Built on Faith and Fortitude

A Brief History of Hope Township 

Hope Township was the eastern-most township along the lakeshore in the former Durham County.  It was an early area of settlement in south central Ontario and was an important port at an early date.

The brief history of this township has been sold out for many years, but is now being re-published as a Second Revised Edition.  Following is some information about the township that you may find interesting...... 

Early History of Hope Township and Port Hope

The history of the town which for more than half a century has borne the name of Port Hope extends over a period of about ninety years.  A trading post flourished there at least as long ago as 1778, at which time the site was occupied by a small Indian village. The name of the village, which consisted of a number of wigwams inhabited by Mississauga Indians, was Cochingomink. The first white man who left an enduring monument of his presence there was one, Peter SMITH, a trader who dwelt in a log hut on the bank of the creek which empties into Lake Ontario at this point.  The hut stood on the east side of the creek, about two hundred yards from the latter's mouth, and disappeared before the advent of the present century.   Peter SMITH in his day achieved some fame throughout this region as a hunter and trapper, but his ostensible calling was that of a fur trader.  He enjoyed an enviable reputation among the Indians for truthfulness and fair dealing, and was resorted to by them from far distant points.   For some time the Indians of the neighborhood would sell their furs to no one else along the entire north shore of the lake, and consequently he enjoyed a monopoly of the trade.   The creek, which flowed past his door,  was named after him, and the village itself came in process of time to be called, Smith's Creek..

The date of Peter SMITH's arrival at Cochingomink cannot definitely be ascertained, but he was succeeded about 1790 by a man named HERCHIMER, who took possession of the hut and carried on the fur trade established by his predecessor. Neither of these traders, however, can in strictness be called permanent settlers. The first white man who took up his abode on the site of Port Hope, with a view to permanent residence there, was a Mr. Myndert HARRIS, a U.E.Loyalist, who removed thither from Port Royal (now called Annapolis), in Nova Scotia, in the year 1793.   He made the journey from Nova Scotia to Upper Canada through the State of New York, and upon his arrival at Newark (Niagara) he was entertained for some days by Governor Simcoe, who had not then removed to Little York.  By the Governor's advice, Mr. HARRIS determined to settle at Smith's Creek, whither he was dispatched in a gunboat commanded by Capt. Jonathan WALTON, a gentleman whose name is familiar to all old residents of Port Hope, and whose surname is perpetuated in the designation of the principal street of the place.  The boat reached its destination on the 8th day of June and Mr. HARRIS and his family at once disembarked, not without certain misgivings as to the manner of their reception by the Indians.  These misgivings proved to be not altogether fanciful. The village then contained about 200 Indians and only one white man - Mr. HERCHIMER already mentioned.  The former regarded the fresh arrivals as "Yankee intruders" and were by no means disposed to welcome them with open arms. It required all the eloquence of HERCHIMER and Capt. WALTON to convince the Indians that the emigrants were not Yankees, but loyal subjects of the Great Father -- The King of England. The assurances of those gentlemen finally prevailed and the newcomers were permitted to settle in the village  without molestation. Before the setting in of winter, several other families arrived from Nova Scotia and elsewhere, and the smoke of half a dozen log cabins mingled with the curling wreaths which ascended from the wigwams of the Mississaugas.  The aborigines were upon the whole not unfriendly and the whites set themselves diligently to work to clear the land. The latter accommodated themselves to circumstances and though the immediate proximity of a numerous body of Indians was not regarded by them in the light of an advantage, they were free from many of the hindrance incidental to pioneer life in other parts of the Province.
          The situation of the village, clustered at the foot of the gently sloping hills, was charming. The woods abounded with deer, rabbits, partridge, pigeons and other varieties of choice game; while the sparkling stream, which wound its devious course through their midst, was full almost to overflowing with salmon and speckled trout. The greatest difficulty was to obtain flour, but even in this respect, the settlers of Smith's Creek were privileged far beyond many primitive communities in Upper Canada. The lake was at their door and a boat enabled them to reach Kingston -- the site of the nearest gristmill-- by water.  The erection in 1794 of a gristmill at Belleville by a Mr. MEYERS, shortened the distance to be traversed by about forty miles.  By this time the land in and the adjoining the village of Smith's Creek had been partially cleared and had begun to produce grain and as the settlers had increased in number, the demand for a local gristmill became imperative.  In 1795 an attempt was made to construct one on the side of what has since been called Mill Street, but for some reason the attempt did not succeed and it was not until three years afterwards that a mill was completed. On the 26th of August 1797, a Crown Patent of the land on which the present town of Port Hope stands was granted to Elias SMITH and Jonathan WALTON, subject to the condition that the patentees should, with all reasonable diligence erect a gristmill and a sawmill on the site. The condition was fulfilled and not long afterwards both mills were in full operation. The grist mill then erected was on the west side of Mill Street on the site now occupied by Salter’s Flouring Mill  . The sawmill was on the east side of the creek, not far from its confluence with the lake.  About the same time Messrs.SMITH and WALTON laid out a village plot which continued to be held by them under their patent until the 25th of July 1815, when they divided the land between themselves, each giving a quit claim deed to the other for the portion relinquished.

