HISTORY OF BENNINGTON
Compiled and merged by Shirley McCall-Hanlon from four existing documents: one as written by Mrs. Robert Campbell Matheson (nee Betty Whetstone) in 1974; Historically Bound, the History of Embro and West Zorra published in 2007; When Cheese Was King, published June 1987; Embro and Zorra 1858-1983 A Pictorial; and various newspaper articles saved by local residents
The settlement of Bennington took shape on the corner of four lots at the intersection of what are now Road 88 and Line 33. Those lots are 20 and 21 on each of the former Concession 2 and the former Concession 3. It was said that after the war between England and Spain, Britain sent out engineers who had served in Spain to survey some of these townships. Research by Shirley McCall-Hanlon in 2016 revealed that among the area’s earliest settlers was Hendrick C. Hull who purchased 200 acres of Lot 21 Concession 2 from James Ingersoll in 1835 (page 239 of the Historically Bound History Book). Mr. Hull also purchased 200 acre’s of Lot 22 Concession 2 from James Ingersoll in 1836 (page 243 of the Historically Bound History Book). In conversation with Hendrick C. Hull’s great-great-great-great granddaughter Christine Cowan, Mr. Hull did live in Bennington, Vermont, USA prior to moving to Canada. Other writings identified a Mr. Hall formerly of Bennington, Vermont as naming the hamlet of Bennington in West Zorra Township. Given the period of time, and land records, it is fairly evident that Mr. Hull’s name was likely later interpreted as Mr. Hall.
James McKay was one of the early settlers from Scotland and lived on Lot 17 Con. 2 in 1852.
Donald McKay was another early resident. In the 1860’s he kept a store on a quarter-acre lot on the northeast corner of Lot 20, Concession 2, where he lived in one part of the building. He is said to have sold whiskey for 50 cents a gallon during the week and taught Sunday School at week’s end. After Donald died, his widow, known as Old Mother McKay, remained in their residence, though she spent a lot of her time travelling the area and stopping at various places for a meal or to spend the night. She was considered to be the community gossip. She had one son who was nicknamed Jim Ben who married Armanda Pelton.
In 1874 John Fleming bought the Donald McKay property. He lived in the house which is on the south west corner and has been vacant (1974) for the last 30 years and is owned by Mrs. Lottie Adams. A weaver, he turned yarn spun in area homes into cloth and sold this to people for miles around. He was also a devout Methodist and served as a lay preacher. He routinely sang hymns as he wove, and his voice carried for some distance. In those early days voting was done openly and it took considerable courage to be a conservative and come out openly and vote. It was said at one election there was only two conservative votes in this district. The two were John Fleming and John Blair, his brother-in-law. John Fleming had two sons who moved to London and began the manufacture of axes.
From the Oxford Atlas 1875-1876 we find these names with Bennington listed as their address: Robert Adam, John Andison, John Darling, Robert Duncan, John Fleming, James Glendenning, Tom Glendenning, Alex Gordon, Alex Hurd, Donald Kennedy, William Oliver, Henry Pelton, Donald Pelton, Joshua Pelton, Peter Pelton, Joseph Ross, Colin Sutherland, Ebenezer Sutherland.
Other names later mentioned are: Andrew Richardson, Duncan Bain, Duncan McGillvary, William Wilson, William McLeod, James Glendenning, Donald McKay, Robert McLeod, John S. McDonald, James Pelton, James Baker, Augustus Wilson, Hugh Stewart, George McIntosh, A. Baker, George Matheson, James McConkey, James McCorquodale, D. Morrison, Cornelius McCorquodale, Robert Murray and John Munro.
