Bruce County History

Bruce County history is rich with stories about the development of communities along the Lake Huron shoreline and shaped by memorable events and the people.


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Bruce County was named in honour of the Governor General of the Province of Canada (1847-1854), James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin and 12th Earl of Kincardine. 

In the mid-1840s orders were given to survey lands for settlement, mostly along the Lake Huron shoreline for the purpose of settlement.

In 1845, Huron County was created to include most of the lands along the Lake Huron shoreline to the mouth of the Saugeen River. Five years later, the region was redistributed as the counties of Huron, Perth, and Bruce. Originally, Bruce County did not include the Bruce Peninsula, not doubt because at that time, until the Treaty of 1854 was signed, the peninsula was Indigenous territory. (For the purposes of this website, the Bruce Peninsula is not included with the Bruce County history, instead, it has its own dedicated sections, Aboriginal History, Bruce Peninsula and Bruce Peninsula Towns and Villages)

In the pages that follow, in the links below, you will find articles about various Bruce County communities and events. 

One of the more famous, or infamous, depending upon your perspective, events in Bruce County history occurred when Sir Wilfrid Laurier attended a political rally in Port Elgin. Despite the efforts of the local Liberal party and the community to make the occasion a memorable occasion, it would be clouds of dust that would remind the Prime Minister of the Lake Huron community.

Southampton's early history began in 1848 with the arrival of the first permanent non-native settlers, Joseph Spence and William Kennedy. And with their arrival began a link an interesting connection to an Arctic mystery story that continues to impact the imagination of countless people interested in the tales of the early explorers. 

The building of colonization roads to open the Grey and Bruce region usually begins with the building of the Garafraxa Road, connecting the Guelph area to the Owen Sound region. The Garafraxa Road and other earlier colonization roads in Upper Canada had been built under the supervision of the Crown Lands Department and were financed through annual grants from the Colonial Parliament. 

But another colonization road was later created to link the Guelph area to the Lake Huron shoreline and the mouth of the Saugeen River. In 1852 with the creation of the Bureau of Agriculture and recognizing the need to develop the hinterlands of the colony as farmland, the newly created bureau quickly got involved in road building projects throughout the colony. 

On Sept. 14, 1853, the minister of agriculture submitted to the governor-in-council a plan to build roads which would connect the County of Bruce to the rest of the colony. This action created Bruce County Road #3.

Some of the settlers who travelled either the Garafraxa or the Bruce County Road #3, found land in Arran Township. The survey for pioneer settlement in Arran Township was completed in 1851. It seems that even the survey crew had been impressed, not only by the cheap cost of the land, but also by the potential of the area. In fact, two members of the survey team, George Gould and Richard Berford, both took up plots of land in the area. 

The above paragraphs have introduced you just a few of the interesting pages to be in this section entitled Bruce County History.

My family has deep roots in Bruce County history. My maternal grandmother’s family were original settlers in Amabel Township. You can read about some of their contributions to the village of Elsinore here. My maternal grandfather’s family were early settlers in Arran Township.

Enjoy the pages below detailing interesting places and events in Bruce County History.

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Bruce County History

Bruce County history is rich with stories about the development of communities along the Lake Huron shoreline and shaped by memorable events and the people.

The "Battleship By-Election" was the result of a debate that embroiled all of Canada but was settled in a rural region of southwestern Ontario prior to the First World War.

Bruce Road 3: A Colonization Road linked prospective settlers to undeveloped Crown Lands and a new life.

British Peerage a Source for Township Names. It is interesting to check the origin of the names bestowed on pioneer places such as towns, townships and counties.

Chesley Ontario Welcomes the Krug Brothers who were looking for a place to make their future and their fortune. They were not only successful, but they made significant contributions to the social fabric of their adopted home town.

Billy Crawford: Pioneering Spirit Personified. If you take the time to consider the people you have met during your life you too may know or have known, someone with pioneering spirit just like Billy Crawford.

Frozen Rivers & Lakes can be Hazardous: Icy waterways offer many benefits such as ice fishing, but beware weak, or thin ice is not easily detected and can spell disaster.

Kincardine Ontario's First Settlers using a bit of savvy and some luck created a future for themselves and their families on the Lake Huron shoreline.

The Krug Impact on Chesley Ontario was immense not only in terms of the community's social fabric but with regards to community's economic growth.

Wilfrid Laurier: Despite the town's best efforts to make Wilfrid Laurier's visit a memorable occasion, it would be clouds of dust that would remind the Prime Minister of  the Lake Huron community.

Mildmay Ontario overcame competition from other communities to claim its spot in Carrick Township on an important settlement route to the Lake Huron shoreline.

Pioneer Diaries provide Interesting Information about many topics, but sometimes information about the weather can be quite surprising!

The pioneer settlement in Arran Township was completed in 1851. The survey crew had been impressed, by the cheap cost and the potential of the land, that two members of the team, George Gould and Richard Berford, took up plots of land. 

Port Elgin Ontario Started with a Storm. A ship forced to seek refuge from Lake Huron's stormy wrath signalled to one man the idea of starting a new community.

Southampton's early history was a time of identity crisis, and with a connection to an early Arctic mystery story. 

Southampton Ontario Suffered a Major Fire in 1886: The havoc was created by a furious high wind storm that spread the flames over much of the town.

Tara Ontario's Mill Started the Village Economy and with the entrepreneurial and inventive genius of one man the community prospered!

Walkerton Ontario: The Beginning of this Bruce County town is the result of the drive and determination of one man, Joseph Walker.