There was a time when this fine old Kitley Village was known simply as Bellamy Mills, due to its proximity to the mills operated by Chauncey Bellamy on Bellamy Lake west of the village.
The actual survey of Kitley was delayed for seven years until 1797. In the meantime, Kitley had its first settler, a pioneer farmer named James Finch. With his family James Finch settled on what was later to become Lot No. 29 in the 7th Concession. Finch mistakenly started a homestead on a clergy reserve Lot No. 22 on which he began to clear five acres of land. When he realized his mistake he moved and began to clear another 16 acres of land on adjoining lot no.23. He then petitioned the government for the grant of this land. He never received the grant and after rowing with the government of the day for a number of years finally left the area sometime before 1804.
The land James Finch cleared, on which his log cabin stood, lies along what is now Main Street.
Toldeo researchers found that James Finch had been granted 200 acres on Lot No. 22 on May 22, 1801, but Finch sold the property the next year to Hugh McIlmoyl. He sold to Eben Estes the same year. After several more transactions the lot came into possession of Wyatt Chamberlain, the founder of the village.
In 1806 Lot No. 23 was granted to Charles May who sold it in two sections a year later. Other lots which now form the site of Toledo changed hands many times during the early years.
Wyatt Chamberland was born in 1786 in New York State, son of a pioneer Methodist missionary and organizer. Although he didn’t have much schooling, Chamberland was self educated and ambitious. He put himself through Methodist school and qualified as a preacher.
At 28, he was operating a Methodist circuit in New York State and in 1820, came to Canada to become a minister in Prince Edward County around Picton. Later he moved to the Augusta circuit but was stricken with an illness in 1828 forcing him out of the ministry.
Chamberland came to Kitley in 1832 and began by buying up land in this area, then known as Kitley Corners. As be bought each lot, Chamberland broke it up into village lots and sold them, thus laying the groundwork for the future village of Toledo.
He called the settlement Camberlain’s Corners. He opened the first store in a log cabin.
Chamberland also built the first frame dwelling in the area. He was the first postmaster and became a justice of the peace. His first wife was Catherine Halleck, daughter of pioneer missionary Rev. William Halleck, for whom Halleck’s Road west of Brockville was named.
Chamberland’s Corners became officially Toledo in 1856. The village was named after Toledo in Spain, scene of a British victory over a French army in the Spanish Campaign of 1813.
Both lots lie along the road which became the main street of Toledo. Finch erected a log cabin and dug a well. He cleared 16 acres on lot no. 21, but his claim to the land was disputed by the government.
The Kitley census of 1800 lists Finch as a settler, but he is missing from the count in 1804. Historians believe that he got fed up with government delays in approving his claim and left the area in disgust.
Main Street in Toledo was then a continuation of the Old Perth Road, which cut through the village and headed north to Lombardy over Rideau Ferry and on into Perth.
Including the Livingstons, Finch and Chamberlain early settlers were Hugh McKnoyl, Ben Estse, Ephraim Koyl, David Allen, John Kincaid, Billy Brown, Charlie May, David Kilborn, The Tolman and Robinson families as well as the Cole, Coad and Code families.
From earliest times, religion has played a major role in the lives of Toledo folk. And the fine churches which call the faithful to worship every Sunday testify to the status of the church in the area’s history.
A fine example of early 20th century architecture is St. Philip Neri Church in the centre of the village. Named for an Italian priest St. Philip (Filippo) Neri who lived from 1515 to 1595, the parish was established in 1833.
In 1833 Bishop Alexander MacDonald (named Bishop of Upper Canada in 1820) appointed Father Campion of Prescott to administer the Parish of Kitley. Focal point for the parish, which then covered Kitley, Bastard, South Burgess and South Crosby townships was the east shore of Bellamy’s Lake just west of Toledo.
Today two old cemeteries bearing headstones with names such as Coughlin, Donovan, McDonald mark the site. Father Campion held mass four times a year in a farmhouse which stood near the modern Bellamy’s Lake Park. Records of St. Philip Neri indicate 25 to 30 persons attended the services.
