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submitted by Anna Jackson
The nineteenth century hamlet of Strachan’s Corners has disappeared without a trace, although it was an important focal point for the community while it existed. In 1852 William. Strachan bought from from Mr. Ewing, lot 15 concession four, on the north west corner of present day County Road 35 (the Downey Road) at the intersection with Forestell Road (concession 4A) and built a hotel at the corner. It later became a general store.
Strachan's Corners was the centre of the business life of the Downey School community. The general store and tavern were run by Mr. & Mrs. Strachan and there was a blacksmith shop adjacent. The farmers traded their produce for supplies, and the Strachans took the produce to Hamilton once a week and returned with a supply of groceries, and dry goods, as well as a keg to "cheer a man's heart".
In the autumn, local farmers brought in their slaughtered poultry and a plucking bee was held. The youth of the neighbourhood cheerfully assisted and were rewarded by a good old time dance and a bountiful repast.
The Strachans were succeeded by their son who sold the property in 1891 to Mr. J. Barclay. The store was run for some time by Mrs. McGill, and the blacksmith shop by B. O'Connor. The last operators seem to be Mr & Mrs. Fitzpatrick. He was a veteran of World War I. By 1940, the well-tilled fields bore no trace of what was once the scene of such activity.
Until 1983, at the corner of lot 10, concession 5 in Puslinch, there stood a little country church, then known as Howitt Memorial. A few yards to the west of this building was where the first little church stood.
This church, built in 1845, was on the property of John Howitt, and was built of logs boarded over on the outside. It had a cottage roof and two windows on each side, while the seats inside were plain, hard, straight-back seats.
This was a Methodist church and known as Kirkland Church, to some, it was know as Kirkland's Apportionment and it was here a Miss Agnes Lawrence taught the older girls of the community; this being before No. 12 school was built.
West and south of the church is a little cemetery of about one acres. A few of those resting there are: David Stirton who was M.P for south Wellington and for many years Postmaster in Guelph; James Meakin, a British war veteran who fought in the Battle of Waterloo; and Edmund F. Heath who also served in the Battle of Waterloo where he won the rank of colonel.
Men, whose farms were separated only by a rail fence, now lie sleeping even closer together in the little graveyard. May their successors, when their time comes to lay down their burden, leave as good a name and as dear a memory as those old time trail blazers of Puslinch. This is not a deserted country cemetery, but one with perpetual care.
This church served the community for forty years. Then it was deemed necessary to build a new one. The new church was built of stone, donated by and taken off the farm of Alfred Howitt. Day after day, men laboured with their teams and wagons, breaking and hauling the stone. The appointment at that time was on the Hespeler circuit and the minister was Rev. Robert Heeners. He donned his working clothes and came on horseback from Hespeler to work side by side with the men of his congregation.
A meeting was called to decide on a name for the new church. Alfred Howitt's suggestion that it be called Memorial Church, in memory of those gone before was adopted.
An extra large stone was chosen to be placed directly over the door and the name was to be put on it. However, in putting it up, the stone was broken. In its place was put a plain white slab, and on it written "Memorial Church". In later years sometime between 1902 and 1907, the name was changed to "Howitt Memorial” and it remains that.
The opening date was December 1886. The new church was heated by two box stoves and lit by six hanging lamps which were bronze and black with white shades.
One of the many men who served as minister was the late Mr. Habermehl of Preston. He served there for over twenty years. A few years ago, a plaque was unveiled in the church in his memory.
The same little organ still served as well as in 1886. In a little anteroom just inside the front door was an old seat taken out of the first log church.
Among the names of the congregation in those days you would find Salt, Evans, Metcalf Smith, Howitt, Ireland, Rudel, Heath, Eagle and Thompson. The Rudels, who were Presbyterians and attended Hespeler Presbyterian church, gave freely of their time and talent especially in music, both vocal and as organist. The youngest daughter, Lilly, married Mr. Wilkinson, a student minister in the charge and they went to China as missionaries.
When Church Union occurred in 1925, Howitt Memorial became a United Church, but it was closed in 1929. Serious vandalism to the unoccupied building occurred in the next five decades, and in 1983 the Church was demolished.
Membership in the society is open to anyone interested in the history of Puslinch Township giving you access to the archives, assistance with your research from committed voluteers, a newsletter and occasional events of historic interest.
29 Brock Road South
Puslinch Historical Society
c/o Puslinch Library
R.R. #3, 29 Brock Road South
Guelph (Aberfoyle), Ontario N1H 6H9