The former schoolhouse, now a private home©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko
Eskdale was a tiny settlement comprised of little else besides a post office and school. Its unusual name is Scottish in origin and translates into "ash grove." The post office was located right on the township line between Bruce and Kincardine. It moved back and forth between townships several times during its existence.
Like many of the other communities in the area, Eskdale was settled in the early 1850s. By 1854 an early log school, USS No. 3, Bruce and Kincardine, had been built on lot 11, Concession 1, on the southwest corner. The property was owned by Hugh MacKinnon. Daniel McEwen from nearby Sinclair's Corners was the first teacher.
Although very little information is available on this early school, it was likely similar to most schools of that era, which were both crude and primitive. Walls for the most part were unpainted, the windows were small and inadequate, and the heating was provided by a large box stove in the centre of the classroom. There were no blackboards or desks. Students were forced to sit on planks with no back support, which was extremely difficult for the younger ones. If attendance was unusually large, it was 'standing room only'.
The Eskdale community was very unhappy with the USS system, mainly due to poor planning and a lack of adequate school facilities. In 1873 a new frame school was built a little further west on Lot 15, still on the Bruce side. This time there were real desks that were shared by two pupils. Unfortunately they were still too large for the younger students, so they were replaced in 1885. There was also a dug well, replaced in 1892 by one that was brick-lined. In later years the school was refaced in brick.
Eskdale's post office seesawed back and forth between townships with each new postmaster. Originally the post office was opened by H.P. Chapman in 1875 and located on the Bruce side. The following year it was taken over by Donald Cameron and moved to the Kincardine side. It was closed from 1883 to 84 for a little over a year and then taken over by William Grierson and moved back to the Bruce side. During that time mail was being brought in by stage from Tiverton three times weekly. In 1887 after Janet Scott took over as postmaster, it was moved back to the Kincardine side. When Mrs. Scott relinquished her duties in 1897, it was taken over by Angus McFadyen and moved back to the Bruce side. It was finally closed in 1912 (probably to the relief of everyone), following the arrival of rural mail delivery.
Eskdale was mainly a farming area and offered little in the way of shops or businesses. It was located about halfway between Tiverton and Glamis and residents would have travelled to one of those two centres. A stage travelled three times a week between Tiverton and Eskdale.
During the 1880s, there were two sawmills, one operated by William Johnston, located on Lot 16, Concession 1 on the Bruce side and the other by Angus Campbell, located on Lot 16, Concession 9 on the Kincardine side. The closest church could be found on Lot 15, Concession 11, also in Kincardine. During the 1890s, Eskdale's population was listed at around 50.
The school saw a number of improvements over the years. It was redecorated in 1910. In 1911 the old well was replaced by an artesian well, 265 feet deep. A new porch was built in 1936 and toilets were installed the following year. Hydro was added in 1949. With no other institutional buildings in the area, the school was also used for a variety of social and community events, such as bridal showers, wedding receptions, various box socials and parties, school concert and occasionally for religious services. The school remained in use until 1965 when it was closed due to centralization of the school system.
Today the Eskdale School is the only remnant left of this early community and is now in use as a private home.