The Lost Port of Port Granby

Written with articles from the Toronto Telegraph Saturday August 15, 1936. Photo credit and thanks to the Newcastle Village District Historical Society for providing us with a copy of the Telegraph article.

If you asked most people that live in Clarington where Port Granby is, they would not be able to tell you. That’s understandable given its present population and location.

Port Granby is located in the southeastern corner of the Municipality of Clarington along the shores of Lake Ontario. It feels cut off from the rest of the Municipality by Highway 401 and the Canadian Pacific Railroad tracks, but it is easily accessible by travelling along picturesque Lakeshore Road. In its present size, it’s the type of hamlet that you can blink and miss. However this was not always the case. This hamlet packs a lot of history into its small footprint.

Port Granby once had a population of 250, three grain elevators, a gristmill, a sawmill, a distillery, a malthouse, a schoolhouse, a Methodist church, two taverns, and thirty or forty happy families in the village.

Port Granby’s recorded story begins in 1841 when it is mentioned in some Upper Canada (now Ontario) legislative papers where it is referred to as the “Village of Granby”. In 1846, Granby makes another appearance in these papers when William Rowe along with his associates, requested the government’s permission to incorporate the Granby Harbor Company. In 1848, an act was passed to officially name the village “Port Granby”.

From 1848 until the turn of the 20th century, Port Granby was an integral part of the local economy. Providing access to Lake Ontario and the world, many goods were shipped from Port Granby.

In 1866, Port Granby shipped out 95,000 bushels of Durham County barley in one season, besides a quantity of wheat and rye, a little lumber, more shingles, thousands of cords of hardwood, and hundreds of long masts from the pine ridges of Clarke and Hope townships to the north.

It was all wood and grain going out and money coming in, in those days; the export trade was over $200,000 a year (over $3 Million in 2018 dollars). Port Granby imported little – sometimes a schooner brought in a load of apple trees or nursery stock, or settlers’ effects, but the area was self-sustaining.

So what happened? Where did everything go? By the 1920’s, most of the prominent landmarks of Port Granby had disappeared. The Canadian Hydrographic Survey chart of Lake Ontario from 1923 shows no sign of it. By 1936, there was a village that consisted of four year-round families and ten families that summered there. The Post Office was one of the only signs of what was once there.

Today, there are approximately ten dwellings that remain of Port Granby. We invite you to come check out three of those on Doors Open Clarington. The Old March Cottage, the March Hotel and Hilltop Farm will all be open for you to see. Port Granby is now most famous for what is happening just to the east of the hamlet, but we will talk about that in another post. Stay tuned!

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