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Keenansville – Left in the dust of history after the railroad passed it by

February 18, 2021   ·   0 Comments

When you pass through Keenansville these days, there is no real indication that a thriving little town once occupied this section of Adjala-Tosorontio.

There are quite a few homes in the area now, but they are all of a modern design and built years after the town went into decline and virtually disappeared.

Located at what is now Keenansville Rd., west of the Adjala-Tecumseth Townline, the town lasted a scant four decades before it went into decline and its residents left, looking for greener pastures in other regions.

The buildings were all torn down or fell apart on their own and were reclaimed by the land.

The town was named after Robert Keenan. He was an early settler who was active in Township and County politics from 1846 to 1858. At the time, the area was so remote it was referred to as “the wilds of Adjala.”

It didn’t take Keenansville very long to become an established centre.

By 1855, the town was on the map when they got their first post office – a big deal for small towns in Ontario at the time. It meant you were recognized as a town and were on the federal list of places.

Enterprising locals were quick to build a saw mill and a woollen mill. The exact location of the saw mill seems to be a bit of a mystery but it was presumably somewhere along the stream that runs through the valley in the middle of town.

One local resident pointed out a location on the north side of the road where the foundation of the mill is thought to be and is now overgrown and surrounded by trees.

Soon enough the town had its own general store to serve the needs of a growing population.

That was followed with a blacksmith shop.

A hotel was built, and presumably, as was the custom at the time, complete with a tavern so the locals could spend their time imbibing after a long day working the farm.

There was an undertaker’s shop, which was unusual for the time as during that period it was customary to host a funeral in the family home.

A Town Hall was built along with Township offices and a County Court was established in 1852. The local magistrate was recorded as being Squire McManus, who presided from 1865 to 1881.

Of course, the kids needed to be educated so a public school was built that served the town from 1850 to 1912.

Publisher George Hughes started a newspaper called the South Simcoe Observer so the townsfolk could keep up with all the goings in the town and in the County. The newspaper was later renamed the Cordwall Sentinel.

When it was announced that a new railway would be coming through the area, that was big news.

In the 1870s, the arrival of a railway meant increased commerce, business, and visitors to the area. It was a railway station that would really put your town on the map.

Apparently the locals even invited railway officials out to visit the town so they could see for themselves why Keenansville would be the logical place for a railway station.

Unfortunately for the town, the Hamilton North Western Railroad decided to lay the tracks to the east through Beeton and Tottenham and down through Palgrave, leaving Keenansville off the beaten path.

From there the Town began a steady decline as residents started to leave for better opportunities in other areas.

By the mid 20th century, the town had disappeared.

The only indication that a thriving pioneer town once existed there is a small brass plaque noting the history of Keenansville.

By Brian Lockhart
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter



         


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