The summary is a copy of the powerpoint slides used for her presentation to the Society.

Based on a presentation by: Marsha Ann Tate, ABD
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, Pennsylvania USA 16802
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

As presented to Cobourg Historical Society

Text version here (4 pages).

Early History

1797 – 1820’s

  • Cedar swamp so originally avoided by settlers
  • Early settlers (1797 - 1820’s)
    • United Empire Loyalists
    • Retired fur traders
    • British “official class” = ‘Half-pay pay’ officers
    • Strong military tradition

Cobourg 1850-1865

Prosperity to Poverty

  • 1850’s: Prosperity
    • Town population = 6000
    • Fifth largest center in the province and most important central Lake Ontario port
  • 1856: Opening of the Grand Trunk Railway
  • 1860’s: Near Bankruptcy
    • Failure of the Cobourg to Peterborough Railway
    • Cost of town hall

From Iron & Steel to Rest & Relaxation

  • Late 1860’s George K. Shoenberger & his Pittsburgh associates assume control of:
    • Marmora Iron Mines 50 miles north of Cobourg
    • The Cobourg, Peterborough, and Marmora Railway and Mining Company
  • The Pittsburgh industrialists use Cobourg as their Canadian base of operations
    • The industrialists begin bringing their families and friends with them on their “business ” trips

Establishment of American Summer Colony

  • Colonel William Chambliss
    • Son-in in-law of George K. Shoenberger
    • The “Ozone” tour
  • Arlington Hotel
    • George Shoenberger & William Chambliss
  • “Friends and family” in North and South

Reasons for Reasons for Cobourg’s Popularity with Southern and Northern U.S. Families

  • Southern families
    • Cool and hospitable climate
    • Not required to spend vacation money in the northern United States.
  • Northern families
    • “High quality ozone"
    • Business interests (e.g., iron and coal)

mansionOne of the large estates built 1857 - now called the Sidbrook property.

Additional Factors

  • Geographic Location
    • Relatively close proximity to growing urban centers in the United States (e.g., Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Rochester)
  • Transportation infrastructure
    • Readily accessible from the US via rail and water routes
    • Ontario Car Ferry Company Ferries carried: coal, other goods and passengers
  • Marketing
  • Accommodations

Cobourg’s US Visitors:

  • Wealthy
    • Built large estates and often stayed from May until early September
    • The “American summer colony
  • Middle and lower classes
    • Weekend excursions (Early part of 20th century)
    • Cobourg visit normally lasted only a few hours

Ontario Ferry 1919Ferry in Cobourg Harbour ca. 1919
From Ontario Archives Item reference code: C285-1-0-0-140

 Cobourg Summer Colony: From Hotels to Estates


  • Activities slower paced than later decades
  • Activities hotel oriented
    • Most dances, ‘hops’ or soirees were in the hotel
    • Guests included prominent local and American families


  • Large estates built
  • Activities often “estate focused

Economic Ties

  • Railroads
    • Ontario Car Ferry Company
  • Infrastructure
    • Hospital, roads, water system
  • Recreational facilities
    • Cobourg Golf Club
  • Hotels & other tourist tourist-related businesses

 Social Ties

  • Marriages between members of southern US families with members of northern US families
    • Marriages were highlights of the colony’s summer season
  • Marriages between Americans and Canadian families

Arlington HotelThe Arlington Hotel on King Street. Now the north west of Victoria Park.

Social Events

  • Plays
  • Dances (e.g. hops)
  • Band concerts (e.g. Shriners from New York state)
  • Regattas
  • Horse shows/races

Twilight of the American Colony

  • World War I
    • Major social and economic transitions in both Canada and the United States
  • Prohibition
  • The Depression
  • World War II



Original Powerpoint Presentation by Marsha Ann Tate - pdf format

All photos courtesy of Cobourg Public Library