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The first hamlet of Puslinch began at Adam Black’s Hotel, on Brock Road, located on the family property, adjacent to the Beverly border at the Gore of Puslinch. The hotel building burned and was not replaced. At the time the hamlet stretched to Crieff crossroad where Donald and Lewis Ferguson operated a store before locating in Killean. Dan McIntosh kept a tailor shop on Lot 36, on the west side of Brock Road. A senior remembered the tailor as he sat cross-legged on his table, plying his needle.
An enormous amount of teaming and hauling was done on this road, not only from the Township, but to and from points north of Guelph to the lake ports near Hamilton.
The early history of the hamlet at Puslinch cannot be written without reference to the Leslie family. William Wade Leslie, of Fermanagh Co. Ireland was an officer under the Duke of Wellington an Irish officer under the Duke of Wellington, who married Lady Louise Lavaine la Sashe in France during the stay of the British soldiers in France after the war against Napoleon. Here their son William, familiarly know in this neighborhood as "Squire Leslie of Puslinch", was born in 1816. The other children were born in Ireland. In 1831 the Squire's father retired from the army with half pay, emigrated to Canada in 1833 to take up his military services grant of 397 acres in the gore of Puslinch, and received his patent July 18, 1833, dated at York, Upper Canada. At that time, according to the deed, Puslinch was in the Province of Upper Canada and in the county of Halton and District of Gore. The deed reserved to the Crown all mines of gold and silver on the property, and also all white pine trees (for use in shipbuilding). The Leslies were people of property in Ireland and at the death of his father, William Wade Leslie returned to Ireland, and disposed of the property. While returning to Canada with the money, his ship went down with no survivors.
William, being the eldest son, succeeded to his father's property in Puslinch. During the William Lyon MacKenzie’s rebellion in 1837 he took an active part among the Militia and occupied the position of paymaster’s sergeant for the volunteers from the Gore District taking up his residence with them in Hamilton during those troublous times. He continued his connection with the service up to the last and received one promotion after another until he reached the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. After the rebellion had been quelled, he moved back to the old homestead where he carried on farming. About 1854 he established the store now known as the Puslinch post office store at Schaw Station. Shortly afterwards he was appointed Division Court Clerk for the Second Division Court of the county and he subsequently received appointments from the government as Magistrate and issuer of marriage licenses respectively. For many years he held the position of Secretary of the Road Commissioners for the counties of Wentworth, Wellington and Waterloo which he held until these counties were separated several years ago. Being a representative conservative he was chosen to contest the first election of the Ontario Legislature after confederation in 1867 but was defeated. But it was in municipal matters that Mr. Leslie stood forth prominently. He was first elected in 1843 as a councillor to represent the township of Puslinch in the old Gore District Council which presided over the municipal affairs of the country extending from Paris to Bronte Harbour. He continued his connection with the county in one capacity and another until the end of 1881. During this long term of office, extending over a period of 38 years, he held the office of Reeve for 20 years. His retirement was made the occasion of a supper in his honour and the presentation of a handsome gold watch and purse from his friends in Puslinch which took place in the town hall at Aberfoyle, January 20, 1882. In 1864 he was elected Warden of the County for the first time and had also the honour of filling that high position for another term. While in the county council he was generally regarded as a financier of no mean order and for many years he filled the office of Chairman of the Finance Committee with ability and faithfulness. During the last two years he has devoted his time to his private business exclusively and has been extensively engaged in buying grain, which found an outlet at Schaw Station, by the Credit Valley Railway, the construction of which was warmly advocated by him. In his private relations he was generally liked and respected by all who knew him. In 1836 he married Jane, daughter of Capt. Gordon of Hamilton. Their family of eight daughters and four sons, all grew to adulthood. Surviving are: Mrs. John A McDonald of Schaw, Mrs. Rev. Richard Harrison of Toronto, Mrs. Henry Ironsides of Park Hill, Mrs. William Coulter of Toronto, Mrs. Dr. Richard Orton of Guelph, Mrs. L A Pentecost of Hamilton and two unmarried daughters (who became Mrs. Donald McLean, Mrs. George Greer), also the following sons: William G. of Puslinch, Rev. Henry T of Winnipeg and two younger ones at home (Henry W and Vivian B). There are also two sisters and several brothers living. His siblings were George 1819 married Mary Wise of Puslinch; Jane m Andrew Wise and they farmed in Beverly; Mary m Joseph Black and they farmed near Owen Sound; the youngest son, Peter, who was six weeks old when they left Ireland, married Mary Linderman and they farmed in Egremont. Squire Leslie died in 1884 leaving his property to the Macdonald and Ironside families. It was his grandson, Clarence Macdonald, who had the lovely red brick family home built.
