1913 The Finest Town Hall For Miles

In March, 1911,  the Marmora Herald reported:

"At the St. Patrick's Day celebration, Rev. Father Murtagh, of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, Marmora, opened with an eloquent and stirring address.   He first apologized for the absence of electric lights and the accommodation afforded, and the condition of the Town Hall but said though he apologized, the apology should have come from others as only those who do wrong can be expected to apologize, but he, in this matter at least,had done nothing wrong, and he himself was badly treated in this matter by those who were responsible for cutting off the electricity. without any warning after the bills were out.   In continuing, he said he also felt bound to offer an apology, at least to strangers for the accommodation afforded, and the condition of the Town Hall. "

"In all times and in all lands the public spirit of villages, towns and cities, was to a great extent judged by their public buildings, hence we find in such places,  the town hall or city hall is,  after their churches, the most imposing building"   In Marmora the Town Hall resembled more a morgue, but he hoped some public spirited man or body of men would soon take the matter in hand and destroy this eye sore, and erect something worthy of this village."

People who have never attended a smoker, should visit Marmora Town Hall. Bring your hams along! Marmora Herald, Jan 11, 1906

By the early 1900s,  Marmora's 'relic' of a Town Hall had degenerated to a pitiable state.  The building was condemned by the Medical Officer of Health and the public alike.   The poor building leaked from the roof and from the window frames.  "Strange and grotesque inscriptions" covered the well used walls.  As for using the stairs,  well,  one correspondent declared that to be so dangerous that the blood of eyewitnesses "congealed into a jelly at the sights".

The old village lock-up was a shabby affair.  In fact,  Dr. Jones,  as Medical Officer of Health,  took a dim view of the entire Town Hall,  and reported so to council.  The place was grimy and littered.  It needed to be whitewashed and 'calcimined'.  Bottles and cans had to be cleaned up.  A stout wire screen should be put behind the bars to prevent anyone from passing liquor to the prisoners.  A pair of blankets should be purchased.  A "soft pillow"  should also be provided.  And he  snidely added "A new small stove should be installed but care taken to prevent a drunken prisoner from possibly upsetting the stove and setting fire to the hall. (A good riddance if done)"

It was,  beyond all doubt,  time for new facilities for a Town Hall and Council at last proceeded. When it was completed, Marmora's Town Hall would represent a great new centre for the Community. Over the years, it would serve many purposes from law court to badminton court, and from movie theatre to operating theatre. The great hall upstairs had swung to the sounds of music, reverberated with laughter and rung to the rally cries of politicians, including a Prime Minister, and a number of Provincial Premiers.

But before it could be used, it had to be built and that was not so simple. Despite advertising widely in papers in Peterborough, Belleville, Marmora and Norwood, Council found itself in a difficult position. All the tenders for the new Town Hall were too high. On May 12, 1913, it seemed as if the bubble had burst. Council refused all tenders and everything was back to square one.

Some Councillors were not prepared to give in. Two weeks later, Councillor H. Reginald Pearce moved "that the Town Hall be erected by day labor and that S. Bertrand be placed in charge of the construction at a salary of$5.00 per day and 5% of the actual cost of construction." William Archer was hired to complete the decorations upstairs with Stanislaw Bertrand at his side.

Over the next few months, Council paid for the new hall in dribs and drabs, and then by borrowing $9,000.00 on debentures to "complete the job". Reeve Hubbell and Councillor H.R. Pearce took the debentures to Toronto while they were there anyway for the Good Roads Convention. The debentures were promptly sold for $8,803.97 - or almost 97 cents on the dollar.

A debate took place as to whether the construction should be brick or stone. The purchase of pressed tin to line the arched ceiling of the great hall was approved. That year and for many years after, the building was heated entirely by wood stoves. By January, 1914, it seemed the new building was sufficiently ready to host the inaugural meeting of that year. 


Despite the best efforts of its designers, the new Village lock-up would prove incapable of containing one of the local rascals. lsaac Sellyeh alternated residence between the Village and Kingston Penitentiary. Whenever he came to town, it seemed he ended up in cells at the Town Hall - but not for long.

Nov. 23, 1916

"On two or three occasions, lsaac had taken 'French leave', having concealed some instrument by which he opened the lock." Once he reached Tiffin before being recaptured. Another time, Constable Jones was in for an early morning surprise. Once again Isaac was spending the night in the lock-up, this time with three companions. When the Constable returned in the morning, "he was dumbfounded to discover that instead of being securely locked in the cells, his prisoners were sitting around the table in the Council Chamber, enjoying a friendly game of cards."

For Isaac, the passage of years diminished neither his reputation nor his allies. Locals looked forward to his escapades as eagerly as our successive Constables feared them.