In 1837 Father Clarke Prescott was assigned to Toledo and three years later supervised the building of a wooden church on the shore of Bellamy’s Lake. Father O’Reilly came from Brockville in 1840 to take charge. He settled in a farmhouse three miles south of the church. In 1860 Rev. Michael Lynch took up residence near the church in a house built for him. In the same year Father Lynch supervised the building of a stone church at Philipsville.
Father Lynch was succeeded by Rev. William McDonagh but left in 1861 and until 1873, neither Kitley nor Phillipsville had a resident pastor. The parish was administered from Smith’s Falls and Westport. In 1873 Rev. William Kielty became a pastor of Kitley and Phillipsville.
By 1885 the old church had reached such a state of disrepair that it was considered advisable to abandon it and put up a new chapel in Toledo. Property was bequeathed to the parish in 1887 from the estate of Martin Breen and by 1896 the present rectory was built as well as the stone chapel. In 1899 Phillipsville left the parish to join Elgin.
By 1905 the growing congregation required a new church which was completed in 1907. The chapel built in 1896 was added to the new church as a sacristy. The first mass was held at Christmas 1907, and the following year the church was dedicated to St. Philip Neri.
The Tinsmith of Toledo
On Toledo’s Main Street the access road leading south to hook up with Hwy 29, stands a weather beaten two story frame structure which for 60 years was the home of a prosperous but tiny smithy business.
This building was built in 1880 by a South Crosby tinsmith, Tom Singleton and became known as the Singleton smithy.
Tom Singleton came from South Crosby in 1880 and bought Lot No.32 on Main Street. Here he built his smithy and a residence for his family.
One usually associates tinsmiths with the work of turning out tin for roofing and manufacturing duct-work for furnaces, but Singleton went far beyond these items.
He made sap buckets for the maple syrup trade, tins for the syrup, kettles, teapots, wash tubs, milk cans, baking pans and kitchen utensils, weather vanes and storing tanks.
Singleton could also install heavier articles he made and he was an expert repairman. Many a farm wife brought him leaking pans, kettles or other damaged articles and he repaired them good as new.
Singleton laboured in his shop for 60 years, retiring in 1940.
From Thad. Leavitt’s book The History of Leeds and Grenville from 1749 to 1879, published in 1879
N.H.Beecher – Mr. Beecher was born in the state of New York in 1839. When seventeen years of age he came to Canada, entering the employment of Robert Fitzsimmons, Esq., with whom he acquired a through knowledge of the grocery business. In 1863, he opened a general store in Toledo, where he has since resided. Taking a deep interest in public affairs, Mr. Beecher entered the Municipal Council, serving seven years, five of which he has been chosen as Deputy Reeve. His course in the Counties’ Council has been unvarying in direction of economy and retrenchment, coupled with liberality in making grants for improvements absolutely required. At the last general election he was freely spoken of as the Liberal Candidate for the House of Commons, North Leeds. (History of Leeds and Grenville from 1749 to 1879 by Thad. W.H. Leavitt pub. 1879)
Samuel Edgar – The subject of this sketch was born in the year 1837, in the Township of Kitley. He is the youngest son of James Edgar, who was born in the year 1791, in the County of Down, Ireland, and emigrated to Canada in the year 1821, settling in the Township of Kitley in 1825, where he resided until his death on the 26th of January 1870. He was among the first settlers of the Township, and one of the oldest Justices of the Peace. He was a member of the municipal council. Mr. Edgar held the office of Lieutenant in the Militia util too old for service, and was also one of the oldest Freemasons in the Counties, having obtained fifteen degrees in the Order. He was the only son of James Edgar, who was born in Montgomery, England.
Struthers of Toledo
You don’t have to be all that old to remember “Struther’s of Toledo” perhaps you or your parents have one or two items in your home that were purchased there. Here is the story behind that store.
Around Toledo folks say that Garnet Struthers electrified the district, but Struthers prefers to think that eggs did the trick.
Ontario Hydro put in electrification in 1940-45, Garnet sold the electrical appliances to the farmers but the farmers built up the Struthers businesses by trading eggs for groceries..
