One of the projects of the summer of 2022 at the Community Archives of Belleville and Hastings County has been the digitization of a large part of the archives’ nineteenth century newspaper collection. This includes the Deseronto newspaper, The Tribune. All our surviving issues of this fragile newspaper are now available and searchable through the Internet Archive.

Many thanks to our summer student, Zac Miller, for all his work in making this valuable resource accessible.

Front page of the Tribune newspaper from 6 December 1883

Former Deseronto archivist Ken Brown passed away on June 29th, 2019. Ken looked after the Deseronto collections from 2001 to 2007. He was a keen historian of the town and spent many hours examining the pages of the Deseronto Tribune. He coordinated the project to transcribe the obituaries of the Tribune, which are now available here for everyone to see, and to catalogue the Deseronto Archives photographic collection, now online through the Flickr Commons.

This newspaper clipping from the Napanee Beaver of June 12th, 2002 shows Ken with fellow history buff, the late Floyd Marlin, whose own collection of historical materials is now part of the Deseronto Archives. The headline refers to Floyd, but could be equally well-applied to Ken.

Newspaper article about Floyd Marlin and Ken Brown

Ken was a frequent visitor to the Deseronto Archives (always by bicycle!) after his retirement from this post, and his knowledge and willingness to share it were invaluable for his successor. Ken’s obituary is online here. Our thanks to Ken for all his work on building the Deseronto Archives collection, and our condolences to his loved ones.

On this day in 1919 the Town Council of Deseronto discussed a letter they had received from Miss Margaret S. Stoddart:

Minute about Miss Stoddart's dog


Miss Margaret S. Stoddart – stating that her dog died twenty four hours after she had paid her dog tax, and asking the Council to refund the Amount of the tax.

Moved by the Reeve, seconded by Coun. Burns that the Treasurer be instructed to return to her the Amount she paid for dog tax on her returning the tag. Carried.

Margaret Sheldon Stoddart was born in Toronto on June 8th, 1871, the daughter of two Scots: William Stoddart, a tailor, and Margaret (née Home). The family were living in Deseronto by 1891. Henry Osborne took a photograph of their house at 187 St. George Street, to the north of the Presbyterian Church in around 1895:

William Stoddart's house

The house is still there today (although the trees are a bit bigger!):

Google Streetview image of St. George Street house

In 1896 William placed an advertisement in the Deseronto Library Catalogue for his tailor’s shop on Main Street:

Advertisement for Stoddart's tailor shop

Margaret Stoddart senior died in December 1901. This photograph of William in his ‘Sons of Scotland’ regalia was taken in about 1903. He died in August 1906.
William Stoddart

At the time of the 1911 census Margaret Sheldon Stoddart was living in the St. George Street house with her brother, William (also a tailor), and his children, Bruce and Nora, who were described as ‘lodgers’. The children’s mother, Frances, had died in July 1906 in Kemptville. During the First World War Margaret acted as a chaperone in the dances put on for the airmen who were learning to fly at the local Royal Flying Corps camps.1 In 1921 William was no longer living in the Stoddart’s house and Bruce and Nora were described as ‘son’ and ‘daughter’ in relation to Margaret, perhaps suggesting that she had adopted them. Nora later married Harold McMurrich Rathbun.

Margaret Stoddart died in 1947 and was buried in Deseronto Cemetery in plot 19I. History does not however record where her dog was laid to rest!

1. C.W. Hunt Dancing in the Sky (2009) p.137

At a meeting held in the Council Chamber of Deseronto Town Hall at 8 o’clock in the evening on this day in 1918, the Council made a resolution in relation to the Kaiser. It was reported in the Napanee Beaver ten days later:

Deseronto Town Council demands trial of ex-Kaiser

Deseronto Demands Trial of Ex-Kaiser
A resolution to bring the ex-kaiser and others of his ilk to justice was unanimously passed by a standing vote of the municipal council of the corporation of the Town of Deseronto. It reads as follows:
“We, the members of the municipal council of the corporation of the Town of Deseronto, on behalf of ourselves and the citizens of Deseronto, hereby request the prime minister of Canada, Sir Robert Borden, who is to represent Canada at the meeting of the war council, to demand of that war council, on behalf of all those belonging to British and allied countries, whether military or civilians, who may have suffered through the brutalities inflicted during the course of the late war, and which brutalities were undoubtedly instigated by the kaiser and his followers, that all such who are living be brought to the bar of justice in the same manner as any other notorious criminals, to be tried and condemned by such court as the allied war council shall create or designate; and, further, that all those of the German people or their allies who may have been in any way responsible for such atrocities as have scandalized the world during the war be similarly dealt with, so that none may escape.
“And that a copy of this resolution be forwarded immediately to the premier, Sir Robert Borden.”

