masthead image

Marysville

History

Town site photo

Abandoned business

©Copyright: Susan Foster

In 1798, Asa Danforth, received a contract from the government of Upper Canada to build a road some 300 kilometres long, no small feat in the late 19th century. The requirements were for the road to run from the village of York, now better known as the city of Toronto, to the village of Kingston, which then served as the nation's capital.

Danforth, an American by birth, was a superb road builder. His road, which later became known as Kingston Road, was widened, renamed Highway 2, and served as the main highway from Toronto to Montreal until the opening of Highway 401 in the early 1960s.

During construction of Asa Danforth's road, government surveyor and inspector W. Chewett recommended opening the land alongside the road to settlers who would be willing to maintain the road and keep it in good condition. Chewett was suitably impressed with the road, but concerned about maintenance, which the government was ill equipped to perform. His suggestion was to divide the land into 200-acre lots and offer it to people who would be willing to settle immediately.

With a road in place and lots divided up, Marysville was ready for settlement. Newcomers, who began arriving from Ireland in the 1820s, gradually moved inland to settle on their new lots. They included people like John Sweeney and Robert Portt. Sweeney's home also doubled as the first Roman Catholic church until 1837, when he was instrumental in the construction of the new Marysville Roman Catholic Church, located on Lot 24, Concession 1. Robert Portt settled on top of a hill, which later became known as Portt's Hill. Other early residents included Ontario born Benjamin Allison. Allison's principal occupation was farming but he also sold insurance for the Royal Reaper and operated a small cheese factory. The small settlement was originally known as Tyendinaga after the township. In 1851 John Dafoe established a post office under the name of Marysville.

By the 1860s, Marysville was a well-established, full service village with a population of about 100, a Roman Catholic church and a school. Although the majority of residents listed their occupations as farming, the village was also home to three carpenters, a blacksmith, a wagonmaker, a shoemaker and a milliner. The arrival of the railway attracted more business and led to an increase in farm trade. A GTR station was built in Marysville during the 1860s. John Kemp, who operated the general store and post office from 1864 to 1869, became the new GTR agent. Both Kemp and W.H. Allison were also telegraph operators.

During the latter part of the 19th century Marysville remained essentially a small farm based community. Patrick Culhane opened a hotel in the 1880s. The hotel was taken over by John Fahey in the early 1890s and renamed the Headquarters Hotel. The McAlpine family took over the post office in 1902.

Marysville boomed during the period following the widening of Highway 2. As long as the highway remained the main thoroughfare between the two cities of Toronto and Montreal, Marysville remained a busy place. Following the opening of Highway 401, travellers abandoned the old route and gradually the shops closed down.

Even though Marysville is not totally abandoned, its population is small and dwindling. Old Highway 2 no longer falls under provincial jurisdiction and has been downgraded to the status of county road. The final blow for Marysville fell in February 2005, when the historic hotel and tavern, opened by Patrick Culhane in the 1880s was gutted by fire, resulting in the tragic loss of two lives, both tenants who lived on the upper floors. The building has since been demolished.