The Sinclairs Corners schoolhouse©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko
Achibald Sinclair was a man in search of land and a future. In 1849 the would-be settler left his home, near Martintown, Glengarry, looking for farmland for his three growing sons. Pleased with what he found, he secured title to several lots in Kincardine Township and then returned to Scotland to fetch his family.
The Sinclair family returned to Canada in October 1849. Their journey, as described by Sinclair's daughter, was nothing short of perilous.
After taking a ship as far as Hamilton, they travelled by wagon from Hamilton to Goderich. That was the easy part. Upon their arrival in Goderich, they boarded an open boat to make the harrowing journey up Lake Huron from Goderich to Kincardine. There were a total of 18 passengers on board.
After about an hour or two the gales had risen to the point where it was considered too risky to travel any further. They attempted to land at a place called 18-Mile Creek but as soon as they hit the beach their boat was dashed to pieces.
Shipwrecked in the middle of a storm with most of their possessions lost, they struggled up the clay banks, crossed a deep ravine, and arrived at a shanty where the occupants provided them with shelter for the night. With no boat, they had to continue their journey on foot the following day. They managed about 20 kilometres, arriving at Pine River, where they found a night's accommodation sleeping on straw in a barn. From there they were finally rescued by another ship and transported to Kincardine.
Archibald Sinclair only remained in Kincardine for a scant three years. In 1852 he sold his land and moved northwest to what would become the new township of Bruce. He settled about two kilometres north of the future community of Tiverton and built a squatter's shanty on the northwest corner of Lot 1, Concession 2, just north of a fast-flowing creek that ran through the property. He then lost no time in building a sawmill, followed by a grist mill, the first in the township. In 1853 his son Peter opened the first post office in the township, known as Bruce PO, located in the Sinclair home.
Sinclair's friendship with David Gibson turned into a fortunate stroke of luck. Gibson was a government engineer in charge of setting up contracts for the building of the Saugeen and Goderich road. Owing in part to their friendship and in part to the location of the Sinclair mills, Gibson arranged to have the road jog west at the second concession for about three kilometres instead of having it continue in a grid pattern up the fifth side-road. This brought all the traffic through Sinclairs Corners and the settlement began to expand quickly. The success of the mills likely provided Gibson with the necessary justification for making such an unusual decision.
Beginning in 1854, a group of settlers began to submit petitions to the United Counties Council, requesting separation of the township of Bruce from the township of Kincardine. Settlement was increasing rapidly, despite the fact that no grants or patents for settlement had been issued. They believed there were now a sufficient number of settlers to warrant a separate municipal government.
The following year another petition was submitted and later approved. Bruce became a separate township on January 1, 1856. An election was quickly held with Archibald Sinclair being chosen the first reeve of Bruce Township. Sinclair only held the post for a few months before resigning. His reasons are not given but may have been due to illness as he passed away about 14 months later. His son Peter served as served as township clerk and treasurer from the formation of the township until his death in 1869.
In the meantime the little hamlet that surrounded the mills had grown rapidly. By 1857 there was a small log Presbyterian Church, a school and two small stores, owned by Granny Cameron and Alex MacIntosh. Mail was brought in twice weekly by a courier, John Urquhart, who travelled on foot from Kincardine to Inverhuron and then on to Sinclairs Corners. The most lucrative industry was a potashery operated by David McBane. Settlers were paid two cents a bushel for their ash which, after processing, was used to manufacture china. Tragically McBane lost his life when he accidentally fell into a vat of boiling ash.
Things were looking very promising for Sinclairs Corners until 1857 when Norman McInnes arrived from Kincardine. McInnes opened a new general store about two and a half kilometres south of Sinclairs Corners which turned out to be a very big draw. It didn't take long for all the business began to moving southward to be closer to the McInnes store.
By 1860 the Presbyterians had outgrown their church and they decided to build their new church further south, also in the vicinity of the store. The church and store formed the nucleus of the future village of Tiverton, which in a very short period of time grew to completely eclipse Sinclairs Corners. The Bruce post office closed following the opening of a new post office in McInnes' store in 1860. The old log Presbyterian Church was put to new use as a manufacturing facility for pearl ash.
Although Sinclairs Corners declined rapidly with the rise of Tiverton, the area continued to exist in name. In 1876 a new red frame new school was opened on Concession 3, just north of the former settlement. The school, which was officially known as SS No.11, Bruce, was better known as the "Sinclairs Corners School." The school saw a number of improvements over the years. In 1904 a new concrete foundation was built just north of the school site. The school was moved slightly north, placed on the new foundation and bricked over. A well was added in 1912. The school had its ups and downs. It was closed from 1943 to 47 due to low attendance, but reopened in 1948. In 1950 a new oil heater, a water pressure system and hydro were installed. The school remained in use until 1965 when it was closed due to centralization.
The former location of Sinclairs Corners is now a modern street lined with suburban style homes. A small historical plaque in one of the yards marks the location of this early, important settlement. The Sinclairs Corners school still stands directly across the road, where it is now used as a private home.