Former Industrial sites The area around Mill and Water Streets in Deseronto was the industrial heart of the town in the late 1800s. The starting point for the town's industrial future was the construction of a wharf here by John Culbertson, grandson of Deserontyon (Captain John), the Mohawk leader who led his people to the Bay of Quinte. Culbertson had obtained a grant from the Crown for his grandfather's lands in 1836 and planned to build a village there, with the name of Deserontia. However, the settlement initially became known as 'Culbertson's Wharf'. The advantages of the site of Culbertson's Wharf were recognized by Amos Scott Rathbun (1810-1886), an American lumber merchant who bought some land here in the 1840s in order to establish a purchasing agency. Having a Canadian business would protect the US firm if the Canadian government went ahead with an proposed embargo on the export of timber by non-Canadian companies. In 1848 the A. S. Rathbun Company built a sawmill on the property. 1849 A. S. Rathbun sold the mill to his younger brother, Hugo Burghardt Rathbun (1812-1886). Hugo partnered with Thomas Y. How and L. E. Carpenter in order to buy the business, but in its early years he remained in Auburn, New York. In the Canada West census of 1851, the steam-powered mill was employing 14 people and had an output of 50 horse power. It produced 2 million board feet of lumber a year. Amos and his wife Mary are both listed in the Tyendinaga Township census for that year, so it would seem that the elder brother was still actively involved in the business at that point. At this time, the name of the settlement had changed again and the village was known as Mill Point, reflecting the importance of the sawmill to the local area. Other occupations listed in the 1851 census for the village are blacksmiths, sawyers, inn keeper, store keepers, merchants and clerks, showing that the sawmill had already created a number of jobs in addition to the 14 in the mill itself. The 1854 Canadian American Reciprocity Treaty lifted the American 21% import tariff on Canadian raw materials, which improved the situation for lumber firms such as Hugo Rathbun's. He moved his family to Mill Point in 1855, bought out his business partners and changed the name of the firm to H. B. Rathbun and Company. By 1861 Hugo's health was failing and he turned to his eldest surviving son, Edward Wilkes Rathbun (1842-1903) for assistance. In 1863 the business was renamed H. B. Rathbun and Son. E. W. Rathbun was the driving force behind the expansion of the Rathbun Company's interests in Deseronto and beyond. He ran the firm for 40 years and during that time the town saw enormous growth in the number of industries it held and in its population. E. W. Rathbun bought or leased the rights to cut timber in large tracts of forests close to the four main rivers in the region (Napanee, Salmon, Moira and Trent) in order to supply the mill in Deseronto. He employed engineers to build dams which regulated the flow of water in the rivers to ensure that logs could continue to be sent to the mill throughout the summer, instead of only in the spring. E. W. Rathbun built a new mill in 1871, to the east of the first. The Cedar Mill manufactured fence post, cedar shingles and railway ties and employed 145 people. The original sawmill burned down in 1872 and was replaced with a stone-built structure known as the 'Big Mill', capable of producing up to 50 million board-feet of lumber each year. Rathbun was determined to create a "chain of industries to prolong lumbering, and to utilize the waste of forest and mills". A sash and door mill was built to the north of the main sawmill. This factory produced doors, windows and a wide range of other finished wooden goods. A catalogue of these materials is preserved in the Deseronto Archives. The flour mill, which was established in 1879, was the first commercially-operated roller mill in Canada. This building was destroyed by the fire which swept the east end of the town on May 25, 1896. E. W. Rathbun built a shipyard at Mill Point to maintain the tugboats on which his business depended. The yard was later expanded to build lake-going vessels for the company and for sale. The Deseronto Navigation Company was incorporated in 1880 and their steamships were fuelled by waste from the sawmills. The Deseronto Gas Works, established in 1883, produced gas from sawdust for lighting in the town, while sawdust was also used in the manufacture of terra cotta in a factory at the eastern edge of Deseronto. At time of 1891 census, 3,338 people were living in Deseronto. This number had risen to 3,550 in 1901. As timber reserves were depleted, the lumber industry began to decline and people moved away. By 1911 there were only 2,027 people living in the town and the Rathbun Company’s industries were closing down. It was the end of an era.

(Click on the image above for a closer look.)

