Kettleby was once one of the busiest locations in the township. On May 20, 1801, Dorothy Burger, a United Empire Loyalist, was granted a patent for a lot in King Township. In 1803 John Burger bought the lot, and in 1825 sold one hundred acres to Jacob Tool, who built the first Kettleby sawmill. Then, in 1842 Tool sold 46 acres including the mill site, to Septimus Tyrwhitt.
Tyrwhitt built a huge flour mill, a woollen mill, an oatmeal mill, a cooperage and a distillery. People wanted to call the settlement “Tyrwhitt’s Mills”, but as an officer in the British Militia Garrison in York during the 1837 Rebellion, Tyrwhitt named the community after his aristocratic family’s ancestral home of Kettleby in Lincolnshire, England. The first post office opened August 6th, 1851, and was called Kettleby Mills, Canada West, with James Tipping in charge. In 1859 the word “Mills” was dropped and the settlement has since been known as Kettleby.
How the Settlement looks in the photo of Kettleby above is one impression of how the village looked in 1908.
Kettleby soon became the centre of business and shopping for the Springdale Mills and the Mount Mellick Mill, as well as the post office address for both. The mills at Springdale, built in 1879 by Ira Webb, were known as “Webb’s Mills”, and supplied many nearby villages with lumber. Mount Mellick Mill, a lumber mill, was named after a town in Queen’s County, Ireland, and operated day and night during its height of production. Today, nothing is left of the Mount Mellick Mill site except a little pond.
Kettleby also proudly boasted several hotels, shoemakers, blacksmiths, a dressmaker, a milliner, a weaver and a tailor. There was also a general store, wagon maker, farm implement factory and a Temperance Hall with the largest membership in Ontario. Nestled in a valley, Kettleby’s many 19th century homes line the winding narrow road that crosses a single lane bridge over Kettleby Creek.
In 1853 the railway arrived in King Township and had an adverse effect on Kettleby. The lumber supply was almost exhausted, the potash and flour export trade languished, and the factory system began to put small local mechanics out of business. The train traveled from Toronto to present day Aurora changing the main routes of travel and settlements in King Township which now swung toward Aurora.
The Kettleby story would not be complete without mention of the Sons of Temperance who dealt with the social problems and hardships resulting from excessive drinking. In the 1850’s, the Total Abstinence Society built a Temperance Hall which was used for practically all the meetings of the community: social, public, religious and political, as long as no liquor was served. The last meeting in the hall was in 1938. In 1940 the hall was purchased by the Women’s Association in Kettleby United Church, and in 1968, the hall was moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto.