Thomas Robson [ 1839 - 1925 ]

Thomas Robson was born in Middlesboro, Yorkshire on July 2nd, 1839, where he was admitted as a member of the “Middlebro’ Branch of the Friendly Society of Iron Founders of England, Ireland and Wales” on the 11th of January 18591. He arrived in Fenelon Falls sometime before 1877 and joined his brother William L., who had set up shop around 18733, in the grocery business. William L.’s shop was among nine others that were burnt in March 1876 [CP 31 March 1876; 2], but he was back in business the following month [CP 21 April 1876; 3]. Thomas and William appear to have entered into a partnership around this time as the firm was afterwards known as Robson & Robson. Less than a year later, their grocery store was again burned in March 1877 [CP 16 March 1877; 3].

Some sources suggest that the brothers were also doing foundry work as well as dealing in groceries, so it was not a surprise, after two fires within the year, that in June a decision was made to abandon groceries and purchase the Cameron Lake Foundry from William Hamilton [CP 15 June 1877; 3]. As its name states the Cameron Lake foundry was located “on Cameron Lake north of the Anglican parsonage” [CP 22 May 1874; 1], and by 1879 the business was well established, producing a “large number of really excellent machines”. In the show room were “ploughs, fanning mills, cutting boxes, gang ploughs, etc., all of which are got up in the best style and material. The implements intended for the different agricultural exhibitions cannot be excelled” [CP 3 Oct 1879; 3]. The machinery was shown at many of the local agricultural fairs [CP 1 Oct 1880; 2] throughout the years. In 1880 the foundry was awarded the contract to manufacture new castings for the refit of the R.C. Smith saw mill [FFG 11 Dec 1880; 2]. The partnership of Robson & Robson was dissolved on February 24th, 1882, when William sold his share of the business to Robert Cecil Allan [FFG 4 March 1882; 2]; the firm was afterwards known at Robson & Allen.

In April of 1883 [FFG 14 April 1883; 2], Robson and Allen put up a wooden building, 16 by 40 feet, at the south-west corner of Colborne and Francis Streets which they used as a show room for their own manufactured goods and the goods for which they acted as agents. On October 28th 1884 Robson and Allan dissolved their partnership and the business was carried on alone by Thomas Robson [FFG 1 Nov 1884; 2]. In 1887, again in 1891, and in 18923 additions were made to the main street showroom, until eventually it was over 90 feet long. Business was booming and in 1890 Robson proposed moving the foundry closer to the new locks and wharf which would be more convenient for steamboat repairs, which took up more of his business [FFG 17 Oct 1890; 4]. This proposal apparently never materialized.

Disaster struck in May 1893 when the foundry was largely destroyed; a fire in the roof was fanned by winds off the lake and in a short time the building was lost [CP 5 May 1893; 8]. “A storehouse containing patterns, ploughs and other articles were saved, but all other buildings went.” The foundry business was abandoned, and the remaining lake-front buildings used as storage; however Thomas Robson continued to act as an agent selling agricultural implements from his showrooms on Colborne Street. By August 1894 Robson purchased the four year old implement showroom from Joseph Heard, who was giving up his agency selling agricultural implements. Robson used Heard’s old showroom and his own building on the SW corner of Colborne and Francis Streets to display his machinery [FFG 31 Aug 1894; 4-5]. In July 1895 the Gazette recorded that he had purchased the shop formerly owned by J.J. Nevison on Colborne Street [FFG 12 July 1895; 4]. On a business card, probably dating from this time, and now in the collection of the Fenelon Falls Museum, Robson describes himself as a “Dealer in Iron and Coal, Agricultural Implements, Carriages and Cutters.” The business appears to have lasted until 1905, when it was taken over by Robson’s nephew William Thomas Robson (1884-1958). Afterwards William Robson tried his hand at blacksmithing, but he must have retired sometime after 1908. He died in 1917 and was buried in the Fenelon Falls Cemetery [FFPL 25:23].

646 Variant spelling: Robinson, Thomas 647 The certificate survives in the collection of the Fenelon Falls Museum. 648 Suggitt says his cousin [22] 649 See below under Robson & Robson and W.L. Robson. 650 Actually the mill was west of the parsonage. 651 Variant spelling: Allan 652 This business was on the south-west corner, the site of the present day CIBC [the old Post Office]. 653 FFG 6 May 1887; 7: 23 Jan 1891; 4 : 19 June 1891; 4 : 22 April 1892; 4. 654 "Thos Robson has received a carload of coal which he is now selling… " [FFG 6 Dec 1895; 4]. 655 Thomas Robson, who is an Englishman by birth, came to Fenelon Falls 27 years ago [i.e. 1877] and for a number of years engaged in the foundry business. Since the destruction of the foundry by fire he has been engaged in the implement business. He is owner of the trim little yacht Dauntless. He has many times been a member of both Council and School Board, and is now President of the Mechanics' Institute Board and also of the Sandford Furniture and Woodenware Co." [Souvenir of FF 1904]

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