Ashburn is a hamlet in the northern, more rural section of Whitby Township, located approximately 15 kilometres north of town centre of Whitby. The community is centred around the intersection of Ashburn Road and Myrtle Road. It is situated near the headwaters of the Lynde Creek which flows through Whitby and empties into Lake Ontario.
As of 1968 the whole of Whitby Township was merged into the Town of Whitby. Four years later the majority of Ontario County, including Whitby Township was merged into the District Municipality of Durham.
The community was originally named Butler's Corners after settler Richard Butler in 1832. The first European settlers were primarily Scottish immigrants. A much earlier native settlement on the Lynde Creek immediately south of the hamlet has been documented. In the late 1830s, the Windsor Road Company was created and a road was built from Windsor Harbour (Whitby) to Butler's Corners. The first store was opened in 1847. The name "Ashburn" was eventually chosen in 1850 because of the community's connection to the potash industry. "Asheries were built to produce potash from the trees that were cleared during the settlement of Whitby Township." The original spelling—Ashbourne, after Ashbourne, Derbyshire in England—was changed in error due to the cancellation stamp used by the post office (est. 1852).
In 1857, Whitby Township was divided into two municipalities: East Whitby, and Whitby. Ashburn was one of the principal villages of Township of East Whitby, together with Brooklin and Myrtle. In 1869, Ashburn had a population between 100 and 250, with a stage coach to Uxbridge and Whitby, daily mail, an Orange Society (No. 176), three stores, two hotels and several blacksmiths and wagonmakers. Between 1870 and 1872, a railway was built from Port Whitby on Lake Ontario to Port Perry on Lake Scugog, crossing Myrtle Road two kilometres east of Ashburn. The Port Whitby and Port Perry Railway—which was dismantled in 1941—allowed the hamlets of Whitby Township to ship grain and timber south to the railway mainlines along Lake Ontario. In 1875 the hamlet had a population of 150. In the nineteenth century the local Agricultural Society regularly held cattle fairs in the village. By 1910, the village's population declined to 100, and had a daily stage to the railway station in Myrtle. It was serviced by the Claremont and Ashburn Telephone Company, which later became part of the York and Ontario Telephone Union.
The Burns Presbyterian Church has been central to the community since its beginnings in 1849. The first church building was constructed in 1857. It was completely destroyed by fire in 1967, and a new building was completed in 1968. In 2012 a major addition and renovation was undertaken by the congregation.
The Ashburn School House (after 1967 a community centre) was built circa 1861 by William Pearson (1833–1897), a Scottish builder who constructed many fine stone houses in Whitby and Pickering; each wall was constructed in a different style to showcase Pearson's masonry skill. The school was designated a "cultural heritage property" in 1984. In 1866, the school had about 80 pupils. Today, the designated primary schools for Ashburn are in the neighbouring community of Brooklin, and the secondary schools in urban Witby.
On January 1, 1968, Whitby and the Township of Whitby, which included Ashburn and the three rural hamlets of Brooklin, Myrtle and Myrtle Station, amalgamated into the new Town of Whitby. The hamlet received a house numbering system in the 1980s.
In 1999 the community was visited by Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and in 2000 Ashburn celebrated its 150th anniversary.
The primary source for basic documents (vital statistics, land records, wills) for people who lived in the Province of Ontario is the Archives of Ontario, 134 Ian Macdonald Blvd, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M7A 2C5.
Civil registration did not begin in the province until 1869. Before then there may be church records of baptisms and burials. For the most part these are still held by the denomination who recorded them. Copies of marriage records made pre-1869 had to be sent by individual clergymen to the registrar of the county in which the marriage took place. These marriage records are available through Ontario Archives, on micorfilm through LDS libraries, and on paid and unpaid websites, but because they were copied at the registrars' offices, they cannot be considered a primary source.
Vital Records after 1869
Birth, marriage and death registrations are not open to the public until a specific number of years after the event occurred. Births to 1914 are now available [October 2012]; dates for marriages and deaths are later. Birth and death registration was not universally carried out in the early years after its adoption. Deaths were more apt to be reported than births for several years. The more rural the area, the less likely it would be that these happenings were reported to the authorities.
Land Records and Wills
Information on how to access land records and wills is best sought on the Archives of Ontario website. An ancestor's land holding might be found on Canadian County Atlas Digital Project if he was in occupancy circa 1878.
Association for the Preservation of Ontario Land Registry Office Documents (APOLROD). A list of Land Registry Offices for all Counties of Ontario.
The original censuses are in the hands of Library and Archives Canada. All of the original census (1851-1911) images are online with the exception of that for 1861. Not all of them are indexed. Later censuses are not yet available. Census divisions were redrawn as the population increased and more land was inhabited.
E-books and Books
The Whitby Online Historic Photographs Collection (www.ourontario.ca/Whitby) holds a great deal of local material (biographies as well as pictures) of people and localities within the town and township of Whitby.