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Town Hall and Post Office
Town Hall and Post Office
Deseronto is located in Ontario
Coordinates: 44°12′N 77°03′W / 44.200°N 77.050°W / 44.200; -77.050Coordinates: 44°12′N 77°03′W / 44.200°N 77.050°W / 44.200; -77.050
Country  Canada
Province  Ontario
County Hastings
Settled 1784
Incorporated 1871 (village)
Incorporated 1889 (town)
 • Type Town
 • Mayor Norman Clark
 • Federal riding Prince Edward—Hastings
 • Prov. riding Prince Edward—Hastings
 • Land 2.52 km2 (0.97 sq mi)
Population (2011)[1]
 • Total 1,835
 • Density 728.3/km2 (1,886/sq mi)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Postal Code K0K
Area code(s) 613

Deseronto is a town in the Canadian province of Ontario, in Hastings County, located on the shore of the Bay of Quinte.

The town was named for Captain John Deseronto, a native Mohawk who was also made a captain in the British Military Forces, and owes much of its cultural heritage and character to the Mohawks of the nearby Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. The most easterly municipality of Hastings County, it nestles on the shore of Mohawk Bay at the mouth of the Napanee River.

Deseronto, located 5 km from Highway 401, is the eastern gateway to the Bay of Quinte tourist region with the Skyway Bridge providing access to Prince Edward County.


The area was acquired by the British Government from the Mississauga people just after the American Revolution. The land was then granted to Loyalists and Mohawks who had supported the British during this war. In 1784, a group of twenty Mohawk families led by Captain John Deserontyon (c.1740–1811) became the first settlers. Deserontyon's grandson, John Culbertson, inherited his property in what is now the town site. In 1837, Culbertson was granted title to the land, built a wharf on the waterfront, and sold village lots in his tract. A settlement began to grow at the wharf, called Culbertson's Wharf.[2][3]

In 1848, portions of land were bought by Amos S. Rathbun, Thomas Y. Howe, and L. E. Carpenter who built the area’s first sawmill. By 1850, the village was known as Mill Point.[4] After 1855 Amos Rathbun's brother, Hugo Burghardt Rathbun (1812–1886), continued the business by himself. He acquired many village properties and made Mill Point one of Ontario's earliest company towns to house employees of his shipyard and sawmill. This led to rapid growth and the place became an industrial and transportation hub for the logging business in the Napanee, Salmon, Moira, and Trent River watersheds.[2][3] Timber would arrive in Deseronto aboard Rathbun's Bay of Quinte Railway and leave aboard the company's steamships.

In 1871, a county by-law provided for the incorporation of Mill Point as a Village.

Mill Point took the name Deseronto in 1881 in honour of the Mohawk chief Deserontyon who had led the first settlers to the area following the American Revolution.[4] In 1889, it was incorporated as a Town. During the 1890s, Deseronto had a population of about 4000 and was a thriving town with bakeries, drugstores, hardware stores and hotels.[2][3] The town's Post Office, designed by Chief Dominion Architect Thomas Fuller, was completed in 1901.

During World War I, Deseronto was home to two Royal Flying Corps training camps. The Rathbun Company also developed many diversified industries, including a sash and door factory, shipyard, railway car works, terra cotta factory, flour mill, gas works and chemical works, all located in Deseronto. But changing markets, devastating fires, depleting lumber stock, and a lack of good forest management led to the company's decline and they ceased operation in 1923 when they surrendered their charter. Consequently, the town's population fell from 3500 in 1924 to 1300 ten years later.[2]

Much of the land area of the town of Deseronto is part of the Culbertson Tract land claim submitted by the Tyendinaga Mohawks in 1995 and accepted for negotiation by Canada in 2003. The controversy surrounding this has led to recent protests, including road and rail line disruption.[5][6] The Culbertson Tract is an 827-acre parcel of land that covers much of downtown Deseronto and part of Tyendinaga Township, which the government has acknowledged was never ceded by the Indians.[7] Negotiations ceased in 2008 when the government declared that it would not consider expropriation of non-natives to expand the reserve.[5] Some rapprochement was seen in October 2013 with a well-attended symposium on "The land that supports our feet".[8] The Township has archived material into a "Catalogue of Culbertson Tract Land Claim documents collection".[9] In June 2013, Mr. Justice Rennie of the Federal Court of Canada ruled, in " Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte v. Canada (Indian Affairs and Northern Development)",[10] that expropriation is indeed a viable option:[11]

[1] The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte (the applicant) occupy the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory (Indian Reserve No. 38) in southeastern Ontario. This territory is part of the original Mohawk Tract granted to the Six Nations by Treaty 3½, the Simcoe Deed of 1793.

[2] The Culbertson Tract is a 923 acre parcel of land within the Mohawk Tract. The applicant alleges it was wrongfully alienated by the Crown in 1837. The Minister accepted this claim for negotiation in accordance with criteria of the Specific Claims Policy (the Policy) in 2003. A decade later, the claim remains unresolved.

[3] The applicant submits that the Minister is in breach of his fiduciary duty to negotiate in good faith. The applicant seeks a declaration that, as an aspect of his duty to negotiate in good faith, the Minister must consider all possible options including the acquisition of third party interests in the Culbertson Tract and returning the land to the applicant. The applicant seeks an order directing that the Minister negotiate on this basis.

[4] The Minister does not dispute the obligation to negotiate in good faith, which is derived from the honour of the Crown; rather the Minister characterizes this application as an attempt to force a particular negotiation position on the Crown and a breach of the confidentiality provisions of the protocol governing negotiations.

[5] While this case engages questions of Aboriginal law, it fits equally into orthodox principles of administrative law. The Minister has publicly committed to a policy and has a broad discretion under that policy as to how he will negotiate. In the exercise of that discretion, the Minister must have regard to the Policy’s parameters and terms. This requirement is not new law, nor is it unique to Aboriginal law; rather it is simply the application of settled principles of administrative law.

[6] The Minister has publicly stated that the Policy does not permit a land-based settlement, only financial compensation. This is incorrect. The Policy explicitly contemplates the acquisition and return of land. The Minister’s statements suggest that he either misunderstood or refused to acknowledge the scope of the settlement options open to him.

[7] While it is for the Minister to decide what negotiation position he will take, the duty to negotiate in good faith precludes him from publicly mischaracterizing the Policy. The distinction in the end, is narrow, but real. It is the difference between saying I cannot do something as opposed to saying I can do something but choose not to do so.

[8] The Court cannot interfere with the negotiations or mandate that the Minister take a specific negotiation position. Under the Policy the Minister may negotiate on the basis of land, monetary compensation or a mix of each, in any proportion he considers appropriate. However, in light of the Minister’s public statements, declaratory relief is appropriate. I accept the applicant’s argument that the Minister’s mischaracterization of the Policy affects the perception of other residents in the broader community, who may in turn see the applicant as intransigent and demanding. Misstating the tools available to the Minister may in fact impede settlement and reconciliation. Therefore, a declaration to clarify the governing Policy has some utility.


Population trend:[14]

  • Population in 2011: 1835
  • Population in 2006: 1824
  • Population in 2001: 1796
  • Population in 1996: 1811
  • Population in 1991: 1862

Mother tongue:[12]

  • English as first language: 92.8%
  • French as first language: 0.5%
  • English and French as first language: 0%
  • Other as first language: 6.7%


Deseronto Transit provides public transportation services in the town, with connections to Napanee, Belleville, and Picton.[15]


See also[edit]


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