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History of the County of Bruce, Ontario, Canada
Township of Arran


The township of Arran is named after the Island of Arran, at the mouth of the Clyde, Scotland.

Extract from the Report of County Valuators, 1901.

"Stone is the chief drawback to this township, and while there has been a large quantity gathered into heaps and fences, yet there is a great work to be done in this respect still. There are some places it would cost more to clear the land of stones than it would be worth after the work was done. Arran is well watered generally, the swamp lands in the north half of the township are very difficult to drain, and in many places they are not so valuable as they were twelve years ago, as since that time the timber has been removed, and the land generally has not been improved. The Sauble is a poor source of drainage, having no banks and a slow current. There is considerable wet land from Arran Lake north-eastward to the corner of the township, which it is doubtful if it will ever be of much value. The soil of Arran is fair, with the exception of about two thousand acres in the north-west corner, which is almost unproductive, it being so light. It comes in touch here with the north part of Saugeen Township, and is largely similar in quality. Buildings and orchards compare favorably with any municipality in the county. The roads also are good. The rate per acre is $31.11, of which amount the village property makes 90 cents per acre."

The lands in the township of Arran were those classed as "school lands," and were opened for sale July 30th, 1852. [See Appendix J. The first whose name was entered as a purchaser was Mathew Latimer, for lots 3 and 4, concession 8th, date being September 29th, 1852. Mr. John M. McNabb, in a published letter, stated: "That in the year 1852 the late Alex. McNabb, Crown Land Agent for the county of Bruce, was in receipt of a communication from Mr. Ezra Jewett, a famous raiser of Merino sheep, in which letter Mr. Jewett stated that he and his friends residing in the Eastern States were anxious to acquire the whole township of Arran for the purpose of raising sheep on a large scale, provided they obtained it on reasonable terms. The Government of the day refused to enter into any terms on account of the parties being Americans, and the scheme fell through."] This sale included all lots which were in the original survey of the township. The lands included in "The Half Mile Strip," as noted in Chapter V., were offered for sale by the Indian Land Department,  [See Appendix I. The shape of these lots is unique within the county, they being in depth but half a mile, only four lots could be included from side-road to side-road if the lots were to approximate one hundred acres each.]

July 23rd, 1852. The survey of the township, both of Indian and school lands, was made in the year 1851; Charles Rankin had the contract from the Government of making these surveys, but the work was done by George Gould, afterwards County Clerk.

Arran's pioneer settler was Henry Boyle; his coming into Arran antedating by a year that of the surveyors. He took up the most northerly lot (No. 21) on concession A, where, when the necessity arose later on, from the large number of persons seeking lands, he opened a tavern.

The author has met with much difficulty in fixing the order of priority of settlement of the pioneers of Arran. This has arisen because of a common practice which prevailed among them of returning to the settlements to earn some money, just as soon as they had done enough work on their bush lot to establish their squatter's claim thereto, which consisted in making a small "slashing" and building a bit of a shanty. During their absence other settlers came in, these remaining permanently and not finding on their entrance into the bush any one in the neighborhood, felt justified in claiming the title of being the first settlers. This explanation is given in case the assertion be made that this narrative lacks in accuracy. If such should be the case, the author can only say that every effort possible has been put forth to obtain information at first hands; then, when these sources of his information seemed to be contradictory, to try and blend the several narratives to the best of his ability into the account as here presented to the reader.

The author has received from David Chalmers, the first to settle in the eastern part of Arran, a letter giving an account of his experiences on entering the township in 1851. This letter, with some few omissions, is given in a footnote, [1] believing that the narrative will be appreciated.

