Bruce Road 3:
A Colonization Road

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

In this column, much has been written about the impact of roads, especially the Garafraxa Road, on the settlement of this area. However, another road was equally important as a link between the Grey-Bruce area and the southern parts of the Canadian colony. 

The next time you are out for a drive, head to Southampton. Follow Highway 21 towards Port Elgin. About halfway between these two resort communities, turn left on Bruce County Road 3, heading towards Paisley. 

You are now on an extension of the Elora Road. 

This road was a major access route for settlers wishing to colonize the Saugeen area. 

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. However, this scenario changed in 1852 with the creation of the Bureau of Agriculture. Recognizing the need to develop the hinterlands of the colony as farm land, 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 two roads which would connect the County of Bruce to the rest of the colony. One of these proposed routes was the Elora Road. 

Upon the adoption of the scheme, David Gibson, public land surveyor, was appointed to supervise the building of the Elora Road. Gibson was a highly regarded surveyor. However, he had an interesting past. In 1837, he had been a prominent supporter of William Lyon Mackenzie's rebellion. Gibson served as comptroller in Mackenzie's provisional revolutionary government.

After the rebellion was quashed, Gibson was indicted for high treason. Ironically, 15 years later, he was a prominent civil servant in the colonial government of the day. 

To finance the Elora Road as well as the other colonization roads, the government enacted a bill which gave a percentage of the sale of school and Crown lands towards road construction in the same counties. This was an important action by the government as road building was an expensive and time-consuming endeavour. 

Two years after the plans for the Elora Road had been initially approved, the financial statement from the government revealed that, as of Dec. 31, 1855, the expenditures made on the Elora and Saugeen roads totalled 5,001 pounds, 18 s., and 7 d. 

Mildmay on Bruce Road 3:
"Gateway to the Bruce"

Colonization of the area coincided with construction of the road. Some settlers had squatted on the unsurveyed land since 1851 and these original inhabitants played a large role in the early formation of the communities along the road. In late 1853, the first settlers formally laid claim to land around the present-day site of Mildmay. 

Today, when one drives north on the Elora Road, a sign arching over the road as you enter Mildmay proudly states, "Mildmay: Gateway to the Bruce." 

There are many other communities along the Elora Road (Bruce Road 3). Each boasts architecture reflecting various eras of almost a century and a half of settlement in the area. 

The Elora Road has provided a communication and transportation link to the larger markets in the area. One community is the site of one of the first area post offices. Burgoyne's post office was established in 1853. 

September 1854 marked an important date in Bruce County history. On that date, between 2,000 and 3,000 would-be settlers crowded into the small port community of Southampton. Accommodations were so scarce many of the newcomers slept on the beach. 

Their mission was to buy the Crown lands available in southern Bruce County, and any inconvenience was overlooked because of the desire to claim the prized farm land which was being offered. 

Today, as you drive on Bruce road No. 3, the scenery of rolling farmland and crossing rivers and streams such as the Saugeen River, provides a truly pastoral setting to enjoy. 

The well-kept farms, the large herds of beef cattle are a testament to the reputation Bruce County has achieved as one of the foremost beef producing counties in the province of Ontario. 

I suggest that if you are looking for a nice drive on a Sunday afternoon, check out Bruce Road 3.

A version of this story first appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times in 2002.

History Pages

12-year-old Walks to Owen Sound in 1851 from the journal of a teenage boy's experience travelling with his brother in the untamed Upper Canadian wilderness.

1st Grey County Building in 1852 was only built after many hurdles were overcame.

Land Auction in Amabel Township provided the opportunity for settlers to purchase land and begin a new life in Bruce County in the 1850s.

Georgian Bay's 1st pioneer settler arrived on the western shoreline long before any other settler reached the area.

An Unlikely Hero From Grey County (Part 1) found his way from the farming community of Flesherton to missionary work in the Ottawa Valley, and beyond.

An Unlikely Hero Vs. The KKK (Part 2) Our hero from Grey County took his missionary zeal south of the border and ultimately crossed paths with the infamous KKK!

Barn Raising: A Pioneer Economic and Social Necessity as it provided settlers with an opportunity not only to build a barn, but also build a community.

