The Puslinch Village Vignette








The writing that follows owes its existence to the work of three others, those being Darryl Davey, author of a splendid book of classic proportions, entitled “Our Leslie Family Tree 1680-1998”, B. Woolsey, for a brilliant draft article, “The Hamlet of Puslinch”, and Bruce Murdoch, for one of his popular Hamilton Spectator newspaper articles.  To those three, inadequately brief gratitude is earnestly expressed here, however, they may also find additional recompense in the words of another author of merit, “As long as men can breath or eyes can see, so long lives this, and this gives life to thee”.






Puslinch Village Vignette



Puslinch Village and the Leslie Family


William Wade Leslie, born in 1796, in Fermanagh County, Ireland, was an officer in the British army during the time that Britain was contending with a continental bully named Bonaparte.  In 1815, while serving in France under the Duke of Wellington, young William Wade Leslie fell in love with Louise Lavigne Le Sage.  There, in France, the future “Squire Leslie of Puslinch Township”, William Leslie, was born in 1816.  The remainder of William’s brothers and sisters arrived after Louise and William Wade had made their home in Ireland. 


In 1829, William Wade Leslie retired from the army, subsequently immigrating to Canada, to the Town of York, in 1830.   William Wade petitioned the Crown for a land grant, considered just recognition of an officer’s military service.  He was granted 397 acres in the Gore of Puslinch, receiving his Crown Patent on July 18th, 1833.  At that time, the deed denotes Puslinch as being in the County of Halton, District of Gore, Province of Upper Canada, and reserved to the Crown all mines of gold and silver on the property, and also the famously massive white pine trees of Puslinch, unequalled for their use in shipbuilding. 


The Leslie family of Ireland was not without assets and upon the death of his Uncle Henry, William Wade Leslie returned to Ireland to collect an inheritance.  On February 17th 1837, while returning to Canada with that inheritance, in the form of British sovereigns and a bountiful supply of clothing for his family, the ship went down in the Irish Sea, with no survivors.  Thus, the Leslie family of Puslinch lost a father and a fortune.


William, being the eldest son, he succeeded to his father’s property in Puslinch.  Shortly thereafter, in 1838, William and his brothers and sisters were required to take control of their fate when their mother, Louise Le Sage Leslie, died.  William’s siblings were George, born January 21st 1820 and who married Mary Wise of Puslinch, Jane, born October 26th 1823, wife of Andrew Wise with whom she farmed in Beverly Township, Mary, born December 20th 1825, husband Joseph Black, farmer of West Flamboro Twp., Henry, born November 4th 1827, wife Betsy Linderman, of Badenoch’s Linderman Mills descent, John Leslie, born 1829, who married Katherine Cowe and farmed in Owen Sound, and the youngest son, Peter, born in 1830 and 6 weeks old when they left Ireland, who married Mary Linderman, Betsy’s sister, and farmed in Egremont Township.


During the 1837 rebellion, Squire Leslie served as paymaster’s sergeant for the Gore District Militia volunteers.  Continuing his service within the military, his skill and determination were accompanied by a rapid ascent through the ranks, culminating in the assignment of the responsibilities of a Lieutenant Colonel.   


In 1839, he married Jane Gordon, daughter of Capt. Gordon, of Hamilton. 


In 1843, he was elected as Councillor to represent Puslinch Township, ultimately holding several positions in municipal affairs during a stellar thirty-eight year political career, including twenty as the Reeve of Puslinch Township.


In 1849, William opened, at Puslinch Village, not only the first Post Office in Puslinch Township but also the first Post Office between Hamilton and Guelph.  That postal service was faithfully maintained by his descendents until 1990.  In 1854, William combined a General Store with the Post Office, and the store conducted business until 1976.


Squire Leslie was also appointed Division Court Clerk for Wellington County and received appointments from the government as Magistrate.  For many years he held the position of Secretary of Road Commissions for the counties of Wentworth, Wellington, and Waterloo.


His children were Mrs. John A. MacDonald, Mrs. Reverend Richard Harrison, William G. Leslie, Mrs. Henry Ironside, Mrs. Wm. Coulter, Reverend Henry T. Leslie, Mrs. Dr. Richard Orton, Mrs. L. A. Pentecost, Mrs. Donald McLean, Mrs. George Greer, Herbert W. Leslie, and Vivian B. Leslie.



The Puslinch Post Office


William Leslie received the appointment of Post Master of Puslinch on September 9th, 1847.  Joseph Grant acted as Deputy Post Master for Mr. Leslie.  The Post Office officially opened on January 6th 1850.  William may have been encouraged to proceed with this venture by a previous harrowing and, no doubt, unforgettable experience. When going to Galt to retrieve a letter, errant from the Dundas Post Office, and there being no roads, only blazes, remnants from the original surveys, he and his father made slow progress, night, and wolves unaccustomed to and unafraid of humans, overtaking them.  They were forced to climb a tree and remain there over night.  As daylight came, the wolves, despairing of their once promising two-course dinner, dispersed, and thereafter the wayward travellers descended from their nests, arriving safely in Galt at about 9 a.m. that same morning, to take receipt of a letter and a breakfast well earned.  The foregoing adventure is fully and better described in Mr. Leslie’s own words elsewhere on this website, under the title “Frontier Days in Puslinch”.