Travellers along the Brock road or by the Credit Valley railway, appreciated the hospitality experienced at the modest mansion of this Canadian Country squire built on lot 37, whenever they had occasion to sojourn near Puslinch or in more recent time, stop off at the station. The Old Country social traditions of Notfield and Holybrook, Leslie estates in Ireland, have been worthily reproduced at "Green Hill" Puslinch.
The second son of Lady Louise and William Wade was George Leslie. He was one of the area's local preachers often walking 12 miles to Guelph to conduct services. His wife, Mary Wise (1824-1891) was of Pennsylvania Dutch origin and with her family emigrated to Canada in 1828. Their family name was Weise and some members changed their name to Wise, while others chose Wyse as the spelling. George and Mary settled in Beverly buying lot 32, conc 10 clearing it and burning lime there. They had 12 children and those remaining in this area were Jane Mrs. Wm McCuen of Beverly; Maryann Mrs. Wm Reid of Aberfoyle and George W who came to Puslinch in 1875, bought 95 acres lot 25 conc 7 practised farming and trapping, married Mary Patterson of Nassagaweya Township; issue Charles and Bertie; later married Jennie Bayliss; issue one son Roy, whose daughter was the late Norma Smith.
William Leslie received the appointment of post master of Puslinch on September 9, 1847 but the office was not opened until Feb. 6 1849. He may have been motivated to proceed with this in part by his experience returning from Galt, where he had walked to get mail, when night overtook him, and there being no roads, (only blazes here and there through the bush), he got lost and wolves overtook him. He climbed a tree and had to remain there over night. When daylight came, the wolves disappeared. Joseph Grant acted as deputy post master for Leslie. The Puslinch post office was the first established office between Dundas and Guelph July 19, 1850, a passenger and mail coach service began, leaving Hamilton at 8 a.m. arriving at Guelph at 4 p.m. when another coach left Guelph arriving at Hamilton at midnight. En route, mail was delivered at Puslinch. The first mail from Dundas to Puslinch, came directly, with no intervening stops.
In 1862,a mail route was established from Puslinch via Crieff, Killean and Clyde to Galt and return, twice weekly in 1875, then three times weekly till 1887 when a daily service was arranged from Puslinch to Crieff, and from the Killean Station to the Killean P O
Postmasters at Puslinch all belonged to the same family tree. William Leslie until his death, 1884‑12‑01. This was in the horse and buggy era when it took a full day’s driving to get mail from Hamilton. His son-in-law, John A. McDonald 1885‑01‑01, was Leslie’s clerk and accountant in 1875-6, and took over the post office for the rest of his life. 1923‑11‑11. In that period the trains brought the mail, morning and night. His son, Clarence Monsul Macdonald (1876‑12) 1923‑12‑15 also continued until his death 1948‑02‑02 . He was followed by his son Winston Churchill Macdonald 1948‑02‑05 - 1976‑11‑04, who got his training while taking his turn to wait at the station for the mail. He worked with his father from age 16. Originally 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 mail getting through in spite of wind, hail, sleet and snow was not quite accurate, for the train was not always punctual. Often in winter, it might be 2 or 3 days late and Winston remembered waiting until 1 a.m. for the 7 p.m. train which had an accident at Ayr. Apparently the train depot itself was a local hangout for the men. After 28 years of loyal service to Canada Post, Winston Churchill Macdonald retired in November, 1976. The post office then became the responsibility of his nephew’s wife, Sylvia .G. McConnell 1976‑11‑05, at her home, until the office closed, December 3, 1990. By then the post office served three rural routes, with 550 patrons, and provided service for 50 general delivery boxes. Puslinch Post Office was a busy one. It had morning and evening mails via the CPR, and also handled locked bags to Freelton, Carlisle, Morriston and Aberfoyle via motor car.
