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History of the County of Bruce, Ontario, Canada
Village of Teeswater


[The name of the village is derived from the name given to the river flowing through it. But who named the stream, or when named, or why so called, the author has not been able authentically to find out, but it is said to have been given by one of the surveyors of the township who was born near the river Tees, in England.]

The present flourishing village of Teeswater commenced to take form in 1856, when the owners of farm lots Nos. 15 and 16, on each of the concessions 6 and 7, in the township of Culross, had a survey made of portions of their farm lots dividing them into village lots. The names of the owners of these farm lots so subdivided were Messrs. P, B. Brown, Alex. Gibson, Ira Fulford and Matthew Hadwin. In the preceding chapter it will be noted that two of these lots were first taken up in 1854 by Alexander and Archibald McIntyre, but who surrendered their squatter's claim, owing to the promise Mr. Brown gave of erecting a grist mill at that point. The first mill dam was erected by Mr. Brown in the summer of 1855, and in the fall of that year he had a sawmill started. In the course of a couple of years a grist mill also was built and running. The presence of these mills at this early date, with ample water-power, together with the establishing of a post-office, [The post-office was established September 1st, 1856. Mathew Hadwin being the first postmaster.] give assurance that a village would develop at this point. In addition to the advantages just mentioned, the site of the village being almost in the centre of the township, made it the "hub" of the municipality, as well as an excellent distributing point. Like other villages in the backwoods with only a local trade, its growth for years was very slow. In 1861 all it contained, besides private dwellings, were two stores, two taverns and a grist and sawmill, with a weekly mail service. By 1866 the following industries had been added to the village: A foundry, founded by David Fairbairn, Jr., a tannery and a pearl ash factory.

The prospect of a railway coming to Teeswater gave an impetus to the growth of the village. In the strenuous contest throughout the county, in 1869, as to which railway was to receive the promised county bonus, Teeswater and the township of Culross at large fought hard for the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway, and, as may be imagined, the inhabitants were by no means satisfied when the Wellington, Grey and Bruce Railway Company obtained the majority of the votes cast throughout the county. Determined to have a railway, the question of granting the bonus to the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Company from the township and village was suggested and carried. The township as a whole, including at that time the village of Teeswater, gave a bonus of $38,000. In addition to this, that part of the township which afterwards became incorporated into the village of Teeswater gave a sectional bonus of $5,000, making a total of $43,000 received by the railway company.

There is no doubt that the railway has proved the making of the village of Teeswater, a fact which has justified the granting of such a large bonus. The initial step in the construction of the railway, which has had Teeswater as its western terminus for so many years, was the turning of the first sod at Weston, in October, 1869, by H.R.H. Prince Arthur. The payment of the bonus to this railway promised by the Government seemed to have been delayed somewhat, which prolonged the time of construction, so that it was November 16th, 1874, before the first passenger train reached Teeswater. This train brought up a large number of those who were interested in the road, who were warmly greeted on their arrival, and to whom a banquet was given that evening. The number of arrivals was so much in excess of the accommodation which could be furnished by the hotels in the village of Teeswater at that date, that although many of the citizens hospitably threw open their homes to the visitors, yet many of them slept that night on benches in the town hall.

Teeswater as a separate municipal corporation commenced its existence on the 1st January, 1875, the by-law authorizing this having been passed by the County Council on June 5th, 1874. The first Council consisted of the following members: Alexander Gibson, reeve; J. Fraser, T. Stephens, J. Ballagh and M. Hadwin, councillors. Wellington McVety was appointed village clerk, and Thomas McKague, village treasurer. In a footnote are to be found the names of those who have filled the office of reeve from 1875 to 1906.

[The names of the reeves of the village of Teeswater: A. Gibson 1875 '76; Jas. Fraser, 1877, '79; T. Shannon, 1878; T. Stephens, 1880, '81 '83' '90, '91; T. Fairbairn, 1882, '86, '87, '88; W. R. Thompson, 1884 '85' '94, '95, '96; L. A. Brink, 1889, 1900, '01; John Campbell, 1892, '93; Dugald Stewart, 1897; W. G. Orr, 1898; D. Donaldson, 1899; S R Brill' 1902; Peter Purves, 1903; D. Ferguson, 1904, '05; W. J. Hardy 1906.]

