Since October, the blog has featured two articles about Coldstream from both Donna Moore and Dave Zavitz. We continue this week with an article by Dave Zavitz on Coldstream’s early economic development and the impact of early Quaker families.
Coldstream’s Early Development
The early Coldstream area was heavily forested with the Bear Creek (Sydenham River) running through it. The area was traditional hunting grounds for the Anishinaabe. In later years, arrowheads and other artifacts were found by settlers. John Edward Bycraft collected, labelled, and displayed these items, detailing when and where they were found. His display was later donated to Museum London and now resides at the Museum of Ontario Archeology on Wonderland Road.
The area was surveyed in 1819–20 from the Thames River in the south, north to Fernhill Road, Vanneck Road to the east, and Amiens Road to the west. It was laid out in long one hundred-acre parcels south to north and numbered from the south. Lots were numbered from Amiens Road to Vanneck Road.
Family history says that Jonas and Jesse Zavitz were already here with cabins on the eleventh concession (Charlton Drive) but may have come right after the survey. They appear in the earlier census holding the land between Poplar Hill Road and Coldstream Road. Around 1832–33, their Uncle, Benjamin Cutler, came to visit as he had heard of inexpensive land for sale and was looking for better land for his large family. He had amassed considerable holdings by purchasing from others unable to afford their property in Bertie and Humberstone Townships.
Benjamin Cutler was an enterprising person and a staunch Quaker. Land in Lobo was selling for $1–3 per acre. He saw Bear Creek (Sydenham River) as a good location for a mill, and there was lots of materials to work with nearby. Returning to Bertie Township, he sold up all his property and in 1837, at age sixty, moved his family to Lobo Township after purchasing two hundred acres on the Coldstream Road. He decided to build a mill at Bear Creek on the Coldstream Road. Being a staunch Quaker, it was a dry barn raising. People complained but came to help as they needed a local supply of lumber. In 1839, Cutler extended the mill over the river adding a grist and flour mill. It turned out that the mill was on the road allowance but by that time it was abandoned and in collapsed in 1905.
Cutler was also socially minded and took a keen interest in local politics. He was elected Reeve of the township for several terms. In the early years, he advertised to his family and connections about the good land to be had in Lobo. In 1838, his brother-in-law, John Moor Marsh purchased 450 acres west of the Coldstream Road and moved his family to Lobo Township. John also built a dam and sawmill down river from Benjamin. He built a furniture factory on a creek on the north side of the river near his log home. He was followed by Daniel Zavitz in 1843, who purchased a one hundred-acre lot west of John’s. Benjamin and John built identical houses on a plan they saw in London, Ontario.
These were all Quaker families, and they met for worship in either the furniture factory or Benjamin’s or Daniel’s homes. As the community began to grow there was less space for worship, so in 1849, they applied for meeting approval and a log structure was built on land donated by Benjamin Cutler and John Marsh. Later, Daniel’s daughter Caroline donated one half acre to this property. They soon outgrew this building and in 1859, a brick building was constructed with bricks from the Rutherford Brick Yard in Poplar Hill. It has remained much the same and is still in use today.
In 1848, John Wood purchased fifteen acres from Benjamin Cutler at the corner of Coldstream Road and Ilderton Road. He built a home there, containing a store. After his death, his wife and daughter Louisa continued to run the store. When Louisa married Jacob Marsh (son of John), Jacob took over running the store. When Louisa’s mother died in 1869, Jacob decided to move the house to the site of the Marsh Mills so he would be closer to work as he had taken over running the business from his father. The two-storey house was moved down the concession to its present location and a two-storey store was added to the west side. This soon became the centre of activity and the village grew around it instead of its original location at the corner of Coldstream Road and Ilderton Road. Over time, the other buildings at the corner were torn down or moved as they also were on the road allowance.
Coldstream became a busy village. Jacob Marsh’s store housed the first telegraph, first telephone system in Lobo, the Mechanics Institute (library), Post Office, Lobo Mutual Fire Insurance Company, and office store and mills. T. McNeill opened a blacksmith shop beside the Mill Pond on the Ilderton Road. He later sold it to Samuel Clare in 1877 who ran it until his death upon which it was taken over by his son John R. Clare. It was later torn down so a grandson could build a store/gas station. This site is now the woodworking shop of Jack Webb.
Gravel played a large part in the development of the community. Lots of gravel was found under the shallow topsoil. Part of obtaining land was to build a road in front of each property and to assist with township road building. Each year, farmers drew gravel to build roads or to maintain them. The Cutler pit was used to draw gravel for the building of Highway #22 (Egremont Road) and the early Brown Tile Company. The tile company was before its time and was discontinued. The house, named Bell Fern, was built in 1864 by David Cutler (Benjamin’s son) and his wife Caroline Zavitz. Upon David’s early death, the house was sold to John McPherson. Samuel Brown and Annie Cutler purchased it in 1908 upon the death of John McPherson. In 1919, their son Pearson Brown purchased a blacksmith shop in Poplar Hill and moved it to the Brown farm and started a concert tile business. It also did not flourish and so he turned it over to his brothers, Howard and Chester, who ran it briefly before closing. In 1945, after WWII, Chester and his wife Florence came back to his parent’s home and started Chester Brown Concrete Products. This business was later taken over by their sons Ronald and Robert. It has undergone updates, modernization and several expansions. Today it is a flourishing business directed by Robert and managed by his daughter Amy.
Today most of the early businesses have vanished but still remains a growing community. The Cutler, Marsh, and Zavitz families have left their mark on this area and have descendants still residing in the township.