PHS Research

Township of Puslinch Crest

As part of our ongoing mandate to not only preserve our heritage and history but also to make it accessible to the public we have created this online research portal. Below you will find a wealth of information on the history of Puslinch categorized for easy search. Simply choose a topic below to begin your search.

Rural townships were divided into school sections when public education first began in the mid-nineteenth century. Each area soon became a community of its own and people in Puslinch would say, for example, “We’re from Badenoch.” Immediately other residents would know that they lived in southeast Puslinch. The school sections in the Township were numbered S.S. 1 to 12.

In 2015 the Puslinch Historical Society offered public viewings of their compilation, The Communities in Puslinch. This was presented over 3 evenings, with four of the twelve school districts offered each night.

There have been many requests to see this presentation by people who were unable to attend, so it was decided to post the document on our website. Since the files are mostly pictures – making them large files to download and view – the complete file has been divided into four parts.

Reverend William Meldrum

Narrated by Lynn Crowe
Spirit Walk at Crown Cemetery
September 17, 2012.

Rev. William Meldrum was the first minister at Duff's church and his life story is intertwined with the founding of Duff's Church.

In 1830, Puslinch was an almost unbroken forest, the first settlers having arrived just the year before. There was no church or minister or burial ground and the lack was sorely felt. Thomas Wardrope was one community leader who led the people in services in peoples homes, barns, or in the open air As more settlers arrived, the wish for a church grew, and the people petitioned the Crown Lands Department for land to build a church. About 1837, the Front half of Lot 28, Concession. 8, 100 acres, was granted to the Presbyterians of Puslinch for a church and cemetery.

The land secured, people then got together to build a log "meeting house". It was about 10 feet inside the present memorial gates. Funds were raised by the community. Alexander McLean and Malcom McNaughton, two of the builders, constructed two of the corners of the building. An acre of ground around the church was also cleared as a burial ground.

In 1837, the congregation was officially organized, but as yet there was no permanent minister. Permanent ministers were few and far between in the backwoods of Upper Canada. Many of them were 'circuit' ministers, looking after several congregations and making their rounds between them every few weeks. A visiting minister from Guelph conducted the first church service in 1839, giving Communion to 81 people .

Mr. Gordon of Badenoch had known William Meldrum in Scotland, and put his name forward as a candidate for this ministry. William Meldrum had just graduated from college. An invitation was sent off he accepted, and came out to Puslinch in November 1839. This was his first charge His stipend was 100 pounds a year. He delivered his first sermon in Gaelic, basing it on 1st Corinthians, Chapter 2: Verse 2, "for I determined not to know any thing among you save Jesus Christ, and him crucified". The congregation grew, and in 1840, the building was enlarged to twice its size. Thus, ten years after the arrival of the first settlers, a church had been built, then enlarged, and a permanent minister engaged.

In 1843 the Great Disruption in the Church of Scotland took place and its effects were felt across the sea in Puslinch. Puslinch Presbyterian Church was part of the established Church of Scotland, but in 1844 at a Synod meeting, a motion to cut ties with the Church of Scotland passed, because: " the Established Church of Scotland hath sold her birth-right, and become so low and despicable as not to hold Christ as her Head, as her actions do clearly prove". Rev. Meldrum supported the motion and the Puslinch congregation was also unanimous in its support of this resolution. Thus the Free Presbyterian Church of Canada was formed.

By its secession from the established Church of Scotland, the Free Presbyterian Church of Canada forfeited its right to church property, but since there was no one to object, they continued to use church buildings. As well, the Free Church Synod no longer had a claim to the proceeds of the Clergy Reserves and was short of funds, so each church had to find the money to pay its own minister. But the Free Church kept going, thanks to the generosity of its congregations.

William Meldrum was born in 1806 on the family farm in the parish of Abernathy, Morayshire, Scotland. He graduated from the University of Aberdeen in 1839, and was preparing for a ministry nearby when he got the invitation from Puslinch. He felt he'd be more useful here, so he decided to emigrate instead. He arrived in Puslinch in November 1839, and since there was no manse built yet, boarded at the home of Peter McLean of Badenoch.

