Friday, October 4, 2019
A Friday off work is a good excuse to go exploring. With a plan in mind to visit Port Hope to look for the remains of the Midland Railway, I decided to stop off the highway one stop earlier and visit Wesleyville to photograph the old church I knew was there. To my surprise I found an abandoned village as well.
In 1797 Jonathan Brown became the first settler in the town. He was quickly joined by others and early church services were held in the home of the Barrowclough family. Soon the family donated land for a church and cemetery and a frame building was constructed. The present brick church was built in 1860 to replace the frame church. The Wesleyan Methodist congregation became part of the United Church in 1925 and this church held services until the late 1960’s.
Wesleyville was a growing community in the 1860’s when it had attracted various tradesmen including a blacksmith, a tavern owner and machine shop operator. Like many early communities there were a few name changes before the coming of the post office. When one was opened in the hotel the name was established as Wesleyville in honour of the Wesley Methodist Church.
The cemetery records show 107 burials between 1860 and 1935. Burials continued until the 1970’s when the town was abandoned.
Thomas and Selinda Oughtred arrived in town around 1850 and lived as tenants until 1855 when Selinda was granted 65.5 acres of land. It is unclear why she received the grant and not her husband. The house was likely built in 1858 and has a unique design where the front door is set between two angled sections. The main portion of the house extends to the rear giving it a unique Y shape. The house was used as the local post office from 1911 until 1944. The house was sold to Ontario Hydro in 1978 and has been empty for the past forty years.
Ontario Hydro constructed a large oil-fired generator on the edge of town after purchasing nearly 2,000 acres of land in the 1970’s. The generator was never finished and has never been put into service. The OPEC energy crisis hit just in time to ensure the project never got off running. It stands behind a tall fence topped with barbed-wire. The Oughtred barn stands on a foundation of field stone behind the house.
The first school was further west along Lakeshore Road and was a one room log school house. In 1866 the old frame church building was relocated to the school site which had been purchased for $20. This old church building served as the school until 1899 when it burned down. It was replaced with the existing building that served as a focal point in the community until it was closed in 1967.
John Barrowclough purchased 100 acres of land in town in 1847 and his family continued to farm here until 1992. The property was then sold to Ontario Hydro and the house has sat empty since then.
Several outbuildings remain behind the main house, one of which was used as a blacksmith shop. The Barrowclough family lived here for several generations and was active in the church as well as occasionally serving as teachers in the school. There was a period of time when the post office was located in the house but in 1911 it was moved to the Oughtred house.
The Barrowclough barn is quietly rotting away and large sections of it have already collapsed. It may be too late to save this structure. The town of Wesleyville has been abandoned for so long that most of the buildings have disappeared.
The Friends of Wesleyville have done a great job of preserving the few remaining buildings in the town. The church has been restored and the school is under renovation as well. It remains to be seen what will happen to the two houses.
Google Maps Link: Wesleyville
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Love the pictures. The town looks like people are taking care of the buildings.
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I love hearing the history of places, it’s just terrible that people were put out of their homes for Ontario Hydro’s sake and then the project didn’t go ahead.
The school actually closed in 1965.
Did you happen to photograph the Wesleyville cemetery records? I met with the lady that had them maybe 15 years ago but didn’t copy them. I wished I had. I descend from the John Brown who came in 1797 but he isn’t buried there. His his wife Charity and her son Hiram are. Most of the Browns left the area but one daughter Mary married Gardner Gifford and is buried there. Hiram died young leaving his widow in the area with 5 children. Hiram’s son Thomas lived in Port Granby and was the postmaster there for many years. His daughter Annie was my great grandmother. The family was very connected to the railway with several working for it in various locations. I found the Wesleyville cemetery to be one of the creepiest I have been in and I have been in many and manage one in my rural area.
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