Vroomanton is one Southern Ontario's most well-hidden ghost town treasures. None of the ghost town hunters in the province have even heard of it, but now its history is about to come to life online.
I was going though old 1878 county maps of the province and found this one town marked that I had never heard of. It is located just NW of Sunderland, Ontario in Brock Township and was considerably larger than Sunderland on the map. Having never heard of it I took a drive up there and got the scoop. My assumptions were correct- it is a ghost town very similar to that of Fleetwood, Ontario.
The farming town was founded by Colonel James Vrooman in the mid 1800's. He received property in the area in 1820. Son of Dutch settlers he was born in 1794 in the Niagara Region. He is buried along with his 2 wives at the United Church cemetery at Conc. 7 and Sideroad 17A. His second wife, Rhoda Johnston, lived an amazing 101 years (1818-1919). For indepth information on him and his war heroics read below..
Other early settlers in the village were: Wilson, Glendenning, Oke, Shier, Keenan and Speiran.
The Vroomans played a major role in the village's development. Colonel Vrooman offered land to John Gelbrae to build a grist mill and James Ruddy may have become the first sawmill operator on Vrooman Creek (Ruddy founded another sawmill at the ghost town of Ruddytown to the west). Prior to this settlers had to walk 14 miles through the forest, where bears and wolves lurked, to the nearest grist mill in Uxbridge with wheat bundles strapped to their backs. With the opening of the mills the population increased and soon the village had wooden sidewalks lined with shops.
In its heyday the town had 2 mills- a sawmill and gristmill, set-up where they dammed up the local Vrooman Creek and made a large pond. There was a school, 2 churches, a post office (postmasters: M. McPhaden and N. Bolster), a hotel, 3 stores, a carriage shop, blacksmiths, and an Orange Hall. These all existed after the village plan was made and there were a total of 6 streets named: King, Queen, Simcoe, Nelson, Victoria and Brock. At its height the population was 150.
Unfortunately as the town prospered the railway lines (Toronto Nipissing Railway) did not come through. Instead, the lines came through at Sunderland in 1871. Sunderland was a smaller village at the time, but quickly became the hub of Brock Township, leaving Vroomanton to wither over time. Villagers moved away, buildings were torn down, until only a church, Orange Hall and school remained.
St. Malachy's- The Catholic Church on the east side of town was called St. Malachy's and was the central Catholic church for all of the former Ontario County (Not to be confused with the Province of Ontario). It had wooden shingles. An inspector warned the church to change the shingles as they were a fire hazard. On May 14, 1942, while the caretaker was burning leaves, a spark became lodged in a crack in the wooden shingles on the roof of St. Malachy's destroying its structure in a few hours. The story goes that asphalt shingles were purchased and stored in the basement waiting to be put on the roof. The Pastor, Father Toomey and the congregation thought that the damage was too great to repair so no new church was built in its place.
For more history about St. Malachy's check out this website http://www.stjosephsbeaverton.ca/A%20History%20of%20Saint%20Joseph's%20Parish,%20Brock%20Mission,%20Beaverton.htm
Vroomanton's schoolhouse- The first school was built of logs on Col. Vrooman's property. Another was built in 1868 at the NW corner of King and Queen St. The first teacher was John Stevenson, who was paid $300 a year. He taught reading, writing, math, British history, geography and grammar and was responsible for all classes from grade one to eight.
The next teacher, John Cundal, was a strict disciplinarian who used the strap liberally and painfully on the children.
In later years studies included: the three R's, health, geography, history and nature study. Classes were from Sept.- June with a week's holidays at Christmas and Easter. School ran from 9-4 pm, with 15 min. recess at 10:30 and 3:00, and an hour at lunch. By 1937 a teacher's salary was $600/yr. Hydro was hooked up by 1946, but by 1972 it was sold as a private residence.
People of note who attended the school: Dr. Carl Vrooman, Rev. Almer Wilson, Professor Frank Williams, Dr. Glendenning and teachers- Shirley Brethour and Beatrice Bryan.
Remains- There are some wonderful remains in this village. A very old wooden barn still stands rickety as can be on the main road behind some trees. There is one school that's lived in at its original location. The Orange Hall was moved to a local farm just south-west. The old Methodist Church is now a United Church built in 1909 on the site of a previous wooden church built in 1854. Beside this church is the Vrooman's cemetery. An old wooden home decays beside the creek bridge. Queen Street and King Street are the village's only 2 remaining streets of its original six.
