The James Calcutt Story and other mysteries

  "In all his dealing, he was scrupulously honest, from the largest to the
smallest transactions, and he endeavored as a leading citizen to give a
tone of fairness to every important event in our municipal
history."                  _Cobourg Sentinel, May 29 1869, 2:5


    March 23, 1792, James Calcutt the Fifth was born near Mountmelick,
Queen's Country Ireland.  His father, James Calcutt IV, died on August
2, 1842, and his mother Catherine Pim, passed away June 24, 1818 at
the age of fifty.  Calcutt began brewing at the age of fourteen in his
home country and continued his profession for over sixty years until he
died in Cobourg.  While in Ireland, residing in the town of Mountmelick,
Calcutt's brewery industry was earning him a ride on a high road to
wealth; however, circumstances forced him to emigrate immediately.
The reason for Calcutt's emigration was that Ireland had been taken
over by a band of  "whiteboys".  During a traditional `Orangeman'
ceremony around their time honored `Pole', Calcutt did not attend.
Consequently, a Parish Priest denounced Calcutt from the altar of the RC
Chapel.  The leader of the "whiteboys" was James Demsey, referred t as
`Phil Cassidy' by the newspapers, who undertook the task of driving
Calcutt from his native land.  Calcutt fled from Ireland and chose to
bring his fate to Canada.


    On August 1, 1832 the Cobourg Daily Star recognized Calcutt's arrival
off the boat, William IV, as he came to carry on his business in "Little
York".  Calcutt became a very well respected and beloved individual in
Cobourg, as he was one of the town's architects and directors of
Cobourg's destiny.  Coming prepared with a considerable cash capital,
Calcutt bought a beautiful piece of property fronting Lake Ontario that
later was referred to as the "Calcutt Property".  Here, he built a mansion
which was one of the first brick buildings erected in Cobourg, a brewery,
distillery, malt houses and kilns, office, workshops, and a steam flour
mill.  From his distillery, Calcutt produced numerous products including
"Calcutt's Malt" and "Calcutt's Ale" As a man of such respect, Calcutt
later found himself occupying a seat at the Board of Police and
afterwards in the first Town Council.  In addition, upon arriving in
Cobourg, Calcutt was the first man to establish the system of paying
cash for the coarse of grains and paying his men in cash every Saturday.


    The man who had drove Calcutt from Ireland, James Demsey, decided
not to leave well enough alone.  Instead, Demsey got aboard the
William IV and headed off for Cobourg, in hope of finishing off his
duties_to rid of Calcutt.  On November 14, 1832, the Cobourg Daily Star
ran a story about the death of the Irishman Demsey.  It was reported
that Demsey was on his way to Cobourg to buy land near the lakeshore
and start up his assassinations again.  However, fate would prevent him
from doing so.  As the boat came to shore, it had to avoid a dangerous
wharf (harbor did not exist at the time) and while backing up, the boat
crashed and two passengers went flying over board.  The morning after
the drowning, a body was discovered by Mrs. Calcutt on some of the
Calcutt's land, down along the shoreline, about half a mile from the
wharf.  The body was identified as being `Phil Cassidy", better known as
James Demsey.  How much of a coincidence was Demsey's death?  It
almost sounds like one of those urban legend stories, "A man's assassin
follows overseas, is thrown from a boat, dies, and washes up on his
nemesis' property."  Ironic isn't it.



    Located at 128 Durham Street, one of Cobourg's first brick buildings
was the original home of James Calcutt, a two and a half story mansion
modeling a neo-classical design.  Calcutt had built the establishment in
1832 when he bought the three acre lot bordered by Hibernia, Orr, and
Durham Streets.  In December of the same year, Calcutt announced the
opening of Cobourg's first brewery that would be delivering beer, ale,
fresh yeast, and whiskey.  A modern day historian, Rob Mikel, says that
the grouping of the buildings was similar to those in Great Britain.  The
only existing building on the lot was a long limestone structure* which
Calcutt reportedly incorporated into his brewery.  Mikel has also
assumed that the mansion was used for church services during the
1850's while St. Peter's was being enlarged.    In the late 1850's many
businessmen, Calcutt included, ran into financial difficulty.  Calcutt had
no other option but to sell the buildings and Lakehurst.  He and his wife
moved out to Port Hope in 1859.  The factory remained until 1862 where
the Mackenchnies renamed and opened it as the "Victoria Brewery".
According to architectural records, the purchasing of the building goes as

