1870s


If you missed the history talk on the nineteenth century development of Deseronto this weekend, there’s a chance to catch it again on YouTube:

Due to a technical hitch on the day, the visuals weren’t available, but this version includes the slides!

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One of the most prominent Mohawks associated with Deseronto was Dr Oronhyatekha (1841-1907), originally from the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford. He studied at the University of Oxford for a while and trained to become a doctor at the University of Toronto in 1867. He became involved in the Independent Order of Foresters and successfully transformed the finances of the organization. Oronhyatekha married Ellen Hill, a Mohawk from Tyendinaga Reserve. They had a house in Tyendinaga and the doctor also built properties on Foresters’ Island, which is situated in the Bay of Quinte, opposite Deseronto. These included ‘The Wigwam’, his elaborate summer residence; a hotel, and pleasure grounds. The postcard below shows the orphanage on the Island which Oronhyatekha constructed for the Foresters’ Order, and which operated from 1906 to 1907.

Imperial Order of Foresters' orphanage

Imperial Order of Foresters’ orphanage

[Postcard loaned for scanning by R.N. Goodfellow]

Oronhyatekha’s fame overshadows history’s awareness of his Mohawk colleague, Kenwendeshon, who was born in Tyendinaga on April 8th, 1855,  the son of Cornelius Maracle and Nancy Hill (a great-granddaughter of Deserontoyon). We have recently been in contact with a descendant of Kenwendeshon, who has been gathering information about his ancestor from a variety of sources, including the Kanhiote Library and the Legacy Center of Drexel University College of Medicine. He has kindly agreed to let us share the information he has obtained, to allow us cast some more light on this man, the first of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte to graduate from a university.

Kenwendeshon (also known as John C. Maracle) trained as a physician at the Eclectic Medical College of Pennsylvania and American University of Philadelphia (which has an intriguing history of its own), graduating in  1878. One of the items in the possession of Kenwendeshon’s descendant is a 1953 letter from the London Public Library which refers to a diary entry about an incident in 1874, when Kenwendeshon helped to turn the tide of a smallpox epidemic at the Moravian Indian mission at Fairfield (Moraviantown). The date is interesting, as he would only have been 18 at the time, and presumably unqualified: perhaps his association with Oronhyatekha began before he went to Philadelphia. Oronhyatekha had moved from Tyendinaga to London to begin a new practice in 1874, so may well have met the Maracles when he had been working in this area.

UPDATE, 25 May: Professor Michelle A. Hamilton of the University of Western Ontario has informed us that the epidemic was actually in 1879 and that Kenwendeshon left his practice in Syracuse, New York when Oronhyatekha asked for his assistance. Professor Hamilton also provided us with links to a file of digitized correspondence with the Indian Branch of the Department of the Interior held at Library and Archives Canada which details the response to the epidemic. Here is an example of the correspondence: a request from the Chief of the Moravian Indians to allow Dr Oronhyatekha to establish a temporary hospital “to isolate our small pox cases we have had four deaths six other cases local physicians refuse to come on the reserve”.

Telegram from Chief Stonefish, 21 May 1879

Telegram from Chief Stonefish, 21 May, 1879

A report from Oronhyatekha in this correspondence explains the circumstances of Kenwendeshon’s appointment:

…I have also employed a young physician who was formerly a student in my office & who himself has had the small pox to proceed to the reserve and be in constant attendance and to personally supervise the disinfecting of the clothing and houses of those Indians who have had the small pox.

[Professor Hamilton is currently co-writing a biography of Dr. Oronhyatekha with Keith Jamieson. This is going to be published by Dundurn Press in 2014.]

On November 20th, 1879 Kenwendeshon married Julia Hill Thompson in London and the couple had two children: Lillian, born in London in November 1880, and John Albert (Bert), born in Roscommon, Michigan, in August 1882. A note written in 1953 by Bert (reproduced below), suggests that Kenwendeshon worked with Oronhyatekha in London and Stratford before moving to Roscommon.

