Relocated railway station doomed Hustonville

From time to time, this column has offered short his­tories of some of the hamlets of Wellington County that have stagnated over the decades, or that were eclipsed by the growth of another nearby cen­tre.
Most of those hamlets were small retail and service centres in the days when transportation was slow and difficult. Though their businesses are largely gone, people still live in the old houses in those hamlets, and many have seen new houses go up over the past generation.
A few settlements have all but disappeared. The largest of that class in Wellington was the village of Hustonville in Mary­borough. Established in the 1850s, it thrived through the 1860s, only to decline rapidly in the following decade. By 1880 it was largely a memory.
Hustonville was situated less than a mile from Moore­field, on Lots 11 and 12, Con­cessions 8 and 9 of Mary­borough township. The loca­tion, on the north branch of the Conestogo River, provided a useful power site, as did several other spots on that stream.
Building activity began in the mid 1850s on a portion of the 100-acre farm of John Huston, who lent his name to the burgeoning settlement. Hus­ton had a portion of his farm, at Lot 11, Con. 8, sur­veyed into about 100 town lots.
The key to the early impor­t­ance of Hustonville was a three-storey flour mill and a sawmill, constructed by a man named Michael Tromenhiser (there are many variants of the spelling of his name) in 1852. He also built a massive dam across the shallow river valley, about 400 feet long and up to 20 feet high, using stones, stumps, other debris and packed earth, to provide a head of water to power the mills.
The presence of the mills quickly attracted other busines­ses to the booming settlement. By 1856, Hustonville was of sufficient importance to warrant a post office, opened on July 1 of that year, with Wil­liam Robinson as postmaster, under the name Huston. The postmaster, of course, was a part time position. Robinson had opened a store the previous year. Initially, the mail came to Hustonville only weekly, but in the 1860s service was daily from Drayton, and for a time Hus­tonville was the terminal of a stage route that originated in Elora.
At the end of the 1860s there were three stores and two hotels in Hustonville, in addi­tion to the sawmill and flour mill, plus blacksmith shops, a pump maker, a shoemaker, and a wagon maker. Later, a small woolen mill augmented the busi­ness sector of the village. By then, Matthew and Thomas Gray had taken over the mills, which did a thriving business. The location was a convenient one for farmers and settlers to the north and west of Drayton. There was no other settlement of importance between Drayton and Harriston to the northwest, and Listowel to the west.
The Hustonville sawmill turn­ed out large quantities of lumber, much of it sawn from logs floated downstream from northeast Maryborough and Arthur Townships. The local market, in the early years, was almost insatiable, as farmers put up new houses, barns, and outbuildings.
The construction of church­es showed that residents e­xpect­ed the village to be both permanent and prosperous. Three churches were active by 1858: the Primitive Methodists, led by Rev. William Bee, St. John’s Anglican Church, with Rev. Mr. Drinkwater as incum­bent, and the Baptist Church, presided over by Rev. George Moore. All offered weekly ser­vices. An Orange Lodge op­erat­ed in Hustonville through the 1860s. Population peaked at about 250 people in 1870.
All looked well for the future of Hustonville in 1870. The Wellington, Grey & Bruce Railway completed its survey of its line, passing from Dray­ton and skirting Hustonville slightly to its north, where a station was planned, as the route proceeded to the future town of Palmerston.
An astute move in 1871 by Rev. George Moore, who own­ed the farm at Lot 9, Con. 9, would seal the fate of Huston­ville. Rev. Moore was a sharp operator in real estate deals. He offered the railway four acres of his farm for a station and yards, at no cost. WG&B offi­cials readily accepted the offer. The price was only one factor. The grade at Moore’s land was more favourable to starting and stopping trains, and the loca­tion itself was slightly more cen­tral for serving all of Mary­borough township. Those points outweighed the advan­tages of having the station ad­joining the established village of Hustonville.
Railway construction crews called the new station location Moore’s Field. Soon the name was contracted to Moorefield, and so it is to the present day, though the railway itself has been gone for decades. Moore’s gift to the railway was not moti­vated by generosity. He re­couped his money by surveying the rest of the farm into lots and selling them.
Moorefield was in the railway timetables when service began in 1872. The Post Office department opened an office at Moorefield on Nov. 1, 1872. The new town was then in the midst of a boom. Store­keepers and artisans purchased Rev. Moore’s lots and put up buildings to get in on the ground floor of what they ex­pected would soon be an im­portant town.
Farmers at once began taking their trade to Moore­field, causing a panic among the merchants of Hustonville. A couple of the businesses re­locat­ed up the road, and began what became a full scale stam­pede in 1873.
With the boom under way in Moorefield there was a short­age of buildings there, both for businesses and residences. An enterprising fellow named Rube Rogers offered to move a house from Hustonville to Moore­field at a cost that was far below new construction. Soon he was employed full time, moving the wooden build­ings of the old village to new lots in Moorefield. “It was not unusual to see two houses a month move up the road,” recalled one oldtimer.
There were a few stone buildings, too heavy to move. Those were demolished and the materials carted off to new construction projects in Moore­field, particularly stone foun­dations.
Curiously, the fates of the two most important buildings, the sawmill and the flour mill, seem to be lost in the mists of history. The large dam had always been troublesome. The north branch of the Conestoga could turn into a furious stream at times, causing damage to the dam and necessitating expen­sive reconstruction. Floods caused severe damage in 1860, and it appears that an 1877 flood carried most of the struc­ture away.
The mill buildings were probably dismantled, and the materials used elsewhere.
By 1880, there was little left of Hustonville other than a few foundations. Only one of the original buildings remained, and it was moved across the road from its original location. The post office remained open, operating from the home of postmaster David Calloway un­til he resigned in 1890. There was no replacement postmaster because the revenue of the Huston office was minuscule.
Perhaps the best known arti­fact of Hustonville is a poem written in 1885 by William Wallace Moore, a 19th century schoolteacher.
It begins:
Poor Hustonville you must not die
Until I speak your name,
And sing a lonely requiem
Which does my heart in­flame.
The Requiem of Hustonville continues in the same plodding rhythm for another 21 appal­ling verses. Hustonville, and the people who lived and work­ed there, deserve a better mem­orial for their important contri­bution to the early history of Maryborough Township and Wellington County. 

Stephen Thorning