The Germania schoolhouse©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko
Germania is a small Muskoka village that got its start as a small lumber and farming community. First settled during the 1860s, some of the early settlers who left their mark included the Thomsons, Gilberts and the Wieszmillers (later changed to Weismiller). Many of the early settlers originated from Germany.
The first school section, S.S. #2 was formed in 1868 however the residents had a small problem. There was no schoolhouse. In May 1869 they rented H. Hyndeman's house for a six-month period and hired their first teacher, Miss M. Spence. In 1872 a permanent schoolhouse was built on the Thomson property, located on Lot 11, Concession 5. The small log building was completed at a cost of $114.00.
For a time Germania was one of the busier crossroads hamlets in the Muskoka region. In 1875, residents constructed the Gilbert Lutheran Church, a striking and unusual log structure that still holds occasional services. By 1884, John Weismiller opened a post office. The community also added a Methodist church. William Tait ran the general store and Thomas Tait, a sawmill. P. Herman was the village blacksmith.
By the mid 1880s, Germania's population had grown to around 100 and by the late 1880s had swelled to 150. Things were booming. Thomas Tait expanded his business to include a shingle mill and Charles Tingey opened a second general store. In 1888 a new school was built right in the centre of town. This must have been a great relief to both parents and pupils, who no longer had to trudge two kilometres up the road to Thomson's Corners. The school, which included a large playfield, was built at a total cost of $405.
Muskoka's short growing season did not lend itself well to large-scale farming and Germania began to decline by the end of the 19th century. Although Henry Weismiller had taken over the saw and shingle mill in the 1890s, records show that in 1898, the village's population had shrunk to about 75. The lumber mill continued to operate into the early part of the 20th century. Germania's post office finally closed in 1957. The school lasted a bit longer, until 1960.
Germania is among those proud communities that remain in an arrested state of decline. Due to the growth of nearby centres, such as Orillia and Bracebridge, Germania has managed to hold on and even attract a few new residents. The schoolhouse is now used as a community centre, where weekly card games and other community events take place. The interior is remarkably well preserved and contains various artifacts, including a framed handwritten sheet with the names of all the schoolteachers from 1911 to 1960. Services are still held occasionally at the church. Germania's residents are committed to rebuilding the old town and maintaining a vibrant and active community.