By James McCallum Posted February 2009
While extracting genealogical material for an index to the Aylmer Express, a series of articles relating to the history of the township of South Dorchester were discovered in the newspaper during 1929 and 1930.
From these articles it was apparent that a South Dorchester Historical Association had been formed during 1929 for the purpose of recording and eventually publishing a history of the township. Monthly meetings were held during this period, where members gave a presentation on their family or farm. Pupils in various school sections were also invited to submit histores of their communities and schools.
The first article with historical details appeared in May 1929, and the series ran consistently until October 1930. Despite an attempt to locate information about this historical association, no further details could be ascertained. The proposed published history was not completed, and no further articles appeared in the Aylmer Express after 1930.
The Historical Society that existed many years later within the township of South Dorchester is not a continuation of the above association that was responsible for these articles. The society of the 1929 to 1930 period was probably disbanded.
In addition to the articles of the South Dorchester Historical Association, two other articles have been included in this publication since they relate to South Dorchester. One is a history of the Charlton family which appeared in the Aylmer Express in April 1931; the other a municipal history of Springfield which was published in the paper in March 1924.
The Aylmer Express, May 9, 1929, Page 16
CHARLES DANCE TELLS OF EARLY HISTORY OF SOUTH DORCHESTER
Paper Read by Mr. Chas. Dance at the Last Meeting of the S. Dorchester Historical Association
While the matter of compiling a history of the Township of South Dorchester might have been in the minds of some, it did not seem to have a starting point until the nomination meeting of the township this year, when Mr. Duncan McVicar referred to the advisability of its being undertaken. Mr. Norman Martin and some others made some reference to the early history, which seemed to start the ball rolling and parties became interested. It assumed definite shape and resulted in the meeting, which was called, and out of which, committees were appointed to undertake the work. It is unfortunate that something had not been done years before, when some of the earlier settlers had been living, for while there are many of their descendants still living, there is not a single one of the original ones alive. To get at the history it would be necessary to know something of those who first settled in the township as they were the ones who commenced to make history and very few who are here can realize what those early settlers undertook and what they accomplished. It is from their perseverance, industry and sacrifice that we enjoy the abundant heritage, which we possess today.
There does not appear much, if any, account of settlers previous to 1835, and not much to record for a few years later. A history or atlas of the county was published in 1877, which referred to the early settlers, but did not give a very full account, and contained some errors. The south-western part seems to have had most of the early ones [settlers] in 1835. Dexter, Dance and Appleford where located on the south townline (I have deeds to that effect), executed in that year. About that time or very soon after, to the north on the 11th concession, east of Mapleton, several others, among whom were Wilcox, Perkins and Wismer. Allen came soon after and Emery Moore soon after, to the north on the 10th concession. Willis and McLachlin are said to have located in the eastern part of the Township at an earlier date. As late as 1840 the concessions were a wilderness and not more than 30 or 40 settlers and virtually no roads. Soon after 1840 Henry Niles formed school sections. One log schoolhouse, where the old Springfield cemetery now stands, and another east of Mapleton about two miles. Mr. Shepherd was the first teacher. From 1840 to 1850 settlers were coming into the Township, settling in various parts where they could locate to best advantage.
Up to that time there was no municipal organization but as it had become necessary that organization should take place, the matter was proceeded with and the first council met at the store, now Lyons, on the 9th of January 1852, which up to that time and [until] 1860, was called Hales’ Corners. It contained store, tavern, wagon shop, blacksmith shop, etc. The first councilors were Jacob Cline, John McArthur, Edwin McCredie, John Dunn, and John Luton. Jacob Cline was appointed Reeve and Edmund Shepherd clerk. Previous to that time Edwardsburg, now Dorchester, was the meeting place for what was then called Town Meetings. In 1859, the first Agricultural Society was formed, E. McCredie, president; John Gregory, vice; and Matthew Fullerton, sec-treasurer. Early in 1860, several churches were built; the Disciples
Church, east of Mapleton; Wesleyan Methodist Church at Lyons in 1866; Episcopal Methodist Church on the 10th concession north of Springfield, and a Union church also on 10th concession at the corner of Springfield road. Mount Vernon Church was built about that time. The prospect of cheese making seemed to have loomed up as an important industry and the first cheese factory was built just east of Mapleton (on lot 23) by Wm. Appleford, and was operation in 1865. In 1869 Lyons cheese factory was built and has been going strong ever since. Another factory was built at Avon, which has continued in operation. The dairy industry has been the mainstay of the farmers from that time to the present and is still growing stronger.
Gradual improvement was going on from 1860 to 1880 in various ways but the question of gravel roads or township hall did not assume definite shape until 1883 when the Ark Church was purchased and moved to its present location to be used for council meetings and other purposes. The question of gravel roads, or better roads became a very live issue in 1883 and a program of gravelling was inaugurated, and has been carried on since that time, it being considered the most important question, which the municipal council has to deal with. Since that time telephone lines have been constructed to nearly every home and hydro is making rapid advancement.
The township, composed of 30,600 acres, was organized in 1852 on the separation of Elgin from Middlesex. At the time of organization the taxable property on the assessment roll was $93,656; in 1876 it was $1,131,728. Township Treasurers have been Henry Roberts, William F. Roberts, Thomas Winder, and the present treasurer, T. G. Winder. The clerks have been Edmund Shepherd, Matthew Fullerton, Benjamin Dennis, Duncan Taylor, and Milton Charlton. Many good men have been chosen as municipal officers and five of the Reeves have been honoured by the position of Warden which is the highest honour in the gift of the County.
The Aylmer Express, October 31, 1929, page 8
SOUTH DORCHESTER HISTORICAL ORGANIZATION
Paper Read by Mrs. John Evert on the “Pioneer History of S. S. No. 7 from 1845”
As nearly as possible I shall give the names of the first owners of the farms now included in S.S. No. 7. Beginning east on the 10th concession, 80 years ago, Isaac Appleford lived where Truman Appleford now lives. South from the corner came Jacob Cline, later Randall Cline, and now Robert Cline. Across the road on the west where Charles Cline lives, was Joseph Smith, and later a Mr. Tompkins. West on the 10th, was Mr. McPhail, on the corner. Then next west was Elder Sheppard, the father of Edmund E. Sheppard, the founder of the Toronto Saturday Night. Elder Sheppard was a minister in the Disciple Church, and the first Public School Inspector in this district. The home, occupied by him, is now owned by Roy Legg, who followed Charles Legg. The next west was David Moore, father of the president of this association, J.A. Moore who now lives on this old homestead. Hamilton Emery, considered very wealthy in those days, lived where Wesley Phillips now lives. This farm is better known to the present generation as the “Jack Emery Farm.”
Coming north from McPhail’s corner, which is the first corner west of Lyons, there seems to have been no houses. Jack Luton bought the farm, known as the Meikle farm, but now owned by Mr. Leslie, for his horse, saddle and bridle. Across the road, on the lot, upon which the Crossley-Hunter church stands, lived Robert Brown. This farm is now occupied by H.G. McGregor. James Bryce bought 50 acres where I. Ackert lives, and John Learn owned the 100 acres where J.R. Roberts makes his home. On the north side, George McIntosh lived where Jas. Appleford now resides and Jas. Ballah lived on the premises now occupied by George Abell. David Finch and William Finch owned the Miles Holmes, the Corval and the Angus Taylor farms, while Hamilton Emery owned the John A. Taylor farm.
West from Niles Holmes’ farm, George Legg owned the corner 50 acres, which is now in possession of Jos. Jenkins, and Neil Taylor had the 100 acres now held by Ernest Jenkins. The following farms under their present ownership of Clarence Rogers, C.J. Jenkins, Jas. Jenkins, Arthur Taylor, H.G. Taylor, S. & W. Legg, Ed. Legg and Betterley were owned respectively by Thomas Kindred, Charles Kindred, S.I. Pettit, Mr. McCormick, but afterwards Donald Taylor, Angus Taylor, Mrs. Legg and sons, and James Dewar. Jonathon Brooks owned a house and lot on Orlando Charlton’s place and a man by the name of House kept a hotel on Betterley’s Corner.
Now coming east on the ninth concession, the following were on the north side, Dan Deacon, Mr. Fawcett, John Taylor, George Pettit and George Learn, where now reside respectively Arthur Bailey, John Evert, Glen Taylor, Lorne Pettit, Frank and George Learn.
On the south side were Thos. McGregor, on the 100-acre farm now held by Roy McGregor; Hamilton Emery where Neil Ferguson makes his home; Erwins on the north end of the Moore farm; John Deacon had 50 acres where Skene Smith lives, and on which was a schoolhouse, and James Smith occupied 100 acres of the Skene Smith property.
The Aylmer Express, December 5, 1929, page 11
THE ‘DENNIS’ NAME IN SOUTH DORCHESTER
Mr. Oscar Dennis of Lyons, gave the following information, relative to his parents, who were pioneers of S. Dorchester, to the Historical Organization:
Sometime in June 1843, Isaac Dennis, his wife, Mary Siles, and a family, G. Bearss, moved from Welland County to South Dorchester. Isaac Dennis settled on Lot 15 in the 7th concession. The trip from Welland was made with oxen. They went up the Centre Road but from this road to the lot was solid bush and it took four days to get a road in on the concession line.
Isaac Dennis reared a family of 8 boys and 3 girls, the fifth son being the late Peter Dennis, blacksmith at Lyons, and the father of Oscar Dennis, who operates a chopping mill on the old premises. Peter was born in Humberstone township on the 30th day of December 1842. On reaching his ( )th year, he went to his uncle at Talbotville to learn the blacksmithing. Here he remained for 6 years and then came home to start a shop on the farm. But love was in the air and on the 29th of June 1866, he married Charlotte Fysh, who was born near Nilestown. Then on the following October 1st, they came to Lyons where they made a home and built a shop which he operated until 1924, two years before he died, January 8th 1926. His wife predeceased him October 10th 1920.
The Aylmer Express, April 10, 1930, page 9
THE FINCH FAMILY IN SOUTH DORCHESTER
Describing the Hardships of the Early Pioneers
(By Mrs. Roy McGregor)
In 1840, David Wellington Finch, at the age of 22, with his young wife (Rebecca House), and oldest child, one year old, moved from the home of his father, Thomas Finch, in Yarmouth (known as the Michael farm, and now owned by S. Garton), and took up land in South Dorchester. This was government land and all woods at that time. He cut down trees, and built a house, proceeding then to clear the land as time permitted, to start farming. The logs forming the house were chinked on the outside with clay mud, and was boarded up on the inside. What furniture they had was home-made, from straight grained logs, taken from the forest, spit and shaped to each requirement. Later this home was called “Rose-dale Farm”, and is now known as Lot 18, Con. 8, of the Township of South Dorchester. The nearest neighbor was John Deacon, whose place was about 2 ½ miles distant, by the blazed trail.
They were on these premises about six years before there was any opportunity to give their children any educational advantages. Then they paid so much for each child, and a teacher came to the home to give them their lessons. In this manner, the two oldest children were started. Later when other families settled in, a school house was built. The first teacher was Ruth Belcher and next, Mr. Widemore, who taught for three years.
The first minister to look after the needs of the family was Elder Williams, who used to go from house to house. It was he who took the father and the mother of this early home, into the Baptist church. There was no Sunday School until after they day the school house was built.
Thirteen children blessed this pioneer home, and they all grew up to be men and women. The oldest child, Atlanta Jane (Mrs. J. G. Fawcett), Toronto, who just recently passed away at the age of 91, contributed much of the information herein given. She recalled the time when the tallow candles were made, and how one candle had to do the whole family; and also how pleased they were to be able to get their mail by going to Orwell.
