A mention in the Napanee Standard of April 7, 1881, led former Deseronto archivist, Ken Brown, on a detective trail to hunt down a published description of ‘Deseronto and its industries’. The article in question appeared in the journal Lumber World, published in Buffalo, New York, in 1881. This publication proved difficult to find, but eventually we established that the Hagley Library in Wilmington, Delaware, held a copy (call number: TS800.L98). This library specialises in collecting the records of American enterprise (and is based on the site of the original DuPont gunpowder factory). The library’s head of imprints, Max Moeller, was incredibly helpful and has furnished the Archives with a digital version of the article.

The article runs to seven pages and is handsomely illustrated with etchings of some of the principal industrial buildings of the town: the saw mill, sash and door factory, flour mill, cedar mill and steamboat wharf. The text is fulsome (verging on the sycophantic) in its praise of the Rathbun company. Here are a few extracts:

The original saw mill has given place to one of immense proportions; extensive machine and blacksmith shops; sash and door factories; cedar mills; flour mills; lines of steam and sailing vessels; commodious and extensive warehouses and docks have been called into being, and, so great has become the importance of Deseronto as a shipping centre, the United States government has established there a Consular Agency. [p.32]

The total number of vessels which sailed from Mill Point (Deseronto) loaded by or for the firm alone, during the season of navigation beginning March 31, 1880 and ending November 20, 1880, was 509, of which 300 cleared for United States, and 209 for Canada ports. This does not include passenger steamers. During the season of navigation it is not an unusual sight to see from fifteen to seventeen vessels loading at the Deseronto docks simultaneously. [p.35]

The firm of H. B. Rathbun & Son is too well known and stands too high in the commercial world, to require commendation at our hands, yet our acknowledgement of an appreciation of the numerous courtesies extended, upon occasions when we have visited their establishments will not be inappropriate. Mr E. W. Rathbun, upon whom has devolved, in a great measure, the direction and management of the vast interests of the firm, has repeatedly demonstrated that courteous demeanor is not incompatible with careful watchfulness and prudence in business affairs, and were we to hazard a guess as to the prime cause of the magical success which has crowned the business career of this firm, we should attribute it in a large degree to the courteous and affable manner in which everyone who has dealings with them is treated. [pp.36-37]