History of Bowmanville, Ontario

Bowmanville’s history dates back over 200 years with the arrival in 1794 of the first European settlers - three loyalist families from the U.S. - the Burks, the Conants and the Trulls.

history1 The Burks settled Lot 14 of the 1st Concession of Darlington Township. John Burk first cleared enough land to obtain his grant then settled into establishing his business concerns. By 1801, Asa Danforth had completed what came to be known as The Danforth Road between Kingston and York, and one of Burk’s first business enterprises was to build an inn/tavern on this road. Old records show he bought his whiskey at Port Britain near Port Hope. In about 1806, Burk erected a saw mill on Barbour’s Creek (now known as Bowmanville Creek). That same year, Leonard Soper re-built his saw mill on the same creek (the first one, built the preceding year had burned down), and he also purchased the grist mill (on Soper Creek) from Augustus Barbour, who had been established there for a year or two. Other settlers to the area in ensuing years discovered the excellent water-power of the creek and soon three more mills were erected in the vicinity, giving the growing settlement the name Darlington Mills.

history2Burk also became a supplier of goods to new arrivals settling in the area, and no doubt bought his supplies at Montreal, as was the norm for merchants in the area at that time. It is possible he purchased from a Scottish merchant in that city, Charles Bowman, for it wasn’t long before Bowman purchased Burk’s holdings at Darlington Mills, and set-up his nephew, John Simpson, as manager of the whole lot. This gave rise to the new name of the community, Bowmanville.

The village soon grew, attracting not only settler families but industry as well. Because of Bowmanville’s influence and affluence, Darlington Township was known as The Banner Township of Durham County. Mills, tanneries, furniture factories, brick yards, evaporator plants, a variety of mercantile establishments, hotels, inns and temperance houses were all established.

history3The best known hotel was The Waverley House, owned and operated by Alphonso Hinds. It was renowned as the best establishment along the York to Kingston Road, because Hinds not only provided clean linen on his beds, but real soap too! Most historians agree that it was his liberal use of soap that give Hinds the distinction of being...."the only hotel keeper on the Danforth Road to survive the cholera epidemic of 1832."

history4Bowmanville’s best known industries include: The Dominion Organ and Piano Factory, The Goodyear Rubber Plant, The Bowmanville Foundry, and The Cream of Barley Mill, whose goods and products have been shipped all over the world.

Remnants of those prosperous years are still found throughout the town, not only in the street-scape of the downtown area, but in the number of large picturesque houses, built by the merchants and businessmen over 100 years ago. One of these buildings appropriately houses The Bowmanville Museum, whose archives hold the complete story of the town and its development, including an extensive photographic collection that spans nearly 150

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