The article following is provided by that wonderful publication, the “Puslinch Pioneer”, which for over thirty years has been dedicated to coverage of Puslinch Township news and history, and yes, most amazingly, is produced entirely by volunteers as a community service.  It is published ten times per year.  To assist with production costs, annual subscriptions of $25.00 are gratefully welcomed.  Please forward subscription requests, with remittances made payable to the “Puslinch Pioneer”, to the Puslinch Pioneer, R.R. #3, Guelph, Ontario, N1H 6H9.














A History of School Section #3

by Cleo Melzer

(from the Puslinch Pioneer for April 1984, volume 8, issue 8.)


In 1940, Margaret Barclay, wife of James Barclay Jr., asked Mr. Maddock, a descendant of one of the early pioneers, if he would write a short historical sketch of the places, people, and events of School Section # 3.  Mr. Maddock kindly agreed.  Margaret’s daughter, Jessie, (Mrs. Joseph Hewer), graciously lent this his­tory to the Puslinch Pioneer, and we in turn would like to share it with our readers, and so we begin.


The history of School Section No. 3, dates back almost a century.  Unfortunat­ely, none of the pioneers remain from whom we might have obtained direct information.  We feel no tribute is too great to pay those early settlers, who braved the dangers and privations of the first days, when, by the sweat of their brow they felled the kings of the forest to make a tiny clearing and built the first shanties, serving as homes, to be replaced later by substantial log dwellings.  Foot by foot, the clearing was enlarged till pot­atoes could be grown between the stumps and a few handfuls of trea­sured wheat sown.  The logs were hewed by hand for the buildings, which were only a few days in con­struction, as all the neighbours with­in reach lent a hand.  The shingles also were split by hand.  Oxen were used for the heavy work.  As soon as possible a cow and a few sheep were procured.  The wool was prepared at home to be sent to the weaver, which turned out long wearing homespun.  Tailors were quite numerous who went from house to house and outfitted the male members of the family.  The maple trees were tapped, and a supply of sugar, syrup, and vinegar was the result.  Home-made tallow candles furnished light; laundry soap was made from potash, and even laundry starch, from potatoes.


To this district came many families from the British Isles, some as early as 1830, most of whom spent many weeks in crossing in sailing vessels.  Some could not survive the rough passage and so never reached the land of promise.  Some of the few who still reside on the land taken up by their fore­fathers are: Mr. M. Lynch, Mr. T. Jackson, Mr. H. Hanlon, Mr. C. Crawley, Mr. A. McWilliams, Mr. M. Foster, Mr. H. Laird, Mr. J. Phelan, and Mr. D. T. Parker.


They lived with only the road between, this being a given road between the 4th and 5th Concession, which was made for the accommodation of farmers taking their wheat to Holm’s grist mill on the Waterloo line. 


What was formerly known as “Strach­an’s Corners” was the centre of the business life of the community.  A general store and tavern were run by Mr. & Mrs. Strachan, with a blacksmith shop adjacent.  The farmers traded their produce, which was taken to Hamilton once a week, and returned with a supply of grocer­ies, dry goods, et cetera, including a keg to “cheer a man’s heart”.  In the autumn, poultry was bought and a plucking bee was held.  The youth of the neighbourhood cheerfully assisted and were rewarded by a good old time dance and a bountiful repast.


Later, Mr. Strachan bought the farm, on the corner of which the store was located, from Mr. Ewing.  He was succeeded by his son who sold it in 1891 to Mr. J. Barclay.  The store was run for some time by Mrs. McGill, the shop by B. O’Connor, after which, the buildings were occup­ied by Mr. & Mrs. Fitzpatrick, a veteran of the Crimean War.  At present, 1940, the well-tilled fields bear no trace of what was once the scene of such activity. 


In the earl­iest days, a school was built on the corner of the Lynch farm across from the home of Mr. J. Phelan, but memory of it has passed into obli­vion.  Not being centrally located, it was moved to the North-East corner of the Thompson farm now owned by Mrs. M. Lynch, the last teacher there being Mr. Charles Walker, later a broker in Guelph.  When an old man, Mr. Walker related seeing from his school window the then future M.P., viz. David Stirton, plowing in his bare feet on what is now the Byrnes farm.  Mr. Walker's virtues were highly praised in contrast to his predecessor who inflicted terrible punishment for the smallest offences, the pupils being then too terrified to learn. 


In the early fifties, the school site was changed to where Downey’s School now stands, on Fred Crawley’s farm.  Mr. Downey after whom it was named taught in this school for twenty-five years.  He was educated in a Monastery of “Christ­ian Brotherhood” in Cork, Ireland.  One of his teachers was the famous Gerald Griffins.  He was married in Ireland.  He and his wife came to Guelph in 1852, Mr. Downey hoping to find work in his profession, which was Civil Engineering.  He wasn’t able however to find any work in that line so decided to take up teaching.  Before coming to teach at the Downey’s School, he taught in Guelph for a time, being the first teacher to teach in the Separate School in Guelph.  His wife died shortly after coming to Guelph, and in 1854 he married Miss Bridget McTague, who shared with him the respect and affection of this Community for many years.


In some cases, he taught the second generation.  His higher education enabled him to pass pupils qualified to an advanced place in the High School at one time.  He had as many as 104 pupils on the roll.  He and his wife lived and raised their family in a small house that was built in the school yard.  It was only when an old man that he retired to the city.


In the year 1880, a Separate School was built on the S.E. corner of the Lennie farm, now owned by Mr. Loty.  This school continued until 1901 when the two parts of S.S. No. 3 united once more.  The buildings were sold and at present nothing remains to mark the place where a great number received their early education.










