The Early History of Carlisle

Originally Published in Heritage Happenings, March 1985
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This Heritage Paper looks at the village of Carlisle, and some stories surrounding its founding by John Eaton.

Settlement north of Waterdown came slowly, and the first person to settle and clear land is believed to have been George Baker who, in 1822, purchased one hundred acres on the southwest side of the Centre Road, between the fifth and sixth Concession. John Glasgow, a Scottish immigrant, whose family and friends came to East Flamborough in 1832 and purchased land in the fifth Concession, described what the area was like when they arrived to take possession of their property…

“I am safe in saying it was a wilderness at that time, not one tree having been chopped down on either of the three places … There was no other settlement until Carlisle was reached where a few acres were cleared, and the next settlement was Guelph.”1

Following George Baker’s establishment of a small settlement that later became known as Bakersville, John Eaton and his wife, Catherine Van Duzen, took up four hundred acres of land on the southwest side of the Centre Road, between the eighth and ninth Concessions. John Eaton is believed to have spent three or four years clearing the land, and about 1828 the family moved to the area from the Stoney Creek vicinity. While living in Stoney Creek, the Eatons participated in building the First Methodist Church in Hamilton (1823) and are listed among the first members there. Mr. Eaton was also among the first trustees of that church.

As other settlers moved in around the Eatons in East Flamborough, they opened their home for the first regular Sunday Services of worship. Their home became a preaching point on the Dundas Methodist Circuit and, as a result, the first name given to the small settlement was “Eatons”. An interesting story illustrates the difficulties of pioneer life and is recorded in connection with this family. The Eatons brought some pigs with them from Stoney Creek, and had to let them fend for themselves at first. In the autumn, they were allowed to fatten on beechnuts, but they strayed away and were thought to have been killed by wolves or bears. Late in the fall, when Mr. Eaton returned to Stoney Creek, he was surprised to find that his pigs had returned to their old home!

It was not many years before more than a house was required to accommodate the worshippers who came to the Eatons’ home. In 1839, a building, which became known as the “Chapel on the Twelve”2 or “Chapel at the Twelve”, was built. It stood slightly southeast of the present United Church, and actually was a “lean-to” on the log cabin belonging to Mr. Eaton on the Twelve Mile Creek, and served as both a Chapel and a School. One of the most interesting documents still existing is a receipt which reads…

“Received 10 September 1839 two pounds of John Morden for building chapel and school house”

L.H. Eaton3

By the time the “Chapel at the Twelve” was built, there were forty-one class members, with Mark T. Crooker as class leader and John Morden as assistant. Mr. Morden later became leader and Mr. Crooker a local preacher. (Class leaders were lay spiritual leaders responsible for the instruction of members in the faith and the pastoral oversight and care of members of their class.) In the class book where the forty-one members of 1839 are listed, names include Crooker, Morden, Markle, Kerr, Harper, Knight, Vance, McCall, Lewis, Kitchen, Nixon, Orr, Graham and Eaton. Mrs. Eaton’s name is on the roll of the first worshippers in the Chapel, and again when the first church was built in 1852.

Among the ordained ministers on the Dundas Circuit who attended to the needs of the Eatons’ residents during the eighteen forties were the Reverends McNab, Rose and Silvester. Some time during this period, there was a Mr. Pringle, presumably a local preacher who preached here. He reputedly weighed over 400 pounds and it is said that he needed a small ladder to alight from the rig in which he drove to church. He never stood up to preach, but sat on two chairs.

The land for the first cemetery was cleared about the same time as the pioneers were making preparations to build the chapel. A. John Sherman sold to the Methodist Church 100 acres, with registration date of 2 October 1840 — Carlisle Cemetery is part of this parcel of land. Of great interest is the original layout of the graves in this cemetery, graves being priced at four and six dollars. The names were hand-written on four wooden boards, each board approximately six inches wide and twenty-four inches in length held together by two boards nailed across the back. This layout was kept in a hand-made wooden type of envelope, keeping it dry and very secure from all possible danger.

By 1852, the congregation of early Methodists, who did not call themselves a church or denomination, but rather a “Society” (Society of Methodists), had grown to such an extent that it was necessary to build a church. The church built in 1852 was a plain, oblong, frame building, painted white, with two classrooms at the back. The motto “Holiness Becometh Thy House, Oh Lord of Hosts” was written in old script in an arch over the dorsal wall. At first there was neither organ nor choir, the singing being led by a precentor, one of whom was Michael Mills. One of the stories relating to the building of this first church is that a Bee was going ahead with the nailing on the siding when Enoch Eaton, son of the first settler, came along. He observed that a considerable number of boards all the same length were being put straight up the wall without breaking the joints. When Enoch saw what was being done, he said that they were not going to build the Lord’s House that way, and ordered that it be taken off again and put on properly. Needless to say, the group that was working was not very pleased, but they did it.

About the same time that the church was built, the question of a name for the community was being considered. Centreville was chosen first, but it was found that this name was in use elsewhere. The early settlers were mainly English, Scotch and Irish. The English and Scotch each wanted to choose an old country name from where they originated. Some of the English settlers had come from a small border town in northwest England called Carlisle. There is also a town in Scotland, pronounced the same but spelt Carlyle. A compromise was settled upon, as some of the other settlers of another nationality, according to an old record, did not care what it was called, “if only it had a Hotell (hotel) in it”.4 Thus, on the first circuit plan after the new church was built, the settlement was called Carlisle, and the first listing of trades and professions for the village of Carlisle found is that in the “1853 Supplement to the Canada Directory of 1851.”

  1. “Journal and Transactions of the Wentworth Historical Society”, Volume 1, pg. 32. Spectator Printing Company, Hamilton. 1892.
  2. The Twelve is the name of the Creek that flows through Carlisle
  3. “Over the Years — Our Centennial Booklet”, pg. 7. Carlisle United Church 1852-1952.
  4. “Over the Years — Our Centennial Booklet”, pg. 11. Carlisle United Church 1852-1952.


“United Church Cemetery, Carlisle, Ontario” — Hamilton Branch of O.G.S. 1981

“Over the Years — Our Centennial Booklet”, Carlisle United Church 1852-1952.

“Journal and Transactions of the Wentworth Historical Society”, Volume 1. Spectator Printing Company, Hamilton. 1892.

© The Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society 1985, 2020


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