The Historical Settlement of Union Hall

The history of Ramsay...

Unlike most of the other settlements in the area that were founded around mills, Union Hall settlement was a farming community. The history of this settlement is told through the various properties in the area.

#1792 Wolf Grove Rd – The Union Hall School was located on this site from 1847 until its closure in 1964 after which the building was moved to the Ramsay Township municipal offices where it was used as a maintenance garage.  It was demolished in 2017. Education was a priority for early settlers and not surprisingly, the Union Hall School has an early, varied, interesting and sometimes controversial history.

More on the story of Union Hall School

# 1905 Wolf Grove Rd – Sutherland’s farm (now called Hobby Horse Farm). The first owner who received the original crown grant was Jock Sutherland, a Highlander with Jacobite ancestors who came with his wife from Glasgow. They could speak both Gaelic and English.  His son, William, married Margaret Campbell, who was the daughter of a veteran of the Crimean War who was the first president of the Almonte Fair and was also a magistrate. The first post office for Union Hall was kept in the Sutherland home.  The window frame had a slot cut into it through which letters were dropped.  The mail came from Clayton. Later the post office was moved to the Penman home. The telephone came in 1908. Rural mail delivery started in 1911.  The farm passed out of the Sutherland family ownership with its sale in 1980.

  1. Union Hall was at the center of a community known as Union Hall Settlement. Union Hall has always been more than a mere building; it has been a symbol of rural community spirit for over 150 years.


  1. In 1835, Lot 16, Concession 2 of Ramsay Township was deeded to Sophia Thom. Some of this land was acquired by the directors of the Ramsay & Lanark Library in November 1856, and in the spring of 1857, a frame building was erected as a library and a church – “a hall for all denominations”.


  1. Education was a priority for the early settlers. Although a log school had been built on 1847, the community welcomed this new building and the newly-formed “Library and Literary Association” because in 1857, many children in the School Section # 3 Ramsay were unable to read or write. Acquiring books was important and by 1869, the number of books in the libraries of Union Hall, the School and the Sunday School totaled 815 volumes.


  1. The hall quickly became a focal point in the Community. The Sons of Temperance Society met there from the mid-1800s into the early 1900s and according to the convention, the ladies always sat on the right side of the room and the gentlemen on the left. The society displayed a large membership chart and had temperance mottos printed in big black letters on the walls.  A sample of these might have been ” Hell is populated with the victims of ‘harmless’ amusements – the bottle, the weed, and the cards.”


  1. Mr Joe Dougherty held a singing school in the hall and children learned to read music and sing four-part harmony. In the late 1800s there was a Union Hall String Band and music became an integral part of all social events.


  1. In the 1880s teacher John Clelland operated a grange (or co-op) at Union Hall. Farming families who belonged to the grange purchased groceries in bulk and picked them up on Saturdays.


  1. In 1919, under the guidance of teacher Howard Allison, the Union Literary Society was formed. It met in the hall every second Saturday night to read plays, debate and present papers on interesting subjects. The members put together a jocular and gossipy newspaper called The Literary Review. A motion was passed that members “not get sore over remarks in the paper”.


  1. The hall was the home of the Union Hall Tiger Baseball Club from around 1915 to the 1940s. Baseball was popular at community picnics and festivals and many the cow was milked in a hurry so that young ball players could get to the games. With no field lights, starting times were early to get the games in before dark. There was also a Junior Women’s Institute girls’ ball team called the Janey Canucks


  1. The Union Hall Women’s Institute was formed in 1932. With humour and music, its members helped each other through the hard time of the Depression and the grim years of World War II. They improved the hall by extending the stage and building an anteroom in which to perform plays.  Historically, there had been no dancing in the hall; however; the Institute’s members wanted to hold dances, and having saved the place from falling down, asserted that it was their right to do so.


  1. In the 1940s variety concerts “packed the hall to the doors” under the guidance of Made Robertson who was “so good at getting them up”. Horses were tied along the fences in warm weather and stabled in nearby barns in the winter. There were no babysitters so children were taken along.  Babies were bundled into the corner of the hall to sleep away the evening as square dances were called, plays or concerts were performed or box socials were enjoyed.


  1. A new floor was laid in the 1950s to improve the dancing surface. It may have been around this time that a square grand piano was acquired. The hall’s unheated environment was not suitable to a piano over the years and in 1991, a motion was passed “to compassionately dispose” of it and it was sold.


  1. As the years went by, the Union Hall Community did not let the hall wain. In 1988 a new roof was put on and a septic system was laid out.  An addition with a kitchen, toilets and a handicapped access was built by volunteers in 1989 and the Union Hall Community Centre was incorporated.


