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When settlement began in the Corwhin community, the area was cut off from the west by the swamps associated with Mill Creek, and as a result the community looked east to the nearby border of Puslinch, and Halton, which was settled earlier, and to a lesser extent to its neighbors to the north, in Arkell, and south, in Badenoch, where settlers were also coming in. Andrew McRobbie, who was a Township Councillor 1853-55, was the first man to ride through the Aberfoyle swamp on horseback, after which the council built the road to Corwhin.
That explains why the early village of Corwhin began at the townline of Puslinch and Nassagaweya in Halton County at the intersection with present day County Road 34. It consisted of a church, Post Office, store and blacksmith shop.
The creation of the Nassagaweya Methodist Church on the Nassagaweya-Puslinch townline. which stood a little to the west of the buildings on the Kitching farm, (in Halton, at the end of County road 34, where the road veers to connect to a Halton road). The Wesleyan Methodist New Connexion circuit was formed about 1845, and included this parish until 1875, when the Nassagaweya Methodist circuit took over, until church union in 1925. Ebenezer and Aberfoyle Methodist Churches were later included in this circuit. The Church closed in 1923, and was torn down about 1925. The Church foundations were still visible until a house was built nearby on the site.
Sheds for horses were built on Puslinch side, and there was a blacksmith shop on the south corner. The Littles were the blacksmiths. John, born on March 31, 1855, at an early age went to North Bruce to learn the blacksmith trade After this, he worked at Aberfoyle and Morriston until 1877 and then opened his first shop at Corwhin In the fall of 1881, they moved to Conn near Mount Forest, where he and his brother Christopher established a splendid business in all lines of blacksmith and carriage building which they conducted successfully until the autumn of 1886, when John decided to study for the ministry of the Presbyterian Church, after having spent almost 16 years as a blacksmith. John called off for dances during his time in the community. Bob Little’s brother had two boys, Dr. Lou, ( father of author Jean Little) and Billie who was postmaster in Guelph. Bob Little was a great mimic, and very entertaining.
Post Office records indicate Duncan Campbell, who was instrumental in securing a Post Office at Corwhin, held the Post Master’s job 1876-1886. The Campbells also operated the adjoining store.
The hamlet located at the townline lasted till about1887 when the Guelph Junction railway went through, and changed everything. A renewed hamlet replaced the old, close to transportation. At that time the Post Office and store was moved to the point where the railway crossed County Road 34.
In 1884, some Guelph citizens formed the Guelph Junction Railway Co., (later bought out by the City of Guelph) to tie in with the main line CPR, (which had taken over the Credit Valley Railway.) Ten miles of the roadbed wound it's way from Guelph, between Farnham and Arkell, through Corwhin station, into Moffat; it was completed in 1888 from Guelph to Guelph Junction in Nassagawaya, west of Campbellville. In 1888 the train was steam-powered, but later a battery car was introduced and the locals called it "Sparkey". For 25¢ per round trip, one could travel between Guelph and Guelph Junction on any of "Sparkey's" numerous daily runs. One account of a ride on the line suggests the writer was never so scared in his life as when he rode from Corwhin to Guelph the first time. "Old Tom Quirk was the engineer," he said, "and it was just too bad for anyone or anything that got in his way.” The train swayed and jerked, and I thought it would leave the tracks for sure when it went around a bend. I was glad when we reached the station at Allan's Bridge, just seven minutes after we left Corwhin!"
The Station House, occupied by the Campbell’s on the east side of the tracks, was between Faber's house and the tracks, on R conc 10, lot 21. Mrs. Campbell was a sedate lady. Post master Archie McKenzie succeeded Campbell until 1892. Mrs. Anne Campbell had the job from then until 1912, when rural mail delivery began. The station house also contained a store, as did the Trousdale home across the tracks, kept by Mrs. Bob Trousdale. There is a memory of Billie Trousdale keeping the post office as well. The CPR also built a house for the section foreman.
An early photo of the store at Corwhin reveals prominently the first small railway station, with signage announcing that you have just arrived at “Corwin” One wonders if this was a spelling error or was the “h” added later ? The station platform had many milk or cream cans, attesting to the use made of the Guelph Junction RR in the early days.
