Written by Brian Lockhart
With Ontario being a fairly new place in terms of world history, its past is well documented in local historical societies and museums.
When you take a drive along the rural roads and past fields of corn, wheat, and soybeans, you can pass through an area without realizing you just visited a ghost town without even stopping the car to take a look. Ontario is filled with crossroads and dots on the map where thriving settlements once existed but now are lost in time and remembered only by a small sign and most likely a cemetery where the remains of early settlers repose for eternity.
The village of Whitfield in Mulmur, was once a thriving but small community that was first settled around 1832.
It was located around the area of what is now Centre Rd. and the 10 Sideroad. It was during the early decades of the 19th century when people started moving into the region and surrounding area in central Ontario to build farms.
Towns and villages in Ontario were usually settled for one of two reasons.
Running water was a main factor in deciding to start building. Running water meant a source of power to run a mill.
Once a mill was established, supporting business would spring up around it.
The second consideration when setting up shop was a crossroads. A crossroads meant traffic from both local people and passersby. It was the place you could open a general store or hotel.
Whitfield went through a few different name changes. For a while it was called Beechnut Corners. They finally settled on Whitfield when the post office opened in 1854 and they had to have a permanent name in order to receive mail.
Whitfield grew into a thriving, but small community with a population of around 125 souls. It was a real ‘Little House on the Prairie’ venture with town folks who tended shops and businesses and surrounding successful farms that worked the land.
During the height of activity the town had three stores, two saw mills, a blacksmith shop, a lime kiln, school, wagon maker, cabinet maker, and a post office.
There were two taverns – that’s a lot for a population of only 125 – and three churches so the locals could wash away the sins of Saturday night drinking, on Sunday morning.
By the early 1900’s, Whitfield started to decline as people moved on to seek out new opportunities. Over time, the buildings started to disappear.
The Methodist church was closed in 1925 and eventually demolished, however the cemetery remains and was given a facelift in recent years after decades of neglect.
The town school house is still standing but is now a private home.
The Anglican church, Christ Church, was built in 1874, and still stands on the corner at Centre Rd. However, it is not active and currently windows and doors and boarded up and there is no access.
In 1970, all the tombstones were moved from the cemetery beside the church and placed side by side in an area behind the building where they remain today.
Whitfield as a town eventually faded into history, however, there are still descendants of the original settlers in the area.
Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times