PHS Research


Township of Puslinch Crest

As part of our ongoing mandate to not only preserve our heritage and history but also to make it accessible to the public we have created this online research portal. Below you will find a wealth of information on the history of Puslinch categorized for easy search. Simply choose a topic below to begin your search.

Rural townships were divided into school sections when public education first began in the mid-nineteenth century. Each area soon became a community of its own and people in Puslinch would say, for example, “We’re from Badenoch.” Immediately other residents would know that they lived in southeast Puslinch. The school sections in the Township were numbered S.S. 1 to 12.

In 2015 the Puslinch Historical Society offered public viewings of their compilation, The Communities in Puslinch. This was presented over 3 evenings, with four of the twelve school districts offered each night.

There have been many requests to see this presentation by people who were unable to attend, so it was decided to post the document on our website. Since the files are mostly pictures – making them large files to download and view – the complete file has been divided into four parts.

KILLEAN

EARLY SETTLEMENT

While David Gibson was surveying the west part of Puslinch in 1831, he and an emigrant member of his crew, Peter Blue, were impressed by the environment of the intersection of concession 1 and Mill Creek. They shared their enthusiasm with other emigrants in York. In 1832 the first sale of land in the southwest corner of Puslinch took place at York. The first lot offered was Lot 9, concession 1, which was pur­chased by Wm. Blue for his brother Angus, at 8 shillings an acre. He also purchased lot 13, con 1 for himself. The land was then offered at the same rate to intending settlers, and that day, lots 9-19, concession 1 inclusive, were purchased mainly by settlers from Kintyre, Argyleshire, including Thomson, McPhatter, McNaughton, and McCormick families. This group attracted other Kintyre and Isle of Arran families, Gilchrist, McMillan, Wilkinson, Currie, Ramsay, McMaster, and McKellar. McKellar. They named the community for their home parish in Kintyre.

The first settler on lot 9 was George Page, who was French, and who kept the first tavern at Killean on his property. Angus Blue, the property owner, continued as proprietor, and ran the tavern and hostel as well as being a miller. The tavern and adjoining log buildings stood some few hundred feet west of the present stone house. There is evidence that because of the comings and goings at the tavern and hostel there were some "indiscriminate" burials of persons, often unknown, on the west side of the farm. Wm. Nicol from Beverly kept the first Store across the road.

James Johnston, who subsequently moved to New Hope (now Hespeler) built a blacksmith shop just West of the store. After he left Neil Wilkinson built a shop on the corner of Lot 10 opposite Nicol's Store on Rear Gore Lot 9. Archibald Cochrane, son of Gilbert on lot 14 rear Gore, was also a blacksmith.

KILLEAN CEMETERY

The first burials were in 1834. In October 1831 "little" John Thomson purchased land for his father. Shortly after, little John's father, James Thomson, settled on lot 10. There was a large Thomson family, and on the journey from their birthplace in Killean Parish in Kintyre, Argyleshire his other sons contacted tuberculosis. Donald died February 5, 1834, age 33 , and his body was brought from Hamilton and buried in the west corner of the farm. In mid- July, 1834, Malcolm, age 21, died and was buried there, as were the other brothers, in 1840, and the third one in 1852. Burials continued on both sides of the line fence until October 12, 1872 when the two property owners, Donald Ferguson, who then owned the lot 9 property formerly occupied by Angus Blue, and John Thomson on lot 10, officially deeded the land to three cemetery trustees and a secretary-treasurer. The cemetery is still maintained by volunteers.

Some tombstone inscription indicates the wry humour of the community:

“Cursed be their bones

Unsound their rest

That o'er this plot of ground molest

Except they be my kinsmen near

They have no right to slumber here."


Another reads,

“Stop traveller, as you pass by,

As you are now, so was I

As I am now, you soon must be

Prepared for death, and follow me”

KILLEAN SCHOOLS

As soon as pioneer settlers had their own buildings habitable, they turned to the building of a School and a Church. They built their log church on Neil McPhatter’s on lot 15 property in 1840, and the minister and congregation from the East Presbyterian Church worshipped there every fourth Sunday until 1854 when the next church was built at Crieff.

