Township of Elizabethtown-Kitley
6544 New Dublin Rd RR 2 Addison ON K0E 1A0
Tel. 613-345-7480 or 1-800-492-3175 (within 613 area code) Fax. 613-345-7235
Lyn: 1784 To 1984
By Mary G. Robb
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The following brief history of Lyn was written by Mary G. Robb in 1984 on the occasion of the bicentennial celebration of the Village of Lyn. The Heritage Elizabethtown-Kitley Committee is grateful for her permission to publish it on our web page.
Many of the illustrations found in the original publication had to be omitted in this web version. The Committee is working to obtain copies of these and other photographs, which will be added to this web version in due course.
Mary Grierson Robb was born in Leeds County and came to Lyn in 1974 in search of a retirement home for herself and her husband. She has lived in Lyn since 1979.
f you walked, or drove in horse and buggy through an eastern Ontario village where there were thriving businesses, factories, three hotels, and many happy industrious residents, would you think you were in Coleman's Corners or what we now call Lyn? No? Well, yes — you would have been in Lyn of an earlier day.
Lyn as we know it, was founded by an enterprising man called Abel Coleman. It was his foresight, drive, and ingenuity in choosing this spot that made Coleman's Corners the exciting place that it was. As the bicentennial of this lovely little town is approaching, let us think back to its early beginning.
It was 200 years ago that Abel Coleman, with his brother Richard, fled the aftermath of the American Revolution. As a result of the War of Independence some 50,000 people of diverse ethnic origins, English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, German, Dutch, French and native people chose to remain under British rule and so emigrated from the United States to Canadian territory. Before that time, there were not more than 2000 Europeans in the area. Most were British soldiers at the frontier forts or French Canadians living along the river and working the fur trade.
Upper Canada, the present Province of Ontario and today one of the wealthiest provinces in Confederation, is also, in a way, the child of the American Revolution. Some of the ships that carried the Loyalists from New York took the long and stormy route to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and on to Quebec and Montreal. While many found homes there, others pressed on past Montreal to what we now know as Ontario. A large part of the population of the province is descended from these refugees. Most were sturdy, hardy people, well suited to the type of life that they had to pursue. They found a place well covered with virgin forests. This must have struck desolation to their hearts as most of them had just wrested a living from such a place a generation before! And so, they set about felling trees with the axes given them by the British government. They had been given their transport as well as food and rough clothing, but most importantly, Britian provided land — free land in generous amounts to all and prodigious acreage to ranking officers and officials. The land was surveyed and large groups sailed up the St. Lawrence and thus their work began. Many settled close together, men who had fought together or had known one another in the United States. In this way they were able to share and to sustain each other in times of trouble and adversity. Perhaps this made it all more bearable. The strenuous life of hard labor and often deprivation took its toll but progress was steady, rapid and sure. By 1790 there were some 20,000 people hewing out a new life here in this virgin territory.
Let us continue with our story of the Coleman family.
Abel, a tanner by trade and his brother Richard, landed on the site of the present city of Brockville. They proceeded to look for a good spot for a mill. They found a brook two miles west of their landing place and followed its course for six miles. Here they discovered a tributary, which descended from the western brow of an amphitheatre of rock. Abel Coleman then built his first mill, cutting his millstone from the local granite. His dream was to see an industrial community develop and it was here he would make his home. In time, his dream came true. Lyn grew to be a manufacturing centre which rivalled Brockville in importance. Mills at this time in history were very scarce. The nearest mill to Brockville was at Kingston Mills about 48 miles away. This made Coleman's mill even more important. As well as Coleman, there were several others who followed the stream and settled in this area — all important names in the life and development of the village. The names of the first families at Lyn were: Sherwood, Shipman, Clow, Boyce, Purvis, Breakenbridge and Judson
In the "Hungry Year" of 1788, crops had been poor and the Lyn settlers were faced with famine as the government withheld rations. Coleman sold his land to a Mr. William Halleck for a small sum and went to Montreal to find work. He was a thrifty man and was able to save enough to buy a cow. He returned to Coleman's Corners and proceeded to clear land to farm. According to county records, he was given 100 acres of land in 1802. Later he built a tannery and a small grist mill which he operated till his death in 1810.
As the town flourished, it was felt that a new name should be found. In 1837, the name Lowell was used after a town in Massachusetts where some of the early settlers had lived. It was found to be duplicated in Ontario, so the name Lyn was adopted as descriptive of the natural setting. The clear streams of water that used to drive the mill wheels suggested a Welsh or Scottish word, Linn — "a pool, a stream or cascade". Water was important in the development of this village. It was the Coleman's genius that provided the water power needed to drive the wheels of industry. A deed that was registered in 1852 showed that Richard Coleman had water rights on Lyn Pond and people owning land in the country leading to the Pond had to give the Colemans the privilege of flooding the land to the high water mark. Temperance Lake which was the headwater was kept full by a dam. When opened, the water flowed into Centre Lake and thence to Lee Pond. There was another dam which, when opened, allowed the water to flow from Centre Lake into Graham Lake. A gate at Lee Pond allowed the water level in Lyn Pond to be controlled. Thence, by a canal it flowed on to provide the power for the mills. The mill and tannery were the first industries in Lyn. At Abel’s death, they were kept in operation by his brother, Richard. When he died 27 years later, Richard II took over and with the aid of nephews and sons, the mills were kept going for many years.