Notwithstanding the beauty of its situation, the progress of Port Hope has at no time been very rapid. For more than twenty years after Mr. HARRIS's arrival, as previously mentioned, there was no regular store in the village. Supplies as a general rule were obtained by means of the different vessels arriving at the port.   It was not until 1815 that any one thought proper to open a store. In that year Mr. Jeremiah BRITTON opened out a stock of goods in a small wooden building on Walton Street. It is not generally known, even by the inhabitants that the name of Smith's Creek had by this time nearly fallen into disuse and the name of Toronto substituted therefor. The latter name prevailed for several years, and was generally employed in conveyances of the period.  In 1817, however, a Post Office was established by the former name of Smith's Creek.  The duality of names gave rise to some confusion and in the spring of 1819 a public meeting was held for the purpose of fixing upon a permanent and definite name for the village.  The late G. S. BOLTON who was then a resident of the place, suggested the name of Port Hope, which  suggestion was unanimously assented to,  and the place has been so designated ever since.  The name was confirmed by the Legislature of Upper Canada on March the 6th 1834, when an Act was passed to define the limits of the town and to establish a police therein.  The population at this time was 1,517.  

Since the date of its incorporation the only two events of great importance in the history of Port Hope have been the construction of the Grand Trunk and the Port Hope, Lindsay and Beaverton (now called the Midland) Railways.  By the former of these enterprises, which was opened through Port Hope in 1857, the town enjoys communication with all point's east and west.   By the latter, opened to traffic in December 1857, the fine country to the north and northwest is placed in direct railway communication with  Lake Ontario, and facilities are afforded for the shipment of lumber and grain, which are the chief commodities exported from this point.

A great deal of money has at various times been spent on the Port Hope harbour and most of the capital required for its construction has been contributed locally.   Of late years the harbour has been very must improved and it is now one of the best, if not the best,  on the north shore of the lake.  The local shipping interest is of considerable magnitude.  The other principal branches of industry consist of the manufacture of flour, woollen goods, plaster, leather, buttons, iron, engines, machinery etc. The town also maintains two breweries.

