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By Matthew Wilkinson and Nicole Mair

Have you ever heard of the tiny hamlet of Hanlan? To many, the name would perhaps be more closely associated with Toronto Island and Hanlan’s Point, or to the more modern residents of Mississauga, with the Hanlan Pumping Station and Reservoir at Tomken and Britannia Roads. But long before the pumping station was built in 1975, a small pioneer community began to develop along Britannia Road between Tomken and Dixie Roads.

The name chosen for the community was Hanlan, in honour of famed Canadian oarsman Edward (Ned) Hanlan. Ned Hanlan was considered “the most renowned oarsman of any age” and, in a sense, was Canada’s first international sporting champion as he was declared the world’s rowing champion from 1880 to 1884. In choosing the name for the community, George Johnson is said to have wanted a name that was short and easy to remember.

This small pioneer crossroads first sprang to life in the 1830s when D.W. Johnson opened a blacksmith shop on the southwest corner of Tomken and Britannia. His enterprise soon blossomed to include a carpenter shop and paint shop where he employed three blacksmiths, three carpenters and three painters. His son George continued the enterprise, adding a store around 1855. George Johnson’s small industrial development became the focus of the early community and early residents and workers soon began to build their homes around the intersection. A shoemaker, possibly Joseph Armstrong, also established himself on the southwest corner across from the blacksmith shop. The carpentry shop at Hanlan employed three carpenters as well.

A post office was established on November 1, 1878 in George Johnson’s store, with George W. Johnson listed as the first postmaster. After Johnson, Charles Howell was the postmaster from 1888 to 1890. Later in 1890, the post office was moved to the Armstrong residence on the northwest corner of Britannia and Tomken, and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Armstrong until it closed on April 17, 1911.

In 1844 the growing crossroads community added a small one-room log and stone schoolhouse, School Section No. 11, further to the south on the east side of Tomken Road, on land purchased from Mr. Douglass. Some of the earliest trustees included William Price, Alexander Price, Thomas Allison, and Charles Doherty. The first teacher at Hanlan was Mr. Wright: he earned a yearly wage of $250 and boarded at Samuel Price’s house. Some of the other teachers included Mr. Morton, Matt Young, Edwin Culham, J.D. Howes, and Mr. Philips. At Hanlan school the students studied geography, history, reading, writing, and arithmetic. Music was also added to the list of subjects, but not until quite a few years later. Mr. Capps of Brampton was an early music teacher.

The original log schoolhouse was replaced in 1872 with a slightly larger building, roughly on the same site as the original school.  Janet Douglass donated 1,200 square feet of land on which the new school would be constructed. Trustees for the new schoolhouse included T. Allison, A. Price, and W. Doherty. Some of the teachers who taught between 1872 and 1899 included Jennie Weylie, M. Baskerville, Miss McKechnie, Miss Hartley, Miss Wilcox, Miss Farr, Miss Ruby, Miss Armstrong, and Miss E. Price. The teacher’s salary increased from $250 to $400 per annum. In 1899, the school closed for a year when there were only 3 or 4 children of schooling age living in the section. The school reopened the following year and remained open until 1946. In 1947, the school was threatened with closure again. This time, however, the school trustees found enough students from a southern school section who were willing to enrol at Hanlan, thus keeping it open. Some of the teachers who taught between the period of 1920 and 1957 included Bertha Watson, Ida Watson, Edna Johnson, Mary McQuarrie, Mary Morrison, Helen Allison, Evelyn Bishop, Bernice Cummings, Jane Day, Annie Thompson, Bertha Ryerse, Lila Young, Maurice Upper, Doreen Hostrawser, Olive Payne, Lois Weddell, Helen Oskanen, and Berry Axtmann.

After music became part of the curriculum concerts were held at the school. During a 1946 school concert, Miss Doris Waite was the acting music supervisor. There were no major changes made to the school until 1949 when the shed was removed and an addition was added to the school. Construction of the addition was undertaken by Mr. Cameron Sheard. In 1953, a half acre of land was purchased by the trustees from Miss Sarah Allison to create a bigger playground area for the students. A number of former students associated with Hanlan School include Mr. Douglas Leuty, who went on to be a teacher and then a dentist, Ruby Armstrong, Margaret Craig, who became a missionary in Japan, the Honourable Manning Doherty who became a member of parliament and the Minister of Agriculture of Ontario, and Frank Johnston who went on to become an alderman in the city of Toronto.

Hanlan Public School S.S. #11 served the community until it was closed in 1957. It sat vacant until about 1970, when it was removed to make way for industrial development. Another school was built around 1875 on the north side of Britannia between Tomken and Dixie Roads, on land owned by James McBride. It is unclear how long this building served as a school, but it might also have doubled as a meeting hall for local residents. It is unknown when this building was removed.

The community of Hanlan also established social events in the form of a literary and debating society. The women of the village had quilting bees and rug hooking events while the men held boxing matches. There was a local band for the community of Hanlan as well, and they were often found holding performances on people’s lawns.

For religion, the early settlers in the area, who were largely Methodist, travelled to Derry West and would hold small services in Carter’s Anglican Church. Sometime around 1840, however, it appears that the Anglican congregation in Derry West would no longer allow the Methodists to use their church. In response, John and Sarah Hunt sold part of their land (Lot 5, Concession 4 EHS) on March 7, 1853 to the Methodist congregation from the Hanlan area. They quickly constructed a small frame church on what is today the southeast corner of Britannia and Dixie roads. This original church, known as Hunt’s Chapel, was replaced in 1867 by a larger building and renamed the Trinity Wesleyan Methodist Church. This new church, however, was not long-lived and closed prior to 1925, with the congregation attending the nearby Bethany United Church, south of Elmbank. The only visible remnant of the church, and indeed the hamlet of Hanlan, is the small Trinity Wesleyan Methodist Cemetery that sat immediately to the east of the church. It is unclear how many burials took place in the small cemetery as many stones are noted to have disappeared.

At its height around 1895, the village of Hanlan only ever grew to include a population of about 100 residents. Some of these families associated with Hanlan can be found on the old maps and in the lonely Trinity cemetery: names like Allison, Baldock, Cooper, Curry, Douglass, Foggerty, Hunt, Jiffikins, Johnston, McBride, McKay and McGraw, amongst many others.

© Mississauga Heritage 2009