Founding of Deseronto After the end of the American Revolution, displaced Loyalists were given tracts of land along the St. Lawrence River and on the north side of Lake Ontario. Among the Loyalists were Mohawk people who had fought on the British side in the war. Captain John Deserontyon (1740s-1811) was a Mohawk leader who had lost his lands at Fort Hunter in the Mohawk Valley, (now in New York State), after fighting with Sir John Johnson and British forces against the Americans. The Fort Hunter Mohawks were compensated for their loss with the purchase of a tract of land from the Mississauga people. It was located on the north side of the Bay of Quinte and was 12 miles by 13 miles (around 90,000 acres) in extent. The grant was made official (at Deserontyon’s insistence) on April 1, 1793, in a document known as the Simcoe Deed. Deserontyon and twenty Mohawk families took possession of their new lands on May 22, 1784, after spending five years in exile in Lachine, Quebec. Deserontyon himself took possession of 800 acres on the waterfront at the eastern edge of the territory. He died in 1811 and his lands were inherited by his grandson, John Culbertson. Culbertson’s mother was one of Deserontyon’s daughters and his father was a Scotsman. In 1836 John Culbertson obtained a grant from the Crown for the lands on which his grandfather had settled. His will (made in 1847) shows that he planned to build a village on the site, with the name of Deserontia. He oversaw the construction of a dock and the settlement initially became known as 'Culbertson's Wharf'. The advantages of the site of Culbertson's Wharf were recognised by Amos Scott Rathbun (1810-1886), an American lumber merchant who bought some land there 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 embargo on the export of timber by non-Canadian companies. In 1848 the A. S. Rathbun Company built a sawmill on the property: this was the beginning of a period of rapid growth for the settlement. From this small beginning, the Rathbuns were to become millionaire lumber barons. In 1871 the area was known as Mill Point, indicating the importance of the Rathbun Company’s sawmill. In this year, a County of Hastings by-law incorporated Mill Point as a village. The name changed again in 1881, when, in honour of the original leader of the Mohawks, the village was dubbed Deseronto. Steady growth of Deseronto continued as the Rathbun Company expanded and diversified its operations in the 1860s under the leadership of Edward Wilkes Rathbun (1842-1903). By 1881, the population had reached 1,670 and grew rapidly. The population doubled between 1881 and 1891. On January 1, 1889, the village was incorporated as a town. In the same year, the Hastings County Directory described Deseronto in the following terms: The appearance of the town to a stranger is most pleasing, as all its streets are broad and well kept, the roadways are solid and even, and all streets have plank sidewalks. The streets are lighted by gas. The main street, running east and west, is where the principal retail trade is done, and but one block away are the mammoth manufacturing establishments of the Rathbun Company. The side streets are principally occupied by private dwellings, many of which are of beautiful architectural design. Hastings County Directory, 1889 E. W. Rathbun was the Mayor of Deseronto from 1890 until his death in 1903, as well as the head of the Rathbun Company. Deseronto was, effectively, a company town. The Rathbun family were closely involved in many aspects of the town’s affairs: they granted land for churches, built parks, loaned money to their employees so that they could build homes, ran the telephone system, provided street lighting, railways and even a band. The Hastings County Directory of 1889 also observed that all the industries of the town were “dependent on the original industry of saw-milling”. As the Rathbun Company’s timber limits became used up, so the town’s industries began to decline. By the time of the First World War, the company’s operations had effectively ceased and the population had also started to fall. The opening of the two pilot training facilities at Camps Rathbun and Mohawk brought a brief resurgence of population and activity to the area during the First World War. Since then, other industries have come and gone in Deseronto, but gone are the days of the Rathbun Company, when one family and its lumber-based interests dominated the town.

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

Advertisements

Founding of Deseronto
After the end of the American Revolution, displaced Loyalists were given tracts of land along the St. Lawrence River and on the north side of Lake Ontario. Among the Loyalists were Mohawk people who had fought on the British side in the war. Captain John Deserontyon (1740s-1811) was a Mohawk leader who had lost his lands at Fort Hunter in the Mohawk Valley, (now in New York State), after fighting with Sir John Johnson and British forces against the Americans.

The Fort Hunter Mohawks were compensated for their loss with the purchase of a tract of land from the Mississauga people. It was located on the north side of the Bay of Quinte and was 12 miles by 13 miles (around 90,000 acres) in extent. The grant was made official (at Deserontyon’s insistence) on April 1, 1793, in a document known as the Simcoe Deed.
Deserontyon and twenty Mohawk families took possession of their new lands on May 22, 1784, after spending five years in exile in Lachine, Quebec. Deserontyon himself took possession of 800 acres on the waterfront at the eastern edge of the territory. He died in 1811 and his lands were inherited by his grandson, John Culbertson. Culbertson’s mother was one of Deserontyon’s daughters and his father was a Scotsman.
In 1836 John Culbertson obtained a grant from the Crown for the lands on which his grandfather had settled. His will (made in 1847) shows that he planned to build a village on the site, with the name of Deserontia. He oversaw the construction of a dock and the settlement initially became known as ‘Culbertson’s Wharf’.
The advantages of the site of Culbertson’s Wharf were recognised by Amos Scott Rathbun (1810-1886), an American lumber merchant who bought some land there 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 embargo on the export of timber by non-Canadian companies. In 1848 the A. S. Rathbun Company built a sawmill on the property: this was the beginning of a period of rapid growth for the settlement. From this small beginning, the Rathbuns were to become millionaire lumber barons.
In 1871 the area was known as Mill Point, indicating the importance of the Rathbun Company’s sawmill. In this year, a County of Hastings by-law incorporated Mill Point as a village. The name changed again in 1881, when, in honour of the original leader of the Mohawks, the village was dubbed Deseronto.
Steady growth of Deseronto continued as the Rathbun Company expanded and diversified its operations in the 1860s under the leadership of Edward Wilkes Rathbun (1842-1903). By 1881, the population had reached 1,670 and grew rapidly. The population doubled between 1881 and 1891.
On January 1, 1889, the village was incorporated as a town. In the same year, the Hastings County Directory described Deseronto in the following terms:

The appearance of the town to a stranger is most pleasing, as all its streets are broad and well kept, the roadways are solid and even, and all streets have plank sidewalks. The streets are lighted by gas. The main street, running east and west, is where the principal retail trade is done, and but one block away are the mammoth manufacturing establishments of the Rathbun Company. The side streets are principally occupied by private dwellings, many of which are of beautiful architectural design.

Hastings County Directory, 1889

E. W. Rathbun was the Mayor of Deseronto from 1890 until his death in 1903, as well as the head of the Rathbun Company. Deseronto was, effectively, a company town. The Rathbun family were closely involved in many aspects of the town’s affairs: they granted land for churches, built parks, loaned money to their employees so that they could build homes, ran the telephone system, provided street lighting, railways and even a band.
The Hastings County Directory of 1889 also observed that all the industries of the town were “dependent on the original industry of saw-milling”. As the Rathbun Company’s timber limits became used up, so the town’s industries began to decline. By the time of the First World War, the company’s operations had effectively ceased and the population had also started to fall. The opening of the two pilot training facilities at Camps Rathbun and Mohawk brought a brief resurgence of population and activity to the area during the First World War.

Since then, other industries have come and gone in Deseronto, but gone are the days of the Rathbun Company, when one family and its lumber-based interests dominated the town.