|Tuesday, 19 January 2010 16:33|
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HAMLET OF WALTON
In the late 1880s, Walton was a thriving community, home to numerous businesses and residents.
Situated at the junction of Morris, Grey and McKillop Twps., on the Seaforth-to-Wroxeter trail, the hamlet is named for the English hometown of its founders John and Anna (Button) Hewitt. It is assumed they settled on Lot 1, Conc. 18 of Grey Twp. around 1859.
Soon there were two stores, a lodging house, a blacksmith shop and a sawmill and gristmill.
The first log schoolhouse was built in 1860 and residents could attend a Methodist, United Presbyterian or Presbyterian church service. St. George’s Anglican Church drew parishioners from 1880 until 1968. The Methodist Church arrived and was used until 1925 when the congregation merged with the Presbyterians to form the United Church.
The two Presbyterian congregations had joined in 1910. It then became known as Duff’s United Church.
There were the Rob Roy and Walton hotels and postal service began in 1862 in one of the general stores. Rural routes began in 1912 and eventually there were four.
Biggar’s Hotel sold many times over the years. In 1901, the adjoining house was destroyed by fire and two years later, an auction was held for the chattel of McKim’s Royal Hotel and household goods. In 1919, the unused hotel was dismantled and the building materials used for area homes.
The Walton Hotel was the most successful in the hamlet as it still functions as an inn and restaurant today. Charles Sage took ownership in 1868. Mrs. Sage continued to run the business after her husband’s death, until 1901.
Today the Walton Inn is owned by Graeme and Helen Craig.
There is a story which indicates Walton’s importance in the 1800s. There was once a gristmill located at Leadbury, Conc. 12-13 (Hullett-McKillop Rd.) of McKillop Twp. The road to the mill was a toll road so customers would bring their product to Walton, stay overnight, walk across the concessions the next day and return for a second night.
The success of two banks in the community is said to be partly due to this business. The Sovereign Bank operated until 1908 and the Standard Bank/Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce served customers from 1918 to 1933.
Through the years there were pumpmakers, butchers, barbers, jewellers, lawyers, blacksmiths, carriage makers, harness makers, livery stable operators, doctors, veterinarians, bankers, implement dealers and garages.
Walton experienced a boom after 1907 when the CPR began running through the village.
Gradually, businesses began to move away from Walton as cars provided greater mobility to larger stores in neighbouring communities and with the railroad ceasing to run in 1988.
Still, the hamlet and surrounding area is home to many businesses. They include construction, motorcycle racing and promotions, several farmer-related enterprises, a variety store, computer recycling, trucking, crafts, a repair shop, aircraft and toy shop. Duff’s United Church stands on the edge of the community at Lot 1, Conc. 17, Grey Twp., across the concession road from the former Walton Public School, now Walton’s Little School.
The first school was a log structure constructed prior to 1872, on Lot. 5, Conc. 15, Grey Twp. A second one was built on Lot 30, Conc. 9, Morris Twp. in 1874. Large enrolment forced the construction of another building to the east. A red brick schoolhouse, S.S. No. 11, was built in 1907 next to where these buildings had stood. A second structure was joined in 1920. It was used until 1962 when Walton Public School was built. It was converted to a primary school in 1969.
With decreased provincial funding for schools, The Avon Maitland District School Board closed the school.
Walton Hall has an extensive history in the community.
After serving as the Methodist Church, first at the corner of Huron County Road 12 (Brussels Line) and McKillop Twp. Conc. 14 (Canada Company Rd.), then moved to Lot 18, Conc. 1 of Grey Twp., the building was used as an Orange Hall from 1927 to 1938.
When the Ancient Order of United Workmen’s hall was sold and converted to residential use, the community purchased the Orange Hall in 1938 for $50.
When the hall was moved back across the highway to its present location, hydro lines were an obstacle. The roof and gables were dismantled for the move and the side walls lowered two feet before reconstruction.
In 1945, four acres next to the hall were purchased for use as a ball diamond and picnic area. A recreation committee was set up in 1968.
In 1976, the park was sold to the recreation committee for $1 and the Walton Area Sports Club was formed.
Due to extensive repairs needed at that time, and the increasing difficult task of getting volunteer help, the building was sold to the Women’s Institute.
By 1955, there was fear the hall would have to be closed, sold or torn down. However, the community once again came to the rescue. A committee to oversee operations and fundraising formed and the hall was busier than it had been for many decades.