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Ellengowan

History

Town site photo

The area has reverted to farmland.

©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko

The opening of the Elora Road in the early 1850s attracted numerous settlers and led to the formation of many small communities located adjacent to the new "highway." Before the arrival of the railway, roadways and waterways were the only means of travel. The proximity of a nearby road appeared to be the best means for attracting new trade, industries and growth.

Ellengown, located directly on the Elora Road, got its start in the early 1850s on land owned by the David Hopper family, who had arrived from Ireland in 1852. The Hoppers settled on Lot 1, Concession 14, with their large family of nine and owned much of the land on what later developed into the small community. Ellengowan was named for Ellen Hopper, who was married to Sam Hopper.

John Hopper opened a general store and added a post office in 1858. Mail was picked up from Walkerton and delivered daily. The post office was served by a number of postmasters over the years, including other members of the Hopper family, Sam and David. A log school, USS #1, Brant and Elderslie, was built on David Hopper's farm, lot 2, concession 13, sometime before 1872. The school was well packed and boasted up to 90 students during the winter months.

By the early 1870s, Ellengowan had grown to include a hotel, run by Andrew Gerrie, a blacksmith, John Minorgan, a shoemaker, John Watson and two 'dealers' William Calbeck and David Kellogg, known as Calbeck and Kellogg. Kellogg also served as postmaster for a year and a half during 1875 and 1876. There were a number of churches in nearby Chesley and also the Vesta Anglican Church, located on lot 10, concession 15. During the 1870s, Ellengowan's population was listed at about 100.

In 1871, the Great Western Railway (GWR) arrived in Brant Township. Early maps show a railway stop in Ellengowan but it disappeared following the takeover of the GWR by the Grand Trunk Railway in 1884. There were a number of other nearby stations including Dunkeld and Eden Grove.

By the early 1880s, James Hill acquired the hotel and David Hopper took over the general store and post office. The village also included a livestock salesman, Joseph Hunter. The school was replaced with new frame structure around 1880 and relocated to lot 1, so as to be closer to the 12th concession. That lot was also provided by David Hopper and over time the school became known as Hopper's School. By the late 1800s, Hopper entered into a partnership with the blacksmith, John Minorgan, to act as bankers. Whether or not Minorgan, Hopper & Co., was a successful venture is impossible to tell, since banking prospects in Ellengowan were decidedly limited.

In the early 1890s, Richard Watson was manning the general store and post office and Richard Coe was running the hotel and livery. By then Ellengowan was clearly on the decline and its population dropped to around 75. By 1893 the store had closed and the post office had relocated to the postmaster's homes. Arson was suspected when one night in the late 1890s the hotel caught fire not once but three times. The first two times residents managed to put it out. After the third time, they gave up and let it burn.

Ellengowan was initially more successful than other postal hamlets such as Carnegie, but it was never able to grow beyond rural postal hamlet status. Trade slowly flocked to larger centres and Ellengowan quietly stagnated. The post office was closed in 1910 following the arrival of rural mail delivery.

The school lasted many years after Ellengowan's decline. The old frame school was replaced with a new red brick building in 1911. The students were active in school fairs during the 1920s and 30s and managed to win a number of awards. Although attendance declined drastically during the later years, the school remained open until 1965. The building still stands and is now a private home. Many of Ellengowan's early settlers are buried in Rusk's Cemetery. The remainder of the community has reverted back to farm land.