In July of 1927, Isaac was back again from Kingston, claiming to have reformed and become a baker. Constable Gillen was unconvinced and instead of waiting for trouble, he decided to nip it in the bud. He picked Isaac up at the barber shop and locked him up on some old complaint.

"This time it was decided to take no chances and Sellyeh was thoroughly searched before being placed in the cells. He even removed his boots and socks. To make doubly certain, Constable Gillen spent the whole night at the hall. Between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m., he left to get his own breakfast and one for the prisoner." The hapless Constable was away less than half an hour but on his return, the cell was empty.

The Marmora Herald sympathized. "In fact, Marmora is very fortunate to have a Constable who looks after the affairs of the Village in the way Mr. Gillen does. But Sellyeh had made a reputation which caused people to expect something sensational and they were not disappointed. At least he appears to have left the Village without adding to his list of offences, or helping himself to other people's property. It may be the best thing for all concerned. "



MAY 21, 1925Marmora Herald

Breaking the door from his cell, late Sunday afternoon, and stealing keys that gave him access to the store room, Isaac Mitchell Sellyeh, 28, made his escape from the Peter- borough jail.He was serving a sentence of six months for fraud and theft, having passed bad cheques on two local merchants. He was also implicated in the theft of a car at Marmora, and other police were awaiting their turn when his sentence there was completed. Sellyeh obtained a rope from the storeroom, and broke out through the women's ward, throwing the rope over the wall. Despite his having a withered right foot and leg and being conspicuous by a limp, he has apparently made good his escape from the city. During his incarceration he grew a moustache. The alarm was raised at 5:30.
Sellyeh immediately upon his escape headed toward Marmora, and on Monday was discovered by Mr. Gordon Jones of Bancroft, who was motoring to Marmora. Mr. Jones gave Sellyeh a ride as far as the bridge over the river. During the drive Sellyeh stated to Mr. Jones that he had been driving a car when someone ran into him, smashing his car.
Chief Gillen, having received a tip that Sellyeh was in town, started to investigate, with the aid of Officer Gardineer apprehended him on upper McGill Street, near the Pearce Company's lumber yards. The prisoner was placed in a cell in the Marmora Lock-up until Monday afternoon when the officials came and removed him to the Peterborough jail.

TONSlLS AND ADENOIDS                 Nov. 13, 1919   
A successful clinic was held yesterday in the Town Hall for the benefit of the school children of Marmora and district. A total of 27 operation were performed for the removal of tonsils and adenoids and proved very satisfactory. The audit- orium of the hall was fitted up with cots and the operations commenced in the morn- ing. The stage was used for an operating room and Dr. Mackechnie was the operating surgeon, ably assisted by Drs. Thomson and Crawford. Miss Campbell, graduate nurse and miss Watt, of Deloro made efficient nurses and a number of practical nurses from from Marmora Women's Institute. Lunch was served at noon by the W.I. for parents and assistants. In the evening the doctors and nurses went to Deloro and operated on 6 children in the hospital there.


Research by Gerald Belanger

This article will look back to what is known about the first town hall which was built on the same site, based on reviews done by W.J. Cottrell from minutes of Marmora & Lake Township council minutes dating to at least 1850.

At a meeting of the Council held on April 19th 1856, six tenders were received for the building of a Town Hall. In the order opened the tenders were read:

W.B. Emery and Thomas H. Eaton £500, Thomas Ritchie £378, John Brooks £475, Joseph Green £480, Francis Clayton ££472.10, Joseph Leggett £500.

It was moved and seconded and passed accordingly that"in consequence of the lowest tender not being satisfactory in his manner, it is resolved that the sum of £425 be paid for the building of a town hall in the Township of Marmora according to plans, etc. and that the Clerk advertise accordingly.

The result of this action was thatat a meeting of the council held on June 28, 1856, a motion was carried that William Blakely and Obadiah Johnston get the building of the Town Hall in the Township of Marmora, the said building to be completed on or before the 1st day of December 1856, the Council accepting securities.

At the following meeting Thomas Wright Esq. was appointed to superintend the building of the Town Hall. The building was completed, as subsequent minutes show, by November 28 1856, though the fixtures seem to have been carried out( as mentioned) in a few minutes later. On January 9, 1869 the clerk, William Phillips, was authorized to "write to John BeattyEsq., secretary to the Cobourg, Peterborough and Marmora Railway and Mining Company on behalf of the Municipal Corporation for a deed for the lot on which the Town Hall is built upon, in the village of Marmora.

