The first of four parts - The Establishment of the American Summer Colony - Cobourg was naturally endowed with the attributes of a virtual summer paradise
The Establishment of the American Summer Colony
Cobourg was naturally endowed with the attributes of a virtual summer paradise: moderate temperatures, a picturesque lake with an extensive beach, fresh air, and ample fishing opportunities. Nonetheless, individuals living beyond Cobourg remained largely unaware of the community's myriad natural assets until the decades following the U.S. Civil War. Indeed, early settlers to Upper Canada initially considered the area to be nothing more than a "cedar swamp" and therefore, largely avoided settling in the region. When a permanent settlement was finally established some years later, the area's pioneer families were predominantly American in origin. Between 1815 and 1820, "... they were joined by emigrants from England and Scotland, most of them discharged half-pay army and navy officers whose services were no longer required after Waterloo." These new arrivals from the British Isles helped instill a strong military tradition in Cobourg.
At the end of the pier, one can see the customs house with a passageway for wagons to drive through. The steamer docked was the Cobourgh (yes they could not always spell it right) which was locally built and financed and launched May 29, 1833. To the right of the steam boat funnels is the Albion Hotel and the Church is the Church of England. Victoria College is just to the right of the Customs house.
In 1830, the Cobourg Harbor Company was formed and the town's harbor was improved to allow handling of passengers, freight as well as exports of lumber and grain. During the 1840's, George Daintry, the son of a wealthy British family arrived in Cobourg. Among his various enterprises, Daintry operated ferries on Lake Ontario, with one of the ferries plying the Lake between Cobourg and Rochester, New York. Daintry, who would later become Cobourg's mayor in the mid-1860's also would play a key role in the eventual establishment of Cobourg's summer colony through his ferry enterprise and other activities. [See Footnote 2 below ].
By the 1850's, Cobourg's burgeoning population reached 6,000 inhabitants, making it the fifth largest center in the province and the "... most important central Lake Ontario port." The opening of the Grand Trunk Railway in 1856 also further added to Cobourg's already good fortunes.
By the 1860's, however, Cobourg's economic prosperity quickly turned to despair as the community teetered on bankruptcy. Cobourg's dire financial straits were largely due to the town's substantial investment in the failed Cobourg and Peterborough Railroad combined with the escalating construction costs of the new town hall. Despite the Civil War raging in the United States, many of Cobourg's residents opted to relocate to the U.S. where economic conditions were somewhat better. While many individuals in Canada and the United States endured financial and personal hardship during the early to mid-1860's, others became extremely wealthy thanks to the Industrial Revolution and the Civil War. Among this group of nouveau riche were western Pennsylvania's iron and steel manufacturers.
In order to satisfy their companies' rapidly growing needs, Pennsylvania's steel magnates scoured North America for new, easily accessible sources of iron ore. Their expeditions led to the discoveries of a number of promising ore deposits, including one situated in an area known as Mamora, located approximately 50 miles north of Cobourg. In the late 1860's, George K. Shoenberger and his Pittsburgh associates assumed control of the Mamora mines and formed the Cobourg, Peterborough, and Mamora Railway and Mining Company. (see Footnote1) . Preparations for mining and shipping the Mamora ore required frequent visits to the area by the industrialists and their associates, with Cobourg serving as their base of operations.
During their Cobourg sojourns, the Pennsylvania businessmen delighted in the town's clean, fresh air and cool summer climate. Cobourg's environmental conditions stood in sharp contrast to the increasingly smoke and soot-filled conditions back home in Pittsburgh and elsewhere in therapidly industrializing northern U.S. cities. Encouraged by the glowing reports about "the Cobourg climate," families and friends of the Pittsburgh businessmen began to accompany them on their northern forays. The Shoenberger family--principal owners of the Mamora mines--were among these early Pennsylvania visitors.
George Shoenberger, son of the late "Iron King" Peter Shoenberger quickly recognized Cobourg's potential as a resort destination. In 1873, Shoenberger in partnership with his brother-in-law William Chambliss - the first managing director of the Cobourg, Peterborough, and Mamora Railway and Mining Company - built the well-appointed Arlington Hotel. This establishment was the first of many hotels in Cobourg constructed to cater to a wealthy American clientele.
Footnote 1: Samuel Zimmerman, the millionaire railway contractor responsible for the failed Cobourg and Peterborough Railroad - including the infamous Rice Lake Bridge - was born in Huntingdon County Pennsylvania and came to Canada in 1842. Zimmerman's birthplace is in the same rural area of central Pennsylvania where the Shoenberger family lived for a number of years. In addition to the Cobourg and Peterborough Railroad, Zimmerman served as the contractor for the Welland Canal; built various other railways; and owned hotels, foundries, mills, utilities, real estate as well as a bank. According to J. K. Johnson, Zimmerman "... was said to have been the richest, or, if not, the second richest man in the province." However, to date, no evidence has been found indicating whether Zimmerman and Shoenberger knew each other either professionally or personally. (Back)
Footnote 2: George Smith Daintry was born on the 12th August 1810 in Macclesfield Cheshire to John Smith Daintry and Elizabeth (nee Ryle), and was the youngest of 8 children. (Note that his middle name (Smith) was his grandmother's maiden name.) His father, and his father before him, were silk manufacturers in Macclesfield and in 1810, the family along with their in-laws formed a Bank called Daintry Ryle. Unfortunately in 1825 a ban was lifted on the import of silk into the UK and the silk industry and the bank collapsed.
George sailed for New york with his wife (Mary Hodges) and young family in 1842. The ship's document states his destination as 'Cobourg'.
While in Cobourg, G.S. Daintry and his family lived at The Poplars, 18 Spencer Street. They had nine children. The oldest son John, took over the estate in 1869 when his father returned to England. John was educated at Upper Canada College and trained as a survyor. He was for a time, Captain of the ferry boat "Rochester" which his father owned. One of the daughters of John and his wife Louisa married Henry Fitzhugh. Another daughter, Lillian, married Sam McDougal, son of Lorne McDougal, one time Solicitor General. Miss Louise Daintry, another daughter, lived in the Poplars until her death in the early 1940's.
John Smith died in 1848 intestate, and due to family arguments, and complications surrounding debts owed by the bank, the probate was not administered until 1866 by which time George Smith Daintry was the only son left alive, and therefore inherited what was left. Every single penny John Smith owed due to the bank collapse was re-paid earning him the title, 'Honest John'. Although the family fortune was much diminished, the UK census of 1881 shows that shortly before he died, G.S, his wife Mary Ann and their son George Charles Daintry (B. Cobourg 1846), were living in the family home at North Rode with 6 servants. George Smith Daintry died, May 7th, 1881. (Back)
Some of above from Ursula Hardaker - a descendant.
In Four Parts
- The Establishment of the American Summer Colony - part 1 - this page.
- The Marketing of Cobourg as a Summer Destination - part 2
- Cobourg's Summer Visitors - part 3
- Social and Economic Linkages between Cobourg's Canadian and U.S. Residents - part 4
[Also - Summary, point form version]
Based on a presentation by: Marsha Ann Tate, ABD
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, Pennsylvania USA 16802
As presented to Cobourg Historical Society