On July 19th 1850, a passenger and mail coach service began, leaving Hamilton at 8 a.m. and arriving at Guelph at 4 p.m., whereupon another coach left Guelph, arriving at Hamilton at midnight.  En route, mail was delivered at Puslinch.  Prior to that, the initial mail delivery service from Dundas to Puslinch had been direct, with no intervening stops.


In 1862, a mail route was established from Puslinch to Galt and back again, via Crieff, Killean, and Clyde, twice weekly in 1875, then three times weekly, until 1887, when a daily service was arranged from Puslinch to Crieff, and from the Killean Railway Station to the Killean Post Office.



The Remarkable Genealogy of the Puslinch Post Masters


The Post Masters of Puslinch were all rooted in the same family tree.  William Leslie served until his death, December 1st 1884.


William Leslie’s son-in-law, John A. MacDonald, was the Post Office clerk and accountant as early as 1875-6, and officially took over the Post Office on January 1st 1885, serving until November 11th 1923.  


John A. MacDonald was both Post Master and businessman and he had a business partner, Henry Ironside, who was another Leslie son-in-law.  Henry and Adelaide (Leslie) Ironside owned and resided in the house on the hill above the village of Puslinch.  They also, at one time, owned the property that constituted the centre of the village.  For some time, Henry and John A. were together in the storekeeping business and the grain and coal business.  Later the businesses were separated, John A. becoming sole proprietor of the store and Henry taking charge of the grain and coal enterprises, to which he added a cattle-shipping business, of no small proportions.  The train was integral to Henry’s successful businesses.  The railway station was, in fact, kept so busy that there were three full-time operators on duty.  With the Post Office, the store, Henry Ironside’s large warehouse for incoming and outgoing freight, and even a bank in the station yard, Puslinch Village was a centre of commerce.


Roy Duffield, one of the legendary stagecoach drivers on the Brock Road, in a 1953 interview with the Hamilton Spectator newspaper reporter, Bruce Murdoch, clearly recalled that, “In the old days, Puslinch village was really a busy spot and I often found it difficult to get a place to tie my team.  They teamed stuff from all over the district to ship by rail from Puslinch station.  There would often be a line of teams a mile long waiting to get to the station.”


Roy Duffield


The son of John A. MacDonald, Clarence Monsul MacDonald, born December 1876, continued the line of Post Masters, starting December 15th 1923 and continuing until his death, February 2nd 1948.  It was Clarence who built the MacDonald family red brick home. 


Clarence was followed by his son, Winston Churchill MacDonald, who served from February 5th 1948 until November 4th 1976.  Winston got his training while taking his turn to wait at the station for the mail.  He worked with his father from age 16.  Originally, during Winston’s tenure, the mail came by train, which stopped twice a day in Puslinch, at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.  Even then, the old adage about the mail getting through in spite of wind, hail, sleet, and snow was not entirely accurate, for the train was sometimes far less than punctual.  Often in winter, it might be 2 or 3 days late, and Winston clearly remembered once having to wait until 1 a.m. for a 7 p.m. train, delayed by an accident at Ayr.  Also, during Winston’s days spent waiting for the mail trains, he recalled that the train depot routinely hosted those important informal meetings of the local male population. 


When Winston retired in 1976, the Post Office became the responsibility of his nephew’s wife, Sylvia G. McConnell, who managed admirably from November 5th 1976 to December 3rd 1990, when Canada Post closed the branch.  Even in those final days, the Post Office was still thriving, with 60 “General Delivery” boxes and 700 rural route customers, requiring three drivers, who at the time of closing were Belle Kitchen, serving R.R. #1, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Priest on R.R. #2, and 28-year veteran, William Nichol on R.R. #3.




This circa 1914 Puslinch postcard shows the Leslie Store and Post Office on the right or east side of the Brock Road, later called Highway 6, which at that time intersected the C.P.R. track at a level crossing.  In 1927, the store was relocated to the west side of the road to accommodate a bridge constructed over the C.P.R. track.





By 1875-6, Puslinch had at least one blacksmith, Alexander Ballatyne, and possibly a second, Andrew Howie, who may have worked with Mr. Ballatyne.  In 1856, Wm. Martin operated a butcher shop on the premises on the east side of Brock Road, just north of the present railway bridge and later occupied by Wm. Huether.


Donald MacPherson and his descendants always lived on the farm immediately south of the village.  Interviewed in 1953, John A. MacPherson was happily retired after a very successful working career, living in the home where he was born, a son of Mr. Donald MacPherson who had come from Scotland.  John A. had been Superintendent of Roads for Puslinch Township for 15 years and for several years he handled a rural mail route out of Puslinch Post Office.  In addition, he was a former Director of the Puslinch Mutual Fire Insurance Company and later promoted the company as one of its sales representatives.



