Bruce Road 3:
A Colonization Road

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


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I have 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 rest 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 were built under the supervision of the Crown Lands Department and 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 colonial hinterlands as farm land, the newly created bureau quickly became 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. 

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 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.

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.

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