They used oxen and sleds; and after cutting the grain with cradles and threshing it with the flail, teamed it to Port Stanley or Port Burwell, as there was practically no money in circulation.
They kept many sheep, clipped the wool, carded, combed and spun it, later weaving the cloth from which flannel clothes were made for all, and flannel blankets for the beds. They knit their mitts, socks and stockings, often dyeing the yarn, so that they might have fancy colors. The shoes were made by the travelling shoemaker, who frequently stayed a week in a home, measuring the feet and making the boots and the shoes.
Maple Syrup Was the Only Sweet
All the sugar known to them was the maple sugar. This was made from the sap of the maple tree, bu gouging the tree and inserting spiles. The sap was caught in sap troughs and stored in large troughs, made from the larger pine trees. The boiling or evaporating was done in large cauldron kettles. When the boiling was on, the attendant had to watch closely to prevent a boil-over. For this purpose large pieces of fat pork were kept in a convenient place, and was used in smearing the top inner edge of the kettle. Perhaps the manner of evaporation has been improved, but not the flavor. After some years raw sugar was obtainable at the stores.
All the cooking was done in the large fireplace, by hanging kettles on cranes and having a bake kettle with a cover for the baking of bread. The bake kettle was set on a bed of coals and then the coals would be heaped around it and over it. In this way the most delicious brad was produced. Later on they got a tine over which they set in front of the fireplace, while later still, a large outside bake over was built. When potatoes were to be baked, a bed of ashes and coals was fixed with a hollow, into which the potatoes were laced, and covered with hot ashes and coals. When done the ashes were raked back, and the tubers fished out. Only the pioneer children know how delicious were those murphies, thus prepared.
The fruit was all wild – strawberries, raspberries and plums, and it was about twenty years before tame fruit was plentiful. The only brooms were made from a hickory stick, with one end whittled off for a handle and the other shaved back to make the brush.
As the ground was cleared, seed was sown in season, around the stumps and raked in with brush. Working in or close to the woods was never safe without a gun, as the Indians would creep up so quietly that the farmer might at any time, on looking up, find gun or bow and arrow trained on him. These same Indians very much feared a dog, so this faithful old friend of the family frightened many an Indian from the Finch home.
A doctor was not available in those early days, and Grandmother Legg, as she was called, did her best for her neighbors. As fortune favored the Finch’s, more land was purchased until when death called the father at the early age of forty-nine, three hundred acres of the fine land of South Dorchester was in possession of the family, and the widow and the children carried on.
The family were – Atlanta Jane, who married Jno. George Fawcett; Martha Ann, who became partner of Samuel Hambly, and Hanna Melissa, of Reuben Hambly; Thomas Henry married Ann Abray; Sarah Katharine (James Ballah); John Wellington (Maria Allen); Rebecca Louise (William Smith Jackson); Glaton Judson (Jessie Cuthbertson); Orelia Amelia (David Andrew Sherk); George Culver (Emma Jane Venning); David Denzil (Amy Charlton); Helen Delena; Lillian Maud (John A. McTavish, Walker McKellar).
The Aylmer Express, April 24, 1930, page 11
S.S. #10, South Dorchester, “Yorke’s School”
Written by Isabell MacVicar, under Supervision of Miss Marguerite Lamb, Teacher
“To the Pioneers of Yorke Who in Patience, in courage and in the Fear of God Helped to Build the Township of South Dorchester, this Essay is Humbly Dedicated”
In this historical essay of the storied past of S.S. No. 10, South Dorchester, we have endeavoured to give the original, fifty years ago, and present owners of the farms now included in S.S. No. 10 assessment.
S.S. No. 10 can boast of United Empire Loyalist stock. The honour of naming the section fell on Stephen Yorke. He had been given land by the Crown, since he was a Loyalist. Stephen Yorke’s family consisted of one son and one daughter.
In Thomas Kiddie’s family there were four boys and three girls. William, the youngest son, devoted some time to public service, being reeve of the township and warden of Elgin County for 1928. From memory’s page, Mrs. John Eagan, formerly Jane Kiddie, recalls that it took her parents seven weeks and one day to cross the Atlantic ocean to the new world of promise. Out of this vast dominion, Thomas Kiddie in 1861, chose for a home, a part of lot sixteen, concession seven, South Dorchester.
William Ballah purchased from Tozer for one hundred pounds, the George Ballah farm, lot eleven, concession eight.
William Ballah’s family consisted of two boys, Albert and George. Albert’s youngest son, Grant, paid the supreme sacrifice in the Great War, 1914-1918. Another son, William, also served in this war.
Jacob Cline, an ambitious man, owned a great deal of this section. We feel we have a perfect right to call him ambitious, for in order to get certain land before others got in on it, he mounted his horse and rode pell-mell to Toronto, obtaining two thousand acres at the time. This hardy pioneer dealt extensively in livestock, and it is said lost no time putting on footwear unless in time of extreme climatic conditions or social functions.
J. Earl O’Neil has some interesting information about his ancestors, which we shall try to impart to you. John O’Neil was born in the county of Tipperary, Ireland. He crossed on the “Camperdown.” This sailboat was thirteen weeks crossing the Atlantic. On the return voyage 1815, the boat, which was loaded with timber sank in mid-Atlantic, and all the hands were drowned. He married a Miss McKey, of Hamilton, who was of German extraction. Their son, John M. was one of the four to help bring the first steel rails to the then small village of London. He worked on a farm for about a year, when his employer became bankrupt and his holdings were seized. John M. O’Neil received only a little pig as his wage for a year. He married for his second wife, Martha Evans. Her parents came from Cleveland to Port Stanley in 1864. The patent for the east fifty acres, lot ten, concession seven, came from the crown in 1816 to Michael Miller. He sold it to the Honourable William Dixon in 1858. In 1878 Calvin Brown purchased it. Then in 1881, J. M. O’Neil bought it.
J. Earl O’Neil has in his possession an 1897 tax slip, which shows that the taxes were eighteen dollars and seventy-two cents. Quite different today.
Archibald McCallum with his wife and family of four boys and five girls came from Scotland about 1830. There Archibald McCallum had walked fourteen miles night and morning to work and he was glad of the opportunity to earn a livelihood and be near home. They located on lot eighteen, concession eight. The father and sons cleared the land and built a log house and barn. A few years later frame buildings were erected. The first conveyance was a sled, later they had a wagon. The old gentleman lived to see the day when he owned a democrat and a buggy. This aged and fortunate couple could see to read late in life without glasses, having received their second sight. The original hundred acres were divided between two sons, Angus and Archie. The barn on Archie’s farm was burned down by his children, playing with matches. Afterwards, Angus, who was a local story-teller and wit, bought Archie’s farm. His son Dougald and family are still occupants.
John Ferguson married a Miss Campbell and settled on lot sixteen, concession eight. They had a family of ten children, John, Campbell, Neil (who had been hurt in young manhood by a load of hay upsetting on him going down Belmont Hill), and Duncan (who had the honour of sitting in township and county councils), were farmers. James and Colin were schoolteachers. Colin later practiced law. Donald practiced medicine. The farm, which was well timbered with maple, beech, rock and grey elm, oak, white and black ash and hickory, is almost depleted of its forest wealth.
I shall quote from a letter received by A.J. MacVicar, from Margaret Dunn. “South half of lot eleven, concession seven, was obtained from the Crown in 1842, by J. Dunn. My grandmother’s name was Margaret Nairn. They came from Scotland in 1842, bringing two children with them, James, who died early in childhood and Jeanie. John, my father, was born one year after they arrived in Canada, Thomas, another James, named after the brother who died, and Janet, who married Archie Reavie, of Aylmer.
The boys were all farmers. Thomas retired and became interested in the canning business. He owned the homestead until a few years ago, when he sold it to the present owner, John Ferguson.
My grandparents were Presbyterians in Scotland, but after coming to Canada they attended the Disciple Church at Mapleton. The minister was Rev. Mr. Sheppard, father of E.E. Sheppard, former “Don of Toronto Saturday Night.”
The first school father attended was at Whittaker Lake.
“To earn some money my grandfather walked to Ingersoll, sixteen miles through the woods, and worked at the carpenter’s trade, which was his trade in Scotland. He returned home each night carrying supplies for the family. One night he became lost in the woods and after wandering for hours gave up trying to find his way. Just as daylight was breaking he heard a rustling through the bushes and thought it must be a wild animal, but the bushes parted and he discovered a white-faced steer that belonged to him. He took the animal by the tail and it brought him home.
My father could remember distinctly seeing deer in the woods.
While my grandfather was in Ingersoll, my grandmother was alone in the log-house with her small children. She often saw Indians walking through the woods, but she was never molested. Later when the children were older, on foot she carried her butter and eggs eight miles
to Aylmer and exchanged them for store goods. She was a little woman, weighing only ninety pounds. She was the mid-wife for the neighbourhood and went for miles around when neighbours sent for her. Doctor Cline, of Belmont, was one of the first doctors I heard my father speak about. His father was Jacob Cline, one of the early settlers.
My grandfather teamed his grain to Port Burwell, which was the shipping point. The wheels of the wagons had to be locked in going down the long hill there.
When the first orchard in the neighbourhood began to bear fruit, the apples were a great attraction for children. My grandfather forbade his children to touch the neighbour’s fruit, and as a reward for the good behaviour he brought from Port Bruce a bag of apples, which were the first the children had ever tasted. The next year my grandfather planted an orchard.
The telling of ghost stories was a favourite pastime when neighbours gathered together on an evening.
One night when my father was a young boy he was sent to a neighbour’s to borrow some grain bags. There were several men at the neighbour’s and one ghost story followed another in thrilling succession. My father stayed late to listen, scared and thrilled. When he didn’t come home at the expected time, my grandmother became anxious. Picking up a white blanket, she put it over her head and shoulders and went to meet him. In the meantime he had started homeward with his head full of ghost stories. He saw the white figure approaching when it was too late to run. Over his shoulder he had one bag with the others inside of it. It was his only weapon. He braced his feet and swung the bag. The ghost fell to the ground and he discovered he had knocked down his mother. She was not hurt but almost as badly frightened as he.
John Stewart immigrated to Canada from Argylshire, Scotland, about 1830 bringing his family of four boys and four girls. They bought four hundred acres, lots eighteen and nineteen, concession seven. A log house and barns were built on the banks of Kettle Creek. On lot seventeen, about one hundred rods from the road was situated a nursery and building from which many of the orchards of this district were obtained. About 1853, on lot eighteen, which was known as the old homestead, a very substantial brick house was built with frame kitchen. The barns of the south-half of lot fifteen and lot sixteen were built by Duncan Stewart, and are still in very good state of repair, having been all re-modeled. Frank Wallace bought John A. Stewart’s farm, lot sixteen and part of lot fifteen on which good buildings have been built.
On John A. Stewart’s farm, lot sixteen and part of fifteen, a portable threshing engine blew-up one winter morning. Mr. William Wilson, who owned the clover huller and engine, heard it making a peculiar sound as if someone were striking piano wires. Running to where the engine stood, he mounted the fire-box. He reached along it for the safety valve, but just too late, the fire-box flew through the air about twenty-five or thirty rods with Mr. Wilson on it. The boiler clearing everything before it, went through the barn, some parts being carried as far as one hundred roods.