Other facilities in the station yard including the Weigh Scales, which were on the far side of the station house, the stock yards at the far end, with the coal yard on the north east side. A carload of coal would be unloaded from the train, and sold to local customers. Farmers shipped their cattle from there. Carloads of salt were brought in and farmers would get their season's supply in bags. and carloads of grain were also available There was great rail service, At one tine there were 14 passenger trains - 7 each way, providing good service for local people. There were also quite a few freight trains.
Occasionally the railway created problems for the property owners through whose farms it passed. A poem, written by a friend of the McKenzies, original settlers, has been passed down through the years to successive owners. "Chief Christie" refers to Christie McKenzie, a spinster daughter of the settlers and an active worker in church and community affairs. She was born October 6, 1865 and kept house for her two unmarried brothers. The other names refer to friends and Corwhin neighbours).
Here's to the Corwhin Fire Brigade!
Brave men and maidens, undismayed,
Who, despite the heat of July (and the fire)
Successfully battled (and did not say "tire")
Till all was o'er, and a picture taken,
Then homeward they rode and (the Chief got a "shakin').
"Lieut" McLaren saw smoke near the track -
Informed "Chief" Christie and so she went back
And forthwith send in a general alarm,
Her voice (in high C) fairly pierced the whole farm.
Regardless of this Annie reached for the bell,
(with the aid of a quilting frame) rang it like-well!
Awfully hard - This brought the men back
From their work in the hayfield - to work, near the track
With the "hook and ladder" and "Jed" as a mascot,
Ahead of them were Lieuts. Mack and Hascott
Arrived on the spot, their well-handled work
Soon put out the blaze - each worked like a Turk.
The men plowed around, and, looking like Endor's witch,
Each girl quenched small fires with the aid of a switch.
Mishaps were few - (Helene tripped o'er her switches,
While John tore a hole in the knee of his breeches).
But aside from these things, not one bit of gloom
Settled on this brave crowd. Their friend Peter Hume
Upon their return gave a blood-curdling yell,
Like an Apache Indian (of which you've heard tell)
To show his approval of the entire Brigade
And the gallant fight which, with fire, they had made
But oh! what a dinner they ate that day
Thank goodness! That fire seldom comes that way
Now I've sung their praises and wish them all well,
Years hence, in their own homes, each one may tell
To his wife or her "hub", how I lent my aid
In July 1903, to the Corwhin Brigade.Helene O. Hascott.
Before a school was built in the section, Andrew McRobbie, an early settler, held a class for Bible Study, in a house on Lot 21, Concession 10, which was attended by young and old. When the first school was built, the class met there. In 1860, Peter McLaren, the newly-appointed school teacher, was persuaded by McRobbie to take charge of the class For the first several years, there was no division of classes, and he was the only teacher. No classes were held in the winter until the 1890's, when Sabbath evening classes were held.. Increasing attendance necessitated division into classes. McLaren took the older class of boys, and was assisted by Andrew McRobbie, Francis R Beattie, Miss Catherine McRobbie, Miss Ann McFarlane, and Miss Maggie McKeracher (now Mrs. John Douglas). McLaren continued as superintendent and teacher until 1880, when he left the community. Several young men who have entered the ministry received their early classical training from him. McLaren was known as “ Professor of Puslinch”, after ten of his students entered the ministry - Rev. Gilbert G. McRobbie, Rev. Francis .R. Beattie, DD., Rev. Daniel M. Beattie, BA.; Rev. William E. Beattie, BA.; Rev. Donald C McKenzie, MA; Rev. Robert Watt; Rev. P. J. McLaren, BA.; Rev. J. M. McLaren, BA; Rev. John Little; Rev. R. T. Cockburn.
After McLaren retired, John Little and J A Cockburn took charge for about a year. Early in 1882, J. A. Cockburn was appointed Superintendent and Bible Class teacher, and continued in that office for forty-four years. In 1899, average attendance was 40 out of the 60 names on the roll. The Bible Class closed after Church Union in 1925.
Although rural mail represented progress, it also had drawbacks as this memory reveals: “To receive the mail, the carrier took many weary steps. The mail for East Concession 8 and West Concession 9 was delivered from Puslinch, and picked up at Morriston. When the carrier arrived at Corwhin, he picked up the mail for East Concession 9 and West Concession 10, delivering it on the return trip. East Concession 10 and the Townline still receive their mail from Moffat.”