There were formerly five or six large distilleries in operation here and the whiskey of Port Hope had a high reputation from one end of the country to the other. Its fame indeed was not confined to Canada, if the following story published in an old number of a local newspaper, be true: A well known resident of the town during a trip to England, paid a visit to the tower of London. Upon entering his name and place of abode in a registry book kept for the purpose,  he was at once accosted by the venerable beef-eater acting as a cicerone on the occasion, who exclaimed: "Do you really come from Port Hope in Upper Canada? I know that place well by reputation, and have often drank the famous whiskey made there."  This notoriety, however,  has long since passed away, and the places where the numerous distilleries flourished now know them no more.  For years past, all the liquor consumed in Port Hope has been imported from other towns.
The commercial part of the town lies in a pleasant valley, situated between two eminencies, which from an early period, have been colloquially known as English Town and Protestant Hill.  The former name is applied to the westward eminence, the latter to the one on the east.  The principal street is called Walton Street, in honor of Capt. Jonathan WALTON, one of the original patentees of the village plot.  It runs east and west through the center of the town and nearly all the retail stores are situated upon it.  A few, however, are to be found on John Street, which begins at a point near the railway station and terminates at Walton Street. An eminence to the north-east is known as Ward's Hill, upon which is the fine building of Trinity College School, the situation of which is just without the corporate limits of the town.
The Town Hall and Market House, a massive red brick building, surmounted by a bell tower and clock, is situated at the intersection of Dorset and Queen Streets. The town also contains a large battalion drill shed, built in 1867 at a cost of $2,200.  On Mill Street a few yards east of Walton Street is the Registry Office of East Durham.
Gull Island is a small island in the lake about three miles distant from the town, upon which is erected a conspicuous lighthouse and is situated midway between Port Hope and Cobourg. The harbour has capacity for holding nearly the entire fleet of the lake.The viaduct of the Grand Trunk Railway, which, exclusive of Victoria Bridge in Montreal, is probably the most costly enterprise of the kind along the entire route.
On what is called English Town some handsome residence are built.
The new Methodist Church is incomparably the finest ecclesiastical edifice in Port Hope. It is situated on the corner of Brown and South Streets, fronting on the latter. It was opened in March 1876 and its entire cost was not much under $50.000. It has seating capacity for 1,500 people. Both externally and internally it reflects credit upon the taste and enterprise of the body who worship within its walls.  The smaller church edifice situated further down the slope of the hill is the Baptist church, a neat and unpretending structure of white brick.  The town also contains six other churches, two Episcopalian, two Presbyterian, one Catholic and one Bible Christian. Next in architectural importance, to that of the Methodists, is St Johns [Episcopal] church. The other churches are all in the same neighborhood.
On Protestant HilL,  among a cluster of trees, may be seen the little tower of St. Mark's  [Episcopal] church, the oldest ecclesiastical edifice in the town. It is a plain wooden structure and was erected in 1818.
Trinity College School already briefly referred to, deserves more than a passing allusion. It is a branch of Trinity College, Toronto. It was first established in 1865 in the village of Weston where it remained for about three years. In consequence of liberal inducements held out by the people of Port Hope, the school was removed thither in 1868 and was established in buildings provided free of rent by the townspeople.  The school subsequently purchased the property, which then consisted of ten acres of land, together with the buildings thereon. Larger  buildings were erected which were occupied for the first time in January 1872. The school was shortly afterwards incorporated by Act of Parliament. Several additions, both to the buildings and to the land connected therewith, have since been made and the whole premises now include more than twenty acres. The total cost of the buildings has been about $60,000. The school is largely attended - the present attendance being about 85 and adds considerably to the importance of the town.  In addition to this institution, Port Hope contains a Central and several good Common schools.
In the east is a public park containing about 37 acres.
The present population is about 5,700. The town is lighted with gas and whether seen by day or by night, presents an appearance very dissimilar to that of the little Indian village which Mr. Myndert HARRIS found when he settled on the site 85 years ago. The scenery around is very beautiful and the adjoining heights, more especially those on the western side, are dotted with beautiful and costly private residences, commanding a fine prospect of the town and the lake beyond.
The settlement of the township and the surrounding locality followed slowly upon the first location of Smith's Creek.  After the original pioneers came the ASHFORDs, JOHNSONs, TRULLs and STEVENS .   ASHFORD died in 1795 - being the first death in the new settlement. Simeon, son on James STEVENS was the first child born and the first marriage was that of Margaret, daughter of Mr. HARRIS, to Elias JONES - the ceremony being performed by Squire BLUCHER, who stopped on his way to Little York for this purpose, in compliance with the request of the parties concerned in the interesting event. [author’s note: I think the marriage ceremony sited was performed by Squire Fletcher of Bowmanville, who was for some years known as ‘the marrying J.P.’]
Many descendants of the old family settlers still reside in the locality.   Notably of the family of the SMITHs, who intermarried with the HARRIS and HAWKINS families and occupied conspicuous public positions. Hon. Sidney SMITH, now residing in Cobourg, was Inspector of Registry Offices and was Postmaster General in the MacDonald Cartier Cabinet from ‘58 to ‘62.   His father, John D. (son of Elias) represented Durham in the Provincial Parliament in 1826.  James SMITH was elected for Durham in 1848 and sat for that constituency until 1854 when he was elected for Victoria, and was afterwards appointed County Judge by the Sandfield MacDonald Ministry in 1863.   John Shuter SMITH sat for several years in parliament having defeated Mr. Francis BURTON in East Durham in 1857 and again in 1861 and 1864. He was offered the portfolio of Commissioner of Crown Lands in the Sandfield MacDonald Administration, but declined. He, however, afterwards became clerk of the Executive Council and retained the position until his death. Elias was also a candidate for Parliamentary honors and was defeated in 1864;   his eldest son J.D. of Fenelon Falls was turned out on a scrutiny and his second son Seth was defeated by Mr. John ROSEVEAR at the last election for East Durham. David SMITH, late Postmaster of Oshawa, was also a son of John David SMITH.   Charles SMITH is now the only other surviving son of John D. and brother of Hon. Sidney SMITH.
William SISSON, J.P., who claims to be (with one exception) the oldest male settler residing in Port Hope, came to the place in June 1823.   In his time he has seen three or four generations pass away. He came from Duchess County, New York and is the youngest of a large family of sons and daughters. He commenced the manufacture of leather in Port Hope and carried on the business successfully up to 1852, when he retired, his industry having secured him a competency.   He took a very active part in the management of the Durham Agricultural Society, having been its treasurer for forty years.   He was also an active promoter of the first Mechanics' Institute.   He was active in putting down the rebellion of ‘37-8, having command of a troop of cavalry (attached to the Durham regiment) which he was instrumental in raising. He married a niece of Jonathan WALTON (one of the first settlers already noticed).   Mr. SISSON is somewhat remarkable in his locality for the very heterodox opinions entertained by him upon religious subjects.
During the war of 1812, a number of Americans with their families arrived and settled in the township.    In 1817 the population amounted to 750.   Charles FOTHERGILL, who afterwards figured in Canadian history as a journalist and member of the Legislature, was the first regularly appointed postmaster.  The names, which appear in the earliest extant township records, are the following:
    "At a town meeting held in Wellington Inn, Port Hope, the first Monday in January 1822, the following persons were chosen for town officers, namely:
James W. FOX - Town Clerk
Thomas HARRIS and Jas.W. FOX - Assessors,
William MARSH - Collector,
Stephen SHAW and Paul HAYWARD - East Division
George SAXTON - 3rd Division
George BROWN - East Division
Samuel GIFFORD - 1st Division, Danford Road
John POTTER - 2nd Division
William MARSH - 3rd Division
John J. TAYLOR - 4th Division
Samuel MARVIN - 1st Division, 4th Con.
Calvin HAMLIN - 3rd Division, 4th Con.
Timothy JOHNSON - 3rd Division, 4th Con.
Samuel CALDWELL - 5th Con.
David STEVENS and Thomas HARTWELL - Poundkeepers
Jacob COATE and John FARLEY - Churchwardens