The first school opened in 1843 when Archibald McMaster obtained the bond from Upper Canada, and donated land from his lot 8 concession 1 farm. Neil Currie taught the local children there until a proper log school was built in 1850. Wm Lamont got the contract for a building 28' x 36' , with a door and 5 windows. The seats were pine boards with a short back and seated at least 2 pupils. The desks, also of pine, were said to be more like narrow tables. It also had a loft in which some teachers lived.

Neil Currie was a man of many talents. Educated on Arran Island, he could make wills, convey land, and was a skilled carpenter, although Willie Blue is credited with being the community’s first carpenter. He even claimed to be able to write the Lord's prayer in a 2" circle. He received his teaching certificate on the premise that he was a loyal British subject and could name all of the Royal family. When Squire Heath questioned him for certification he asked when Scotland was conquered, and Currie answered "Never!" His recipe for ink was ferrous sulphate mixed with boiled maple bark and sugar. His pens were made from goose quills.

The stone school was built in 1868, at the same time as the Ferguson stone store was built close the edge of the cemetery which was deed a few years later. The lime for both was burned in a kiln on the back of lot 9. Teacher Archibald McPherson’s scholarship attracted students from neighboring school sections who could be prepared for higher education. He was also a strict disciplinarian who kept birch switches handy to use one at the slightest infraction of the rules.

The school was a community gathering place. Political meetings, religious services and revival meetings after 1854, led by Ministers from Crieff, and Ministers or laymen from Galt, on Sunday evenings. Occasionally a good singer would introduce new hymns. For many years a very efficient Sabbath School was maintained with Donald Currie, superintendent, assisted by Miss Catherine McMaster. Donald Currie was a devout person who supported his wife with prayer while she provided medical services to the community. Social events included the Annual School Examinations, attended by the entire section, and tea meetings or soiree, to furnish funds to pay the clergymen for their services. Talent from nearby towns provided the entertainment. One example illustrates the resourcefulness of the organizing committee - the Methodist choir from Hespeler, with their organ. The organ was transported during the day; the choir was delivered by bob sleigh, properly fitted up. Taking them home after midnight did not attract volunteers, so they hired a Hespeler teamster for the occasion. Of all the entertainments, the Magic Lantern made the biggest sensation. If the proceeds exceeded $25.00, everyone was satisfied.

THE STORE

The Ferguson brothers, Donald and Lewis, Scots from Perthshire, came to Puslinch in 1857 from New York, where they gained retail experience. Donald opened a store and in 1865, a Post Office in Killean. Until the Post Office closed in 1912, he and his family were post masters. The store stocked most items required by the community and to a large extent operated on the barter system. One school boy recalled bringing a few eggs to exchange for fish hooks or for slate pencils. Ferguson had arranged a bell communication to summon him from his adjoining home, and the little boys were eager to pull the cord. Mail came in twice a week, and entire families would crowd into the store on mail night. While waiting for service, some strips of dried cod fish were occasionally sampled. In the first week of December, the Tax Collector used the store as his base.

RAILROAD STATION

The Credit Valley Railway, forerunner of the CPR, was built in 1879-1880, just .6 km south of the hamlet. It enabled mail to be dropped off at the station, and also allowed for easy access to the outside world. The Station was mistakenly named Leslie, but was generally known as Killean Station until it became official about 1915. The service was well used by the community. High School students used the railway to attend High School in Galt. Young women, teaching elsewhere, would send a post card to their family, advising of their arrival. During an ice storm in 1926, a young man left his horse at the Ramsay farm, close to the station, as was customary, got on the battery car and returned by the east bound passenger train an hour later. when it closed in the mid-1960's The station building was moved to a local farm.