Benson Pelton at a very early period owned all the land comprising lots 20 from the 3rd line to the 1st line. He lived and raised a large family in the stone house now (1974) owned by Ross Kittmer. In 2016 this same land with the same stone house is owned by C. Wayne and Elaine Kittmer. In 1862 Benson Pelton sold to George Duncan 50 acres on the corner of which the cheese factory now stands, described as the SE quarter of Lot 20, Concession 2, Township of West Zorra, District of Brock. The deed was signed by Benson Pelton and witnessed by H.O. Bossence and Joseph Ross. The Bossence family lived in a house between where James Matheson and Bert Drenth now (1974) live on the 2nd Concession. Joseph Ross was the great grandfather of Robert Ross and lived where Mrs. Byron Ross now (1974) lives.
The next merchant of Bennington to follow McKay was Robert Heron, grandfather of the Glendenning boys. He kept a general store and lived on the corner of which is Ross Kittmer’s farm now, but facing west. In 1877 1 lb. of tea cost $1; 6 lbs. of sugar .75 cents; 21 lbs. of tobacco .20 cents. Robert Heron was also the Bennington postmaster. Prior to this settlers had to travel to Embro for postal service. When Robert Heron quit Pete and Mary Murray took over the store. Pete had been peddling around the country, so he bought the business and kept store there until they had the misfortune to be burned out. So then they built across the road. They bought a building which was located on the corner of Stewart Ball’s farm. This building, which had been built by the earliest Farmer’s Co-operative movement in this neighbourhood, dealt in household supplies, but it was short lived. So Pete Murray moved this building to Bennington and added another building taken from the Murray farm which is now (1974) the Embro Conservation Area.
Snow is piled up against the Bennington post office in this photo taken around 1900.
These two buildings became the store and house. In 1921 Mary Louise Murray (by then a widow) sold the store and property to Ernest Emms for a total of $700. In 1927 the lot on the south west corner was sold from Neil and Alberta Stevenson to Emms for $50. In 1929 Joshua Francis bought the premises for a sum of $2000. In 1948 Leroy Clark bought and paid $4,800. In 1948 Cecil Beggs (who was the last owner) rented and in 1950 bought the store. In 1956 the store closed it’s doors, and in 1963 was torn down, but Mr. & Mrs. Beggs still (1974) live in the house. In 2016 Mrs. Beggs still resides there. This property as well as the property of Stanley Clark is on the corner of the farm at Lot 21 owned by Robert. C. Matheson, which he bought from the Glendenning brothers in 1947.
2016 – sign that was on the last Bennington General Store
The stone cottage was the home of the Glendenning family. In later years it was sold to Mr. Steed of Stratford for a summer home. Mr. & Mrs. Doug Adams (former Lottie Ball) own the house in which they have lived. It is on the south west corner, last house to the west.
After Donald McKay died, Sunday School was held in a building on the south east corner fronting on the 2nd line. This is the building that was used for the blacksmith shop. Sunday School was held regularly every year from May 1 to November 1. It was conducted by Mr. & Mrs. William Stewart who drove a horse and buggy every Sunday from North Embro for many years. When the Bennington Hall was built Sunday School was held there under the leadership of William McCorquodale Sr. and W.J. McKay (Flukerty) and Smith McCorquodale in years 189_ - 1915.
BLACKSMITH The first blacksmith was a Mr. McGee who didn’t stay long. Then John Muxworthy had it for several years. He lived in a house on land which belongs to
Blacksmith (identity unknown) at Bennington. Photo (courtesy of John Gruszka) was taken in early 1900.
William O. Murray on the knoll just south of where Bob Ross is living (1974). Mr. Muxworthy was a first class blacksmith from the American army. He was known far and wide and people for miles around brought their horses to be shod. Apparently the building that housed the blacksmith shop was also used for Sunday School classes and church teas.
