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

Quinte Scanner banner

Archives volunteer Dyan Bonter has been working for three years on a project to transcribe obituary notices from The Quinte Scanner, the newspaper published in Deseronto between 1968 and 1982. This project is now complete, and all the obituaries are now available on this site.

Obituaries can be useful sources for making family history links, for identifying friend and family connections, or as a way of remembering former residents of the town. We hope that they will prove useful – and thank you, Dyan, for all your hard work!

The Archives has recently been in contact with Silvy Embury of Lethbridge, who sent us some photographs of an iron which belonged to her grandmother, Helen Boyle.

2015.01(1) left view of iron

On the back of the iron is an information panel which records details of the iron’s manufacture, including the fact that it was made in Deseronto by the Redi-Heat Electric Company Ltd.

2015.01(5) iron information panel

There is not a lot of information in the Archives about Redi-Heat, but there is an advertisement for the company in the May 28th, 1948 issue of the Deseronto Post newspaper:

1948 May 28 Redi-heat ad











DESERONTO                  TELEPHONE 76

The February 4th, 1948 edition of the Post (held here on microfilm) notes that the company was originally based in Belleville, from 1921, and had been in Deseronto since 1932. The firm was based in the building which originally housed the head office of the Rathbun Company, on the east side of Mill Street, south of Water Street. In the Rathbun era, the building looked like this:


We don’t have any twentieth century photographs of this building. A newspaper report from 1967 notes that Redi-Heat had been bought out by Dravo, although there is no date given for this. If you have any more information about Redi-Heat or the building it was based in, please leave a comment below!

The north-south streets at the eastern end of Deseronto are numbered, like those in many North American towns. We have First Street, Second Street, Fourth Street and Fifth Street, but Third Street is nowhere to be seen.

Numbered streets on map of Deseronto from Bing

Well, that’s actually not quite true: you can see it in the Archives.

Here is a detail of a plan of the town made in about 1895:

Third StreetYou can see Third Street in the middle of the map and there’s also a Sixth Street on the far left. As you can see, Third Street was never a very long road, stretching only from Main Street down to the flour mill on Water Street.

On this day in 1896 (the Victoria Day holiday), most of this side of town went up in flames, destroying docks and many buildings. Newspapers across North America reported on the fire. This clipping is from the May 27th 1896 edition of the Daily Public Ledger of Maysville, Kentucky:

Daily Public Ledger report on Deseronto fire of 25 May 1896

Fire destroyed two-thirds of the east end of the town of Deseronto, Ont., and nearly a hundred families are homeless. The Rathbun Co.’s big flour mill, storehouse and elevator, the shingle and lumber docks, the Roman Catholic church and about one hundred dwelling houses were burned. Most of the houses were occupied by workmen. The total loss will exceed $300,000.

The original Roman Catholic Church of St. Vincent de Paul stood on the north side of Dundas Street in this part of Deseronto. The church had been built in 1883 at a cost of over $4,000. Herbert A. Osborne took this photograph of it in around 1895:

St. Vincent de Paul church, c.1895

When the church was rebuilt, it was located further west; still on the north side of Dundas Street but away from the more industrial areas of the town. It was completed in November 1896.

Unlike the church, it appears that Third Street was never rebuilt after the fire. By the time the map below was made for the Canadian Northern Ontario Railway in 1912, the road  had vanished.

Detail of 1912 map of the Canadian Northern Ontario Railway

A neat example of history affecting geography!

August 4th 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of Canada’s entry into the First World War. Organizations and communities around the world are marking this occasion by examining the effect the war had on their local area. We’ll be doing this in Deseronto, too.

In the Archives we started by researching the 34 names of the First World War casualties named on the town’s war memorial. In the process we found out some interesting facts about the monument itself.


War memorial in Deseronto, April 2014

The memorial, which stands on the South side of Main Street, opposite Rathbun Park, was unveiled in a ceremony on Labour Day (September 3rd) 1923. The event was attended by many of the townspeople, as the photograph below (one of several taken on the day) shows. A piece of land forty feet square was purchased by the Town of Deseronto from the Rathbun Company for the monument’s site, at a cost of $100.

Unveiling ceremony for the Deseronto war memorial

The memorial itself was donated to the town by a former Deseronto resident named Thomas Carson Brown. Thomas was born on 21 April 1870, the son of Thomas Brown and Emily Varty and one of 10 children. His mother died in childbirth in Lennox and Addington County (where the family had a farm) when Thomas was seven years old and by 1881 the family had moved to Mill Point (Deseronto). In the 1891 census, when he was 21, Thomas’s trade is given as bricklayer. His father died just six weeks after the census was taken.

