Sign from St. Matthew's Anglican Church©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko
Kingarf was a small, service and supply hamlet located at the town lines of Kinloss, Kincardine and Greenock Townships. This lonely little hamlet, situated in a remote area west of the swamp, was first settled in the late 1850s. There was no through road access, making transportation to this isolated community extremely difficult.
Uppermost in the early settlers' priorities were a church and school. Initially Anglican services took place in the John Stringer home. The Stringers were a deeply religious family whose son was Bishop I.O. Stringer. Later on services were moved to the log schoolhouse, built around 1860 on Concession 6 in Kincardine Township. The school doubled as a church and school until 1866. From then on it was used only as a school until 1906.
Initial attempts to establish a church were met with frustration and failure. Construction of the first St. Matthews Anglican Church began in 1866. While still under construction, the building was levelled by a severe windstorm. A second attempt in 1869 was more successful and the church, located at the top northern point in Kinloss Township, opened later that year. Lumber and other materials were donated by the parishioners and construction was carried out by volunteer labour. The church was enlarged in 1880. A store was opened sometime in the 1870s, although little is known about it.
By the 1890s Kingarf offered a few commercial services, mainly farm-based. There were two blacksmith shops, both on the Greenock side of the settlement. One was owned by Ben Moulton, who also opened a post office in 1886. Mail was brought in and out of Kingarf by stage twice a week. This had the added benefit of providing settlers with another means of travel in and out, rather than cart and horseback. Blacksmiths included Jim Young, Joe Shelt, Jim Brown, and a Mr. Aitken. D. Chadbourne established a saw mill around 1892.
Although Kingarf was always a small place, with an average population of 45 to 50, the Anglican Church was well-attended. Sunday school classes had been held regularly from the time was church was built. By 1893 the congregation had outgrown the small frame building and it was time for something better. A building committee that included John G. Stringer, James Stringer Sr. and Reverend Hall began the planning process. Land was donated by Ben Moulton. The new church, which included a large shed, was located in Kincardine Township and opened on July 1, 1894. In 1897, 110 candidates were confirmed, the largest number to be presented to the bishop at one time.
The old church was purchased by John Stringer who converted it to a store which he ran for many years. After the store closed, the building was sold to the Orange Lodge and used as a hall until it was demolished in the early 1940s.
Transportation to Kingarf finally improved in 1901 with the opening of a road through the swamp. Although this early road was little more than a trail, it offered a more direct route between Kingarf and the rest of the province. Other improvements included a new school, USS No. 7, Kincardine and Greenock, built in 1906 at a cost of $1600. Along with the school, there was also a woodshed and well. Rural mail delivery arrived in 1916.
The church saw many improvements over the next few years. In 1914 a number of repairs were made following damage to the stained glass windows from a storm the previous year. A separate shed for the clergyman's horse was also built. A new holy table was dedicated in 1916. The coal oil lamps were replaced with gas in 1925, donated by Mr. and Mrs. James Needham, who had also provided land for the school in 1906. The furnace was replaced in 1928, however it would take another 25 years for hydro to arrive in the area.
During the early part of the 20th century, the Kingarf area was home to a number of small mills and other farm based industries. These included three sawmills, and two brick and tile yards.
The Bechler Sawmill which produced shingles and charcoal was owned by Charlie Bechler and located on lot 30, Concession 6. The mill closed when the family relocated to Kinloss. The Fraser Sawmill, located on lot 33, Concession 9 was started by John Fraser. It produced squared timber for barns as well as lumber for the surrounding community. Around 1920 it was taken over by his three sons, Allan, Wilbur and Charlie. In 1945 Allan Fraser moved it to his farm, one lot over, where he continued to do custom sawing on a part time basis until 1957.
The Hedley mill, first located on lot 28, Concession 6, was a portable mill that employed about five men during the early 1930s. They sawed logs into lumber which were then delivered by truck to the furniture factories in Walkerton and Hanover. In 1935 Jack Hedley moved the mill over to the Moulton tile yard. It was shut down shortly afterwards following a fire.
Other industries included two brickyards. The Moulton Brick and Tile Yard was established in 1924 by John Moulton. Located on Lot 33, Concession 4, it employed eight to 10 men. The equipment included a kiln with eight fireplaces and four chimneys, which produced drainage tiles and building bricks. During the 17 years it was in operation, Moulton experienced a number of setbacks. In 1929 the operation was destroyed by a fire of mysterious origins. It was rebuilt and back in service the following spring. Fire struck again in 1935 after Jack Hedley set up his portable sawmill in the yard. The drying sheds were completely destroyed and had to be rebuilt. The mill was shut down in 1941 following John Moulton's death a year earlier.
The Bannerman & Thompson Brick and Tile Yard, located on Lot 28, Concession 9, was formed by George Bannerman and Earl Thompson. Shortly afterwards Thompson sold his share back to Bannerman who added a delivery truck and continued on for another year until illness forced him to sell. The business employed six to eight men. Two of the men, brothers William and James Smith, purchased the business and expanded the delivery service into a trucking business. James left the business after about 10 years but William carried on until 1953 when the sheds and a new truck were destroyed by fire.
By the early 20th century, Kingarf had reverted mainly to farmland however both the church and school continued to thrive. The school received a new paint job and indoor toilets in 1935, and ceiling insulation in 1936. In 1938 the curriculum was expanded to include music. Hydro was installed in 1952. The school received a complete renovation in 1961 that included a new basement, tile floor, flush toilets, followed by a new roof in 1963. Students didn't have a chance to enjoy their new surroundings for very long. The school closed in 1964 following to centralization of the school system.
St. Matthews Anglican Church also saw many more changes and upgrades. In 1940 the open shed and a portion of the large shed were dismantled and sold. What remained was converted to a concert area for church social programs. Hydro was added in 1948.
Improvements to the church continued throughout the 1950s. These included a new carpet in the chancel, an organ and a church sign. In 1959 a centre aisle was added and the church redecorated. A forced air furnace was added in 1959. In 1984 the bell from St. Mary's Anglican Church in Bervie, which closed in 1979, was relocated to St. Matthews and mounted on a concrete pad in front of the church.
Today most of Kingarf has reverted to farmland. However St. Matthews Anglican Church continues to operate and hold regular services, alternating with other churches in the area. Nothing else remains of Kingarf.