Mimosa was important hamlet in Erin Township

The following is a re-print of a past column by former Advertiser columnist Stephen Thorning, who passed away on Feb. 23, 2015.

Some text has been updated to reflect changes since the original publication and any images used may not be the same as those that accompanied the original publication.

Mimosa is one of the 40 or 50 old hamlets in Wellington County that, were it not for signs on the road and dots on old maps, would exist only in the memories of a few oldtimers and local historians.

Many of those hamlets have their origins in the land boom of the 1850s. Mimosa is older than that.

Located near the northwest corner of Erin Township, Mimosa is located in an area that saw its first settlers in the 1820s. Several of the original farm families came from Ireland, and by 1840 the community had acquired, quite unofficially, the name of Dublin.

The hamlet itself came even later. During the 1850s, the settlers began petitioning the Canadian government to open a post office in their area. Post offices had been operating in Fergus since 1836, and Hillsburgh and Garafraxa (which became Belwood in 1885) since 1851, but none of these was particularly convenient for the people in the northwest corner of Erin.

Postal authorities agreed to the request, opening an office in 1860. Because the name Dublin had been claimed by a village in Perth County, an alternative had to be found. There seems to be no record of why the name Mimosa was chosen – it might have been a favorite with someone with a fondness for horticulture, or someone simply may have liked the sound of the name.

Henry Reed Sr. received the appointment as first postmaster, operating the new facility out of a room in his farmhouse.

There is much confusion and contradictory information in what has been written on Mimosa. Some sources state the post office opened in 1840, and one source places it in the 1820s. The postmaster general’s reports, though, are unambiguous on the date.

The Mimosa post office quickly became the focus of the community, attracting both other businesses and churches. When a general store opened, the post office moved there. Soon there was a school, a hotel, a blacksmith and a shoemaker, and for a time, a second store.

Churches followed: a Methodist church in 1862, Disciples of Christ in 1863, and a Presbyterian in 1864. Of modest frame construction, all were replaced by more substantial edifices in the 1880s.

Because there never was a survey for a village site, new buildings tended to be scattered over a wide area, being built on convenient frontages near the crossroads corner.

By 1865, a tiny but thriving hamlet had sprung up at the corner of Lots 27 and 28, Concessions 1 and 2 of Erin, with the Disciples church marking the eastern extremity. The hamlet performed strictly a service function: farmers went elsewhere, overwhelmingly to Fergus, to transact their major business such as selling grain and buying and selling livestock.

Initially, the mail came to Mimosa once a week from Hillsburgh. The routing and service changed several times in the 1860s, following the opening of other offices in the area to the west: Speedside in 1863 and Oustic in 1866. By then, all three of these offices had twice-a-week service form Fergus.

Two other offices nearby – Shiloh, across the town line in Eramosa in 1874, and Craigsholme, to the northwest in 1870, diminished slightly the service area of the Mimosa post office.

The Mimosa area, in its heyday, could even boast of a modest industrial sector. A brickyard operated on the Awrey farm, a couple of miles south of the hamlet at Lot 20 Concession 2, from about 1860 into the 1880s. Brick from here, according to local tradition, went into the school and two of the churches, among other structures.

The Awrey name was an important one in the hamlet. John Awrey, with his blacksmith shop, was among the active men of the community.

Sam Gibson, another pillar of the community, also operated a blacksmith shop, for some 40 years. He purchased the Mimosa Hotel and was its last publican. Gibson converted the building into a residence when the hotel closed.

There were also a number of sawmills in the area. The first, powered by water, operated for a time at Lot 22, Concession 2. Later sawmills used steam power, and all were located a couple of miles from the hamlet. The last of these, with a chopping mill as a sideline, survived into the 1940s.

A small cheese factory opened in the early 1890s a short distance northeast of Mimosa, but does not seem to have been a long-term success.

As a business centre of any consequence, Mimosa thrived for only about 20 years.

When the Credit Valley Railway opened a station on its Cataract-to-Elora branch some three miles away in 1880, much of the business formerly transacted at Mimosa went there as if drawn by a magnet.

In 1882, postal officials opened a post office at the station, which they named Orton after Dr. George T. Orton, the sitting MP for Centre Wellington.

With mail arriving twice a day at Orton, rather than twice a week at Mimosa, a good portion of the farmers in the area began using the new office. After 1880, all the new business located at Orton, rather than Mimosa. The focus of the older settlement became its churches, rather than the store and post office, though both continued with greatly diminished volumes of business. 

The Mimosa post office, in the 1870s, sold about $70 worth of stamps per year, which equates to 40 or 50 outgoing letters per week. This fell by about 60% after the Orton office opened. The incoming mail, with newspapers, catalogues and bills, greatly exceeded these figures.

The Methodists replaced their 1862 church with a brick structure in 1885. The new church burned in 1905, but the congregation rebuilt a second time. Services continued until 1925, when the congregation joined with the Presbyterian Church on the Erin-Eramosa line to form Mimosa United.

Demolition claimed the Mimosa Methodist church in 1938. The Disciples also rebuilt their church in brick in the 1880s. Suffering from diminishing numbers, the congregation transferred to Hillsburgh in 1939. They sold the old church building in 1951, and it was later demolished.

When the Presbyterians rebuilt their church in the 1880s, they used stone. The most prosperous of the three churches in the Mimosa area, it became Mimosa United in 1925, and the larger membership was able to afford a complete renovation of the building in 1938.

The presence of the business and transportation centre at Orton was not the only force working against Mimosa.

Smaller families and farm mechanization had a negative impact on the population of the neighbourhood, which declined about 40% from the 1880s to the 1920s. The final blows for the hamlet came in the years after 1910.

A telephone line was built through Mimosa in 1911, offering instant communication between farms. A year later, the post office set up a rural route system and delivery of mail to each farm in the area, based in Orton, which in turn received and dispatched mail by train.

Now redundant, the Mimosa post office closed in 1914, and those at nearby Shiloh and Oustic the following year.

The post office had been one of the attractions for the Mimosa store, but it too faced the grim reaper, closing in the early 1920s, becoming the residence of Mr. And Mrs. Thomas Hardy.

On May 16, 1928, an overheated stove pipe set the structure ablaze, and it burned to the ground, leaving the Hardys homeless, and Mimosa’s most important structure only a memory.

The Mimosa Women’s Institute’s Tweedsmuir History identifies Mimosa, somewhat wistfully, as “just two houses on a corner.”

It is important to remember that it was once the centre of a community, a vital presence in the lives of the people there, and a part of the heritage of our county.

*This column was originally published in the Wellington Advertiser on Nov. 10,  2000.

Thorning Revisited