In 1910 or 11 the senior Troudales purchased the second farm south of their store, and the Campbells took over their grocery store until they built their own store on the west side of the tracks which also housed the Corwhin Post Office. About this time a new RR station was built, also on the west side of the tracks. Teenagers relied on the railway to go to high school at Guelph High School. There were sometiimes outings to Toronto. At an earlier time, train patrons were given the special service of disembarking right at their homes. Guelph Junction RR discontinued passenger service in 1961, and in December 1962 the Corwhin Station building, was moved away to a farm operated by John Yaremka, Provincial Secretary at that time.
Sheldon Trousdale lived at Corwhin for many years on his mother’s Laing family farm, now the Aberfoyle Country Club. His father was an Irish immigrant who worked on the railroad at Milton before he began operating the first store at Corwhin. Mrs. Trousdale’s family history goes back to Mary Ramsey, whom Mrs. Trousdale pointed out was the first child to be born in this area. By 1910-1911 Sheldon began farming. He had learned bee keeping from his uncle James Laing. By 1928, Sheldon had five yards of bees, as far removed as Breslau and Freelton, and in that year, his production exceeded 12 tons, which he sold for 10 cents per pound. For a time Sheldon served as president of the South Wellington CCF and he commented that if he got six people to attend a meeting he was well satisfied.
When the first settlers came to the Corwhin community, the scholars from the south-east part of the section attended a union school in the neighbourhood of Corwhin. Those living in the north-west portion of the section attended the Arkell School. Andrew Laing taught for some years in the Union School at Corwhin. Perhaps this was the first school in the section, which was a very small stone structure on the corner of the 11th concession and county road 34.
In 1856 the ratepayers around Corwhin inquired from Council about a school. They received a notice dated December 23, 1856, relative to By-Law Puslinch, Dec. 23, 1856
To John McLean. Sir:I have the honour to in form you that in conformity with the third clause of the eighteenth section of the common school act of 1850 the Municipal Council of this Township has authorized and requires you to appoint the time and place of holding the first School meeting for the election of three Trustees for school section number 10 and may be known as follows: from Lot 14 to Lots 25 in the ninth, tenth and eleventh concession of this Township inclusive and that the territory above named be a School Section to all intents and purposes. Copies of your notice are to be posted in at least three public places in the School Section above described at least six days before the time of holding such meeting.
Signed by Robert Thos. Johnston, Township Clerk
The first annual meeting of School Section No. 10 was held January 14, 1857. Duncan McFarlane was appointed Chairman, and the elected trustees were Robert Beattie, Hugh Cassin, John McLean. It was moved that a free school be established. A special meeting was held January 26, 1857 to consider a proper site to erect a school house. The site closest to the centre of the Section was between Lots 19 and 20 front half of the new line of road, Concession 10, Puslinch. The land was purchased from John Laing. Alexander Warren, who held a second class certificate was the first teacher and he taught for two years. In 1858 he was paid $360.00 for the year. Of interest is an agreement drawn up in 1859 between the Trustees and Mr. Warren, setting his salary at $340. per annum. He was also given a one-week vacation during harvest time besides the legal vacation of two weeks.. In 1860 Peter McLaren, who held a first-class certificate, became teacher and he taught at SS 10 for 20 years. He also served terms as Chairman, Trustee and Auditor.
According to the 5th clause of the 12th section of the Upper Canada School Act of 1850, Trustees were responsible for collecting the money to pay for the school house and the teacher. In 1857 a list of residents in SS 10 was drawn up along with their assessed value (in English currency). There were 49 people on the list, two of whom were women, Mrs. Gilmour and Janet McRobbie. Jane (nee McPherson) McRobbie was the wife of Lodwick McRobbie who had died in 1852 at the age of 34. Assessment was two pence, three farthing per pound for the school house and one penny per pound for the schoolmaster. The highest assessment in the section was 700 pounds, not a large amount.
After a few years the offspring of many large families outgrew the small building, there being as many as eighty scholars on the roll during the winter months. Quite a number of these were grown men and women. On January 9, 1878 it was decided that a new schoolhouse should be built. On January 26 a special meeting was called to reconsider the proposal and it was moved that the old school house be retained, enlarged and repaired. One acre of land was purchased for $100. from John Laing for a playground and the school grounds were fenced by Duncan McFarlane for $129.00.