In subsequent years and up to 1835, the names of the following persons appear in connection with township and village affairs: Thomas WARD, M.F. WHITEHEAD, John Tucker WILLIAMS, Samuel GILCHRIST, Wm. SISSON, David SMART,Thomas BENSON, Godfrey STEVENSON, David STEVENS, Joshua GIFFORD, John WALKER, James HAWKINS, Abraham BOWEN, John PERRY, James HAWKS, John ASHFORD, Wm. PRESTON, W.D. HASKELL, Samuel CALDWELL, Jonathan BROWN, Luke and David BEDFORD, Job and Erasmus FOUKE, Caleb RAYMOND, James LANG, Lee MILLS, Thomas QUAY, Wilson GARDINER, Thomas JACKSON, Leonard SOPER, Mark HEWSON, John BROWN, John AULEY, Philip RIELY, Whitney GRANT, John LYALL, James ROBERTSON, Henry THOMPSON, John RIDDLE, Barnabas BLETCHER, Cornelius LOW, Samuel ANDERSON, James RUTLEDGE, James CORBETT, Carelton GIFFORD, Elias P. SMITH, Wm. BATESON, George MANNING, Joel DRAPER, Reuben P. GRANT, Richard BULLOCK, Peter THUMB, Thomas SAYERS, John QUAY, Edmond MELSON, Alex MORROW, Wm. LOTT, Daniel BRAND, Samuel CORBETT, Charles TROTTER, James HOLDAWAY, R. WILLEY, W. LATHAM,  Jonathan WALTON,  Luther MCNAUL, Benjamin SEAMANS, Joseph CALLENDER, Jeremiah BRITON, Justin JOHNSON, John HATTON, Samuel DICKINSON, James ELLIOTTand Samuel DAVIDSON.

