The American Summer Colony in Cobourg, Ontario:
Historical Timeline

Compiled by Marsha Ann Tate, Ph.D. (
Last updated: 02 November 2010

1700-1799 | 1800-1809 | 1810-1819 | 1820-1829 | 1830-1839 | 1840-1849 | 1850-1859 | 1860-1869 | 1870-1879 | 1880-1889 | 1890-1899

| 1910-1919 | 1920-1929 | 1930-1939 | 1940-1949

American Summer Colonies at Cobourg & Lake Muskoka, Ontario Home Page


Circa 1797

Samuel Ash moves from New York state to settle in what will eventually become Cobourg, Ontario (Spilsbury, 1981, p. 1).


American road contractor Asa Danforth opens the Danforth Road eastward from York (Canada). The road passes within a short distance of Cobourg. (Spilsbury, 1981, p. 38).


Cobourg's earliest settlers--predominantly from the United States--arrive.


John Spencer, a United Empire Loyalist, arrives in Cobourg. "Spencer's father was a Justice of the Supreme Court of Vermont" (Spilsbury, 1981, p. 20).



Ebenezer Perry, a relative of U.S. Commodore Matthew C. Perry (1794-1858), arrives in Cobourg.

U.S. settlers to Cobourg are joined by emigrants from England and Scotland. Most of these new arrivals were "discharged half-pay army and navy officers whose services were no longer required after Waterloo” (Guillet, 1945, p. 289).



Cobourg's population is 350.



The Cobourg Harbor Company is formed. In addition, Cobourg's harbor is improved to enable the handling of passengers and freight (Spilsbury, 1981, p. 3).


Cobourg's population has increased to over 1350 inhabitants.


George Daintry arrives in Cobourg and establishes a ferry operation. One of Daintry's ferry routes goes to Rochester, New York.


Cobourg's population continues to increase; it now stands at 3,300.


Charles Dickens makes a brief stop at Cobourg's harbor.


9 Vic. c.71 (9 June) amends Cobourg's incorporation to allow borrowing of six thousand pounds for town hall and market, as well as other changes (Armstrong, 1985, p. 205).

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With a population of 6,000, Cobourg now ranks as the fifth largest town in the province and the preeminent central Lake Ontario port (Spilsbury, 1981, p. 5).


November: The Cobourg & Peterborough Railway (C&PR) is created.


February: A contract is signed with Pennsylvania native Samuel Zimmerman to construct the Cobourg & Peterborough Railway (C&PR).


May: The Cobourg & Peterborough Railway (C&PR) is opened for traffic to Harwood, Ontario on Rice Lake.


Late: The Cobourg & Peterborough Railway (C&PR) is "nominally opened to Peterborough," Ontario.

December 31: The Western Transportation Company is organized at Buffalo, New York "as a lake boat subsidiary of the New York Central" (NYC) Railroad (PRR Chronology).


The Grand Trunk Railway is opened.


March 12: Samuel Zimmerman is killed in the Desjardins Canal (Canada) railroad accident.

The (economic) "Panic of 1857."


The town of Cobourg faces bankruptcy.


U.S. Civil War.


Winter: The Cobourg & Peterborough Railway's (C&PR) trestle bridge spanning Rice Lake, Ontario collapses.


Despite the Civil War raging across the border in the United States, numerous Cobourg residents leave Canada to find employment in the war-torn country (Spilsbury, 1981, p. 6).


April 9: General Robert E. Lee surrenders the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia.

The Cobourg & Peterborough Railway (C&PR) fails.


August: The Cobourg & Peterborough Railway (C&PR) is reorganized as the Cobourg, Peterborough & Marmora Railway & Mining Company.


July 1: The federal dominion of Canada is formed. Sir John A. Macdonald becomes the first Prime Minister of Canada.

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The 1873 failure of the United States ' largest bank, Jay Cooke & Company, sparks a nationwide recession.


February: Mr. James Grieve, late of the "Rochester House," purchases the Commercial property in Cobourg" (“Unconsidered Paragraphs,” Cobourg Sentinel, February 22, 1873, p. 3, col. 3).

May: Mr. M. B. Williams replaces Mr. James Flanigan as the Commercial House's manager in downtown Cobourg. Mr. Flanigan is assuming management of the saloon “lately occupied by Mr. George Alexander" (“Unconsidered Paragraphs,” Cobourg Sentinel, May 24, 1873, p. 3, col. 4).


The Cobourg, Peterborough & Marmora Railway & Mining Company declares bankruptcy.


April 2: The Windsor burns in Cobourg. The property is later rebuilt as the Dunham House (Guillet, 1948, p. [175]).



The Rice Lake-Peterborough (Ontario) section of the former Cobourg & Peterborough Railway (C&PR) is leased to the Grand Junction Railway.


June: The Cobourg, Blairton & Marmora Railway & Mining Company is created.