"Barring Out": A Pioneer School Tradition was a custom which the settlers brought to the new world from England, or Scotland.

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Census Takers in 1891 Canada faced difficult obstacles to gather the necessary information but the results were revealing then, and today.

Ceylon Ontario: How it Got its Name: It is always interesting how a community got its name, but I doubt any place received its name from a more unique source!

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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.

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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.

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

Dornoch: or is it Smithville? Originally it was Smithville, then it became Dornoch. But, surprise it is still, in reality Smithville!

First Pioneer in Durham: Archibald Hunter established his family, and a hotel, in what would become the centre of the town of Durham.

Durham Ontario Influenced by the Saugeen River. This river provided a means to create new industries, but especially in the spring it can also pose a menace to the community.

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.

Grey County Bylaws to the 1890s reveal a lot about the financing of local government, especially education in the early days of the region.

John Muir, the legendary naturalist, who promoted the idea of protected nature spaces, spent time in Ontario and I went to help find evidence of his stay in the Owen Sound area.

The Glorious Twelfth: A Tradition from Across the Pond which served to both unite and divide pioneer communities.

A Heroic Woman From Grey County who made great changes as a doctor in China in the 1890s and early 1900s.

Jesse James: In Grey County? An interesting question. Did the notorious gangster hide out in Proton Township? We will never know. But it is fun to speculate!

Kilsyth's Train Engine was one for the history books. It brought an evening of joy followed by disappointing news soon after.

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

The Knight's of Meaford have long history in that Grey County community. Their business forged by early settlers employed many locals and supported the economy.

Leith: Tom Thomson's Birthplace is part of the rich heritage of this community located on the east shore of the bay north of Owen Sound.

The Leith Golf Course has provided many families with great memories. The history of this golf course starts, and ends, with the generosity of one family.

Agnes Macphail was a political trailblazer in a part of Ontario that one could hardly expect such radical action for the era in a rural region.

Markdale Ontario: The Beginning: originally known as Glenelg East, but the coming of the railway and the name of owner of the land for the station led to a change of identity.

Maple Syrup: A Pioneer Necessity and a trading commodity for indigenous peoples is now a Sunday morning breakfast treat with pancakes!

Meaford Ontario, first called Peggy's Landing located on the shores of Georgian Bay has a rich history.

Meaford vs Purdytown. Conflict over the name of a new community was not unusual in early Grey County but electing a school trustee was the "hot button" issue in this rivalry.

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

Paris Ontario: Who Knew this community had such a unique origin and how the local citizens used that history to protect the environment of their region?

Pioneer Doctor: Dr. James Smith, a local boy who became a doctor and served his community for his entire life was a testament to Grey County community spirit.

Pioneer Healthcare in Grey and Bruce counties was not administered by doctors, nurses, or pharmacists, no it was the responsibility of the women of the community.

Pioneer ingenuity created many labour-saving devices and methods and quite often helped to create a sense of community.

Pioneer Christmas: A Family Tradition as told to me by may grandparents who experienced Christmas as children in the 1880s and 1890s.

Pioneer Settlement in Arran Township was encouraged through the offer of inexpensive land for sale, but the offer of free land was another enticement offered elsewhere.

Pioneer Settlement Plans for Grey County began almost two decades before the rest of Grey County was available for settlement.

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

Pioneer Teachers in Grey and Bruce Counties had a long and arduous task, not to mentions strict and confining job requirements for very little salary.

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Settling Osprey Township: Parts of Osprey were considered too rugged to settle, but today they are prime real estate because of the great view!

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.

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"Thank You to a Veteran" - should be something everyone of us should think, and especially say, every day!

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Unique Characters: Nathaniel Herriman lived in Grey County and owned an inn to provide food and and accommodation to early travellers. Each day he performed a unique practice.

Unique Maps: Quilts Guided the Underground Railroad to enable runaway slaves to escape to Canada and freedom from the shackles that enslaved them.

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

From Lochnaw to Manitoulin - A Review this book details through a soldier's diary a trip from Penetanguishene to Manitoulin Island in 1839.

History Pages introduces the readers to interesting people, places, and events that I have researched and written about in my writing career that spans more than three decades.

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