We are greatly indebted to A.J. MacVicar for his account of the MacVicar Family History, which we are submitting in the original
The Aylmer Express, May 1, 1930, page 11
HISTORY OF SOUTH DORCHESTER
The Late John MacVicar one of the Pioneers of South Dorchester
The history of the MacVicars dates many years back in the Highlands of Scotland where they owned a large estate on part of which the Town of Inverary now stands. A poor man came to MacVicar begging for a small plot to build a house on. Because of his great need MacVicar generously granted his request, stipulating that the plot be measured by a hide. The party cut the hide into a fine string and by the use of this string measured away a lot of the estate. MacVicar carried the case to the courts and with the expense the estate was lost.
In 1759 John MacVicar and two sons assisted at the taking of Quebec. The two sons were drafted and the father heartbroken at the thoughts of parting with them, volunteered and went with them. They never returned. He left at home, his wife, young son, Duncan and little daughter.
Duncan grew to manhood and married a Miss Muir, one of the oldest Scottish families. Their family consisted of two sons and one daughter, Archibald, John and Isabel. These all married in Scotland, afterwards coming to Canada. John emigrated in 1841, and settled near Brantford. Isabel, who had married James Dewar, also came. They settled near Belmont on the property now owned by George Betterly. Archibald remained in Scotland on the estate of Lord Malcolm, in Argyleshire, near the village of Kilmartin, until 1857, when he decided to come to Canada much against the will of his landlord, who offered many inducements and better concessions to his valued tenant to remain.
Archibald MacVicar, with his wife and family, left Scotland in June 1857, arriving in London, Ontario, August 4th. The family consisted of five boys, John, Dougald, Alexander, Duncan and Archibald; also three daughters, Mary, Isabel and Christina. John, the eldest son, on whom the weight of responsibility rested, on account of the ill-health of the father, was sent to Belmont on foot to locate his uncles, John MacTavish and James Dewar. They remained with the families during the summer, assisting with the harvest. This harvest, the people were very thankful for, as the previous year was memorable, as the summer of the “great frost,” when the crops were frozen and ruined.
Then came the locating of a home and John traveled over many districts, finally buying 200 acres of bush land for $2000 in North Dorchester, lot 3, concession 3, near the village of Putnam, the nearest business place being Ingersoll. They built a frame barn in 1859.
On June 20th, 1860, John bought a farm in South Dorchester, 100 acres N ½, lot 17, concession 7, for $1300, now known as the “John MacVicar Homestead.” In this district were settled many people from Argyleshire, Stewarts, Fergusons, MacCallums, McIntyres, Taylors and many others. The people spoke Gaelic, especially the older ones, and were staunch Presbyterians. Their first church was built of logs and situated on the 6th con. of N. Dorchester, where they held services both in Gaelic and English. The next church was built in Belmont, which was hardly a village at that time, the site being a gift from a man named Nugent. They named their cemetery, Kilmory, after their cemetery in Scotland.
As time went on, the first school was built on the corner of the John Stewart estate and a few are living today who attended as children. Mr. MacVicar, though now in middle age, attacked the problem of his timbered farm with the perseverance and tenacious habits, which characterized him. In his boyhood he worked days, and attended night school to improve his education. As a man he chose the most arduous work, one of which was the blasting of the stone for Lord Malcolm’s castle, from the stone quarry. After lighting the fuse he had to overhand a rope 80 feet long, to a place of safety, a feat, I think, very few would care to perform. The fact that Mr. MacVicar was a stone mason and well trained in that work gave him the strength and ability to do this.
In 1864 he married Elizabeth McCaul, of East Nissouri, near Embro, and together they cultivated and improved their low-lying land, until today it stands as one of the model farms in the district. They were able to endure much labour and hardship without too much fatigue, and practiced strict economy. Their first home furnishings were made by hand, and the first table Mr. MacVicar made is still in existence.
They raised a large family, six stalwart sons, and three daughters, one of whom died in childhood; Archibald, Donald, Alexander, John, Duncan and Malcolm. Elizabeth is now Mrs. Donald Weir, and Miss Annie is on the “Homestead.” As time went on Mr. and Mrs. MacVicar added to their farm, 50 acres on the east side in 1869, and 50 acres across the road in 1880. This now constitutes the “John MacVicar Homestead.” In 1883, they purchased the farm in Harrietsville, whereon stood the “Jelly Hotel,” one of the oldest landmarks in the country, being built when the 6th con. was a blazed trail through the forest, and the Centre Road, which was then the main road across the country, was a corduroy road, that is, built with logs laid across the road on the low and swampy places.
This farm is now owned by his son, Donald, a very successful farmer.
Alexander, the third son, went to British Columbia. For 14 years he was foreman in the stamp mills of the gold mines at Ymir and Hedley. He then returned to his home, which is part of the old “Homestead,” and together with his brother Duncan, who owns the other part has specialized in Ayrshire cattle, owning at the present time one of the best herds in Ontario.
John, the fourth son, received a University education, graduating from Queen’s, Kingston in 1904. He followed assaying in the Gold mines at Ymir and Hedley for a number of years, and was consulting engineer for the Government in Alberta. He returned to Toronto about 1920 and was Provincial engineer until his death in May 1929, as a result of an accident with the Radial line near Limehouse.
Malcolm, the youngest son, finished his education at the Woodstock College. He is now located on part of what was known as the “McCready Farm,” lot 73, con 9. At the corner of this farm is “The McCready Tile Yard,” one of the oldest landmarks and the only manufacturing plant in the township.
He served several years in public life, being councilor and reeve for S. Dorchester, and is an ex-M.L.A. for East Elgin.
In 1888 Mr. and Mrs. MacVicar bought 125 acres, lots 14 & 15, con. 7 from Deadalius Chambers. This land was deeded from the Crown to a man named Fleet, who sold to Dennis, and afterwards to Deadalius Chambers. This farm was rented by him for a period of twenty-one years, and of course depreciated very much in that time. The higher land being constantly
cultivated so that very little fertility remained in the soil. A chain of large basins, which crossed the farm with an outlet at Kettle Creek, presented a rather difficult problem. Archibald the eldest son came to reside on this farm in 1890. His first work was fencing around the outside, afterwards the draining. A large drain was constructed from the road across the farm emptying into Kettle Creek. This with its many branches was a great undertaking, and which was at last, successfully completed. The necessary renovating of the barns and the remodeling of the house were also accomplished. Unfortunately for Mr. MacVicar, he received a serious spinal injury in 1894, which rendered him unable to work or walk since that time.
He served the Township as assessor and collector, and filled the position of enumerator on three different occasions. He has always taken an active interest in all educational and political matters. Notwithstanding the many difficulties under which he laboured, it is a happy thought to know that his farm today is one of the finest in the township.
Before 1860 when Mr. MacVicar came to reside in South Dorchester there have been many advantages and much progress. People have changed from their log houses and barns, to new and modern buildings. The implements used then, such as cradle, scythe and plow, have been replaced by the reaper and binder and the tractor-plow; the telephone and Hydro have been installed. Means of travel such as the horse and buggy, and hauling by wagons and teams have changed to the automobile and auto trucks. The cradle was an instrument made with a long blade attached to a rack with long fingers which divided the grain as the cradle was swung by hand. A very arduous task, but it effectively harvested the grain around the stumps and low places, which were common at that time. This was gathered with the hand rake and bound by hand into sheaves tied with a wisp of the grain. The coming of the reaper and binder, also the horse rake, was a great help to the people. I might mention also the hayrack made from natural bent cedar poles which rested on cedar poles for the sides and held together with wooden pins, while the bottom was made of boards. This is only one of the many ingenious devices, which the first settlers used. With the coming of more labour-saving machines, there was much time saved and the country made greater progress. Dairying was greatly increased, and a cheese factory was built at Harrietsville, which was well patronized and became one of the largest factories in the country.
The first post-office in this district was at Harrietsville, and it is still a distributing center for the rural mail delivery, which is also another great convenience. Also, the Branch of the Bank of Nova Scotia was established in that village. Formerly there was no bank nearer than Ingersoll or Aylmer, London or St. Thomas.
The Rural Telephone established in 1906 was, I think, the first Rural Telephone Co., and reaching out for miles in every direction, is one of the greatest advantages for the people.
The Hydro was brought in from Dorchester in 1926, which, of course, is the greatest of modern conveniences.
The first church, where the many Scottish families in this district worshipped was a small log church, on the 6th con. of N. Dorchester. At that time all Dorchester was not divided. As the congregation grew, many came from Dorchester village and the surrounding country, and the need of a new church began to be felt. It was decided to build at Belmont. This being too far for the north people, they formed a congregation at Dorchester, and Belmont and Kilmartin were united on account of the many Highlanders who must worship in Gaelic. Kilmartin church in Yarmouth, was built some years before as the country was settled early. How earnestly these people worshipped, singing and praying in their own dearly beloved tongue!
The Aylmer Express, May 22, 1930, page 10
HISTORY OF SOUTH DORCHESTER
S.S. No. 10, South Dorchester (Yorke’s School)
The squatters, who arrived and built homes before the land was given by the crown, were very unfortunate. Many of the cabins were built near a living stream or spring, throughout the section but these have long since disappeared.
We shall mention another family in this township – the Weirs. In an interview with Donald Weir, the following facts were ascertained: “Amongst the first settlers of South Dorchester was Samuel Weir, a shoemaker by trade, and his wife, Janet Campbell, both natives of Argyle, Scotland. Their hometown was Kilmun, near the city of Glasgow. Hearing glowing accounts of New Canada, they decided to seek a home and fortune there.”
On the fifteenth day of June 1824 with their six children they set sail in an old fashioned sailing vessel, “The Happy Land.” Although having chartered for another ship, for some unknown reason they waited for this ship, and the other vessel was not heard of again. It took them eight weeks to cross the Atlantic.
Unloading their belongings at Quebec and reloading them on another boat, they came up as far as Hamilton. Wagons drawn by oxen conveyed them from Hamilton to the west townline of South Dorchester. Nine days later Samuel Weir, the father died and was buried at Mapleton. The two pioneer boys came to the center of the township and bought a farm, which was solid timber. This cost three dollars per acre.
Lumber in the rough was quite plentiful as was evidenced in the fact that there were ten log houses on the seventh concession line between the Centre and Avon roads. In the eastern part of the section beautiful white pines grew. The log houses were generally built of rock elm, beech, maple and pine logs about one foot in diameter. The cabins were made warm by chinking with pea straw and mud and then plastering with sand and lime.
The pioneer home contained two rooms, the first floor and the loft, where the boys slept. They climbed to their beds by a crude ladder, to rest tired bodies on straw ticks.
At a later date for the spare room a tick was made from heavy factory cotton, filled with cornhusks. These, when surmounted with a feather tick filled with down and feathers plucked from geese, made a bed so comfortable that it could compare with our modern Marshall mattress.
The bed linen consisted of factory cotton sheets, bleached white; homespun blankets of pure wool and quilts whose intricate patterns still do honour to those pioneer women. In place of different kinds and costly bedspreads, coverlets made of coloured yarns and cotton warp, woven into beautiful patterns by those housewives that had a weaving loom, adorned the beds.
The pioneer made his furniture by splitting and whittling his table and chairs from suitable timbers. Donald Weir has one of these chairs in his possession.
The person who was fortunate enough to kill some wild animal and save the skin had a rug. Later, carpets were made of rags and cotton warp. Mrs. Billington and other ladies wove these carpets. Some industrious housewives made several hundred yards, furnishing not only their own homes but also the homes of their daughters with their lasting carpets.
The ingenious mother stored maple sugar on the top shelves of the cupboards only to be found and devoured by hungry boys. The teeth marks on the cakes testified to this.
Until sixty years ago the chief preserve was apple jelly made in deep milk-pans and kept in crocks.In fall, butter and cheese were made in such quantities as to last all winter.
