“Wanted. Servant Girl. Must be a good cook and make herself generally useful. Wages $6 a month. Apply at the Green Bush Hotel, Kempenfeldt.” — Northern Advance, Jan. 26, 1871.
Where was this house of hospitality that would offer today’s equivalent of $132 a month to cook, clean and serve in Barrie’s east end?
In 1928, the Barrie Examiner published the recollections of longtime Barrie resident J.H. Bennett. Through several instalments, Mr. Bennett described the town he remembered from 60 years past and more, from Bayfield Street to Kempenfelt Hill.
“Now we come to the famous Green Bush Hotel, to the east of where Harry H. Burns now has his gasoline station. This was a famous hostelry in its day. It was first occupied by a man named Hubbard and then afterwards by a Mr. Fulljames of a somewhat pugilistically inclined family; the son was quite a prize fighter and much interest was thereby caused around Barrie in the sport. When the lumberjacks came into town, ready to clean up the place, these Fulljames had a nice time showing how easy it was to get rid of them.”
The Burns gas station mentioned was located at 196 Blake St. The original home dates back to the 1890s at least and the shop at the front was added in the 1920s. Somewhere to the east of this, in the vicinity of Vancouver Street where Blake Street and Shanty Bay Road meet, stood a two-storey log hotel.
Mr. Bennet may not have been exactly accurate in naming the first owners of the Green Bush but he was close. The original owner and builder of the structure is believed to be a man named Joseph Johnson. Whether he has any connection to the naming of nearby Johnson Street is still up for debate.
Built in 1854, the hotel was a revolving door of innkeepers over the next few years but that was a common practice in those days. From the hands of Johnson, the Green Bush went to a Collins, then Joseph Clarkson, William Hubbert, Mr. Naigres, Mr. Curl, John Turner and Thomas Fulljames.
Fulljames was the last hosteller to be granted a license for the place. The reason for the cancellation of his liquor license is unknown but it was felt, by the town fathers, that Barrie had a few too many watering holes at that time so some of them had to be sacrificed.
Perhaps the Green Bush’s reputation for rowdyism played a part. Three of the Fulljames sons were arrested in 1875 for being part of a vigilante gang who had wrecked a dwelling that was understood to be a house of ill repute. A Craighurst man had recently been robbed at the place.
Larry D. Cotton described the incident in his 2004 book Whiskey and Wickedness.
“A couple named McLean who lived a short distance east of the Grammar School became an intolerable nuisance to the neighbourhood by their drinking, quarrelling, obscenity and general disorderly conduct in the spring of 1875. There were also some rough and uncomely specimens of womanhood who continually became drunk, quarrelling and fought each other in the street, much to the annoyance of many respectable people in the area. Their profane language was often vulgar in the extreme. One night, a number of lads made an assault on the McLean dwelling by pelting it with stones, smashing the windows, breaking in the door and wrecking the premises.”
In 1892, Herman Green bought the Green Bush Hotel and made a valiant effort to get its liquor licence restored. He was unsuccessful. After that, the hotel served simply as a log home. The next owners were John Carley, a Mr. Stewart and lastly, John McGill.
Once known as the “last chance hotel,” since there were no more opportunities for a good drink along the road until Orillia, the Green Bush ran out of chances for itself in 1922. It was torn down to make way for a farmer’s laneway.
How different the east end of town was 100 years ago.
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