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History of the County of Bruce, Ontario, Canada
The Queen's Bush


Extract from a Report of a Committee of the Executive Council, Dated February 26th, 1842, and approved by His Excellency the Governor-General two days later:

"William H. Peterson with a petition from the inhabitants of a tract of land called the 'Queen's Bush,' in the District of Wellington, praying to have it surveyed.

"The Committee recommend that the tract of land above mentioned be forthwith surveyed, and that a plan of survey be submitted for approval of your Excellency-in-Council. The charges for survey will be against the Clergy Reserve Fund."

Memory has an odd way at times of retaining a recollection of that which is unimportant, whilst the relatively important things too often are forgotten. To some such peculiarity of memory the writer must attribute his recollection of a school Geography, in use some fifty years ago—which even then must have been almost obsolete—in which was a map of Upper Canada, showing its divisions into Districts. Besides the Districts, the map also showed a large blank tract, which was designated "Indian Territory," roughly bounded, as far as memory recalls, by the Home District on the east, the Huron District on the south, and Lake Huron on the west and north respectively. This "Territory" is that tract of land mentioned in the preceding chapter as ceded to the Crown by the treaty executed at Manitowaning. Shortly thereafter it came to be known as the "Queen's Bush," a title given, no doubt, to distinguish it from the lands belonging to the Canada Company, the German Company, and others that had obtained large blocks of land from the Crown, holding them largely for speculative purposes.

Piled away among the records of the Crown Lands Department are several petitions presented in 1847-8, similar in effect to the one referred to in the above headnote, the constant demand being for the opening up of lands suitable for settlement.

At that period Canada was being favored with a large wave of immigration, landing a yearly increasing number of immigrants upon her shores. There were but 25,375 immigrants in 1845, but 1817 saw this figure increased to 89,110. The population of Upper Canada, which in 1812 was 486,055, rose to 723,332 in 1848, and to 952,004 in 1852, an increase of nearly one hundred per cent. in ten years, which in a large measure was due to immigration.

The demand for lands for settlement resulting from such a rapid increase in population was responded to by the Executive, and plans were made for the opening up and settlement of the "Queen's Bush." On the 19th April, 1847, an Order-in-Council was passed, "To open up the waste lands of the Crown in the Huron District, by the survey of a double concession of lots on a line from the northerly angle of the township of Mornington, to the north-east angle of the township of Wawanosh. Also a single concession along the rear boundary line of the townships of Wawanosh and Ashfiekl, [This "single concession" became Con. 1 in the townships of Kinloss and Huron.] and one along the shore of Lake Huron, northerly from Ashfield." This to be all in one survey.

The Hon. D. B. Papineau, Commissioner of Crown Lands, followed up this order, on May 8th, 1847, by directing Alex. Wilkinson, P.L.S., to make the foregoing survey, with the proviso, that "the extent of the survey along the lake shore is to be limited by the demand for lands."

Mr. Wilkinson promptly proceeded to undertake the work allotted to him. Taking a party of twelve men and the needed supplies, he started for the Bush. At Goderich he endeavored to engage a man sufficiently acquainted with the locality to act as guide, so as to reach the north-east angle of Wawanosh, the point where he purposed to commence the survey. So completely was the Bush a terra incognita that he could not obtain anyone who possessed the required knowledge. In his report Mr. Wilkinson says, "I was forced to find the place myself from the best information obtainable from the settlers in Wawanosh, which was but little, as none of them had ever been back that far." Following the course of the river Maitland, the surveying party at length reached their destination. After running the Wawanosh road south-easterly to the townships of Mornington and Maryborough, Mr. Wilkinson retraced his steps to his original starting point; thence reopening and reblazing the line to Lake Huron, [This line formed the rear of the townships of Ashfield and Wawanosh; these two townships having been surveyed several years prior to this.] at the same time planting the posts along the north side of the line, marking out the farm lots in what are now the first concessions of the townships of Kinloss and Huron, which farm lots, therefore, can claim the honor of being the first surveyed farm lands in the county of Bruce. Mr. Wilkinson was not, however, the first surveyor to work in the county. Mr. Charles Rankin preceded him, having in 1845 run the line from Owen Sound to the mouth of the Saugeen River, that constituted the southern boundary of the Indian Reserve. [Whether Mr. Rankin at the same time surveyed the "Half-Mile Strip " or not, the writer cannot say. It is indicated in a draft map of the proposed new townships in Bruce, made in 1848, but the land was not ceded to the Crown until 1851.]