“Every farmer for miles around paid his grocery bill in eggs” said Struthers, recalling the days when his business was confined to a general store on the main street of the village. “We had eggs by the dozen stored in the basement. We couldn’t sell ‘em, so we had to take them by the truckload to an egg grading station to get our money. The money we got from those eggs allowed us to expand. We bought electrical appliances and re-sold them. First it was washing machines. We put a washing machine in every farmhouse in the district. Then it was refrigerators. We put refrigerators in every farmhouse. Then came television sets and electrical milking machines. We put milking machines in every barn, and it all came from the eggs!”
In the late 1940’s, Garnet Struthers and his wife, Lila took over the general store formerly operated by Bert Woods at the crossroads in the centre of the village. Since the early 1900’s, Woods had been a grocer in a century old business on the site and on the death of his daughter, Vivian Hill, took over.
“It was a combination phone exchange, post office and grocery store when we took over” said Struthers. The Kitley Telephone Company exchange was in one corner of he store, and the post office was in the other.”
Mrs. Struthers’ father the late Ross Slater Kilborn, had operated the business after Mrs. Hill left. In 1942 a disastrous fire hit that street and the Bert Carley grocery store was burned out.
Carley rented the former Woods store from the Kilborns for a year and a half until his new grocery store was constructed. Then Garnet and Lila moved in.
“We had $1000. in stock and a $2,000. dollar mortgage” recalled Garnet. “But we had something of everything. We had groceries, hardware, feed, clothing, dry goods, you name it, we had it! Then we added appliances, machinery and roofing and building supplies. Hydro came along and we went into the appliance field. We added electric stoves, then got into the plumbing and electric trade, putting in wiring and selling supplies.”
In 1956, Struthers got an offer for the store he couldn’t refuse. It put him permanently out of the grocery business and led to the establishment of a furniture and appliance store.
“The Seaway was being built and some of the little villages east of here were being swallowed up. George Lapierre, from Mille Roche, near Cornwall, was one of the businessmen forced to move. I understand Lapierre and friends came up here looking for a place to locate. They spotted the old store and decided to take a look at it.
It was on a holiday and I was in Charleston taking in a regatta. They looked in the windows and apparently liked what they saw. At any rate they came down to Charleston Lake, met me at 4pm and made me an offer. I agreed to meet them at 7 pm at the store. We met and at 10pm we had a deal.”
Lapierre took over but soon after suffered a heart attack which curtailed his activities. He later died from a series of heart attacks, but the business carried on under the name of Barr’s General Store.
“We sold Lapierre the rights to the grocery business, clothing and other general items, but we retained the rights to electrical appliances, televisions, plumbing and electrical supplies.” Said Struthers. “That gave us the opportunity of opening up a new business.”
On the road leading south of Toledo stood the long abandoned Baptist Church, erected about 1840. Struthers bought the old church and renovated it to become a store, the first Struthers Furniture Store. The business flourished and in the succeeding years, Garnet and Lila built their new home south of the store.
Disaster struck on June 23, 1961. A freak and rare tornado ripped through Toledo, tearing the roof off the Struthers store and causing thousands of dollars in damage. Struthers vividly remembers the storm.
“It hit just about 4pm and cleaned the roof off the old church building. It blew the roof clear off the property and into Roy Gardiner’s farm field.” Said Struthers. “Harry Lewis, my bookkeeper, was working in the store. There was a huge oak tree in front of the store. The wind pulled it out of the ground, roots and all, and it looked like it was going to fall into what was left of the store, where Henry was, but instead it took a turn to the north and landed off the property.”
“When I went out after the storm, I found rafters from the store sticking in the ground of Gardiners’ field like giant spears buried by some ancient Roman.”
With his building ruined Struthers went to work and the modern Struthers Furniture and Appliance Ltd. Store, an 80 by 80 foot building known popularly as “Struthers of Toledo”. The shell of the old church building was lifted on to rollers and hauled back to the rear of the new store, where it was rebuilt as Garn’s Barn, and was used to sell used furniture.
is a paperback book written by Edna B. Chant and was published in 1998. Edna Chant was a reported with the “Athens Reporter” for 23 years and she is the author of four books.
Her book, which is made up of news clippings from various sources, from which we have taken excerpts, gives us a glimpse into life in our area for over a hundred year period ending with stories from 1975.
