masthead image

Shiloh

History

Town site photo

An original home

©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko

By the early 1950s, Shiloh was already being described as one of the many "ghost hamlets" of rural Ontario. In reality, Shiloh had been 'ghosted' many years before, way back with the closing of the mills that had been its sole reason for existence.

According to one source, Shiloh's earliest settler was one Isaac Williams, who settled on lot 29, Concession 5. However Shiloh really got its start in the mid 1860s, when a young millwright, James Huxtable, son of the late Edward Huxtable, decided to build a sawmill, using water power from the Speed River. Edward Huxtable had started the Huxtable Mill back in the 1840s. Following his death, the mill was taken over by the Birge family, who were close relatives of the Huxtables. James, along with his cousin Lon Birge, dammed up the river, installed a turbine waterwheel and constructed the sawmill.

It was a time of growth and expansion and the mill was an instant success. Unfortunately James Huxtable wasn't able to enjoy the fruits of his labour for very long. Tragically he lost his leg in a sawmill accident, and with his milling days at a temporary standstill, sold the mill to Nicholas Lynett. Huxtable eventually relocated to Horning's Mills and bought the Horning's Mill operation. He went on to operate a successful flour mill for many years. During 1881 and 1882, he served as reeve of Melancthon Township in the new provisional county of Dufferin.

In the meantime, Lynett had other plans for the mill. He dismantled the sawmill, moved it downstream near the bridge that runs through Shiloh's main street, and switched it over to steam power. In its place, he built a new grist mill using the original water-wheel installed by Huxtable and Birge. In addition to the sawmill, Lynett entered into a partnership with Lon Birge, whereby the two picked up contracts on bush lots in order to harvest the timber.

Shiloh's first post office was opened in 1874. Prior to that, residents had to travel to Oustic to pick up their mail. Initially the post office was opened in Nicholas Lynett's home and later moved to James Mitchell's store. Mitchell served as postmaster until 1876. It was John Leslie, Shiloh's second postmaster and long-time area resident and farmer, who reportedly gave Shiloh its name. Leslie was a devout Methodist who thought the name 'Shiloh' was both "beautiful and appropriate." Leslie served as postmaster from 1876 to 1890.

Shiloh reportedly contained a school at an early unknown date. After it burned down, it was replaced with a log building with a cottage roof that was in use during the 1860s when the Huxtable mill was built. The log schoolhouse lasted until 1872, when it was replaced with an attractive stone building. The old log building stood until about 1902, when it suffered the ignominy of being demolished and cut up for firewood.

In the meantime, Shiloh's new school, S.S. No. 5, Eramosa, was filled to capacity almost immediately. By 1880, the number of pupils had grown to around 90 and the school was bursting at the seams. The young teacher, James Grant, had his hands so full that one of the older students was assigned to look after the younger classes. It must have been a great relief to Grant when a new school section, S.S. No. 4 1/2 was formed, thereby reducing his class size to a manageable number.

Grant arrived at the Shiloh school around 1874, newly graduated from Normal School. Despite the meagre salary offerings, Grant was a dedicated and devoted teacher who took great pride in his students' achievements. He appears to have been extraordinarily thrifty because he and his wife managed to purchase a 92-acre farm on his paltry earnings as a teacher. To supplement his income, Grant and his wife opened a small grocery store at the Grange, a local cooperative movement that was started in 1881, the year they were married.

The Grange was one of the many farm cooperatives that took root in the late 19th century. Known as the "Patrons of Industry" it was formed in order for farmers to group together and purchase or sell food and other necessities at reduced cost. James Grant operated the Grange on evenings and weekends, measuring and dishing out the various items to the farmers. The Grange was housed in a storehouse located at the southeast end of the village. After it disbanded, the storehouse was turned into a private dwelling.

In the early 1890s, Nicholas Lynett entered into a second partnership with Lon Birge, whereby the two were operating a sawmill. Lynett sold the old sawmill around 1898. It is unclear whether the mill was later dismantled or burned. In 1899 he took over as postmaster and continued to operate the grist mill until 1907. Lack of water in the summer and his own deteriorating health took their toll and he was finally forced to shut down the operation. Lynett continued serving as postmaster until his death in 1910.

Shiloh continued on for a while. Around 1910, James McCann opened a grocery store and took over the post office. The post office closed in 1915 following the arrival of rural mail delivery. The store reportedly closed shortly after that.

In 1901 Shiloh contained five residential dwellings, excluding the surrounding farms. By 1927, this number had been reduced to two. The others, for the most part, had been jacked up and moved elsewhere. A handful of people still continue to live in Shiloh. One original home still stands, as does the schoolhouse, which is now used as a private residence. The attractive bow string bridge remains in use.