Durham Ontario Influenced by the Saugeen River 

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.

In previous columns, I have described how many early entrepreneurs established inns to tend to the needs of the early travellers on the Garafraxa Road. Sometimes other enterprises were established alongside these pioneer lodges. This often resulted in the growth of a community. 

As the Garafraxa Road improved and modes of transportation became more efficient, there was less need for many of the roadside rest spots. However, the ones located alongside other entrepreneurial endeavours continued to exist. 

The Grey County town of Durham began as a stop for weary travellers along the Garafraxa Road. Archibald Hunter, who arrived in the area on May 1, 1842, soon established the British Hotel at the junction of the Garafraxa and Durham roads. 

However, it was not until 1846 that a second industry arrived in the area to enhance the possibility of the growth of a community. 

In that year, John Edge of Clonbrook, Ireland, arrived and took up 22 acres of land a short distance east of the Garafraxa Road on Lot 25, Concession. 1. Here he built a grist mill. The cost of the plot of land was 250 pounds. 

Within three years, Edge had expanded his holdings to include a saw mill and large acreages in both Glenelg and Bentinck townships. It is not known if Edge was a particularly wealthy man, but it is known that he had lots of labour to assist him in his ventures. 

When he first arrived in the region, he brought with him 30 friends and relatives. During the next few years, many more of his family and friends came from Ireland to join him in the area. 

Ironically, it is the very water which, in the winter of 1996-97 has played havoc with the homes and lives of those who live in Durham that provided the impetus for the development of the community. It was the Saugeen River which provided the power to run Edge's mills! 

In 1848, another event occurred which ensured Durham's growth. In that year, the Crown Land Office was established in the community. The land agent was George Jackson. It was his responsibility to issue location tickets to any settlers who wished to settle in either Grey or Bruce counties.

The settlement continued to grow throughout the decade of the 1850s. It became the market centre for the sale of goods and the purchase of produce from the farms in the neighbouring townships

In the early 1860s, the mill expanded to include the processing of woolens. 

Durham's importance as a stop for transit on the Garafraxa Road is illustrated by the fact that it was not long before many other hotels arose to compete with the British Hotel to provide accommodation for pioneering travellers. 

James Koiley built a stone structure named Koiley's Hotel at the north end of the village on the hill. In the south end, Henry Cole established the Royal Exchange Hotel. 

The post office was originally called Bentinck. Although it was renamed Durham in 1853, it was not until 1865 that the name Durham was more commonly used. 

The pioneering settlement of Durham seemed to have a golden touch! Its entrepreneurial base was growing and prospering. However, the community did suffer a setback. When Grey became a separate county, it was assumed that, due to the presence of the land office, Durham would be the logical choice for the location of the county seat. 

Its lobbyists pointed out that it was located in a central location. On the north-south axis, it was approximately halfway between Owen Sound and Guelph and on an east-west plane it was nearly mid-way between the Georgian Bay port of Collingwood and the Lake Huron port of Kincardine. 

Although these were strong and valid points, Owen Sound, due to its larger population and position on Georgian Bay, was named the centre of local government. 

In 1872, Durham received its incorporation as a town. Like so many other communities in the Grey and Bruce region, Durham was established by hardworking and determined pioneers who had a strong sense of pride in their community.

The recent disastrous flood illustrates that drive, determination, and co-operative nature still exists where Archibald Hunter built his hotel in 1842.

NOTE: Some of the research for this article came from a wonderful book, The History of Glenelg Township, which was compiled by the Glenelg Township Historical Committee.

  1. History Articles
  2. History Pages
  3. Durham Ontario Influenced by the Saugeen River

More Grey County 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.

Dr. Anna Henry  from Markdale, was a medical trailblazer for women doctors in Canada, who helped lay the groundwork for the establishment for Women's College Hospital.

Egremont Township endured the usual growing pains of a pioneer community, but its early history records times when it was embroiled in a few contentious issues. 

Euphrasia Township in the early years when spelling the name was a problem for those who called it home and those that wanted settle this new Grey County township.

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

Grey County Heritage: A Valuable Resource which is rich and varied, as an important resource for future use for business, political, and many other purposes.

Grey County's Creation in 1852, laid the framework for organizing a county in the last wilderness in the southern region of what would become in the future the province of Ontario.

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.

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!

Chatsworth Ontario: First Settlers took advantage of fulfilling the needs of pioneer travellers and built a thriving community in the Upper Canadian wilderness.

Clearing Trees a Daunting Task for Settlers as they worked to fulfill their obligations for their land grant.

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.

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.

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.

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 Georgian 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.

Meaford's history is one of hardy and entrepreneurial pioneers carving their lives out of the wilderness of what would become Grey County.

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.

Pioneer Clergyman: John Neelands was the first to minister to the first settlers' spiritual needs riding on horseback through the wilds of early Grey County.

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 Homes in Grey County in the 1840s offered only basic amenities. Homes were basic because clearing the land to earn a living to survive were of paramount importance for those embarking on a new life.

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

A pioneer road surveyor's impact on the local history of Grey and Bruce counties could have been dramatic, if it had not been changed by another surveyor.

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.

Plowing Match in Grey County in 1933 the first International Plowing Match held in Grey and Bruce counties and it's success led to more such events in Grey.

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

Swamp College: Proton Township: this colourfully named institution of education in Grey County has provided many stories to the heritage of the region.

Sydenham Township's First Council undertook the often difficult task of creating a new municipal infrastructure.

The Impact of Snow is not what is Used to be! As snow removal equipment has improved the impact of snow on our lives has reduced significantly from previous eras.

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.

The Women's Institute is a group of rural women that has made a difference to the quality of both urban and rural life in Grey County and across the country.