The basis of settlement between the township of Culross and the newly incorporated village of Teeswater, arrived at at the time of the separation, regarding the apportionment of assets and liabilities, was based upon the assessment roll of 1874 in the proportion of 31/34s, for the township, and 3/34s. for the village. This resulted in the village receiving at that time from the township $120 of funds for the current year in the hands of the township treasurer, and $281 of sinking funds raised on account of the sectional bonus to the railway. On the other hand, the village undertook to pay, by way of sinking fund and interest on its share of the $38,000 railway bonus debentures annually, the sum of $103 for sinking fund, and $135 for interest, until the maturity of the debentures. The village also gave a debenture to the township for $1,300 for the township's share in the real estate known as Edmunds Square. Since the time of separation the village has undertaken extensive local improvements, which called for issues of debentures as follows: For water works, $9,000; for public park, $1,500; for granolithic sidewalks, $7,847; for additions and repairs to water works, $1,550, and Arscott loan, $2,000.

The town hall dates back to the days when it was the township hall of Culross, it having been erected before the village and township separated. The present fine school building is the third the village has possessed. The first was erected about 1858, and was also the first building of its kind in the township of Culross; its site was on lot 34, north of Elora Street, but the building has long ceased to be. It has been described as a square log building with a cottage roof. A description of the interior said: The teacher's desk occupied the north end of the school-room. Facing this were two rows of long desks with an aisle between; there were also aisles between the desks and the east and west walls. In these aisles were low benches, on which the smaller scholars sat. Peter Clark was the first teacher, a position he held for two and a half years. He was succeeded by a Mr. Gordon, who came from Whitby. The second school building was a fine stone structure that afforded accommodation for three departments. The cost of this building was about $2,000. The present school building was erected in 1878 at a cost of about $6,000. It is built of white brick and is of two stories in height, with a mansard roof, and has provision for four departments.

Another municipal asset, and one that shows wise prudence and forethought, is the system of water works installed for fire protection. It was in 1889 that this public utility was constructed, costing the town about $9,000. After being in use for sixteen years it was necessary (in 1905) to spend some $1,550 for repairs and improvements. The cost to the town has been more than made up indirectly by the reduced rates of fire insurance premiums, as well as in prevention of fire loss.

The public park, purchased by the town in 1896 at a cost of $1,500 is another possession that the village may contemplate with satisfaction. More and more the necessity of public grounds of this description is being felt, and future generations will be pleased to have this space for purposes of relaxation and amusement.

The first minister that is said to have held a public religious service at Teeswater was the Rev. A. Bradshaw, of the Episcopal Methodist Church, who was stationed, in 1855, at Kincardine. In 1856 the Rev. William Maidens was settled at Teeswater. He was the first minister of that denomination in the village. His early successors were the following, in the order named: Rev. J. Davey, Rev. J. M. Collins, and in 1860 Rev. J. H. Hilts, a man whom the author remembers with respect and appreciation. Mr. Hilts was a good example of a type of backwoods preacher of half a century ago. His Christian zeal, sound grasp of evangelical truth and forceful expression of the same, excused all defects arising from the lack of a college training.

The Wesleyan Methodists also entered this field at an early date. Their first settled minister was the Rev. Thomas Hadwin. He was stationed at Teeswater in 1856-1857, and was succeeded by the Rev. Ed. Sallows, and he by the Rev. William Sutton. The present Methodist Church at Teeswater was erected in 1879 at a cost of about $5,500.

