other ways too. Our school teacher, Lena Clapson, always had Jenny decorate the blackboards at Christmas time.
The house opposite the board walk, or ‘ampitheatre park’ was owned by Richard Burling. Uncle Dick as we called him had married Rachel Heacock, grandpa’s sister, for his first wife. By the time I knew him, he was with his third wife who was also named Rachel. He seemed to have been well off at one time and had a fancy funeral all arranged for himself in advance with grey gloves supplied for all the pallbearers, but when that was over, his poor widow had a hard time making ends meet.
Around this time, a young English girl named Winnie came to live with her. Winnie and I became great friends and kept in touch when she moved back to England. She eventually married a Canadian soldier during the war and returned to Canada to live in Alliston and we continued our friendship.
Brunswick Hall or ‘the big house’ as it was commonly referred to, was owned by J. M. Walton. It was the scene of several community activities. One I remember was a huge temperance rally. Mrs. Brodie, a widow, and her daughter Elvin lived there along with an ailing mother, brother, and later a brother-in-law. They acted as custodians. The Waltons reserved a portion of the house for themselves and came occasionally for a few days. The grounds were always beautifully kept with many flower beds. Peonies were in abundance and when my husband and I were married, J. M. offered all the flowers I needed for the decoration of the house.
Next door was the parsonage, as it was called then. Reverend Fox occupied it until I was four. Ten years later, it burned down when Reverend Stevenson lived there. A new brick home was built by Burnel Graham Sr. of Schomberg and is still used by United Church ministers today.
The house where Mrs. Black and Bethel live has greatly changed since early times. A Jim Rae occupied it in my young days. He was a bachelor. His sister Nancy lived with him until her death. My friend Huldah and I used to visit him as well as many of the other folk in the village. One sure way of getting rid of us was to feed us. I can still see Jim going down to the cellar for a jar of raspberries and giving us a dish with bread and butter.
The Waldocks lived next door to the Raes. Mr. Waldock was the miller. His first wife had died and his family was away by the time I knew him. He re-married and I remember his second wife, Rose quite well. They kept a cow and chickens and we got our milk and eggs from them for quite awhile and carried our drinking water from their pump. We didn’t have a well here until after dad died. The thing I remember most about Mr. Waldock was his wig, which he wore to church every Sunday. It didn’t fit too well and always exposed a fringe of his own hair at the back.
One summer when the pond was drained in order to repair the waste gates, Mrs. Waldock paid some of us kids to collect clams we found on the bottom. She wanted to cook them. We had never heard of anyone eating clams and thought she was really queer.
The Dutchers lived between the Waldocks and us and many an hour I spent there when Mildred and Edith Dutcher were at home.
There used to be an old barn or stable at the back of this place. I believe it was an old hotel stable. Dad had a team of horses he used to pull the water tank for his steam engine and he kept them there. I can’t remember the horses at all, but I do remember the stable coming down and the garage being built. By this time, dad had a tractor to pull the thrashing machine.
As I mentioned before, grandpa kept a small store. He had a horse and a small wagon and once or twice a week, he peddled groceries around the area. Because it was difficult for him to get up and down from the wagon, the children used to watch for him coming and open the gates knowing they would be rewarded with some candy.
When Ed Williams came back from the war and married Aunt Dolly, they took over looking after the post office. The store was on one side of the hallway and the post office was on the other. They were never far away from home, but with the two businesses they knew everyone in the community and grandpa was always ready with a story for anyone who would take the time to listen.
Sometimes in the summer, grandma would make ice cream and sell it in the store Saturday night. It’s her churning with the ‘dash churn’ I remember best, however. I also recall the butchering of pigs in the backyard and the wonderful smoked hams and sausages that resulted.
In 1919, grandma and grandpa celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. It was a gala affair, mostly arranged by my Uncle Frank. A huge tent was rented and set up on the lawn for the meal, a photographer was engaged, and a huge wedding cake was baked and decorated. Uncle John Ellsworth Heacock, who left home at 16 to live in the United States, came home with a daughter and two granddaughters. It was the only time he was home in all of his adult years. Aunt Libby (Elizabeth) came with her daughter Hazel. Aunt Libby had left home to meet and marry Frank Tilson (Uncle to Carmen Tilson). She also lived in the United States….Orin, Washington I believe. She also had a son named Wilfred. Grandma’s sister, Anne Hendry, came from Bad Axe, Michigan. This was also the only time Aunt Libby or Great Aunt Anne ever returned home to Kettleby. Hazel was not a well child and was in the hospital in Toronto for a while. She died, several years later, still quite a young girl.
Grandma and Grandpa lived to see their 62nd anniversary. A 60th celebration was held too, on a much smaller scale. I remember Gladys Chanin, a niece from Stonewall, Manitoba came down for it and I helped to serve tea in the afternoon.
I can’t remember the families up the avenue very well. I know Rank Hughey, the blacksmith was there for a while. There were only two houses then the Lepards built much later. I seem to recall the names of Benfield-Garow and Tom Greensides. They must have lived there for awhile, because Olive Greensides took me school my first day.
The house by the cemetery was occupied by Jackson Burling. Mrs. Burling was blind as I recall. I remember other families there. Marion Tatton, the Enrights, the Sweets and later, the Tilsons.