It was through the bricklaying trade that Thomas C. Brown would go on to earn his fortune in New York State, where his firm constructed a number of public buildings, including the Plattsburgh Normal School, pictured here, and a large section of the Clinton Correctional Facility at Dannemora. Deseronto’s newspaper, The Tribune, reported Brown’s marriage in August 1899 to Hattie B. Humphrey, noting that “the groom is well and favourably known in Deseronto, where he passed his boyhood days. He is now engaged in the contracting business in Little Falls. He is a brother of Mrs. Jas. Sexsmith.” Thomas’s sister, Jane Brown, married James Sexsmith in Deseronto in January 1884. She died of pneumonia in 1910.

Plattsburgh Normal School

Brown went on to serve as a Senator in the New York Senate between 1925 and 1930, where he took a keen interest in prison reform issues. He clearly never forgot his home town of Deseronto, as the generous gift of a war memorial demonstrates. It is not just a war memorial, however, as Thomas C. Brown ensured that his parents and five of his sisters (Jane, Ida, Etta, Emma and Annie) were also commemorated on the structure, as you can see in this detail.

Detail of war memorial

Thomas himself died on May 24th, 1952 at his home at 1174 Lowell Road, Schenectady, New York: you can read his obituary in the Schenectady Gazette (PDF made available through the Fulton History site).

Over the next four years we will be marking the 100th anniversaries of local people’s involvement in the First World War here on the blog. There are a lot of stories to be told and we are always keen to hear new ones, so if you have any local World War One information which you would like to share with the world, please let us know!

April 27th, 1881, local item about the cemetery in the Deseronto Tribune

Correspondence with a family historian this week has shed some light on this cryptic comment in the ‘Local items’ section of Deseronto’s newspaper, The Tribune, in the April 27th, 1888 edition.

The decision to build a cemetery in the town had been taken earlier that year: on Monday, February 6th, 1888 a meeting was held in Deseronto’s Town Hall to discuss the establishment of a Cemetery Company under the terms of the Cemeteries Act. It was agreed that the Deseronto Cemetery Company should be formed, with a capital of $4,500. Within a week a prospectus had been issued and shares were being sold at $100 each.

The Tribune  reported the outcome of the meeting in the following way:

The prospect of the early opening of a cemetery in this vicinity is everywhere hailed with satisfaction. The people of Deseronto and neighbourhood have in the past been compelled to bury their dead here, there and everywhere, a state of affairs in no way creditable to their public spirit. We are glad to know that so many are taking shares in the company. The Tribune, February 10th, 1888

Forty acres of land to the east of Deseronto were purchased by the Rathbuns for the cemetery in April 1888. “Before long, it would be a ‘pleasure’ for anyone to be buried in the Cemetery”, reported The Tribune, chirpily, on April 6th.

A. J. Hopkins, a landscape architect from Oswego, New York, was hired to design a layout for the site in early May of the same year. The choice of an Oswego landscape architect reflected the industrial interests of the Rathbuns in that town and the fact that there were no landscape architects in Canada at that time.  By the summer of 1888 the cemetery was in use.

As the cemetery was not yet open in April 1888, the comment in The Tribune about a birth there seems odd, but our correspondent was able to share another newspaper clipping with us (probably from the Napanee Express) which gave some more information:

Newspaper birth announcement of William Langton

Edwin R. Langton was the son of an English grave digger called William Langton and was born in Hanwell, Middlesex (just to the west of London) in 1852. He came to Canada in 1883 and married Martha Penney in Sillery, Quebec, on October 26th, 1886. On their marriage record, Langton is described as a gardener from Deseronto and a widower.1 In 1891 the family are listed on the census in Deseronto, with Edwin as a gardener.

The cemetery originally had a cottage just inside the gates, which was occupied by the cemetery caretaker. Perhaps the Langtons were in occupation of this building when William was born and the new cemetery was taking shape around it. Edwin, with his gardening experience, may even have been the first caretaker of the cemetery grounds.

By 1901 the Langtons had moved back to Sillery with their five children. The eldest (the one born in the cemetery) was called William. It does seem appropriate that a child born in a cemetery should be named after a grave digger!

1 It turns out that this wasn’t true: my correspondent informs me that Langton’s first wife, Ruth (née Winkworth), died in England in 1894 (read more in his article about this family [PDF]). This is the second bigamist we’ve come across in Deseronto.

