Dornoch: or is it Smithville? 

Dornoch: or is it Smithville? Originally it was Smithville, then it became Dornoch. But, surprise it is still, in reality Smithville!


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During the early years of settlement in this region the community of Smithville was an important stop for travellers on the Garafraxa Road between Guelph and Owen Sound. Today, travellers barely slow down as they pass through this tiny hamlet. 

Smithville was established by James Smith, who may very well have been the first settler in Bentinck Township. Smith and his two sons arrived in what would one day be Grey County in the early 1840s. 

As they wandered through the area, they came across a location which featured a beautiful little river meandering through the countryside. The scenery reminded them of their homeland in Scotland and this led them to the decision to establish their homes in that location. They headed to Sydenham (Owen Sound) to stake their claim. The three 50-acre plots they selected were located where the boundaries of four Grey County townships meet. 

The Smiths selected sites in Glenelg, Holland and Bentinck. The fourth corner, in Sullivan Township, had already been claimed by John McIntosh and his family. The elder Smith's home became a centre of activity for the area settlers. Travelling clergymen were welcome to stay in the home and conduct services there. 

Included among the many men of the cloth who enjoyed James Smith's hospitality was Bishop John Strachan. The community around the four corners came to be known as Smithville. Due to Smithville location, between Durham and Williamsford, it was an ideal resting place for weary travellers heading into the area looking for a place to settle. 

At first, travellers were welcomed into the homes of area residents, but before long a hotel was opened by Bartholomew Griffen. As a result, Smithville came to be known as Griffen's Corners. Some travellers stayed in the area, establishing farms and businesses. It was not long before Smithville or Griffen's Corners, as it was more popularly known, boasted two shoemakers, a doctor, two blacksmiths, a wheelwright, three stores and two sawmills as well as the hotel for weary travelers 

In the 1860s there were rumours that a railroad line would be built through Smithville on its way to Owen Sound. This possibility led some to speculate in land in the area. However, when it was learned that the line of steel would pass through the area to the east of Markdale many of the investors left Smithville. 

Dornoch Replaces "Smithville"
or Did It?

In 1880 a post office was opened in Smithville. The first postmaster was Phillip McIntosh, a merchant in the community. He was the son of John McIntosh who had settled on the Sullivan Corner of the community in 1842. Before the post office was opened it had to have a name. This would prove to be a problem because there was already a Smithville post office in Ontario so the community would have to choose a new name. 

The postmaster, Phillip McIntosh, chose the new name after his father’s home town in Scotland. The community which had formerly been called Smithville or Griffen's Corners now became Dornoch. Although the road signs all proclaim that you are entering Dornoch, there is still another irony surrounding the name of the community. According to Farm Lanes of Bentinck, the soon to be released new history of Bentinck Township, Smithville is still the legal name of the community! 

The information used in this article came from many sources. However, Farm Lanes of Bentinck, 1850 - 2000 was of primary importance. This new history of Bentinck Township will be a available for purchase for the first time at the Come Home To Bentinck Weekend festivities on Aug. 5.

A version of this article originally appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times on July 21, 2000

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