York’s Founding Fathers – Kettleby

The Oak Ridges Moraine makes for tiny valleys that had a huge impact to history.  High hills and steep slopes make the perfect spot to start a mill.  Yet, our founding father this time was not the first to own the land, or build the first mill.  He did see a thriving community in the tiny vale though.   An inspired Englishman encouraged a thriving village and he succeeded.   Today, the village is a rural hamlet.  I am pleased to introduce the man who made Kettleby, Septimus Tyrwhitt.

Septimus Tyrwhitt was born on August 24, 1815 at Farmcott Hall in Claverly, Shropshire, England. Septimus was the 11th child born to Richard Tyrwhitt and his wife Elizabeth Lipyeatt.  Richard Tyrwhitt was a barrister in Nantyr, Denbigh, as well as the deputy-lieutenant for the shire.   The Tyrwhitt family lineage originally came from Ketilby in Lincolnshire.  Elizabeth was the daughter of a minister.  Septimus would be baptized on September 12, 1815.

The family would move often. On the 30th of May in 1819, they moved to Trevor Hall, near Llangollen, Wales. Trevor Hall was a stately home.  In 1820, they moved to Groves House in Chester, England. The family was waiting for their new house to be finished in Nantyr, Radnorshire, Wales.   In 1820, Richard Tyrwhitt retired from law.

Septimus’ father was a wealthy man and Septimus enjoyed all the luxuries that were afforded to the family.  He was taught at fine schools.  He was surrounded by the law.  He had brothers who practiced law.  The new home was very comfortable for the family. Richard now dabbled in real estate.

Septimus’ brother William immigrated to Canada in 1830. It would be five years before Septimus and his brother Percy would have the desire to go to Canada.  They arrived in Canada in 1835. William was now in Germany.

In January of 1836, Septimus’ father took ill. Richard would die at his home in Radnorshire, Wales on January 30th at 5 in the morning.  His family was surrounded around him when he took his last breath.  The only ones absent were Septimus, and his brother William.  Both immediately made arrangements to come back home to England.  Richard was buried on February 8th, under the communion table at the Llansaintfraidd church.

After all of his father’s estate was settled, Septimus headed back to Canada in September 1836. When he arrived, he began to notice the tension in the air.  Politicians were avidly fighting with other politicians.  Many of the local farmers had begun to side with William Lyon Mackenzie and his responsible government.  Tyrwhitt was on the side of the Family Compact.

Septimus’ older brother Henry was appointed as Master and Account-General for Upper Canada.  He arrived at New York on July 22nd to begin a tour of Upper Canada.   He arrived in Canada just as tensions between factions are at a boiling point.

On the evening of December 3rd, 1837, Henry would ride up Yonge Street to see how bad the rumours actually are and to meet up with his brother Septimus who was at York Mills.  During his trip up he had gathered information that could be relayed back to military about Mackenzie’s troops.  The Rebels were coming and were closer than anyone thought.

Henry met up with his brother and together they found a horse.  They were on their way back down to York when they were met with a strong body of enemy forces.  The brothers were stopped from relaying the information and were taken as prisoners.

The brothers were taken to Montgomery’s Tavern, the unofficial headquarters of Mackenzie’s troops.  During the evening, the two men would be witnesses to Colonel Moodie’s murder.  The next morning, the brothers were forced to march down Yonge Street along with other prisoners.  In a moment of confusion, the brothers managed to escape.  They eventually made their way back to York and relayed their information.

Septimus wanted to join the militia before fighting broke out but was too late.  Septimus became a Captain in the local militia in 1838.  By this time, most of the fighting was over.   Henry would be appointed to the Staff Adjutant of the militia garrison.  Henry would not retain that position for long.  Less than one year since stepping into Canada, he contracted Typhus fever.  He died on May 31, 1838.  He was to have a full military funeral, attended by brothers Septimus and Percy.  He was buried on June 2nd at St. James Cemetery in York.

For the next few years, Septimus stayed in York. In the autumn of 1841, he returned home to England. While in England Septimus fell in love with the daughter of Captain Wildey of the 3rd Light Dragoons. Maria Louisa Wildey was a pretty girl and it did not take much for Septimus to catch her eye.  While on a trip in Brussels the couple married at the British Ambassador’s chapel. The simple wedding took place on April 30th, 1842.