The uses of a cauldron kettle were many and varied, for heating water to scald pigs, for boiling sap, and for making black salt.
Fires were started by using flint and punkwood. At Orwell was built a match factory, which made split matches dipped in brimstone.
Candles were made in moulds – six in each mould; by using a knitting needle, the wick was put through the center of the candle. Sometimes a twisted rag was placed in a dish of tallow – this was called a smudge.
The candle lantern was about eight inches high, having two sides of metal and two sides of glass, also a metal roof with holes in order to let in oxygen and let out surplus smoke. Oil lamps had been used in the east for thousands of years but they were luxuries in this new country as there were no factories for their construction and no fuel to burn in them. What a difference to the present mode of lighting as on November 1st 1929, hydro-power illuminated Joseph Connor’s and the surrounding homes.
Heavy earthen dishes were used. Two pronged forks with bone handles, wooden, brass, and tin spoons were the common cutlery. These sturdy people, used to eat the savoury food, which had been cooked in iron and brass kettles, spiders and griddles.
The occupations were numerous and varied, some of which we shall endeavour to describe. Making maple sugar in new South Dorchester was a pleasant task although the implements were crude. They tapped the tree by making a slanting cut in them with their axes. A wooden spike made with a tapping gouge was inserted at the lower corner of the cut. To catch the sap at the trees they took a log four or five feet long split in two, with an axe then chopped from both ways on the flat of the log until they made a trough. Wooden buckets with wooden hooks were first used to catch the sap, later wooden buckets with iron hoops were used and later still tin buckets.
The Aylmer Express, July 10, 1930
HISTORY OF SOUTH DORCHESTER
S.S. No. 10 Yorke’s School
Their storage trough was made in the same manner as the sap trough, out of big pine logs. The sap was boiled in a big cauldron kettle. Then came the piles of sheet iron followed by those of cast iron and the galvanized sap pans. Now-a-days people use evaporators for making maple sugar, except as candy. The old time sugaring off parties have been discarded and we are afraid nothing as interesting in our social life has taken their place.
Mrs. John MacVicar, and many other women made homemade cheese, she having learned in her girlhood, put her knowledge to good use by making cheese for her family. Milk from two or three milkings were put on the stove, heated and rennet added. The rennets, which were worth about ten cents each, were obtained from very young calves stomachs. The curd was cut and when ready the whey was dipped off. The curd was stirred, salted and let stand, stirred again, them put in a cheese hoop and was firmly packed in the hoop, a thin head cloth put in the bottom, the curd cloth put on top of the curd, a loose head put on top which was weighted down by heavy stones, pressing the moisture out. An extra stone being added as weight was needed.
The sheep were washed in the creek and prepared for shearing. The sheep were then sheared and the wool carded. Some busy housewives had to hire girls to card the wool for them at seventy five cents a week. The carded wool was then spun. A few families not only did their own weaving but accommodated neighbours and others who were less fortunate. Mrs. Bellington and Mrs. O’Neil had looms. They wore beautiful homespun from many coloured yarns.
The women used several yards of homespun to make a dress, and they considered themselves fortunate if they had two dresses a year. After the dresses were well worn, they were used in the summer being more suited to the weather.
Each boy in the fall was a proud possessor of a new pea-jacket. A bachelor, Robert Flemming, on lot ten, concession eight, was the tailor for the district. Sometimes James McPhail, a traveling tailor visited the homes. The spare time of the women was spent in needlecraft. How different from now-a-days. We are now developing a race of slaves and if we had to make our own clothes, half of us would go without.
Dixon was the shoemaker for the community; he lived on lot eight, concession eight. John Marr was a blacksmith. He lived on lot seven, concession eight. John McNeil was a carpenter. He lived on lot fourteen, concession eleven.
Shingles were made on lot eight, concession seven. The pine log was selected and cut in blocks sixteen inches long. The blocks were split many times lengthwise using a draw knife and vise. About one thousand per day were made. D. McIntyre spent some of his time in boyhood days, watching these rapid workers.
The Aylmer Express, July 17, 1930, page 9
HISTORY OF SOUTH DORCHESTER
South Dorchester abounded with game in the pioneer period. A story is told of a man named McCallum who shot ninety-nine deer. It was his ambition to shoot one hundred.
In an interview with Albert Ballah, he recollects the foxes playing with the cattle. The fox den was on J. Earl O’Neil’s farm, lot ten, concession seven. Thus they crossed from one creek to another. Also, A.J. MacVicar recalls seeing deer sleep on a knoll now east of his barn and foxes scampering off across the fields with chickens.
Man hunted squirrels, muskrats, rabbit, skunk, woodchuck, coon, fox, wolf, deer and bear as a very pleasant and quite profitable pastime.
One sawmill was on lot twelve, concession nine, along the Centre road using the water of Catfish Creek for its power. There was a mill-pond dam and race which forced the wheel. The saw was straight like a knife and worked up and down.
Another saw-mill was situated on lot nine, concession eight. This mill was operated by steam power.
There was a tile yard on lot nine, concession seven. White bricks were made. In 1864 or even earlier, on lot twelve, concession eight, black salts were made from burned wood.
Some settlers walked to Rogers’ Corners, Aylmer, carrying grist. After it was ground they made the return journey carrying from eighty to one hundred pounds of flour on their backs. Others went to Port Stanley and Dorchester Station for their flour.
In 1866 a hired man who was supposed to take his employer’s grain to the mill at Dorchester Station, went to Ingersoll where he traded one horse for another and became intoxicated. On foot the tenacious farmer tracked his guilty employee and his livelihood. He, himself, sobered the employee and meted out stern justice.
Flax was among the crops grown. The farmers hired Indians to pull the flax. A man who had a wagon load of Indians from Muncey was coming down the hill above Yorke’s bridge. An intoxicated Indian made a pass with his cap at the horses. The horses started and the Indian was thrown from the wagon and run over. He was taken to a nearby farm and died later. The other Indians immediately returned to Muncey leaving the farmers to pull their own flax or secure other help.
The township had two flax mills, one being in Belmont, the other in Springfield. The mill in the latter village was on the present fairgrounds.
The Centre Road was a turnpike road and the stage ran from Dorchester Station through South Dorchester to Aylmer. This was the first real road, and was first graveled about 1865. From the Centre Road to D. McIntyre’s ran a winding trail. The seventh concession line, or the townline between South and North Dorchester, was a corduroy road. The roads were first improved by better drainage, that is the opening of the creeks. Lyons partly lay under water. At Springfield, Squire Cook negotiated with St. Thomas officials to pipe water from his farm, lot eight, concession twelve, (now J.F. Lamb’s) to St. Thomas. The water has now all disappeared and the bottom is under cultivation.
Kettle Creek, natural outlet for the major portion of the land in the school section has been deepened and cleaned three times. This artificial drain is now a running stream, a living spring having been uncovered on lot six, concession seven.
Springfield road was not open any further than concession line eight. People wishing to trade at Springfield had to go farther east and come back along the townline. Rigs had to wind their way around the stumps in the road.
Culverts were made of planks or probably logs. One of the incentives to improve the roads was the Presbyterian Church at Belmont.
Purebred livestock was not easy to obtain. Duncan Weir chopped wood for a neighbour in order
to pay for a Leicester sheep. The family afterwards specialized in this breed, Galloway cattle, pure white Elden geese, Islebury ducks, Bronze turkeys, and Barmah fowl.
E.K. Cohoon owned the first Ayrshire cow, Adelia 2nd, 22949, a two-year-old, to give over nine thousand pounds of milk. In 1911 MacVicar Bros. bought this cow and a progeny of hers – Christmas Belle 4th, 57939, was grand champion in the mature record of preference class at Winter Fair 1925.
Farm implements have been improved considerably. The first pioneer scattered seeds around the stumps, later when the stumps had been removed the land was ploughed with an iron plough, and harrowed with branches. Sixty-three years ago, the first reaper came into use. We believe it was called the New Yorker. This took the place of the cradle. The New Yorker needed two men to operate it. One drove the horses; the other used a wooden rake to scrape the loose grain to the ground. The grain was wisped together and tied with a wisp of straw. Ten years later the St. George came, a mower and reaper combined.
One sturdy pioneer’s comment on self-binder was, “My opinion of these binders is that they’re no good.”
John and Campbell Ferguson owned a reaper, which tied the sheaves with twine. David Moore had a reaper, which also tied the sheaves with twine.
Abner Wilson, grandfather of Silas Randall, ran his first threshing machine by horsepower, using four or five teams. This horsepower took the place of the flail, which was a long, strong handle with a smaller stick fastened with rope or sheepskin strip.
Steam engines replaced the horsepower and tractors, the steam engine. John L. Ferguson had the first tractor in this section.
The Aylmer Express July 24, 1930, page 8
HISTORY OF SOUTH DORCHESTER
William Gillis had the first open buggy. John L. Ferguson also had the first automobile in the section.
Time has wrought many changes in the fences. The snake or stake and rider fence was wonderfully constructed by ingenious pioneers. Duncan Stewart introduced barbed wire to this section in 1882, by putting up about one hundred and seventy-five rods along the eighth concession line. The first woven wire fence was called the “Paige,” this came into use about 1885. The Russell fence was used sometime in the 90’s. It was necessary to pay five dollars for the permit to build this fence. It was made of rails and black wire. When wire fence was first used people thought the livestock could not see it so the farmers placed “tamarack” poles along the top.
Some of the oldest orchards in the section were grown from seeds. The seeds were grown to small trees, then grafted with good scions.
Banks were similar to our private ones. The banker paid whatever interest he saw fit. The usual rate was two, and two and a half percent. London was the nearest until the Trader’s Bank was opened at Springfield, about forty years ago.
The Township Fair was held at Lyons about the year 1860. It was really a livestock fair, where cattle, hogs and horses were bargained for. Women did not attend as they do now. The grounds were surrounded by a rail fence; pigs and sheep were penned in the fence corners.
“Bees” were among the social functions of the pioneer period. Men, women and children were present depending upon the bee. There were building bees, logging bees, husking bees, paring bees and quilting bees. At the logging bees the timber had been cut and the men with their ox teams snaked the logs from the prospective fields. When feeding time came, a fresh branch of delicious leaves was cut for the oxen. At the paring bees, the apples were pared, the peelings given to the livestock and the apples placed on wooden racks, which were hung over the stove or near the fireplace, or strung on long strings around the fire.
South Dorchester was well supplied with churches and Sunday Schools. So different now from then. Daniel McIntyre conducted a thriving Sunday School in Yorke School for twenty-three years, 1883 – 1906. Some of the books belonging to the Sunday School library are stored away on the shelves of the school library. James A. Brown, now of Ingersoll, probably helped found the Sunday School. Rev. Heil Wood, of Springfield (he is the great grandfather of the present teacher, Miss M.M. Lamb) preached here. During the summer so many attended that the meetings had to be held in the open air. S. Staple was the first circuit rider. Camp meetings were held on Dr.Smith’s farm, lot 7, concession 8. All the country churches are now being closed. There was a Baptist Church on William Wilkinson’s, lot seven, concession eleven, which was moved to Springfield, and turned into a Presbyterian. A Wesleyan Church, situated on lot six, concession ten, now the town hall, Lyons. There was a Methodist Church at Mt. Vernon, and Ebenezer Belmont had a church founded in 1856.
In order to save their shoes and stockings, and appear at church fairly respectable, the thrifty housewives walked barefooted until they came to a creek, there washed their feet and put on their shoes and stockings. An Octagon Disciple Church was built near Mapleton. This was
the first church in S. Dorchester. Crossley and Hunter were fortunate in having those two evangelists as founders.
