Photo courtesy of the Esquesing Historical Society

Drinking in the Glen!

By the 1860s Glen Williams was a thriving industrial village with several mills, a hotel, and apparently – a drinking problem.

When the Fenians began their raids on the Canadian border in 1866… a home guard would patrol the streets of Glen Williams. The story goes that they marched through the streets every night and would converge hourly at Cook’s Hotel for four drinks apiece!

John Mark Benbow Rowe, Esquesing Historical Society
Glen Williams – An Oasis in the Credit Valley p.32

A temperance society was formed, known as Royal Oak Temple No. 552; this group probably met initially in the schoolhouse on Prince Street, the only large room in the village.

The Temperance Society Gets a Place to Meet

The Glen Williams Temperance Society approached Charles Williams for a piece of land to erect a community hall which they could also use for meetings. Community leaders Joseph Tweedle, Benajah Williams, John Murray, John Hunt and William Tost met at Charles’ home in March 1870, where they decided in favour of the idea. Charles Williams deeded the land to the first nine trustees to be held in trust for the community.

The Good Templars donated $200 toward the building project in exchange for the right to have all their meetings in the Hall.

After considerable discussion a contract was given in June 1870 to Walter McKay of Georgetown to build a brick hall 28×44 feet and 15 feet high, for $1000.

Lucy Maud Montgomery & Traveling Medicine Shows with a Live Bear

The Hall was always busy. Besides the Temperance Society, the local band, two churches, fraternal workers associations, and the Loyal Orange Lodge met there; political meetings were held as needed, and the hall was the polling station for all elections. The school held their Christmas concerts at the hall, and recitations and music recitals became regular features. The hall even hosted travelling medicine shows with a live bear, and fiery preachers used the stage to good effect. With the advent of electricity, hydro bills could be paid here monthly. Lucy Maud Montgomery staged many performances at the Town Hall with her theatre group, the Union Dramatic Players.

The Era of Education & Teen Dances

In 1949, the school house bell tower collapsed when a new addition was being constructed. Classes moved to the Town Hall that September. By the early 1950’s – after extensive use for nearly 80 years – the Hall was in bad shape. In 1953, the Town Hall Trustees rejected an offer of $1000 for the property, which would be demolished. Instead they leased the Hall to the Board of Education, effectively ending its service as a community hall. When the school finished with the hall, its use was returned to the community for a time. St. Alban’s church hosted teen dances at the Town Hall – with a live band and DJ – while the United Church used the hall to hold bake sales and rummage sales.

The need for repairs finally prompted the trustees to lease the hall out for furniture storage.

Big Repairs and Just $86 in the Bank

By the 1976 the hall was faced with a crumbling back wall, a rotting floor, sagging ceiling, no water nor septic system, a leaking roof and a bank balance of just $86. A renovation committee was struck and local residents rallied to restore the Hall. They obtained a federal grant of $13,500 under the Opportunities for Youth programme and fundraisers were held to raise money for renovations. Volunteer labour abounded to restore the facility.

Wave Goodbye to the Outhouses!

The back wall was rebuilt and the old brick was repointed. The outhouses and cloak room at the front of the building were removed. The interior was gutted and dry-walled, and a balcony added at the far end. The floor was removed and the ground excavated to pour a concrete cistern and septic tank, the top of which formed the new floor of the Hall. While the hall is now supplied by town water, it – like most buildings in the Glen – is still on a septic system to this day.

Re-opening and the First Canada Day Celebrations

The Town Hall Board decided to thank the village for their support by sponsoring Dominion Day celebrations on July 1st, 1976 which included the official re-opening of the Hall.