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Glenarm

September 17, 2023

Glenarm from the Southeast

By Guy Scott

Halfway up the Fenelon-Eldon boundary lies the hamlet of Glenarm. The first settlers arrived in the 1840s and were mainly a spillover of the Scottish settlers from Eldon Township. The settlement was originally called Hardscrabble, a title relevant to some of the poor farmland of the area. To the south and east of the cross roads hamlet there is some good land, but as you travel north, the soils become shallow and limestone rock pokes out to the surface. When it came time to start a post office, the title Hardscrabble was considered ‘unappealing’ for future settlers and the name Glenarm was substituted. Glenarm was a hamlet in Ireland (with a castle!) that was home to several of the earliest settlers. Glenarm grew up at the junction of the east-west road from Fenelon Falls to Beaverton. Beaverton on Lake Simcoe was an early shopping centre for the west section of the Victoria Road and the Glenarm Road was an important transportation corridor. Glenarm further cemented its crossroads status when the Victoria Colonization Road ran through the hamlet on its way north. As a result of the cross roads, the hamlet contained at least two hotels and a blacksmith for the service of travellers. A general store catered to local farmers and the hamlet also contained a school and a church. Being Scottish, it was only natural the Presbyterian Church was an important village fixture. So large was the congregation, that eventually a huge church was built in the village, and it is by far the most impressive building left in the hamlet today.

In the mid 1800s, Glenarm was nicknamed ‘the Capital of North Victoria’ because of its central geographical position and fine road network. In the 1880s the North Riding of Victoria County held its annual Fall Fair in Glenarm. During this era, agricultural societies also had county or riding associations and Glenarm was the site of the Fair for all of Victoria County north of Lindsay. The hamlet had a community hall and a dedicated fair ground. Fairs were held annually from 1867-1877. But prosperity left the hamlet behind, and in 1878 the North Victoria Fair was moved to another ‘boom town,’ Victoria Road. That didn’t really work for long, and next step was Fenelon Falls. In the 1890s, the North Victoria Fair was cancelled and the fair business was left to the township societies.

Baseball was the sport of choice in Glenarm, and for years a circuit of teams included all the small hamlets all through the area. Another big event in the area was the annual Scottish Dominion Day Picnic. This highlight of the year ran from 1876-1967! It was held in various farm fields in the area. It was a ‘bring your own picnic basket event,’ but lemonade was made in large milk cans and tea brewed on cook stoves hauled in for the event. Entertainment featured baseball, track events, bicycle races and a bagpiping competition!

At its zenith, 1880s, Glenarm contained about 100 people. But no railways passed through the village. The Victoria Colonization Road never really achieved much importance and the centres of prosperity passed to other villages such as Coboconk, Woodville, Fenelon Falls (all of which acquired railways!). The business core dwindled away. Fire after fire claimed businesses, which were not replaced. The population of the hamlet fell to around 50 soils, and the store closed in 1975.

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