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History of the County of Bruce, Ontario, Canada
Township of St. Edmund


This township is named after Bury St. Edmunds. There has been from the first a disagreement as to the spelling of the name; the Toronto Government officials giving "s" as the final letter, and the Indian Land Office, Ottawa, spelling it without. The township, on its becoming incorporated, adopted the former method of spelling and calls itself "St. Edmunds.''

The chapters in this volume which give the history of a township are in each instance prefaced by extracts from the report of the county valuators, with the solitary exception of St. Edmunds. For such information referring specially to St. Edmunds as is to be found in these extracts the reader is referred back to the preceding chapter, because the valuators in every report have joined Lindsay and St. Edmunds together, and it is impossible to separate the general remarks of the valuators and apply specially to Lindsay or St. Edmunds.

Although further north than Lindsay, St. Edmunds seems to have been but little behind it in receiving its pioneer settlers, it being in the summer of 1871 that Captain John Charles Earl settled at what is known as "The Big Tub." [The perfect safety with which vessels could lie in the basin at Tobermory has made it a much frequented harbor of refuge. For the convenience of navigators, Captain Earl made a practice of hanging a lantern at the top of a high pole as a range light and so ensure safe navigation to vessels when making the harbor. He was remunerated for this service by various captains, they presenting him with useful house supplies, such as a bag of potatoes, flour, or some coal-oil, etc. In the course of a few years the Government acknowledged this service and paid him a salary of about $30 a year.] In November of the same year Captain Earl had a companion come to share the loneliness of his pioneer life in the person of Abraham Davis, who settled at Dunk's Bay. These pioneers were joined at various intervals, in somewhat of the following order, by Captain Alexander Marks, Michael Belrose, Jacob Belrose, George and Neil Currie, Robert, John C. and James H. Hopkins, Thomas and George Bartman, Benjamin and Alexander Butchart, Donald McDonald (first postmaster at Tobermory) and Benjamin and William Young. Mr. Solomon Spears (to whom the author is indebted for many of the facts connected with the history of St. Edmunds) settled in the township in March, 1883.

The lumbering resources of St. Edmunds have been exploited to an extent not equalled in any other township of the county. In 1872 Cockwell & Grant erected a large saw-mill and shingle-mill on the Crane River, at what is now called "McVicar's." This firm cut a road from Pine Tree Harbor through the woods for a distance of ten miles to a point at which they built their saw-mill; they also laid out a large sum in cleaning the river so that the produce of their mill might be floated down to the harbor. This mill and its limits were purchased in 1880 by Peter McVicar, [Peter McVicar continued the running of this mill for twenty years, when, in 1901, he retired to spend his declining years at the town of Perth. Mr. McVicar was the first reeve of Carrick, in 1856 and 1857, and also the first reeve of the united townships of Lindsay and St. Edmunds in 1883.] who built another mill in the following year as well as a wharf at Johnston's Harbor. In 1881 a mill was built at Tobermory by Messrs. Maitland & Rixon. This mill was burnt down in March, 1883, but rebuilt in the same year by the same firm, who after running it six years moved it to Owen Sound. About 1892 the Southampton Lumber Company built a saw-mill at Pine Tree Harbor. In 1895 a mill was built at Tobermory by Richard Badstone (since purchased and run by Hector Currie). In 1900 another mill was erected by E. M. Meirs, and another in the following year by Messrs. Simpson & Culbert, which gave Tobermory three saw-mills in constant operation, adding materially to the trade of the village.

The post-office at Tobermory was established in 1881, the mail being carried on foot from Stokes Bay. Mr. Benjamin Butchart was the first mail-carrier. St. Edmunds' first school was opened in 1883, Its first Board of Trustees were Michael Belrose, Donald McDonald and Jacob Belrose. The first teacher was a Miss Ella Conklin.

As a separate municipality St. Edmunds has existed since the 1st of January, 1903. Its previous municipal relations are related in the preceding chapter, referring to the township of Lindsay. The first reeve of the municipality was Solomon Spears, who also filled the office in 1906, his successor for 1901 and 1905 being William Simpson. The clerk of the municipality was James Campbell and the treasurer John C. Hopkins.

The first public religious service in the township is said to have been conducted by a Presbyterian student, possibly a Mr. Peter McLean, who was the first to preach in Lindsay. The first regular stationed minister belonged to the Methodist Church, the Rev. Robert Walker. Succeeding him was the Rev. Mr. Sparling. Under his ministration a church was built at Tobermory Harbor. The next minister was the Rev. W. D. Dainard, who was instrumental in the building of a church at "The Settlement," a point on the Bury Road some two and a half or three miles south of the harbor. There is also a Baptist church at the town plot of Bury, but the author is not able to give the year of its erection.

St. Edmunds being at the extreme north of the peninsula nearly all the vessels passing into the Georgian Bay sail along its coast. This has necessitated the erection of several lighthouses. The first one to be erected was that at Cove Island. [After being in charge of Cove Island lighthouse for twenty-five years, George Currie retired in the summer of 1903. He was succeeded by Kenneth McLeod, of Tobermory.] This is a white, circular stone building, built in 1859, which in addition to a powerful light is also equipped with a fog horn to indicate the locality when fog covers the water. The lighthouse at Tobermory was erected in 1885, and the one at Flower Pot Island in 1897.

In regard to the local names in St. Edmunds the following comprises all the information the author has been able to obtain: Lake Kent on the maps, but locally called Lake Cameron, is named after John Cameron, of Southampton, a man well known to the Indians and fishermen throughout the Peninsula in the days before settlements were formed. Lake Cyprus received its name from the island in the Mediterranean Sea, the name being given at the time that island was ceded to Great Britain. Tobermory was named by the Highland fishermen after a town in Mull. (In Bayfield's chart it is named "Collins Harbor.") The three lakes on concessions 5, 6, 7 and 8, east of the Bury Road, were intended to bear the names of the patron saints of England, Scotland and Ireland. This was carried out to the extent of St. George and. St. Andrew, but a young man named Emmett Smith, working in the office of B. B. Miller, the Indian Land Agent, persuaded Mr. Miller to let one of the lakes be called after him, so as Lake Emmett it will probably be always known. Bury town plot is named after Viscount Bury, Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs in 1855.

The entrance of the telegraph and telephone wires into Tobermory has brought what was the jumping-off place of the county into touch with the rest of the world, and if the proposed railway ever reaches there we shall look for great things in the township of St. Edmunds.

There are extensive caves to be seen in St. Edmunds. The limestone rock, so common throughout the peninsula, seemingly has here suffered from the erosion of water more than elsewhere. Possibly the largest of these caves is to be seen on Flower Pot Island, the extent of which is not known, as it has not been fully explored. The island takes its name, that of "Flower Pot," from a peculiar shaped rock standing about fifty feet in height. The illustration here given shows what a natural curiosity it is and how appropriate is the name.


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