In the council minute book after the record of this resolution, is an additional motion:

Motion to print 1,000 copies of Kaiser resolution.JPG

Moved by Coun. Hunt, seconded by Coun. Fox, that the clerk be instructed to have 1000 copies of the above resolution printed for distribution. Carried.

Ebenezer Arthur Rixen

Ebenezer Arthur Rixen, Mayor of Deseronto 1917-1918 [2014.13 (1)]

The council members present at this meeting were the Mayor, Ebenezer Arthur Rixen; the Reeve, Thomas J. Naylor; and Councillors Thomas Fox, Milton Hunt, and William H. Richardson.

Joseph Bernard Hill signature

Joseph Bernard Hill died 100 years ago today. He was in the Canadian Field Artillery and had been promoted to the rank of corporal in October 1916 and awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field in July 1917.

Joseph Bernard Hill Military Medal citation

Military Medal citation card for Joseph Bernard Hill, courtesy of Library and Archives Canada

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty at FARBUS on May 3rd 1917. This N.C.O. was in charge of the linesmen and kept patrolling the lines despite the intense enemy shell fire and not only supervised the repairing of the lines but also carried messages from the Brigade to the other Batteries whose lines were out. The lines were continuously being broken but communications were never lost for more than a few minutes at a time. Cpl. HILL by his splendid display of courage and coolness under heavy shell fire set a magnificient [sic] example to the men in his charge.

In September 1918 he was involved in the attack on Cambrai in northern France as part of the 17th Battery of the 5th Brigade of the CFA.

The war diary of his unit notes that on September 30th one N.C.O. (non-commissioned officer) and one gunner were killed. Hill must have been the N.C.O. mentioned here. The previous page records that “at 8.00 a.m. the 17th Battery crossed the DOUAI-CAMBRAI Road and were met by a heavy M.G. [machine gun] and Whizz bang [shell] fire.” This may have been how Hill was killed.

War diary for 5th brigade CFA

Hill’s service record contains his will, in which he left all his possessions to his mother, Bernadetta.

Will of Joseph Bernard Hill

Joseph was buried in the Ontario Cemetery, Sains-les-Marquion, some 14km west of Cambrai. He is remembered on the Deseronto memorial.

Deseronto memorial

View of Deseronto, Ont. From the Air (Sergeant C.P. Devos photograph 2009.20 (68)

View of Deseronto, Ont. From the Air (Sergeant C.P. Devos photograph 2009.20 (68)

On this day in 1918 Deseronto played a small role in a historic moment: the first delivery of mail by air in Canada. The full story of Captain Brian Peck and Corporal C. W. Mathers’ flight is described in Bill Hunt’s 2009 book Dancing in the Sky. Peck and Mathers’ fundamental plan was to avoid Ontario’s Prohibition restrictions by flying to Montreal to pick up a case of whiskey so that they could celebrate a colleague’s wedding. They got permission by arranging to fly over Montreal in an aerobatic display and leaflet drop to encourage recruitment into the Royal Air Force. The Aerial League of the British Empire got involved with the plan: they were keen to demonstrate the use of aircraft to deliver mail and Peck’s trip gave them the opportunity they had been looking for.

Peck and Mathers took off from Leaside in Toronto on June 20th. They refuelled in Deseronto and landed in Montreal at the Bois Franc polo field (Montreal did not have an airfield at the time). Heavy rain prevented the aerobatic display on the 22nd June and they were unable to fly out on the 23rd because of poor visibility. On Monday the 24th, the two men, their crate of Old Mull whiskey, and a sack of 120 letters finally took off. The extra weight of the whiskey prevented them from flying more than 40 feet above the ground and they had to land at Camp Barriefield in Kingston, short of fuel. There was no aviation fuel in Kingston, so regular gasoline was used to refuel the Curtiss JN-4 aircraft. They were then able to fly the short distance to Deseronto, where the tank was drained and refilled with the correct fuel at one of the RAF camps here.

Beck and Mathers were then able to fly back to Leaside. Peck drove the mail by car to the Toronto post office, while Mathers delivered the whiskey. A plaque at  Leaside commemorates the occasion (without any mention of the whiskey!).

Canada's first air mail plaque

Image from


Every year there is a graveside ceremony in Deseronto, organized by Pat and Murray Hope of 418 Wing Belleville, to remember the airmen who died while serving at the two Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force training camps near Deseronto. Seven of the men were buried here.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of many of those deaths, including that of Lieutenant Colin Goss Coleridge, who was killed on July 23rd, 1918. Colin’s family lived in the village of Snettisham, Norfolk, England and was one of 45 Snettisham men who died during the First World War. The local Parish Council has created the Snettisham Remembers website as a memorial to each of these men.

This weekend three Snettisham residents were able to be in Deseronto. The village’s vicar, The Reverend Veronica Wilson; Norfolk County Councillor Stuart Dark; and Parish Council Chair, Rosalind Pugh came to lay a wreath of Norfolk lavender and rosemary on Coleridge’s grave as part of this year’s service.

