The Francis Beamish Story


This post originally started out as a story of the historically designated Beamish House Restaurant & Pub on John Street in Port Hope Ontario.   Because its information was rather limited and the storey of its namesake Francis Beamish, an early pioneer of Port Hope just kept getting more interesting the more research I delved into, the two now make a complete story of the man and his home.

From the Beamish Restaurant & Pub web site: “The original Beamish House was purchased in 1876 by James Cochrane who proceeded to move it to the south/west corner of John and Augusta Streets, the present day location of the Port Hope Waterworks Commission. James Cochrane was the original owner of the Queen’s Hotel, later named the Walton Hotel. This house was for many years owned by the Steen and later by the Mosley family. This unique building dates back to when the Port Hope, Lindsay & Beaverton railway tracks were located at the rear of the property. It seems that the building has had several former uses…a one-time cold storage warehouse, a dairy, an auto dealership, an appliance store and a pet food store as well as an antique shop.” In 1985 the house was on the move again. This two and a half story frame building, an early example of the Greek revival architectural style so common in Port Hope and was designated under the Ontario Heritage Act in 1986 and is now the home of the Beamish House Restaurant & Pub located at 27 John Street, Port Hope. In 1987, an addition was added to the original house, for the kitchen and entry from the pub to the dinning rooms.

The massive move of the Beamish House was accomplished by Gordon James (Stonewall) Jackson owner of the Crystal Construction & House Moving Company. Mr. Jackson was also known locally for the move of the Memorial Band Shell in the Town Park.


Francis Beamish arrived in Upper Canada from Skibbereen, County Cork, Ireland as one of the nine children of William (a Sadler & Storekeeper) and Nancy who settled in Cavan Township in 1817.   The children were William (1808), Catherine (1809), John (1811), George (1813), Francis (1816), Frances (Fanny, circa 1818-1831), Samuel (1823), Ann (1825) and Sarah (circa 1837-1840). After attending the Church of England School, he studied medicine with his brother William in the early 1830’s. With no medical schools in Upper Canada, they studied in New York at Fairfield College and Bellevue Hospital.   William became a doctor of medicine in Waterloo, Kingston Township. In 1839 Francis quit his practise and moved to Port Hope and started a general store where he was a dealer in dry goods, groceries, crockery and hardware of which he carried on until 1854.

In the same year, he purchased a water-power from the Smith estate, a ‘water-power’ is the right to water from a source (the Ganaraska River) to drive the machinery and turbine etc. that must be possessed to build a mill. The Smith estate mentioned above was that of Elias Smith one of Port Hope’s first settlers. Smith with Jonathan Walton were granted land in 1797 on the condition that they would build mills on the creek, now the Ganaraska River. They owned the water rights of the river for one mile upstream.  Beamish erected a large flouring mill, a 3 ½ storey building, the 1st storey stone the other two frame and a year later a plaster mill. From 1868-1877 the mills were operated by Joseph Goodwin King. These factories were located on Cavan Street at the foot of Bedford Street near the site where the abandoned Nicholson File factory still sits. The original Smith home can be seen at 168 King Street South at the lakeshore.

As a member of Town Council for four years and as Mayor for one term, Beamish was involved with the visit of Prince Arthur, later the Duke of Connaught when he visited Port Hope. Mr. Beamish was also a trustee of the Methodist Church located at the corner of Brown and South Streets. Early in his political career, he contested the Conservative seat for East Durham but was not successful. In his early life, he married Eliza Jane, the eldest daughter of Major George Elliott, a local district representative in the parliament of Upper Canada. They had nine children before Eliza died ten days after the birth of their youngest child. Francis never re-married.  In 1882 he retired to Manitoba where he became a pioneer of the Alva district.

During his illustrious career, Francis built or purchased eight sawmills in Hope Township and in Lindsay and Lakefield and he had lumber yards in Rochester and in Syracuse York. In the early 1860’s, he convinced some Americans into coming to Port Hope. Being the shrewd businessman, on their behalf he erected a three storey building at Garden Hill which they used as a hat factory. This mill was later destroyed by fire and was rebuilt as a lumber and wooden shingle mill.     (See post – Garden Hill, Ontario. Grist Mill.) A quote from a local business paper, “F.W. Beamish, merchant, miller and manufacturer of Land Plaster and Water Lime on Cavan Street. The business established by the father of the present proprietor in 1853, the son assuming control in 1876. The mill is a large four story building, completely appointed in every respect, its annual output being 20,000 barrels per annum. Mr. Beamish also has a large Cooper’s Shop in which he manufactures all the barrels which he uses.”


In 1851, Beamish was a member of the first Wharf & Harbor Board which was established to improve the current small harbor. This plan was to greatly enlarge the harbor…the incentive being a proposed rail road from Port Hope north to Lindsay & Beaverton to tap the growing lumber trade. At the harbor, squared logs were formed into rafts and towed to the St. Lawrence for shipment overseas to Britain.  At this time Beamish became a director of the Port Hope, Lindsay & Beaverton Railroad soon after called the Midland Railroad and was also an original shareholder of the Montreal Telegraph Company which had a local office at the corner of Walton & Queen Streets, Alven Reese operator. Around this time Captain Francis Beamish was a member of the First Battalion of the Durham Regiment Militia with a company of 63 men head quartered in Port Hope.

Beamish was well noted for building the first steamboat which sailed the waters north of Lakefield Ontario and he was involved in the Merchant Marine of Lake Ontario where he owned six schooners. In 1871, Beamish the master shipbuilder from Port Hope was contracted to build a special sixty- foot long paddle-wheeler with a nineteen horse power engine at Young’s Point. The “Colonel Strickland” was built for a man of the same name, a square timber manufacturer Roland Strickland of Lakefield. This ship was soon after re-named the ‘Chippewa.’ Beamish was also involved in early town fire protection, in 1886 Beamish was paid by the new Port Hope Water Works to pump water from the river through a four inch main installed from the Beamish Mill to the William Craig & Sons Morocco Factory & Tannery. Mr. Craig was the mayor at this time.

Regards, Ranger.


  1. Kevin McAvoy · · Reply

    Francis Beamish was certainly a busy man. 9 kids too!
    Interesting to read how he made rafts of the lumber then dismantled them for shipment to England.
    Thanks for your article. Ever thought of submitting your jaunts to local newspapers?


    1. Kevin, glad you enjoyed the Beamish story, have never given any thought to becoming a newspaper columnist. Having too much fun with this web site.


  2. Edward Stone · · Reply

    Ranger – I am a descendent of a John Sweatman Beamish, who was son of a William Beamish. Could the John you list above be John Sweatman? What is your info source on the Beamish family. I found lots in Ireland, but not much in Port Hope/Coburg. I know they came from Ireland and I believe as Protestants, but cannot get back to a name for William’s father.
    Great article by the way, the best info I have so far.
    Ted Stone, 2nd great grandson to JS Beamish, 3rd to William
    I plan a visit some day and will have to stop by the Beamish House Restaurant & Pub


    1. Edward, thanks for the interesting comment. In all my research on the Beamish name in Port Hope I have never seen the Sweatman name mentioned any where. You might try the Port Hope Archives, 17 Mill Street, North, Port Hope, Ontario. L1A 1G5. If there is any information to be found, it will be here. Good luck on your search.


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