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Cowin, Maebelle: Thomas Toms assisted in the building of Victoria Hall

Thomas Toms assisted in the building of Victoria Hall

By Maebelle Cowin

Thomas Toms, was born Sept. 20th, 1836 in Tintagel, Cornwall, England. At an early age he became a quarry man, working long hours at Long Grass Slate Quarry, outside the village, high on the cliffs, above the Atlantic Ocean. Nothing to protect them as they were lowered by ropes to quarry the slate to be spit in the old splitting sheds that gave them little protection from the elements . It is no wonder that they wanted a better way of life.

In 1856 at the age of 19 he left Cornwall for a long grueling journey to Canada with his sister Ann Toms and her husband Samuel Cann and their baby daughter Elizabeth. Thomas cared much of the time for Elizabeth on their long journey as Ann and Sam were ill.
Tommy acquired property, in Cork Town, in the east end of Cobourg. From this property Tommy quarried stone . According to his obituary he assisted in the building of Victoria Hall of which he quarried stone from the Toms Quarry. Family Folk Lore tells us that Tommy quarried the stone for the basement of Victoria Hall. This story was passed on to me by my Mom, Inez Toms Gruber, Tommy’s granddaughter. Many years passed and the Toms Quarry, was lost to back taxes owed to the town, and became town property and was the town dump. Houses are now built on that quarry.

Tommy married late, at the age of 33, in 1869, to Elizabeth Linton of Hamilton Township, and she was of Irish descent. I have only been able to find 7 children for Tommy and Elizabeth, although I was told there were more. They lived on Spring St. near Orange, I am told, but I do not know for sure, just where the house was. Later they moved to 395 Ball St. in a little house purchased by their son in 1900. Four of the children lived to adulthood. 

Alice, married William Erskine, and died in child birth at age 19, Emily lived to age 40 and died in the House of Refuge. Annie married Harry Cunningham and had 2 children, Victor who became a teacher, and Rosella, who was a professor at the University of Toronto, in Health Nursing. She was also well known as a Health Nurse here in Cobourg at the Health Unit. 

Samuel John Toms, the only surviving son, my Grandfather, was the linotype operator at the Cobourg World and Cobourg Sentinel Star, for longer than any one else in Cobourg. He worked for the papers for 46 years. He was also an avid baseball player, and manager of the Cobourg Red Bird Team. 

Johnny also better known as Jack, married Mabelle Johns of Port Hope, in 1903 and raised a family of 2 daughters and 2 sons, Inez, Dorothy, Jack and Fred (Bing). In 1906 Jack and Mabelle built a new brick house on their property and the little house was torn down. The house is still in the family. Their daughter Inez became a school teacher, later married Fred Gruber and lived in both Cobourg and Port Hope. Dorothy married Tom Hall and live in Port Hope, Jack married Ellen Piper, and lived in Cobourg. In his early years, he worked for Sam Stover, at the restaurant. Fred (Bing) was in the Air Force and married Florence Young, after the war, and lived in Toronto.

Tommy Toms passed away March 17th, 1911. His wife Elizabeth, predeceased him in 1902.

The name Toms is well known in Cobourg with Mabelle & Jack’s son Jack becoming the owner of Jack Toms Snack Bar in 1948.