Erin Township is said to have been so named by
the surveyors, because it was surveyed immediately after the Townships of
Albion and Caledon. Albion suggested England, Caledon suggested Scotland,
and it was thought fitting that the third should suggest Ireland; so they
called it Erin, the poetic name for Ireland.
The survey of the Southern part of Erin
Township started in 1819, by Deputy Surveyor Charles Kennedy of Esquesing
Township, and Donald Black of Eramosa Twp. Starting at the east side, they
continued across to the Eramosa boundary, as far as 17 sideroad, leaving a
gore at the Eramosa side.
In 1820, the northern part of the township
was surveyed. The 1906 Atlas names O'Reilly as one of the surveyors, but
the History of Erin Township in 1967, states that Donald Black and John
Burt continued the survey above 17 sideroad. But instead of beginning at
the Caledon side, they started at the Eramosa side, ending up with a gore
along the Caledon boundary. This accounts for the jog in the lines at 17
J.W. Burt had the instruments used by his
father and Mr. Kennedy in the survey, and in 1956, Goldwin Burt presented
these instruments to Wellington County Museum at Elora.
When the surveyors finished their arduous
work, they were offered land in the newly-surveyed Township as their pay,
or part of it; but not being favourably impressed with the wilderness,
they refused to accept it. Mr. Kennedy was offered 1,000 acres, beginning
at lot 14, on each side of the 9th line, to lot 17 inclusive; but in his
refusal, he reported the land to be of little value.
Surveyors were offered tracts of Crown Land
as part payment for their work. It is more than likely surveyors had more
land than they could get rid of. It was the Land Office in Toronto that
was in the business of selling land. Surveyors spent their lives in the
However, this report made it easier for
Donald McMillan to get all the land he needed in a block, almost at his
own terms. As he was the first settler in that part of the Township, he
obtained the land that Kennedy had refused, and was pleased with it. Since
Mrs. McMillan was the first white woman in the area, the Crown made a gift
to her, of lot 18, con. 9.
The Township of Erin contains 70,400 acres
of land. The soil is described as clay and sandy loam. Most of the
Township is very hilly, with beautiful scenery. Many city people are
taking advantage of this when buying sites for new country homes since the
Well drained by two trout streams, branches
of the Credit River, on the east side of the Township, Erin boasts many
clear springs bubbling out of its side-hills. The southern part of the
Township drains westward, into the Eramosa River which joins the Speed
River at Guelph and flows into the Grand river at Hespeler.
All streams and rivers in the early days,
were well-filled with speckled trout. Trout weighing from one to five
pounds were a common catch. But with the building of dams to operate
sawmills and grist mills the salmon runs in the springtime came to a halt;
and by 1855, salmon fishing in the Credit Valley came to an end, as it did
in all Southern Ontario streams.
Permission to use the rivers for fishing
and water power, came as a result of the Land Purchase from the Crown. On
August 2, 1805, the Crown purchased land from the Mississauga Indians,
extending from Etobicoke to Burlington Bay, and reaching inland five or
six miles. This was known as the "Old Purchase". Following the
War of 1812-14, there was an increase of settlers to this area, and more
land was needed. As a result, large tracts of land were added to the
Crown's holdings between 1818 and 1825, in various parts of Ontario.
On October 28, 1818, the Mississauga
Indians surrendered the remainder of their land, and their rights to the
Credit River. This gave the early settlers the fishing and water power
In spite of the Irish name, the Township of
Erin was settled by many Scottish settlers, and very Scottish, at that.
Erin Twp. had a Scottish Block. Gaelic became the universal language, and
later, in Court sittings an interpreter was needed. Someone who could
speak both Gaelic and English, fairly fluently, was sworn in as
"Court Interpreter". McLaughlin McLean, being pretty free with
the tongue, often acted in this capacity, giving general satisfaction.
McLean lived on the 8th line, below
"Gooseberry Hill". How's Store on the 7th line was their closest
trading point. Mrs. McLean spoke only Gaelic, so when going shopping, her
husband always went along. On one occasion they started for the village,
he carrying a large basket of eggs, she carrying a large basket of butter.
Arriving at the 7th line corner, they met a neighbour who could always
afford time for a chat. Mr. McLean deposited his basket on the ground, but
Mrs. McLean, not wishing to gossip, picked up the basket and proceeded to
the store. After emptying the baskets, Mr. How asked Mrs. McLean,
"What will I show you"? Her reply in Gaelic needed
interpretation. "Wait till Laughlin comes with the English", was
a speech that was long remembered.
Many of the colourful stories in the
history of Erin Township, were preserved in a 66-page booklet, written by
C.J. McMillan about 1922. He was a descendant of the Pioneer McMillan
family on the 9th line.
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