While her book covers many areas of Leeds and Grenville we have only focused on the area within Elizabethtown-Kitley Township.
A 12 year old youth John Dant was murdered near Toledo on Feb 23, 1867
On April 16, 1895, Miss. Stephenson, daughter of the Rector of the Anglican Church at Toledo, aged 18 years, met death in a sad way. She was very found of walking in the woods and about 3pm she went for a walk, but did not return for supper. When she wasn’t home by dark, several men carrying lanterns went to search for her. A heavy rain came up but they could find no trace of the girl. The next morning her body was found lying against a rail fence on the Parker Farm. She was wet and scratched by brambles. An inquest was held and it was ruled that death was caused by exposure, after being lost in the woods.
On April 21, 1895, the funeral of Mrs. George Coad was being held in the Toledo Methodist Church. It was a Sunday afternoon and a large congregation was present. Rev. G.H. Porter was preaching, when shouts and a great commotion could be heard outside. A few men got up and went out, and then the word “Fire” was heard. It was found that Mrs. J. Smith’s home was all on fire. Men, women and children were organized to form a bucket brigade while come carried out furniture. The church was empty, even the minister was at the fire. In spite of their efforts the house was burned. The people returned to the church, the preacher finished the sermon and the pallbearers carried the casket to the cemetery. The men and some of the ladies were soiled, rumpled and wet, but the minister remained dignified and calm throughout.
A subterranean explosion occurred on July 2 and 3rd 1898 at Kitley just off the Perth Road and it has everyone mystified. A reef of rock was blown up along with most of the roadbed. It began on Saturday with a hissing and rumbling noise and culminated on Sunday by an explosion that was heard for many miles. James Taylor lived nearest to the blast and his yard was covered by chunks of rock. Mrs. John Smith was driving up the road and the explosion threw fragments of rock into her buggy. Hundreds of persons have visited the scene including scientists from Ottawa, but no one an explain it.
Samuel Rabb was one of Leeds’ most outstanding citizens. He was born in Ireland, coming to Canada at the age of 20 years, settling at Toldeo. He was a highly regarded school teacher and taught school for 33 years, and then became an Inspector of Schools. He did private tutoring, and was a very fluent speaker. In 1840 he married a daughter of Colonel John Blakely, and they raised ten children, six boys and four girls. Two of his daughters Mary (Mrs. Albert Morris) and Charlotte (Mrs. George Gainford) lived in Athens. Mr. Rabb died at the home of his daughter Charlotte on April 9, 1900 aged 84 years.
While the authorities are trying to decide how to punish the Queen’s Medical Students who robbed a grave at Lansdowne on March 25, 1903, it might be well to consider how to guard the graves of loved ones. The fact that bodies are now bringing a good price on the market should be borne in mind. Students do not hire a livery rig and drive for miles to the cemetery for the fun of it. It is known in one case of their deed of labour extended as far away as Toledo. Many graves are robbed and their relatives never know it. A new grave should be watched every night for a month. After that time the body is not suitable.
Two Toledo sisters died within an hour of each other on January 4, 190. Mrs. William Leacock aged 98 and her sister Ms. Henry Seymour aged 80 were waked at Toledo Presbyterian Church where a double funeral was held.
The cornerstone was laid for St. Philip’s Neri Church at Toledo May 26, 1907
A serious fire occurred in Toledo on March 10, 1908 when the general store of A.N. Coad was destroyed with a large stock of merchandise and $65. in cash, owned by Oscar McDonald. Mr. McDonald went into the store in the morning and started the fires as usual, and then went to his breakfast, when he returned the interior was in flames.
On September 6, 1910, Arnold Boyd of Merrickville was killed while hunting ducks at Mud Lake near Toledo. He and his wife and younger brother set up a tent Friday night, and early Saturday morning he took his boat and gun and set off alone to hunt ducks. When he did not return by dark his wife walked to a farmhouse to see if a search could be made for him. Several men with lanterns went out but could not find him. Early Sunday they went out again and he was found laying half in his boat with part of his head blown off. It is thought he reached for his gun and pulled it toward him by the barrel, and it discharged.