April 19: The Bevans Hotel, along with several adjoining frame buildings burn. The British Hotel is also damaged. Total losses are “$7,000 half insured (“Telegraphic Sparks," Milwaukee Daily Journal, April 19, 1890, col. B).

August 25: George Holmes, of the Holmes Fuel Company, St. Paul , Minnesota, dies of typhoid fever. Mr. Holmes and his brother, Cobourg natives, moved to St. Paul “a year or so since” and purchased 'The Smith Fuel Company's' plant. “The remains will be sent to Cobourg by the 7:30 train to-day for interment" (“Eight Hours a Day,” St. Paul Daily News, August 25, 1890, p. 5).

November 10: The schooner Ocean Wave, of Cobourg, Canada, is found floating, bottom up, about fifteen miles north of the port of Oswego, New York, Lake Ontario. “It is feared that the crew, consisting of Capt. Brokenshire of Cobourg and five men, are drowned" ("The Ocean Wave Capsized: The Entire Crew of a Canadian Schooner Lost in Lake Ontario," The Milwaukee Journal, November 11, 1890).


June 22: Elsie Armour, daughter of Chief Justice Armour, of Cobourg, Canada marries Mr. Auguste Bolte, of Toronto at the Church of St. Peter in Cobourg....”After the ceremony the numerous guests were driven to the palatial residence of Chief Justice Armour, where the large array of numerous and costly presents was duly admired, after which an elaborate luncheon was done justice to by the guests, the bride and bridegroom's health being drunk in the choicest vintage of the continent of Europe. The happy couple left by the 7:20 train for an extended tour through the West. A number of the guests came down in yachts belonging to the R.C.Y.C. , and royal salutes were fired during the ceremony from abroad the several yachts" ("Matrimonial: Miss Armour's Wedding," Morning Oregonian, July 3, 1892).


The failure of the U.S.-based Reading Railroad leads to nationwide recession in the United States.


January 24: Dr. Hugh A. Craig, a physician who practiced medicine in St. Paul, Minnesota for the past five years dies suddenly. Dr. Craig formerly lived in Cobourg; he will be interred there ("Dr. Craig: Death Takes Away One of St. Paul's Most Promising Physicians," St. Paul Daily News, January 24, 1894, 3).


December 5: “ The schooner Picton, carrying 150 tons of coal for George Plunkett of Cobourg, left Oswego Wednesday morning at 9:30 for this port. As no tidings have been received of the boat since that time, it is feared she foundered during the heavy gale of Wednesday evening or Thursday morning. Capt. James Terry, James Kanaly, John Lavis, Owen Markey, William Terry and two other hands composed the crew. The Picton is owned by a Cobourg syndicate. Two schooners, evidently anchored, have been sighted about fifteen miles out. One is supposed to be the Picton" ("Schooner Picton Missing: No Tidings Received from the Boat since Wednesday Morning," Milwaukee Journal, December 6, 1896).



May 1-November 2: The Pan-American Exposition is held in Buffalo, New York. The Exposition attracts over 8,000,000 visitors (Chappel, 1998-2007).


Nationwide depression in the United States.



World War I.


Ontario and Alberta pass prohibition laws.

August 30: Cobourg's permanent and summer residents join together for a large bazaar which is held in Victoria Park (Climo, 1986, pp. 49-50).


January 29: Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified.

October 28: The Volstead Act is passed in the United States.



October 29: Stock market crash; also known as Black Tuesday.



June 17: The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act (aka Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act) is signed into law in the United States. The Act raises U.S. tariffs on a wide array of imported goods.


December 11: "British Parliament passed the Statute of Westminster, giving Canada control over its foreign and domestic policy. The Governor-General became a representative of the Crown, and Canadian independence from Britain was finalized" (Pound, 2005, p. 408).



Senator Oliver's former residence in Cobourg is destroyed by fire (Guillet, 1948, p. [203]).


Chappell, Urso S. A. "Pan-American Exposition." In ExpoMuseum, 1998-2007. (accessed June 7, 2007).

Climo, Percy Lloyd. Cobourg, 1914-1919: A Magnificant Sacrifice. Colborne, ON: P. L. Climo, 1986.

Guillet, Edwin Clarence. Cobourg, 1798–1948 . Oshawa , ON : Goodfellow Printing Co., 1948.

Guillet, Edwin Clarence. "The Town of Cobourg, 1798-1945." Canadian Geographical Journal 30 (June 1945): 288ff.

Pound, Richard W., ed. Fitzhenry and Whiteside Book of Canadian Facts and Dates. 3rd ed. Markham, ON : Fitzhenry and Whiteside Limited, 2005, p. 404.

"PRR Chronology," March 2005 edition. (accessed June 7, 2007).

Smithsonian Institution. "CivilWar@Smithsonsian Timeline." (accessed June 18, 2007).

Spilsbury, John R., ed. Cobourg, Early Days and Modern Times. Cobourg, ON: Cobourg Book Committee, 1981.

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Page created 07 June 2007; last updated 02 November 2010.

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