[Footnote 1. . . . "In the month of May, 1851, three travellers left Owen Sound on a land hunt, intending to locate and settle as farmers in the township of Arran. The party consisted of Mr. David Butchart, a man of about forty years of age; Mr. James Roch, an importation from Dundee, Scotland, and myself, a lad of about twenty years of age. All three of us were practically green at bush work; on starting we took the road carrying heavy loads of provisions and an axe each, and such a road ! But we were strong and of good courage and so floundered through mud and water for twelve miles : there were only three shanties with small clearings all the way. When at last we arrived at the house of Mr. James Barber, 12th concession of Derby, on the boundary between Grey and Bruce, we were very tired and gladly accepted the hospitality of Mr. Barber for the night. Enquiries were made as to our object in visiting him, and on being informed that we wanted land, he told us that we were somewhat premature in our visit, that the township of Arran was not yet surveyed and that there would be no use coming to hunt for farms until midsummer. However, we were anxious to see the land we came to seek, so in the morning we started on the old Maze of the county line. About one and a half miles north on that line we started to fell timber to clear a potato patch. We piled the brush, built a small shanty of small logs, bought five bushels of potatoes from Mr. Barber, and planted them among the logs. The crop turned out well. I dug the crop up in the fall as Mr. Butchart and Mr. Roch did not turn up to assist. These potatoes which I raised can safely be called the first crop raised in Arran.

"In the summer the survey of the township was proceeded with, and early in the fall I started to select a farm for myself. I went alone. On lot 25, concession 6, I found the surveyor's party, with whom I stayed all night. This party was, I remember, in charge of Mr. George Gould and Mr. Richard Berford. One of the party was my old fellow traveller, James Roch. He asked me, as a friend, if I would do a little chopping for him between lots 29 and 30, concession 8, as he could not leave his work on the survey. Of course, like a greeny, I consented and felled some timber to indicate that the lots were located, and thus gave up the chance of possessing two of the most valuable lots in Arran. Tara is now on lots 30 and 31. Roch never came near the property afterwards. I left the camp in the morning and went north up sideline 25 and 26, then went east until I came to the Sauble again, on lot 27, concession 9, and made up my mind to locate on it, which I did, and it was my home from that time until 1874, when I removed to Manitoba with my family. In the fall of the year I got a friend to assist me to put up a shanty. We cut such poles as we could carry on our shoulders, put up the building and covered it with cedar clapboards. I think I spent the happiest days of my life chopping down the big trees and allowing more sunlight in my little clearing. I baked my saleratus-cakes, fried my pork, made my black-currant-leaf-tea, or bread-coffee and made my supper, as happy as a king. I would put on a big fire of beech or maple logs, stretch out on the floor and read till bed-time, and retire to my one-post bedstead, which had a heavy layer of hemlock brush for a mattress, and awake in the morning with sometimes two inches of "the beautiful " on my bedcover, the snow having drifted through the cracks of my clapboard roof. I was contented, hopeful for the future, and happy. For three years I kept bachelor's hall and never felt lonely. After getting fairly domiciled in my shanty on the banks of the Sauble, the question of grub for the winter's work presented itself, a most serious matter, as it necessitated my carrying it on my back from Mr. Robert Linn's in Derby, a distance •of eleven miles, four miles of which were merely a surveyor's blaze. As I had bought a pig from Mr. Linn, I determined that my pork should carry itself. I got my piggy along very well for seven miles, then it began to get tuckered out.' These seven miles of road had been chopped through -the bush, but the remaining four miles were only blazed. How to get my pig these four miles was a problem, but I had to face it. I started with a very reluctant grunter, making my way through bush and over logs until I came to a small cedar swamp about one mile from my house. As in most cedar swamps, there was considerable windfall, and here piggy, being tired, came to a dead stop, but eventually I got it to my domicile. Arrived there, I tried my hand in transforming pig into pork, but will not harrow your feelings by describing how I did it. Three or four days before Christmas snow fell to a depth of nearly four feet. As I had not got any supply of flour for the winter, and the snow being so deep, I concluded to give up bachelor's hall for the winter, and having salted my pork in two white ash troughs and put it in the cellar, I started out for Mr. Barber's and floundered through the snow, arriving there in the evening, tired and hungry.