Naylor's Theatre in 2009

It’s hard to believe these days, but Naylor’s Theatre in Deseronto was once on a theatrical circuit which included far more famous venues such as Washington’s National Theatre, Philadelphia’s Orpheum Theater and New York’s Broadway.

This advertisement from The Deseronto Post of November 24, 1920, is for a touring bedroom farce called Twin Beds, starring actress Mabelle Estelle (who was originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania).

Twin Beds

Twin Beds was written by Salisbury Field and Margaret Mayo and was produced by Selwyn & Company, owners of the Selwyn Theater at 229 West 42nd Street in New York (now the American Airlines Theater). Edgar Selwyn (1875-1944), who had founded the company, was also a co-founder of Goldwyn Pictures. Margaret Mayo was his wife. The play was based on a novel and was also turned into a movie four times.

The show was obviously a popular one: it appears seven times in the timeline of plays at the National Theatre between 1915 and 1925 and had run on Broadway for a year before that. It returned to Washington D.C. in the May of 1921, where it was favourably reviewed in the Washington press. We can find all this out from the Library of Congress, which  has an excellent online newspaper service called Chronicling America. This allows searching across a range of digitized American newspapers from 1836 to 1922. You can also download images of the newspapers which interest you. The picture below is from The Washington Times of May 1, 1921 and shows Mabelle Estelle. You can click on the image to go to the page of the newspaper on the Chronicling America site.

Mabelle Estelle in the Washington Times

And, from the same site, here is the listing from The Washington Herald for Twin Beds:

Twin Beds advert in the Washington Herald

Naylor’s Theatre is now silent and empty, unlike its Washington and New York counterparts. It’s difficult now to imagine a time when stars of the American stage would have been staying in Deseronto on a regular basis!

The Archives here in Deseronto has a rather patchy selection of local newspapers for the twentieth century. There’s a good run of The Quinte Scanner from 1968 to 1982 but apart from that we really only have lucky survivals of The Deseronto Post and a few editions of the Daily Intelligencer, Belleville’s newspaper. Finding out what newspaper we have for a particular year or decade involved consulting two different lists, the contents of which are not easy to absorb.

We’ve now combined the information from those lists into a single online resource. It’s a Google Calendar into which each newspaper edition has been entered as an event. If you have a Google account, you can view the newspaper calendar, which we’ve made public. From the calendar page, click on the small Add to Google Calendar symbol at the bottom right. This will add the newspaper calendar to your Google calendar page.

In order to see what we have for a particular year, you need to install the ‘Year View’ feature for your calendar (in Google Calendar, go to the ‘Settings’ page, then ‘Labs’ to do this). Once you have the Year View, you can use it to get to a particular year, then click on any month to see if we hold any local papers for that particular time period. The picture below is of the month of October 1925, where we have two issues of the Deseronto Post and three of the Daily Intelligencer. Click on the image for a closer look.

Newspapers for October 1925

This is just an experiment, really, but it’s already proving useful in making it much quicker to answer questions about whether we have any newspapers for a particular date.

This festive cartoon came in today in a file of tourism-related flyers and correspondence from Deseronto’s Town Hall. It dates from late 1993 and is possibly from one of the Napanee newspapers. It’s rather puzzling though: does anyone know what had been celebrated a day earlier in Deseronto that year, to trigger this?

UPDATE: Halloween fell on a Sunday in 1993, prompting discussion about celebrating it on the Saturday. Thanks to Gail and Dana for solving that mystery!

Yesterday I was involved in one of the less exciting tasks that archive work offers: noting down the dates of all of the editions of one of the newspaper collections that is held in Deseronto Archives. The newspaper in question was the last one to be regularly published in the town. It started life in 1968 as The Deseronto and Skyway Scanner (named after the newly-opened Skyway Bridge), but became The Quinte Scanner under new ownership in 1971.

Even the mundane job of noting down which issues the archives holds had occasional moments of interest.

Here is the nameplate of the Volume 1, No. 34 edition:

The Quinte Scanner, Volume 1, No. 34

Note the date.

Here is the following week’s paper:

The Quinte Scanner, Volume 1, Number 35

In all, there were three of these newspapers which carried the wrong date. This is probably something that is unlikely to happen in a well-staffed national or regional newspaper, but it is something that is worth bearing in mind if you are doing research with smaller local papers like this one: the date on the front cover might not be authoritative!