In 1813 Richard Coleman bought back the old site previously sold to Mr. Halleck and the area was surveyed into lots. The first house to be built at this time was a hotel. It is still standing at the corner of Main and Perth streets though greatly changed by additions and remodelling. It has changed hands many times since. The second house across the street built by Captain Stewart still stands.
In 1838 a new grist mill of much improved design was built. In 1841 a saw mill, a tannery for shoe leather, as well as a factory was added. A Recorder and Times of 1850, said, "Thanks to the Colemans, Lyn has the most celebrated and extensive Tannery establishment in the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville." There were between 30 to 40 men employed at the time and the yearly total wages amounted to between £1500.00 and £1700.00. Most of the workers were transient, many coming from Montreal. They lived in small shacks on the Mill Road or near Lyn Pond. Other factories were added. There was one that made horse whips, another made barrel staves. There was a forge, a brick yard and a flax mill. It was one of the best paying stations on the Grand Trunk line.
For the next 50 years, the Colemans expanded their enterprises. They had set up a saw mill, two leather factories that made uppers and sole leather. They rebuilt and improved the grist mill in 1859, "on a scale never before attempted in Eastern Ontario." Other people had set up grist mills and a saw mill as well as a carding and fulling mill. James Coleman, now the head of the family, put up what was the tallest mill in Eastern Ontario, rising five floors above the valley floor at Lyn. It had more powerful yet simple machinery. It is said that the original mill stone made in 1788 was incorporated into the front wall of the mill though it does not appear in the picture. This stone is presently mounted in the Centennial Gates to Lyn Park. Sadly, the mill is in a state of decay today.
After the Coleman business was taken over by the Bank of Upper Canada, a Mr. J. Cumming, who had worked for the Colemans, bought it. He, in turn, remodelled the mill and it was said to be the latest thing in flour mill equipment. It turned out 300 bags of flour a day, of several different brands. In his advertisement he stated, "The popularity of my various brands for over 25 years is largely owing to the careful blending of the Hard wheat for strength, the Red winter for flavour, and the White fall for colour". Mr. Cumming was an outstanding business man and a leading citizen of this community. He was killed in a train accident in 1916. His son, Gordon, ran the mill until its closure in 1933.
As time went on, other manufacturers were attracted to Lyn by reason of its water power and railway facilities. By 1871, there were a score or more small establishments in the village which, by then, had a population of 750. Lists in Lowell's Dominion Directory for that year mention just a few:
Bulloch Coleman—manufacturers of lasts, boot trees, crimps, pegs, and dies, decoy ducks, etc.
James Coleman—Harness maker
J. Cooper & Co.—sheepskin tannery
Horton & Taylor—Hub and spoke makers
Hover and Co.—Vulcanite rubber comb works
Lyn Flour & Grist Mills
George McNish—Iron Foundry
J. W. B. Rivers—Mill owner
Horace E. Rowe—Chinese Blood & Liver Syrups
William Thompson—Carriage maker
S. B. Williame—Cheesemaker
With the turn of the century, things began to change. The demand for many of the products made in Lyn was no more. The advent of the motor vehicle and electricity reduced the great need for water power. The horse and buggy was used less and less and the increasing importance of the St. Lawrence River as a waterway of industry and commerce spelled disaster to commerce at Lyn.
As mentioned elsewhere, disastrous fires also did much to wipe out Lyn as an industrial centre. For example, sparks from a chimney ignited the pile of tanbark, destroyed all that was stored and this completely eliminated the tanning industry, so long a significant part of Lyn's business. When the Brockville and Westport Railway closed in 1949, Lyn lost all its rail connections, so important to a manufacturing centre. Brockville, by this time, had swelled its numbers and was becoming the well known community it is today while Lyn's importance declined.
In the early years disease and epidemics took their toll. The mortality rate among mothers and their babies was high. A walk in any early cemetery attests to that fact today. Measles and whooping cough were present, but one that undoubtedly brought tragedy to many families was malaria, or "fever and ague" as it was then called. Although one thinks of malaria as a tropical disease, there was an outbreak in 1895. It was reported quite frequently in Upper Canada but rarely seen in the lower St. Lawrence.
Who provided medical care for these early settlers? As in every culture, the first ones were the people themselves with herbs and other home remedies and the help and counsel of their neighbours. Then there were the regimental surgeons and surgeon's mates on active service or men who had recently been "demobbed". There seems to be no information about their background or qualifications. Some were excellent, some were not very good. A law in 1788 regulating licensing of doctors was in effect but it was difficult to enforce because many were in isolated locations. So, many poorly qualified men continued to function in the province. Most early physicians were very highly respected and their efforts were appreciated. A letter from Rev. John Strachan (later Bishop Strachan) said that his wife liked the doctor "better than anybody". The doctors were very underpaid in early days —very often they were paid with food, supplies or services. Cash was scarce to most pioneers even though medical fees were low. A home visit was 1 shilling 6 pence (the cost of a pound of butter or a one-quarter pound of glue). A home visit to set a fracture was 2 pounds, less than the value of a ton of hay. The roads were often impassable and some doctors even practised by mail.