''Before one year was over I had neighbors. In the second year of my bachelor life I had the good fortune to have a call from two land hunters, Mr. Robert Douglass and his brother John. Robert settled on the next farm to mine, and John settled next to his brother on lot 29, 9th concession. John Douglass and I have worked many hard days together chopping and logging. One day in chopping, the snow being very deep, we were felling a maple, he in front, I at the back. The tree had a bow and as it struck the ground it swung round and carried John with it, burying him in the snow. I thought he was killed and set to work to release him from the tree. I got him out unhurt, with damages consisting of torn suspenders and a demoralized shirt.

"Before two years had elapsed all the land around me was taken up and Tara had begun to aspire to be called a village. It is sad to think that most of the early settlers who came in after me and settled around me in the early days are sleeping in the Tara cemetery, and I, an old man of 74 years, am left to speak of the good comradeship and friendly feelings that existed among our early settlers. What pleasure we all had in subduing the forest, what struggles we had for precedence of work at our logging bees, and the jolly time we had after the day's work was over with the dance and song, and the mirth would not slacken till the last drop of 'the crather' gave out.

"The Brinkman family are dead or have left. Willie Hall, of Hall's Corners, died two years ago. (A fine neighbor.) James Broadfoot and Archie McRae, good friends of mine, are gone. Thomas Smith, a noble fellow, Archie Wilson and John Kennedy, my next neighbors, they too rest in the graveyard on the 30th side-line. There are many more of my old friends and neighbors who have departed this life, while quite a few-have come west like myself. Hoping you may find these few reminiscences of the early days of Arran of some interest, " Believe me,

"Yours truly,
"David Chalmers.
"Rosewood, Man., 30th Oct., 1905."]

