Derelict building©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko
During the early 1850s, settlers began to arrive in the newly formed county of Bruce. After blazing a trail through to their lands, the first order of business was to clear the land and establish a homestead, usually a small log cabin. Next up was to get the lands ready for cultivation and begin planting.
By the mid 1850s, many of these hard-working settlers were reasonably well established and ready to go on to the next step of building small communities. These little villages formed an integral part of early development of the county. Roads, where they existed, were generally rough, rocky and very poor. A trip of only a few kilometres could take the better of the day. Farmers also needed nearby supply centres where they buy or trade goods and pick up their mail. Families needed schools and churches.
Malcolm's origins in many ways were very similar to those of nearby Gillies Hill. As the area became settled, Reverend R.C. Moffat, DD, arrived in 1857 to establish a Presbyterian church. An acre of land was purchased for a church and cemetery in May 1858. As more settlers began to flock in, the community gradually took form. It is thought the community was named after an early settler, one John Malcolm.
Malcolm's first church, the North Brant Presbyterian Church, was a simple log structure, built in 1859. Reverend Moffat, assisted by lay ministers, served as pastor for the next 14 years. A few businesses began to open in the 1860s. These included a general store, owned by Daniel Sullivan, a blacksmith and two hotels, McGuires and Finnerty's. In 1869, Sullivan opened a post office in the store.
Although the area was settled in the late 1859s, it took until 1872 for Malcolm to have its own school. It must have been a great relief to the parents whose children were attending schools way over on concessions 12 and 6. The one-room, red brick schoolhouse, S.S. #10, was built on lot 26, concession 10, on land purchased from James McGuire, the hotel owner. The school was officially opened in January 1873. Later improvements included a woodshed in 1883 and a well in 1884.
Also in 1873, Malcolm's landscape changed dramatically with the construction of a beautiful, new, white brick church. By the 1870s, Malcolm was at its height and the congregation had outgrown the old log structure.
The new building faced east and was heated by two wood burning stoves. Lighting was provided by ornate coal oil chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Much to the relief of all concerned, the church opened free of debt. The Reverend Daniel Duff, a former schoolteacher, took over as pastor, and moved with his family into the manse located just north of the church. Reverend Duff remained as pastor until his death in 1899.
Two Malcolm families, the Lamonts and the Tullochs, were both extremely active in the church. The Lamonts arrived in Canada from Scotland in 1842 and settled in Toronto. Two sons, Joseph and George B. (Junior) moved to Brant in 1849, followed by their father, George Donald (Senior) in 1850. George Donald was highly regarded as a lay preacher, and later served as Sunday School Superintendent. Thomas Tulloch led the Christian Endeavour meetings and mid week prayer meetings. Social events in Malcolm revolved around religious activities and prayer meetings.
Of the two hotels, John Finnerty's lasted the longest. It was located on concession 11, facing south and remained in business until at least 1888. Although there are no records of tavern licences, it seems likely the hotel also sold alcohol. Directly across from the hotel, was Martin Stadlander's farm where the brickyard was located. The village also included a carpenter, George Knittel and an apiary, owned by Samuel Evans.
Lachlan McNevin, known as "Lockie," built his home and blacksmith shop on concession 10, just south of church. Behind the shop, there was a grave that had been dug to accommodate the remains of an unidentified individual. In later years children from the nearby school would stray into the derelict buildings on the old McNevin property, which they jokingly called "haunted." The buildings were eventually demolished after one of the little tykes had an accident and fell through a lean-to roof.
In the mid 1880s, Dan Sullivan, who owned the general store and post office, built a small community hall on his property. The hall was used for meetings and social events. In the 1890s, Sullivan opened a cheese factory, known as the Brant Cheese Manufacturing Company. In 1905 he sold his property and store to John Miller, who took over the post office and set up a wagon repair business and paint shop in the bottom of the old community hall. The paint shop specialized in applying elegant, hand painted finishes and décor to carriages.
By the late 1890s, Malcolm's best days were over. The population had dropped from a high of around 85 in 1871 to about 50. Although Malcolm had very little in the way of farm based industries, it also had the misfortune to have been bypassed by the railway, which likely helped contribute to its demise. Migration of the farming community to the western provinces also played a part.