On the opposite side of the street from us, in the house later occupied by Ed and Rose Addison, lived Lou Mount and his wife Kate. I recall him bringing the mail from the rail station which was at the corner of the Sixth Lane, just across from the garage that is there now. This was called the Schomberg Line. It ran from Schomberg, across country, to Oak Ridges, where it met up with the Radial Line from Toronto. This car from Toronto ran up Yonge Street to Jackson’s Point on Lake Simcoe at one time.
Mr. Mount was usually referred to as Uncle Lou by everyone who knew him. His greeting to anyone he met was "fine day sir, fine day sir" no matter what the weather was like. His wife Kate was the community nurse and midwife to many a family in need. She had no formal training, just lots of experience. Some of her cures were worse than the disease. Aunt Dolly had a mustard plaster applied that nearly burned her up. Huge water blisters appeared. She was long time getting over the cure; the disease was of a relatively short duration. The Mounts lived there many years until after some of our family arrived.
The house next to the store was once owned by Uncle Les Wilson’s mother. I knew it as a summer home for the Tice family, then Miss Weaver, who kept bees, Jenny, Henry, and Mary Heacock for a time and several others whose names escape me. Eventually the Beatties bought the property.
The store keepers I remember were Les Mount, Frank Boadwin, Harold Murray, Ern Batchford, the Cherrys and now the Brooks. The house on the other side of the store is fairly new, built by Tom Wilson. There used to be a big old house there for many years which was used as a boarding house. I believe it was once a hotel. My first memory was of Mrs. Stephenson and Harry living there. She was Aunt Etta’s mother, Leland’s grandmother. Rankin Hughey had the blacksmith’s shop until Jack Cull and his family came. Their daughter Huldah and I became fast friends. I greatly admired Mrs. Cull and named my doll after her and her sister Mary Gertrude. When my brother Earl came along ten years after me, the same doll became known as Rosie.
The Culls were Roman Catholic, something I didn’t realize for years. I was always trying to get Huldah to come to Sunday School with me. I would stop in to see if she was coming and her mother would say she was too young, or that they were going away or some other excuse. I sometimes took her my Sunday School papers. I really worked on her. Mrs. Cull had to tell my mother not to let me bring my papers in, because Jack would get angry. I finally realized that Huldah would never be coming to Sunday School with me.
I seem to remember the Archibalds moving in after they were married, so now the village had at least three young couples. Jack Achibald was a thresher, like my dad, and while they were competitors, they were also friends and kept their machines in the same building. They sometimes even helped each other. Martha and her mother were good friends too.
Steve and Agnes Pottage, brother and sister, lived next door where Margaret and Leland Heacock lived later. Steve was a cabinet maker by trade and did some beautiful work, although by then he was getting to be quite an age. Agnes was a little round shouldered woman and was very kind, but the bad hump on her back gave mother a great deal of trouble when she tried to cut and fit a dress for her.
Across the boardwalk lived the Boadwins. I believe they farmed at one time. When I knew them, however, Mr. Boadwin was the well digger. He had an extremely loud voice; probably the result of his wife being deaf or vice-versa. If he was outside talking, he could be heard quite distinctly at the Walton farm over on the Fifth Concession (Jane Street). Mrs. Boadwin had a huge goiter and if Mrs. Pottage gave a dressmaker trouble at the back, Mrs. Boadwin gave even more at the front. She wanted all her dresses made with high necks to cover the goiter. These dresses were few and far between as Mr. Boadwin was extremely frugal or "just plain miserable" as mother used to say. I can remember him haggling over the cost of the sewing.
In a little old house on a property nearby, lived another maiden lady by the name of Carrie Baker. She didn’t seem to have any means of support except day cleaning. She helped grandma on churning day and liked to be paid in groceries. I remember her especially wanting soap. Her outstanding feature was her bottom lip which seemed to drop nearly to her chin. I had heard it was caused by her one time trade of spinning and always wetting her fingers to help separate the wool.
Next door to Carrie, lived Sarah McGill, a widow with three grandchildren making their home with her. She had the worst hacking cough I have ever heard and if she was outside, it could be heard all over the village. She used to make a number of homemade remedies for various diseases. I especially remember her sticking plasters for sores of various kinds. I believe the base was beeswax. She made it in small rolls and to use it, you held a lighted match to one end until some of it melted and dropped off onto a bit of cotton which you immediately applied to your sore. It did indeed have healing qualities. I wonder if she ever passed on her recipe? She said it was an old Indian cure.
Some other memories I have are of the many concerts in the old Temperance Hall, the school fairs in the flats, the snow banks higher than your head up the street by Mrs. Burton’s, the Dutchers gramophone and Mr. Dutcher’s favorite tune, The Wreck of the Old ’97.
There’s also the time I upset grandma’s fall leaf table: grandpa said I’d just had a bad "haxident." I remember mother telling the tale of how they had company one time who wanted to go to Toronto, so dad walked to Newmarket and bought a used Model T Ford and drove it home without any lessons, licence or anything else required. He took the guests to Toronto in it too. This same car was notorious for often losing a wheel. When they turned into the driveway, the wheel would sometimes just continue on up the hill.
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