When the surveying party returned to Owen Sound after completing the survey of the township of Arran, which was in the fall of 1851, two of the staff, who had been impressed with the undeveloped possibilities of the township, decided to take up land therein in the vicinity of where water power might be developed. These two were George Gould and Richard Berford. Each sought out a companion to go with him, one who might prove helpful as a future neighbor. Mr. Gould found such a one in J. W. Linton, and Mr. Berford in John Hamilton. No time was lost, for fear that someone else might pre-empt the lands they thought of taking up before their arrival, so in less than a week from their return to Owen Sound the four whose names have been mentioned were on their way to locate their lots. Ladened as they were with necessary supplies, utensils and implements, the tramp through the woods of Derby Township was trying and wearisome. Their route was one indicated by the blaze made by a surveyor, which led them past the spot where the village of Kilsyth in after days developed. Beaching and crossing the Sauble River, Messrs. Berford and Hamilton, on coming to the eighth concession of Arran, decided to locate on the ground on which Tara now stands. Messrs. Gould and Linton passed on to the next concession road, and at Invermay, as now known, they selected their lands. There a fair-sized shanty had been put up by the survey party during the previous summer, as their headquarters. [Although falling to pieces from decay, this old log house was standing a few years ago; possibly it is yet. Being the oldest building in Arran, it was of interest to those aware of the circumstances. The old settlers remember how to any weary traveller its doors stood wide open, for the hospitality of the genial, warm-hearted George Gould was proverbial and has not been forgotten.] For a few days each of the little party was busy making a small clearing, and then each helped the other in putting up a small shanty. When this was done Mr. Gould went on to Southampton to register the squatter's claim for each of the party at the Crown Land Agency, while Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Berford returned to Owen Sound to obtain supplies. On the journey back to their lots each ladened himself with a hundredweight of provisions, in addition to necessary implements, such as an axe, an adze, a cross-cut saw, and a 2-inch auger and chisel. Arriving back at their shanties, they made preparations to remain there all winter. Owing to the illness of his father, Mr. Berford was forced to return to Owen Sound, leaving his companion alone in the forest,. who for some thirteen days was without the sight of a human face or the sound of a human voice. It was the following spring before Messrs. Gould and Linton finally settled on their lots. Other settlers who came into Arran in 1851 were Archibald Roy, at Burgoyne; [When the post-office was opened, in 1853, at "West Arran." now Burgoyne, Archibald Roy received the appointment of postmaster. He also was the first township clerk of Arran. In later years he was postmaster at Port Elgin.] Wm. Cunningham, J. T. Conaway [J. T. Conaway, getting tired of roughing it in the bush, traded his farm for village property at Southampton, where he moved to and there spent the rest of his days, until his death, in 1898. The lot which his father took up was one which an Irishman claimed. The man had cut a few trees, did a little underbrushing, and planted some potatoes, but having run out of provision he was compelled to scrape up the seed potatoes for food. Mr. Conaway coming along, he sold out his claim to him.] and his father—these all settled near Burgoyne. More in the centre of the township were Francis Hammel and Mathew McAulay, who located their farm lots that year. W. D. Marmion was another pioneer of '51. His son, born in 1852, was the first white child born in the township. In the spring of 1852 Charles Sang, Sr., [Charles Sang, Sr., was a man of exceptional intelligence, and one who commanded the respect of all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance. Mr. Sang was a native of Perthshire, Scotland, where he was born in the year 1821. He settled in Arran, as above stated, in the spring of 1852, and was early made one of the Justices of the Peace for the county. The author is under considerable obligation to Mr. Sang for lucid and accurate description furnished by him of the settlement of the north-west part of Arran. Mr. Sang departed this life November 17th, 1904, in his 84th year.] and his brother William took up lots 25, 26, 27 and 28, in concession B. Shortly afterward, during the summer of the same year, Donald McLachlan settled on lots 21 and 22 in concession B, and in the fall of the same year the north-west part of Arran received the following settlers: John McPhail, John Currie, Norman McLeod, John McKillop and Mathew Latimer, while earlier in the year John Douglass [John Douglass was born in Perthshire, Scotland, in 1833. He was nineteen years of age when his widowed mother and two brothers emigrated, coming to Canada. They at once decided to try their fortunes in the backwoods and came to Arran via Owen Sound. Mr. Douglass says one of the first persons he met on entering the township, which was in July, 1852, was George Gould, busily engaged in carrying out his contract of opening the Owen Sound road. Mr. Douglass had his full share of hardships and privations of pioneer life. He was elected to be the first reeve of Tara, and in 1889 had the further honor of being made warden of the county. He has been connected with the volunteer movement from the very first and his name is to be found in connection therewith in Chapter X. Mr. Douglass has retired from active life and is residing at Tara, enjoying the respect and esteem of his fellow citizens. In politics he is a Liberal He is a Presbyterian and has always taken an active part in any good work. He has also filled the position of a Justice of the Peace for many years.] took up land at Tara and William Hall settled and opened a tavern on the Owen Sound Road on the eleventh concession.

The opening of the Saugeen and Owen Sound Road through the centre of the township in 1852, as related in Chapter V., and that of the Elora and Saugeen Road along the west side of the township in 1854, made every part of Arran accessible to those seeking locations for settlement; the result was that Arran was settled rapidly. [A study of the figures in Appendix M shows the relative development of Arran compared to the other townships within the county up to 1857. ] Among these early settlers there may be mentioned: William, Henry and Copeland Trelford, John and Wm. Kennedy, Wm. Tippin, John B. Briggs, Henry Esplen, Sr., Joseph Briggs, William Nelson, Stephen McKechnie, James Roberts and William Hunt. The last mentioned, in 1853, was the first to settle in the south-west part of Arran.