Wickets and counters whose wooden edges have been worn round and smooth dominated the interior of the small office. In the background were endless rows of letter boxes or pigeon holes, some of which had been fashioned from ordinary card board boxes. In the centre of the office was an oil fired stove pipe which kept the interior as warm as toast. The Puslinch Post office served a total of 60 general delivery customers, 700 rural route customers and employed three drivers. Bill Kitchen did RR 1; Mr. & Mrs. Tom Priest RR 2 and William Nicholl, with 28 years to his credit on RR 3.
Dan McIntosh, Tailor, was still in the township in 1881.
John A. Macdonald succeeded to the Post Office and Store upon the death of his father-in-law, W W Leslie. A partner with him was another Leslie son-in-law, Henry Ironside. There were busy days when the two men were in business together. Henry and Adelaide (Leslie) Ironside owned and resided in the house on the hill above Puslinch, and owned the whole centre of the village. He and John A. Macdonald were in the store and in the grain and coal business together until they split up. Macdonald kept the store and Ironside took the grain and coal end of the business, adding to it a big cattle business and shipping everything by train. The railway station was so busy that there were three full time operators on duty. Ironside remained in business until about 1913 and his nephew described him as "a great man."
By 1875-6 Puslinch had, in addition, a blacksmith, Alexander Ballatyne, as well as Andrew Howie, who may have worked with him. 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 L. Huether. Donald MacPherson and his descendants always lived on the farm immediately south of the village. In 1953, John A MacPherson, 74, was the hamlet's oldest resident, lived where he was born, a son of Donald MacPherson who came from Scotland. He was a road superintendent for Puslinch Township for 15 years and for several years, he handled a rural mail route out of Puslinch post office. He was a former director of the Puslinch Mutual Fire Insurance Co and then a sales representative. There is indication that the MacPherson house was once a hotel. A 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 building burned. When Highway was reconfigured in 1927, the former hotel building was moved to its location on the east side of the highway.
William Huether operated a coal business at Puslinch four decades beginning perhaps in the 1930's. A lifelong resident of the district, he was born at Morriston. 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. His constant companion around the yard and on his deliveries was his black cocker spaniel, Nipper.
For 42 years, 1916-1958, Roy Duffield drove stagecoach and mail - he began with two teams of horses for 3-4 years, then switched to motor truck-from Guelph through Puslinch to Freelton. This saved him 31/2 hours on the 11-mile trip from Aberfoyle to Guelph. He claimed he had driven about 600,000 miles, delivering rural mail. He later handled the locked mail bags in and from Aberfoyle, Morriston, Puslinch and Freelton, and the rural delivery route out of Guelph. He charged passengers 50 cents for the coach trip from Puslinch to Guelph and he nearly always had a load. His mail route grew from the original 50 homes to more than 150 before he retired. A snow storm in 1919 or 1920 closed the roads for three days. When he did manage to get out, his route was only on the road for two or three miles. Instead he went across fields, behind barns, or wherever he could get through, with his horses
William "Squire" Leslie established a general merchandise business in 1837, in which barter was the system of exchange. Macdonald family records indicate that it became an active store about 1854. The Post Office, when it opened, was in the same building. The original Leslie store was on the east side of the highway, known then as the Brock Road. The new railroad bridge built in 1927 forced the relocation of the business, to the west side of the road. That store was severely damaged by fire Sunday, October 6, 1946, and reopened early in November as an improved rural store.
Winston Macdonald recalled an incident, vividly etched in his mind, which occurred during prohibition.
"I was awakened early one Sunday morning by a great deal of shouting in front of the store. I got up, went there and heard my father talking to a rather excited stout, swarthy man. He wanted to buy gasoline for 8-10 big black cars, which was against the law then but my father filled the tanks. Then the boss-man purchased cheese, biscuits and sardines for his hungry men. They all drove off and we never saw them again. Later we learned the man was a notorious bootlegger from Hamilton who was using an old barn in the area as a transfer point for bringing in illegal liquor”.
The general store handled a selection of conventional foodstuffs, clothing, and such hardware items as a rat trap, a shovel, an electrical socket, even a padlock.
After the post-office moved from its joint building with the store, business at the store declined. After 3-4 years, ill health forced Winston Macdonald to sell the building. It was later used for storage, and finally for small business ventures.
