Cowin, Maebelle: Samuel John TOMS 1881-1958


Authored by Maebelle Cowin.

Samuel John Toms was the only surviving son of Thomas and Elizabeth Toms. Along with "Johnny", three sisters also grew to adulthood: Alice, Annie, and Emily. John was born in Cobourg on September 5th, 1881, and christened in St. Peter's Church on January 25, 1885. He most likely grew up in the vicinity of Spring and Orange St. as that is where I believe his parents lived. It was a house on Spring St., quite close to Orange St.

John was better known by Cobourg residents as Jack. He was a small man of Cornish and Irish ancestry who walked with a quick step. At an early age he loved the game of baseball. He was "educated to play ball and not go to school". He played in the town leagues and the church league etc. and served in all the positions, one being the Manager of the Cobourg Red Bird Baseball Team.

In 1899, at the age of 18, Johnny joined the staff of the Cobourg World on King St. to apprentice for the trade of printer. It was located just west of where the TD Bank stands today.

He first learned to set slug-composition type from the Old Roger Typograph. He swept the floor, ran errands and learned to set type by hand. Working from 7am to 7pm, he earned 25 cents a day. Even with his long work day he found time to play ball twice a week. Later the Cobourg World acquired a Model 1 linotype, which Johnny learned to operate and because it was in such poor shape gave him the experience of repairing it. After five years of apprenticeship this was to be his trade for the next forty-six years.

Office of Cobourg World 1900

On August 11th, 1900, Johnny purchased property and a small house on the back of the lot at 395 Ball St. for the sum of $140, paid in full. The 1901 Census stated his earnings were $144 per year. He moved into this little house with his parents and sisters, Annie and Emily.

In 1901 Johnny was Sr. Right Half Captain of the Boys' Brigade Baseball Club. On May 24th of that year this team, known as the Young Cobourgs, played in Bowmanville. Johnny was one of the pitchers that day and was known to be the first to start throwing curves in the Cobourg area.

Johnny met his wife-to-be , Mabelle Johns, from Port Hope, probably through baseball as she had four brothers. On September 9th, 1903, they were married at St. Mark's Church in Port Hope.

In 1906 a new brick house was built at the front of the lot, and the old house was torn down.

In 1909, Johnny was manager for the town baseball team, known as the Cobourg Red Birds, and they won the championship that year.

Samuel John Toms and Mabelle John Wedding 1903

In 1918, Johnny answered an advertisement in the Cobourg Sentinel Star for a linotype operator. Les Wilson, proprietor, said "I've got a first class operator". This Office was located on Division St. where Hogan's Hardware is now. Here, Johnny operated the Model K. and knew every sound it made. With the light tap of his fingers, he turned out his "galley- an-hour". Johnny retired from the Cobourg Sentinel Star in 1946 with no pension, only a tribute from Foster Russell, current owner of the paper.

Cobourg Sentinal Star 1951

In 1949, Johnny was "Personality of the Week". The photo was taken at Jack Toms Jr.'s snackbar

Samuel John Toms passed away on November 16th, 1958. He was from the era of craftsmanship and long, honest hours of toil.

Grandpa T