Lyn was fortunate to have had good doctors. A Dr. George Judson, born in Kitley in 1856, educated at Queen's, practiced in Westport and later in Lyn. His home and office were on Bay Street. He never owned a motor vehicle but went everywhere by horse and buggy or sleigh. His son, Frank, took over the practice. Unfortunately, he suffered a stroke on his honeymoon and was very restricted in his work. A Dr. Giles W. Brown was in Lyn from 1924 - '42. He lived in what is now Erie Miller's house. When he retired, he went to Athens and spent his retirement years growing gladioli. Since that time, there has been no practicing physician in the village. However, with everyone owning a car, the trip to Brockville is not far. There is a story of Dr. Judson — his horses were kept not too far from his house and when he needed his horse and cutter, he would blow on a bugle and the man who housed his horses would saddle them up, and bring them to the doctor's house.
That the people of early Upper Canada survived and carved their farms from this wilderness, goes without saying. That they did it despite so many adversities, epidemics, sickness and disease, shows us the remarkable ability of the human body and spirit to overcome such obstacles. The medical people had little to offer but care and love.
It was impossible to find the opening date but the first general store seems to have been run by a druggist named Mr. A. T. Trickey. He manufactured two conditioning powders for horses and cattle which were reported to be "straight laxative". A Mr. Gardiner bought the store from Mr. Trickey in 1885. He was not a druggist so he hired a Mr. C. M. Taylor who later became his son-in-law. Since then the store has changed hands many times, the McCrady family finally selling to the present owner. Today the store no longer has a druggist but the Post Office is housed there. The first Post Office was established in Lyn in 1851. There is no mention of a post office at Coleman's Corners. The mail was conveyed by stage coach in the early years. Today, as well as the Post Office and grocery there is a furniture and an appliance store attached. This is the only store in Lyn although there is a convenience store in Yonge Mills a couple of miles away. The old-time General Store, so much a part of village life as a place to visit and exchange gossip around the pickle barrel or pot-bellied stove, is no more. Today's pace of life does not allow for that type of gathering -- drive up in a car, in and out and on your way is the trend. More's the pity!
The means of getting around in the early days was, of course, good old Dobbin with carts, wagons, cutters and sleighs. Children either walked or drove the horse and buggy to school, picking up friends en route. Sleighs in winter were always great fun with time out for snowball fights on the way. The speed of cars along the Lyn Road these days is often startling — here is a quote from an old ruling, — "February 13th, 1849 — A by-law was passed by the District Council of Johnstown fixing the penalty for riding or driving over any bridge or through any street within the limits of towns, as follows: Lyndhurst, Charleston, Mallorytown, Yonge Mills, Farmerville, Unionville, Addison, New Dublin, Colemen's Corners, Maitland, North Augusta, Johnstown, Spencerville, Kemptville, Merrickville, Brendenburg, Smiths Falls, Beverly, Portland, Vanstondate, faster than a moderate trot." What a good source of revenue if drivers were fined these days!
As one approached Lyn, there was a toll gate on what is now the Hudson's Burnbrae Farm. Its design was much like others in the area. It was unpainted and well weathered to a dark brown. The door opened onto the road where there was a platform at the height of the axle of the wagon, so that the gate keeper to exact the toll would not step to the ground. A crude but effective method was used to operate the gate so that people could not go through without paying the toll. On paying the toll, the keeper raised the gate by an ingenious system of cogwheels and pulleys. The fee for one way was 3 cents and 5 cents return. There were many tricks used by the drivers to avoid paying the toll. One is reminded of Cornelius Kreighoff's famous painting "Running the Toll Gate". The toll gate is now gone but older residents have vivid memories of the days when it was in use. Readers might enjoy Walter K. Billing’s description of the toll gate in his booklet, "How Dear to My Heart".
The Lyn Band was well known and popular in the whole area. They played at most affairs in and around Lyn and would go as far as Frankville or Mallorytown. The picture was taken in Morristown, N.Y. where they had been invited to entertain at the Independence Day celebrations in 1911. They had a band-wagon on which they and their instruments travelled. It was pulled by two mules which were owned by an English gentleman in Lyn. At the time of the picture they were in their heyday but disbanded some time after that. Band music and concerts were very much a part of life in both the country and the city in earlier days and was often the only contact with live musical entertainment.
Clow's Band was another popular group who entertained at many gay functions.
Sugaring was a busy time. Today many people think of it as a pleasurable outing but in the early days with the simple equipment, the men often had to stay all night to keep the fires going and the sap boiling. The word would get around that so-and-so was boiling that night and so a party would soon be in the making. The news would spread abroad, someone would get a jug of beer from the hotel, several chickens would appear as if by magic, plucked and ready, sleighs (or more often wagons at that time of year) would set off with a few men, picking up more on the way, and off to the sugar shack. There they would pass the night eating the chickens roasted on the fire with beer to wash it down. Many a tall tale was told to be sure! Little did they know that they were eating their own chickens! This seems to have been the original barbecue or cook-out, but they called it a `Chickaree'.