COMMUNITY HALL The Bennington Hall was built in 1880. The land was donated by Tom Glendenning, father of the late Tom Glendenning (Bennington) for a term of 99 years and at a cost of one dollar a year. Members of the community donated labour and money. Robert McLeod, Norman McLeod’s father, hauled stone for its foundation from the fields across from Lewis Pelton. Some of the timbers came from the old cheese factory on the 3rd line. A jar was placed in the foundation containing a copy of the Embro Courier and a few coins. Benjamin F. Youngs of Stratford did the frame work and George (Smoker) Murray built the stone foundation. Other names mentioned were Dan Muxworthy, Alex Kindness who lived where James Strickler now (1974) lives and Little Abe Sutherland who lived where Robert C. Matheson now (1974) lives. When the Glendenning farm was sold the deed for this land was given to the Farmers’ Club. The hall was built for religious and educational purposes and in early years no dancing or cards were allowed.
Bennington Hall in its early days
On Sunday afternoons from May to October the building was a Sunday School, whose superintendents through the years included William McCorquodale Sr., W. J. McKay and Smith McCorquodale. Scott Murray was the Secretary and the last collection in October always went to the Women’s Missionary Society. With the arrival of Rev. W.P. Lane in 1914, Sunday School was held on Sunday mornings at Knox Presbyterian in Embro, so the afternoon classes in Bennington Hall were discontinued.
Also among the first to use the Bennington Hall were members of the Literary Society. A debate “Resolved that capital punishment should be abolished” proved to be a very interesting one.
Many different groups in the community held meetings in the hall. The Excelsior Club of Bennington, a branch of the United Farm Women of Ontario, held meetings in the hall until the early 1930’s. The Farmers’ Club, the U.F.Y.P.O. (United Farm Young People of Ontario – later known as the Junior Farmers) held their meetings for years in the hall, not to mention their numerous play practices and square dancing practices. It was the Junior Farmers who introduced square dancing to the hall. Card playing also came to be accepted. Sometime later, the Junior Farmers renovated the building. Christmas concerts from the Bennington school, presentations and socials all were held in this building. The Bennington W. M. S. (Women’s Missionary Society) also held meetings here.
In 1947, when the Glendinnings sold their farm on that lot, the hall property was deeded to the Bennington Farmer’s Club.
In 1973 the Farmers Club decided to sell the buildings. There was a need for repairs and the hall was only seldom used, as the new school, Zorra Highland Park, was becoming the meeting place of many groups. Mr. Mac Vanatter of Ingersoll purchased the hall and moved it to Ingersoll with plans to make a house out of it.
Bennington Hall 1973, prior to being re-located to Ingersoll, Ontario
JUNIOR FARMERS Zorra Township can proudly boast to be the home for 50 years of one of the most active and vibrant Junior Farmer Clubs in Oxford County. In November 1936, Mrs. Herb Pelton, the President of the United Farm Womens Organization (U.F.W.O.) could see the need for a community young people’s organization. On January 6, 1937 a meeting was called and a United Farm Young People Organization (U.F.Y.P.O.) was formed. This was the beginning of what, in later years, would evolve to become the Bennington Junior Farmers.
The first President was Bob Pelton and the first Secretary was Margaret Matheson. The leaders were Mr. and Mrs. Fraser Green and Mr. Bert Conway. The meetings were held in Bennington Hall on the first Wednesday of each month. There was no hydro, however, there was a stove that you burnt your face and froze your back on. The wood was generously supplied by the community. In 1939 the U.F.Y.P.O. linked with the Junior Farmers Organization of Oxford County. In 1940 the Junior Farmers and Junior Institutes held a lively picnic at Embro with the Bennington Club girls slugging the ball out of the field to win over Norwich and ending up as winners for the day. The first Provincial Field Day in Guelph was held in 1945 with Bennington Juniors being well represented by competing in the ball games and other sports.