Colonel James Voorman:
According to "The Vrooman Family in America," by Grace Elizabeth Vrooman Wickersham and Ernest Bernard Comstock, James Vrooman was baptized at Niagara, Ontario, Canada by Reverend Robert Addison on March 19, 1807.
Colonel James Vrooman lived at Vroomanton, Ontario, Canada. The following article appeared in the Ontario Gleaner on July 20, 1911, having been written for the British Canadian in 1869:
"Lieutenant-Colonel James Vrooman of the Township of Brock, Ontario Co. was born on the banks of the Niagara River in 1796. His ancestors had migrated from Holland and settled along the banks of the Mohawk a few miles above Albany, since called and known as Vrooman's land. When the Revolution broke out, Captain Adam Vrooman, father of the subject of our sketch, and his two brothers, took up arms for their king and country against the "Provincialists" as they were called, and were engaged in some of the many eventful battles of that period. Capt. Adam Vrooman took up land on the banks of the Niagara River, near Old Fort George, but remained there only a short time, leaving it for a beautiful farm overlooking Queenston Heights. Here James Vrooman, the youngest son of Captain Adam Vrooman, was born. In 1812 James Vrooman joined the Glengary Fencibles at Three Rivers under command of Col. Battersby (in defense of his country). He was present and took part in many engagements -- the capture of the American army at St. Regis -- the storming of Ogdensburgh -- the battle of Stoney Creek -- the taking of Oswego on the memorable day at Lundy's Lane -- and in many more skirmishes. At the close of the American War, the British government held out inducements to the discharged soldiers to settle in Perth and other parts of Upper Canada, offering free grants of land and provisions for a time and carpenter's tools. Colonel Vrooman settled in Perth, but in 1818 he disposed of his property and drew lot 6 in the 7th Concession of Brock (now Vroomanton) and settled there in 1820. In 1822, Col. Vrooman married Miss Jane Purdy of Cobourg, by whom he had seven children, one son and six daughters. After the death of his wife in 1838, he married his second wife, Miss Rhoda Johnson of Manilla. Col. James Vrooman has held many important offices of trust in Brock and the early settlers looked upon him as the godfather of the township. He lived to see Brock, which was a complete wilderness in 1828, become one of the finest townships in Canada."
Missing from the Vrooman family's war history is this hugely important historic event- in the War of 1812's Battle of Queenston Heights forces were lead by Sir Isaac Brock. His brother's (Solomon Vrooman) cannon was set up at what is today called "Vrooman's Point". This cannon fired all day and kept over 4000 American troops from crossing the Niagara River helping the British to win the battle. The point was named after the Vrooman's who owned land here.
Connor and Colston's Directory of Ontario County from 1869 includes this: Vroomanton, a village in the township of Brock, 35 miles north of Whitby. Population about 150.
CALHOUN, Wm., Merchant, &c.
Shete, W. H., farmer
Coleman, Rev. W., minister
Shier, R., farmer
Conboy J., jeweller
Shier, L. H., farmer
Francis, T., blacksmith
Speiran, C., miller
Gillespie, M., J.P. and farmer
Speiran, J., farmer
Hunter, J., merchant
Speiran, J., shoemaker
Keenan, M., farmer
Switzer, E., sen., J.P.
Kelly, R., farmer
Switzer E. jr., farmer
Lowse, A., farmer
St. John, J., Sen., farmer
Miller, J., farmer
St. John, J., jun., sawmiller
Moore, J., shoemaker
St. John, C., farmer
McKennon, H., tailor
Taylor, J., farmer
McPherson, A., farmer
Umphrey, J., farmer
Pangman S., wagonmaker
Varcoe, J., hotelkeeper
Reekie, J., farmer
Vrooman, J., sen., farmer
Sheir, J. W, farmer
Vrooman, J., jr., farmer
Sheir, G., farmer
White, B., farmer
Sheir, H., farmer
January 2011- I went for a drive and ran into Mr. Ed Vincent, who gave me some more info. There used to be a farm fair here that was very big in the 1800's. The lots the were divided up in the 1800's are still in the books at the Brock Township tax office. He owns a lot of these little lots.
In 2010 a lady, Carola Vyhnak, came into town from the Toronto Star due to my interest in this place. She wrote an article about Vroomanton as well as 2 other locations I have posted on this site. I put a lot of hours into this passion of mine. It's nice to see I am reaching people with our forgotten history. Anyways, here is her article: http://mobile.thestar.com/mobile/NEWS/article/843141