The early settlers in Arran, like those in other portions of the county, had their full share of hardship, although they were not so badly off in the matter of roads as were many other localities. J. M. Monkman, township clerk, relates the following as his experience when he had to rough it as an early settler: "I came to Arran in 1851, when only 15 years of age, and kept bachelor's hall for some time. This was lonely indeed, as at times I did not see a living soul for weeks, not even an Indian. The first fall I was in my shanty I had to go to Southampton, some thirteen miles distant, to obtain a supply of provisions. This entailed a walk through the woods by a blazed path, a tramp over so-called roads, which were in reality but one long-stretched-out mud-hole, while the crossing of creeks on mere footsticks was quite a feat; it was a most fatiguing journey. At Southampton all the flour I could get was some fifteen pounds, the supply in the village having run out. This I carried back with me, along with some pork just out of the pickle, for which I had to pay a shilling a pound. Laden with the above, also sugar, tea and other necessaries, which I carried on my back and shoulders or tucked in my smock, I trudged back the weary miles to my shanty in the bush." When in 1852 the inflow of settlers into Arran attained some volume, Arran was part of the municipality known as "The United Townships in the County of Bruce." No assessment was made or taxes collected in Arran that year; the first levy of taxes was made in 1853, when John Guest was the assessor in Arran for the above-named municipality, and J. T. Conaway the collector. The total amount of the levy for all purposes for that year was 55 6s. 9d. When the dissolution of the municipal union of the townships took place at the end of 1853, and new municipalities created, [See Appendix F.] Arran became the senior township in the municipality of the united townships of Arran and Elderslie. Archibald Roy was the returning officer, and the first municipal election was held at his house. The first reeve was Richard Berford, and the councillors, Henry Esplen, William Hunt, Thomas Woodsides and Edward Sparling. The township clerk was Archibald Boy. In a footnote [The following are the names of the reeves of the township of Arran: Richard Berford, 1854; William Barber, 1855, '56; William Riddell, 1857; John M. Lumsden, 1858, 1860, '63, '64, '65, '66, 1871, '72; James Monkman, 1859; Michael Babington, 1861, '62, 1873, '74; Andrew Freeborn, 1867, '68, '69, 1870, '75, '76, '77, 1896; H. T. Potts, 1878, '79, 1880, '81, '82, '83, '84, '85; John Hearst, 1886, '87, '88, '89; William Mackintosh, 1890, '91, '92, '93, '94, '95; John Geddes, Jr., 1897, '98, '99; James Miller, 1900; John Watson, 1901, '02; Richard Nicholson, 1903, '04, '05; Wm. Jacques, 1906.] there is given the names of all the reeves of Arran down to 1906. The union of Arran and Elderslie continued in force for only two years. Following the dissolution of the union, during the year 1856 the township existed as a separate municipality, but in 1857 the township of Amabel was united to it for municipal purposes by by-law of the County Council; to which union was added, in 1858, the township of Albemarle. These three townships continued as one municipal corporation until the close of 1860. Since then, commencing with January 1st, 1861, Arran has remained permanently a separate municipality. The separation of Albemarle and Amabel from Arran resulted in a prolonged lawsuit. [See 45 U. C. Queen's Bench Reports, page 133, also 17 Chancery Reports, page 163, and 15 Chancery Reports, page 701, for particulars of this noted lawsuit.] On the separation of these three townships into two municipalities, the two corporations executed an instrument whereby Amabel and Albemarle agreed to pay Arran an amount of indebtedness, mutually agreed upon as $2,832, as soon as the amount could be collected from the non-resident arrears of taxes in the hands of the county treasurer. The fixing of a particular fund to pay the debt was a mistake. Therefrom a legal difficulty arose, it being discovered, subsequent to the signing of the agreement, that these nonresident taxes were largely charged on non-patented lands; as the law then stood, such lands were not liable to taxation; in fact, only some $250 was collected of $5,000 of these taxes standing in the books of the county treasurer. The suit was not finally settled until 1870.

The naming of the first post-offices in the township was in accordance with the custom which prevailed at the time of the settlement of Bruce, of giving the name of the township to its first post-office; so we find that in 1853 a post-office bearing the name of "Arran" was opened, George Gould being the postmaster. The name of this post-office was changed in 1859 to Invermay. Mr. Gould held the office of postmaster for only a very short time, and was succeeded by John Morton. "West Arran" post-office, now Burgoyne, was also opened in 1853, the first postmaster [The old settlers say that J. T. Conaway was the first postmaster, while the official records give the name of Archibald Roy. The tenure of office of one of these men was possibly not for any length of time, which would explain the matter. ] being Archibald Roy, afterwards the postmaster at Fort Elgin. "Arkwright," opened in 1857, was the next post-office in the township; its first postmaster was J. Faulkner.