The History of School Section #3

Part II

by Cleo Melzer


(from the Puslinch Pioneer for May 1984, volume 8, issue 9.)


In the early days, most of the farms comprised only 100 acres, which meant more neighbours, but as time went on many added to their farms, and having no need for the buildings, they were removed.  One of these was that of Mr. R. Maddock, whose pretty farm home and rare old English garden was an outstanding feature.  They moved to the city, when the land was divided and sold. 


In the log house, on the farm now owned by Fred Crawley, lived for many years, Mr. Raeme, with his family, formerly a Southern planter of French descent and with consider­able wealth.  He had married a mulatto.  The younger generation were for the most part coloured.  Before the Civil War, he left his country Virginia, fearing lest his family might be sold into slavery.  He sought safety in Canada.  They were refined and intelligent but never having worked knew little of farming or housekeeping.


The Kirkland Methodist Church, better known as Howitt Memorial, was named after an English family who lived on the homestead now operated by Mr. F. Pinder.  Later, on one of the several farms purchased by Mr. M. P. Doyle,  the old wooden church was built in 1845, and for the first two or three years, a lady conducted a private school, but later it was used for religious purposes.  Many of the early settlers attended worship there and their remains rest in the cemetery beside the church. 


The church was replaced in 1888 by the present stone structure.  It is located on the N.E. corner of Mr. J. Clark’s farm, which is part of a block owned by the late Squire Howitt, his predecessor being Mr. Roland Wingfield, a gentleman of wealth who came to Canada in 1831 and took up 800 acres.  He erected a large stone house, known as “Wingfield Castle” built somewhat like a fort with iron reinforcements as a safeguard against the Indians.  Initialled stones mark the corners of the estate.  He went to England in 1833, returning with a large importation of Durham cattle, South­down sheep, and Berkshire pigs which was the foundation..... involved as a result of some parliamentary contest and sold everything as it stood.  (Note: Some of the text concerning Rowland Wingfield is missing.  For more information on Mr. Wingfield, readers may wish to refer to other articles on this website.)


Possibly the oldest dwelling in Puslinch, although in excellent repair, is “The Cottage”, which stands on land which has been in the McWilliams’ name since 1831 and is now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. R. Slater.  When it was built, it was completely surrounded by virgin forest.  A marriage was solemnized within its walls 88 years ago.  Quite a number can claim it as their birthplace.  Not a few spent the evening of life amid its peaceful surroundings, while several young couples started on life’s journey under the shelter of its roof.  If its old walls could speak they would record many tales of courage and adventure. Being by the roadside many travellers turned in to its hospitable door, one of whom was a friendly Indian Chief, who was a frequent visitor.  None were refused a welcome.  Mr. Charles McWilliams was the town­ship’s first assessor.


There are several other very old houses in the section.  One is Mr. Kinsella’s house which has been standing over a hundred years.  Also quite old is the Moran homestead, now occupied by Mr. Gilroy.  Another of the many worthy of mention is that of Mr. J. Anderson, a gentleman of leisure from Scotland known as the “Laird of Puslinch”.  He built the fine farm home, now owned by Mr. E. Baker, but many other old family names are now only a memory.


The social life of the neighbour­hood was kept alive by means of picnics, bees, and raisings in the summer; dancing parties, tea meetings, etcetera in winter.  Names of some of the sweet singers of that day are still mentioned by the older people.  These gave freely of their gifts with no thought of recompense. 


In those days, wolves were a real menace, stock having to be securely housed, and they were sometimes known to steal a carcass of meat almost from under the roof.  A true story is told of the ancestor of a prominent family, who, when returning home from Hamilton, where he had been to purchase flour, was attacked by a pack of wolves on Mr. Foster’s farm.  He climbed the nearest tree where he had to spend the night as the wolves con­tinued their watch until daybreak.  One can imagine his relief when they retired.  Another is told of two maiden ladies living some distance apart.  Each went in search of their cow, usually easily located by the sound of the bell, but being a foggy evening both got lost, but happily found shelter in the same abandoned shanty and spent the night, although frightened almost to death by the sound of prowlers.


Occasionally bears were seen.  Two women picking berries noticed one quite close by, picking berries too.  In their hasty retreat, they left their full pails and never found them although they returned to search.  Wild bees’ nests were often found with a good supply of delic­ious honey.  Sometimes, we wonder if there was not more real happiness in those days, even if they had to ride over rough uneven trails in spring-­less wagons and had none of the comforts that we take as a matter of course.  The wheels of time have revolved so often that it is hard to imagine their simple lives in contrast to the rush and hurry of our modern world.  Will the next century show as many changes?


The Maddock family settled on Lot 16, Con. 4, in the 1830’s.  Today, no trace of the Maddock homestead remains.  In 1892, James Barclay Sr. purchased part of the farm and the remainder was added to the Crawley farm.  Mrs. Harry Hanlon Sr., who wrote the well researched history of School Section 3 for the Annals of Puslinch, recalls Mr. Maddock calling at their home many years ago.  He was collect­ing money to repair the roof on the Howitt Memorial Church.  Although they were Roman Catholic, she remem­bers her husband gave a generous contribution.  Mrs. Joseph Hewer (Jessie Barclay) also remembers Mr. Maddock calling on her father collecting money for the fence for the Church.  Jessie recalls that all the residents in the area regardless of their religious denomination felt it important to support and maintain the old Kirkland Methodist or Howitt Memorial Church.  How sad it is that this historic landmark met such an ignoble end.




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