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Town site photo

The Hollen Cemetery

©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko

Hollen was a small and industrial village that first got its start in 1850. Among Hollen's first settlers were Hugh Hollingshead and Samuel Robertson who were both active in township affairs. They lost no time in establishing the small community. Hollingshead, who gave the village its name, immediately, began building grist and shingle mills along the banks of the Conestogo River. He also had the foresight to lay out a small town site of 150 plots in the hope of attracting businesses to serve the local farmers.

Hollen filled up rapidly and its success seemed assured. After Robertson opened a post office in his general store in 1852, other businesses were quickly drawn to the area. A cemetery was established in 1854 as well as a union school, U.S.S. #3, with Peel Township, although that arrangement only lasted until 1860. Aaron Kells was the first teacher.

Both Hollingshead and Robertson were active in township politics. Hollingshead served as the first reeve of Maryborough Township in 1851. Robertson followed him in office, serving as reeve from 1854 to 1855 and again in 1867. Both of these men, along with the other early reeves, were builders. They took it upon themselves to draft by-laws, appoint men to various positions, and begin the task of governing a new municipality, much of which was still bush.

Another early settler, who played an important part in early history of Hollen and Maryborough Township, was Dr. Henry Maudsley. Dr. Maudsley established a medical office around 1860 and quickly became one of the village's most active residents. The good doctor wore many hats. In addition to his medical practise, he was a politician who served as reeve in 1867, 1872 and 1877-78. In 1872, he relocated to nearby Moorefield where he established the village's first post office, which in time grew to become a distributing centre. By the mid 1870s, he had established the area's first telegraph service. In 1884 he served on the township's first board of health, which had the power to inspect all homes and public buildings and test water wells, and take action to combat infection and disease whenever necessary. Dr. Maudsley passed away in 1885.

By the mid 1860s Hollen had grown to a sizeable full-service and manufacturing community that included George Tanner's carding and fulling mills, a brick and tile yard owned by James Clarke, three agricultural implement manufacturers and three boot and shoe manufacturers. In addition to Dr. Maudsley, there was a dentist, J.W. Griffith, three general stores, a butcher, tailor, watchmaker and the usual blacksmiths, carpenters and millwrights. A Wesleyan Methodist church, (later the Hollen Methodist Church) with Rev. Adams as minister, was opened in 1863, followed by the Chalmers Presbyterian Church in 1967, with Rev. McGuire as the first minister.

By the 1870s Hollen had grown beyond anyone's wildest expectations and boasted a population of around 400. Stage coach service had started in 1866 and coaches rattled in and out daily from the neighbouring communities of Drayton, Stirton and Floradale. Charles Hahnel operated the grist mill while Robert Patterson and Joseph Billings ran the saw and carding mills. In addition to James Clarke's brick yard, there was a tannery owned by James Mannell and sons, a carriage shop run by Alex Preston and a cheese factory, operated by Thomas Henderson. The village included five blacksmiths, two carriage makers, a couple of tailors, a cooper and a couple of carriage makers. Hollen had three hotels to accommodate the many travellers and two general stores, owned by George McLeod and Captain Thomas Thompson. There was even a photography studio, owned by George Wilson as well as three physicians to look after the elderly and infirm.

Unfortunately Hollen had the misfortune to be passed over by the railways. Its days of success effectively came to an end when in 1874 the builders chose Drayton over Hollen for their new station. Although Hollen continued to thrive as a small manufacturing centre throughout the 1880s and 90s, its growth potential was seriously limited. By the 1880s James Dickson had taken over the shingle mill and William Potter, the flour mill. However by 1886 the sawmill had closed as did the brickyard. During the 1880s Hollen's residents included a music teacher named Hector Lamonte and a money broker with the almost improbable name of Bernard Sharkey. Two of the stores and hotels remained open until the mid 90s, but the proud little village was clearly on the decline. In 1894 there were 42 students attending the Hollen School. By 1903 that number had dropped to 27.

Hollen's mills and tannery continued operating into the early part of the 20th century, however by 1910 the village was a mere shadow of its former self. The population had dropped to about 75 and all of its industries with the exception of one sawmill had closed. The post office lasted until 1914 when it was taken over by rural mail delivery. An early telephone line, known as "The Hollen Line" was established by Joshua Hilborn and Richard, and Robert Armstrong. The line followed the fence lines as far as Glen Allan and grew to provide service to 28 subscribers.

In 1915, the Methodist church burned to the ground. A vacant church was purchased, dismantled and rebuilt in Hollen and the Hollen Methodist Church reopened in 1916. Following the United Church union in 1925, it was adopted as the new Hollen United Church and the Chalmers Church was closed. The Chalmers Church was later moved to Carthage, where it survived until around 1960.

By the 1940s, Hollen was literally classed as a ghost town. If that weren't enough, the waters of the Conestoga were dammed up and much of the original town site, including the location of the early mills, now lies under water. The school, which was closed around 1944, remained vacant for many years until it was eventually demolished. Luckily a few of Hollen's original buildings still remain and a handful of people continue to call Hollen their home. The cemetery is well maintained and remains in use.