Mr. John A. MacPherson, in 1953, at a sprightly 74 years of age.


There is indication that the MacPherson house may have been a hotel once.  An 1869 record indicates that William Pirie had a license for a public house on lot 38, which may have been in that house, after the Adam Black hotel burned.  When Highway 6 was significantly altered in 1927, the former hotel building was moved.


The MacPherson home



The Puslinch Coal Merchant


For four decades, beginning in the 1930’s, William F. Huether operated a coal delivery business, strategically located at Puslinch village where the coal trains stopped.  A lifelong resident of the district, he was born at Morriston.  He recalled that when he first started, he was paid seven cents a ton for unloading coal out of box cars using a shovel and wheel barrow.  By the 1970’s, it cost 50 cents a ton just to have it thrown off the cars and if it was frozen, he had to pay a dollar a ton.  Bill had a reliable and trustworthy assistant around the coal-yard and on his deliveries, his black cocker spaniel, “Nipper”.  In an interview, Bill highly recommended his assistant, saying, “I never caught him cheating a customer yet, but he always looks for a cookie or a chocolate wherever we go.”






William F.  Huether and Nipper

(A sincere apology is made to canine readers for the damaged newspaper photo that has obscured Nipper’s face.)



More Roy Duffield Stories


For more than 35 years Roy drove stagecoach and mail.  He began with two teams of horses, travelling from Guelph, through Puslinch, to Freelton.  When he began, he recalled that the 11-mile trip from Aberfoyle to Guelph took over four hours to complete.  In a purely delightful 1953 recollection, Roy remembered a fierce snowstorm in 1919 or 1920 that kept him off the roads for three days.  Roy matter-of-factly stated, “They didn’t clean the snow from the roads in those days like they do now, and when I did manage to get down from Guelph, I wasn’t on the road for more than two or three miles.  I was across fields, behind barns, and every place else but the road.  It was snowed in completely, but the horses got through where a truck could not possibly have gone.”


In his 4th year of service, Roy switched to motor truck.  He recalled charging passengers 50 cents for the coach trip from Puslinch to Guelph and that he nearly always had a load.  Later, in a career change, delivering rural mail, he started with 50 customers and by 1953 was serving 150.  In addition to the 150-home rural mail route “out of Guelph”, Roy also transported locked mailbags to and from Aberfoyle, Morriston, Puslinch village, and Freelton.  By 1953, in an impressive career spanning some 35 years, Roy thought that he had driven some 600,000 miles.




Schaw Station, The Naming of the Puslinch Train Station


When the Credit Valley Railway, later taken over by the C.P.R., was being built through the community in the late 1870’s, Squire William Leslie, aware that railways often created great prosperity for adjacent communities, gave a free right of way through his property, asking only that the railway name the station, “Leslie Station”, to which request the railway was agreeable.  When the momentous day arrived to draw up the first official railway schedule with all of the stops named, Leslie Station was indeed created, but at the village of Killean!  The Puslinch Village stop had been named Schaw Station, and the mistake seems to have been irreversible.  Puslinch Village carried on with two official identities, Schaw Station on the west side of the road, and Puslinch Post Office, on the east side.  Finally, in 1912, with the obligation to Mr. Leslie long forgotten, the C.P.R. changed the name on its timetables from Schaw to Puslinch.


Misnomer notwithstanding, for Schaw Station, the completion of the Credit Valley Railway in 1880, ushered in the golden age of commerce, for it became the shipping hub of the live stock industry of several townships and of the grain trade operated by Henry W. Ironside, son-in-law of Squire Leslie.  It needs to be recorded that Squire Leslie had himself successfully initiated a grain trade business in the early 1880’s, just before his celestial homecoming in 1884.  Fine crops of turnips and potatoes also used to be raised in the area and shipped to the United States.  Mahoney’s quarry on Gore Lot 34, which employed a workforce of local men, utilized the railway to ship crushed stone and was a thriving industry from the 1890’s until about 1925.


Alas, the sun set on the golden age at Schaw Station, for the railway system proved less flexible and efficient than that of motor trucks, and friendly little country stores proved less alluring than urban supermarkets and super hardware outlets.  So successful was the age of the motor truck that the old Brock Road of Schaw Station days was greatly altered over time, most particularly, right at the point where the road and the C.P.R. line intersected in Puslinch Village.  The reconstruction of the Brock Road at Puslinch Village was of such a magnitude that not only was the road transformed, with the addition of a bridge and, most astoundingly, with the addition of a very imposing hill, but also Schaw Station was itself transformed, some buildings being saved by relocation and some not, transformed to such an extent that the Schaw Station, that centre of frontier commerce, seemingly sailed away in its golden age.


Today, if you look closely, there is still a pleasant little village named Puslinch, demurely reposing amid the hustle and bustle that the Brock Road has now long since adopted as Highway 6, awaiting a quiet renaissance, to be announced by the delivery of twins, one, at a distance, a sleek multi-lane asphalt autobahn, whirring efficiently as the new Superhighway 6, and, the other, close by, a comfortable country road fit for a country village, the old Brock Road.