18 August 2013

Walking Around Belleville's Coleman Ward

David Bentley with HCHS president John Anderson examining the
 City of Belleville  General Leger No. 8. in this 1988 picture.
Source: Community Archives of Belleville and Hastings County
Intelligencer Negative fonds
David Bentley, a long-time active member of the Society is also known for his work with the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario including the walking tours he organizes in the Quinte region.

The walk on Sunday the 19th of August focused on the Coleman Ward of Belleville- its architecture and its place in the history of Belleville's development.

The following pictures and words were supplied by David.

The Settling of Hastings

The first Loyalist refugees came to the front of Hastings County in 1784. Two of the first settlers were the families of Captain George Singleton and Lieutenant Isaac Ferguson who set up a trading post on the river the native people called "Sagonaska". For a brief period of time the area was known as "Singleton’s Creek". Both men died in the spring of 1790. By 1800 other notable Loyalist were in this area - John Taylor, James Mc Nabb, John Simpson and his wife, Margaret, and Asa Yeomans. The village did not extend further north than Dundas Street. Beyond were scattered farms and woods. The land we are now standing on originally belonged to the settler, John Taylor, who sold it to John Meyers.

John Meyers (1745 - 1821)

Captain John Meyers was a United Empire Loyalist who came to Upper Canada after the American Revolution. By 1806 the settlement at he mouth of the river was known as "Meyer’s Creek" even though it was situated some distance from Captain Meyer’s mill and dam. Meyers originally hoped to locate a mill close to the mouth of the river and had endeavoured to lease the land from the native people for an annual payment of "a gallon of rum and fifty weight of flour". Unfortunately, the government would not recognize this lease, so Captain Meyers was forced to purchase the north half of Lot 5 from John Taylor. On this land he erected his mills. which are now gone. The land is now the Lion’s Park on Station Street. In addition to a grist mill, Captain Meyers operated a sawmill, fulling mill, distillery, a fur trading enterprise, a nearby inn. To transport his lumber and merchandise Captain Meyers had several sailing vessels. He built the first brick house in the area on the hill over looking his businesses below.


Between 1806 and 1850 the village started to expand. By 1816 there were many buildings on Lot 4, which belonged to the native people, so the government purchased the land (428 acres) and ordered it surveyed. A road from Captain Meyer’s mills to the bay became a guideline for Front Street (Belleville’s downtown main street). In the same year, the name of the village was changed from Meyer’s Creek to Belleville in honour of Lady Arabella Gore, wife of the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. Lord and Lady Gore had passed through the settlement in the spring of 1816 and the villagers had been very impressed with the charming lady.In 1836 Belleville became an independent municipality (separate from the Township of Thurlow) and was incorporated into a "police village". It was governed by a Council or Board of Police with Billa Flint elected as the first President of the Board. The first courthouse was built on the brow of the "east hill" in 1838. On January 1st, 1850, the village was incorporated by the Baldwin Act into a town. The town was divided into four wards: the Sampson Ward, the Ketcheson Ward, the Baldwin Ward, and the Coleman Ward.

The Coleman Ward

The Coleman Ward was named after Thomas Coleman who owned a saw mill and grist mill on the Moira River near the corner of present day Coleman and West Moira Streets. Coleman’s mills burned in 1884 but were rebuilt by R.B. Cooper, who had purchased the mills five years previous. The Coleman Ward was to comprise "all the land of the town which lies on the west side of the Moira River".In 1874, by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario issued in pursuance of petition by the Town Council of Belleville, the limits of the town were expanded. Three new wards were added; the Bleecker Ward, the Murney Ward, and the Foster Ward. The wording of the Coleman Ward boundaries was changed to add "North of Moira Street".

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