Castleton’s Purdy Village

Castleton Ontario is a small village big on history.  From its founding father Samuel Purdy’s historic gristmill, an insight into W. J. Tait, an early pioneer’s move from a log cabin to his present day home and it’s many historic buildings make it an interesting stroll any day.

Joseph A. Keeler is considered the founder of Colborne and Castleton villages.  Once named Piper’s Corners because of the creek running through the village, a later name Centerville was chosen but because of confusion with the nearby village of Centreton the name became Castleton.  The hamlet of Castleton is located in the Township of Cramahe, Northumberland County and once had a stage coach operation between Colborne and Norwood.  According to the Provinces Ontario Gazetter and Directory, the village was once home to several carpenters, W. H. Andrews, William Griffiths, Benjamin Trusdell and Henry Pomeroy with blacksmiths Samuel Armstrong, H. Ingersoll and William Nichol.  Local general merchants, the Newman Company, Richard Newman, E. H. Black, W. H. Brown, C. Cole, H. P. Gould with a clothier C. P. Brown, a tailor R. A. Cole; a medical doctor C. M. Gould and shoemakers Hiram Coleman and Edward Robinson and wagon makers-Samuel McDonald and J. Pettibone.  One time hotel keepers, S. Moore and A. W. Simmonds of the Temperance Hotel, the Oriental (Union) Hotel, Timothey S. Giroux.  Grist and sawmills, A. T. Dorland and Chester Lapp and the Castleton Cheese Factory.

Some notable buildings in the village were the Castleton Continuation School which once was a school for elementary and secondary school students and when closed, it became the public library.  It was located at the current cenotaph site.  In 1943 the library was moved to Mr. Andrew Wolfraim’s Oriental Hotel, giving the village a central library location and later was moved to the town hall.  The Oriental Hotel 1777 Percy Street was built by Timothy S. Giroux back in 1890 and was once known by several names such as the Catleton Hotel and the Union Temperance Hall.  According to its historical designation, this was the only hotel in Castleton at the time, its Country Italianate style building originally contained eight rooms for hotel guests on the second floor.  The ground floor still retains the original wainscotting while the second floor still retains the original wainscotting, staircase, railing and baseboard.  The west front room was once a doctors office and for some years the home of the CIBC bank.  The former Castleton Public School S.S. #22 was built in 1870 and was later replaced by a larger school on Spring Street.  Today the building is a private residence.

The Castleton General Store, 1768 Percy Street.  What can be said of this wonderful old country store… seems plenty.  On a quest for pictures for this post we decided we had to see the interior and meet the store proprietor.  It was like walking into an 1850’s general store with some modern updates.  The owner greeted us like old friends.  We were treated to a short history of the building and allowed to wander freely about the store and photograph its amazing inventory, the ‘time worn’ floor boards and the many original old Castleton historic photographs that hang on the walls.  The store was built in 1865 by G. W. Pinnock, listed in 1865 Gazetteer as a general merchant.  The store was later operated by the Newman family in 1890,a former Morganston merchant under the Newman name until 1976 when Mr. Newman’s granddaughter Marjorie and her husband David Dingwall sold it.  The first telephone office in the area was located here.  Thirsty…the store is an LCBO outlet, feel the need for ice cream, soft drink or a snack its all here.  The store is still operating today and is a plus for the area.

The following is a history of a local Castleton pioneer family:  in 1800, Joseph Forsyth purchased Lot 31, Concession 8.  In 1901, William Tait purchased 90 acres of this land from George Rutherford near the hamlet of Castleton.  The property included a small log cabin.  In 1906 William married Jennie Hannah and by 1913 they started to build the home that still exists on the property, their first two children were born in the old house.  W. D. Bailey from Dartford was the carpenter who constructed the home.  The brick was brought from Colborne and Hastings in horse drawn wagons, on one day there were 17 teams of horses drawing bricks.  Some of the lumber was sawn and planed in Castleton by Wm. Prout, Escar Hill was paid $75 for bricking the house.  A few prices for materials in 1913:  Steel for the roof, $89.75 (Three sides of the house roof is original from 1913), the north side steel was replaced in 1978, this one side was over $200.  Nails three to four inches long were 3 cents/lb; paint 50 cents/lb; paint 50 cents/quart; oil for paint, $1/gallon; wallpaper, 50 cents/roll; hinges, 15-20 cents/pair; locks 15 cents a piece; newel post, $1; banister, $4.  18 full sized doors, $61.38 and 1000 feet maple flooring $38.  (The photograph, below is the Oriental Hotel now a private residence).

The Tait house has been wired for electricity (1984) for about fifty years.  In 1958 the cellar floor was cemented, before this there was only a dirt floor.  Around 1969, the pressure system and bathroom were added.  In 1867, new cupboards were put in the pantry and it was turned into a kitchenette.  In 1970, a new well was dug north of the house with a depth of 101 feet.  It is a good well as it is used for the house and the cattle.   In 1771 a furnace was installed taking the place of a wood stove.  In 1976 a new cement stoop was built at the front of the house and a roof put over it.  Aluminum windows were put on all windows the same year.  There was once a large shed attached to the home and part of it still exists today.  In 1969 about thirty feet was removed from the east end and the rest converted to a two car garage.  The family lived in this shed in 1913 while a brick house was constructed.  The farm was once named Chestnut Lane.  The last chestnut tree blew down about twenty years ago (1964) during a severe summer storm.  It took several hours every Spring to clean up the nuts and shells.  In 1916 William John Tait was born in the new house and lived in the house his father built in 1913.  The Tait family raised three sons, Morris, Ron and Paul here.   (Mr. W. J. Tait, August 22nd, 1984).  The Tait home is still in the family today.

The original Keeler Mill on Piper Creek was thought to have been a lumber mill from 1795 and it was destroyed by fire, the current mill mill was built around 1820.  In 1870 Samuel Purdy started the Purdy Milling Company.  The original flour mill operated until to 1900 at which time  it was converted to a feed mill which the Purdy family ran until 1948.  After several owners over the years, in 2011, the twenty acre property was purchased by Mitchel and Candace Cox.  The old Gothic (1870) style mill house, gardens and the old barn were completely restored.  The nearly two century old ‘diamond in the rough’ mill, after massive renovations and repairs had a bright future indeed.

An update with new information on a previous post by the 2 Old Guys Walking.  In September 2015 Mitchel Cox a co-owner (with Candace Cox) welcomed two complete strangers, the Ranger and the Bushwhacker whom suddenly appeared on his driveway one sunny Autumn day for an extensive tour of the Purdy Grist Mill located at the corner of Percy and Mill Street on Piper Creek.  A lot  has changed over the years.  Sadly, the future Arts and Heritage Centre to benefit the village and Northumberland County was lost by a quarter acre (former road allowance) property dispute.  The good news was that the Cox’s prevailed in the case.  More sad news, by 2019 it was too late!  Mitchel and Candace had given up the dream, sold the property and moved out of the county, a great loss for the community and  Northumberland County.  The mill house and property have recently been sold and the future plans are unknown at this time.    See post:  Purdy Gristmill, Castleton, Ontario.

Regards,   Ranger.

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