Reverend Alexander Leslie took over as pastor in 1900, following the death of Reverend Duff. In 1901, Reverend Leslie moved into the manse in Elmwood, which had been purchased by the joint congregations of Malcolm, West Bentinck and Crawford, as it was more centrally located between the three churches. The congregation continued to grow for a few years but then began to decline as more people gravitated away from the area. Reverend Leslie remained at the church until 1916, when he stepped down for health reasons.
Malcolm struggled on. John Miller continued running the store and post office. J. Leggett was running a small sawmill. Telephone services, provided by the Central Brant Telephone Company arrived in 1913, the same year the post office closed and was replaced with rural mail delivery. The telephone company lasted until 1966, when it was absorbed by Bell Canada.
By the end of the First World War, nothing could change the fact that Malcolm was clearly on the road to oblivion. The age of the automobile had arrived resulting in the speedy demise of small roadside hamlets like Malcolm, although farm-based services and social activities lasted in the community for a number of years afterwards.
Reverend Leslie was followed by Reverend Girard Graham who stayed until 1919. During that time quite a few members moved to the larger church in Chesley. By the time Reverend S.G. Steele arrived in 1919, the situation had grown very serious. Church membership was in a freefall, not only in Malcolm but also at the Presbyterian church in West Bentinck, and at the Methodist church in Elmwood. In 1923, at the invitation of the Methodist church, both the Malcolm and West Bentinck Presbyterian churches closed their doors and merged with the Elmwood Methodist Church, which became part of the United Church in 1925. Reverend Steele served as the congregation's first United Church minister until 1926.
Although Malcolm was slowly dwindling away, prominent farm groups began to rise from the ashes. In April 1914, Malcolm had the distinction of being home to the first cooperative farmer's buying club in Ontario. The club was organized by 23 farmers, after discussing the details in a meeting held at the old Malcolm community hall. Interest escalated rapidly and membership skyrocketed. A year later the club boasted 72 members. In 1918, the club purchased the old Malcolm store and remained there until 1940 when they merged with a club in Sullivan and became known as the Grey-Bruce Co-Operative Association, later the United Co-Operatives of Ontario. The organization is now known as the Ontario Co-operative Association or On Co-op.
Other farm groups that were active during this period were the egg circles. Egg circles were formed by groups of farmers, who found they could get better prices for their eggs when the quality was standardized and the eggs graded. It was an early step towards the graded egg system we all use today. Malcolm's egg circle was formed around 1916 and lasted for about 10 years until egg grading stations began to appear.
By the 1930s as roads and transportation improved, social activities in the faming communities branched out into competitive sports. A softball league was formed in the early 1930s. The Junior Farmers Division included Lucknow, Port Elgin, Walkerton, and Malcolm. The Malcolm team was good and won the cup numerous times. Not to be outdone, the Malcolm Junior Institute girls' team was also very successful and, like the men's team, won the trophy several years in a row.
The Malcolm church stood vacant for many years. In 1939, like the Methodist church in Vesta, it was purchased for $350 and demolished by the same individual who built the Chesley High School. It seems likely the materials were reused in the construction of the new school. The two sheds were moved to nearby farms, and the money from the sale of the church building was used to spruce up the cemetery.
The Malcolm school remained in use for almost 100 years and saw regular improvements. These included new maps, books and a bell in 1926, additional blackboards and window boards in 1934, swings and a radio-phonograph in 1947. Hydro was installed in 1945 and the oil burning store was replaced with an oil furnace in 1965. The school celebrated two milestones, its 50th anniversary in 1922 and its 75th anniversary in 1947. The school was closed in 1967, just five years short of its 100th anniversary, due to centralization of the school system.
Although very little was left of Malcolm by the 1950s, the community's name stayed alive with the formation of the Malcolm Women's Institute in 1954. In 1967, to coincide with the closing of the school, the group erected a memorial cairn, dedicated to Malcolm's early pioneers. During that same year the old community hall was demolished. The Malcolm Women's Institute remains active to this day.
Today, very little remains of this once thriving settlement, apart from the cemetery and the school, now converted to a private home. A derelict building, likely a farm home, stood on the 11th concession until a few years ago. The cairn can be found across the road from the cemetery on the site of the old general store and Farmer's Buying Club. The remainder of the community has reverted to farmland.