Another tale is told of a stag party being given for a prospective bridegroom, so some local men stoked up their fires to keep the sap boiling, left and went to the party. They returned in the wee hours to find the syrup dried out, the pans almost ruined, and the fires out. Almost a disaster. The maple syrup yield was low that year — their wives always wondered why!
Another local tale of interest is of a successful Lyn merchant having a distinguished lawyer visit from Toronto. He was eager to impress his guest so he gave serious instructions to his stable-man in the rudiments of serving at the table and of bulling in general. He provided him with the uniform to fit the occasion. The butler did very well with few errors. After the meal, his master said, "Change your clothes and saddle up the dogcart, we're going for a drive" completely spoiling the illusion of having a butler! However, the horse was brought to the door and off they went to the river. It was a warm day so our host drove the horse to the water's edge to drink. To their amazement and horror, it kept on going into the water, the two gentlemen had to leap out of the dog-cart and wade back to shore. Unhappily, the poor demented horse kept going, so horse, dog-cart and all went to the bottom and the two men stood helpless. As there was no one around, these two gentlemen had to walk the 6 miles from the river to Lyn's Main Street. A day neither of them would forget.
Skating on Lyn Pond and hockey with branches as sticks was a great delight to all ages in the early days. As the waterways went straight north from Lyn, one could skate long distances unobstructed. A local grocer and Post Master was beloved by the children of the village as he allowed them to change their skates in his store and warm their toes and fingers at his stove. How many would allow that today? But then again, how many children today might abuse the privilege. The local rink on Centennial Park affords a well lit area for skating and hockey but skating in earlier days was very special.
"Illuminations" — a wonderful word for magic lantern shows, were a popular form of entertainment and instruction in earlier days. A visiting speaker would come with his show and enthrall young and old alike with his patter and pictures. Today many of us are bored (to sleep) by a friend's tour of Italy or Disneyland —one doubts that many dozed off at these productions of the early 19th century. It was all too new and exciting.
Dances and other entertainment took place regularly in the old days. The ladies wore lovely gowns made by the local seamstress or imported from the larger centres. The local stores were well stocked with good fabrics and trimmings. The school house on Main Street provided a danee floor upstairs and a small stage for other entertainment. Some concerts and readings took place in the Pergau Block-(the apartments across from Miller's General Store). This place was the telephone exchange as well as a small library, and cobbler and shoemaker — all run by the Pergau family!
Cheese has always been an essential source of nourishment in the pioneer diet. Today it is considered a delicacy but in early days it was a staple food. Its importance lay in the fact that it improved with age, rather than deteriorating as most fresh foods did. There was no refrigeration. A cool cellar or a marble slab was their only way of cooling foods. It is well known that there is no better cheddar cheese than that of Eastern Ontario — still.
There were several cheese factories in and around Lyn. One stone building, still standing, is on the Howard Farm (Pietersma). It was one of the first. Matthew Howard was the cheesemaker and forty "cheese" cows were milked daily. Two miles west of the village was the Union Cheese Factory which also produced good cheese. This was a co-operative venture which did not last. The boxes and barrels were made in a small factory, still standing in the village. A village resident has one of the cheese boxes he found on the road when he was a young boy. They used to be 9 cents but in 1965, they were $1.00! The larger and more successful factories were at Farmersville (Athens), Forfar, Addison, Seeley's and Lillies. Most stopped production when they were bought by the large companies but the Forfar factory, Balderson's and Plum Hollow still make fine cheese. Forfar cheese still sells by the pound and not the kilo!
The early settlers were keenly interested in the education of their children and no doubt, at first, there was the one room school house. The oldest one known was almost opposite the stone school on Main Street. It too was burned.
A lovely stone building was built in 1867. It was used for the "three R's" as well as a concert hall. The classrooms were on the ground floor and the second floor boasted a small stage so that concerts and plays could take place. Parties and dances were held there too. It is now made into apartments for several families.
Hallecks School was used for over 100 years and was closed only in 1963. The land had been given for the use of a school in 1853. A well was dug and a toilet installed in 1930. Before that, it was the pail and dipper and the out-house! In 1940, electricity was installed for the first time. An old expense sheet was found and it read:
Teacher's annual salary $200 - $300
3000 bricks at $14.00
Brooms — 25cents or 35cents
A Bricklayer — $2.00 per day
Cedar posts — 15 cents each
Hardwood for the stove — $2.00 a cord
A little different to the costs of today.
Seeley's School, near North Star Farm, was a well used school from 1889 to 1957. As the community of Seeley's developed and grew, a school was necessary. One was built in 1849 near Lees Pond but it was destroyed by fire. Another was built and it had the same fate. The land was then restored to the Stewart family who had donated it originally.
Lillie's School still stands though it is unused. A good solid looking brick building.
Purvis Street School, west of Lyn, closed its doors in 1967. It had been built from stone from another school on Chemical Road.
Howard School, at the top of the small hill opposite Pietersma Farm, has been unused as a school for years. After a tragic fire it was refurbished and is now a fine family residence. The present Lyn school, a handsome school with a marvelous playground, was built in 1957. It is the one used today for all the junior youngsters in the whole district. The senior students are bussed into Brockville.
