Archief F 0018 - Port of Romney fonds

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Port of Romney fonds

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F 0018

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  • 1873-1875; 1883-1897 (Vervaardig)

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6 cm textual records

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(1799-1998)

Institutionele geschiedenis

The triangular piece of land fronting the Lake Erie shoreline that later became Romney Township was originally the home of Algonquian-speaking Anishnaabeg peoples belonging to the Three Fires Confederacy (encompassing the Odawa [Ottawa], Ojibwe [Chippewa], and Potawatomi people), who later shared their lands with Iroquoian-speaking Wendat [Huron] refugees after the destruction of Wendake [Huronia]. All four Indigenous nations pursued mixed economies of farming, hunting, fishing, and trade. The future Romney region was a small part of a vast territory on both sides of the present-day Canada-USA border known in the Ojibwe language as Aamjiwnaang (denoting an important gathering place). The bit of Aamjiwnaang that would become Romney Township was included in the McKee Purchase Treaty of 1790 (covering 5440 square km of present-day Essex and Kent counties, and parts of Middlesex and Elgin). Negotiated and signed at Fort Detroit by British officials and 35 Chiefs of the Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Wendat nations, the treaty strengthened ties between these Indigenous nations and the British Crown at a time when the British were militarily vulnerable in North America, while opening to colonial officials the land they sought for the settlement of British Loyalist refugees.

In 1811 Thomas Ridout surveyed the 106 square km of land for Romney Township (named for a port town in England’s Kent County) which, as of 1791, formed part of the British colony of Upper Canada. The first documented permanent European settler (Robert Coatsworth) arrived in 1817. The Coatsworth family acquired a significant amount of land around the future hamlet of Romney, the family’s relative prosperity indicated by Robert’s decision to replace his wood frame home with the township’s first brick home, constructed 1828-1832. Construction on the southern portion of the region’s first European road, the Talbot Trail (Talbot Road/Highway 3, based on longstanding Indigenous trails), began in 1818. This spurred a modest influx of settlers from Ireland, England, and British colonies in the Maritimes to take up properties along the road and the lakeshore. However, white settlement in the densely-forested and poorly-drained township slowed once waterfront properties were gone. By 1885 both the Canada Southern Railway and the Grand Trunk Railway had lines through Kent County, but neither ran through Romney Township, making its lake access the township’s most significant source of trade and commerce.

Caleb Coatsworth (son of founding colonist Robert Coatsworth) evidently possessed an entrepreneurial spirit because he became involved in several projects aimed at taking advantage of this lake access, including plans for a ship canal from Lake St. Clair to the Two Creeks estuary (ultimately unfulfilled). In 1871, however, the Coatsworth Dock (also known as the Port of Romney) was built south of the Talbot Trail on the Coatsworth family’s property (Lot 200) along the Lake Erie shore. Around this same time, the hamlet known as Romney Village (near the dock, also on Coatsworth property) included a post office (with telegraph) where Caleb Coatsworth served as Postmaster, a few mechanics’ shops, a steam-powered flour mill, and two resident brickmakers. The Port of Romney was active through the last decades of the 19th century, shipping forest products and other trade goods primarily between the township and Buffalo, New York. In 1895 the outermost forty feet of the Coatsworth Dock were destroyed by an iceberg and not replaced. Supposedly the high cost of repairs led to the dock’s permanent closure, but Caleb Coatsworth may also have considered the impact of the Lake Erie and Detroit River Railway, which was constructed through Romney Township around 1894. Though it spurred township development, in time the railway would likely have taken much of the port’s trade. A station along the new railway in the area of Romney Village was named for Caleb Coatsworth, who remained an influential community leader. Of particular note, Coatsworth played a significant role in communal efforts (1889-1911) to better drain the township’s lowlands through underground tunnel drains – an effort that greatly improved the success of local farmers and addressed longstanding flooding problems.

The loss of the dock and shift in trade to the railway likely influenced the decline of Romney Village, which ceased to be a significant area of local activity. Wheatley (to the southwest along the lakeshore) instead emerged as the township’s largest population centre. In 1998 the Township of Romney itself ceased to exist when it was merged by the Ontario government into the single-tier municipality of Chatham-Kent.

Sources: Daniel Palmer, “The McKee Treaty of 1790: British-Aboriginal Diplomacy in the Great Lakes,” University of Saskatchewan, MA thesis, 2017, https://harvest.usask.ca/bitstream/handle/10388/8168/PALMER-THESIS-2017.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y ; David Plain, “History,” Aamjiwanaang Reserve website, https://www.aamjiwnaang.ca/history/ ; Donald B. Smith, “Odawa,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/odawa ; Karl S. Hele, “Anishinaabe,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/anishinaabe ; C.E. Heidenreich, “Huron-Wendat,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, https://thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/huron ; Jacqueline McDermid, “4.0 - Historical Context,” in Romney Wind Energy Centre: Cultural Heritage Assessment, Government of Ontario, 2017, https://www.edf-re.com/wp-content/uploads/APP-C-CULTURAL-HERITAGE-ASSESSMENT.pdf ; Victor Lauriston, Romantic Kent: The Story of a County 1626-1952 (1952) ; Illustrated Historical Atlas of the Counties of Essex and Kent, (Toronto: H. Beldon & Co., 1880-1881 ; https://archive.org/details/IllustratedHistoricalAtlasOfTheCountiesOfEssexAndKent18801881/mode/2up ; H. McEvoy, The Province of Ontario Gazetteer and Directory 1869 (Toronto: Robertson & Cook, 1869), https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/directories-collection/Pages/item.aspx?IdNumber=49530 ; Map of Kent County, 1885, https://www.ourgenealogy.ca/Canada/Ontario/KentCounty.html ; “Kent County, Ontario,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kent_County,_Ontario (all accessed 29 July 2021).

Bereik en inhoud

This fonds consists of two files of photocopied business records from what appear to have been original 19th century ledger books. One set of documents covers income and expenses for the period 1873-1875, including real estate, wood products, and payments to individuals, mentioning Caleb Coatsworth and others. Another set of documents covering 1883-1897 includes accounts of vessels listed as reporting and clearing from the Port of Romney, Caleb Coatsworth’s dock, and the Romney Castoria [?] outside the Port of Chatham. The latter set of documents includes lists of steamers and schooners with their national affiliations and tonnages, as well as lists of merchandise (such as lumber and fish) exported from the Port of Romney.

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Pages in good condition, but quality of copies varies. (Some pages barely legible because of light ink on original.)

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Archives of the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, Township of Romney fonds

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