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Friends & Neighbours:  Gelert

Gelert is a former railway village in Snowdon Town-ship, just up the line from Kinmount. The first settlers trickled in from The Bobcaygeon Road in the 1860s. The Haliburton Re-entrant of the Great Lakes Lowlands meant the Gelert area offered better farmland than most of the area, and even that was not saying much! The community’s original name was Little Ireland, which reflected its Ulster heritage. The Orange Lodge was always strong in Gelert. The arrival of the Victoria Railway in 1878 kick-started the village. Gelert became a major rail station, the closest this railway came to Minden (7 miles). Businesses sprang up along its (short) Main Street and the railway station became the centre of town.  Daily stages linked Gelert with railless Minden and all goods were hauled over the South lake Road.  The Railway caused the settlement to chenge its name:  first to Snowdonville, then Minden Station and finally to the more romatic Gelert.

The last name had a tradition in Welsh folklore. An ancient king of Snowdon (a county in Northern Wales !) had a famous hunting hound named Gelert. One day the king went hunting but for some unknown reason, his best hound was missing. King Llewelyn’s infant son was left asleep in his cradle. In the king’s absence, a wolf attempted to attack the baby. The loyal Gelert fought off the wolf and killed it. In the battle, both Gelert and the infant were covered in blood. Upon his return, the King of Snowdon was greeted by the sight of a blood-spattered, empty cradle and a bloody hound. He jumped to the conclusion Gelert had murdered the child. In a fit of rage, he slew the royal hound with his sword. Gelert’s dying yelp was answered by an infant’s cry. Only after the dastardly deed did the King find the dead wolf, the missing child and realize the truth. The king was filled with remorse for rewarding loyalty with death, and commanded his bard to commemorate the loyal hound in a ballad.

Like many communities in the area, farming was not a lucrative profession in Snowdon Township . After several generations, the marginal land ―played out‖ and the farms were abandoned. Likewise rail traffic began to decline with the advent of motor vehicles. Gelert diminished in size and with the abandonment of the railway, the last businesses were closed. Gelert was selected by author Ron Brown as a Ghost Town of Ontario in his series of books. While the village is not exactly ―abandoned‖, it is a shadow of its former prosperity. But it still remains on the maps and in the hearts of local residents.

 

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