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Melancthon has a long and storied history dating back to 1840s

March 26, 2021   ·   0 Comments

When the first settlers arrived in the area that became the Town of Melancthon in the 1840s, they had a daunting task ahead of them.

The region at the time was nothing but wilderness. There were no roads, no businesses, and no one to help you if you ran into trouble.

The area was located at what is now Highway 10, and the 280 Side Road north of Shelburne.

James Beachell, a native of Yorkshire, England, an engineer by profession, decided it would a good place to open a hotel and tavern. The Beachell Hotel turned out to be a popular place for travellers, as more people started arriving in the area.

Mr. Beachell forged ahead and opened the first post office in 1851. He went on to become the first Reeve of the Township of Melancthon and the first Warden of Grey County.

Shortly after Mr. Beachell’s arrival, several other families arrived. Names like Darragh, Mitchell, McCue, and McManaman were among the original townsfolk. A new hotel called the Wheat Sheaf Inn sprang up and was owned by Michael Shoaff, a young entrepreneur. A third hotel operated by Francis O’Boye, known as the Fenian Hotel, was later built.

This attracted more businesses to the fledgling town. This included a blacksmith, carpenter, and undertaker who made sure the local residents had a final resting place. In 1855, a local 17-year-old became the postmaster. James Brown took the position and remained as postmaster for the next 62 years.

Before the arrival of stage coaches, Mr. Brown delivered the mail on horseback over a large area encompassing several towns. An Orange Lodge, chapter 909, was established around 1858, first meeting in a local home before building a permanent structure.

The town built a log school house around 1856. That was later replaced with a full brick building. A Roman Catholic church was constructed as a log building around 1858. That was replaced in 1879 with a new brick structure that still stands today. A Methodist church, known as the Gravel Road Church was erected in the 1860s.

The arrival of the railroad in the 1870s really put Melancthon on the map.

A new hotel, the Toronto, Grey & Bruce Hotel, was opened, along with a general store. The hotel became known as “The Bruce” or “Morey’s Hotel” and became quite successful. A town hall was built in 1874. In 1881, a fourth tavern, called the Wayside Inn was opened, making for four taverns within a two-kilometre stretch. The early settlers really liked a drink.

The town seemed to thrive for several decades. However, at the end of the First World War, things began to fall apart for the small community.

The depletion of the surrounding lumber supplies and changes in agriculture seemed to be the main contributing factors that caused people to move away.

Eventually, the town disappeared. The post office remained open until 1969. Of the original buildings, there may be an abandoned farm house out there, but the Orange Lodge, hotels, stores, and Methodist Church have been lost in time.

The Gravel Road cemetery became a victim of progress when Highway 10, was widened. The headstones were moved and placed in a cluster alongside the highway. Presumably, many of the original settlers earthly remains repose under a section of asphalt somewhere under the highway.

St. Patrick’s Church is still standing on the 280 Sideroad, and was in use until 2018, when it was decided the congregation would be moved, as the old church was beginning to show its age.

The church cemetery has 171 headstones engraved with the names of early settlers as well as more recent burials. Most of the land where the town once stood has been reclaimed and is now used in a massive wind farm project.

The name Melancthon still lives on as a Township but the town itself is now relegated to the history books.

By Brian Lockhart
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter



         


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