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Thompsonville – Once a whistle stop on the frontier

February 26, 2021   ·   0 Comments

Having the railway come through your town was usually the best thing that could happen to most villages in central Ontario during the latter half of the 19th century.

However, for one small town, it proved to be the catalyst that started its decline into obscurity.

Thompsonville was located on what is the now the 13th Line of New Tecumseth and straddled the Nottawasaga River.

When Thomas Thompson arrived in the area from Ireland in 1850, he was faced with a lot of hard labour to clear what was then a heavily wooded area so he could build a farm. Along with his sons, James and Martin, he cleared the land and created a farm.

He eventually built a saw mill, a flour mill, gristmill, and a woolen mill – all powered by the Nottawasaga.

He also named the newly built town after himself and it became Thompsonville.

The town quickly attracted more settlers, including early pioneer families named Reynolds and English.

Thompson was an enterprising man and confident that more people would come to the area, he surveyed the land into 26 lots.

During this time, Tecumseth Township was seeing a lot of growth as people moved into the region. By 1850, a census showed the township population to be around 3,600 souls.

The village continued to grow as more settlers arrived.

In 1851, a church was established with a building erected sometime between 1855 and 1860. Built as a log structure it wasn’t too long before it showed its age. A new Canada Methodist church was built and opened on the 13th Line in 1880.

A post office was opened in 1865 with John Schmietendorf as postmaster.

Most of the immigrants were Irish and they made that known with the establishment of an Orange Lodge in 1875.

In 1868, a new immigrant named William Train arrived in town. He established a new business just north of Thompsonville and built homes for his workers. Mr. Train called this collection of houses – you guessed it – Trainville.

A rivalry developed between the two towns. That rivalry was taken up a notch when the Hamilton and Northwestern Railroad started laying tracks in 1877.

For some unknown reason, the railway decided to create a flag station at Trainville rather than the much larger Thompsonville. The railway built a passenger platform and a siding to accommodate the mill.

The railway realized their mistake just a few years later when Train’s milling business collapsed and the railway had to move its station to Thompsonville.

By 1880, Thompsonville had grown to a population of around 300 with 30 businesses operating in the town.

Unfortunately, the railway that usually brought prosperity to a small town did the opposite for Thompsonville.

The railway helped the trend of large factories being created in bigger centres. Unable to compete with these larger factories, the village factory started to run into trouble. Craftsmen started to look for work elsewhere and other business people started to migrate to other towns.

The final nail in the coffin was a fire that destroyed Thompson’s mill in 1880.

Within just a few years, the town had pretty much disappeared.

There are a few of the original houses still standing and are private residences, as is the town’s hotel.

Train St. is still there but is now flanked by modern homes.

The Methodist church is long gone but the cemetery holding the remains of many of the original settlers is still cared for and is on the east side of where the town was.

The sites where the mills once stood have been reclaimed by the land.

Thompsonville remains as a nice rural setting with comfortable modern homes and the ghosts of long ago residents who once lived, worked, and played in a frontier town.

By Brian Lockhart
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter



         


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