Throughout the years Bennington Junior Farmers was recognized as a club with strong and dedicated members. Whenever community needs were identified, members would pitch in and work until every last detail was accomplished. The members exemplified the Junior Farmer motto “Self Help and Community Betterment”. The former West Zorra Community and the County of Oxford benefited from many of these projects. In 1952 hammers and other tools were in the hands of the Bennington Juniors as they took on the job of renovating the Bennington Hall with the help of the Farmer’s Club; as a project, the club busied themselves making a township map in 1954; also in 1954, the members initiated a food and beverages booth at the Embro Fall Fair which would carry on for many years; in 1955 the club project was selling mail box signs which were a welcome sight to strangers; as a project in 1957 the club sold birth certificates to members as these were now needed for participation in the Guelph Field Day; Christmas gifts were donated to crippled children in 1962; in 1964 with the co-operation of the West Zorra Council, the members erected road signs; in 1965 the club sold safety signs in conjunction with the Farm Safety Council; bottle drives throughout the community were held many years and proved successful; canvassing for cancer was also an annual event; in 1973 members organized the ladies Ride For Cancer for Embro and West Zorra district; many 4-H Clubs were sponsored by the Bennington Junior Farmers; members distributed Century Farm signs to qualifying family farms; to enhance the community, mail boxes were painted and ditches cleaned; money was raised for underprivileged children by wrapping christmas gifts in a Woodstock mall; playground equipment was donated to Zorra Highland Park school; a fence around Matheson park was erected in partnership with the Zorra Caledonian Society; money was given towards lights at the Embro Ball Park, benches at the Embro Arena, Boy Scouts, trees planted at the Community Centre, fire fighting equipment, lift fund for Woodstock Collegiate Institute and to support the musical Guys and Dolls. Members of Bennington Junior Farmers also ensured that while they worked hard, they also had fun accomplishing all of these projects. After the work was done you might find them participating in a ball game, soccer game, picnic, pizza (food was always a favorite), or just hanging out and planning the next activity.
Along with all the good work that members of the Bennington Junior Farmers accomplished over the years, they were also distinguished as one of the overall top performing clubs in the County and provincially, representing the township of West Zorra proudly. One activity that gained them high recognition and respect as a strong competitor for many years was the tug-of-war competitions. Unfortunately, due to the loss of Bennington Junior Farmer records from 1945 to 1951 information is limited during that time period. However, it is noted that in 1952 the Bennington tug-of-war team took home the Oxford County first prize ribbon and also first prize at the Provincial Guelph
Tug-of-War Winners at Provincial Finals in Guelph - 1953
Back row: Willis Ball, Allen Scott, Bill Green, George Matheson, Bob Walters. Front row: Bill Murray, Don Innes, Ron Totten, Jim Gibb.
field day. The practice in those days was that the winners at the County level would go on to represent the County at the Provincial level. Bennington again brought back Provincial honors in 1953, 1954 and 1955. Four consecutive years! Their strength carried on for many years. In 1964 records noted that, as usual, the tug-of-war boys did a fine job of winning at both Woodstock and Guelph. They were Bob Howe, Fred Howe, John Oliver, Eugene Ross, Ross McCorquodale, Harold Wilker, Jim Fraser and Bruce Fraser.
Another activity that Bennington excelled at was square dancing. In 1951 the Bennington set won the competition at Guelph. A local newspaper read: “They are the dancingest bunch you ever did meet but they’re good and to prove it they brought home a first prize trophy from the Guelph field day. The Bennington Junior Farmers club was represented at the field day in Guelph and the club really won a reputation for itself so far as dancing was concerned. The square dance team comprising of Mr. & Mrs. Roy Piett, Miss Helen Murray, Donald Manson, Miss Norma Ross, William Murray, Mrs. B. Green and Bruce Lupton were successful in winning highest honors in their class. Music for the dancers
Bennington Junior Farmer Square Dancers and their orchestra members 1951
Back: Russell Youngs (violin), Roy Piett, Don Manson, Bob Pelton (caller), Bill Murray, Bruce Lupton, Harry Pelton (coach). Front: Mona Pelton (piano), Helen Piett, Helen Murray, Norma Ross, Margaret Green, Donna Matheson (guitar).
was provided by the Bennington orchestra and Robert Pelton as the caller.” For many years the honor of winning at the County level would flip-flop between Bennington and South Zorra. Finally, in 1964, Bennington would again take top honors at Guelph. Might we say that no other Oxford County Club had won at the Provincial level in Guelph except for the Bennington Group who successfully won in 1951. This winning set was comprised of Hugh McCorquodale, Lila Ruth Holden, Bob Matheson, Susan Barnett, Dennis Turvey, Shirley McCall, Allan Garner, Elaine Garner, Gaylan Josephson and Marilyn McRoberts.
