Elsinore Ontario is the southern-most location on the Bruce Peninsula. This small community is located about half-way between Owen Sound and the Lake Huron shoreline.
The location of a town or village is often dependent upon its proximity to a transportation route. In the mid-1850s the first settlers arrived in the area just west of Allenford. However, it was not until 1865 when the North Gravel Road, or Highway 21, as it known today, was built that the village of Elsinore was established.
The name of the new community was bestowed upon it by Mr. Sweetman a post office inspector. It seems that about the time of the designation of the settlement as a village, the British royal family were visiting Elsinore in Denmark and the postal official wanted to acknowledge this visit.
Although Elsinore did not officially come into existence until 1865, Amabel Township's first post office was located in 1863 on land, which would become part of the settlement two years later.
Elsinore is dissected by two Bruce County townships, Arran and Amabel. Perhaps due to political machinations, a few years after its inception, the Elsinore post office was moved south of the road into Arran Township. It remained in that location until it was closed at the beginning of World War One, and Elsinore’s postal services were moved to Allenford.
Like most communities during the late 1800s, Elsinore had ambitions of growth and prosperity. Early census reports show that the community boasted two blacksmith shops, a school, three churches (two in Arran and one in Amabel), a hotel, a sawmill, two general stores and a dress shop. Further census information indicates various other businesses and vocations existing from time to time in the community. By 1889 the Elsinore’s population had grown to 80 and it was hoped that this growth would be continued.
The Elsinore Presbyterian Church was the first place of worship to be located in the community. The first services were held at the school and on the farm of David Forsyth who was first settler in the area. Forsyth also donated the land for the school. The services were conducted by J. Fraser, a teacher, from Allenford. In 1873 Rev. McInnis was assigned the parish on a regular basis.
In 1887 the Presbyterians built a church on a section of Elsinore located in Amabel. In 1882, using a donation from a Toronto benefactor, the Elsinore Methodist Church was built. The $800 brick building served its congregation until 1925 when it was sold and demolished.
In the area of education Elsinore claims another first for the Bruce Peninsula region. In 1863 the first school was established on a quarter acre of land owned by the Forsyth family. However, after the establishment of the community of Elsinore Ontario, another school was built in Arran Township. This school was replaced in 1879 when a new building was erected on the north side of the road. In 1893 this school was rebuilt and remained in operation until 1966.
In 1900, there were 100 children enrolled in the school. By 1950 the school had only 34 students. These numbers are perhaps symbolic of the history of this community. Elsinore experienced rapid growth in the latter part of the 1800’s and the first decade of the twentieth century. However, the coming of the automobile and the improvement of the roads in the area meant that travel to larger centres such as Southampton and Owen Sound was much easier and more economical. Consequently, the commercial services in small communities which had difficulty competing with their counterparts in these larger areas. In short, these facts led to the growth of larger centres and the depopulation of communities like Elsinore Ontario.
The information for this article came from many sources, including the histories of Amabel and Arran townships, Reflections of Arran and Green Meadows and Golden Sands were of great benefit. Another great source were stories told to me as a youngster by my grandmother Nellie Forsyth Rowe who was born and raised on the Forsyth family farm and attended the Elsinore school which was on land donated by her grandfather and uncle.
For more information about the history of the Bruce Peninsula please check out my book, Journey the Bruce Peninsula Past & Present it makes a great companion as you travel this unique part of Canada's Great Lakes region.
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