1890s


Detail of quilt made by the Steady Gleaners

Detail of quilt made by the Steady Gleaners

The photograph shows a detail of a large signature quilt (sometimes known as friendship quilts) which was made by a group called the Steady Gleaners, members of the Presbyterian Church of the Redeemer in Deseronto. The quilt bears the date of its creation: 1894. The Steady Gleaners seem to have been a fund-raising group, perhaps raising money for missionary activities. This quilt may have been made for such a purpose.

Photographs of the top and bottom halves of the quilt have been put into our Flickr collection and the names of all the women whose names are stitched onto it can be seen there. The president of the society, Mrs Robert John [Fanny Gertrude] Craig, was the wife of the Presbyterian minister of the church and the daughter of Hugo Burghardt Rathbun (1812-1886) and his wife Louise (née Storm). The signature of her daughter, Gertrude, also appears on the quilt. Mrs Craig would have been 41 when this quilt was made; her daughter was 15.

Last month’s description of Deseronto as one of Canada’s leading industrial towns in the late nineteenth century is reinforced by the Canadian Patents database at Library and Archives Canada. This database has been created by digitising microfilms of patents for the years 1869 to 1894. A search for ‘Deseronto’ reveals a list of 23 patents that were filed from the town in those 25 years; a period covering its busiest industrial times.

These include:

  • 1884
    • APPARATUS FOR PRODUCING GAS FROM SAW DUST, submitted by George Walker
    • MACHINE FOR GUMMING AND SHARPENING CIRCULAR SAWS, submitted by James H. Totman
  • 1885
    • SNOW PLOUGH [for steam locomotives], submitted by John M. Poitras
  • 1886
    • COUNTERBALANCE FOR LINK MOTION OF STEAM ENGINES, submitted by James B. Stewart
  • 1889
    • PROCESS FOR MANUFACTURING POROUS EARTHENWARE BUILDING MATERIAL, submitted by William Lenderoth

This last is one of nine patents filed in this period by Lenderoth and Edward Wilkes Rathbun in connection with the Rathbun Company’s brick and terra cotta works at the eastern end of Deseronto. The firm began producing terra cotta in 1887 and the factory continued to generate terra cotta (both structural and ornamental) and bricks until it was destroyed by fire in 1898. The picture below shows the works from the west in the early 1890s. The photograph was taken from Dundas Street, with First Street visible in the foreground.


Examples of the terra cotta produced by the works can still be seen on many of Deseronto’s buildings.

The March/April 2008 issue of Deseronto News and Views contained a commentary on the dangerous state of the town’s sidewalks during the snowy winter and a plea for the Town Council to act. This photograph is of a letter written in December 1898 on the same subject which was published in The Tribune, the town’s newspaper at the time.
So not a new problem, then…

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

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