The old rail bed©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko
Henfryn's early beginnings looked promising. After starting out as a sleepy little mill town, Henfryn boomed in 1873 with the arrival of the Wellington, Grey and Bruce Railway. The railway quickly set up a 'board and batten' station, along with a waiting room and small freight shed, and Henfryn was in business.
Edwin C.K. Davies, a Welshman, who arrived from nearby Perth, gave Henfryn its jumpstart. He purchased several large tracts of land, including lots 34 and 35, on Concession 8, where he took over a sawmill operation. The convenience of the nearby railway station worked well for Davies as well as other mill owners, who by this time included C. Heible and J.D. Williams. The mill owners enjoyed the benefit of being able to ship out lumber on a regular basis. By 1875 Davies had opened a post office and by 1877 he had registered a town plan for Henfryn. The Welsh name, which translates into 'old hill' was presumably chosen by Davies. By the late 1870s, Martin Moore and William King were both running hotels and W.L. Wills owned a general store. Other enterprises included a pail factory and a broom factory. Freight shipping had attracted an assortment of small industries to the area and by 1878 Henfryn had grown into a sizeable village.
Around 1880, Andrew Selwood opened a brick making operation. Henfryn had an abundance of high quality clay and quickly became known locally for its distinctive red and white bricks, many of which were used in local home construction. A Methodist church was added in 1881 and an Anglican church in 1883. Both churches were built using local bricks and timber. A school was added during the 1880s. Henfryn's clay was later found to be more suitable for tile making.
By the 1890s, Henfryn was still managing to thrive. The village had been reduced to one hotel, operated by Mrs. Thomas Hall, but had added a carpet weaver, M. Campbell and a cider manufacturer, John Carscadden. James Longmire was the GTR agent and J.H. Thomson looked after the general store, post office and also acted as the local express agent. The brick making operation was taken over by Jacob Hanhofer. However by the end of the century, Henfryn was beginning to show signs of decline. The population, which had peaked at around 100, had dropped to 75 by 1898.
Unfortunately Henfryn was not able to sustain its success into the twentieth century. As its industries slowly closed, it was unable to compete with rival communities and attract new business. One by one the hotels, the mills and and other ebterprises began to slip away. The post office lasted until 1937.
Today, very little remains of Henfryn. In their book The Power of the Maitland, researchers John Hazlitt and Ted Turner speculated that it was not possible to discern the original location of the mill due to realignment of the river and reconstruction of the bridge. The railway tracks were lifted and the railway station reportedly dismantled and reassembled on a nearby farm. A sawmill was still operating as late as 2001 but has since closed down. Although a couple of homes remain occupied, there is no sign of other activity within the community.
Additional details The Power of the Maitland by John Hazlitt and Ted Turner.