Friday, September 2, 2011

Melancthon, Ontario

Ontario Ghost Towns

When James Beachell, a native of Yorkshire, England, first set foot in Melancthon around 1848, he landed in almost complete wilderness. There were no railways and what passed for roads were crude trails that were barely useable. Undaunted, Beachell, an engineer by profession, who had worked as a railway contractor in France, opened a tavern and hotel about two kilometres south of the future Melancthon town site. The "Beachell Hotel" grew to become a popular stopping place for many years. In 1851, he opened the Melancthon post office and later built a sawmill in nearby Flesherton.
* * *
Many of Melancthon's early settlers arrived at around the same time as James Beachell. They included people like the Darraghs, Mitchells, McCues and McManamans. One exception was William Silk, who was said to have arrived in the area around 1837. Silk worked on and off at Horning's Mills but also had excellent carpentry skills and built the first wooden wagon in the township.
* * *
Although Dufferin County was largely a bastion of conservative Protestantism, there was a large group of Irish Catholic settlers who established a Roman Catholic congregation in the early 1850s. Initially services were held in the home of Patrick McCue, who had arrived in Melancthon around 1851. Around 1858, a large log-hewed church, that later became known as St. Patrick's, was moved to Lot 280, owned by Francis O'Boyle. The church was also used as a separate school for a number of years, with Miss Purtil, who later married James McCue, as the teacher. Melancthon's erstwhile carpenter, James Sawden, although not a Roman Catholic, conducted many of the early funeral services. After serving the community well for about 20 years, the old church was replaced in 1879 with a new brick structure.
* * *
By far the most long-lasting of all Melancthon's business operations was H.L. Breen's granary and hay business. The granary was first started by James McCue, whose family arrived in Melancthon from Ireland in 1851, while James was still a boy. McCue grew up to become an extremely successful farmer and breeder. Later on in life, he was appointed a Justice of the Peace. During the Patrons of Industry days, McCue built a frame granary above the board and batten railway station, which by then was part of the C.P.R. The business was later bought by H.L. Breen, a hay and grain dealer, who merged the business with his own. By 1906 the business had been taken over by the Canada Grain Company of Toronto, who built a large grain elevator near the station. The business appears to have survived until some time in the 1930s.
* * *
After the end of World War I, Melancthon fell into a steep decline from which it never recovered. Depletion of the surrounding lumber supplies and changes in the agricultural sector were the main contributing factors. Piece by piece, the village slowly began to trickle away until there was virtually nothing left. Of the old town hall, the Orange Lodge, sawmill or the Gravel Road Church - nothing remains. Even the Gravel Road cemetery didn't escape the carnage. After Highway 10 was enlarged, the tombstones were jammed into a cluster alongside the highway, where they remain, largely ignored. Other relics include an abandoned farmhouse of later vintage. The railway line was removed around 1997. All that survives of old Melancthon Village is St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, located just north of the old town site. Surprisingly, the church remains in use. In 2006, the barren remains of old town site were reclaimed by the provincial government and found new use as the site of a massive government wind farm.

No comments:

Post a Comment