The opening of the Elora Road in the early 1850s attracted numerous settlers. Until the railway arrived, roads and waterways were the only means of travel. It should therefore come as no surprise that the new “highway” was home to numerous small hamlets. The proximity of a nearby road appeared to be the best means for attracting new trade, industries and growth.
Ellengown, located directly on the Elora Road, got its start in the early 1850s. David Hopper and his family, who came from Ireland in 1852, owned much of the land. The Hoppers settled on Lot 1, Concession 14, with their large family of nine. Most of their land later developed into the small community. Sam Hopper’s wife Ellen was the inspiration for Elengowan’s name.
John Hopper opened a general store and added a post office in 1858. The postmaster picked up the mail daily from Walkerton. A number of postmasters worked in the post office over the years, including members of the Sam and David Hopper. Hopper also came through with a log school, USS No. 1, Brant and Elderslie, sometime before 1872 on land he donated. Education was apparently very important to these early immigrants. Up to 90 students packed the schoolhouse during the winter months.
Besides the usual trades, there were two “dealers” William Calbeck and David Kellogg, known as Calbeck and Kellogg. By the early 1870s, Ellengowan had grown to include a hotel, run by Andrew Gerrie, a blacksmith, John Minorgan, a shoemaker, John Watson and two ‘dealers’ William Calbeck and David Kellogg, known as Calbeck and Kellogg. Kellogg also served as postmaster for a year and a half during 1875 and 1876. Nearby Chesley was large enough to support a number of churches. Anglicans could worship at the Anglican Church in Vesta. Ellengowan boasted a healthy population of about 100 during the 1870s.
In 1871, the Great Western Railway (GWR) arrived in Brant Township. According to early maps, the Great Western Railway listed a stop at Ellengowan. There’s no record of any stations, so it may have just been a small flag stop. In 1884 the Grand Trunk Railway took over the GWR and eliminated the stop. There were a number of other nearby stations including Dunkeld and Eden Grove.
By the early 1880s, James Hill acquired the hotel and David Hopper took over the general store and post office. The village also included a livestock salesman, Joseph Hunter. In 1880, the school got both a new location on Lot 1 and a new frame building. The new location placed the school closer to the 12th concession. That lot was also provided by David Hopper and over time the school became known as Hopper’s School. By the late 1800s, Hopper entered into a partnership with the blacksmith, John Minorgan, to act as bankers. It’s impossible to know whether or not Minorgan, Hopper & Co. was successful. Ellengowan had noticeably limited banking opportunities.
In the early 1890s, Richard Watson was manning the general store and post office and Richard Coe was running the hotel and livery. By then Ellengowan was clearly on the decline and its population dropped to around 75. By 1893 the store had closed and the post office had relocated to the postmaster’s homes. One night in the late 1890s, the hotel caught on fire not once – but three times. Not surprisingly, arson was suspected. Residents managed to put it out the first two times. After the third time, there seemed to be little point since the arsonist was clearly a determined individual. The residents finally gave up and let it burn.
Ellengowan was initially more successful than other postal hamlets such as Carnegie, but it was never able to grow beyond rural postal hamlet status. Trade slowly flocked to larger centres and Ellengowan quietly stagnated. Rural mail delivery arrived in 1910 which eliminated the need for a post office.
The school lasted many years after Ellengowan’s decline. A new red brick building finally replaced it in 1911. The students were active in school fairs during the 1920s and 30s and managed to win a number of awards. Although attendance declined drastically during the later years, the school remained open until 1965. The building still stands and is now a private home. Rusk’s Cemetery is the final resting place for many of Ellengowan’s early settlers. The remainder of the community has reverted back to farm land.