Two sinners can be accounted for in South Dorchester. They, farmers, were working overtime one Sabbath morning. If this had not been so, they would have not seen each other. One was chopping wood; the other was hanging doors.
The Aylmer Express August 7, 1930, page 10
HISTORY OF SOUTH DORCHESTER
In order not to have the new schoolhouse in front of his home, Steven Yorke donated the present school site. The old log schoolhouse stood about twenty rods south of Howey’s farm, on the then D. Hamilton’s farm. It was located right on the line of the road and Yorke’s woods; across the road was the playground. In 1866 the old log school was burned and that summer the present school was built.
The boys went swimming in a waterhole then on the northwest corner of Mr. Yorke’s farm. The pond went away when it was drained, and it was found to have black snakes in it. These disappeared when it was first dug out.
In the woods a large tree was blown over, then a small tree fell across it; the children used it for a teeter. They also teetered on a small rail put through the fence, so different from the teeters now on the school ground.
J. Earl O’Neil remembers a thrilling incident when the boys used a certain man’s barn for playing hide-and-seek during noon hours. The farmer became aware and drove them from the barn scurrying like rats, with a blacksnake missing a few in their hurried exit.
As near as memory serves our informer, singing lessons were given in the evenings and also writing, about the years 1860 to 1865. One ambitious woman, who attended, was reprimanded by her husband, who thought she ought to stay at home attending to her home duties and family. Her reply came sharply, “Do you want me to be like a dumb brute.” This was the spirit of the time toward education.
The order of teachers’ names is not perfect, but is as near as we can get it – Mr. Kellog, Archibald Kennedy, James McGregor, George Hughes, Mr. Wismer, Dick Britt, Margaret Dundas, Mr. Hall, Annie Campbell, 1871, Miss Crossley 1874, James McBane, John Campbell, John Black, Dan Black, Ettie McCready, Cole McClarty, Miss Smith, Miss VanPatter, Miss Gunn, Miss Fowler, John Walker, Hugh McCallum, Mary Jane McCord, Osquilla Evans, Lettie Thompson, Ervin Baker, Gordon Winder, Jennie Ferguson, Christina Noble, Walter Roberts, Miss Ward, Mable Thompson, Maud Eagan, Jenny Ferguson, Alta Dance, H.E. Curts, A.M. Cline, Mea Teeple, Eva Taylor, Margaret Leitch, Flora Johnston, Ruth Facey, L.B. MacVicar, Vera Cole, Grace Flood, Erie Soper, Mildred Campbell, Marie Timpany, M.M. Lamb.
The first school was situated on Jacob Cline’s farm, lot 12, concession 8, now owned by William Mahar. The log schoolhouse was built on the present road; the road and woods were used as a playground. The log school was very small, but it was not at all chilly during the winter as it was heated with a large box stove. The log school had two windows on the east, one on the south and one on the west. The teacher’s desk was at the north wall. The girls’ desks ran from the door to the north end, and the rest belonged to the boys.
In the winter time as high as eighty were enrolled. Mostly the boys went to school, the girls had to stay home to work.
The lessons were written on slates. Quill pen and ink made from steeped soft maple bark were also used. The children were whipped with hickory switches; they sometimes had to cut these for their own backs.
The log school was burned in 1868. The school motto is: “Play up and play the game.” It is gallantly supported by the pupils and trustees. The trustees were Archibald MacIntyre, Steven Yorke, probably Duncan Stewart.
The present trustees are George Howey, Duncan MacVicar, J. Earl O’Neil. We are indebted to our many friends and acquaintances who gave of their time and knowledge. We obtained valuable information from W. Ballah, Mrs. J. Eagan, J. Kingwell, A.J. MacVicar, Duncan MacVicar, M. MacVicar, Daniel McIntyre, J.E. O’Neil, Daniel Weir, John W. Wilcox.
N.B. – This practically concludes the research work done in Yorke’s school by Miss Lamb, teacher, assisted greatly by two of her pupils, Misses MacVicar and O’Neil. Next week we hope to begin Lyons school.
The Aylmer Express August 21, 1930, page 11
HISTORICAL ESSAY S.S. 6, SOUTH DORCHESTER
Awarded Second Prize, Lyons School
Miss Black, Teacher, Written by Stuart Simpson
In the following pages we have endeavoured to knit the early history of our School Section, Lyons. For the information contained therein, we are gratefully indebted to some of the older residents of our section, and are under special obligation to Mrs. John Evert and Mr. Colin Blake.
Rumor states that Lyons was originally called Pokey’s Corners, resulting from the finding of an old poke at the corner. This name was not lasting, however, and most pioneers remember Hale’s Corner as the first name of our fair hamlet. It was so called after William Hale, who built there a wayside inn, and it was known by that name until 1860. Just when the name was changed to Lyons, we have been unable to discern, but one of the pioneers related the following reason why it was so named.
It was the custom for wayside inns and taverns to display signs over their doors. Many of these signs bore the picture of an animal, such as a bear, wolf, cat etc. At one time the owner of the inn in our village had a swinging sign about two feet long with a pale green background on which was painted a lion of darker green. Because of this sign, the four corners became known as Lyons Green. In the course of time, due to weathering, the sign disappeared, but the name Lyons remained and still persists.
The earliest settlement, that I have been able to discover in our section, was made in 1826 by Isaac Willis and Archibald McLachlan, in the tenth concession. It was probably made on the land owned today by James Howey, since records show that Isaac Willis was the owner in 1852 and R. Willis in 1864. These earliest settlers were Americans, of British parentage, and came from the State of New York.
As late as the year 1840, the concessions of South Dorchester were a wilderness, and the whole township numbered no more than thirty or forty settlers. Some of the men who came between 1840-50, and settled in our school section, were the Cline Brothers, Matthew Fullerton and later John Blake, John McArthur Sr., and Ed Martin Sr.
The Aylmer Express, August 28, 1930, page 6
HISTORY OF SOUTH DORCHESTER
A Historical Sketch
Matthew Fullerton first settled in the tenth concession on a farm later owned by one of his sons, and today owned by Arnold Lindsay. According to the Atlas of Elgin County, Mr. Fullerton has, to as great an extent at least as any other citizen, identified himself with the interests of the township and by his labour and good management and upright example, helped to make it what it is. Mr. Fullerton had two sons who settled on farms in the township and another son who practiced law at Toronto. One of his daughters was a schoolteacher who taught at Ingersoll.
John Blake came to this county as a young man with scant means, and found employment with a farmer in the adjoining district, at a wage of eight dollars a month. After some time his savings were sufficient to permit him to buy the west half of lot ten, in the eleventh concession.
At this time money was reckoned in pounds, shillings and pence and land property was valued at from four to five dollars an acre.
Mr. Blake cleared a piece of land and built a rude shanty of logs. Around this, with the exception of one side, he built a wooden fence to protect him from storm and danger. When evening came he found it necessary to build a fire to protect him from the wolves. At this time the forest was quite alive with wild life, such as wolves, bear, raccoon, fox and deer.
The wolves were very daring and numerous. The gleaming fire in their shiny eyes could be seen from quite a distance in the forest, and during the still watches of the night their heart rending howls and calls would echo and re-echo.
After a time, however, these wolves had to admit defeat, to our early pioneers and search elsewhere for their food.
The arrival of new settlers eased the tasks of pioneering and neighbours toiled together in clearing the timbered areas. This was done principally by means of the axe, ox team and logging chains. Great heaps of logs and brushwood would be piled together and after becoming dry would be burnt.
When a piece of land was chopped and burned, the settlers would plow the land and raise some wheat and hay for seed. The most difficult part of this task was moving the harvest. It was very difficult to haul a load of hay around or between the stumps with a team of oxen, and it was the custom to send one ahead to find or make a suitable road. The pioneers worked hard and long, but when the day’s work was completed, rest was sweet.
It was not, however, all work and no play, as the men were handy with a rifle and could occasionally bring in a fine deer, raccoon or fox. Mr. Blake relates that once a young fawn came home with the cattle and became real tame. The fawn grew up with the cattle, but later disappeared.
Mr. Blake gives the following method of lighting those early homes. Lamps were unknown and candles placed in candlesticks served the purpose. These candles were made by means of six moulds, which were tubes about ten inches long combined in one frame. A wick was placed in each tube and held firm in the center while the hot beef tallow was poured in. When cooled, the candles could easily be drawn out at the top and as the writer states, there would be six beautiful candles.
The furnishings of their homes were plain, and the chief articles of dress were of course homespun, the product of their own labour. Their hats were made of spring wheat straw, which the mothers or grandmothers would gather just as the grain began to ripen. The straw was braided in long strips and then sewn in the form of a hat for the harvest time.
The sources of amusement were limited, but not less enjoyable. It was the custom for neighbours to keep in touch with each other and no lines of social division existed. All were striving for the same goal, to win and maintain a home. The social life was active and varied, consisting of logging bees and paring bees, in which the whole community entered with real zest.
One of the most eventful seasons was spring, when everyone looked forward with great anticipation to the joys of sugar making. At the first sign of spring, the troughs and spiles were prepared for use. The spiles were whittled from pine in a curved shape and inserted in a notch in the tree. These spiles conducted the sap to the troughs, which were cut from a basswood tree about eighteen inches in diameter. These limbs were usually about two feet long and when split and hollowed out made two troughs. The sap would be gathered in large tubs with ox teams and conveyed to the sugar shanty. At first it was boiled in large kettles, but later an arch was built over which two large pans made of heavy sheet iron were placed. When the sap was boiled down to a thin syrup it was removed and cleansed. This syrup was then placed over another fire where it was converted into delicious sugar. Great quantities of sugar were made for market as well as for home consumption. An evening taffy party in the bush when all the neighbours, old and young, gathered together for a happy time was never complete with a “Rover.” While the taffy was boiling briskly, the guests joined together in song and story while the sparks flew upward among the branches of the giant maples. Later when all were enjoying sugar, Rover entertained the more mischievous element when he endeavoured to eat a ball of taffy which was tossed to him. Surely these old-time parties could not be surpassed today for real enjoyment and enthusiasm.
In 1876, a Horticultural Society was formed which later was enlarged and called an Agricultural Fair. It was held on the farm now owned by Giles Martin. The horses were shown on the road while the rest of the stock was penned in, in fence corners. This fair functioned for a number of years and was later moved to Springfield.
The Aylmer Express, September 4, 1930, page 9
HISTORICAL SKETCH OF LYONS
We are indebted to Mrs. Jno. Evert for much of the following material, which dates back to the early fifties. At this time the whole country in the vicinity was a dense forest with only blazed trails for roadways. These were made by cutting notches in the ( ) trees so that daylight was required to travel this trail in safety. Her mother’s people came from Vienna to a farm now owned by David Warwick, but while making arrangements to purchase, her father was taken ill and soon passed away, leaving his widow and six children, five girls and one boy, alone in the wilderness. There was no money, such as we now have, payment for food, clothing and other necessaries, even payments on land were made by transfers of cattle and grain.
Fortunately her grandmother Jackson had spent three years in Ireland, learning the trade of seamstress, so she supported her little family by the use of her needle, often sewing from early morning until night for fifty cents a week, and sometimes she could not depend on that much. She later moved into a log house on the McIntyre farm, of four hundred acres, which place was later known as the McCredie farm, the site of the present tile yard.
