Maryboro Lodge, 1837
After arriving in Fenelon Township in 1834, James Wallis lived in the tavern that he operated with his partner Robert Jameson. However, he was accustomed to a more luxurious existence and planned a finer home almost immediately upon arrival. When Wallis came to Cameron’s Falls (Fenelon Falls), Jameson already owned the 23rd lot of the tenth concession, which he purchased in 1833 from Hon. Duncan Cameron, a Toronto banker and Provincial Secretary of Upper Canada. This lot straddled the Fenelon River and consisted of much of the present day town of Fenelon Falls. Wallis chose a site from this lot on the river for his home, which his workers finished in time for his house opening party in mid-October 1837.
The two storey squared-timber home included two spacious parlours, a dining room and five bedrooms. On each of the three gables, he proudly displayed the Wallis crest. It was the first home of such quality in the area, at least two months in advance of the home that the Langtons built at Blythe. He named Maryboro in honour of his father’s 14,000 acre estate, Maryborough at Glanmure, about 2 miles from Cork, Ireland. Maryborough had some special, although not entirely happy, significance to Wallis. When he was a boy, his brother John drowned on the estate, amidst suspicion of foul play by an admirer of a girl John courted. James vowed he would never return to Maryborough, but he occasionally did.
Wallis sought to emulate some of the grandeur of his family’s Irish estates and continued to improve Maryboro. Pioneer homes were notorious for being drafty since they used unseasoned timber which was not dimensionally stable. In 1838, he hired a plasterer for the interior providing some relief from the climate. A year later, Wallis had Maryboro’s exterior covered in rough cast plaster and the following year he added a summer kitchen on the north side, as well as a verandah.
James Wallis resided at Maryboro until 1841, when he left to live with Stafford Kirkpatrick near Peterborough, and built a new home, Merino. He returned for part of 1842, but left Maryboro vacant when he sailed for England in the autumn, after ending his partnership with Jameson and selling his furniture. Maryboro’s lot was not included in either of their partitions of the partnership, remaining jointly owned until 1853, after the death of Jameson. Wallis acquired Jameson’s share of the lot from the heirs in 1853, for £750. Wallis did not have enough money for the purchase, and agreed to a mortgage with Jameson’s heirs for £562 10s.
Wallis’ extensive land speculations, primarily in the town of Windsor (later renamed Whitby) as well as the townships of Fenelon and Verulam proved unwise, as a rush of settlers to the areas failed to materialize. Wallis had bought much of the land on credit, and since he received little revenue, he struggled to keep his creditors paid. On June 28, 1860, Alex Gillespie, John Dean, James Gillespie and James Dean the younger foreclosed on Lot 23 of the tenth concession of Fenelon Township, which included Maryboro.
On October 11, 1864 John Freeland acquired much of the lot, including the home, for $8000. Freeland sold the property as town lots, including most of Colborne Street. Robert Charles Smith, formerly of Cobourg, acquired Maryboro in January 1868. Together with Robert Waddell of Trenton, R. C. Smith also purchased Wallis’ former mill property in 1871. Robert Milliard, who was already mortgaged to Smith, purchased Maryboro in 1874, but lost it within two years. Smith then rented the home and his tenants included George Littleton, a carpenter; G. E. Anderson, who operated a hardware store; and R. B. “Dick” Sylvester, a photographer. During this period Maryboro hosted several church functions including Anglican church organ socials and a Strawberry Social in aid of the Presbyterian Church. In April 1893, a chimney defect caused a fire, which was extinguished by alert neighbours, preventin! g much damage from occurring. Smith’s estate sold the property in November 1901 for $900 to Thomas Cashore, an Irish born auctioneer.
On April 26, 1913, William Abbott purchased Maryboro to enable his sisters, Kate, Belle and Tillie to open a lodge, catering to respectable boarders such as ministers, teachers and families. Initially the boarders often stayed for long periods of time, but as the sisters aged their visitors tended to have shorter stays, and in their final years of operation the lodge closed for the winter. Some guests lodged within Maryboro itself, but many stayed in the four cabins on the west side of the building, towards Cameron Lake. Mr. Pentland, a local banker, helped with the construction of grass tennis courts on the east side of Maryboro. Together with the adjacent lake and large parlours, this provided a variety of leisure to guests.
Maryboro continued to be an important social centre in Fenelon Falls. The Abbotts hosted numerous church picnics and mission society meetings. They created a tradition of serving tea on the verandah and succeeded in attracting numerous boat tours. The sisters befriended their guests and enticed many to regularly frequent the lodge.
Maryboro Lodge was much more pleasant a as site for summer relaxation than as a permanent residence. The building lacked modern insulation and was virtually impossible to keep warm in the winter. The Abbott sisters frequently went to stay with their sister Mary Kelly when the lodge was frigid, and they had the building covered with grey Insulbrick.
By 1958 the Abbotts required assistance in daily tasks and moved to Waterman’s nursing home in Lindsay. Milburn Kelly, their nephew and the President of the Fenelon Falls Historical Society, convinced the sisters that the lodge should be converted into a museum. In 1962, they sold it to the village, as the historical society could not own property. The Councils of Victoria County and the village both made significant financial contributions towards renovation of the building, allowing the museum to open the following year.