Marmora Herald Dec. 9, 1909 The first exhibition of Stereopticon and Moving Pictures ever presented to a Marmora audience took place in the Town Hall Dec. 3. The hall was crowded to the doors and the program consisted of a couple of laughter-provoking moving pictures. There were also a couple of illustrated songs which were sung by Mrs. F.S. Pearce. A very substantial sum was added to the funds of the Methodist Sunday School as a result of the pictures. (Marmora Herald, Dec. 9, 1909)

April 10, 1910 - A large audience filled the Town Hall to see the motion picture entertained last Friday evening. Miss Winnie Isteed sang one of the illustrated songs. Duringa fifteen minute intermission, ice cream was sold. Several fine gramophone selections were given by Mr. Marrin before the program concerned.

June 22, 1916 - According to the solicitor of the Provincial Treausry Department, the war tax must be paid on tickets sold for dances."

Marmora Herald,  March 15, 1917

Application will be made at the present session of the Ontario Legislature for a Special Act to consolidate the Debenture and Floating Debts of the Village of Marmora and to create a Patriotic Fund. The cost of erecting the town hall exceeded the amount realized from the sale of debentures by about $1,800. The fire protection system also cost over $400., more than the sum realized from the sale of the debentures and the unusually large expenditure for charity and Board of Health last year brought the floating debt of the village to over $2500.00. The interest on this amount alone would be over $150.00 annually without reducing the debt.

Click here for the wording of the Town Hall Plaque

Marmora Town Hall 1914 Photo by local photographer T. Stewart


The case of Bonter versus Pearce (and others)  These are remarkable cases being the first time in the history of the Province wherein the High Court of Justice ever held a session for the hearing of cases outside of the County Town or in Toronto. No small honor for Marmora& its Town Hall.  Click here to read the case



Mary Provost: The Marmora Public School held a musical concert there when I was in grade 1 or 2.

Bernie Donaldson: The town hall was used as a school while the new Sacred Heart was being built.

Wilma Bush:Sacred Heart held their three-night parish suppers in the town hall many years - kitchen was downstairs so the ladies were kept busy running up & down the stairs with food - on 3rd night they had dancing after the meal. Many formal events were held in Marmora Town Hall - anniversaries, birthdays, wedding dinners/dances (including my daughter's).

Interesting! Unfortunate that it is now only used mainly for council meetings! Seems to be something sad about this picture. The Seniors Club were thinking of holding a musical show in the 'town hall' - there is a question as to whether that is any longer possible. The town hall has the only appropriate stage for a special performance!

Dayle Young Gorsline: Summer Fun in the Library was held here once a week most summers. Games, crafts and movies for children aged four to twelveand it was free! I also remember my Dad chairing many Marmora and District Credit Union meetings there when I was quite young. I fell asleep as soon as he started speaking every time!

Annmarie Willman-Spry: When Mom was growing up there in the 1920s, the Halloween Party & the school Christmas concerts were held in the town hall.

Pearl McCaw Franko : I also remember going to movies in the town hall. We had to pay 25 cents. When Bob Maynes opened the 'real' theatre and only charged 15 cents, we couldn't believe how lucky we now were to have 10 cents to spend! Shannon's sold red rock cola for 5 cents. Pop in the theatre was 10 cents. Real dilemma. McIntosh toffee was 5 cents. Those were the days.

During high school we lived for Friday night Teenagers at the Town Hall. I think it was Tommy Brooks who played the records we danced to. The girls lined up in seats on the right and the boys on the left side of the hall. They had to make that long walk across the floor to ask you to dance. Sometimes you were hoping the boy was headed for you and other times hoping he wasn't. After the dance we trekked to The Heights to dance some more to the jukebox tunes and have a coke and hamburger. Loved every minute.

Sands of Tyme playing at Teenagers' dance ...

1967 Lew Barker: Tommy Sands, and the band were also a regular band at the Riverside in Hastings. Sonny Brite and the Sequins was a Toronto band. They played in Marmora several times as the band leader was Pete Vilneff from Marmora. ( Apparently he used ride on my Grandfathers horse drawn wagon when he was a kid).

Annmarie Willman-Spry: I heard about the huge fights during the dances....;)

Elaine Bateman: I mostly remember the sands of time, Tim Campbell, Eric Barrager.

Gail Meehan Buck Warren : Dorothy Meehan sang with them

Rod Fluke: Met my wife there 46 yrs. ago

Tom O'Neill When we could access the upstairs for our dances, across the street was Cec's dairy freeze and then up to the Heights for fries and gravy. Russ Jarvis and Norma Sophia... Those were the days my friend we thought they'd never end.


In a1996 report for the Anglican Church house tour,  Aline Smith listed the many public uses of the Town Hall:

Vicki (Petherick) McMurray, 1954, in front of Town Hall  by Betina Roberts

Randy Warren, Jimmy Ellis on right. Town Hall

From Tom O'Neill: Jeff and the Continentals

From Tom O'Neill: Jeff and the Continentals