Puslinch was described in the 1875-6 Gazetteer as a Post village on lots 36,37 gore, Township of Puslinch, situated on the Guelph and Dundas road. The Credit Valley Railroad is now building and will have a station here. Mail daily. Population about 100. Puslinch/Schaw reached its zenith somewhat later than the other villages, around the turn of the century (population 125 in 1905).
When the Credit Valley Railway, later taken over by the CPR, was being built through the community, Squire Leslie gave a free right of way through his property. In return, the CPR was to name the station, Leslie. This did not happen. The Puslinch station was named Schaw and the next stop along the line, at Killean, was named Leslie. This gave the community a dual identification - Schaw on the west side of the road, and Puslinch post office, on the east side. It was not until 1912 that the name Schaw was changed to Puslinch.
After the completion of the Credit Valley Railway in 1880, business centred around the station. This was a busy centre about the turn of the century, since it was the shipping point for the live stock industry in several townships and the grain trade operated by Henry W. Ironside, son-in-law of Squire Leslie. The railway station was so busy that there were three full time operators on duty. The stage driver often found it difficult to find a place to tie his team. There would often be a line of teams a mile long waiting to get to the station Fine crops of turnips and potatoes used to be raised in the area and were shipped to the US via train, and Mahoney's quarry on Gore Lot 34 was an important industry from the 90's until about 1925, shipping crushed stone, so Puslinch Village was rather a booming town then. The quarry business also helped the local economy by employing several local men.
The Dominion Express, before the building of the T H & B operated a morning and evening service to Dundas. James McPherson and J. J Currie drove the wagons in the early nineties. The large CPR warehouse west of the station was burned in 1919.
The most dangerous railway level crossing in Wellington County was the one at Puslinch. That road had been the busiest in the pre-railway days, and it came into its own again with ballooning motor car registrations after the First World War. On the railway, there were five passenger trains each way daily, including two express trains to Chicago. Only two trains stopped and the others, including at least a dozen, and sometimes as many as 20 freight trains which barrelled through. Due to bad sight-lines, especially from the east, where the rail line emerged from a cutting, the crossing was a recipe for disaster. Between 1920 and 1925 there were at least three fatal collisions at Puslinch, and several others that resulted in injuries to motorists. June 8, 1927, there was a particularly tragic accident which resulted in action. CPR had a member of Railway Commissioners riding on the fatal train. The Board had been concerned about the large number of crashes at Puslinch, and he was on a trip to view the location. Various authorities, in fact, had been considering improvements for some time. The provincial Department of Highways had a proposal for an overpass under active consideration. And the day before the crash, the engineering department of CPR had been at Puslinch to take measurements. Following the crash, the Railway Commission immediately issued an order restricting all trains to a speed of no greater than 10 miles per hour over the Puslinch crossing. A number of the engineers on the line, fearing a crash, had already been slowing down, even at the risk of falling behind their schedule. On the highway, skittish local motorists came to a complete stop before proceeding. The federal regulators were already pushing for a permanent solution. They ordered the construction of an overpass. Engineering work took place over the summer and fall of 1927. It seems likely that most of the cost fell on CPR. The work involved the construction of embankments for the highway on either side of the bridge. This necessitated the realignment of the highway, and relocation or demolition of a half dozen buildings, including the Puslinch store and the old hotel building. The over pass altered forever the appearance of the hamlet, erasing most of what remained of 19th century Puslinch. The railway was able to resume full speed for trains not stopping at the station. The Department replaced the original overpass in the 1960's with a more substantial structure and even more massive approaches.
No.6 Highway, paved in 1925, and the overhead crossing of the railway in 1927, which added an extra hill in the township, also meant that most trains no longer stopped. As a result, all local associated business, livestock shipping, grain trade and quarry business, also ceased. At the same time, trucking began to replace rail service. This changed the business character of Puslinch which had existed since the railway opened about 1880.
By 1937, due to decreased earnings, Puslinch station personnel was limited to a caretaker rather than an agent. In November 1948, the CPR was contemplating closing the station February 7, 1966 the Board of Transport Commission for Canada advised that approval had been given for removal of the railroad station at Puslinch.
About 15 families made up the population of the hamlet by the 1970's. Besides the general store and post office, there was the coal dealer, and those are those were the only places of business. There had never been either school or church in the hamlet. Freelton was only about three miles to the south, and Morriston less than two miles to the north. Puslinch youngsters attended Morriston School and their families attended church at either one of the communities.
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