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Chesterfield

History

Town site photo

Cemetery entrance

©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko

Chesterfield was a small service and supply hamlet that got its start around the late 1830s. By the 1840s it included a general store, owned by George Baird, and a Presbyterian church, which was opened around 1846. Baird added a post office in 1851 and gave the community its name.

The area surrounding Chesterfield was principally farming and Chesterfield grew quickly to accommodate the burgeoning farm population. By the 1860s it included a school, located on Lot 22, Con. 12, with Hugh Henry as the teacher, Robert McKie was the blacksmith, Robert McKie and Archibald Craigie helped man the busy store. It was during this period that Rev. William Robertson began a lengthy stay as minister of the Chesterfield Presbyterian Church. In addition to the church, a religious group, known as the 'Potentior Temple' was organized in 1861 and met regularly every Friday night.

During the 1870s, Chesterfield included a carpenter, James Minnie, a wagonmaker, William Murray and a shoemaker, James Henderson. Robert Murray operated the general store and the postmaster, William Brown, also served as Justice of the Peace. Mail was received and dispatched daily on the mail stage route from Bright to Washington. William Smith had taken over as schoolteacher. Chesterfield's population was listed as around 50.

By the 1880s, Chesterfield's population had grown to around 100 and it offered a full range of farm-based services and trades. Residents included at least two live stock dealers and breeders along with a much-needed veterinarian, Dr. James Hastings. There was also a carpenter, James Coults and a blacksmith and wagon-maker, Charles Decker. Other residents included the appropriately named George Risk, an agent for the Canada Life Assurance Company. By the late 1880s, the population had reportedly grown to around 200, but this estimate may have been somewhat optimistic. The number of residents was likely closer to around 150.

Chesterfield was booming during the mid 1890s. By then it had grown to include a couple of butchers, Thomas Bond and Conrad Fenn, and a three contractors, Adam McDonald, Frank Shultis and George Young, who specialized in bridges. McDonald also operated the general store and acted as postmaster.

The 20th century brought with it the usual changes and demise of the farm-based crossroads hamlets. With the advent of rural mail delivery 1914 and increased usage of the automobile to travel to larger centres, such as Woodstock, Chesterfield's businesses gradually began to close and the area slowly reverted back to farmland. Luckily the church, now known as the Chesterfield United Church, continues to function and maintains an exceptionally large and elaborate cemetery. The cemetery includes a striking war memorial in the form of a cenotaph, constructed during the 1920s listing the names of World War I veterans on the front. Remembrance Day services continue to be held annually at the site.