All the houses at this period were built of logs, with side windows for light and ventilation, and often, a quilt or blanket formed the inner doors. As clearings were made, grain was sowed by hand and nature was favourable to these sturdy pioneers by giving wonderful returns for the small acreage under cultivation. The grain was cut by hand with cradles, gathered and bound into sheaves, and then threshed with wooden flails on the barn floors. Many made their own flour by hollowing out tree stumps, putting the wheat therein, and pounding it as fine as possible. Those owning oxen, rode or drove them if they owned an ox-cart, to Long Point, to get flour made from their wheat, the miller taking his pay in grain. Potatoes were planted around the stumps of trees, and the maple trees provided the sugar they had to use exclusively and no modern cook has ever produced a sponge cake like the old-fashioned ones of grandmother’s day. The surplus wheat and oats were taken to Port Bruce to the Lewis elevators, making the little lake port a busy place after the harvest season.
When a little line of railway was built to Ingersoll, matters were improved considerably as, roads were opened up to each place, and the settlers teamed their wheat to London, and oats to Ingersoll.
The nearest stores were Orwell and Harrietsville, where her mother’s uncle kept store for many years. Incidentally, his wife had the first melodeon for many miles around. Taverns and liquor stores soon followed the first settlers, and early in our history a tavern stood where Mrs. McCallum now lives. Among the early innkeepers were, William Hale, P. Carson, Mr. Whitelock, and P.J. Putnam. The long black earrings of Mrs. Whitelock’s, Mrs. Evert tells us, were a source of wonder and amusement to the school children. A liquor store was the first place south of the inn, with the shoemaker, a Mr. Coghill, next. The men wore high boots, shoes being at that time unknown. Measures were taken and footwear made to order.
Between the church and the school was the dwelling and for the children, more important, the garden of Isaac Appleford. Well does Mrs. Evert remember the pinks, cowslips, Sweet William, Old Man, Rosemary and Hollyhocks of this old-fashioned garden with its wealth
of bloom, so freely given to all comers. Mrs. Appleford, his wife, was called “Aunt Parmelia,” by the whole community. On her eightieth birthday she accurately repeated the third chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, which she had learned in childhood.
Mr. Thomas Winder and Mrs. Isaac Baker built the first frame store, the foundation of the present store being laid by these early builders. Mr. Winder built nearly all the first houses, and was the third treasurer for their fair township. The P.J. Putnam homestead was south of Lyons. Mr. Putnam (the pumpman) lived in what was the liquor store, made into a dwelling, the pump factory being just west of the present church. He sold this home to William Deo, and moved the factory to his farm, the P.J. Putnam homestead, of one hundred acres, was south of Lyons. This was sold and traded many times, until it came into the possession of her father, and has been in her family for over forty years. Twenty acres was reserved in all sales, and sold in lots to form the little hamlet of Lyons. From Mr. Wilkinson’s woodwork shop came wagons, articles of furniture, and small wooden wares, while Dennis Bros. had the blacksmith shop.
Colonel Hamilton was given one hundred and fifty acres of land north of the tavern for some deed of bravery, but he never lived on it, giving one hundred acres to a niece, Mrs. Wilson. This is now the James Mitchell home, and the fifty acres was given to another niece, Mrs. Belmore. This is west of Lyons, on the tenth concession, and part of the late P.J. Putnam farm.
There were no newspapers for years, so when a farmer went to a store or a mill, he gathered all the news and it was repeated to other settlers by word of mouth.
The first mail service for the district was at Aylmer, coming from London, Ontario, every two weeks, carried on horseback. The postman blew a horn when within a mile of Aylmer, and representatives from every home were waiting for his arrival. When newspapers appeared they were too expensive for family subscriptions so numbers joined together, and the jointly owned news sheet went its rounds.
Later, a daily stage ran between Aylmer and Harrietsville, leaving mail on the going as well as the returning trip. A Mr. Armstrong at the store was postmaster, and a Mr. Laur, the driver. All newspapers were weekly editions until quite recent years.
There was little professional medical service in those days. Most housewives had to be the family doctor, and herbs gathered from the woods, provided the medicine. Dr. Foote was one of the earliest good doctors coming to Lyons, and about sixty-five years ago came Dr. G.F. Clarke, one of the most beloved of medical men in this part of the country. Having cured one of the Willis children during an epidemic of army dysentery among the children, his reputation as a doctor was established.
The first ministers who served the Lyons Church, which was built in 1866, were Rev. Clappison, Chapman and Ames. Previous to this, services had been held in the schoolhouse. It was not uncommon for families to walk to Kingsmill to church. The neighbour living the farthest away would call for the others, and by the time they arrived at their destination, their number would be greatly increased. The people looked forward to this day with pleasure.
Besides the ministers mentioned, several local preachers served the locality, Jeremiah VanWagoner, Aaron Price, and Ephraim Cronk; the latter two rode out on horseback from Aylmer. Lyons Church and congregation was known as about the strongest and most active charges in the London conference of the Methodist Church for many years, as its members and adherents were made up of the strong characters of the strong character of the pioneer type, it was a common thing to have the church full at nearly every meeting.
Some of the worthy Sunday School superintendents were John Blake, Wilson McCredie, John Cruickshank, Richard Fullerton, P.J. Putnam, and Colin Blake. The latter served in this capacity for twenty-five years.
The Aylmer Express, September 11, 1930, page 9
HISTORY OF SOUTH DORCHESTER
In 1840, Henry Niles, from Nilestown, local superintendent of schools, first formed this territory into school sections. The first school in our section was a log building situated at Hoshal’s Corners. Among the earliest teachers at this building were Christiania Scott, Mr. Whittimore, and in case of shortage, Elder Sheppard, Inspector of Schools, officiated. One of Lyons present residents relates that his father used to chase deer on his way to attend this school. This building later became a dwelling.
The second school was a frame building on the tenth concession, located just east of the present school. The school was built very close to the road, and the only playground was in the woods across the road. With this school we may associate the names of Mary Ann Sinclair and Al Doan, as some of the earliest labourers. In those days the teachers would send the pupils across the road for am armful of switches. Those were the days when it was believed that “to spare the rod was to spoil the child.” This building too, became a residence.
The present school was built in 1872 and opened in January 1873, with William White as teacher. His successors as near as we have been able to ascertain are as follows: Colin Ferguson, Kate Daggart, Mr. Thompson, Dr. Augustine 1876, Jno. Black, L.E. VanAmburg, Nancy Inglis, Alice Inglis, S. Warwick and Dr. Jno. Neff.
Mr. Ellerby, the next teacher in order, must have foreseen that we would be delving up the history of South Dorchester. By inscribing on the cover of a lift-top desk in the present school, his name and date of professional service, he has furnished an example to those who came after him. The few moments spent thus by each of these, has saved us hours of time and provided an accurate piece of information.
J. W. Ellerby 1886 – 1887
A.S. Hurst 1888
Jno. Clarke 1888 – 1889
George Alway 1889 – 1890
Jas. Tiller 1891 – 1892
A.M. Sowler 1892 – 1894
E.R. Black 1895 – 1896
H.M. Miller 1896 – 1897
R. J. Penfold 1897 – 1898
T.G. Winder 1898 – 1899
L.G. Simpson 1900 – 1903
J.L. Cropp 1903 – 1905
M. Winter 1905 – 1906
W.H. Butt 1906 – 1907
C. Laidlaw 1907 – 1909
B. Shepley 1909-1910
M. E. Davies 1911
E. Meikle 1911-1917
A. Peters 1917-1918
E. Meikle 1918-1921
B. Elliott 1922-1923
F. J. Hayward 1923-1926
F. H. Froud 1926-1928
E. C. Black 1928
The Aylmer Express, September 18, 1930, page 10
HISTORY OF SOUTH DORCHESTER
Up until 1852 there was no municipal organization, but as it had become necessary, that an organization should take place, the matter was proceeded with, and the first council met at T.W. Vaugh’s store, on the 9th of January 1852. The first councilors were Jacob Cline, John McArthur, Edwin McCredie, John Dunn and John Luton. Jacob Cline was appointed Reeve and Edmund Shepherd, clerk. Previous to that time Edwardsburgh, now Dorchester, was the meeting place, for what was then called Town Meetings. Three days were necessary to attend the council although the meeting lasted but one day.
About 1860, the prospect of cheese making seemed to have loomed up as an important industry in South Dorchester and the Lyons Cheese Factory was opened on April 1st, 1870. At first the milk had to be taken in twice a day, while on Sundays, milk was made into butter as no milk was received on that day. The dairy industry has been the mainstay of the farmers from that day to the present and is still growing stronger.
Gradual improvement was going on from 1860 to 1880 in various ways, but the question of gravel roads or township hall did not assume definite shape until 1883, when the Ark Church was purchased and moved to its present location to be used for council meetings, and other purposes. The question of gravel roads or better roads, came a very live issue in 1883 and a program of gravelling was inaugurated and has been carried on since that time, it being considered the most important question which the municipal council had to deal with. Since that time, telephone lines have been constructed to nearly every home and Hydro is making rapid advancement.
In the remaining pages we have listed the names of the present occupants in our section, and the names of the earliest occupants that we have been able to ascertain. Some of the earliest occupants date back to 1850, where as others we know to have been residents in 1860, may have been dwellers before that time.
Beginning in the northern extremity, we have listed the farms on the east and west side of the County road followed by the farms on the north and south side of the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth concessions.
West side county road
Present Occupant – M MacVicar Early Occupant – J.C. McCredie
Present Occupant – late W. McCredie
Present Occupant – T. Jenkins
Present Occupant – W. Boyce
Present Occupant – Lee Putnam Early Occupant – R. Fullerton
Present Occupant – Chas. Putnam
Present Occupant – Giles Martin
Present Occupant – Lorne McCallum
Present Occupant – O. Dennis
Present Occupant – N. Cline Early Occupant – Nelson Cline Sr.
Present Occupant – L. Cline
Present Occupant – J. Crawford Early Occupant – J.C. Dean
Present Occupant – O. Chalk Early Occupant – T. Newton
Present Occupant – R. Putnam Early Occupant – Wm. Warnock
East side county road
Present Occupant – D. Noble Early Occupant – D. Weir
Present Occupant – M. Moore
Present Occupant – James Mitchell Early Occupant – John Wilson
Present Occupant – Mrs. McCallum
Present Occupant – William Wall
Present Occupant – George Grice Early Occupant – P.J. Putnam
Present Occupant – O. Dennis
Present Occupant – S.B. Simpson
Present Occupant – H. Hoshal Early Occupant – Gabriel Cornwell
North side ninth concession
Present Occupant – Jas. Sims Early Occupant – J.C. McCredie
Present Occupant – A. Stephens
Present Occupant – E. Brown Early Occupant – B. Noble
South side ninth concession
Present Occupant – R. McCallum Early Occupant – Jos. Blake
Tenth concession North side
Present Occupant – C. Legg Early Occupant – W. Davis
Present Occupant – A. Lale Early Occupant – John Grawburg
Present Occupant – Mrs. Wm. Gates Early Occupant – W. Grawburg
Present Occupant – A. Ferris Early Occupant – Wm. Warnock
Present Occupant – J.C. Simpson Early Occupant – John Blake
Present Occupant – Lloyd McCallum Early Occupant – R. Fullerton
Present Occupant – Township Hall
Present Occupant – George Wall Early Occupant – John Wilson
Present Occupant – J. McCallum Early Occupant – T. Winder
Present Occupant – Chas Martin Early Occupant – Abram Charlton
Present Occupant – Roy Watters Early Occupant – Wm Hale
Present Occupant – W. Burkes Early Occupant – Geo. Clarke
Present Occupant – Jas. Martin Early Occupant – A.J. White
Present Occupant – A. Lindsay Early Occupant – R. Fullerton
Present Occupant – T. Brooks Early Occupant – W. Orris
South side, tenth concession
Present Occupant – Geo. Simpson Early Occupant – Bigger Bros.