In the early days, salesmen travelled far and wide through the country-side. They sold everything from dry goods to watches. They needed a place to stay and this led to Lyn having several small hotels. Some weren't much more than rooming houses but they served the purpose. Brownsons and Slacks were the better known ones in Lyn. Slacks stood where Erie Miller's gas pumps are today. As with so many buildings in Lyn, it too was demolished by fire about 40 years ago.
A notice was found in the Evening Recorder dated May 13, 1875:
Ross House Lyn, Ontario.The subscriber having opened a new hotel in the Village of Lyn is determined to use his utmost endeavours to obtain a share of public patronage. The house is new and everything will be found to be in the best order. The best brands of foreign and domestic liquors will be kept on hand.
Fine Sample Room.
Good Stabling and careful Hostlers.
G. A. Ross, Proprietor
The Railway played an important role in the development life of the com- munity. There was a Grand Trunk line (later the C.N.R.) from Montreal to Brockville from about 1855. It was the beginning of a development which would eventually make Brockville one of the most interesting terminals between Montreal and Toronto, to observe and record traffic. Current information from the Canadian National Railways does not give the date of the line built from Brockville to Lyn. It was thought to have been in the 1850s but well might have been in 1880. It seems reasonable to assume that many such records were lost in the re-organization of the railroad in 1961.
What is fact, is that the line known as the Brockville to Westport Railway was started in 1886 and completed in 1892. These two lines played a major part in the success of local industries. The B & W was in existence until 1952, a well used line. Friday used to be cheese day and often as many as ten cars of cheese were brought to Brockville. The cars were made of wood with woven wicker seats and gas lights. Very modern for that time. Both railways had their own stations one (B & W) was near the pit on the Lyn Valley Road and the other was east of the stone house at the C.N.R. crossing on Lyn Valley Road. Alas, both are gone today but memories of country stations conjure up wood bench-like seats around the walls, a pot-bellied stove in the centre and the Agent's wicket with the Morse code tapping away from within.
There were also two spur lines leading to the mill for easy loading of grain.
Running on the B & W track was the famous jitney. This was a single railway car that many people speak of with warmth and nostalgia. It was self-contained and resembled a streetcar or today's "Day-Liner". Powered by a gasoline engine with a crew of three men, it carried passengers (many students) as well as baggage. What the Post Office could not handle, the jitney did. Remember that this was the heyday of the mail order catalogue, and most country people did their major shopping in this way. The conductor was stern but friendly and although there might have been mayhem on the car, there was never destruction. When a child misbehaved, the train would stop and the culprit was asked to step down, perhaps in the middle of a field, and the train would proceed without him. Conversely, if a passenger was a little late in arriving at the station but was in sight, the train would wait for his arrival, then continue the journey. The train made two trips daily — returning to Westport in late afternoon with the mail and the tired school children!
Religion played an important part in the life of the early pioneers. Most had had strong religious affiliations in their home-lands and a church was an essential part of their life. It was natural then that they set about preparing a place to worship.
The facts about the earliest church are unclear but there seems to have been a small "log" church called Union or perhaps St. Paul's, just east of the present St. John the Baptist Church. Various denominations used this facility. The early pioneers met in halls and houses as well, until there was a proper structure in which to hold their services.
The Methodists seem to have been the first to build a church. In 1817 the Genessee Methodist Conference met in the Elizabethtown (Brockville) chapel. Sixty ministers from New York State and twenty-two from Canada assembled in the village for five days. This was the first Methodist Conference ever held in Upper Canada. As time passed there were divisions among the members and also the Canadian church was formally separated from the church in the United States. Eventually there were two Methodist churches in Lyn — one, a brick church at the top of the hill (beyond Erle Miller's home) and the other near the stone school house on Main Street. The Episcopal Methodist church blew down in a severe storm and the present one, Wesleyan, still stands. (St. Andrews R.C.) In 1884 these two churches finally decided to amalgamate and the Board of Wall Street Church in Brockville was asked to decide which church to use. They unanimously selected the Wesleyan Church. This church was made of white brick with a 12 foot steeple. The site was a gift of Mr. Coleman and the parsonage land a gift from Mr. Shipman. The bell, cast in the United States, was ferried across the St. Lawrence by the Colemans and friends. It is now in Christ United Church. This was a four point charge at that time; Caintown, Mallorytown, Rockfield and Lyn. There were 300 in the congregation, 80 were from Lyn.
The Presbyterian congregation got under way in the early 1800's when citizens requested a minister or missionary be sent from the London Missionary Society. They dispatched a young recent graduate, Mr. William Smart. He arrived in Elizabethtown (Brockville) in 1811. He held services in the Courthouse in Brockville and in the upstairs ballroom of the Brownson's Hotel in Coleman's Corners. Sunday school took place over this local tavern as well.
Mr. Smart was to play a most important role in the development of church life and in the religious education of children for many years. In 1875 long after he had retired from this congregation, he returned, to lay the corner stone of the newly constructed church. This site serves as the United Church today after 114 years.
In 1925, Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches united and became what is now called the United Church of Canada. The united congregation began in the Wesleyan Methodist Church but damage to the steeple in 1939 led to the decision to move to the Presbyterian church that had been closed. The Methodist church on Main Street then became a storage place for cars!
