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Penville – A once thriving little town that faded into history

January 22, 2021   ·   0 Comments

You can pass through Penville and not realize the area was once a thriving village that was settled by early pioneers in the 1830s.

The area has no real reminders of a village that would have had all the amenities needed to keep a small town viable at the time.

It was located at what is now the 5th Line and 19th Sideroad of New Tecumseth.

There are now several houses surrounding the site but almost all are of a relatively recent design.

Penville was founded in the 1830s when the area was unpopulated and wild.

With no real roads leading into the region, settlers would have had a tough life arriving, probably by ox cart, and building their first home from the materials on the land.

The Penfield, Ausman, and Dale families are recorded as being the first to arrive in the area and they began clearing the land for farming operations. They were all Scottish immigrants.

Presumably, the Penfield family lent its name to create the village on a map.

The village attracted more settlers to the area.

So many arrived that a Town Hall was built in 1858 at a cost of $450.00 with the first Reeve being recorded as Robert Cross.

Black’s Methodist Church was built in 1850 and a cemetery established in 1858.

There is no record of a tavern in the area, however almost every new town in Ontario had at least one local watering hole, and some had several, so most likely some enterprising entrepreneur set up some kind of hotel or tavern in the town.

By 1871, the town had grown to a thriving village of 130 souls. By early Ontario standards, that was a sizable population for a pioneer settlement. Most likely the town would have had a blacksmith, cabinet maker, and a saw mill, which were pretty much standard business in pioneer towns at the time.

Like many small towns in Central Ontario, Penville reached its peak in the late 1800s.

Over time, residents began to leave to search for more opportunities in other places.

By the time the twentieth century arrived, the village was all but abandoned.

The church was still standing as late as the mid 1950s, but by that time hadn’t had services in decades and was being used as a granary.

The church was demolished sometime in the 50s although the cemetery remains.

There are 18 recorded interments in the cemetery, with the last person buried in 1933.

After the demolition of the church, the remaining headstones were groped together in a cairn in the middle of the property.

It has been suggested that many of the graves in the cemetery were moved to other cemeteries in the area in the late part of the 19th century, however there is no official record of that.

Penville had a good start; however, like many small early settlements, it faded into history as residents moved on to find their fortunes elsewhere.

By Brian Lockhart
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


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