Bennington Junior Farmer Square Dance set 1963 at Wallacetown
Back: Allen Garner, Dennis Turvey, Perry Cartmale, Frank Park (caller and coach), Bob Matheson. Front: Elaine Garner, Shirley McCall, Lila Ruth Holden, Judy Lange.
Bennington brought home the highly contested Provincial trophy again in 1965, 1966 and 1970. In 1969 Bennington Junior Farmers recognized the untiring commitment of Mr. Frank Parks of Woodstock who for many years was the dedicated coach of our square dancers.
Bennington Junior Farmers were also proud to nominate and sponsor candidates in the Queen of the Roses competition at the Ingersoll Rose Show. For three years in a row a young lady from our Bennington Club would win this event. In 1962 Linda Totten, in 1963 Jean McCorquodale and in 1964 Carol Clark.
Education, near and far, was embedded in the history of Bennington Junior Farmers. Every regular meeting would have an educational component that was relevant to the members and our community. Topics such as proper parliamentary procedure during meetings, farm safety, information on various health diseases, land conservation, fire safety, and law and order were just a few of the areas covered. Many members had the opportunity to participate in provincial trips and exchanges. Provincial Leadership Camp, exchanges with the United Kingdom, United Nations, Eastern Ontario, and the provinces of Manitoba and Quebec were all opportunities for personal growth and development. Exchanges with counties such as Hastings, Kent, Grey, Bruce, just to name a few, afforded members the opportunity to learn about these areas and their productivity first-hand, as well as making new friendships.
For fifty years each and every member of Bennington Junior Farmers helped in his or her own way to improve and strengthen the Township of West Zorra. Today, those past members who remain carry on this virtue within their families and communities near and far.
Written by Shirley McCall-Hanlon for Oxford Junior Farmers 20th Century Reunion, March 31, 2001 at the Oxford Auditorium, Woodstock.
WOMENS MISSIONARY SOCIETY (WMS) This organization was first recorded in the annual report of Knox Presbyterian Church in Embro as the Presbyterian Sewing Guild of Embro. It wasn’t long until members called the club the Bennington Sewing Circle. Regular meetings of the Circle started in 1909 with organization taking place in the later months of 1908. The object of the Guild in 1909 was to keep home missions of the church by donating clothing for the Canadian Northwest. The group met on the second Thursday of each month and first officers elected were president, Mrs. F. A. Thomson; vice-president Mrs. William McCorquodale; secretary Mrs. G. A. Glendinning; and treasurer Miss Isabel Matheson.
Those early meetings were afternoon events starting at 1:30 with devotions, readings and a business session. The rest of the afternoon involved sewing and concluded with a bountiful supper served by the hostess. A collection was always taken to supply more sewing materials. In those days a .10 cent donation was quite adequate as it is recorded that 2 spools of thread could be purchased with .10 cents, a quilt batt cost .18 cents, and the club could purchase 4 ½ yards of print for .85 cents. In 1911 a box of clothing valued at $54.90 was packed containing eight quilts, four pair of pillowcases, four shirts, five skirts, three dresses, two coats, six pair of mitts, four pair of pants, four sweaters, four suits of underwear, six caps and some thread. In 1913 it became apparent that time was too precious to continue setting tables, so the women decided instead to have refreshments which would include sandwiches, one kind of cake, and tea and coffee. Later it is recorded that each member took her own cup, plate and serviette.
(Note: At this point in time the above is all the information we have on the former Bennington WMS. We know it evolved into the Bennington United Church Women (UCW), which later amalgamated as one UCW of Knox United Church, Embro. If you have information on the later years, please contact us.)