Note by Bert Maracle about Dr. Kenwendeshon

Note by Bert Maracle about Dr. Kenwendeshon

According to this note, Julia died in Roscommon when Bert was 14 months old (late 1884). We have not been able to track down a death record for her, but the two children were subsequently adopted into two different families, 400 kilometers apart. Lillian went to live with her mother’s two unmarried older sisters, Caroline and Georgina, and her grandmother, Henrietta Thompson, who lived in Queen’s Avenue, London, Ontario. Her brother, Bert, went back to Tyendinaga to live with his aunt, Susan in the household of his grandfather, Cornelius.

Kenwendeshon appears to have continued to working as a doctor  in Michigan: in Roscommon and, later, in Beaverton. He died in Beaverton on September 22, 1899 at the age of 44 and was buried at Christ Church in Tyendinaga. His mentor, Oronhyatekha, died eight years later.

In the days when logs were floated down rivers to be processed, it was important for the lumber companies to reliably identify whose logs were whose. The Timber Marking Act was passed in 1870 and required logging firms in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick to register a unique identifying mark and then to stamp the cut trees with that symbol. Between 1870 and 1990, some 2,200 timber marks were registered.1 Failure to register and use a timber mark incurred a fine of $50, while wrongly applying a mark to someone else’s logs was also an offence, with a fine of up to $100.

Rathbun Company timber mark stamping hammer

This week, the archives heard from Peter Haughton of Bristol, Quebec, who has come into possession of a timber mark stamping hammer with a Deseronto connection. The hammer’s mark (a six-pointed star) was registered by Deseronto’s H. B. Rathbun & Son on July 18, 1870. Mr Haughton has been kind enough to share photographs of the hammer and also of the relevant page of The Lumberman’s Timber Mark Guide, which lists all the marks that the lumber companies had registered.

Timber marks registered in July 1870

The page shows that the Rathbun Company had registered four different marks in 1870: perhaps a reflection of the scale of the timber limits that were being exploited by this firm. By 1890 The New York Times described the Rathbun Company as “the most valuable lumber manufacturing concern in Canada”.2 It also (slightly less accurately) located Deseronto “a few miles east of Toronto”.

1The Timber Marking Act is likely to be repealed, as logs are no longer transported down rivers in this way. A consultation on the proposal to repeal the Act is available from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.
2The New York Times, November 4, 1890 ‘A big syndicate deal

The earliest minutes for the town council of Deseronto (in the days when it was known as Mill Point) show the names of the Reeve and four town councillors. One of the names is that of Florence Donoghue, which was intriguing, as it seemed highly unlikely that a woman could have been a councillor in 1872. The mystery was soon cleared up, as later minutes in the same volume referred to this councillor as “Mr. Donoghue”.

A check on the 1901 census shows Florence Donoghue as a male who was born on 28 January 1832. Directories of the time show Donoghue and Bro. as dry goods merchants on the south side of Main Street, at its junction with Prince Street. Donoghue and his partner, James Oliver, were still in business in 1911, when Donoghue was 79 years of age. The shop would have been one of those in the picture below:


Florence, it transpires, was fairly common as a boy’s name in Ireland in the late nineteenth century. In the 1881 census of Canada there were 64 Florences whose place of birth was Ireland. 24 of those were men. Florence Donoghue was born in Ontario, but (as his name suggests) he is listed as being of Irish descent.

Two old maps of Deseronto have surfaced in the last few weeks. One is a photocopy of an 1875 plan of Mill Point (as Deseronto was known at the time). The image below shows the lumber mill, workshops, the steam boat wharf and the post office of the day (click on the image for a closer look). At that time, Main Street was also known by its alternative name of Front Road.

Mill pond, Mill Point, 1875

Around 20 years later, the area around the original mill had changed considerably. The detail below is from a plan of the southern part of Deseronto, made at the height of the industrial era of the town in the late 1800s. Here, the western side of Mill Street is taken up with a sash and door factory. The wharves have expanded greatly and railways form elaborate patterns around the whole site.

Deseronto Mill Pond area, c.1895

The ‘dry kilns’ on this plan are now occupied by the Deseronto Flea Market, but otherwise these buildings have all gone and the area is now a centre for recreation, rather than industry.

Centennial Park
Photo by Dana Valentyne