The United Church congregation in Lyn joined with the church in Glen Buell and in 1943, Yonge Mills church was included in the pastoral charge, and in 1960 New Dublin was added. An amalgamation took place in 1969, for better or worse, and since then all pastoral services have been centered in Christ United, Lyn.
March 15, 1970, saw the opening of a new Christian Fellowship Hall addition, a much needed facility for the on going educational program and other group activities within the church. This hall is also used from time to time by community groups.
In 1975, the congregation at Lyn joined other Canadian churches in celebrating 50 years of union. It was an anniversary year for the United Church of Canada. Also, 1975 marked the 100th anniversary of Christ United Church. Those celebrations featured an ecumenical service held in conjunction with St. Andrew's Roman Catholic and St. John the Baptist Anglican congregations in Lyn.
Happily, in 1965, the Wesleyan Methodist Church was acquired by St. Francis Xavier Church, Brockville and under the guidance and devotion of Msgr. J. A. O'Neill, was restored to a beautiful church to the Glory of God. The new pews and altar were made of white oak. The long Gothic windows of stained glass were designed by Ernest Rishworth. They are of cathedral diamond glass set with the apostles and the most prominent saints and their symbols. The church was given the name St. Andrews' and was dedicated on March 30, 1968, on St. Andrew's Day. It is used only in the summer months.
In 1859, a site for an Anglican church and rectory was obtained through the generosity of James Coleman. There are no accurate notes when the first Church of England services were held in Lyn though there is a mention of an early Union church where different denominations worshiped, including Quakers.
The actual construction began in 1858-60, but was unfortunately halted because of financial troubles of the Coleman family who had assumed much of the responsibility for the financing of this building. Construction ceased for a number of years. In 1864, a Reverend Stannage came from New Dublin and their services were held in the Union Church or Pergau's Hall, and work started again. It was completed in 1869 and was officially dedicated by Bishop Lewis, a former rector of St. Peter's Church in Brockville. The stone came from Lyn, lime was donated by Peter Pergau, and the dressed stone came from a quarry near Brockville. It was drawn to the site by members of the congregation. It is a beautiful little Gothic stone church and has been described as "a miniature cathedral". The Lyn cemetery is situated behind the church and is a most historic site.
Lyn Cemetery, one of Ontario's oldest continuously used cemeteries, is located on the eastern outskirts of the village of Lyn. It was dedicated sometime around 1790. It is behind the St. John the Baptist Anglican Church on the south side of Lyn Road — a portion of the old military road linking Kingston with Brockville via Yonge Mills and Lyn. Both the village and the cemetery are situated on the ledge of a gently rolling ridge overlooking a picturesque glen. Above and around this are the granite outcroppings left exposed by the last Ice Age as part of the Pre-Cambrian Shield.
The original history is obscure but it seems to have been part of the early church. As it was the only church for many miles around, it was used by many denominations including Quaker. It has since been used as the Protestant cemetery though in recent years some Roman Catholics have been interred. There has been a Cemetery Committee latterly who have administered the affairs of the cemetery as an interdenominational one.
For a Bicentennial Project, the beautification and repairs of the gates and surrounding walls is planned. Some of the old grave stones and markers that have fallen or are displaced, will be incorporated into the new wall.
The oldest known stone in the cemetery marks Abel Coleman's grave and reads: "In memory of Abel Coleman who departed this life in full assurance of Eternal life"
An old grave marks the resting place of another one of the founding families. An excerpt from the book, Leeds the Lovely, by E. Purvis Earle quotes: "St. John the Baptist Church on the hill is a fine edifice. Here, in the grass green cemetery, Captain Peter Purvis and his wife, Catherine Gardiner (niece of the Colonel Gardiner who was the hero colonel in Sir Walter Scott's "Waverly") have slept for more than 100 years" (They are ancestors of Barbara Anne Scott of skating fame.)
There are a number of small family cemeteries in the area, notably:
Howard Cemetery — Lot 21 and 22 on the 3rd concession, marked by a small sign on Centennial Road. This land, a Crown grant to the Howard family — was designated by them as a cemetery about 1790 - 95. Early stones were of marble as granite was not used until after 1810.
Booth Cemetery — opposite Cornell Farm, is a small cemetery to be seen from the road to Seeley's. The date, 1849, is the oldest known marker.
Yonge Mills Cemetery — surrounds the little stone church. It was built in 1837 on land donated by Peter Purvis and descendants of this pioneer family still show great interest in its preservation. The Grand Trunk railway's tracks were run right through the cemetery. One can imagine the distress to the many families involved. Although not an active church, there is a service one Sunday each summer.
Weeks Cemetery — a very small one with only 2 stones standing. It is on Murphy Road.
A more comprehensive account of the cemetery at Lyn may be found in the Journal "Families" Vol. 22 November 1983, written by G. A. Neville.
The Institute, well known to all country women has been, and still is active in Lyn. In June of 1925, the President and Secretary-treasurer of the Brockville District organized a Women's Institute at Lyn. No early records had been kept but it seems there was a functioning W.I. before this and for some reason it was disbanded after the war in 1918. This June meeting was very popular and by the end of their first year they boasted 104 enthusiastic members!