As early as 1856 the Free Church Presbytery of London sent the Rev. John Scott to minister to the spiritual needs of the Presbyterians in the vicinity of Teeswater, following this up by sending other ministers. As a result a congregation was organized, which proceeded to erect a place of worship. All this was before the end of the "fifties." The Rev. Adam McKay was the first minister. His pastorate lasted from 1862 to 1870. In the last-mentioned year the congregation divided, part continued to worship in the old church, which then became known as Zion Church, with the Rev. Peter Currie as its minister. The seceding part of the original congregation worshipped for about a year and a half in the town hall, and then erected a church building that bore the name of Westminster Church.

The Rev. D. Wardrope was the pastor of this congregation from 1871 to 1886, and the Rev. James Malcolm from 1888 to 1905. During the ministry of the last-mentioned clergyman the two congregations became united. They now worship in the old church building, which at present bears the name of Knox Church. The Rev. D. Tait is at present the minister over the united congregation. The author is pleased to be able to insert here an account, which appeared in the Teeswater News, written by James Reid, that vividly tells of the early life of the Presbyterian congregation, and of other incidents of pioneer days, as follows: "Your correspondent came to Culross in September, 1854. In the summer of 1855 some twelve of us met at the corners of Samuel Wood's lots on the 8th concession, now owned by Mr. David McDonald, to consider about purchasing a plot of ground in which to bury our dead, and on which to erect a church in which to worship God. Those south of the river overruled those north of the river, and it was agreed to purchase two acres on the 4th concession from Mr. Thomas Nicholson, for the sum of $40. This is the site of the present Teeswater cemetery. At the same meeting some one inquired if there was no one present who knew of any minister whom they knew who could be written to and asked to give us a sermon or two, as we were getting hungry, not having heard a sermon for nine or ten months. Alex. Graham, who lived on the 10th concession, where the Henderson family now lives, said he would write to Rev. John B. Mowat, of Niagara, who came in September of the same year, 1855, and preached in Mr. Gibson's shanty, that being the only place at the time where a meeting could be held. This was the first sermon preached in Teeswater by a Presbyterian minister After this Rev. John Ross, of Brucefield, preached a few times. These two men advised us not to put up the church on the 4th concession, but to put it where the village was likely to be. In the spring of 1856 James Reid put up his first house, expecting his mother and brother from the province of Quebec, but as they did not come he lived on in his old shanty, and his house was used as a church during the summers of 1856 and 1857.. The Presbytery of London, of which Rev. John Scott was moderator, sent up a preacher now and then during these years to keep us alive until better times came. Among those who visited us then were "William Clark, who was an elder and catechist; Rev. Donald McLean, who was for a time stationed at Mount Forest, and Rev. John McMillan, of Fingal, who was afterwards also many years in Mount Forest. In October, 1857, the Presbytery sent up Rev. Alex. Young and Mr. Sutherland, two powerful preachers of the Gospel, and these two dispensed the sacrament of the Lord's Supper for the first time in Culross. Mr. Young preached in English in the house, and Mr. Sutherland in Gaelic in the barn. This solemn feast was observed in the good old way—four days preaching—on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, the last being a day for the giving of thanks. On Thursday it was found necessary to have elders appointed for the Sabbath services, so the ministers asked Mr. Gibson whom he would recommend. After some consideration he named John McDonald and Hugh McDonald, both from the 8th concession, and Hector McKay, the catechist, who lived on the 11th concession, where Thomas Ross now lives. The last-named preached in Gaelic to the people living in the region known as the Alps. In those days there was a much clearer line between the church and the world than there is at present. Many of us now ask, Where is the church for which our forefathers died. The Sabbath at present has become a day of business, pleasure and toil rather than a day of worship. During the times of these communion services in the early days James Reid, then a bachelor living in his shanty, made the minister's dinner for them. Mrs. Gibson's shanty was the manse, and she hung up a carpet across the room to make a bedroom for the ministers. The shanty was covered with elm bark. One night a severe rainstorm came up and Mr. Gibson had to put an umbrella over the ministers to keep them dry. Compare that manse with the present one. Little do the ministers of the present day know about the difficulties of the pioneer church. Mr. and Mrs. Gibson were very kind to all the ministers in those early days, and their house was made the preacher's home. They probably did more for the church in those early days than any other persons in Culross. The ground on which Knox Church stands was a gift from him, and yet his name appears in no place in the church records. In the winter of 1857-1858 the Presbytery sent up Rev. John McKay to us. An uncle of his, the Rev. A. McKay, of Lucknow, was also with us for three months, and boarded with Mr. Reid. Before he left in the following spring the contract of the first Presbyterian Church in Teeswater was let to a man named Westover, who lived on the 12th concession of Culross. The church was not completed until 1862. In that same summer the congregation extended a call to Rev. Adam McKay, and he was ordained and inducted into the charge. He was the first regularly settled Presbyterian minister in Teeswater or Culross. Previous to this time, in the fall of 1856, Rev. John Scott, of London, preached in Mr. P. B. Brown's grist-mill, before the machinery was put in, and on the following Monday he baptized sixteen children."