  1. Dances, Halloween parties, music and talent nights as well as banquets, corn roasts, pancake breakfasts and strawberry socials have kept the hall vital. When Ontario Hydro proposed a transmission line through the community, the voices of the Union Hall Action Committee was successfully raised in opposition.



From The Record News EMC 3 Sep 1999

One of Mr John Dunlop’s accomplishments was the building of the first cheese factory on his property in the year 1873, on the east half of the lot 16 on Concession 1 of Ramsay Township

This replaced the old milk pan, by which cheese makers would leave milk overnight in a pan, the cream would rise to the top when cold and it would be skimmed off in a crock, when enough cream was saved to the required amount for the old dash churn.

Those old dash churns were a large crock about 10 to 12 inches in diameter and about 24 inches high,  They also had a heavy crockery lid with a hole in the middle, and there was a long broom-like handle.  On the bottom there was nailed a cross-piece a little smaller than the inside of the churn.  This was made of a special wood; a “white bird’s eye maple”.  If it wasn’t it would taint the butter.

Sometimes a worker would dash away “up and down” and keep turning the dash piece of the wood.  Sometimes it would take hours before the butter would break and you would know by the sound of the dashing of the cream.  Then the milk would separate from the butter and that, of course, was buttermilk, which some people really like.  f the cream was sour, the butter was made faster.  If the cream was sweet, it took much longer.

In 1874 on June 4 cheese was first made in the district, and twice a day the farmers drew their milk from their cows to its vats.

During 1874 and later, when the cheese was being made at the Rosedale Union Hall Cheese Factory, Andrew Stevenson would load a wagon up with 25 or 30 boxes of cheese and head for Pembroke with a team of horses.  At this time the building of the railroad was in full swing and camps were set up in different places.

Cheese sold from seven cents to eight cents a pound and some of the places where he stopped they bought 10 boxes of cheese from the wagon.  The best place to store it was in a trench in the ground covered over with earth; it kept quite well.

One bachelor cooked everything in the fireplace and baked beans in the sand.  His name was Herb Bolton and he lived about a mile from Albert Miller’s.  Oh, the smell of that fresh bread really made one hungry.

The first factory was a picturesque three-storey building with a cottage roof, and a balcony above which were four windows. (No one has pictures of this building).  They were burned at the time in Wm Dunlop’s fire.

The cheese was hoisted to the third storey and kept until fall.  The cheese had to be turned everyday to be kept from molding.  One 75-pound cheese fell to the floor and it jut exploded when, in the fall, they were loading up to take to sell.

There was only one piece of machinery and that was the machine that chopped the curd.  everything else was done by hand.  Each cheese was pressed alone, and they weighed about 75 pounds each.

The water supply came from a spring on the Dunlop property, and was piped down to the cheese factory by the use of tamarack poles five to six inches in diameter and about 20 feet long.  They were bored by a steel auger and were driven by horse power, from one end to the other of these tamarack poles.  They were put together with space piping.  A blacksmith made the ring to seal each joint, and it was about 200 yards north.

In the autumn the cheese was shipped to market.  Now the cheese is turned everyday and shipped every week when they are eight days old.

Later, Mr. Everett went into partnership with Mr Dunlop and together they made repairs.  They removed the top storey. which was then Mr Wm Dunlop’s garage (his son’s).

They installed steam pipes and put in a new plank floor.  They had a steam pump to pump the whey into a tank outside.  A new vat and boiler were installed in 1888.  A few years later the cement floor and steel roof were added.  the steel roof still remains on the building but has now been painted.

The first cheese was very soft as it was heat-cured.  However, there have been great improvements made since those days.

Mr. Albert Graham Miller was interested in learning how to make cheese, and he went to work at the cheese factory in 1901.  He was 15 or 16 years old, but it was John B Wylie who owned the factory then, with Jack Hitchcock being the cheese maker and Miller worked under his supervision.

Mr. Albert Graham Miller has since been deceased but was a patient in the Almonte Hospital for many years.  He was blind, but what a fantastic memory.  He was in his late 90s and was married to the late May Anderson from Middleville. They had three sons and he made cheese for 44 years in various cheese factories.

In 1927 John B Wylie sold the Union Hall or Rosedale Cheese factory to Producers Dairy,  In 1936, Alec Moses, cheese maker, then won the John Echlin Cup for the most amount of cheese ever sold on the Perth Board in Lanark County.  The “Echlin Cup” was donated by Mr Echlin, the cheese inspector.

In 1949 George Affleck, who lived in Clayton, came very close to winning the Echlin Cup for the highest average score in Lanark County.