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Former Industrial sites
The area around Mill and Water Streets in Deseronto was the industrial heart of the town in the late 1800s. The starting point for the town’s industrial future was the construction of a wharf here by John Culbertson, grandson of Deserontyon (Captain John), the Mohawk leader who led his people to the Bay of Quinte. Culbertson had obtained a grant from the Crown for his grandfather’s lands in 1836 and planned to build a village there, with the name of Deserontia. However, the settlement initially became known as ‘Culbertson’s Wharf’.

The advantages of the site of Culbertson’s Wharf were recognized by Amos Scott Rathbun (1810-1886), an American lumber merchant who bought some land here in the 1840s in order to establish a purchasing agency. Having a Canadian business would protect the US firm if the Canadian government went ahead with a proposed embargo on the export of timber by non-Canadian companies. In 1848 the A. S. Rathbun Company built a sawmill on the property. In 1849 A. S. Rathbun sold the mill to his younger brother, Hugo Burghardt Rathbun (1812-1886). Hugo partnered with Thomas Y. How and L. E. Carpenter in order to buy the business, but in its early years he remained in Auburn, New York.

In the Canada West census of 1851, the steam-powered mill was employing 14 people and had an output of 50 horse power. It produced 2 million board feet of lumber a year. Amos and his wife Mary are both listed in the Tyendinaga Township census for that year, so it would seem that the elder brother was still actively involved in the business at that point. At this time, the name of the settlement had changed again and the village was known as Mill Point, reflecting the importance of the sawmill to the local area. Other occupations listed in the 1851 census for the village are blacksmiths, sawyers, inn keeper, store keepers, merchants and clerks, showing that the sawmill had already created a number of jobs in addition to the 14 in the mill itself.

The 1854 Canadian American Reciprocity Treaty lifted the American 21% import tariff on Canadian raw materials, which improved the situation for lumber firms such as Hugo Rathbun’s. He moved his family to Mill Point in 1855, bought out his business partners and changed the name of the firm to H. B. Rathbun and Company. By 1861 Hugo’s health was failing and he turned to his eldest surviving son, Edward Wilkes Rathbun (1842-1903) for assistance. In 1863 the business was renamed H. B. Rathbun and Son.

E. W. Rathbun was the driving force behind the expansion of the Rathbun Company’s interests in Deseronto and beyond. He ran the firm for 40 years and during that time the town saw enormous growth in the number of industries it held and in its population. E. W. Rathbun bought or leased the rights to cut timber in large tracts of forests close to the four main rivers in the region (Napanee, Salmon, Moira and Trent) in order to supply the mill in Deseronto. He employed engineers to build dams which regulated the flow of water in the rivers to ensure that logs could continue to be sent to the mill throughout the summer, instead of only in the spring.

E. W. Rathbun built a new mill in 1871, to the east of the first. The Cedar Mill manufactured fence post, cedar shingles and railway ties and employed 145 people. The original sawmill burned down in 1872 and was replaced with a stone-built structure known as the ‘Big Mill’, capable of producing up to 50 million board-feet of lumber each year. Rathbun was determined to create a “chain of industries to prolong lumbering, and to utilize the waste of forest and mills”. A sash and door mill was built to the north of the main sawmill. This factory produced doors, windows and a wide range of other finished wooden goods. A catalogue of these materials is preserved in the Deseronto Archives.

The flour mill, which was established in 1879, was the first commercially-operated roller mill in Canada. This building was destroyed by the fire which swept the east end of the town on May 25, 1896.

E. W. Rathbun built a shipyard at Mill Point to maintain the tugboats on which his business depended. The yard was later expanded to build lake-going vessels for the company and for sale. The Deseronto Navigation Company was incorporated in 1880 and their steamships were fuelled by waste from the sawmills. The Deseronto Gas Works, established in 1883, produced gas from sawdust for lighting in the town, while sawdust was also used in the manufacture of terra cotta in a factory at the eastern edge of Deseronto.

At time of 1891 census, 3,338 people were living in Deseronto. This number had risen to 3,550 in 1901. As timber reserves were depleted, the lumber industry began to decline and people moved away. By 1911 there were only 2,027 people living in the town and the Rathbun Company’s industries were closing down. It was the end of an era.