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Shipley

History

Town site photo

The Mennonite Cemetery

©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko

The opening of new Crown Lands in Wallace and Elma townships in 1854 was an instant hit - to put it mildly. The lands office did a rip-roaring business and within three years, virtually each of the 100-acre lots was filled. Although the Wallace lands were not put up for sale until September 1854, Concession 1 was completely filled before the end of the year.

Wallace, the last of the Perth County's townships to be occupied, benefited from the mistakes and foibles of the earlier settlements. It took a while to get things organized and municipal government did not officially begin until January 18, 1858, with Freeborn Kee serving as the first reeve. Once established, the Wallace township council moved as fast as lightning. By the end of 1858, they had established schools throughout the entire township. All were open and functioning, with the exception of one, that served the farms located on the 12th and 13th concessions. Shipley's school, S.S. #4, Wallace was located on Concession 5, with Christopher Massey (C.M.) Hemsworth as the first teacher.

Shipley was an early settlement that got its start after Edward Bristow opened a sawmill in the mid 1850s. By 1858, he opened the settlement's first post office and officially put Shipley on the map. It is believed the community was named after Bristow's birthplace in England.

The Hemsworth family figured prominently in both the township and community's history. William Hemsworth served as township councillor in 1860 and C.M. Hemsworth, also said to be a superb calligraphist, served as town clerk for many years, where his penmanship skills were held in particularly high regard. Marmaduke Hemsworth was also briefly involved in township affairs. Other Shipley residents who served as councillors were Richard Strong in 1861 and John Mills from 1870 to 79. Edward Bristow's post office took over postal services for residents in nearby Mayne Corners, after their post office closed in 1866.

Shipley was exceptionally well served by religious institutions. In 1860, William Hemsworth donated a large plot on Concession 5, Lot 33, to establish St. Paul's Anglican Church and an adjoining cemetery. The brick church was constructed around 1863, with Reverend Newman as the first minister. A Lutheran church, also named St. Paul's, was founded in 1864, three lots over from St. Paul's Anglican, on Concession 5, Lot 30. The original frame church was replaced in 1888 with a more substantial brick structure. In 1870, a Mennonite church was built on Concession 2, Lot 37. The first minister was Reverend J.C. Staebler with Sunday school being conducted by William Good. There was also a Methodist church in Mayne Corners.

In the early days, Shipley was a full service community that included three carpenters, a carriage maker, two masons, a shingle maker, gunsmith and weaver. The Bristow brothers, Edward and Walter, in addition to operating the sawmill, also listed their occupations as carpenters and sash and door makers. The community even included a dentist, one James Armstrong. Thomas Mulvey operated the Enniskillen Hotel for a brief period.

By the early 1870s, Shipley boasted a population of around 100. Albert Hemsworth was operating a sash and door factory and working as a joiner. Other residents included yet another carpenter, Daniel Hotell, a mason, James McIlroy and James Pigott, who was a commissioner in Queens Bench. However by the mid 1880s, the sawmill had shut down and Shipley began a rapid descent downward. By the end of the 19th century the population had dropped to around 40 or 50.

Although Shipley outlived neighbouring Mayne Corners, it wasn't by much. Shipley's post office shut down in 1910 and there was very little activity in the community after that. The schoolhouse no longer exists and the Mennonite church was closed sometime after 1967. The Anglican Church closed around 1970. The building has since been demolished. However the Lutheran church, which boasted around 200 members during the late 1960s, still maintains a busy and active congregation. The remainder of the area has reverted to farmland and continues to support a rural population.