This guest post was graciously contributed by Dave Zavitz.
For generations the Marsh Store site has been the nucleus of activity in the Coldstream area. Its history began when John Moor Marsh and his wife, Sarah Zavitz, purchased the land in 1839 with encouragement from his brother-in-law Benjamin Cutler. Benjamin had already built a house and mill on the adjoining lot to the east.
Their son, Jacob, married Louisa Wood who with her mother ran a store in their house on the corner of the Ilderton Road and Coldstream Side-road. When his father died in 1868, Jacob inherited the property and decided to expand. He moved the two-storey house and his family to the current site and built a two-storey store attached to it. He and Louisa had eight children. He continued to run the grist and sawmills as well as the new store. In 1890, he built a woollen factory behind the store which for a time ran twenty-four hours a day. Louisa provided meals at midnight for the night shift. Sadly, the mill burned down in the early 1900s.
The store quickly became a busy place. It housed the mercantile business, with the first telegraph in 1873. In 1882, the Lobo Mutual Insurance Company was housed here and later Jacob became president. The Lobo Mechanics Institute opened in 1890 in the back room and stayed there until it was moved to the Community Centre in the 1960s. Jacob ran the Post Office from the store. Jacob began the first telephone system which became the Coldstream Telephone Company in 1908. In 1921, Alex McKenzie moved it across the road. His son George later moved it to Poplar Hill where it was eventually taken over by Bell Canada.
Community activities, such as the lecture club and Olio society, often met in the upper rooms of the store. Upon Jacob’s death in 1927, son Roy and his wife Hope Nicholson took over and managed it until his death in 1955. Their son, Glenn, ran the store for a short time but due to poor profits it was finally closed. Hope ran the library once a week where you could come and check out reading materials. It was a much anticipated visit for locals each week.
In 1967 the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority purchased the land behind the store and along the river for a Conservation Area. The Authority rebuilt the dam to create a lake like the original mill pond. In 1977, they purchased the store, tore off the old tin shed roof that had replaced the original balconies and returned the exterior to its original glory. This building, later sold, was used as several businesses and today is a quilt store.
This site’s history was crucial to the development of the community. Many of the records of the store’s past are stored at the Middlesex Centre Archives where visitors may do research to gain an in-depth perspective on life and times in Coldstream.