The couple moved back to Canada.  Seeing a large opportunity in a small valley, Septimus bought 42 acres on Lot 28 on the 4th concession from Jacob Tool, a mill owner.  The land included the small mill. The total cost was $ 1,600.  Septimus and his business partner, Charles Eaton wanted to spur development.  To make a larger mill pond, trees needed to be taken down.  For weeks, many could see the smoke from the trees that were being burned on the flats.  The locals began calling the area The Smoky Hollow.

Septimus would build a fine home on the top of a hill in 1842. 45,000 bricks were made and shipped from Aurora to build the home.  All the wood trim and doors were hand-made.  The kitchens were in the basement of the house.  The mud cellar was used to hold vegetables and to be used by the Temperance Society’s meetings. 

Then the building of new mills and dams began. Attracted to the work, men began to arrive in the valley.  This created the need for a hotel, a general store and a blacksmith.  The new flour mill used the French Burr Stone process.  This made grinding more efficient, being able to process flour faster.

Some of the locals called the small hamlet Tyrwhitt’s Mills.  Septimus hated this name.  Maria Louisa would call the area Kettleby after the ancestral home in Lincolnshire, England.

The newly finished mills began to hum day and night.  Neighbours would be lined up over a mile to unload their grains. The village began to bustle.  Industry popped up.  You had everything from hat makers to potash boilers.  Septimus did not want to waste a thing in his processing of flour.  He created a whiskey distillery.

By August 31st, 1843, the financing for a church was in place.  The Lands and Titles Office issued a document numbered 21465 to Mr. and Mrs. Tyrwhitt, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Eaton, and Reverend John R. Errington conveying the land in trust to Reverend Edmund Tyrwhitt for a Protestant Episcopal church near Kettleby.

Yet, it is known that Septimus made a large effort to support to St. Mary Magdalene church in Lloydtown.  It became impractical to build the church near Kettleby.  Septimus then conveyed 50 acres as Glebe land.  The lot number 28 on the 5th concession was an endowment.  The rent collected of this land went to the parish to support the clergy.

On August 18th, 1846, Septimus’ mother Elizabeth passes away while in Brussels, Belgium.  Her body was brought back to Wales.  She was interred beside her husband.  The following year brother William died in Toronto.

The hamlet was a fury of industry becoming one of the busiest spots in the township.  The two local taverns in the hamlet had roaring businesses.  On a Saturday night, the road would be crowded with people walking and carriages parked.  It was not too long after this that a Temperance Society started in the village. 

In the year 1851, the village had its own Post Office.  Mail would be delivered daily on a circuit from Lloydtown to Aurora.   Septimus would be elected as a deputy in that same year.

The first church was in service in 1853.  Methodist would use the same building as the Temperance Society Hall to hold services with the Methodist minister from Lloydtown preaching.

Kettleby had reached its peak by 1853.  The fact that a new railroad was built leaving from Toronto to Aurora took the rest of the businesses.  The trees resources had been exhausted by then.  Mills slowed down.  Many of the residents left to go to Toronto, where they had amenities and growing labour pool.

This is when Septimus decided to relax a little and become a gentleman.  Septimus spent the next few years savouring the view from his verandahs. By the time that 1861 came along, Septimus and his wife were not living in Kettleby.  They were living on lot 12 on the 6th concession in Simcoe Township.  Septimus would sell his Kettleby home to Jacob Walton in 1875.

Septimus went on to live the last years of his life in relative peace.  He lived his life as a farmer.  He had enough money from the sale of the mill to be comfortable.  Septimus died at home of heart failure on January 15, 1901.  He would be buried at St. John’s Anglican Church in Penville, Simcoe, Ontario.  The cemetery just north of Schomberg, Ontario contained his brother, his wife (who died in 1914), and many nieces and nephews.

Nowadays, Kettleby is a quaint little hamlet.  A few of the building remain standing, showing the character of the towns past.  The mill pond is dry and a little parkette dedicated to Septimus Tyrwhitt there. The winding road crosses the tiny river on a narrow bridge.  No one would ever imagine that this quiet place was a beehive of industrial activity in the past.  Like Septimus, Kettleby carries out its remaining days in relative quiet.



One comment

  1. Hello,

    Fascinating detail on Septimus and his brothers, much that I knew of, but not all. Being a Kettleby resident I’ve done much research on Septimus and related family. Where did you dig up so much detail? I’m particularly interested from where you got your 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion info. Most of what I have came from the document “Notices And Remains Of The Family Of Tyrwhitt”.


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