masthead image

Duncrief

History

Town site photo

The miller's home

©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko

Duncrief started out as a small milling centre way back in 1835. It all began when Jeremiah Robson built a sawmill on land that owned by the Charlton brothers, Robert and Joseph Charlton. The presence of a mill attracted other businesses and settlers to the area. By 1862 James Barnes had a post office and Duncrief gained official status.

Initially things looked quite promising for Duncrief. Joseph Stonehouse opened a general store, Robert Scott, a wagon shop and Sims Baker, a blacksmith shop. By 1869 gazetteers were describing Duncrief as a village "in the centre of a good farming district and on a never-failing stream. distant 16 miles from London." The reference to the 'never-failing stream' would prove to be ironically prophetic. From the 1870s until around 1900, Duncrief's population hovered somewhere between 75 and 100.

By the mid 1880s Duncrief had added a Methodist church and a school. Arthur Barclay ran the general store and busy post office where mail was received and shipped out daily. Joseph and Thomas Charlton were each running flour mills and Thomas Oliver owned the blacksmith shop.

Unfortunately Duncrief was one of those communities where growth and prosperity had a devastating effect. The nearby creek was surrounded by forest that absorbed the annual spring rains and run-offs. After the settlers removed the forests, the land surrounding the creek dried up to the point where it was no longer able to absorb the excess spring moisture. The result was frequent spring floods.

Between 1865 and 1895 the mill was washed away at least twice. Finally in 1895, the mill was lost again, this time to a fire. After they learned that owner J. B. Pethram had no money to rebuild the mill, Duncrief's residents valiantly raised the money themselves to rebuild it for yet a third time. Although they may have been eternal optimists, their efforts were completely in vain. Duncrief was a dying community.

Duncrief was never able to escape the consequences of its sad history of ecological damage. In 1908 the mill was washed out again - this time for good. By 1910, Arthur Barclay, who had operated the general store and post office for 30 years, closed his doors forever. By that time the population had dropped to a mere 25. The post office was officially shut down in 1913. Shortly after that Duncrief became a page in history.