Present Occupant – A. Ferris Early Occupant – T. Ballah
Present Occupant – N. Cline Early Occupant – N. Cline, Sr.
Present Occupant – Church
Present Occupant – School
Present Occupant – J. Berdan Early Occupant – R.J. Putnam
Present Occupant – Chas. Martin Early Occupant – Mr. Kennedy
Present Occupant – C. Franklin Early Occupant – Ed. Martin, Sr.
Present Occupant – S. Froud Early Occupant – John Blake
Present Occupant – Jno. Williamson Early Occupant – Jno. McArthur, Sr.
Present Occupant – Jno. McArthur
Present Occupant – North side, 11th concession
Present Occupant – K, McNeil Early Occupant – J. Brice
Present Occupant – R. McNeil Early Occupant – Bigger Bros.
South side, 11th concession
Present Occupant – Jas. Ross Early Occupant – J. McNeill
North side, 12th concession
Present Occupant – Geo Martin Early Occupant – T. Adams
Present Occupant – Giles Martin & Son Early Occupant – R. Pepper
The Aylmer Express, October 2, 1930, page 11
HISTORY OF SOUTH DORCHESTER
The following sketch of S.S. No. 7, in which Miss Jane Taylor is teacher, was awarded third place in the recent contest, arranged by the S. Dorchester Historical Society;
“Not drooping like poor fugitives they came
In exodus to our Canadian wilds;
But full of heart and hope, with heads erect
And fearless eyes, victorious in defeat.”
Let us travel, nearly a century ago, through the dense primeval forest, which later became School Section Number Seven, South Dorchester. Beginning east on the tenth concession, Isaac Appleford lived where Truman Appleford now resides. South of the corner was Jacob Cline, later Randall Cline, and now Robert Cline. Across the road, on the farm now occupied by Charles Cline, was Joseph Smith and later Mr. Tompkins.
On the northeast corner of the farm occupied by Roy Legg, was Mr. McPhail. In the next place was Elder Sheppard, the father of Edmund E. Sheppard, founder of the Toronto Saturday Night. Elder Sheppard was a minister of the Disciple Church and the first Public School Inspector in this district. His home was purchased by Charles Legg and is now owned by Roy Legg. Immediately west was David Moore, father of J.A. Moore, who lives on this old homestead. Hamilton Emery, considered very wealthy in those days, lived where Wesley Phillips now resides. This farm is the “Jack Emery Place,” to the present generation.
North from McPhail’s corner, there were no houses. Jack Luton bought the Meikle farm, now owned by Mr. Leslie, for his horse, saddle and bridle. Across the road on the H.G. MacGregor farm was Robert Brown and later his son, Henry, who donated the northwest corner for a church lot. James Bryce bought fifty acres where G.L. Ackert lives and Andrew Roberts was the first occupant of Karl Wright’s farm. John Learn owned the hundred acres where J.R. Roberts makes his home.
On the north side, George McIntosh lived where Sims reside, and the Felkers occupied the property now owned by George Roberts. Henry Roberts lived where E.L. Sweet is at present. At that time too, David Roberts lived where James Appleford now resides and James Ballah lived on the premises now occupied by George Abell. David and William Finch owned the Miles Holmes, the Cowal and the Angus Taylor farms, while Hamilton Emery owned the John A. Taylor farm. West from Miles Holmes’ farm, George Legg owned the corner fifty acres, now in Joseph Jenkins’ possession and Neil Taylor had the hundred acres now held by Ernest Jenkins. The following farms under the present ownership of Clarence Rogers, C.J. Jenkins, James Jenkins, Arthur Taylor, H.G. Taylor, Sam and William Legg, Ed Legg and George Betterley, were owned respectively by Thomas Kindred, Charles Kindred, S.T. Pettit, Mr. McCormick, but later, Donald Taylor, Angus Taylor, Mrs. Legg and sons and James Dewar. Johnathon Brooks owned a house and lot on Orlando Charlton’s place, and a Mr. House kept hotel on Betterly’s corner.
The Aylmer Express, October 9, 1930, page 9
HISTORY OF SOUTH DORCHESTER
East on the ninth concession, the following were on the north side: Dan Deacon, Mr. Fawcett, John Taylor, George Pettit and George Learn, where now resides, respectively, Arthur Bailey, John Evert, Glen Taylor, Lorne Pettit, Frank and George Learn. On the south side were Thomas MacGregor, on the fifty acres owned by Hiram Peer and the hundred occupied by Roy MacGregor; Hamilton Emery where Neil Ferguson makes his home; Erwins on the north section of Moore’s farm; John Deacon had fifty acres where Skene Smith lives and James Smith occupied one hundred acres of the Skene Smith farm.
This farm can also boast of the old log schoolhouse, its location being about forty rods west of the present home. From outward appearance it was not easily distinguished from a dwelling house. Inside, the logs were hewn flat and chinked with clay. The equipment was very crude. Painted boards at the south end of the room served as a blackboard. Here too, was the bench and desk from which the teacher taught and secured discipline with a birch rod. Tables along the sides served as desks, while planks nailed to blocks were the first seats. The children were organized in classes and sat accordingly from smallest at the front, to largest at rear. The boys were on the east side and the girls on the west. The pupils placed their copybooks on the table and in some cases, sat hours, tracing words of which they had not the slightest knowledge. A large stove at the back of the room was used for heating purposes during the long cold winters.
Eighty years ago, the teacher, a Mr. Whitmore, boarded around and taught the children, large and small, school age was not limited and many young men and women in their twenties attended during the winter months, when their services were not especially required at home. Other teachers were Mr. McKillop, Mr. Van Velzer, Mrs. Calvert, Leonard Luton, an uncle of C.O. Luton, of Belmont, and ex-warden of Elgin County and Miss Gruce, who during one winter had one hundred and three pupils and probably taught for her board. James Campbell, later Dr. Campbell of Belmont, was also a teacher. Mr. Tribe was the first teacher in the red brick school and according to reports was generally disliked. Primitive though this building was, it served its purpose of teaching the four R’s, reading ‘riting, ‘rithmetic and religion.
Daniel Deacon, the first settler in this section, familiarly known as “Par” Deacon, held the first Sunday School in the log building. Archie A. Taylor, father of the present reeve, H.G. Taylor, remembers a certain Archie McCallum coming from the eighth concession to this Sunday School and repeating consecutively three hundred Bible verses.
Some twenty years later, a red brick school was built on Learn’s corner and S. F. Pettit was the first Sunday School superintendent in this building. Succeeding him came the late Wilson McCredie who with his capable wife laid firm foundations in the lives of the girls and boys.
The church, diagonally opposite the school, was erected thirty eight years ago and was dedicated on the ninth of august. Due to the fact that the late Mrs. Wilson McCredie, sister of Rev. Hugh Crossley of Crossley and Hunter evangelists, had done much to bring about the building of the church and had rendered much financial assistance, the building was named in their honour, Crossley and Hunter.
Our imagination may paint vivid pictures but we can never fully realize the conditions faced and conquered in those early days. To cut down and root out acres of trees was the work
of years of labour, and the pioneers had to sow the grain in the forest itself. In order to enable the sun to reach it, they burned or “ringed” the trees so that they died, and in the intervals between trees or stumps, their crops grew to maturity.
Their farming implements were of the simplest. The first settlers broke the ground with sticks and hoes, they cut the grain at first with sickles, later with scythes and then the cradle. The first reaper used was operated by two men, one drove the horses and the other almost facing the opposite way, was astride a seat similar to a bicycle seat. With an ordinary hand rake he supervised the cutting of the grain, the placing of it on the table, until there was enough for a sheaf; then with rake, he passed it to the rear of the machine to be bound by the man following. When bound, the sheaf was thrown to escape trampling of the horses on the succeeding round. Other and later reapers were the New Yorker and Saint George.
Angus Taylor, father of Archie A. Taylor, owned the first separator, run by horse power, in the district. Two men, the bankcutter and the feeder were required on the platform, while the rakers took the place of the present day blower.
The pioneers had few horses and cattle and when a clearing was made, they had sometimes to haul the “drag” or the plough themselves. The grain was sometimes ground in hand mills, or a hollowed stump, but often the men shouldered a bag of wheat, following a blazed trail to the nearest mill, Port Stanley. This trip required two days.
The houses were generally made of logs and the furniture in them was homemade. The open fireplace, piled high with logs, sufficed both for cooking and heating purposes. Mrs. Darius Appleford, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Brown, and who was raised on the farm on which the Crossley Hunter Church stands, remembers that the first bread she baked was in a kettle swung over a fireplace. Houses were lit by candles or tallow dips. Coal-oil lamps later came into existence and many a home contains a little lamp with a history all its own. Lucifer matches were used but many relied upon flint in the earliest days. Food consisted of maple syrup potatoes, pork and bread.
Every home contained a spinning wheel, on which the yarn for the clothes of the family was spun. There were no luxuries in the homes and few comforts. While the men worked in the fields, the women cooked, spun, sewed, made soft soap and the thousand and one tasks, which were necessary in a household which depended wholly on itself. If necessary, they performed field labour just as capably as the men. Mr. Robert Brown owned the only set of tools in this district and they were constantly in demand. He was a carpenter in Scotland and would not cross the ocean without his treasured tools.
Our maple syrup industry has an interesting history. Wooden spiles were hewn and driven into axe cuts in the trees. A trough was placed on the ground beneath the spile. The sap was gathered into larger wooden troughs, which when not in use, served as excellent forest cradles for the baby. Mrs. Ferguson has entertained her grandchildren with histories of a tame pet deer. The sap was boiled in large kettles, suspended on poles between huge back-logs. Mrs. Ferguson’s parents, one season sold five hundred pounds of sugar cakes, made in this way. In those days communication was by word of mouth or letter. When a family required medical attendance, Mrs. Troton, a practical, but very efficient herb doctor was sent for by either of the above methods. Letter writing played a very important part in the life of the people, but all letters were written in long hand. Mail had to be obtained from the nearest Post Office. At one time there was a building known as the Maple Leaf Post Office on the northeast corner of the farm now owned by Mr. Leslie. Newspapers were only published once a week and contained little local news.
The first telephone line reached this section in the year nineteen hundred and six.
Walking, riding and dancing seem to have been the chief forms of amusement and in many homes it was customary to read books aloud in the family circle during the evening.
On Saturdays the springless wagons were prepared for the Sunday journey, over corduroy roads to “meeting” or church.
Our section is the proud possessor of five living pioneers, who attended the first log school and church, namely; Mrs. R. Ackert, Mrs. J. Learn, Mrs. E. Appleford, Mrs. M. Ferguson and Mr. Archie A. Taylor.
With the fullest meaning they realize the amazing progress of the social conditions and what a debt of gratitude we owe, such as these, who have helped to make our district what it is today.
The Aylmer Express, March 8, 1934
SPRINGFIELD HAS HAD BUT FOUR CLERKS
Village Was Incorporated in 1877
Original Minute Book Gives Some Interesting Ancient History
(By George Stewart)
In the year 1877, the then pretentious Village of Springfield, in the County of Elgin, applied for, and received incorporation as a village. Just five years previous, the Canada Southern Railway’s first train went over the line and this railway activity, coupled with the general prosperity of that time made a booming period along what is now the M.C.R.R.
During the 56 years since incorporation there have been four village clerks. The first three, Joshua Yoder, John B. Lucas and G.W. Collins have passed to the Great Beyond. The fourth, John Hodgson, was appointed a year ago, and while browsing through a number of old collectors and assessment rolls, etc., he came across the original “Minute Book.” It is in a good state of preservation and both the ink used then and the beautiful Spencerian writing of the first clerk, Joshua Yoder, make the book very interesting. Just here, we may note the excellent penmanship of all four clerks, for an examination of the books would lead one to suppose that each had been chosen for office due to his ability to write a fine Spencerian hand; but honours must be given to the first, whose writing must even at that time, have been exceptional.
