History of the Barracks


    Unfortunately, very little has been written about the building.  Any written accounts, encountered to date, that mention the Barracks were written in the last 30 years.  Many people have taken this omission to mean the building had no importance.  However, there is very little written about Cobourg’s involvement in the war of 1812 by any writer.  The 1878 historical atlas of the county has the wrong list of names for militia men for the area. This mistake has been faithfully copied by local historians and writers who, upon looking at the local census, surmised only 1 local man served in the war.  However, looking at the original documents we find that 1/5 of the regiment came from Cobourg and Hamilton township.  The regiment guarded the area and the key transfer area at Carrying lace, escorted American prisoners of war to Kingston, and many other activities documented in letters from the time.  If this chapter of local history has been skipped, it is no wonder that nothing has been written about the building.     We do know that there was a military depot in Cobourg that supplied troops during the war of 1812.  We also know it was relatively close to the mill on Factory Creek at the King Street bridge (see Sept. 1814 letter).  Given the obvious age of the building and its reputation, it is likely the depot mentioned in the letter. It was on government property until 1819 which coincides nicely with the treaty that demilitarized the Great Lakes.     From 1819 to 1831 the property and the building passed through a series of owners.  Its use is open to conjecture.  In 1831, it passed into James Calcutt’s hands (see "The James Calcutt Story" for several fascinating facts about both him and the building).  At this point it was probably used as a malt house or for grain storage.  The "owl windows" were probably added at this point.  The legendary tunnels would also likely date from this time as Calcutt had enemies who wished his death.  A concealed exit would have been prudent.  Calcutt ran a large brewery and distillery that he eventually lost to bankruptcy.  The business ended in the 1890s when most of the buildings burned.  The barracks’ roof shows fire damage from this time.     After the 1890's, the building  ran through a large number of different owners.  We know some of them used the building for storage, including a fellow who used to ‘recycle’ parts of buildings he demolished.  Physical evidence in the building also suggests the presence of a blacksmith at one point.  However, the overwhelming evidence is of storage.  Of course, today, the building will serve its final use as a museum in recognition of both its own unique history and that of this area.

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