CHEESE FACTORY One of the first, if not the first cheese factory in the area was started by Hugh Matheson on the west half of Lot 19 Concession 4 around 1860. This was known as Cold Spring cheese factory. After Mr. Matheson quit about 1892 it was replaced with a new joint stock enterprise located on the north half Lot 20 Concession 2 and was known as the Bennington Cheese and Butter Association. It was incorporated in December 1894 with a capital of $2000 raised by selling two hundred $10 shares. Joshua Pelton served as President, Robert Ross as Vice-President, David McCorquodale as Secretary, Robert Young as Treasurer and Ira Hummason and William J. McKay as Directors. ). In 1899 tenders were called to build a house at the factory. In the early days the factory just operated in the summer from May to October.
Picture of Bennington Cheese Factory circa 1900-1910. Left to right: Lloyd Thomson (cheese maker), his father Frank (also a cheese maker), unidentified child, Lloyd Thomson’s wife and Frank Thomson’s wife.
Past Presidents included: Joshua Pelton, Robert Ross, William James McKay, William McLeod, Alexander McDonald, Hugh McCorquodale, Philip Baker, Alex McCorquodale, Robert Matheson, Robert Glendenning, Alex Pelton, A.G. McCorquodale, Andrew Matheson, W.J. McCorquodale, James McCorquodale, Adrian Ball, Osmond Murray, Robert C. Matheson, John B. Muir, Harry Pelton, Burns McCorquodale.
Secretaries were: David McCorquodale 1895-1906, John M. McKay 1907-1919, J. Smith McCorquodale 1920-1921, Norman McLeod 1922-1953.
Auditors were: John A. Matheson 16 years, J. Smith McCorquodale 3 years, Robert Pelton 11 years, Donald Matheson 6 years, Donald McCorquodale 20 years, William O. Murray 2 years, Holgar Lange, Stuart Ball.
Cheesemakers for the Company over the years were James Riffin 1895-1897; Frank Thompson 1898-1931; Loyd Thompson 1932-1945; Bruce McCall 1945-1963 (at which time it closed). Salesmen for the cheese were John R. Murray, Frank Thomson, William J. McCorquodale, Harry Pelton.
In its early days the main business rival for the Bennington Cheese and Butter Company was the cheese factory in Brooksdale. Out of that rivalry came an Embro court case, at which it was revealed representatives from the Bennington factory tried to bribe a hauler, Mr. Couke, who was collecting milk for the Brooksdale factory. He eventually agreed to take milk to Bennington, but later changed his mind and resumed hauling to Brooksdale. That left the Bennington factory short of milk, so it had to hire another more expensive hauler. As a result, officials of the Bennington factory sued the original driver for damages of $60. It transpired from the evidence and from the extremely large attendance at court that there was considerable ill feeling over the whole matter. By 1907 the two factories had signed an agreement which limited the collection area for each, but the Bennington directors terminated the agreement almost immediately after it was signed feeling unduly hampered. In 1917 the patrons voted in favour of pasteurizing the whey but voted down a motion to pay for milk by test. By 1922 however, they had a change of heart and reversed the vote but with payment based on a “fat plus 2” basis which was considered a fairer basis where milk was used for cheese production. In 1928 hydro-electric power was installed in the factory at a cost of $195.00. By 1946-47 they had started to sell milk produced in the winter months to the Wm. Neilson Company of Beachville, and from January 1953 on, all milk was sold to Neilson’s plant.
From Betty Matheson’s writings we find that in 1895 cheese sold for 6 1/16 cents a pound; in 1900 for 10 ¼ cents a pound; in 1919 for 25 5/8 cents a pound; in 1952 42 cents a pound. In 1936 the average price of milk was 68 cents a cwt. (cubic weight); in 1974 over $4 a cwt. and the farmer also received a subsidy from the government.
