Glanbrook Heritage Society
Sinclairville was a thriving village of the 1800's that "vanished" with the changes of the 20th century. Sinclairville currently sits on the boundary between Hamilton and York, Ontario on the banks of the Chippewa Creek. Today in 2008 the village contains two houses from the original settlement, both renovated and the brick United church with cemetary which was built in 1908. The village also contains four other houses making a total of 6 household in the community. Since the village sits on the border, half the residents reside in Hamilton, and the other half in York, in the county of Seneca in the region of Haldimand. Children in the community also attend different school with some attending Hamilton area schools and others in Haldimand. The bridge of 1958 has been replaced with a newer bridge.
Below are excerpts from "Sinclairville - The Story of a Ghost Town, 2nd Edition":
Jean Hewitt, 1948
The little village of Sinclairville, with now only twelve inhabitants, four houses, a church and a chopping mill has had a long and varied existence. It was at one time quite a thriving village with two stores, two hotels with bar-rooms, two blacksmith shops, a sawmill and a shingle shop, a shoe maker, a weaving shop for making rag carpets for the people near and far and also a Methodist church and a Temperance Hall.
The first settlers we traced back to the early 1800's when people came up from Chippewa Creek, settling along the creek for the sake of the water and transportation. This family was Sinclair and from them the village got its name. Soon a Mr. Gainer came and built a store where Wilson's store now stands, though it is not being operated now. One hundred years ago this building was a hotel and store combined and did a thriving trade as a store until ten years ago. There was also another store and hotel on the bank of the creek kept by Mr. Bob Crawford who later became a foreman at the Eastman Kodak Co., in Rochester, New York.
John Austin was the first blacksmith; later Mr. William Rattenbury came and set up blacksmithing. Mr. Rattenbury later lived on the Hamilton Highway; second place north of Moffat's Corner. Mr. John C. Hewitt bought him out and he blacksmithed for more than twenty years.
Mr. Robinson had a shop on the corner and did carpeting and specialized in making wagons and coffins. His wife and daughter had a weaving-loom over the shop where they wove carpets from rags brought in by the farmers' wives for miles around. They abandoned the shop about twenty-five years ago and moved to Caledonia.
Mr. Painter also lived in the village and taught in a log school a mile north of the village in Wentworth County. A saw-mill on the west bank of the creek near the pictuesque new bridge did a thriving trade in building supplies and also assisted in clearing the lands of forests. This was operated by Robert and John Hewitt. The saw-mill machinery unfortunately became overheated one day, it blew up and killed one man.
The mail was carried in mail bags, either on horseback or man's back, first from Yok to Sinclairville; later after the railway was built, from Glanford Station to Sinclairville. Many times Mr. James Wilson carrieed the mail. Fifty years ago it was carried from Caledonia when Mr. Harrison Arrell's father drove from Caledonia to Shafer's Corners, Tyneside, Blackheath, Sinclairville, York and back to Caledonia again, a distance of thirty miles with horses over the worst of mud roads.
About one hundred years ago, the first church was built, a small white frame with cemetery adjoining. In 1908 the frame church was torn down and a modern brick church was built. Mr. J.E. Hewitt and Mr. James Hewitt did the carpenter work of the church.
Now the road is stoned into Sinclairville on the Seneca side and also from the North. It is a Wentwoth County road straight into Stoney Creek.
There was also among the early village settlers, a Mr. McIntosh who kept store. Also the names Bell, Wilcox, Wright, Barron, Elliott, Pettigrew, Grant, Hall, Shield, Beattie, Berry, Salmon, DeGrow, Irvine and Kingsboro can be read from the tombstone records in the cemetary
Ruth Barlow, 1979
The village of Sinclairville was at one time quite a thriving place. Situated on the bank of the Chippewa Creek and on a trail between Lake Ontario and the Grand River, it attracted many settlers. One of them, a Mr. Sinclair, gave his name to the settlement.
Sinclairville had two hotels, two blacksmith shops, two sawmills, a shingle mill, post office, shoemaker, weaving shop and chuch. The hotels were the Crawford House, owned by Robert Crawford and the other owned by the Wilsons. The Wilsons also had the post office and store. Most of the village folk kept a cow and some chickens and would take their surplus to the store for trade. Mr. Wilson would leave around midnight with his horse and covered wagon and arrive in Hamilton for the early morning trade. This trip was made every week during the summer and every second week in the winter.
The first blacksmith was John Austin but soon there was enough work for two men and William Rattenburg built a shop. Finally the village blacksmith was John C. Hewitt. He specialized in making plows but could do anything with a forge and anvil. If a child came along with a toothache, he would set him on the anvil and pull the tooth. Needless to say he seldom pulled the second one for him.
