Photo of church
The Anglican Church
©Jeri Danyleyko

Kingarf was a small, service and supply hamlet located at the town lines of Kinloss, Kincardine and Greenock Townships. This lonely little hamlet, situated in a remote area west of the swamp, was first settled in the late 1850s. There was no through road access, making transportation to this isolated community extremely difficult.

Uppermost in the early settlers’ priorities were a church and school. Initially Anglican services took place in the John Stringer home. The Stringers were a deeply religious family whose son was Bishop I.O. Stringer. Later on services moved to the log schoolhouse, built around 1860 on Concession 6 in Kincardine Township. The school doubled as a church and school until 1866. From then on it served only as a school until 1906.

Initial attempts to establish a church met with frustration and failure. Construction of the first St. Matthews Anglican Church began in 1866. While still under construction, the building, a severe windstorm levelled the building. A second attempt in 1869 was more successful and the church, located at the top northern point in Kinloss Township, opened later that year. Parishioners donated lumber and other materials. Volunteer labour carried out the construction. A store opened sometime in the 1870s, although little information is available on it.

By the 1890s Kingarf offered a few commercial services, mainly farm-based. There were two blacksmith shops, both on the Greenock side of the settlement. Ben Moulton opened one augmenting it with a post office in 1886. Stage brought in mail twice a week. This had the added benefit of providing settlers with another means of travel in and out, rather than cart and horseback. Blacksmiths included Jim Young, Joe Shelt, Jim Brown, and a Mr. Aitken. D. Chadbourne established a sawmill around 1892.

Although Kingarf was always a small place, with an average population of 45 to 50, the Anglican Church boasted a substantial congregation. They held Sunday school classes regularly from the time the church first opened. By 1893 the congregation had outgrown the small frame building and it was time for something better. A building committee that included John G. Stringer, James Stringer Sr. and Reverend Hall began the planning process. Ben Moulton donated the land. The new church, which included a large shed, was located in Kincardine Township and opened on July 1, 1894. In 1897, the church confirmed 110 candidates, the largest number presented to the bishop at one time.

John Stringer put the old church to good use. He purchased the building and converted it to a store which he ran for many years. After the store closed, he sold the building to the Orange Lodge where it remained in use as a hall until its demolishment in the 1940s.

Transportation to Kingarf finally improved in 1901 with the opening of a road through the swamp. Although this early road was little more than a trail, it offered a more direct route between Kingarf and the rest of the province. Other improvements included a new school, U.S.S. #7, Kincardine and Greenock, built in 1906 at a cost of $1600. Along with the school, there was also a woodshed and well. Rural mail delivery arrived in 1916.

The church saw many improvements over the next few years, beginning with an enlargement in 1880. In 1914, they made a number of repairs to the stained glass windows following damage from a storm the previous year. They also built a separate shed for the clergyman’s horse. They dedicated a new holy table n 1916. Mr. and Mrs. James Needham, who donated land for the school in 1906, generously replaced the coal oil lamps with gas in 1925. Electricity didn’t arrive in the area until almost 25 years later. The church got a new furnace in 1928.

During the early part of the 20th century, the Kingarf area was home to a number of small mills and other farm based industries. These included three sawmills, and two brick and tile yards.

Charlie Bechler owned the Bechler Sawmill, located on Lot 30, Concession 6, which produced singles and charcoal. The mill closed when the family relocated to Kinloss. John Fraser began the Fraser Sawmill, located on Lot 33, Concession 9. It produced squared timber for barns as well as lumber for the surrounding community. His three sons, Allan, Wilbur and Charlie took over the business around 1920. In 1945 Allan Fraser moved it to his farm, one lot over, where he continued to do custom sawing on a part time basis until 1957.

The Hedley mill, first located on lot 28, Concession 6, was a portable mill that employed about five men during the early 1930s. They sawed the logs into lumber and delivered them by truck to the furniture factories in Walkerton and Hanover. In 1935 Jack Hedley moved the mill over to the Moulton tile yard. It closed shortly afterwards following a fire.

Other industries included two brickyards. John Moulton established the Moulton Brick and Tile Yard in 1924. Located on Lot 33, Concession 4, it employed eight to 10 men. The equipment included a kiln with eight fireplaces and four chimneys, which produced drainage tiles and building bricks. During the 17 years it was in operation, Moulton experienced a number of setbacks. A fire of mysterious origins destroyed the operation in 1929. He rebuilt everything and was up in running the following spring. Fire struck again in 1935 after Jack Hedley set up his portable sawmill in the yard. The drying sheds were completely destroyed and required rebuilding. The mill shut down in 1941 following John Moulton’s death a year earlier.

George Bannerman and Earl Thompson formed the Bannerman & Thompson Brick and Tile Yard, located on Lot 28, Concession 9. Shortly afterwards Thompson sold his share back to Bannerman who added a delivery truck and continued on for another year until illness forced him to sell. The business employed six to eight men. Two of the men, brothers William and James Smith, purchased the business and expanded the delivery service into a trucking business. James left the business after about 10 years but William carried on until 1953 when fire destroyed the new truck and the sheds.

By the early 20th century, Kingarf had reverted mainly to farmland however both the church and school continued to thrive. The school received a new paint job and indoor toilets in 1935, and ceiling insulation in 1936. They expanded the curriculum in 1938 to include music. They installed electricity in 1952. The school received a complete renovation in 1961 that included a new basement, tile floor, flush toilets, followed by a new roof in 1963. Students didn’t have a chance to enjoy their new surroundings for very long. The school closed in 1964 following to centralization of the school system.

St. Matthews Anglican Church also saw many more changes and upgrades. In 1940, they dismantled and sold the open shed. They converted the remainder to a concert area for church social programs. They added electricity in 1948.

Improvements to the church continued throughout the 1950s. These included a new carpet in the chancel, an organ and a church sign. They redecorated the church, added a centre aisle and a forced air furnace in 1959. In 1984, they accepted the bell from St. Mary’s Anglican Church which closed in 1979 and mounted it on a concrete pad in from of St. Matthews.

Today most of Kingarf has reverted to farmland. However St. Matthews Anglican Church continues to operate and hold regular services, alternating with other churches in the area. Nothing else remains of Kingarf.

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