A small pioneer cemetery©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko
Stirton sprang to life as a crossroads hamlet in the early 1860s. By 1863, John Sanderson had opened a post office and other businesses began to move in. Stage coach service to nearby villages such as Drayton, Glen Annan and Hollen began in 1866, with the stages running on alternate days. However a much brighter future lay in store for Stirton.
The nearby Conestoga River offered an ideal locale for a successful mill operation. In 1867, Charles Hendry took advantage of the opportunity and opened a complex alongside the river, which included a flax mill and sawmill. Ludwig Brown and Henry Stricker followed with a tannery. With both the mills and tannery offering the prospect of steady employment, Stirton began to grow.
By 1871 Stirton's population had grown to around 150, with the mills employing about 50 to 60 hands. The village was located at the junction of Peel and Maryborough Townships and had essentially developed in two sections, known as 'upper' and 'lower' Stirton. The mills were located in one half and the businesses in the other. The two sections were about a kilometre apart. The village included a hotel, owned by Martin Stribe, a shoemaker, John Debel, as well as a cabinetmaker, carpenter, wagon shop and harness maker. Irish born Samuel Crookshanks was the blacksmith and thirty year old A.H. Grant managed the flax mill. Mail was now being delivered daily. The 1871, Lovell's directory praised the village as being "pleasant and attractive."
Stirton's first school was a small white brick building, built as early as 1854. The school had been constructed on a sloped terrain, leading to difficulties with using the playground. It was replaced with a newer structure in 1899. A Methodist church and parsonage were built some time during the 1880s.
Stirton was another one of those classic examples of tiny villages doomed by the success of the railways. Without railway access, Stirton's businesses could not compete and the village slowly shut down. The church lasted until 1932-33 and was dismantled some time after that. The parsonage is now a private home. The school was closed from 1946-49 due to low attendance, but reopened in 1950. Hydro was installed that same year.
During the late 1950s, most of the original mill site was flooded, with the opening of the Conestoga Dam. All that remains today are three original homes and the remains of a small cemetery. Sadly, the attractive old bow string bridge was demolished in 2002.