The Early Settlement of Baltimore Ontario

The village of Baltimore was first surveyed in 1796, its attraction was the large stream, the Baltimore Creek flowing through the valley that would provide unlimited water power for future mills. It was joined in the south by Solomon’s Creek and other streams to eventually become Factory Creek through the town of Cobourg and into Lake Ontario. The village soon became one of four reserves in the Township of Hamilton where white pine was reserved by the Royal Navy for its ship masts. In 1802, David McCarty purchased lot 7, concession 3 in Hamilton Township from Nathan Hollenbeck acting for the first grantee, Lydia Ferris. Baltimore Creek runs through the north section of this lot and south through a Clergy reserve on lot 8.

David McCarty in 1813 sold his brother John one hundred acres in the south half of lot 7. According to Walter Riddell in “Historical Sketches of the Township (1897), John McCarty always said he was the father and founder of Baltimore, the oldest village in Hamilton Township. McCarty’s widow Catherine married John McDougal, a United Empire Loyalist and they took up a grant in Hamilton Township around 1800 along with her brother, the Rev David Lent. Lent Cemetery nearby was named for her brother and his family. John McCarty later purchased property on lot 17, concession 1, he was one of the founders of the first Methodist Chapels in the township. When John left Baltimore he remained active in Methodist affairs and he served on the building committee of the Upper Canada Academy in Cobourg, which later became Vitoria College (see Victoria – College, Asylum and Hospital. Later, John with Ebenezer Perry, later an Ontario Senator built a school staffed by Methodist teachers for Indian children at Rice Lake and he died in 1877 at the age of 89.

Before 1818, the only road running north to Baltimore from Cobourg would have followed the present day Highway #45. This road ended at the 2nd concession where a road built earlier (now Dale Road) ran west. The steep valley at the east end of Dale forced early travellers to take alternate routes on their journey eastward, this is still true even today. The present day Gully Road or the first part of Community Centre Road would have to be used. The Grand Trunk Road (Hwy #45) originally went across the Baltimore Creek, up the Harwood Road, passed in front of Ball’s Mill up McDougall Road turning east on Clapperton Rd. and taking Hickerson to continue north into Haldimand Township. Sometime after 1826 roads were finally surveyed north to Rice Lake.

The first settlers on lot 8, concession 3 were John and James Field Fisher, they leased 200 acres in 1819. Here they built a saw mill and a wooden dwelling (historian Wilheminia Peters, Cobourg World 1896). The mill was located on Baltimore Creek below the present day bridge at Hwy #45 and Harwood Rd. James Fisher (sr) emigrated from Edinburg, Scotland and had several children, among them were James, John and Henry. James received a patent in 1802 for lot 17, concession 2 in Hamilton Township. In 1819 James Field Fisher and his brother John built a saw mill on Baltimore Creek and left the farm operation to their brother Henry who had married John McCarty’ half-sister Elizabeth McDougall. When James Field Fisher sold the farm property in 1832, Henry moved to Coldsprings and bought lot 6, concession 5.

John and James Fisher left for Detroit, Michigan in 1835 with their aged father and were considered as pioneers there. The saw mill was sold to J. Richard. Deeds after that date record the Fisher’s Mill settlement “being known as Valley Mill’s as grist mills, carding mills and other businesses using water power were established along Baltimore Creek. Austin Burke Carpenter, an American came to Prince Edward County where he married Catherine Sprague and they established a hotel in Cobourg with Catherines brother Foster Sprague. Carpenter purchased the former Fisher saw mill from J. Richard. Just above his saw mill Carpenter sold five acres in 1842 to Lambert Stevens and gave him the right to divert the creek from “it’s proper channel to run machinery.” Stevens later had to divert the creek back so that it didn’t interfere with Carpenter’s Mill and dam below. William G. McDougall in 1846 bought Lambert Stevens carding mill and transformed it into a flouring mill. McDougal had lived in Hamilton Township for many years and operated a saw and grist mill on lot 9 lower down the creek. The larger flouring mill became well known locally and McDougall built a storey and a half brick house above his mill, the first brickhouse in the township. In 1868 he established a saw mill in Harwood with partner John Ludgate. The Harwood saw mill failed and McDougall’s flour mill and brick house were put up for auction in 1880. John Ball purchased the properties in 1884 and sold flour under the name “The Belle of Baltimore.” The Ball family enlarged the brick house to two stories. Three generations of the Ball family operated the business until 1971. The mill was designated a historic building in 1988 (see Ball’s Mill Lime Kiln Trail for more on the mill.

Original stone sluice and current wooden sluice from diversion

The first merchant in Baltimore was Gideon Phillips, a post office and a second store were established in 1845 and was operated by Robert Harstone on the north-west corner of Cockburn Street (Dale Road). Baltimore was home to two taverns, one was owned by Adam Cockburn located across from Harstone’s store on the south west corner of Dale and Hwy #45, and no longer exists. The second, a brick tavern was owned by Barnabus Jaynes on the corner of Gully Rd. and Hwy #45 and was preserved as the Pickering Hotel.

By 1878 the village was at its peak of activity. The Cobourg to Rice Lake Railroad was expected to build a spur line to the village never happened and the railroad went broke. In 1919, a devastating fire destroyed many homes and businesses on the main street. A few homes were re-built, the two general stores, a blacksmith shop, a garage and a woolen mill were the only businesses operating in Baltimore during the depression years. The village never regained its former prosperity.

Regards, Ranger


  1. Kathy Bazley · · Reply

    I always enjoy reading your Walking Tours. I’ve lived in Baltimore for almost 20 years now and its sad to see county road 45 turning into almost a major highway with so many people going to the reserve for the cheap products they can buy there. The roadway off county road 45 to get to the pond you mention is now very overgrown with a warning posted to watch out for ticks. The pond is also getting overgrown and its sad to see that as well. But, I was told that the 45 used to run just behind our house and was eventually straightened out to its present day form. One of the “old guys” who frequented the Scenery Drive Restaurant worked on the roads in this area and said he used to clean up the 45 back in the 1950’s. I sure wouldn’t be driving back there in the dark at night! Anyway, thanks for the tour, I enjoyed it. Kathy B.


    1. Kathy, thanks for the comment. We appreciated our readers memories and thoughts, glad you enjoy the tour.


  2. Rob Lean · · Reply

    Great to read about Baltimore! My mother lived for a time in the Pickering Hotel owned by her father Arnold James (A.J.) Richards (1862-1942) who was one of the general store merchants in the village from about 1910 into the 20s. Also, my Uncle Fred Ball (1885-1970) was owner of Ball’s Mill from 1913-1941.

    I have fallen behind in reading your write-ups but hope to catch up soon.


    1. Rob, thanks for the comment, so great to hear from you. All your info is new to me. As a fellow historian I appreciate you sharing this with me. Keep reading and you will find other posts that may interest you. Thanks again Rob.


  3. Anonymous · · Reply

    Hi, I am researching Robert Harstone, and was glad to find information here.


    1. Anonymous, thanks for the comment, glad we help you in your research.


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