In later years the tamarack poles were replaced with galvanized piping, but the spring water still ran into a tank in front of the cheese factory for many years.  Winter and summer the farmers watered their horses there.

Mr Archie Robertson, who lived across the road, got their drinking water there, and also Mr Roy Robertson’s family.  They never had a well, just a cistern and a pump in the house for the needs of water other than drinking.

In 1933, a well was drilled at the factory.  There was also a lean-to at the north end of the factory where they put ice.

The weigh tank was on the south side of a corner of the factory and was sunk into the ground three to four feet deep.

The cheese boxes were made a Bill Nichols in Carleton Place and cost ten cents each in 1910 – 1913.  They had a huge basket rack and a team of horses would bring a load of 400 cheese boxes at once to Rosedale Union Hall Cheese factory.

In 1928 there were 41 patrons at Rosedale Union Hall Cheese Factory.  The number of cows totaled 410. The average selling price for cheese was 21.2 cents per pound and the average price for whey butter was 36 cents a pound.

The depression years brought hard times and in 1932 cheese sold for 9.49 cents a pound and whey butter for 10.22 cents a pound.  Gradually during the thirties, production and prices increased.  In 1943 there were 55 patrons sending their milk to the factory.

In 1946 the patrons of Rosedale bought the factory from the Producers Dairy at a cost of $2350 and a new cheese factory was built across the road in 1947 by the farmers of Union Hall district.


(from Log Book of Union Hall by M.Jean Stewart and A Story of Union Hall Public School by Lloyd Sutherland)

Another Union Hall institution with an early and varied history is it school.  The School Act of 1841 established Union Hall settlement area as School District #7 (re-organised in 1855 as School Section #3). A ratepayers meeting was held in 1843 to determine the location of the school.  Some ratepayers (from what later became S.S. #6&7) wanted the school to be built on a site at the corner of the road to Ramsayville (later named Almonte) and Conc 4. To counteract this suggested site, the ratepayers from Conc 1 and 2 commenced building a school by laying a foundation for the school directly across the road south of the present day Union Hall. This site was rejected in a tie vote at a ratepayers meeting in 1843.  A compromise was worked out and a schoolhouse was built at the property now identified as 1792 Wolf Grove Rd. on ¼ acre property purchased from Mr William Sutherland. In 1847, a log schoolhouse was constructed measuring about twenty square feet (about half the size of the replacement schoolhouse that was in use from 1868 until 1964).  In spite of that fact, the attendance then is said to have varied from 60 to 100.

Picture a rough log building with a cottage roof, tall chimney, pine plank floors and no sheltering porch or woodshed. Equipment, too, was poor. The scholars sat in two rows of benches, half the width of the room in length. With one narrow aisle down the centre. Eight or ten students sat in each row and wrote with slates and slate pencils on desks as long as the benches nailed to the wall at one end,  The teacher sat on a high four-legged stool and used a blackboard which stood on 2 legs and leaned against the wall.  On winter days each pupil brought a quantity of wood to burn in the box stove.  Miss Jessie Paul, the last teacher n the old school, must have been glad when it became outdated and plans for the building of a new school were made.

But the building of the new school was not without some controversy.  At the time, Huntersville was a busy little settlement with a woolen factory.  In 1868 some of the ratepayers in parts of SS#3 and SS #6&7 petitioned to create a new school district centered around Huntersville.  There was at the time, a cement school that had been built on the road from Clayton to Almonte that served SS #6&7.  Those petitioning for a new school section started a foundation at the corner of the Clayton Rd and Conc 4.  It was later decided not to create this new school section so SS#3 was clear to start plans to build a new school.  At one point it was thought to build the new school across the road south of Union Hall but if the new school were built there, the children on and past Conc 3 could attend school SS #6&7 in the summer but would have to go to SS#3 in the winter.  So it was decided to build the school on the old site. The new school was built in 1870 at an expense od 4627.  The schoolhouse was erected on the SE corner of the school site.  It measures 40 ft long, 27 ft wide and the ceiling was 12 ft high.  The old log schoolhouse was bought by Mr Robert Giles and moved o his farm. Additional property was also bought from Mr Sutherland.

When the school was closed in 1964, it was purchased in 1965 by the Ramsay Township and moved to the Township lot on Conc 8 where it became a garage and storage facility for the Township equipment.  Unfortunately, just before the contractor commenced the move, it was discovered that the building would interfere with the Hydro lines during the move and the roof had to be lowered down on it plates at considerable additional expense to the township.

The schoolhouse was eventually demolished in 2017.