Port Maitland "On the Grand" Historical Association

Port Maitland, Ontario, Canada

A birds-eye look at Port Maitland in 1929. Part 5

By William A. Warnick

Published July 3, 2001
in The Dunnville Chronicl

As we continue along the river from Tom McKees Store which I wrote about last month we find the Demont Inn, just north of the former Maitland Arms Hotel. It is said to be the first hotel in Port Maitland. Could this be the inn (perhaps Philpot’s Inn) mentioned by Captain Basil Hall in his account of a visit to the Grand River Naval Depot in 1827, or the inn where Catharine Merritt, wife of William Hamilton Merritt stayed during her visit to Port Maitland on March 24, 1829? (Both of these accounts are found in John Docker’s new book “Grand River Naval Depot.”) There is also some speculation that it may have been an early Barrick’s for soldiers which is yet another story as sailors don’t like being referred to as soldiers. There is some recorded history about soldiers going to church at Christ Church Port Maitland. We know from John Docker’s research that the Grand River Naval Depot had some buildings on the west side of the river, so maybe there is some truth to this. When Chuck Fleming tore it down in about 1985 he found a number of holes in the floor of the upper floor as if they were put there as toilets. Let’s not go into details trying to figure that one out!

The Demont Inn not only rented out rooms, but they also provided cabins out back which could be rented. My memories of the Demont Inn go back to the 1950s and 1960 when it was a restaurant that some remember for its great hotdogs, while other including myself remember the delicious hamburgers. My sister Lallee has memories of the pinball machine and her run-in with our mother. Mom had forbid her from crossing the river and wasting her time and money on that machine. Lallee tells the story of when she was about thirteen years of age when she and our cousin Jo-Anne Reid who would have been about nineteen spent most of the summer playing the machine trying to win the twenty-five game jackpot. They would find a few quarters and go down to Bill Siddall’s Fisheries where they borrowed his rowboat. When I say borrowed, I mean that they would return it when they were finished! Nearing the end of the summer and having never won the jackpot their skills finally paid off and Wow, Bang, Boom, with whistles and bells ringing, finally they did it! They had twenty-three games to play when the phone rang! It was Mom looking for Lallee. The conversation was terce at best with Mom giving the order to return home “this minute!” But Mom, “We won and have twenty-three games left!” “ This minute.” I said! Lallee and Jo-Anne left the Demont Inn with twenty-three games sitting on the pinball machine for someone else to finish and the knowledge that Lallee would likely spend whatever time was remaining of her holidays confined to the property, cutting lawn or serving some other appropriate sentence.

In a future article I will write much more about this building. It goes back a long way and has served as a hotel, family home, a restaurant and possibly a military barracks. It deserves and will get more print than I can give it here. 

A couple doors north of the Demont Inn and just south of the former Jenkinson pool hall was the home of the Miskin family. This is another of those old places that deserve much more print space and research than I can give it here and at this time. The Miskin family goes back in Port Maitland history before 1885. We know this from the death notice of John Miskin who died that year at age 65.

From the Reform Press, in 1892, Wellington (Dilly) Thompson made a discovery “Dell Thompson unearthed at Port Maitland a boat 40 feet long and 8 feet wide, skiff built. It was found imbedded in the sand a few feet from shore; opposite the residence of Mr. John Miskin’s, and had evidently laid there between 80 and 100 years. Besides a wagon load of bones supposed to have belonged to a human being was found in it, as well as a couple of knives, a pistol and an auger. A hole had been bored in the bottom, proving the boat was scuttled. The remains of two other boats lie on the beach. It is supposed that a small fleet had been sunk there during the war of 1812.”

This finding was one of a number of times this skiff and other 1812 era warships were to be stumbled upon only to be submerged once again under rising water to await their finding once more. John Miskin, is the son of the John Miskin mentioned above who died in 1885.

The last Miskin family member who I am aware of to live in this old house was Tommy Miskin, who I believe is the son of John Miskin Sen. Tommy was a blind widower who had no descendants and was still living there into the 1930's. Today, this property is owned by Barry Fraser who had been looking for proof of an earlier structure being on this property. He has found the remains of an old sidewalk very close to the edge of the road. The aerial photo which has inspired this series of articles provides photo proof of the existence of the Miskin home on this lot. The old house was taken apart and moved to the corner of Kings Row Road and River Road where the sections became the core of a couple home still located there.

Demont's Inn
Demont's Inn

Port Maitland Miskin Home
Port Maitland Miskin Home

If you have items you wish written about or pictures you would be willing to loan, please drop me a note. Let me know how you feel about these articles.

William (Bill) Arthur Warnick