Author of Eaton Hall pens second book
Kelly Mathews delves into King Campus neighbour's past
Kelly Mathews, Manager of Community Recreation, King Day Camp and Seneca's Outdoor Education Centre, has written a second book about Marylake, once owned by Sir Henry Mill Pellatt (of the Casa Loma fame).
Kelly Mathews shares many things with the late Canadian writer and environmentalist Farley Mowat. Like him, her first cousin twice removed, Kelly has a love for history and heritage. She’s also passionate about nature and wildlife.
However, the Manager of Community Recreation at Seneca never imagined she’d write a book let alone two.
After Kelly became the first person to complete a 300-kilometre hike across the Oak Ridges Moraine in seven days last September, she began to work on The Road to Marylake, released this week by The History Press, a publisher of local and regional history and culture.
“Because I didn’t know I was going to write the first book, I had no idea I would write a second one,” Kelly says. “But I had this itch to research again.”
While writing Eaton Hall: Pride of King Township, her first book, Kelly came across the Marylake property previously owned by Sir Henry Mill Pellatt and located at Keele Street and 15 Sideroad, directly west of King Campus.
Just as Kelly had felt a need to write Eaton Hall, which came about “accidentally” through a chance meeting, she was intrigued by the history and story of Pellatt and his land.
“First, I research because I want to know and then I write because I want other people to know,” she says. “Very few people make money writing local, non-fiction history. You write it because you believe there’s important history to be shared, and I believed, that with Marylake and Eaton Hall, there was just that.”
Along with the Eatons, Pellatt was one of the richest men in Canada and better known for building Casa Loma in Toronto in 1914. He named a lake on his King City country estate Lake Marie after his wife, Mary, and in 1922 sold 400 acres of his property to the Eatons.
Today, that parcel makes up more than half of the King Campus grounds.
In 1935, a group of Basilian priests purchased the property from Pellatt. The Basilians, only in residence for seven years, renamed the property Marylake and utilized it as part of their back-to-the-land settlement scheme. In 1942, the remaining 814 acres of Pellatt’s land were purchased by the Augustinians Fathers of Ontario, who have made the estate their monastery and retreat centre for the past 75 years.
To research Marylake, Kelly hit the municipal, provincial and national archives, pouring over thousands of documents.
“You have to really dig to find the information because it’s not like you can just Google it,” says Kelly, who serves on King’s Heritage Advisory Committee and the board of the King Township Historical Society. Among other things, she’s also the volunteer co-ordinator of Doors Open King Township.
Ask how long it took her to research the book, she says, “I gained 40 pounds working on both books, that’s how long it took.”
Joking aside, Kelly spent on average two to six hours a night after work and 20 to 30 hours on weekends, often staying up until the wee hours.
“There was so much labouring with primary sources in the archives,” she says. “Materials had to be handled with gloves because the papers were so delicate they could crumble if not handled properly. The majority of resources you riffle through will have nothing to do with your work, but you don’t know that until you go through it all.”
It was a slow process, at times tedious, but Kelly says she enjoyed every bit of it.
“It’s a labour of love,” she adds, “and you have to be OK with a hermit’s life.”