   1832    Ebenezer Perry ___ James Calcutt             lot 19

   1833    Ebenezer Perry ___ James Calcutt             lot 17 & 18

   1853    Angus Bethune ___ Commercial Bank

   1863    Charles Mackenchnie ___ David Greenhill

   1872    Merchant Bank ___ Alex Warden

   1877    Alex Warden ___ J.D. Armour

Today, the mansion is Cobourg's oldest surviving brick residence.

*Side Note: The limestone building on the corner of Orr and Durham is a
primitive structure, which supports the suspicions that it was here
during the war of 1812.  The Crown owned the lot until 1819.  Calcutt
bought it in 1832 when he settled in Cobourg.


    There are two interesting stories surrounding this building located on
Seminary Street.  The second one is more believable.  The first story
says that the site of what is now known as the Breakers Motel is the
same site that Calcutt called home when he first came to Cobourg.
Calcutt built the main house on the property and called it "Cold Blow"
which he used as a hideaway.  The house was to have also had secret
tunnels that were installed to ensure safety.  When Demsey washed up
on shore after his death half a mile from the wharf, it was argued which
piece of property he had washed up around.  The story ends by saying
that Mrs. Calcutt had been so terrified after finding Demsey's body that
she refused to live in "Cold Blow" anymore.     The second story follows
history a bit better and is more logical.  The Breakers Motel was never
built by the Calcutt family according to historian Rob Mikel.  Supporting
proof for this also comes from the 1840's census role.  The house was
not built by James Calcutt Jr., Calcutt's son, but rather by a Judge
George Boswell in 1840.

    The property did indeed find itself in the hands of the Calcutt's some
ten years later when Calcutt Jr. purchased it from Boswell.  It is
believed that from the location on Seminary Street, James Jr., and his
brother Kingsley ran a small branch brewery during the time when his
father was selling Lakehurst.


    James Calcutt must have been a man of fear or a very sneaky
businessman.  In every building or home associated with Calcutt, there
are rumors of tunnels running in every direction.  Orville Calhoun, owner
of the Lakehurst building from 1954 _ 1980, revealed to the newspapers
that in the oldest part of the basement is an original crawlspace from
when the house was first constructed.  Strangely enough, blocking off
the crawlspace is a slab of pure concrete.  Questions aroused from what
was on the other side of the concrete.  Where did the tunnels lead?
Why were they there to begin with?  Calcutt could have used them for
smuggling liquor from his brewery or as a quick detour from one building
to the next.  Nevertheless, what explains the tunnels that are reported
to be lying underneath the limestone building?  Were they already
present and if so, would the military have had used them during the war
of 1812 if the building was indeed a barracks?  Alternatively, did Calcutt
somehow incorporate them with his own tunnels?  Either way you look
at it, there is no explanation to the tunnels.  The occupants of
Lakehurst during the time that the Legion Village was being made said
that you could hear the rumbling and vibrating coming from the hollow
ground.  Little ghost stories say that if you are to put your ear to the
crawlspace it is possible to hear Lake Ontario.  Such little whispers
makes you wonder what is on the other side of the concrete slab and
why it was put there in the beginning.


    Was there a mill existing on the site of Calcutt's original distillery?
According to the newspaper, there was.  As well, there was an article in
the Cobourg World paper on May 8, 1896 about the Calcutt's
Steamers_the mill that had been built in 1832 was a steam mill.  In the
January 6, 1899 edition of the Cobourg World, it reported a fire that had
occurred at the Bickle and Healey's Brewery, destroying one building.  In
other reports, it was stated that the "Calcutt Property" had changed
hands after the Mackenchie's opened up the Victoria Brewery in 1862.
In addition, Lakehurst had to undergo renovations after it was partially
damaged in a fire in 1899.


   `In this town, on Tuesday last, 18th, James Calcutt…one of the first
settlers and most respected citizens of Cobourg, aged 77 years.'
_Death Notice, Cobourg Sentinel/Star, May 22, 1869,

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