The sawmill owned by Robert and John R. Hewitt was located on the west bank of the Chippewa, a short distance from where the present bridge now stands. It was powered by steam. At one time the boiler blew, killing a worker, John Phenix (Phoenix). The other mill, owned and operated by the Barrons family was about a quarter of a mild upstream and was run by water power. There is little known about the shingle mill other than the fact that it was downstream from the Hewitt mill.
John Robinson was the shoemaker and his boots were ofen called "Dingers". A pair of shoes would be handed down to at least three children. They didn't wear out but if they weren't kept greased, they got very hard. Outside the back door of a home there would be a bootjack and a kicking post. The jack helped to remove the boots and as they would be hard in the morning, the owner would kick them on at the kicking post. Both the shoemaker and the blacksmith later moved to the Third Line, Seneca.
Mrs. Robinson and her daughter Lavina had the weaving shop. The ladies of the community would save rags, cut them in strips, sew the ends together and sometimes dye them. These balls of cloth were then taken to the weaving shop where they made into mats or strips of carpet. The string warp was often used to make wall hangings and picture frames.
The Church was built on the Seneca side of the townline in 1857 by Robert Hewitt. All denominations were to use the church. The first appointed ministers were Wesleyan Methodist and the church later became a member of the United Church of Canada. In 1908 the original white frame church was taken down and present brick church was constructed.
During the 1890's when the clover was in full bloom, there was a June frost. The hay crop was destroyed, with the bit that was left having to be raked by hand. No farm had more than 2 loads of hay. A meeting was help in York and the farmers were advised to plant "Horsetooth" corn. Many farmers drove directly to Caledonia to buy this corn and by night it was all sold. Those who were able to get corn divided their crops with the less fortunate. There was enough winter feed for the cattle.
In the 1870's, a very cold winter froze creeks to the bottom. On one place on the Beattie farm at Sinclairville there was a spring. People brought their cattle for miles to get a drink. The cattle could be heard bawling as they came. As a boy W. B. Switzer helped his father drive their stock for a drink.
Having an interest in the Thorald Paper Mill and having been a local resident, Mr. Beattie would buy logs in the area and have them piled on the brow of the hill at the end of the 10th concession. During the flood season these logs would be rafted down the Chippewa to the mill.
As business in the early days was usually conducted in the home, the men employed would board with the employer. Few individual homes were built in the settlement along the Binbrook-Seneca townline were several small shacks.
The village of Sinclairville has vanished as such. One house remains virtually unchanged. Another stands renovated at the north side of the bridge. Another was moved to the 4th line Seneca. In the summer of 1958 a new bridge, the third one on this location was built across the Chippawa Creek. Wilson's store was demolished so a new road could be put through. With the store went the bench which had served for many years as a spot where friends could sit and chat. Today you can drive unknowningly over the spot where area pioneers, perhaps your ancestors, so gayly trod.
Elsie Felker, July 1980
Sometime in the early 1800's, settlers arrived in the area by way of the Welland River or Chippewa Creek. Little is known about these first residents, but one was a Mr. Sinclair who gave his name to the village which was surveyed in 1849.
By the 1850's, most of the farms in the area had been taken up and the village of Sinclairville became the centre for many activities. A post office was opened in 1854 and by 1858 it had closed not to be reopened until 1874. The mail was brought from Caledonia to the office in Wilson's store.
Schooling was considered of prime importance to the settlers but no school was built in the village. Children on the Seneca side ofthe village walked more than two miles to S.S. #9 on the Third Line while those on the Binbrook side attended S.S. #5.
After meeting for services in the homes for a few years plans were made to build a church. Mr. John Beattie donated the land and a Weslayan Methodist Chapel was opened on October 16, 1857. Local carpentrs did the work and it is noted that the window sashes etc. were made in the Hewitt woodworking shop.
Shoes were needed and the task of amking them was handled by Mr. Robinson. Cold floors had to be covered so Mrs. Robinson and her daughter Lavina made rag carpets in their weaving shop.
There was a couple of early blacksmiths but in the 1880's this job was taken over by John C. Hewitt. He made ploughs and sleights and to the delight of the children an occasional iron toy.
Edward and Eliza Wilson and later their son James kept the General Store. Robert Hewitt rant he steam sawmill and it is reported that there was a shingle mill too. For relaxation there was the bar at Wilsons as well as the Crawford House run by Robert Crawford.
Such was life in the village of Sinclairville until around the turn of the century.
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© Glanbrook Heritage Society 2012
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