The Beginning of Brickmaking in Aldershot

by Scott Forsyth

   When I first saw the picture of Thomas gibbs in the Aldershot Tweedsmuir Papers I just had to learn more about him.  In doing so I learned a lot more about the history of brick making in Aldershot.  The following is a brief history of the industry and a look at the Gibbs family of brickmakers.

Thomas Gibbs

   Thomas Gibbs was a long time resident of Aldershot who along with his father and brother were brick makers.  The Gibbs family came to Canada in 1855 from Wanford England and first settled in the small village of Yorkville, on the northern outskirts of Toronto.  On the 1861 census there is the father William 48, his wife Sarah 50 and William's brother Thomas, 60.  This brother Thomas is listed as a brickmaker on the previous census of Yorkville in 1851.  William and Sarah's children were Thomas 1841-1918, Joel 1843-1919, Mary 1846-1913, Roseanna 1849-1920 and Eliza 1852-????.

   All four Gibbs men were brick makers and worked at the Yorkville Brick Works.  Brick making first started there in 1835 and lasted into the 1890's.  The factories were located north of Davenport Road, between Yonge Street & Avenue Road.  Three different families owned these separate factories.  The Pears, the Townsleys and the Nightingales.  After the plants closed the city of Toronto purchased the property in 1904.  The pits were filled and the land became Ramsden Park.

   Between 1867 & 1869 William and Sarah moved to Aldershot.  According to the 1871 Census they lived on Lot # 1, concession 1.  In a separate residence close by was their son Thomas and his wife Almeda.  Also close by was Thomas's sister Mary who had married William Lindow Hoddart in 1869.  He was a carpenter in Yorkville.  All three families are listed as "tenants".  Mary  William Hoddart moved back to Yorkville by 1876 living close to the Brick works on Berryman Avenue and then later on Davenport Road.  Sister Roseanna had always stayed in Yorkville.  She married a brick maker in 1873 and died in 1920 when living on Belmont Street, just south of the brick factory.  Eliza got married in Chicago but returned to Yorkville after her husband died.

   Thomas's brother Joel also came to Aldershot but only stayed till around 1870.  In 1871 he is on the census living in Brantford Ontario as a brick maker.  He was found under the misspelled surname of "Gebbs".  He soon returns to Aldershot.

   Concession 1 of Lot # 1 was owned by Thomas Easterbrook.  He purchased the property in 1856 from Andrew Chisholm and had moved to Aldershot from Nassagaweya, Ontario.  Andrew inherited the house and property from his father William Chisholm who had the house built around 1820.  The advertisement in the Hamilton Spectator for this property from 1856 mentions that "On a portion of the property clay of a superior quality for brick making or potters ware is to be obtained in abundance".  It is likely that the bricks from this house were made from the clay deposits close by.  The house was demolished in 1987 and the bricks were re-used for a home in Belleville, Ontario.

   Thomas Easterbrook eventually purchased more property north into Con. 2 and Lot 1 from Joseph Ireland.  It is not known when Thomas Easterbrook got into the brick making business.

   Thomas Sr. died in 1892 at the age of 82 and the earliest advertisement of an Easterbrook brick or tile operation is from advertisements in September 1870 that has William Gibbs working for the Wellington Square Tile Works.  According to the 1871 census the company was open 5 months of the year with 5 employees, 4 men and one boy under the age of 16.  Most of the Easterbrooks in the area were Farmers except for Thomas Sr.'s brother, William, who was a Tollgate Keeper from around 1881 till about 1900 and his son, Thomas Foster Easterbrook, who is mentioned as a brickmaker on his marriage certificate from 1877.

   Another advertised brickmaker in the area was William Cuckow.  He was closely associated with the Easterbrook operation.  On the 1881 Census he is listed as living with Thomas Easterbrook and family and his occupation was a laborer.  William Cuckow married the widow Jane Douglas in 1888.  Jane was the daughter of Thomas Smith who owned property in the Broken Front of Lots 1, 2 & 3.  Thomas Smith's name appears on two maps from 1859 & 1875 and shows him having acreage on concession 2 of Lot 1 beside Thomas Easterbrook's land in the vicinty of the clay deposits.  William and Jane Cuckow were freeholders on the Broken front of Lot 1 in 1891.  The last known date for them living in Aldershot and William being a brick maker was 1893.  By 1901 they are living in British Columbia.