August 6, 1911, Lester Palmer of Toledo was killed when his horse ran away.
On October 4, 1923 the Commercial Hotel at Toledo burned.
On December 17, 1929 fire broke out in the store of C.A.Woods in Toledo and completely destroyed the store as well as the telephone exchange cutting off Toledo, Frankville and Jasper. The operator Miss Grey had a narrow escape. The post office was also in the store. Messengers had to travel by car to Smiths Falls to get help. It was a very bad fire but no one was injured.
The old Commercial Hotel at Toledo was destroyed by fire on October 4, 1923. The fire broke out in the kitchen of the old hotel owned by John McEwen. This is the 4th bad fire in Toledo in less than a year. Firemen from Smiths Falls and Frankville were able to save nearby buildings.
February 2, 1946, George H. Code, 28, accidentally shot and killed at Toledo.
A well known Toledo man, Earl Stafford Drummond was drowned at Seeley’s Bay on October 7, 1951. He was 26.
Clement Coughlin aged 22 years of Toledo was killed in a traffic accident April 23, 1953.
A large barn on the farm of Leonard Laming was burned at Toledo on June 12, 1961. No animals were in the barn but it was full of hay, valued at $2,000. Twenty seven calves grazing near the barn were removed to safety. The fire is doubly tragic as the Laming home was burned on February 5, 1961 with all contents.
Thousands of dollars in damage was done in a matter of minutes when a tornado struck the Village of Toledo on June 23, 1961. About 7pm it started to thunder and rain. Then about 7:30 it became very dark, skies were black as ink and there was a momentary calm. Mothers gathered their children inside and hurried to close doors and windows and were joined by their men folk. There was a general feeling of doom in the air. Then it struck with a roar like and express train, so great as the noise it was impossible for families to converse as their voices could not be heard. When it was all over the following damage had been done: the roof was lifted off Struther’s Store and carried 100 yards away leaving thousands of dollars of appliances and furnishings exposed to the driving rain; a huge oak tree, six feet through at the base, in front of the store was broken off close to the ground and caused great damage to their warehouse; used appliances were blown over and tossed about, a large freezer carried 40 feet away; a truck owned by Garnet Struthers was flipped over on its side; the roof was blown off Ross Kilborn’s workshop; a large tree in the yard of Mildred McClup crashed into Eaton’s Service Station carrying hydro lines with it; three trees in front of the home of Roy Gardiner crashed into their house, ripping off cornice, eaves troughs and the TV aerial; the shop of Lloyd DeWolfe was wrecked as after the roof blew away a large tree fell into the building; Jack Baker’s barn was blown away, pieces being scattered for a mile away; TV aerials were twisted like pretzels; all streets were blocked by fallen trees, nearly every pane of glass in the village was shattered; shrubs, flower beds, gardens were destroyed; the home of Wendell Eaton was struck by lightning and chimneys were knocked off 24 homes. No one was killed or seriously injured. All the next day the scream of chain saws could be heard and Hydro and telephone crews worked for 48 hours. Reeve Charlie Sands was on the scene continuously, lending help and advice.
A large barn owned by Archie Donaldson at Toledo was burned on October 12, 1961. All the season’s crop was lost. Fortunately none of the cattle were near the barn. The cause of the fire is not known.
The home of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Jones and seven children was destroyed by fire at Toledo on October 1, 1962.
Three young men from Toledo area were killed May 26, 1968 in a one car accident, three miles from Toledo, when they crashed into a tree. Dead were the driver William James McCabe, 21 of Jasper, Ivan Botham 18, of Smiths Falls and William Nichols, 15, of Toledo.
On December 17, 1973 Mr. and Mrs. Roy Willows of Toledo were married 60 years. They were married in Elgin and moved to a farm at Toledo where they spent their entire married life. In 1945 their two sons Lloyd and Glen took over the active work on the farm. They had seven children, five daughters and two sons: Irene Bushfield, Mrs. Edna Jarvis, Mrs. Wilma Skakleton, Mrs. Eleanor Drummond and Mary (deceased), Lloyd and Glen. To mark the 60 years of happy married life, Mr. and Mrs. Willows were tendered a reception at St. Andrew’s United Church hall in Toledo.