Elizabethville Ontario Ghost Mills

Elizabethville is a small village that is usually thought of in terms that if you blink while driving through the area on County Road #9 you could easily miss it, that is because most of the village is south on County Road #65. Located on the Little Ganaraska River in the northwest corner of Hope Township (Port Hope, Ontario) in Northumberland County, formerly Durham County. The village was established between 1830 -1840 by pioneer Francis Tamblyn who arrived from Cornwall, England in 1830. Soon after three families of relatives arrived, they were Thomas Oak, John Barkwell and a family by the name of Hall. A later newcomer, John McMurtry and his wife Elizabeth arrived from Ireland. A post office was established in 1853 and the village was named Elizabethville in honour of the first post master John McMurtry’s wife Elizabeth.

By this time, McMurtry built and operated a grist and saw mill, he owned a distillery and one of the village’s three hotels. The grist mill was a large frame structure which operated with an open flume, a 16 foot high water wheel with open buckets and reportedly operated for over one hundred years. It is said that in a field near the mill is an old cellar that was used to make whiskey. The mill was purchased by a Mr. Young and operated as a flour mill for some time. Later owners were Clarke, Steinburg and later by Arthur Farrow who ran if for 12 years. Farrow installed a turbine and replaced the old grindstone for grinding wheat to a plate grinder for chop and used the building as a machine shop.

In November 1916 this mill ownership changed hands for the last time. It was purchased by Cecil Mercer and was operated with the help of his two sons until his death in 1952. In 1962, Roly Scott bought the old mill and dismantled the building for its timber and lumber which he used to build a house near the village of Bethany. The old mill site and mill pond dam can be seen from Elizabeth Street in the village.

John McMurtry owned a saw mill built by Arthur Parsons a short distance down the creek to the south of the grist mill as well as a brickyard and a distillery. (No pictures available, private property). Thomas Tamblyn operated a carriage and wagon shop and Elias Palmer ran a blacksmith shop. In the late 1850’s Elizabethville had three taverns, owned respectively by John McMurtry, John Barkwell and John Marshall. John Barkwell is also listed in Lovell’s Directory of 1856 as a shoemaker and grocer. For some time Elias Palmer’s younger brother Julius ran a foundry and blacksmith shop from the former McMurtry distillery.

In 1850, John Barkwell petitioned the township council to build the first schoolhouse. This log school was destroyed by fire in the winter of 1866 and was soon replaced by a stone structure. Of the one hundred and eight schools in Durham County (now Northumberland County) in 1876, this was the only one built of stone. This school was in use until May, 1958 when it was destroyed by fire. The pupils of the school from Oak Hill and Elizabethville were now bused to Osaca and Beech Hill until the North Hope School in Garden Hill was built in 1961.

The Elizabethville Loyal Orange Lodge was established around 1900. First located at Oak Hill, it was moved west of the village by the creek. By 1927 it was moved north of the village where it was used for Lodge meetings, elections and dances until 1959 when it was sold and later demolished.

The first frame church in Elizabethville was a Wesleyan Methodist. The second and present church was built in 1856. It seems the trustees, Francis Tamblyn, John Barkwell Sr. and Thomas McBirney would not allow strong drink to be used for raising the building so it was not until the third day after they were told men could be brought up from Hope Chapel in Canton that the church was raised. Both church yards were cemeteries but as there were no stones it is unknown how many were buried there.

In 1900 the Good Templers installed a basement under the church and a furnace was installed. A Women’s Institute was started in 1911. A melodian organ was acquired for the church in 1912 and the building was wired for hydro in 1939. An electronic organ was dedicated in 1953 and a memorial window was installed to commemorate the 100th anniversary in June 1956. The last regular service in the church was held June 29, 1969. The building today is a private residence.

A search of an 1857 Directory showed the following names in Elizabethville: Rev. W.O. Clarke, (Church of England), John Goheen, a carpenter, Thomas Tamblyn a wagon maker, J. R. Whiting, (Wesleyan Rev.), John Barkwell a shoemaker and grocer, B. Palmer a blacksmith and John McMurtry a postmaster, councillor, J.P. and mill owner. By 1913, the post office as closed and rural mail delivery began. The first driver was William Horner who was killed at a railway crossing east of Port Hope in 1959. Some of the local store owners over the years were William Cross, Charles Allin, Richard McMurray, F. G. Blanchard and H. C. McCloud who added cold storage lockers at the store.

Some well- known names associated with Elizabethville include Cecil Mercer, Liberal, M.P.P.(Durham), Dr. W. E. Smith a medical missionary to China, Wellington Pickup a judge of the Supreme Court of Canada and Dr. Alexander Carruthers Beatty the founder of the Beatty Telephone System.

Elizabethville was originally established as a small stop-over village at the intersection of the Kendall Road with Decker Hollow Road, now closed and the Decker Hollow village has vanished. Very little of the original Elizabethville is left and very little of its history was recorded.

Regards, Ranger

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