   To the best of my knowledge the next known brick & tile manufacturer in Aldershot was the "Aldershott Brick Works.  The National Fire Proofing Company later known as Natco Clay Products on Unsworth Avenue did not open till 1910.  The Dominion Sewer Pipe Company on lots 1, 2 & 3 of Concessions 1 & 2 opened around 1904.  It's name was changed to the National Sewer Pipe Company after a merger with two other companies, Ontario Sewer Pipe and Clay Products Ltd.  and the Hamilton and Toronto Sewer Pipe Company Ltd. in 1928.  The National Sewer Pipe was located on land that was purchased from Thomas Foster Easterbrook (son of Thomas) as a map from around 1903 has his name on the piece of land.

Natco Clay Products

   The location of the Aldershott Brick Works was west of Waterdown Road and north of the old train station, where Highway 403 is now.  It started up around 1870.

   The owners of this factory went by the name of M. Burns & Co.  Mathew Burns and Cornelius Feeley were the sole members.  Cornelius Feeley owned the south-west quarter of Lot 7, Concession 1.  This likely included the property on the north side of the tracks where the brick works was located.  Cornelius was an accountant/clerk for the Great Western Railway from as early as 1861 and he purchased the land in 1864.

   Mathew Burns was a wholesale lumber merchant from Waterdown though his offices were in Hamilton located on the corner of Rebecca and James Street.  He owned 125 acres on Lot 4, Concession 4 in East Flamborough.  He must have come to Waterdown in the 1850s as he is not on the Agricultural Census for 1851 but is on the Surtees map of Wentworth county dated 1859.  The only advertised mention of these two men that connected them to the Brick Works was on a directory from 1877-78 under the heading of brickmakers.

   In 1872 this factory produced over three million bricks.  Thomas's brother Joel Gibbs has returned to Aldershot by now as his son was born in East Flamborough in March of 1873.  On a directory for Aldershot in 1874 Joel is mentioned as "foreman brick works" and by January 1875 he was promoted to manager.  On a newspaper advertisement in July of 1875, a J.H Feeley, son of Cornelius, is the contact person at the Aldershot Brick and Drain Tile Works.

   On July 24th, 1877 Mathew Burns passed away at the age of 61.  At this time he and his wife were living in Brantford, Ontario.  For whatever reasons in October 1877 the goods and chattels of the Aldershot Brick Works were seized by the County Sheriff.  On November 21st Cornelius Feeley, the only surviving member of M. Burns & Co. became an insolvent according to the Insolvency Act of 1875.

   Joel Gibbs and Robert Cutter, a long time Aldershot resident, had started making bricks in May of 1877.  The factory did not operate during the winter.  They had made close to 160,000 bricks that they had made, not been paid for and were taken at the time of the seizure.  In court they were claiming for $521.75 and only received dividends of $65.00 and $36.49 for their labour of loading the bricks.  On the 1881 Census, Joel Gibbs has returned to Yorkville, Ontario and he continued in the brick making business there.

The dividend sheet below shows a few Aldershot residents.  James Grice, son of John Grice who operated the mill in Hidden Valley, R.B. Ireland, owner of the mill, Charles King and an unnamed Filman, Alexander Brown and his son Alex, but most notably are the Freeley's.  Cornelius' wife Jane received the most dividends along with his brother William and his son James.

Mathew Burns' son Edward had also invested in the compay.  He had been working in his Father's wholesale lumber business.  On the 1871 Census he owned 3 acres on Lot 7, Concession 3 in the village of Waterdown.  It is worth mentioning that by 1879 he too became an insolvent.