The demand for new lands in the summer of 1847 must have been considerable, for on September 21st of that year, further instructions were issued to Mr. Wilkinson, in which he was directed to "survey the eastern shore of Lake Huron northerly from the township of Ashfield to the extent of two townships. From thence to make an angular survey of the shore to the mouth of the Saugeen river, and a survey of the river for about ten miles."

An examination of a map of the county of Bruce will show that the lots surveyed by Mr. Wilkinson, which extend from the south-east corner of Kinloss to the lake, thence northward along the shore line, are in form narrower and longer than are to be found elsewhere in the county in farms of equal size. The reason assigned for this is, such a shape of lot would result in the settlers dwelling closer together. They would, therefore, be able the more readily to render each other assistance in case any trouble with the Indians should occur, a contingency that fortunately has never arisen.

In the winter following the completion of the above-mentioned surveys, Mr. Wilkinson furnished the Crown Lands Department with an outline map, by which he showed how the unsurveyed part of the "Queen's Bush" might be desirably blocked out into townships. The uniqueness of this document makes it an exceedingly interesting one. The fact of it having been drafted at that time indicates that the question of a suitable division into townships of the last of the wild lands in the western part of Upper Canada belonging to the Crown was being considered. Although the projected surveys suggested by Mr. Wilkinson were but partially carried out, his plan no doubt formed the basis for the one ultimately adopted, which divided the tract into seventeen townships. Eleven of these comprise those townships in Bruce south of the Indian Reserve; the other six are Turnberry, Howick, Morris and Grey, in the county of Huron, and Elma and Wallace, in the county of Perth. The exact date when the plan of the final surveys was decided upon cannot be given, but it is a safe surmise to say that it must have been some time during the spring or early summer of 1848.

To attract the attention of prospective settlers to the district about to be surveyed, the Government decided to open up a colonization road from the county of Simcoe to the mouth of the Penetangore River on Lake Huron, and to offer as a free grant to actual settlers a fifty acre farm lot on one of the two concessions north or south of this road. This decision was formulated by an Order-in-Council passed August 26th, 1848. [See Appendix D for copy of this Order, and note the conditions therein given attached to the offer of a free grant.]

On the day the order was passed, A. P. Brough, P.L.S., [Allan Park Brough, P.L.S., surveyed not only the Durham Road, but also the Elora Road, from the north-west corner of Carrick to its southerly terminus in the township of Maryborough, the town plot of Kincardine, the township of Brant, and was proceeding with the survey of the township of Bruce when he died. His name is preserved in the name of "Allan Park," bestowed on a village on the Durham line in the township of Bentinck.] received instructions to survey the western part of the road, from where the village of Durham now stands, to the lake; also to make a cursory survey of the reserve for a town plot at the mouth of the Penetangore River.

Mr. Brough had among those who formed his surveying party some men who ultimately became settlers in the county and assisted in its development in a prominent manner. Latham B. Hamlin, his principal assistant, years afterward became the County Engineer, [Latham B. Hamlin after ceasing to be Countv Engineer of Bruce (see Chapter VII.) was engaged in the construction of the Intercolonial Railway, and afterwards in that of the Canadian Pacific Railway in British Columbia. While in the west he accumulated some means, but unfortunately lost them. Advanced in years as he was, he went to the Klondike, hoping to be fortunate enough to retrieve his fortunes. He and a partner took up a claim on Hunker Creek, a small tributary of the Klondike, some thirty miles from Dawson. The two men were caught out in a severe snowstorm and were badly frozen before they succeeded in returning to their cabin. The Mounted Police found the partner dead, and Mr. Hamlin with his arms and legs frozen almost up to his body. They brought him to Dawson, where he died within a few days after reaching there. This sad occurrence happened in the month of February or March in the year 1898.] and superintended the construction of the system of county gravel roads. Another was Peter Smith, a pioneer settler of Saugeen Township. Others were John Caskanette and Joseph Chartrand, of Greenock, who survived to see the county of Bruce attain its jubilee.