Rosalind Pugh laying a Norfolk wreath on Colin Goss Coleridge’s grave

The Archives became involved with this event because we hold a brass plaque remembering Lieutenant Coleridge:

This became part of the Archives’ collection in 2002 when St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Deseronto was deconsecrated. It had been attached to a credence table and was donated to the church by John Coleridge of the Manor House, Snettisham in memory of his son. The table remained in the church when the plaque was sent to the Archives.

As part of the commemorative events this weekend, the plaque and the table were both donated to the National Air Force Museum of Canada. Here are the three visitors from Snettisham, reuniting the two items on Friday:

Photo courtesy of Paul Robertson

The table and plaque will now form part of the collection of the National Air Force Museum of Canada, a permanent reminder of the close connections between the air forces of the United Kingdom and Canada.

James Alex Kitchen signature

On this day in 1918 James Alexander Kitchen, a printer, signed up in Detroit, Michigan. Kitchen was born in Deseronto on June 25th, 1898, the son of Sidney J. Kitchen and Annie (née Breault).

James A. Kitchen (picture courtesy of John Kitchen)

Kitchen joined the 1st Depot Battalion of the 1st Central Ontario Regiment with the regimental number 2029628. He was five feet nine inches tall, with a medium complexion, brown eyes and brown hair. His enlistment was reported on in the Deseronto Post newspaper, for which he had previously worked, in the July 18th, 1918 edition:

Deseronto Post 1918 Jul 18 James Kitchen's enlistment

eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Sidney J. Kitchen, Deseronto, who is now with the 1st Depot Battalion, 1st C.O.R, Pte. Kitchen is well known in Deseronto and surrounding districts and was at one time an employee of The Deseronto Post before going to Detroit, Mich,. from where he enlisted last 25th of May, training till lately at Niagara Camp.

Kitchen’s service record shows that he arrived in England on the SS Corsican on August 8th, 1918. After training, he was transferred to France on November 6th, 1918. He was back in England in January 1919 and left England for Canada on the SS Empress of Britain in February, arriving on February 25th. He was demobilized on March 17th in Kingston.

James married Detroit native Marie Matilda Brandenburg in Deseronto on June 25th, 1919 (his birthday). In 1921 the couple were living in Dundas Street, Trenton, and James was working as a brakeman on the railway. James’s nephew, John, tells us that he died on August 10th, 1972 in Belleville.


Adrian Storm Rathbun signature

On this day in 1918 Adrian Storm Rathbun, a railway clerk for the Southern Pacific Company, enlisted via the British Canadian Recruiting Mission, presumably in San Francisco, where he was living at the time, at 1105 Bush Street. He was born in Deseronto on February 11th, 1887, the son of Edward Wilkes Rathbun and Bunella (née McMurrich).

The photograph above was taken on April 11th, 1909 on the veranda of the Rathbun family’s home on Main Street, Deseronto, and shows Adrian on the left, with Betty Caldwell, John Gzowski and Marjorie Braithwaite (on the right). In 1909 Adrian graduated from McGill University. John Gzowski graduated from the University of Toronto in 1910 and enlisted on November 13th, 1914, ending the war with the rank of Captain.

Adrian joined the 68th Battery of the Canadian Field Artillery with the regimental number 2557478. He was five foot six and three quarter inches tall, with a fair complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. His service record shows that he arrived in England on the SS Tunisian on April 19th, 1918 and crossed the Channel to France in October. On December 28th he joined the 3rd Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery. He was back in England in April and left for Canada on the SS Aquitania on May 19th, 1919. When he arrived back in Halifax he was treated for scabies at the Cogswell Street Military Hospital. He was demobilized in Toronto on June 3rd, 1919.

In 1921 Rathbun was living in Burnaby Street, Vancouver. He married Robina Elizabeth Morrison on March 30th, 1922 in New Westminster. In 1930 the couple were living at 918 South Beacon Street in Los Angeles, where Adrian was working as an office clerk in an oil plant, according to the US census (taken on April 14th, 1930). He died three months later, aged 43, on June 30th, 1930 in Los Angeles.


Harold Powless signature
On this day in 1918 Harold Powless was conscripted in Brantford. He was born in January 1897 in Deseronto, the son of Isaac Powless, a Mohawk, and Myrtle (née Thompson). On November 22nd, 1917 he married Leah Myrtle Culbertson in Midland, Ontario.

Powless joined the 2nd Depot Battalion of the 2nd Central Ontario Regiment with the regimental number 3310637. He was five feet seven and a quarter inches tall, with a sandy complexion, grey eyes and red hair. His service record shows that he was discharged on February 14th as “erroneously ordered to report”. Indigenous men had been exempted from conscription by an Order in Council of January 17th, 1918.

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