With its phenomenal growth in recent years the history of Newcastle Village is a popular topic. Many new residents are eager to learn fascinating facts and long-time residents are interested in preserving the past of their community. Newcastle has seen times of growth before and it has been through tough times too. Newcastle’s history also includes the community of Bond Head along the shore of Lake Ontario. These two communities grew into the Newcastle we know today and it was here that some of the most important pioneers chose to settle.
In 1796 Richard Lovekin came from Ireland to settle in Clarke Township near where the Village of Newcastle would one day stand. He came to an unbroken pristine wilderness. Large trees obscured the sun at midday and wild animals were plentiful. The Lovekin Family still live on their original farm. They have been on this land for 215 years! This is the longest tenure of a property owned by one family in Canada outside of the Province of Quebec.
The settlement of Newcastle proper began in 1833 when Stephan Crandell opened a tavern in the forest. This was near the present King Ave and Mill Street intersection. In 1835 he was joined by Ezra Shelley who opened up a shop nearby. This little settlement became known as Crandell’s Corners and about the same time another community to the south, Port Bond Head, began to grow. In 1839 work began on a pier by the Bond Head Harbour Company. The directors envisioned a large community with a busy harbour, but it never overtook Crandell’s Corners. Crandell’s Corners, soon to be renamed Newcastle, was strategically located on the Danforth Road (present day Highway # 2). This was the main east west thoroughfare. Also, some settlers felt the lake marshes were conducive to fever and sickness and stayed away from the lake front. In 1851 the two communities, Bond Head and Newcastle amalgamated as the Village of Newcastle. Although Bond Head retained its original name, in common usage it was referred to as Port Newcastle or Newcastle Harbour.
By 1845 Newcastle boasted over 300 people, 2 churches, 8 stores, 1 druggist, 2 tanneries, 2 taverns, 1 axe factory, 2 saddlers, 4 blacksmiths, 2 wagon makers, 4 tailors, and 2 shoemakers. The growth was spurred on by the arrival of the Grand Trunk Railway in 1856. Northrop and Lyman, a large patent medicine business, began here (Henry S. Northrop’s house can still be seen at 261 Mill St. S.). One of the largest woollen mills in Upper Canada was built here, but it was short-lived. As well, Daniel Massey set up his implement shop in town and it grew so much that by 1879 they had outgrown the village and moved to Toronto (The main building from the Massey complex is now apartments and is located near the Foodland grocery store). Northrop and Lyman also moved to Toronto and the Woollen mill burned. The population of the village had grown to over 1200, but as the larger industries left the population dipped to under 800 people. In 1896 two fires destroyed most of the downtown and Newcastle’s future as a sleepy village was ensured.
Newcastle is home to more Provincial Historical Plaques than anywhere else in Clarington. There are four in total and each highlights a specific episode in Newcastle’s long history. One is for the Fish Hatchery begun by Samuel Wilmot in 1868. This was Ontario’s first full scale fish hatchery and also included one of the country’s first Natural History Museums. It was created to save the native salmon from extinction and was located west of the village along Wilmot Creek. Another plaque commemorates the Massey family. It was here that they started a business that would become one of the world’s largest manufacturers of farm machinery, Massey-Ferguson. Although they left the village in 1879 they donated, in the 1920’s, the beautiful Town Hall which still graces the main street. Another plaque commemorates Joseph Atkinson (1865-1948). He grew up in Newcastle under impoverished circumstances. In 1899 he became manager of the Toronto Star, made it Canada’s largest daily newspaper and became a millionaire in the process. Most of his wealth was left to the Atkinson Charitable Foundation. The final plaque deals with Bishop Charles Henry Brent (1862-1929). His father was minister of St. George’s Anglican Church and Charles grew up in Newcastle. He was elected first Episcopal Bishop of the Philippine Islands in 1901 and fought to eradicate drug abuse. He later became Bishop of Western New York where he promoted Christian unity and helped lay the foundations for the World Council of Churches.
There used to be another plaque south of Newcastle for the Baldwin family. Robert Baldwin Sr. Settled here in 1798. He stayed until 1810 when he moved to York (Toronto) to live with his son Dr. W.W. Baldwin. Both Dr. Baldwin and his son, Robert Jr., were leading political reformers who brought responsible government to Canada. This plaque is now missing, but highlights just one of the many influential pioneers that chose to settle in the today’s Clarington.
If you would like to get a glimpse into some of Newcastle’s history, visit the Newcastle Village & District Historical Society located in the original library inside our Community Hall. The Society is open Tuesday and Saturday mornings from 9:30 to 12:00 pm and holds some unique and intriguing local artifacts as well as many historic records and photos. Consider becoming a member (for as low as $10 a year) to receive quarterly newsletters featuring articles on the history of Newcastle. Membership includes the opportunity to attend evenings with guest speakers. The room is open to anyone at no charge and volunteers are available to help with research you may be doing.
Clarington Museums and Archives has extensive local holdings that cover all of Clarington. Research fees range from $10.00 per request for visitors to $25.00 per hour if you’d like us to do the research for you. But, it doesn’t cost anything to call our archivist, Charles Taws, to inquire if we can help you with your historical or genealogical research. For local history and genealogy requests contact Charles Taws, Archivist, at Clarington Museums and Archives. He can be reached at 905-623-2734 or firstname.lastname@example.org
“Article courtesy of Clarington Museums and Archives”
View a historical slideshow of the Village below. Photo’s courtesy of the Newcastle Village & District Historical Society.