As well as the usual main street merchants, Cobourg had a good collection of Industrial activities. As described elsewhere on this site, Cobourg had a thriving Harbour, Railway construction and operation, the Crossen railway car works,  Stage Coach Line, Hotels catering to the visiting Americans and a distillery. Below are some other industries - including farms.

Ontario Mills Woollen Factory

Tremaine MillThere are several streams running through Cobourg into Lake Ontario and early pioneers were quick to make use of these as a source of power. In later days, these were often converted to Steam and one example of this was the Ontario Mills Woollen Factory which was owned by Stuart E. MacKechnie. It opened in early 1846 and continued operating until 1913.

The Mill was built on Factory Creek (also called Jones' creek, Cobourg Brook and currently Cobourg Creek) on the south side of King Street West. It used water from the dam which had been built much earlier (~1804) 200 feet north of King street - probably by John Nugen. The water was carried in a five foot wooden enclosed flume that went under King street to the basement of the Mill.

The Mill building was mainly brick, 4 and half stories high, 100 feet long and 40 wide. The basement housed the water wheel, the fulling machinery (Fulling is the process of fluffing up an already woven or knitted piece of woollen cloth), finishing room and dye house. On the second floor was the weaving department with its Power Loom. The third floor housed the Carding room where wool was processed from its raw state so that it was ready for spinning into yarn on the fourth floor. The fifth floor was really an attic and was used for drying the wool after it was washed and dyed.

A feature of the Mill was that it was steam heated so that there was less of a fire hazard - always a problem in those days. Employment at the Mill was reported to be 170 people.

The Woollen Mill was also called the matting factory.

H.W. Cooey Machine  & Arms Co.

Cooey PlantIn 1929, the building was sold to H.W. Cooey for manufacture of their guns.

A history of Cooey firearms can be found here but the part of interest for Cobourg is the following:

By 1929, demand for Cooey rifles had outgrown the production capacity of Herbert’s facility at Howland and Bridgman, so the new Cooey Machine & Arms Company left Toronto in favour of a new facility in Cobourg. Taking over what was Cobourg’s largest industrial building and the former home of the Ontario Woollen Mill, the new building offered four and a half stories of square footage, and gave the firm the increased manufacturing capacity Herbert desperately needed in order to grow. And grow he did… by creating yet another iconic Canadian rifle: The Cooey repeater.

In 1961, Cooey Machine and Arms Company was sold to the Olin Corporation, the conglomerate behind the Winchester Rifle.   In 1979 production ceased and the building was sold to Southam Newspapers, the publisher of the Cobourg Star.   They moved out in the early 2000's. It has had various owners since but no-one has occupied it.

At right is a photo taken when it was owned by Cooey.


dramsayMen's Boot and Shoe Maker - Store Keeper

David Ramsay arrived from Scotland in 1869 and was soon running a business manufacturing and selling boots and shoes for gentlemen.

The picture at right was in a county atlas of 1878 and shows his store on King street.

This item and the next three are courtesy of the Canadian County Atlas Digital Program of McGill University.

Cobourg to this day makes an effort to preserve as much as possible of the heritage as shown by the buildings.divider-line640

beatty farmFarming

A typical farm was owned by James Beatty - from the picture it would appear he was successful at what he did. The following is all that is known about him in 1878:

Born in Canada
Occupation: Farmer
Connection to John Beatty, Mayor of Cobourg in 1858-60 & 1866-67 is not known.
Settled in 1843.

The property size was 198 acres and was bounded by present day roads King street, Brook Rd N and Elgin street.



J.G. Hagerman was born in Canada. In 1878 he gave his occupation as Farmer and Dep. Reeve. 

His farm was 85 acres and located west of Cobourg with the southern edge on Lake Ontario. Today Westwood drive runs through what used to be his farm.

The picture at right (1878) would have been looking south with the road in the foreground probably being what is now King or Highway 2.divider-line640

george cockburnHotel Keeper and Horse Breeder

The combination of running a hotel and importing and breeding horses would not appear to be common but that was what George Cockburn did in 1878.

Located at what is now the corner of Dale Road and highway 45 in Baltimore, the property shown totaled 85 acres.

George gave his occupation as Importer of Heavy Draught and Blood Horses, and Proprietor of Hotel and he settled in 1842.divider-line640

The Diversey Water Technologies Plant

diversey 350Formerly known as Perolin Bird Archer, the Diversey plant was closed down around the end of the 1990's and demolished in 2003 after it was bought for a nominal price by the town. After a major clean-up, the site is now parkland. At right is a photo of the plant soon after it had ceased operation. As can be seen, it had a prime location between Victoria Hall and the lake.

At its peak, it was used to mix chemicals - the railway line that had run between it and the lake had tracks into the building where the rail cars delivered chemicals that were mixed then shipped back by rail. Many of the products made by the plant were intended for steam locomotives and proximity to rail and the port made for a prosperous plant.

Once the steam era passed, efforts to convert the plant for other products were not as successful. Then when the railway line stopped running nearby, operation was no longer possible and the plant eventually shut down. (See Maps for a look at where the railway lines were.) At its peak, over five million pounds of chemicals were shipped annually from the plant.