Finally, we have a story written by Angus Ferguson, descendent of the Ferguson family, of the highlight of his school year in the old school, in the early twenties. Like other rural schools in the 1960's, the school closed in favour of a central school, and became a private residence.

REMEMBERING S.S.7 KILLEAN CHRISTMAS

A hint of winter was in the air as I stood looking at the old stone building that was once the school where I received my early education. In my mind I pictured it as it was in the early twenties when I was a schoolboy and our teacher, herself not yet out of her teens, would be preparing for the event of the Community year - the Christmas Concert - one of my most precious memories.

For days in this old one-room school, we practised the recitations, skits and songs that were, and still are, the eternal story of Christmas. The Christmas Concert was the big community gathering of the year when everyone came, from the youngest to the oldest, and brought friends from the surrounding communities. The props involved were the products of the imagination of the young teacher and her pupils aged 5-18. No sophisticated sets here - old sheets and blankets, a few chairs and a table. Make-up was contrived from various colours of horse-hair, of which horse stables provided an abundance., wool pulled form the backs os some reluctant sheep and lamp-black from a smoky lantern glass.

In memory I attended again that special night and hung my coat on top of classmate's on one of the lowest hooks. Between the pine planks, set up as auxiliary seating, I pictured again the old cast-iron box stove at the rear of the schoolroom and beyond that the chandelier of 8 oil lamps lighting the chains and streamers of crepe paper hung in the deep windows. Beyond the rows of double desks, the teacher's desk placed at one side to make room for the rough plank platform, was our stage and beside the desk the old pump organ, to be played by a classmate's mother at relevant periods during the evening. At the other end of the stage, and perfect in its symmetry, would stand a 15-foot spruce tree, the result of a contest to find the perfect tree, even if it meant cutting down a 40 or 50-footer to get the top. The crepe paper chains and ribbons and the simple baubles, preserved year after year, could not hide the heady smell of the tree not piles of crepe or tissue-wrapped present placed there by teacher and pupils.

Memory heard again the young voices raised in the old Christmas Carols Again I saw the Page following Good King Wenceslas, and in their finery, the Three Kings of Orient. In recitation and rhyme we were told the old stories of Christmas, stories never to be forgotten once imprinted upon those youthful minds.

The BIG event was our Santa Claus, all 6 feet four inches of him stamping in with a belt of sleigh-bells around his black buffalo-skin coat and his white wool beard topped by a red knitted toque. Over his shoulder was the inevitable white grain-bag bobbing in time to his deep "Ho-Ho-Ho Merry Christmas!" Seated on the stage he called out the names as the teacher and 2 older girls handed him the simple gifts, "Fred, :Nellie, Gordon, Dorothy, Donald", now he whacked a young head with what he perceived was pencil-box or grabbed a tiny frightened hand in reassurance.

With the gift-giving over, the grain-bag is opened and out comes an old accordion. The big rough hands almost engulf the key board as Santa plays. Not too many carols here, but the toe-tapping rhythms of "Buffalo Girls," quot;The Girl I left Behind Me," or the "Crooked Stove-pipe" has the audience cheer and yell "more, more" until the teacher breaks it off with a Thank You to Santa and the audience. Bags of candies, compliments of the School Board, are handed out to the children, and the evening ends.

The very simplicity; of the Christmas Concert was the measure of a simpler lifestyle. The discomforts were many and this community spirit was necessary for survival. Without any hand-outs from Governments, large or small, no person would go hungry, no infant born without the basics of care, no older person without wood or kindling for a fire, no livestock or chores of the ill or injured left unattended, no door ever locked, nor any death or sadness endured without sympathy.



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PHYSICAL ADDRESS:

29 Brock Road South
Aberfoyle, Ontario

MAILING ADDRESS:

Puslinch Historical Society
c/o Puslinch Library
R.R. #3, 29 Brock Road South
Guelph (Aberfoyle), Ontario N1H 6H9

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This is the work of volunteers in the community.
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