They have participated in many projects through the years, locally and in the Brockville environs, contributing not only financial help but in many other ways. A list would be too long to enumerate their endeavours and accomplishments in the fields of Education, Health, Home Nursing, Cookery, Handicrafts, etc. Branches have helped create a real feeling of friendliness and neighbourliness among the women. A lovely story is told of one woman's hen house burning down. She lost all her hens numbering 50 or 60. She was told that the members were coming to her house for a "hen party". Each lady brought one of her own hens! That's friendship and neighbourliness. Their motto, "For Home and Country".
The Centennial project of this dedicated group was compiling of the Tweedsmuir Books. There are four volumes telling the history of the wonderful pioneer families, the forming of the Women's Institute, and of the village. It includes much historic information as well as stories and photographs of farms and factory, family trees and other fascinating data. The Village of Lyn should be eternally grateful to the ladies who assembled these books. It has been invaluable compiling of this little booklet and sincere thanks is extended to all who helped put them together. The books arc kept in the Lyn Library and anyone interested in learning more, may peruse them any Tuesday or, Thursday afternoon. It is also on microfilm in the Brockville Museum.
1.0.0.F. No. 284
The Independent Order of Oddfellows, Lyn Lodge No. 284 1.0.0.F. Founded in 1891. It is still very active in Lyn area, meeting in their own hall each Wednesday night.
Lyndale Rebekah Lodge No. 313
Formed in June of 1931 with the enthusiastic support of the officers and members of Lyn Lodge No. 284. 34 were initiated at the first meeting. Brother Harris Hanna and Sister Gertie Willey P.D.D.P. are two of the charter members w ho survive. It has been very involved and active in the community since that time.
Lyn Masonic Lodge
An old record shows there was an emergency meeting in July 1886 and a regular meeting in 1887 — this marked the founding of Lyn Lodge.
Ontario is divided into districts. This is "St. Lawrence district" with 19 Lodges. Lyn Lodge is No. 416. It has had 4 D.D.G.M.'s. They continue their good works.
Elizabethtown Fire Department — 1963
These men are a dedicated group of volunteers who worked hard and long to raise money for equipment. Some money was given by the Township as well. Mr. David McCrady donated land to the Township for a permanent building. The men built it themselves on a voluntary basis. The Municipality had given the materials. As well as being a well equipped and efficient fire department today, the building has proven very useful as a place for meetings, parties, dances, suppers, etc. The townspeople should indeed be grateful to these dedicated and brave men.
There are Brownies, Guides and Cubs active in the area.
4 H Clubs
The 4 H clubs are active in the area, again with many voluntary hours given by local people to help our future young men and women to improve their skills. Bravo!
Leeds Plowman's Association
The Leeds Plowman's Association has recently been formed since the return to fashion of plowing with a horse. Several local farmers attend and keenly participate in the matches each year. In 1984 the Leeds country plowing match will take place in Lyn at a local farm. (Cornell)
Last year, a large International Match took place near Ottawa. It was most successful as well as historic, for it was the first time a plowing match had a full week free from rain! — and several Lyn farmers — young, and old, came home with prizes.
When the tannery, owned by Henry Booth, was in operation, the flat, south of the village was covered with hemlock bark brought in by the farmers in the winter. This bark was used in the tanning of hides and some of the residue was used for insulation in houses. The soil in this area is still enriched by hemlock bark.
The house, now owned by Borland (previously McClintock) was built from brick from the Lyn Brick Yard.
In 1890, a bell was installed on the public school by David McCrady's grandfather. This called the children to school and, as well, the workers at the factory to start the afternoon shift at 1:00 o'clock. The Bell is now owned by David McCrady.
Just south of the village stands a house which was originally the curing room of an old cheese factory.
Bricks from the Methodist Church blown down in a severe windstorm in 1889, were used to build the Glen Buell church in 1890.
Temperance Lake is named for a group of temperance-minded people who started and operated mills at the mouth of the lake prior to 1840.
We think we have the oldest house in our area. This house was built by Major Edward Howard in 1804, and is now owned by the Parslow family. (Parslow Road)
There is a home in the village which was once a Bake Shop. The baker was a Mr. Serviss—Mr. James Cumming gave him his first flour. It was peddled, unwrapped, door to door in the village and Wilfred Coon also baked bread fairly recently in this spot but the bread was sold from a store in the Oddfellows Hall.
Electricity came to Lyn in 1929.
In 1906, the Leeds and Grenville Counties Council requested the Legislature to prohibit the use of automobiles on rural highways before 8:00 a.m. daily and on one afternoon a week!
In 1912, a By-law passed the Counties Council electing Lyn into a police village.
In 1914, the shoe factory, tannery, and other buildings were destroyed by fire.
In 1890, on January 2nd,
"The big wind of last week did a great deal of damage in other places. At Lyn, packing boxes, boards, shingles, and papers filled the air, and the large chimney on the woolen mill went down with a crash; the roofs were taken off 8 barns and partly off 4 more; the old Methodist Church on the hill was blown away (just before a funeral). All that is left is the spire, part of the church being carried across the road to Cummings' orchard. The iron roof blew off the Masonic Hall and the Oddfellows Hall and Taylor's Drug store. By a miracle, no one was killed although some were hurt by flying debris".