The report of this survey submitted by Mr. Brough is a lengthy one. Many details in it are interesting, and will be referred to in the chapters relating to the minor municipalities through which the survey ran. Having been supplied with the required astronomical bearings, Mr. Brough projected his lines accordingly. Starting at Penetangore (now Kincardine), the party pushed their way through the unbroken forest that then covered the lands comprising the townships of Kincardine and Kinloss, until they reached the large tract of swamp subsequently known as the Greenock Swamp, of which Mr. Brough says in his report: "Previous to deciding upon the route for the Durham Road in the township of Greenock, I explored the country some eight or ten miles in extent and found it to be almost continuous swamp, the extent of which was not fully ascertained; but it may in general terms be said to embrace a belt of country some ten or twelve miles in length by four in width, and contains more than 25,000 acres. This immense swamp lies on the west side of the Au-shuskisibbi, or Muddy River. [This stream bears so many names that it will not be out of place to refer to them here. On the map of the county of Bruce, published by James Warren, P.L.S., the river is called the ''Yokasippi," which is a corruption of the Indian word "Ah-ta-yahko-sibbi," which means "The Drowned Lands River." At the junction of this stream with the Saugeen, the Indians call it the "Mekenakoncesibbi," or "Small Mud Turtle River." The " Mud River" is what the early settlers called it; but it is probably more frequently called the "Teeswater" to-day than by any other of its numerous names. As to the origin of the name "Mud River," the following incident is given: The late Peter Smith, of Saugeen, was flagman in Brough's surveying party. He used to relate that, during the progress of the survey, when he reached the river he somehow fell into it, and was thoroughly bemired in its oozy bed. As he floundered out upon firm ground Brough came up and said. "What name shall we give this river?" Smith, looking down on his mud-covered garments, said. "You had better call it Mud River." Being apt and descriptive of part of the stream, the name stuck for many years.] On the east side of Otter Lake (in the township of Kinloss) a small neck of hard land protrudes itself into the swamp; of this I took advantage to carry forward the Durham Road into the township of Greenock, as it is the only piece of land in a range of several miles that is practicable for a line of road." The taking of this route through the swamp brought the line of road so far south, that the survey proceeded on what would have been the "South Line," if the first projection had been followed out. It also resulted in bringing the line of road distant but the width of a concession from the southerly boundary of the township. In consequence the survey of free grant farm lots was limited to one concession on each side of the Durham Road throughout Greenock. The deviation necessitated by the foregoing circumstances no doubt influenced Mr. Brough to drop the survey at this point and proceed to Durham, and from there to survey the road westward, through the townships of Bentinck and Brant. These details have been given as an explanation of the jog of a mile and a quarter which occurs in the Durham line at the boundary of the townships of Brant and Greenock, where was laid out the Greenock town-plot to connect the roads running east and west with each other. This town-plot failed to respond to the early expectations, never developing into even the semblance of a centre of population. It ultimately was surveyed into farm lots. [An Order-in-Council, dated April 7th, 1852, abolished the Greenock town-plot. Although not in the market the lands therein were largely squatted upon. As a matter of speculation the lands were purchased from the Crown by James Webster, of Guelph, and Dr. Hamilton, of Goderich, who succeeded in having the actual settlement clause waived, but on condition that they satisfy the claims of the squatters. They held the lands, still mostly bush, until 1862 when John S. and James Tolton purchased the greater part of the block.]

The surveys made by A. Wilkinson and A. P. Brough, extended in long lines through several townships, attained the object sought, namely, that of opening up the "Queen's Bush." It was upon these surveys that the first permanent settlers in search of farm lands located, the initial settlements being on the lake shore at or near Kincardine, in the summer of 1848. Others who came into the county in the fall of the same year located on the Durham Line in the same vicinity. The spring of 1849 added to these and also witnessed many of the "free grants" in Brant being settled upon.

The town-plot of Penetangore (Kincardine) was laid out toward the close of 1849, and with it the survey assigned to Mr. Brough was completed.

Up to the last-mentioned date no township in the county of Bruce had been surveyed into farm lots; this was a work commenced in the ensuing year. The following is the order in which the various subsequent government surveys were made. In 1850, Brant and Kincardine Townships were surveyed. In the winter following, the Elora Road from the Greenock town-plot southwards was laid out. A survey was made in 1851 of the townships of Arran, Elderslie, Huron, Saugeen, the west part of Bruce, and the town-plot of Southampton; in 1852, the east part of the township of Bruce and the townships of Carrick, Culross, Kinloss, and Greenock; in 1855, the townships of Amabel and Albemarle and town-plot of Alma; in 1856, the townships of Eastnor and Lindsay, the town-plot of Wiarton and the village of Paisley; in 1857, the township of St. Edmunds; in 1875, the six hundred acres reserve forming the southerly part of Southampton town-plot, and in 1899 and 1900 the Fishing Islands, completing the last of the Crown surveys of any moment.


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