The first Council meeting, following the incorporation of the village, was held in Dynes’ Hotel, known as the Commercial Hotel, which stood on the site of the local Baptist Church. The reeve, Dr. J.B. Mills, and the councilors were duly sworn in by Squire William McIntosh. They have all long since passed to their reward. The late Dr. J.B. Mills was for years a most highly esteemed medical practitioner of the old school. He was a staunch Reformer, and often graced the platform in defense of his party. He was reeve for many years, and during that period was elected Warden of the county, a position he filled with distinction. The first councilors associated with him were W.E. Roche, father of Hon. Dr. Roche and Gilbert Roche, Canadian commissioner, now in California; David Kensey, a carpenter; Joshua Soper, an undertaker; and David McKenzie, who, with the late Nelson Burgess, kept a large store on the corner now occupied by D.W. Henry.
We have previously mentioned that the first clerk was Joshua Yoder (an undertaker). His salary was $20 per year. His brother, John Yoder (a farmer) was made treasurer at no stated salary. He had, however, to furnish a bondsman in the sum of $1,000. Previous to this first meeting of the Council, the items of expenditure during the period between incorporation and the meeting, were subjected to an audit. Two auditors were appointed, one to represent the reeve and one the councilors. Those chosen were Joshua Sisler and Hiram W. Kipp, both former schoolteachers and at the time, merchants in the village. On March 5th, 1878, they presented a report of expenditures for the period referred to, amounting to $18.25. The report was not accepted, but another report, showing expenditures of $7.50 was accepted May 5th, 1878.
John Dynes, who kept the Commercial Hotel, was given the honourable appointment of pound keeper. The magnificent salary of $10 was awarded to Henry Topping, who acted in the dual capacity of assessor and collector. Besides, Henry had to furnish three sureties of $1,000 each.
Due to the fact that the village was situated on the line between the Townships of South
Dorchester and Malahide, both municipalities were affected, and a certain financial status of each had to be adjusted. For this purpose, the reeve, Dr. J.B. Mills and David McKenzie were appointed a committee to meet representatives from the adjoining municipalities. Many references are made to this and much time was spent before a settlement was agreed upon.
The village fathers set themselves nobly to the task of providing revenue, outside of the general tax, as the following will show. A by-law was passed setting the license for a livery stable at $15. This would prevent every fellow who had a horse, and they all had them, from hiring out his animal to the detriment of the fellow who was in the business. Then there were the traveling “entertainments,” including circuses, menageries, etc., to deal with, so the following resolution was passed. – “That all shows, exhibitions and menageries under the management of non-residents, pay license of $20 per day; each side show, $5, and other entertainments, $4.” The Council showed their interest in the development of home talent by excepting what they styled “home shows.”
The health of the villagers was the next consideration. The cemetery was located right in the heart of the village and, fearing that it might contaminate the wells from which the citizens obtained their water supply, after due consideration, it was moved by David McKenzie and seconded by Joshua Soper, “that in future the burial of the dead shall not take place within the municipality.” This was By-law No. 5. By way of comment, this old cemetery property, just north of the main corner of the village, was deeded by Joel Burns, the then owner of the farm from which it was detached, to Queen Victoria, for burial purposes. The creek, which flows through the village, was known as Burns’ creek. In this old cemetery rest the remains of Rev. Charles Pettys and wife, affectionately styled by the people of that day, Father and Mother Pettys. It is to their liberality that the members of St. John’s United Church, owe the property on which the church is situated. The first schoolhouse, a little log building, was situated in the southwest corner of the cemetery property. It was also used as church before the Methodist Episcopal Church was erected in 1853.
Returning to the Council meetings, it is recorded that the meetings were to be held on the first Tuesday of each month at 7:30 o’clock. There was no place designated, but hotels seemed to offer the best accommodation. However, even in those early days, there was a very strong temperance sentiment among the members of the Council, and many of the villagers, for in a small village with four hotels and a liquor store, there must have been some lively, if not lovely times. At the March meeting the Council was confronted with a petition, headed by John Foy, the village shoemaker, and 51 others, requesting, “that the number of taverns be not increased.” The council, to their lasting credit, and especially the reeve, were temperance advocates and, after a brief discussion, D. McKenzie moved, seconded by J. Soper, “that the license commissioners for the County of Elgin be requested not to grant more than two licenses for the municipality of Springfield, and that the clerk send a copy of this resolution to the license commissioners.” Having settled the hotel question, the village fathers, turned their attention to the building of sidewalks – board, of course. William Wilson, who operated a sawmill at that time, offered to furnish lumber for the corporation at $10.50 per thousand, and his offer was accepted.
With frequent changes in real estate, the services of fence viewers became necessary. Those chosen were William Marr, carriage maker; R.H.. Lindsay, carpenter and later auctioneer; and John Kensey. We note that the reeve was to let the contract for the construction of a lock-up in the village, subject to the approval of county Council
Long since, all whose names are chronicled here, have gone to their reward, and their
descendants are scattered to all quarters of the globe. But Springfield still has a grand old man of that period, in the person of Albert Oliver, who has been in business almost continuously since the village came into being, and who is still going strong. Mr. Oliver has that to his credit which none of the others possessed, namely he is a native of South Dorchester, having been born a short distance north of the village.
(Note: Although the next article is not part of the series gathered by the South Dorchester Historical Association, it deals with local history of the area.)
The Aylmer Express, April 9, 1931, page 9
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE CHARLTON NAME IN CANADA
Henry Charlton Migrated from England and Settled in Nova Scotia – Many Descendants Now Live in Elgin County
Charlton Family Reunion This Week
The following sketch of the Charlton family, written by William Deo, of this place, is most interesting and the descendants of these stalwart pioneers will hold a family picnic at Pinafore Park, St. Thomas, this week.
Henry Charlton was the first of the name that we are interested in, in this sketch. He came from Newcastle on the Tyne, England, and settled in Nova Scotia. I have not been able to discover the date of his arrival.
He was born in 1723, one hundred and ninety nine years this 1992 (this must be an error in typesetting). He died in 1816, aged 93 years. His life and activities are more fully given in the accompanying letter from some descendants of his:
“I received your letter in due time, and was very interested in your enterprise for information re the Charltons. Do not know that I can give you the data you want, as all I have for reference in Calnek’s History of Annapolis County, and its early settlers. While the book has a great deal of reliable facts in it, it is not as complete in detail as I would like to have it.
Henry Charlton came from Newcastle on Tyne, England, to this country about the same time as Massachusetts’ settlers, and obtained a grant of land in Wilmot.
In 1765 he had cleared 50 acres and had 25 head of horned cattle. He built the first sawmill in the country and received a bounty offered by the government in 1786,
Henry Charlton, one of his sons, went to Upper Canada. Henry Charlton, born 1723, died 1816, married 1762, Mary Crane, born 1736, died 1815.
Experience, born 1762, died 1851, married Simon Delong
Aaron, born 1765, died 1838, married Grace Dunn
Mary, born 1767, died 1843, married Charles Worthylake
James, born 1768, died 1846, married 1784, Sarah Simpson
Henry, born 1770, married and removed to one of the Upper Provinces
Charlotte, born 1773, died 1871, married Andrew Beals
Isabella, born 1775, died 1850, married Henry Grant
Robert, born 1778, died 1874, married 1806, Elizabeth Starratt
This is all I can find at present, but if I can gather anything more in the meantime I will be pleased to forward it to you.
My father was a descendant of the James mentioned, both he and my mother have been
dead over three years. Father lived to reach 86, my mother died from injuries received from being thrown out of a carriage, at the age of 72. I am the second son being now in my 49th year. I have one older brother and one younger.
I hope the above will be of some help to you. If it is possible for me to attend your anniversary, I will be there.”
Yours truly, H.C. Charlton
His fifth son, Henry Jr., born 1770, came to the Western Provinces. On his way he married Mary Brown, somewhere in New York State, and the next we hear of his doings was that he was a ship carpenter with the British Army at Montreal, and Kingston, assisting in building forts and blockhouses, etc., in the war of 1812.
His oldest son, John was born in 1779 (this must also be in error; perhaps 1797?). There were five sons and three daughters in his family, all of whom grew up in the neighbourhood of Kingston.
John, Abram and Thomas, settled in Portland, Frontenac County. Peter, William, Hannah and Maria in Elgin County. Charlotte in New York State, U.S.A. John married Maria Deo. Abram married Louisa Farrel. Thomas married _________. Peter married Jennie Caughell. William, married Amy Storms, formerly Amy Deo. Hannah married Dennis Deo. Maria, married Moses Hughes. Charlotte married __________Lewis.
I have not the data of the various families of the above named descendants of Henry Charlton Jr. much of which has escaped my memory, and I will leave this part to some abler person to chronicle, that it may be a more complete record for the use and gratification of future generations.
Dear Mr. Charlton:
In reply to your inquiry regarding the early Charltons of this county I find the following notes in some data in my possession.
Henry Charlton was one of the first settlers in the new township of Wilmot, Annapolis County, Nova Scotia. Where he came from I am not sure, but that he was here in the sixties of the 18th century is certain.
The French were expelled from the County in 1755 and the first New England settlers, pre-loyalists, came in 1760, but the township of Wilmot was not surveyed at that time, hence none of the first New Englanders went as far inland as Wilmot. However, very shortly after this the new townships was surveyed and Henry Charlton was given a grant of two whole lots, or 1000 acres and extending from the Annapolis River to the Bay of Fundy. At this time this great grant was unbroken forest. It was situated to the east of the Town of Lawrencetown, and embrace, what is now many of the splendid farms and orchards of that vicinity and the adjoining section of Clarence, which is noted for its valuable farms and apple orchards.
Here this pioneer reared his family and “dug in” most successfully. He married Mary Crane, of Horton, Kings County, N.S. the Crane family had but recently come here from Connecticut, U.S.A., and was one of the best families of the adjoining county.
Of this first Henry’s family there were sons, James, Aaron, Henry and Robert, all of whom settled near the father and bought from him or his near neighbour’s places. In 1789, Henry bought a farm with his brother James, but after that date his name disappears and the genealogy of the family says he went to “Canada.”
The other members of the family continued in this county and while there is not a numerous progeny there are several families and all are industrious and prosperous farmers, here and there one who has turned their attention to mercantile pursuits with equal success.
The old pioneer Henry came when the whole township was a wilderness but lived long enough to see it cleared and many villages established. The nearest to his lots and home was called Dunn’s Mill, and later became the pretty and prosperous town of Lawrencetown, 1882. Here in the early days of the last century a church was erected and Henry Charlton was one of the board of Trustees. This was the “Ebenezer Wesleyan Chapel,” and was the first in the new Township of that denomination. I have an impression that Mr. Charlton received his religious leanings from his wife, Mary, for the Crane family was one of the first Methodist families in the Valley, and a nephew of Mrs. Charlton was the first native-born Methodist preacher of the Maritime provinces. The family since that early day have been largely Baptists, but none the worse for their early training in the first Methodist chapels of the County.
In politics the Charltons for a century have been usually Liberals and ardent ones as a rule.
I don’t think any of the original holdings of the first one, is now in possession of the descendants, but several of them live where they can stand on their doorsteps and look across whole rows of farms that were originally their grand-sire’s, and that now bear and yield annually thousands of barrels of the choicest apples.