A report from the Recorder. 1890
Centennial Park was officially opened November 18, 1967. The original mill stone '1788' was erected at the entrance to the play-ground built on the reclaimed area that used to be Lyn Pond. A fine stone wall and wooden arches (now removed) were in place on the opening day. This park is well used in summer and winter.
Lyn Valley Conservation Authority
This is a fairly recent addition to the recreational facilities in the area. A natural pond of clear pure water in the Lyn valley, was opened in 1958 although it had probably been used prior to this. After several tragic drownings it became imperative that some sort of life-guard system be set up in this place. A few public spirited citizens set about making it the attractive place for swimming and picnicking it is today. It was funded privately at first and later with the help from the Provincial Government.
In 1972 it was bought by the Cataraqui Conservation Authority for $1.00 and it has since become one of their most successful and most used recreational areas. They plan to do some improvements each year to maintain the standard of excellence.
Lyn is fortunate in having a library established in 1979 with help from a Wintario grant. There is a paid librarian and part-time assistant. It is situated on the lower floor of the old stone building, the Masonic Hall, an ideal location. There is close association with Addison and Brockville libraries. It has been a boon to the local population, young and old. There is a story hour for children during the summer and there are plans afoot to expand the facilities.
Recreation has changed. Skating and hockey are still as popular. The Lyn Park, on reclaimed land from the Old Pond has a boarded, illuminated rink in winter and a ball park with lights and bleachers in the summer. Soft ball is a most popular pastime for both men and women. Our ladies team is well known in ball circles and on many warm summer nights, one can hear the call "play ball".
There seems to be little recreation for the young 1980's style in the village and consequently there is trouble now and then, but life is peaceful and serene for most people and thus dull for the young!
What of today? How does Lyn look today? The town that was so busy and thriving is no more. Instead, there is a charming residential village in a lovely setting over-looking the beautiful Lyn Valley. It has many old and dignified stone and brick houses in a setting of natural beauty, as well as many new and modern homes of this century. As one approaches the village, one passes Burnbrae Farms, owned by the Hudson families. It is the only large industry in Lyn today. It is the largest egg-producing plant in Eastern Canada. This fine business sprang from the idea of a young boy having a few chickens to make extra pocket money. A real Horatio Alger story. The farm employs 170 - 180 people; most are from the village of Lyn, which has a population of 570 (1982). The buildings are well kept and are surrounded by green, well groomed lawns.
During summer the homes of Lyn all have lovely lawns and gardens and many old and beautiful trees line the road. Sadly, many elms have been stricken by Dutch Elm disease and have had to be removed, a universal problem these days.
Going on toward the village one passes stone and brick houses of yesteryear, faithfully cared for and restored, then at the crossroads, where once stood the village pump, one finds a recently rebuilt triangle with a sign post and flowers. Proceeding north toward Seeley's, one comes to Lyn's most interesting house, Cedar Lawn. The house, built in 1815 by Richard Coleman, the grandson of Abel. It was designed by English architects who built three such houses. One burnt, one was demolished, and Cedar Lawn is the only one remaining.
The main house was built of brick from England, each one arrived wrapped in tissue paper! The corner stones (quoins) came from Scotland. The elaborate wrought iron decoration was brought from France in 1860. There are a total of 6 fireplaces in the house — several faced with fine marble. In the late 1800's, a Mr. Gardiner bought the house and made the property into a beautiful show place, with formal gardens, greenhouses with exotic flowers and fruits, and walkways. His daughter was the next owner. She married C. M. Taylor (see General Store). After their deaths, their only child, Josephine (later McDonald) inherited it. After her death there were several owners and eventually it became a nursing home for a short time. It was quickly declining by the time the present owners, Mr. and Mrs. David Snell, bought it in 1967 and embarked on the long I5-year restoration to its present state of beauty and charm.
The village itself still has many old stone buildings and landmarks, e.g., the Masonic Hall, the old Pergau Hall, the bakery, and blacksmith, and many others still serving as homes or meeting places.
There is a library (see Library), car repair, and one general store with Post Office. An appliance store is also part of the complex. There are other small businesses in the area, e.g., upholstery, small engine repairs, liquid waste service, etc. Stewart Bus Line still operates from the town centre — a long and faithful tradition of transporting the young to halls of learning! However, most people commute to Brockville for their employment these days.
To update the churches in the area — all are still functioning regularly except St. Andrews, which operates only in the summer months. St. John the Baptist has a small but active and generous congregation and has had some redecoration lately. The lovely blue door is a case in point. Christ Church United has had a complete face-lift inside and out in 1983, and will be good for another few years! There is an active congregation of dedicated people and it is continuing in its ministry as intended in 1875. On the fringe of Lyn is a new church, the Standard Church, which attracts a large group of people each Sunday, devoted and active Christians all.
At this time of celebration of two hundred years of history, one can pause and think of the Colemans and their vision and be thankful for their foresight in choosing this lovely place to settle and develop. The village has existed for 200 years in times of struggle, hardship and success and finally to the tranquil place it is today.
A place to stand and a place to grow... like Ontario.
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