In 1884 it was felt that a new school was needed as the old school was needing many repairs, At the annual school meeting on December 31, 1884, it was moved by Duncan Gilchrist and seconded by John Laing that we build a new school house. Carried. On January 31, 1885, a special meeting of ratepayers of this section was held to decide how the money was to be raised and over what period of time payments would be made. Moved by Robert Beattie, seconded by Kenneth McKenzie that money be borrowed and paid for in four years. Carried. The school was built that summer on the same lot as the previous school. Contract price was $1,025, equipment was $124. It was probably Wm. Stratton who was the contractor. Some of the equipment in this new school was a large wood stovethat often produced more smoke than heat; a huge wood-box that was to be filled daily by the boys; a teacher's desk in which was carefully hidden a weighty strap; a corner in the room carefully selected and near the teacher, in which to stand and complete homework that had been neglected the night before. The boys were also carefully taught the art of using brooms to keep the floor in order.
Corwhin trustees must have been frugal. They usually brought forward a balance from the previous year. They used the same book to record their meetings from 1857 to 1919. Expenses for 1858 were $384.58 and in 1919 expenses were $724.90. For 61 years the average expenditure was about $600. per year.
On December 6, 1873, a special meeting of ratepayers was held to select a site for the Teacher's residence. Moved by David Watt, seconded by Duncan McKeracher that power be given to Trustees to select a site. Carried. At the January 16, 1874 annual meeting, the Trustees reported to have selected a site on the north corner Lot 21, rear concession 9 and one-half acre of land for $75 purchased from Robert Black. A. Davidson drew up the plans for the for the residence for a fee of $4.00 . Moved by John McRobbie, seconded by William Kerr that the Trustees raise taxes for school purposes.
February 21, 1874, the Trustees of SS No. 10 met to receive tenders for erection of the Teacher's residence, of fencing grounds, and building a stable. There were four tenders, and Conrad Rothmel's tender at the sum of $709 was accepted. The house was completed by October 1, 1874, after which is was expected and extras were added ( $11.). Those trustees were Duncan Gilchrist, Duncan McFarlane and James McLaren.
Annual Meeting Dec. 30, 1908: "Moved and seconded that we sell the teacher's residence. Moved and seconded that we do not sell the teacher's residence. Amendment carried." Annual Meeting Dec. 29, 1909 "Moved and seconded that trustees advertise for tenders for teacher's residence and if considered satisfactory, to call a meeting of ratepayers. Carried." Meeting of ratepayers March 28 1910. Moved by Hector Gilchrist sec. by James Black that we offer the teacher's residence for sale by Public Auction subject to a reserve bid of $500.00. Moved by Robt. Watt, sec. by D.C. Campbell that we do not offer the teacher's residence for sale. Moved in amendment to amendment by John Hohenadel, sec. by Chas. Richardson that we offer the teacher's residence for sale, subject to a reserve bid of $450.00 . Amendment to amendment carried. It was contentious!
The school teacher's residence had been rented out since 1880 when Peter McLaren had retired. It had been rented by James Laing, Mrs. Dick and Charles Richardson. Charles Richardson bought the house and his daughter Annie (Mrs. Hugh Bertram Gibson) still had the original deed. Charles Richardson was born in Teeswater. Orphaned at 13, he came to live in Arkell with his Uncle Thomas Willoughby. He married Susan McGibbon, only daughter of Aberfoyle blacksmith Peter McGibbon and his wife. Susan and Charles were blessed with six children. When Charles died in 1942, Annie, his second youngest child, inherited the house. In 1980, ill health forced Annie to move to Guelph; her son George and his wife Jean and their family then lived in the former teacher's residence. Annie attended the Corwhin School in the early 1900's. Her teachers were Misses Robertson, Barclay and Stewart. Robert Irving was the spare teacher. Annie's favourite teacher was Miss Harriet Barclay. Although a strict disciplinarian, Annie thought she was marvellous. There was an average of 40 pupils in the 8 classes but she managed to keep them interested and busy. Harriet Barclay married William Stallibrass William was a "home boy" and had arrived, unexpected, at the Schaw Station (Puslinch) when he was only 11 years old. Catharine McRobbie and her brother James, who had gone to the station to meet their hired hand, saw William and opened their home at Corwhin, and their hearts to the young lad. He stayed with the McRobbies and eventually operated the farm after the death of James. A happy glow lit up Annie Gibson's face as she reminisced about her school days at SS 10. She talked of the beautiful Christmas concerts, the school decorations, and the fun and games they had at recess and noon hour. Baseball was a favourite, along with charades and anti-anti-over. Sometimes Annie, Julie O'Brien and Mary Atkinson (Mrs. Sam Hume of Arkell) would go into the bush to play. They gathered moss, twigs and leaves, to decorate their play homes. In the winter they had super sleigh rides down the big hill beside the school.
