Kettleby is a place people come to for one of two reasons: they lost their way or, they planned to go. Once here, you know you’ve arrived at a place of considerable significance.
There’s not much to Kettleby these days: Dorio’s Bakery, Round the Bend Farm, a hugely popular summer camp for kids, a couple of churches and, the vibrant and very active village association responsible for the township’s annual Canada Day blowout.
Yet, this village is so unique in character and charm that you would be hard-pressed to find another quite like it. Its spirit of generosity, tolerance, humility, gratitude and fun predates Canada’s confederation, permeating the air to this day.
Typically, small places like to stay that way. Locals, leery of outsiders and newcomers, tend to cast a sidewards glance, laced with temporary lenience and suspicion: visit, but don’t stay.
That’s not the case with Kettleby, the once thriving industrial centre.
Kettleby knows what it’s like to be at the heart of all the hustle and bustle. Its pace is a lot slower than that of modern-day Toronto, or even Newmarket. But, that “everyone belongs here” mentality, usually reserved for cities, never went away. Industry and innovation pulled people to relocate their homes but did nothing to wane their connection to each other. People moved but, the draw of the place is so strong that many come back whenever they can (like for Sunday services or a stop at Dorio’s Bakery, the reincarnation of Kettleby’s General Store).
As Josie Dorio describes, “it’s always a planned trip when you come to Kettleby.” People come and arrive with a purpose in mind. To this day Kettleby, as shrunken as it has become, is still a melting pot for the township. Round the Bend’s Sue Feddema, confided to us that many of the people who attend Christ Church and York Pines United Church don’t live in Kettleby. “They come because of the community and their historical connection to the place and each other,” she explains.
“No story of Kettleby would be complete without mention of the famous Sons of Temperance,” wrote Elizabeth McClure Gillham in her book Early Settlements of King Township Ontario, “the mills ran twenty-four hours a day, and the two taverns in the village did a booming business. In the face of this drunkenness and revelry, some of the residents began to think that life in the village was getting a little bit out of hand.”
Kettleby turned out to be one of the brotherhood’s strongholds. Their push for abstinence came out of sheer necessity. Drunken drivers, distracted by the lights of the barroom shining across the pond, would head their teams straight into the water, drowning their horses.
People were losing limbs and lives in the mill shaft. For Kettleby, the desire to control the drinking wasn’t simply out of religious ideology. They were desperate for a greater sense of calm and civil order. In Kettleby, The Sons of Temperance brotherhood brought about a greater sense of ownership over each other’s well-being. It was a sort of insurance agency where were members mandated to pay a visit to any members who were ill and make contributions toward each other’s funeral expenses. In those days, that was a big deal and well worth the week’s pay and invasive scrutiny that it cost to join.
Both of Kettleby’s Churches share a similar approach to genuinely embracing those who wish to take part, transcending superficial differences. York Pines United Church is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary. It first opened in 1966 as an amalgamation of three village churches: Kettleby’s York Pines (est. 1841), Pottageville (est. 1853) and Snowball (est. 1856). The original village churches originally Methodist, but they joined with Presbyterian and Congregational Churches in 1925 to form the United Church of Canada.
Kettleby’s Anglican Christ Church was built in 1891 at a cost of $3,000, from local field stone, in the Norman style, with a square bell tower. No structural changes have been made to either its interior or the exterior since that time.
According to Kettleby Village Association’s Elaine Kitteridge, “Kettleby has traditionally hosted a picnic in the park with fireworks on Canada Day, as a way of giving back to the community that helped put on the Kettleby Fair for over 30 years.” In true Kettleby fashion, some things change and some things stay the same. “The Kettleby Fair no longer happens but the fireworks have continued,” continues Elaine, “This year is special in many ways. Not only are we celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday, Kettleby itself was established 175 years ago and our lovely stone Christ Church is 125 years old. As such, we are ramping up the party with great support from the Township of King, the Government of Canada and many private sponsors!”
That’s mighty good encouragement to skip the cottage traffic, grab a blanket and head on over to Kettleby Park this Canada Day.
As Elaine puts it, “Kettleby is a special place, not only because of its winding road and historical buildings. It’s a community of great people that comes together, whether to host Township wide events or local potlucks. It’s a small village with a big heart.”
Highlights of what to expect in Kettleby this Canada Day:
- A fantastic musical lineup on the stag
- The Nobleton Children’s Theatre, performing a musical trip through the township’s past 150 years, with an original score by Karen Kastner
- Grounds entertainment
- Historical tours of Kettleby
- Games for kids & adults
- Great food & Beer Garden
- Free photo booth – have your picture taken with historical Kettleby backgrounds
- Free birthday cake
- Spectacular fireworks at the end of the night