One day he was approached by a young man for advice as to whether Anna McLean, Peter's youngest daughter, would make a good wife. Anna was a pretty and popular member of the congregation, and Rev. Meldrum assured him that she would indeed make a good wife – but it was Rev. Meldrum himself who married Anna, on Christmas Day, 1845. He was 39, and Anna was 21.

He bought a farm on the east half of Lot 33, Front Concession 8 and they started their family. They had ten children, the first, Norman, was born in 1847, the last, Alexander, was born in 1869, Anna having then spent twenty-two years bearing children, as many women did at that time.

In addition to his duties at Duff's Church, Rev. Meldrum also briefly served in Nassagaweya , the West Puslinch church, (Crieff) and in Beverley every third Sunday. He used to travel about dressed in white moleskin overalls that buttoned up the side top to bottom. He was a good judge of horseflesh and enjoyed a speedy mount.

He was called to Vaughan Township, York County in 1852 and served there for five years. He had an accident while in Vaughan; his horse fell on him and he had three ribs broken and was bruised all over. Saying he had never missed a Sabbath, he carried on, though he was forced to preach sitting down for a while.

He kept "Melbank", the farm which he had bought on Concession 8, but it was several years before the family returned to Puslinch. From Vaughan, Rev. Meldrum was called to Zorra Township between Ingersoll and Woodstock, in 1852. He served there until he retired in 1871 at the age of 65 years. Then the family returned to Puslinch and his son George took over the responsibility of the farm. George Meldrum was on Puslinch Council for four years, Reeve in 1905, then Township Clerk and active in township associations for many years. He later served as alderman in the city of Guelph.

Reverend Meldrum spoke with a strong North-Eastern Scottish accent. He was fluent in Gaelic and even his English sermons were influenced by Gaelic ways of thought. He was strongly conservative even by 1800's Presbyterian standards. He was particularly strict about observing the Sabbath. On Sundays, only one pitcher of water could be brought into the house from the spring 100 yards away. In addition to church services, family worship was held three times on Sunday, and his children had to repeat the shorter Catechism by memory. They were required to repeat all the Psalms in metre. He would sit with eyes closed, and if anyone faltered, administered a rap with his cane. Sometimes he paced up and down the room as the children recited their verses. Yet despite being a strict disciplinarian, he was kind and tender to his family. Out of the pulpit, he was an affable and genial sort of gentleman.

Under Rev. William as Moderator and Session Clerk, strict adherence to Presbyterian principals was kept in the community. A man who wanted his baby baptized was told by Rev. Meldrum that it could not be done, because he did not observe the Sabbath. The man protested that he was a malt maker which required his attention seven days a week and he was forced to violate the Sabbath. He was called before the Session and had to confess his guilt as a transgressor, condemn his former practice and promise to forsake his wicked ways, keep the Lord's Day, or he would be refused the sacraments.

Reverend Meldrum was very methodical. He always kept his silver coins in one pocket and the copper ones in another. He washed his hands before his face always. He kept track of every penny. He read the Old and the New Testaments alternately. He believed strongly in temperance and observing the fourth Commandment to keep the Sabbath Day holy.

Once he consulted his congregation as to whether it preferred that he choose his texts from the Bible in the usual way, or choose continuous texts from one particular book in the Bible. When the latter was chosen, he preached for several years from the Book of Isaiah without any sign of finishing it. He was surprised when people finally objected, saying he was just doing as they had asked!

He was long remembered for his public prayers in which he quoted Scripture in his slow and awe-inspiring Gaelic fashion, "Thou magnifiest thyself above all that is written. Thou art a terror to evil doers and a praise to them that do well".

Reverend Meldrum died in 1889 age 83, of what was described in the 1800's as apoplexy. On his deathbed he led the family in prayer, with one of his sons conducting the reading and singing. His wife Anna lived on for another 19 years, and died in 1908. They are both buried here in Crown cemetery.

Of his ten children one became a farmer and local politician, three became doctors, two became teachers, one a barrister and magistrate. One child died at the age of one year and one married a minister. Several of the children and grandchildren of William and Anna Meldrum are buried in Crown cemetery but today, we know of no Meldrum descendants living in Puslinch.

(information from Puslinch Historical Society archives)

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29 Brock Road South
Aberfoyle, Ontario


Puslinch Historical Society
c/o Puslinch Library
29 Brock Road South
Puslinch, ON N0B 2J0

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