The Church of England congregation worship in a brick edifice erected in 1875, the cost of which was about $2,300. The Baptists had their church built in 1876. The Roman Catholic Church was dedicated by the Bishop of Hamilton, September 15th, 1878. In the following July a bell, which had been imported from Baltimore, was hung in the steeple, and has rung out its calls to worship since. Rev. Father Corcoran has been in charge of this congregation for over a quarter of a century.

For many years one of the leading, if not the leading industry, of the village was the foundry and agricultural implement works of Messrs. Gillies & Martin. The business was established in 1869 by James Fraser. Shortly after commencing business Archibald Gillies was admitted into partnership. In April, 1878, Mr. Fraser retired, and his place in the firm was taken by James Martin. The original firm had met a serious loss by fire, which occurred November 4th, 1877. The loss was estimated at the time to be about $20,000, but the buildings destroyed were soon rebuilt and in an enlarged form. In May, 1892, the firm extended its capacity by opening up a branch at Listowel, where they erected some fine buildings. The agricultural implements manufactured by this firm have a wide market throughout the Dominion.

The first medical men to settle at Teeswater are said to have been Dr. John F. Halstead and Dr. James Murphy. The stay of neither was of any length. Dr. John Gillies, one of the leading men of the village for over a third of a century, came to Teeswater in August, 1867. Having acquired a large practice he accumulated money and established a private bank, which was for years the sole financial institution of the village. This business he disposed of to the Sovereign Bank not long before his death. Dr. Gillies was the village treasurer for many years. His death occurred August 10th, 1905.

Another honorable citizen of Teeswater now passed away was W. R. Thomson. He commenced business there about the end of the seventies as a cooper. Possessing a keen business instinct and abundance of energy, he developed a large lumber manufacturing business, exporting largely to England of his products.

The name of S. E. Brill is one largely known in the dairy world, the creamery he established at Teeswater being one of the first, if not the first, in the county.

L. A. Brink, the present postmaster, has been prominently connected with Teeswater for the last thirty years, filling the office of reeve and county commissioner, and has been called upon to fill other responsible positions by his fellow-citizens. As a produce merchant he has done much to make Teeswater a good grain market.

The Teeswater News, the local paper of the village and township, was first issued in 1874, G. T. Hagyard being the publisher and editor. Since that date it has passed through the hands of Thomas Fairbairn, A. G. Stewart, A. Colwell, Alex. Butchart, and at present is under the editorship of A. D. McKenzie.

In the fall of 1901 an effort was made by those owning lands within the village, used solely for farming purposes (which amounted to 187 acres), to have the same detached from the village and attached to the township. E. E. Little and Charles Thomson supported the petition brought before the County Council. This body passed the required by-law, which, however, the arbitrators pointed out, was void, as the lands to be detached reduced the area of the village below that specified by statute.

Like many villages in this section of the province, Teeswater has felt the repressive effect of a railway monopoly, and hopes for a future when it may enjoy the privilege of competitive railways, and thereby bring an era of prosperity and progress to the village.


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