A Heritage Building Lovingly Preserved at Nottawaga Beach:
Hamilton Inn – 1838 to the present
By Fraser C. Parrott, Jim Parrott & J. Fraser Parrott
The Hamilton Inn has a long and distinguished career – first as a home, then Inn and Tavern, cottage and now a home again. Full circle.
The story starts with John Hamilton, of Scotland, who enlisted in the 79th regiment of the Scot’s Greys’ Light Infantry. After he fought at the Battle of Waterloo, he was drafted to Canada and made the rank of Sergeant. In Quebec, he met and married Isabella H. Lawson and was moved to Penetanguishene where they settled after the war of 1812 with 21 years of service. The family was Scots Presbyterian and had the reputation of being very close. Both the old Sergeant and his son James were money lenders.
In 1832, John Hamilton built a house, 18′ by 30′, of squared red pine logs along the road that later become the Penetanguishene Road between Kempenfelt Bay, Barrie and Penetanguishene. On March 11, 1836, he was given the deed to Lot 60. Concession 1, Flos – now part of the Orr Lake Forest, as part of his military pension. A stone cairn now marks that spot. Two years later, with the help of William Davenport, he constructed a new house, 18′ by 30′, for his family, of Norway pine. In 1837, Hamilton was given a tavern license and the home became used by travellers who wished to spend the night. Upstairs there were five bedrooms, with a large living room and bar room downstairs. The chimney was built of clay and straw and the first log building was used as the kitchen.
The establishment later became known as the Hamilton Inn – the halfway house and one of more than 30 taverns that were found along the old military road. In 1847, the first meeting of the Flos District was held in the Inn. This district comprised the modern townships of Vespra, Sunnidale and Flos. Acting Warden Mackay appointed John Swan as chairman (equivalent to the present day Reeve.) In 1860, the area’s first agricultural show was held at the Inn. Each year, on June 18th, the Sergeant celebrated the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. The Inn was also a gathering place for Orangemen on July 12th each year. Christmas Day was also an occasion for much merrymaking. It is possible that children went to school in the building as early as the 1830’s when a Mr. Moorhouse was the teacher.
The Rev. Craw, a Presbyterian minister, held prayer-meetings in the Inn frequently from 1859 to 1893. Rev. Sheen carried on until 1898 when the funeral service for Mrs. John Hamilton was held there. The old house was abandoned in October of that year.
When John Hamilton died in 1875, he bequeathed the property to his wife who willed it to their son James. James and his wife Margaret always lived in the Inn. All of their children and grandchildren were born there and most of them were married in the Inn. James lived to the age of 90 years and left the property to his son, George, who, in 1931, sold it to the Forestry Branch.
The Inn sat empty for many years until 1932, when Dr. J. Ross Parrott, a local Midland dentist, purchased it from the Forestry Branch. The building was dismantled, the logs were numbered and moved to Nottawaga Beach, Tiny Township. Dr. Parrott had it rebuilt, adding an immense stone hearth and chimney. The story is that he traded dental care for labour. Shortly after, he had sleeping and kitchen/dining wings built. The two wings and the main living room formed a U-shaped building with a courtyard at the back of the building. As both he and his wife Enid had attended Queen’s University in the early ‘20s, they had the ends of the round logs of the wings painted red, blue and gold – the Queen’s Tri-colours. Very distinctive! The round log ends of the smaller cabin on the property still show those colours.
On his death in February of 1967, Ross left the cottage to his son Fraser, a radiologist in Cambridge, Ontario. Fraser and his wife Ruth maintained the Inn as the family cottage and their three children Jim, Mark and Janice and five grandchildren enjoyed many summers “at the beach.” In January 2003, Fraser and Ruth deeded the cottage to Jim and Sherry who have recently rebuilt it. The hearth and chimney remain and the original four walls of the Hamilton Inn have become the interior walls of the living room.
The Inn lives on in the retirement home of Jim and Sherry, where its wood and stone theme, with its giant hearth, harmonizes with more recent additions. John Hamilton and William Davenport built a home to last the ages. The memory of the old Inn continues.
The inscription on the stone cairn located on Highway 93, North of Hillsdale reads:
This cairn marks the site of the Hamilton Inn where the first meeting of the Flos Township council was held on June 4, 1854. This was a stage-coach hostelry on the old Penetanguishene Road, being one of the original 37 wayside taverns situated between Barrie and Penetanguishene on this road.
The Simcoe County Tourist and Industrial Committee August 1968
This article was written with the help of “Another Look at Hillsdale”, a revised edition of “Hillsdale Past and Present”, Hillsdale Historical Committee, 2002.