reprinted from the MAPLE LEAVES, journal of the Canadian Philatelic Society of Great Britain, June 1968.
Vol. 12, No. 5
First Post Offices on
Lake Simcoe’s East Shore
by Max Rosenthal
The two townships in Ontario County on the eastern shores of Lake Simcoe
are Thorah and Mara, first surveyed in 1820 and 1821. In 1824, under `Squire’
Donald Cameron, emigrants arrived from Glengarry in Thorah. 1830 brought
a large influx of immigrants from Scotland, followed by Highlanders to Mara
from 1833 on. The first bridge was thrown across the Beaver River in Thorah
by 1830, at the site of Beaverton. A road was blazed to the latter from the site
of Oshawa, on Lake Ontario.
Kenneth Cameron opened the first store that year in Milton, as Beaverton
was called. Donald Calder built saw and grist mills there, and so a village was
arising. For five years there was no post office nearer than Georgina (Sutton
West later), 18 miles away. Colonel Cameron, of the 74th Highlanders,
settled on the lake shore 1 4 miles north of Beaverton in 1835. His influence
with the government got a post office, designated Beaverton, opened at the
beginning of 1836. (Milton post office was to be opened the same year in
James Ellis kept Beaverton post office in a house on the river bank, and later
had a carding and spinning establishment just below. Charles Robinson had
settled in Thorah in 1833, and was to be a future postmaster of Beaverton.
In the Baldwin Papers, Toronto Reference Library, is a letter from him to
Robert Baldwin, written 14th July, 1845, postmarked with a large double
circle broken by BEAVERTON, U.C., in blue, with `22 July 45′ written in.
Another letter from Robinson to Baldwin, written 13th November, 1848, has
a medium-sized double circle broken by BEAVERTON, C.W., in thin lettering,
with NO 14, 1848 in type, all in red.
Irish as well as Scottish settlers located in Mara Township, and one of them,
Michael McDonagh, opened Mara post office in 1842. A small settlement had
sprung up about a half mile west of the future village of Brechin, at the point
where the Grand Trunk Railway was later to cross, when it would be called
Brechin Station. A mile south was Mara post office.
The Baldwin Papers also provide letters from McDonagh to Robert Baldwin.
The first one, from 13th December, 1842, was written so soon after the establishment
of the post office, that a hand stamp was not yet to hand, and it has the
manuscript postmark `Mara, Deer 13th 1842′, joined by a bracket, in the
lower left. `Michael McDonagh P.M.’ is written at the top, next to FREE,
stamped in italic capitals. In it he wrote:
`I am induced by Messrs. Johnston and Lount to request you will be
pleased to use your influence in my behalf to obtain for me the situation
of Treasurer in the intended new District of Simcoe. It is needless for me to
add what my useful services were in trying to improve this isolated section
of the county’ he added, no doubt thinking of his bringing postal service
A letter from McDonagh to Baldwin written 14th February, 1843, is already
postmarked with a medium-sized double circle broken by MARA, U.C., with
the date written in. The same postmark appears in red on a letter of I st July
With high postage rates calculated according to weight, it would have been
prohibitively expensive to mail anything heavier than a letter, so it is not
surprising that on 3rd June, 1845, McDonagh wrote to Baldwin:
I received your letter by the last mail and I shall look out for some safe
opportunity to send the book you require, and in case no opportunity
presents itself I shall take it with me when I go to town.’ `Town’ meant
Toronto, where Robert Baldwin was head of government.