August 17, 1920, at a meeting held in Aberfoyle, the school board voted to enter into co-operation with SS 1, 4 and 5 for a continuation school in Aberfoyle in the old creamery building, and later in the residence of Mr. & Mrs. Earl Howie, which was equivalent to Grades 9 and 10. It disbanded in 1925.
Discussion and agreement on digging a basement out and installing a furnace occupied the December 7, 1923 annual meeting. Trustees then were William Stallibrass, Robert J. McFarlane and John N. Cockburn. In the spring of 1924 Andrew McEdwards had the contract for raising the floor to make room for the furnace. His price was $88.50. Hugh Reid dug out the basement with a horse and scraper for $70. A Clare Brothers furnace was installed for $279.95. Jack Carruthers built the chimney.
Duncan McFarlane wrote that SS 10 School had a unique yard. It had a steep hill on one side for sleigh riding. At the bottom was a ball diamond and on the other side was a beautiful trout stream. There was also a hill on the road which was great for tobogganing but we were not allowed to sleigh ride there. One of the pupils was sleigh riding down the school hill and went right through the basement window. His friends thought he would be seriously hurt but he didn't have a scratch. We also used to go skating on Clugston's Pond at the end of the road at noon hour. The teacher would ring the bell at 5 minutes to 1 p.m. to give us time to get back to school by 1 p.m. but some kids had poor hearing!
No. 10 School was noted for the good Christmas Concerts. The senior young people would put on two numbers which was a lot of fun. In the early 1950's there were 5 sets of twins going to No.10 School, namely the Beavers, the Nicholsons, the Hohenadels, the Wagners and the Courtneys. At one time there was a social club held on Friday evenings. We had debates, spelling matches, bingo and sometimes a dance.
There were many wells dug or drilled at the school but they always had problems with iron or sulphur, so they piped the water from a spring up in Charles Laing's property which is now owned by Joe Yaren. It was piped down through the creek bed.
SS 10 joined the school area when it was formed in 1947. Mrs. Nellie Stewart was one of the last teachers who taught at the school. In 1961 a meeting was held at the school to discuss closing it and busing the children to Aberfoyle. It was agreed to close the school and to sell the building. Don Schwartz, Chairman of the School Area Board, asked Duncan McFarlane, a well known and respected resident of the Section, to be chairman of the last school meeting for SS 10. It was a fitting choice, for it had been Duncan's grand-father, also Duncan McFarlane, who had been chairman of the first school meeting held in 1857.
When the property was offered for sale, the South Wellington Division of the Girl Guides of Canada recognized its potential as a campsite, and was able to make the purchase, with a "Camp Fund" started in 1957. A later grant from the City of Guelph, donations from the Optimists and further funds raised by members of the Guiding organization allowed the property to be paid in full in 1963. Camp Corwhin was officially opened October 20, 1963 and has been in use year-round ever since, providing a camping experience for local Guides and Brownies. More recently, it is a 1.25 acre camp site with tenting for guides, and the school house is equipped with kitchen. The (Silver Birch) Division uses it only in September.
Membership in the society is open to anyone interested in the history of Puslinch Township giving you access to the archives, assistance with your research from committed voluteers, a newsletter and occasional events of historic interest.
29 Brock Road South
Puslinch Historical Society
c/o Puslinch Library
R.R. #3, 29 Brock Road South
Guelph (Aberfoyle), Ontario N1H 6H9