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October 17, 2023

An aerial photograph of Woodville from the West

By Guy Scott

Woodville was the township centre for Eldon Township. The township was surveyed in 1825 by Henry Ewing who was given 2,000 acres for his pay. Ewing selected his grants along the southern boundary between Eldon and Mariposa where the best land lay. Woodville village grew up along this boundary line. Half the village was in Eldon and the other half in Mariposa. Eldon Township was originally called Zeta and the early settlers petitioned for the name Caledonia, but the Government of Upper Canada selected the name Eldon after Lord Eldon, a British politician of the era.

Woodville village started to grow up around the primitive store of Squire Irish, who lived at the current townsite (Lot 1, Concession 3 Eldon). There was no stream in the area to solidify the village as a mill site. It was simply a store and later (1830s) post office named Eldon. The earliest settlers had to get their grain ground in Sunderland (15 miles away!) and later Beaverton. Transportation was by carrying the grain bags on their backs through the dense bush. It was not until 1870 that a grist mill (steam powered) was built in the village. Woodville was called Irish’s Corners after the first store keeper. The store was situated at the corner of the Boundary Road and the Centre Line of Eldon, making easy access by road to the village. In 1853 the settlers and merchants applied for their own post office. The name Woodville was chosen. The little village prospered after the arrival of railways in the area, and in 1877 the villagers decided to incorporate the village as a municipal village. This was done because the settlement lay in two townships and had an identity problem. It was also a mark of prosperity and status!

It was decided to have a plebiscite on a new name. Critics suggested Woodville was ‘too common’ a name that was often confused with many other ‘wood’ names in the province. The name Otago was proposed as an alternative. The plebiscite vote was 47 for Otago to 46 for Woodville. But nothing was ever done and the name Woodville remained.

The cross roads village grew and prospered until a peak population of 600 was reached in the early 1900s. The village catered mainly to the surrounding farm community with such businesses as blacksmith, general stores, wagon makers, grist mill, shoe makers, feed mill, hotels, a cheese factory, pump maker and shoe maker. The village also featured the township hall, a doctor, a veterinarian, a rink, and the usual assortment of churches and schools. Woodville also had a newspaper (briefly) and a bank: signs of prosperity. The main street had street lights, telephones and sidewalks. Woodville was home to a militia company before 1914.

Eldon Township had three railway lines pass through it, but none actually entered the village of Woodville. The nearest (Toronto-Nipissing) was several miles north at Woodville Junction, later called Lorneville. The Beaverton line had its station east of town at Grasshill. The village also contained a casket maker and an undertaker. The Stoddard Casket Company and Funeral Home later moved to Lindsay.

Eldon Township was settled primarily by Scottish Settlers from the Western Isles of Scotland. They were staunch Presbyterians and later strong temperance advocates. Woodville village voted to go ‘dry’ in 1908, ruining the hotel trade. The LCBO came to Woodville in 1970 after a close vote gave it permission. Strangely, the LCBO was a failure in Woodville and was closed. Even the local Royal Canadian Legion branch is a dry branch!

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