Shortly after settlers first came into Arran there was formed the nucleus of three villages. Two of these were at the post-offices mentioned in the preceding paragraph. The third was Tara. Of these Tara is the only one which has developed into a place of importance. For a long time it was doubtful whether Tara or Invermay, situated only a mile apart, would take the lead. As Tara has a chapter to itself, we shall here speak only of Invermay. This latter village was surveyed into village lots in 1855. The plan of this survey shows only four houses as there built, all of which were near the corner of the concession road and the street leading to Tara. The sale of village lots could not have been brisk, as it was not found necessary to register the plan until 1858. The building by Luke Gardner of a saw-mill in 1855 or '56 and of a grist-mill in 1857 helped to make Invermay a business centre. A directory of an early date gives details of the little village as it was in 1865, as follows: "It has a population of 250, contains two stores, two tanneries, one grist-mill and two saw-mills, two churches and two doctors, etc. Quite a business is done in this village, it being situated on the main travelled road." Of the churches mentioned one was a Methodist, built of brick, in 1861. It is now occupied by the Baptists. The other church edifice was Christ Church (Ch. of England). This was built about 1861. In 1877 it was replaced by a much handsomer structure, which cost $5,000. It was largely owing to the strenuous efforts of the late Rev. Bural Dean R. C. Cooper that this fine building was built. (He was also instrumental in the erection of the Church of the Redeemer at Elsinore, and of St. Stephen's at Arran Lake.) The first store at Invermay was opened by Wm. Riddell about 1853, the first in the township. The mills built by Luke Gardner, situated about half a mile south of Invermay post-office, bore the name of "Arran Vale Mills "; after passing out of Mr. Gardner's hands they were run for a number of years by Syrian Cummer. A name long connected with Invermay is that of the late Abraham Neelands, who was postmaster, storekeeper and Division Court clerk there for many years, whose reputation as an upright man and a consistent Christian will long survive him. [At the close of the sitting of the Seventh Division Court, held in Vandusen's Hall, Tara, July 5th, 1899, a very pleasing incident took place. It was the last time that the venerable and respected clerk, Mr. A. Neelands, would occupy that position, and Judge Klein, before dismissing the court, made a few interesting and appropriate remarks relative to the occasion, mentioning that Mr. Neelands was appointed Division Court Bailiff at Owen Sound in 1847, which position he occupied for nearly five years, afterwards occupying the same position at Invermay, and was then appointed Clerk of the Seventh Division Court, which he has held for the past fifteen years. He went on to enumerate other positions held by Mr. Neelands—treasurer of Arran for 34 years, postmaster at Invermay for 36 years, etc. He stated that the relation of Judge with Mr. Neelands had been most cordial and pleasant, no complaints had been presented against him, and the duties of his office had been performed ably and honestly. He was sorry to part with such an old official, and hoped he would be long spared to enjoy the rest which he deserved. Mr. Neelands died February 24th, 1902, at the age of eighty-six.]

A reference to Chapter IX. shows that in 1855 Arran's school population was returned as only 50, and no school buildings whatever. There must have been some error in regard to the number of the school population, as we find that six schools were opened in the following year. This number was added to from time to time until there were in 1863 eleven school buildings, a number which has not been further added to.

Arran has among its farmers two who have filled the position of warden of the county of Bruce, namely, H. T. Potts and Wm. Mackintosh. These two men, possessing the esteem of many, have also been nominated for Parliamentary honors. If space permitted, it would be interesting to local readers to have written of others in the township whose reputation has extended beyond its borders, or of some of the older families such as those that bear the name of Esplin, Wark, Morran, Morrow, Swinton, Monkman, etc., etc. Such a task might well be taken up by some local historian, and this suggestion, it is hoped, may before long be carried out.


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