An historical sign erected by the Women's Institute©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko
Cantire was one of the many farming hamlets first settled by Scottish immigrants in the early 1850s. The original settlers were widely considered to be the Taylor and Blue families. These families, after arriving in the dense, unfamiliar wilderness with very few belongings, must have received some measure of solace by naming their new home after their old community in Scotland. Cantire was named after Kintyre, Scotland, the original home of these founding families.
As the settlement grew, school was uppermost in the minds of the majority of the residents. There were no schools anywhere in the nearby vicinity. Given the poor condition of the roads in those days, parents were understandably concerned about their children having to travel long distances on foot. Some of the children attended the Gillies Hill school, while others attended USS No. 2, Elderslie and Brant, originally located on the third concession.
The school issue continued to fester for many years. By the early 1870s, residents had enough. Around 1873, they began to circulate a petition to present to the Town Council requesting a school on the 4th Concession. Then they discovered a kindred spirit in the form of the 10th Concession residents in the community of Salem. Like the Cantire residents, the Salem residents had a similar grievance. Their children were also attending either the Gillies Hill school or the Snell school, SS No. 9, up on the 12th concession.
Numbers translated into strength and in 1873 the residents of Cantire and Salem presented the Township Council with a petition requesting schools on the 4th and 10th concessions. Their request was refused. The two groups then joined forces and hired a lawyer, Alexander Shaw of Walkerton, and proceeded to sue the township. The issue was referred to an arbitration panel comprised of a number of Elderslie officials, who eventually decided in favour of both groups of residents.
Cantire's new school, SS No. 1, was built on lot 10, on land donated by Alexander McKay. Although section numbers were typically issued in numerical order, the village of Paisley, which had recently obtained municipal status, had just relinquished SS No. 1. The first trustees of the new school section included Neil Stewart, who owned property on Lot 18 and J.C. McIntyre, a former teacher and principal from Lockerby. Janet Oswald was the first teacher. The school was built of frame and covered in board and batten with plastered walls on the inside. It was officially opened in 1876 and by 1879 boasted an enrolment of 67. In later years it was covered with a brick facing.
Cantire's residents made very good use of their new school. Since the community had very little to offer in the way of amenities, the school was used as both a social centre and as a meeting place for the Grange Lodge.
There was no church in Cantire and most of the residents worshipped in various churches in nearby Paisley. However Sunday school classes were held in the Cantire School during the summer with Superintendent Hugh McIntyre teaching the bible classes. Other Sunday school teachers included John McKay, John Ewing, John Petrie and J.C. McIntyre. The classes were discontinued for a while but resumed again in 1910.
Cantire never had a post office of its own. Whether the residents wanted one or not is unknown. Gillies Hill served as the official post office for Cantire's residents. Much like today, the residents had a row of mail boxes set up on the 5th concession, one concession south of Gillies Hill, which was used as a drop-off point. That lasted until 1909 when rural mail delivery arrived. Other stop off points in Cantire included Peter Reid's blacksmith shop, also on Concession 5. Reid operated the blacksmith shop for many years and his shop also served as a communal meeting spot for the farmers to exchange gossip and chit-chat.
One of the big success stories in Cantire was the Elderslie Cheese Company. The company was first formed in 1884 by James Isard and John McKellar, who opened factories in both Cantire and Williscroft. The Cantire factory was built on land donated by John Blackburn. Farmers were thrilled at the prospect of having a factory so close by. Everyone assisted in helping to remove the stumps and clear the land.
Unlike the frame building at Williscroft, Cantire's factory was built of sturdy yellow brick. Upon completion, the community proudly hoisted a flag and erected a sign that boldly displayed the name of "CANTIRE." The cheese company went on to win many awards in competitions held at the Chicago World's Fair, Chicago World's Fair, the Pan-American Exposition, the Canadian National Exhibition, and the New York World's Fair. D.N. McIntyre was secretary of the Cantire branch for about eight years. The factory was closed in 1904, when James Isard sold the business.
By the early part of the 20th century, agricultural practises began to change. Improved transportation and the trend towards specialization eventually led to much larger farms. Organizations such as the Farm Forums became active during the 1940s and bound the community together for a while, however the population continued to decline as residents became more dispersed.
There are very few remnants left of Cantire today. The school was closed in 1946 and later demolished. The area where the school once stood can be found just before the road sign to the west of the former town site. The small hand water pump that was once part of the schoolyard has been preserved. The remainder of the area has now reverted to farmland.