Bennington Cheese Factory circa 1955 (view of south side of building)
In 1955 sixty years of cheese making was celebrated by a social gathering at the Embro Town Hall. Over 200 guests were in attendance and each lady present received a rose from the factory manager Bruce McCall. In 1962 William Neilson of Toronto bought the factory for $25,000 which was paid to the shareholders. The factory finally closed its operation on April 25, 1963. The factory reverted back to Robert Ross who now (1974) is the present owner. The Ross’ had given the land years ago with the agreement that if the factory ceased operation then the land and buildings would revert back to the owner, without cost.
Site of former Bennington Cheese Factory 2016
SAW MILL & FLAX MILL No early settlement could thrive without a mill. In Bennington a flax mill and a steam-powered saw mill were located on Lot 20 Concession 2 (south of where the cheese factory was located). It was owned and operated by William Ross (as per the Historically Bound History Book) OR Robert Ross (as per Betty Matheson’s write-up). Simon Vanatter worked long hours at the mill for a dollar a day. Before even going to work he would walk to the cheese factory and with a yoke on his shoulders carry two pails of whey home to feed his two pigs. Later, a man named McBurney ran a steam-powered saw mill, until it blew its boiler. Roy Ross was the operator at the time.
RAILWAY There were two train stations that served the area. One was in Bennington on the 2nd line and there was also one on the 1st line called McConkey’s (given its name as it was at the back of the McConkey farm on the east half of Lot 20 Concession 1). These both came into being around 1909 when the St. Marys and Western Ontario Railway ran a line near the centre of the township that linked Ingersoll and St. Marys. These were flag stations. At one time there were two trains a day with passenger service. Some of the children of the community took the train daily to and from Woodstock, Embro or Ingersoll to attend secondary school. In later years the train went up to St. Marys in the morning and back at night. The passenger service was discontinued around 1950 and some time later, both stations were closed. By then Bennington was well along in its transformation from commercial to residential.
MAIL In 1880 Mr. William Vanatter was contracted to bring the mail from Beachville to Embro every day and later in 1890 from the Embro station on the road south of Embro and began daily mail service from Embro to Youngsville, Brooksdale, Maplewood, Harrington, Bennington and Holiday. It wasn’t until 1908 that the rural route service started. Mr. Jack (Flat) McKay drew the mail on R.R. #3 for many years, then the St. Clair family continued to deliver once a day. This is a far cry from having to pick it up in Embro as the early settlers once had to. Sometimes they would get their mail only once a week.
SCHOOL The early school district of the community comprised about all the territory of school sections #3 and #6, which was Bennington and Youngsville respectively. The school house and a cottage for the teacher stood on an acre of land on the south west corner of Lot 20 Concession 3 facing north. This was on land owned by Benson Pelton in the mid 1840’s, and naturally enough was called Pelton’s. This is now (1974) the gravel pit of Lewis Pelton. The teacher’s cottage was in the corner and the school a little west. A small, framed building this school accommodated about 100 boys and girls seated on seats or benches. It was presided over by James Youll, a big man – very hard and cruel. No punishment was too severe for this man to inflict on any one of the pupils including his own daughter. In those days each ratepayer was assessed so much wood for heating purposes, according to how many children he/she had attending school. There was one family that lived four miles from school whose father was in arrears for wood and this teacher would not let them warm themselves at the stove.
In 1864 School Section #3 was organized. Augustus Wilson was appointed chairman and James Pelton acted as secretary for their first meeting. Colin Sutherland, William Wilson and Augustus Wilson were candidates for the new school board with Augustus Wilson now acting as secretary-treasurer. They in turn examined houses in the community with the intention of renting a suitable room in which to open school. A room was rented from Peter Pelton (farm now (1974) owned by James Strickler) for $2 a month. Mr. William McDonald was engaged as teacher for three months, at $20 a month. School opened Monday February 1, 1864. In July 1864 a meeting was held at George Matheson’s (lot 22 con. 1) for the purpose of choosing a site for the school. The first school was brick, built on Lot 21 Concession 1 by James Muir for $432, and the trustees insisted on the best quality materials. Records indicate the school got a new well dug in the summer of 1865, and 1867 all the firewood for the school stove was supplied by John McLeod for $6 a cord. It was about then that a $10 reward was offered for the conviction of “some malicious, evil-disposed person or persons” who broke 14 panes of glass and committed other acts of vandalism within the school.
