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Vennachar and Glenfield

History

Town site photo

The former general store

©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko

Vennachar, named after a lake in Scotland, started out as one of the more promising communities in Addington County. Vennachar was a colonization town, first settled in 1861, after the lumbering companies began pushing northward. The surrounding farmland was described as 'passable' and could support limited farming. Vennachar in turn functioned primarily as a service and supply centre for both the lumber industry and the surrounding farmers.

By 1865, Charles McKenyon had opened a store and post office. Mail deliveries took place once a week. A school, Denbigh S.S. No. 2 Vennachar, was added in 1866. The village also included a tanner, Edward Eno and two carpenters, William Haines and Andrew Cowan. Cowan also went on to serve as a councillor. A Methodist Episcopal church was established in the area sometime before 1871. The building was replaced in 1875, with Reverend Robert Denike serving as minister. For some odd reason, Vennachar also boasted two bailiffs, William Fallans and William Sallaris. By the mid 1870s, the village's population had grown to about 60.

By the mid 1880s, Vennachar had grown to include two blacksmiths, G. F. Bebee and Robert Connor and a cabinetmaker, Edward Williams. George Sweetnam had taken over the general store and also acted as postmaster, commissioner and issued marriage licenses. There were both Lutheran and Presbyterian churches in the area.

Vennachar spawned a few small satellite communities that relied on the larger centre for such services, as the school, church and store. One of these was a small farming and lumbering settlement called Glenfield.

Jacob Snider, a farmer and lumberman who lived in Glenfield, had wanted to be buried on his own property. He set aside a large plot of land to be used as a family cemetery and donated the remaining land to the community. The Glenfield cemetery was established around the time of Snider's passing in 1907. The Snider family still resides in the area and the cemetery continues to be well maintained.

By 1892, there were two sawmills operating in the Vennachar, one by Hugheson Grant and the other by William Livingston. Since Livingston also served as postmaster for four years in Glenfield, it's likely the sawmill was located in Glenfield rather than Vennachar. The Glenfield post office remained open until 1929. Other than lumbering, there are no records of any commercial activity in Glenfield.

Vennachar jumped to life in the early 1900s with the opening of a grand hotel called the Vennachar House. The hotel was an instant success and extremely popular with the many travellers along the Snow Road. Two cheese factories had sprung up within walking distance of the village and a new school had just been added. The future was looking very bright indeed for the community of Vennachar.

Then on April 30, 1903 the unthinkable happened. The spring had been unusually dry and a bush fire, likely started by farmers burning slash in the bush, started at Louse Creek, and quickly spread into the forest. Once the flames hit dry timber, the fire took on a life of its own and in no time at all, came roaring up Vennachar's main street burning everything in its path. The Vennachar House, post offices and brand new school, along with dozens of farmhouses were left in ashes. The fire then crossed the Snow Road and headed towards Glenfield and Rose Hill.

Then as instantly as it began, it was miraculously over. A sudden rainstorm managed to completely douse the fire before any lives were lost. The residents of Vennachar then opened their eyes to the horror that lay before them. All that remained of their once thriving community were the church and one lone house.

Following the massive devastation, it's quite surprising that Vennachar managed to survive at all. Although Vennachar's businesses were never rebuilt, the general store and post office stayed in business until 1970. The school was rebuilt, however it no longer stands. The church continued operating until 1975. Today the general store is used both as a private home and for commercial purposes. The church still stands. It underwent a modest amount of restoration and remains in a good state of repair. The area continues to support a number of farms.