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Greenock Village (Enniskillen)

History

Town site photo

The Greenock Pioneer Cemetery

©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko

In the mid 19th century it was common practise for the first post office in the township to bear the name of the township. Thus the small village, known locally as Enniskillen, was given the name Greenock after Greenock Township. In this case it didn't really matter. Enniskillen had already been taken by another community in the Northumberland/Durham area and was out of the running.

The Greenock post office was opened by J.B. Ritchie in 1852. The mail route in those early days was particularly gruelling. Mail was brought in by a courier travelling on foot from Kincardine to Durham, a distance on today's roads of some 71.6 kilometres. The mail was carried in a small satchel hung from the carrier's shoulders and delivered weekly. There were no railways or stage in those early days and the route was far too rough for horses. The courier, Cowan Keys, handled this route for a little over a year until the route was divided. From then on his trip ended at Greenock, where he picked up the mail from the other courier and headed back to Kincardine.

Shortly after the post office was established, the little community came to life. A sawmill was opened in 1852. By 1853 there were blacksmith, carriage and woodworking shops. A one-room frame schoolhouse was in place by 1855.

Greenock was primarily a small stopping place. It got its name from the Enniskillen Hotel, opened by William Montgomery likely in the early 1850s. Until the council offices were built, township meetings were held at various hotels including the Enniskillen.

By the late 1850s Greenock had acquired several more taverns and hotels. Both William Montgomery and Raphael Chartreau held tavern licences. There was another tavern owned by Thomas Allen, and yet another known as McConnell's Tavern. Around 1860, Hans Hawthorne opened the Hawthorne Hotel. A third hotel called the Greenock was owned by the Yaeck family.

By the late 1860s the little village of Greenock was booming. The population was listed at about 100, although this likely included farmers in the outlying areas.

The Montgomery family was particularly prominent in the area. In addition to farming, Hugh Montgomery ran the general store and post office from 1868 to 72. Hugh Jr. operated the steam sawmill and Robert Montgomery, the Enniskillen Hotel. The village also included a blacksmith shop, owned by William Grundy, two carpenters, two shoemakers, a plasterer, and a wagon shop known as Black & Munro.

In 1874 William Grundy sold the blacksmith shop and took over the general store and post office. Postal operations had improved considerably over the previous fifteen years and mail was now being brought in daily by stage from Walkerton. Other individuals who were active during this period included the Kohlers (sometimes spelt Kooler, or Koller) and the Locharts. George Kohler was a cabinetmaker and Jacob Kohler, a blacksmith who took over the blacksmith shop. John Lochart who was running the sawmill, eventually went into partnership with the Kohlers.

The Hawthorne family also played a big roll in Greenock's history. Hans Hawthorne, a Scotsman, his wife Nancy and their five children, arrived in Greenock from Ireland in 1850. In 1856 they received a Crown grant. Around 1860 Hans opened the Hawthorne Hotel. Since he also had a contract to build causeways and culverts in Brant Township, he left the running of the hotel to John Hergott. In later years the hotel was run by his son, Sam, and then later by William Mason. Sam was also a busy man. Besides the hotel, he also owned a sawmill and then took over as postmaster in 1883.

Sam Hawthorne and his family were mainstays in Greenock for many years. Sam was active in the township council and served as a hotel inspector, a position for which his past experience was ideally suited. In 1908 his son Hilton took over the old Hawthorne Hotel, converted it to a general store, installed telegraph service, and moved the post office over to the store. Hilton served officially as postmaster from the time of Sam's death in 1922 until his own retirement in 1947. The Hawthorne family was known for their love of singing and sang in numerous church choirs over the years.

There were two early churches in Greenock. A Presbyterian church was built in 1865 on property owned by the Hawthornes. The Cunningham family provided land for a Methodist church. Little is known about these churches and both seem to have disappeared by the 1930s. The Greenock Baptist Cemetery, the only surviving remnant of an early Baptist congregation, lay just west of the town site. At one time it contained a small log church which was later dismantled after being deemed unsafe.

The one-room schoolhouse was replaced in 1896 by a far more substantial structure. The new school, USS No. 1, Greenock and Culross, was a two-storey building with two rooms and on occasion, two teachers. The school was used by students from both Greenock Village and Culross Township. School activities included a school garden, school fairs and a year-end picnic.

By 1921 the school had almost 150 pupils and was bulging at the seams. The problem was unintentionally alleviated in 1923 with the construction of St. Anne's Separate School. By 1929 the number of students in USS No. 1 had dwindled to 13, eventually leading to its closure in 1935. Clarice Cunningham was the last teacher.

On the other hand, the separate school, RCSS No. 1, Greenock and Culross was thriving. Gardening and school fairs continued as before. The school saw ongoing improvements as late as 1963. These included insulation, a new fence, new desks and a new furnace. Hot lunches were introduced during the winter months and music was added to the curriculum in 1938. The school was closed in 1966 following centralization of the separate school system.

By the early 20th century, Greenock's best days were long past. The Hawthorne sawmill was closed in the late 19th century and the equipment, sold and moved to Formosa. The Greenock Hotel was turned into a private residence and the Enniskillen burned down in 1924. With improved roads and better means of travel, Greenock had little to offer over much larger centres like Walkerton which was only located a few kilometres away.

A number of people continue to live in Greenock, however very little remains of this once thriving community. Gone are the churches, the school and the businesses. All that remains of early Greenock Village are the dead, which in this case is a memorial park with the tombstones attractively arranged and an historical plaque dedicated the founders and residents of the community. The Baptist cemetery can be found a little further west. That cemetery is well maintained and still in use.