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Clarendon Station

History

Town site photo

The former general store being renovated

©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko

Clarendon Station got its start as a small railway village in the late 1870s, following the opening of the Kingston & Pembroke (K & P) railway. Although the area surrounding Clarendon Station was already occupied by a small group of homesteaders, in no way did it resemble anything like an organized community. The arrival of the new station village, named after the township, brought with it much needed services and a sense of community to the scattered settlement.

Business began to pick up quite rapidly once the railway arrived. Shortly after it went into operation, the Campbell family opened a general store right alongside the tracks. Bramwell Watkins, who also operated the sawmill, took on postal duties and served as postmaster from 1880 - 1895. Mail pickup and dispatch took place three times a week. By the mid 1880s, the small station was kept busy shipping telegraph poles, railway ties, cordwood and bark from Watkins' mill.

The hamlet grew quickly. By the mid 1890s it had acquired both an Anglican church and a public school, S.S. 11, Oso. In a mere eight years the population jumped from 20 to nearly 100. Stagecoaches rattled in and out from Ardoch and other neighbouring places, shuttling passengers over to the station. The store bustled with activity when the farmers came in for their weekly shopping trips and mail pickup.

One family that figured prominently during Clarendon Station's early days were the Burkes. Robert Burke Sr. was the local blacksmith. His son, Robert Jr., operated the hotel and livery while Miss Maggie Burke worked as the local dressmaker. The village also included a cooper and two express agents for the railway.

Fires, mainly incendiary in origin, had plagued Clarendon Station throughout its existence. In 1917, one such fire destroyed the original K & P railway station, which by then was owned by Canadian Pacific (CP). Whether CP anticipated an increase in business, or changing styles of the period set the tone is impossible to say, but the railway chose to replace the station with a far more substantial and opulent structure. The station remained in use until the 1960s.

St. Barnabas Anglican Church was not so lucky. By the 1930s, the church had fallen into a serious state of disrepair. It was torn down in 1936 under somewhat questionable circumstances.

When the trains stopped running in the 1960s, there was very little left to sustain Clarendon Station - until the arrival of Oskar Graf. Graf arrived in Canada from his native Germany in 1968 and settled permanently in Clarendon Station. Over the last 35 years, Graf has become renowned as a builder of superb handcrafted guitars. In 1973, he organized the first "Blue Skies" music festival, a celebration of folk music, which continues to be held annually on his property and draws several thousand people every year. Due to limited capacity, attendance to the festival is by invitation only.

Today, although vastly diminished in size, Clarendon Station still retains a few vestiges of its former self. The schoolhouse went through a number of incarnations after being closed in the 1940s. The Women's Institute used the building from 1951 to 1993. Then it served briefly as a community hall. Today it is privately owned and used as an artist's studio.

Since Clarendon Station owes its existence to the arrival of the railway, it is indeed fitting that the railway station still remains in its original location. Usually when a railway disposed of a station, the normal procedure was to sell the building and retain ownership of the land. In this case, C.P. included the land along with the station. The station has been used as a private home by two different owners since the early 1970s and remains in a remarkable state of preservation. The post office, which from time-to-time, was housed in the general store was closed in 1989. The general store was recently renovated and is now also used as a private home.

A special thanks to the Reverend Dr. Paul Duarte for a fabulous tour of this most interesting place.