On 2nd June, 1846, McDonagh wrote to Baldwin:
‘I have written to you when the session of Parliament opened enclosing a
petition from the inhabitants of this township, showing the Board of Works
the wretched condition that the settlers are left in without any access by road
to a very expensive bridge which is likely to rot before it is used, called the
‘So the people here are all anxious to know what turn this contemplated
road from Windsor Harbour (Oshawa) has taken this session. I can’t understand
how the Board of Works in defiance to an Act of Parliament withheld
the expenditure of £2,000 voted by the last session of Parliament or how
it is, the present session would have any hesitation in supporting you to grant
the further sum required to complete this important road as a Provincial
At the Narrows, connecting Lakes Sirncoe and Conchiching, was to be
opened in 1851 Atherly post office, right opposite Orillia. W. C. McMullen
was postmaster, and it had a tri-weekly mail. By this time Donald Cameron
kept the post office in Beaverton, in his general store. He was also a lumber
merchant, owning a saw mill. There was a daily mail.
For a few months in 1856 and 1857 Daniel Cameron ran Forcastle post
office, also in Beaverton, but on the north bank of the Beaverton River.
Perhaps the bridge connecting with the business section on the south side was
out, while they built a new one, and this was provided as a convenience to the
north Beaverton residents, but who knows?
William Ritchie had taken over as postmaster of Mara, and Charles Robinson
in Beaverton. On 20th May, 1861, George Brown’s Toronto newspaper,
the Globe, commented:
`We are credibly informed that Mr. Charles Robinson, Postmaster of the
village of Beaverton, County of North Ontario, has been dismissed from his
office, for no other reason than that he is a consistent Reformer and a
decided though quiet and inoffensive opponent of the present government.
Not the slightest complaint against his conduct as Postmaster was made;
he was notified that his office was wanted, and three days afterwards was
turned out; a son of a friend of the Postmaster General from Cobourg being
appointed in his place. This is not the first postmaster who has been dismissed
for political reasons by Mr. Smith, and it is time to enquire whether
the system of changing officials to make their political tenets agree with those
of the ministry of the day is to be universally adopted. The Reform Party
will have no reason to regret the introduction of this system, so far as
individual interests are concerned, for a very large proportion of the offices
in the gift of the Crown are in the hands of their opponents. The public
interests will suffer, however, from the change of officials with every change
of government, and we shall protest against the introduction of the American
system to the last. We see not, however, that its adoption can long be delayed
if the government continue to pursue the career they have commenced.
We see not how a Reform administration can refrain from reinstalling
Mr. Chadwick of Ingersoll, and Mr. Robinson of Beaverton, in their offices;
and the system once inaugurated will rapidly spread. The present government
have gone so far that there will be no ground for complaint if the next
administration punishes with exemplary severity any interference which
may be practised by officials during the coming elections.’
Sidney Smith was Postmaster-General at that time. In a letter now in the
Ontario Archives he wrote next day to Charles Lindsey on the Globe editorial:
`The Globe overhauls me about `Beaverton’ P.M.
`On 26th October, 1860, Dewe reported that quarterly amounts for
March, June and September were only obtained by a visit to Beaverton.
He cautioned the P.M. on his sureties against a repetition of this complaint
and promises of amendment were given. However the Deer. amounts were
not sent and on 2nd April Griffin reported facts to me and I dismissed him
without knowing whether he was Reformer or Tory nor did I care-this is a
fitting sequence to his defense of Mueller, Depenser, Chadwick et al. They
all ought to serve the Department without stint or restriction. I have dismissed
PMs of Niagara, Beachville, Rimouski, Coteau du Lac, Beaverton,
Weston, Berlin, Newboro, Merrickville and it may not be a bad thing to
make it public for the benefit of those who may think they can do as they like.
`Brown could have found out all about the facts by asking Dewe. Creighton
the new P.M. at Beaverton is a son of Jno. Creighton an old Reformer
who was Brown’s collector for the Globe in 1858 in the West. Brown dismissed
him for saying a word in favour of our party.’
Creighton did not last long as postmaster of Beaverton, for the next year
finds Donald Cameron back at his old position.
James Patrick Foley arrived in 1860 at what was to become the northwest
corner of Brechin. In 1863 Mara post office was closed, replaced by one
run by Foley at Brechin, named after the place his wife came from, near