It is not known what became of the property of Aldershot Brick Works but it seems that a man with the last name of Carpenter purchased it for $950.00.  There was a heated court battle over whether the brick making equipment was part of the sale.  To date nothing is known of the outcome.  Cornelius and Jane Feeley sold the property to Henry Blessinger in November 1879.

   Cornelius had an earlier association with another factory on the same property, the Aldershot Match Factory.  It was formed in early 1876 and only survived for one year.  Cornelius Feeley was the secretary of the company and resigned his office in September 1876 due to ill health.  The company was purchased by George Roach, possibly the former mayor of Hamilton, 1875-76, on October 23rd, 1876.  He then sold to a Toronto Company in April 1877  the company was on a list of Joint Stock companies incorporated under the Ontario Acts between July 1st, 1867 and the 31st of December, 1891.  Possibly it amalgamated with the Toronto Match Factory or the Dominion Match Factory.  Both were located on King St. W.  To date this is all that has been found of this business.  The land was then sold to Charles Roach, Major George's son, in 1881 and he then sold it to H. Blessinger in May of 1883.

Cornelius died on August 5th, 1885 and is buried in the Old Protestant Cemetery in Brockville, Ontario.  His wife Jane and son James are still living in Brockville in 1891.

   In 1872 Thomas Gibb's wife Almeda, gave birth to a girl who was given the same name.  It is believed that both Mother and daughter may have died during birth as searches for them have come up empty.  Thomas, now 33, got remarried on October 1st, 1874 to Mary Anne Spencer, 20 years of age.  On their marriage certificate it states that Thomas was a widower.  The Spencer family had recently arrived in Canada from England in June of 1873.

   Thomas's mother Sarah died on March 27th, 1872 from congestion of the lungs.  She was 61 years old.  His father William got remarried on January 14th, 1873 to Mary Harriett Pitcher, 32 years of age.  On their marriage certificate William's profession is tile maker.  On the 1881 Census William and Mary now have three children.  Jeremiah is 7 years old, William is 5 and Ernest is 3.  William's profession is a brickmaker.  They are in Aldershot possibly on Lot 1 and by 1881 they are on BF 6.  William died on June 6th 1882 and is buried in Woodside Cemeter in Norfolk County.  By 1891 the Census shows that widow Mary is living with her three sons in Ward #1 in the City of Hamilton.

William and Mary Gibbs

   For whatever reason Thomas Gibbs cannot be found on any 1881 Census.  There is a Thomas Gibbs listed on two directories for Yorkville in 1876, 1881,  1883.  The address is #10 Price Street, just north of the Yorkville Brick Works.  This person is likely Thomas's uncle who lived with the family back in 1861.  He passed away in March 19th, 1887.

   On the 1881 Census for Middlesex County Thomas's wife Mary Anne Spencer is living back with her family who are now in Ward # 3 of London Ontario.  She is listed using her maiden name.  It must be noted that on this Census there is a brother of Mary's named Charles who is a brick maker.  It is possible that when the Spencer's lived in Aldershot he perhaps worked with Thomas.  It is also possible that he arrived before his family because he is not on the Ships Passenger list with his family.

   On a Directory for Aldershot in 1883, Thomas is found as a freeholder living on the Broken Front of Lot # 3.  the property was described as being 1 acre in the South-East part of Lot 3.  He purchased it from Alexander Duffes for $273 in 1882.  The 1891 Census describes his house a one story, wood structure with two rooms.  The 1901 Census states that his religion is Salvation Army and the 1911 census has his profession as a gardener, his religion as "bible reader" and it states that he is separated.  In February 1906 Thomas Gibbs, unmarried, sells the property to Robert Barrow who then returns the property to Thomas with a Life Lease for one dollar.

   On two occasions Thomas Gibbs had his home broken into.  Once in 1893 and another, a more severe incident,  In 1902.

Thomas Gibbs house

   Thomas Gibbs died on November 25th, 1916 in the St. Peters Home for the Incurable at the age of 80.  He is buried in the Hamilton Cemetery on York Blvd.  The name of the informant on his death
certificate is J.M. Huddart, likely the grandson of Thomas's sister Mary.