On March 2, 1906 on a motion by William McLeod, seconded by Alex Kindness, it was decided that a new school would be built, this one with a basement. The site chosen was on the corner of the west half of Lot 21 Concession 2, across the road from the old school. The trustees bought the property from Thomas Glendinning for $90 and hired J.E. Weiderhold of St. Marys as their architect, George (Framer) McKay as their contractor and they also paid a Mr. Geddes of Embro $100 to install the furnace. In 1910 40 maple trees were planted around the schoolyard, $40 was spent on books for the library and in 1912 a flag pole was added to the grounds. In 1916 a set of Golden Rule Books was purchased. In 1917 the study of agriculture was authorized and in 1918 a fence was erected around the yard. In 1934 household science instruction was introduced and equipment put in place so students could have hot lunches. In 1935 a sink was added and rakes, hoes and shovels added. This year the students painted the fence posts. In 1936 a workbench, tools and a tool cupboard was added. In 1937 a piano was purchased for $100 and Miss Florence Youngs of Youngsville was engaged to teach music. In 1938 the students varnished their desks and did some painting inside their school. Religious instruction was introduced by Rev. Russell May on November 13, 1941 however this practice was discontinued in 1944-45.
Bennington School (prior to washrooms being installed – note outhouses at back)
Improvements after 1945 included a new roof and floor, new desks on skids, a pressure water system, flush toilets, water in the classroom, a stoker, removal of the front of the room platform and the installation of book cupboards under lowered blackboards. In 1957, the Bennington school hockey team, coached by Alex Whittaker, won a trophy in the West Zorra tournament, which was held in Woodstock. In 1963, Mrs. Lillian Cripps
Class of 1962
Back row, from left: Mrs. Cripps, Doris Rutlege, Norma Mills, Lois Pelton, Bob McCall, Fred Holden, Alex Wittaker, Marie Rutlege, Nancy Slater. Third row: Cheryl Murray, Nancy Holden, Jan McLeod, Jill McLeod, Lynda Gates, Cheryl Gates, Diane Debrower, Joan Debrower, Nancy Gates. Second row: Gary Matheson, Donald Kittmer, Jim Holden, Steve Noon, Gary Thomas, Wayne Murray, Phillip Leuszler, Gerald Mills. Front row: Doug Pelton, Kenny Matheson, John Mutsaers, Doug Matheson, Ross McCall, Tim Leuszler.
added a picnic table, teeter-totter, and a slide to the playground. In the school’s last year of operation, 1965-66, teacher Miss Margaret Brown supervised a maple syrup project in the spring. With the students heading off to Zorra Highland Park central school in the fall of 1966, Bennington School was declared redundant.
Last class at Bennington School
Back row, from left: Joanne Debrower, Margaret Brown (teacher), Donald Kittmer, Phillip Leuszler, Nancy Slater, Wayne Bailey, John Mutsaers, Douglas Matheson. Third row: Kenneth Matheson, Nancy Gates, Patty Bailey, Ross McCall, Diane Debrower, Douglas Pelton, Jan McLeod, Jill McLeod. Second row: Kathy Murray, Joan Matheson, Elaine Beggs, Lynda Slater, Grace Kuprey, John Debrower, Marie Matheson, Allan Gates. Front row: Peter Mutsaers, Ian McLeod, Kristine Murray, Laurie Strickler, Paul Slater, Steven Kittmer, Henry Mutsaers.
Miss Brown went to the auction hoping to buy a desk. But she backed off when the bidding for it reached $75. Instead, she bought the school and it became a private residence.
The former Bennington School in 2016 (now a private residence)