On a narrow gravel road just south of Alvinston there are remnants of a community long past – Aughrim.
Recently, a wooden frame house in the community of Dawn-Euphemia, burned down – believed to have been set. It was one of a handful of buildings which remained of the community and it may have been home to one of Aughrim’s earliest post offices.
Some local history books say Aughrim – which was split into Upper Aughrim in Brooke Township and Lower Aughrim in Euphemia – may have seen its first settlers as early as 1820. At the time, according to Sara Campbell in her 1934 book on the history of Brooke Township, “a dense growth of forest originally covered this area. Magnificent black walnut grew in abundance. According to good authority some of the trees attained a circumference of thirty feet…The work of clearing such a growth of timber was a task of no small magnitude. Only the strongest and the bravest of men and women could have attempted it.
Campbell says the majority of the settlers were from England, Ireland and the highlands of Scotland and Gaelic was heard everywhere.
By 1855, there were enough people in Upper and Lower Aughrim to warrant a post office according to Campbell’s account: “Aughrim was a rural post office, first opened at what was known as Lower Aughrim, in the Township of Euphemia. The first postmaster was Andrew Bell, and (the village) was named after Aughrim in Ireland. The post office was later removed to the home of John McKeune, reeve of the township of Brooke, which lay farther north.”
The website Historic Bothwell in its section of Euphemia gives an idea of what the community was like. “Although the post office was located on the north side of the Sydenham River, the village that grew up around it reached south into Euphemia Township. In 1866, the village included: two churches, one stream saw mill, an Orange Lodge and a Temperance Lodge.”
Records show the village was home to a sawyer, a blacksmith, a carpenter, a tailor and, of course, farmers. McKeune – the postmaster – was also the owner of the Aughrim Steam Mills.
By 1913, with the advent of rural mail delivery, there wasn’t a need for a post office in Aughrim. By 1934, when Campbell wrote her history of Brooke Township for the Women’s Institute, there were only a few buildings left, including that last post office – which was on Aughrim Line – which may have been the building which burned Thursday.
But Aughrim’s name lives on, mostly due to St. John’s in the Woods. The Anglican Church sits on a small hill at bend in Aughrim Line. It is still in use and is open to anyone to stop and revel in history or say a prayer in the building which dates back to the 1850s.
The Euphemia Township History – 1849-1999, by the Euphemia Township Historical Society recounts the congregations history, with the first meeting in Hector McLaren’s barn where the church now stands.
“W.A. Edwards, writing in 1936 for the 90th anniversary of the church, says Aughrim was “a goodly distance from St Matthew’s at Victoria [Florence] and the road was over hill and dale, through swamps and bogs and over every difficulty imaginable” adding “Oft times the good missionary and his horse lost their way.”
The St John’s congregation built its first church, a large-for-the-day frame structure, in 1856. In 1898 a new brick church seating 106 worshippers was constructed by Charles, Frank and Francis Clifford.
By 1881, Bob McCarthy writes in Voice of the Past, there were enough families in this area to justify a school. An acre of land was purchased just a short walk from the church and a red brick school house was built designated as Euphemia S.S. # 6, Aughrim.
It cost $971.80 to build the S.S. #6 and its first teacher, Charles Risk, was paid $300 for the year. By 1892, there were 70 students and it cost $489.77 to run the school house.
“Local schools such as this one often became the community meeting place for church affairs, showers, card parties and dances,” writes McCarthy. “S.S. # 6 continued until 1948, by which time the student enrollment had declined to 5 pupils and the school board trustees voted to close the school.”
Today, St. John’s in the Woods owns the school building and still uses it for community chicken barbecues at least once a year.
The church still meets regularly on Sunday.