Lennox and Addington Historical Society

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A Manufacturing Dynasty

In 1849, H.B. Rathbun of Aurora, New York, opened a branch of his mercantile business at a small hamlet at the southeast corner of Hastings County. The little settlement had gained prominence as an easy landing place for freight. A man by the name of Culbertson had acquired a parcel of land from the Mohawks of Tyendinaga. By unloading at "Culbertson's Wharf", sailing vessels could avoid the "hard up, hard back" sail up the Napanee River. The Town of Deseronto occupies the site today. H.B. Rathbun did not move to Canada until 1856, and only 10 years later, ill-health necessitated a move back to the States, but he was represented in Canada by his son, Edward Wilkes Rathbun, a man of no mean ability. The Rathbuns capitalized on the demand for lumber, then extended their holdings into cement, brick, steam ships, and tile manufacture, and ultimately, railways. The Bay of Quinte Railroad was one of the Rathbun ventures.

In the years prior to WW1, sources of cheap lumber declined. Like many other family enterprises, the Rathbun businesses did not withstand the competition from the growing industrial centres of Toronto and Montreal. These factors combined with a lack of an interested male heir. One by one, the Rathbun enterprises disappeared. The last member of the family to live in Deseronto died in 1996.


Hugo Berghart Rathbun, born Sept. 4, 1812, Aurora, N.Y., USA. His father was Edward Rthburn, an English immigrant, and his mother was Anna Fuller.
H.B. Rathbun married in May, 1840, Louise Storm, the daughter of Isaac T. Storm of New York City. She died in 1885. H.B. Rathbun died June 1, 1886 and is buried in Auburn, N.Y. State.

Hugo Berghart Rathbun and his wife, Louise, are said to have had 12 children, but only seven are known to have reached adulthood.

1. Edward Wilkes Rathbun (1842-1903)

2. Anna Louisa Rathbun, who married William Hindhough of Oswego, N.Y.

3. Fanny Gertrude Rathbun, who married Rev. R.J. Craig.

4. Frederick Sherwood Rathbun, who married Jean McMurrich of Toronto (the sister of his stepmother).

5. Louise Rathbun, who married Edward Clement French of Jersey City, N.J.

6. Herbert "Burt" Rathbun, who married Agnes Bell of Belleville.

7. William Cullen Bryant Rathbun, who married Jean Blaike.

Edward Wilkes Rathbun is acknowledged to be the founding genius behind most of the Deseronto enterprises. He married twice, and sired 9 children.

1. Edward Wilkes Rathbun (1842-1903)
married (1) Elizabeth How Burt, who died young in 1871.
Children of this marriage were:
1.1 Edward Walter Rathbun
1.2 Frances Mary Rathbun
1.3 George Benedict Rathbun

in June of 1873, E.W. Rathbun married a second time
His bride was Brunella McMurrich of Toronto
Children of this marriage were:
1.4 Jennette Louise Rathbun (died in infancy)
1.5 Harold McMurrich Rathbun
1.6 Brunella ("Patsy") Rathbun
1.7 Lawrence Marvin Rathbun
1.8 Adrian Storm Rathbun
1.9 Marjorie Rathbun

Harold McMurrich Rathbun's widow, Nora Rathbun, was the last member of the family to live in Deseronto, and the one who drew up this family tree. She died in 1996.

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