The preceding information comes from Henry Belden’s Atlas of Northumberland and Durham, 1878.
This material is found throughout Built On Faith and Fortitude, along with material from a variety of sources.  Also included in this book are over 40 maps, drawings, charts and photographs, some from private collections which have never before been published.

The book, Built on Faith and Fortitude contains the following chapters

    Wesleyville, Port Britain, Hastingsville and Butterfield's Plot, Dale, Welcome, Choate's         Mills
    FROM EAST TO WEST IN THE 3RD AND 4TH CONCESSIONS:     Armitage, Quay's, Canton, Zion, Morrish
    Perrytown, Rossmount, Osaca, Knoxville, Decker Hollow
    Campbellcroft, Garden Hill, Elizabethville
PORT HOPE:  The port and the town
Other Work by This Author

Bibliographical resources include:

Belden's Atlas of Northumberland and Durham, 1878
Tremaine's Map of Durham County, 1861
History of the Township of Hope, Harold Reeve, 1967
Two Centuries of Change, The United Counties, 1967
Pioneers of Old Ontario,Edwin C. Guillet, 1935
Settlements in Upper Canada, Edwin C. Guillet, 1933
Profiles of a Province, Ontario Historical Society, 1967
Directory of Northumberland and Durham, E.E. Dodds, 1880
The Canadian Gunsmiths 1608-1906,S. James Gooding, 1962
Gazetteer of Canada West, W.H. Smith, 1846
Canada Past, Present and Future, W.H. Smith, 1852
Places in Ontario, Nick and Helma Mika
Place Names in Ontario, Floreen Ellen Carter, 1984
Tavern in the Town, Margaret McBurney and Mary Byers, 1987
1837 Rebellion Remembered, Ontario Historical Society, 1997
Sketches of Port Hope, A.W. Craick, 1901
Little Tales of Old Port Hope, A.W. Craick, 1966
Hope and Its Port, East Durham Historical Society, 1992
The Townships of Darlington and Clarke, Prof. John Squair, 1927
The Ganaraska Watershed, Government of Ontario, 1946
Col. William S. Marsh and His Decendants, Bruce C. Stinson, 1997
The Militia in Durham County, Capt. C.M. Chandler,
Honour Roll of Surviving Veterans of 1837-39, George Merrill, 1898
Going to Town, Katherine Ashenburg, 1996
Port Hope on Foot, Historic Walking Tour #2
Archives of the Bowmanville Museum
Clarke Museum and Archives
Ganaraska Archives