Grafton is a community in the province of Ontario. It is in Northumberland County, in the township of Alnwick/Haldimand. It is 12 km east of Cobourg, Ontario on the former Highway 2 (now Country Road 2), with close access to Highway 401. The hamlet is near the geographically significant Oak Ridges Moraine at Rice Lake. Grafton was originally called Grover's Tavern until March, 1832. The original Grover's Tavern, the namesake building of the hamlet, still stands today as the Grafton Village Inn, a restaurant and B & B in the heart of the hamlet. It was also referred to early in its history as Haldimand, which is the name of the township it is located in.
Grafton is an excellent example of the type of hamlets that flourished in the 19th century. Grafton had a bustling port for many years, shipping grain, barley and other commodities to communities along the Great Lakes. In addition, the hamlet included a Sons of Temperance group, an order of Freemasons, and numerous other social leagues. Bolstered by satellite communities such as Centreton, Castleton, Wicklow, and Vernonville, Grafton was a productive hamlet that supported itself through both agriculture and services.
By the late 1870s the hamlet could boast of having a doctor, several taverns and inns, a cheese factory, a blacksmith, a public scale, and a train station on the G.T.R line. Milk and dairy products were shipped daily to both Kingston and Toronto, and regular passenger service was also available. Grafton was successful enough at this time to earn a weekly column in the Cobourg daily newspaper, entitled "Latest Items from Grafton", which ran from 1875 through 1877. The column included news of the surrounding communities and hamlets and detailed various social, political, and economic on-goings in the area, such as picnics, local crime, sporting contests, and harvest reports.
Benjamin Ewing is believed to be one of the first settlers in Grafton, and his property was located on what is currently Benlock road. Another early settler was Eliakim Barnum, the original owner of the Barnum House on Hwy #2. Barnum House is now a museum in Grafton, and it is thought that Eliakim Barnum bought the house from another family who owned it before. Ben Ewing and Eliakim Barnum were good friends and Barnum married Ben's sister Hannah Ewing Blanchard just after 1812. The Original Barnum house was accidentally burned down during the War of 1812 by British soldiers who were billeting there; it was rebuilt a few years later. This building is a historical site in Ontario and has visiting hours in the summer (Wednesday to Sunday, 10:00am - 4:00pm).
The town of Grafton currently has a small population of under one thousand, but it has considerable history. Many early settlers continue to have descendants living in the area; notable family names include McBride, Johnston, Inglis, Harnden, Raymond, Owens, Davis, Bryden, Broomfield, Chamberlain, Lackey, Lawless, Bryson and others. Many of these early settler families have routes, roads, and landmarks named for them in the hamlets and surrounding areas, such as Broomfield Road, which runs roughly between Vernonville and Centreton.
Some current businesses and community buildings include the Haldimand Memorial Arena, the Grafton Community Centre & Library, Grafton Public School, St. Marys Elementary School, Grafton Variety, Prentice's Garage, The Durham Farmers Co-op farm and feed store, the Bullpen, 1812 Antiques, Lantern Books, the Grafton Village Inn and the Lawless Art Gallery. Grafton is currently home to such notable places as St. Annes Inn & Spa, the former home of Bob Homme ("The Friendly Giant"), the Barnum House museum, and a defunct canning factory (often said to be one of most haunted places in Ontario).
Grafton is now supported by these smaller businesses and tourism. Agriculture is still prevalent in the surrounding area, predominantly with crops such as corn, soybeans, and wheat, and livestock including beef, dairy, and poultry. The processing and shipping elements of the agricultural business have moved on beyond Grafton. There continues to be development and residential growth in and around the hamlet as the area grows in size.
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
Some websites with more local information on Northumberland County