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Canadian History
History of Erin Township

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 sideroad.

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 bush.

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 1960's.

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.

Land Purchases

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 privileges.


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.

Read the rest of the history here!

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