Egremont Township:
An Early History, Contentious At Times

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. 


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The Great Lakes Raconteur

The Grey-Bruce region has a rich heritage. Fortunately, there have been many local histories written about the municipalities in our area. These books can provide even the casual reader with not only entertainment but also interesting information. An example of this re-telling of our past is While We Still Remember, A History of Egremont, 1840-1983

While We Still Remember provides valuable information about the development of that municipality as well as important genealogical facts. However, its section on the political history of Egremont was the section that I found most interesting. 

The first council convened in 1850, and its agenda included raising funds for road construction and the erection of schools. Council decided that a taxation of seven farthings on each acre of developed land would help pay for the roads that were necessary to further develop the area. 

Probably because cash was a scarce commodity, it was decided that further expenses concerning the development of roads could be covered by way of a statute of labour. This law, once enacted, required all men residing in the township to work a specified number of days each year helping to build roads. This practice was maintained until Egremont hired its first road superintendent in 1926. 

In 1855, Egremont received a request from Grey County council for help with improvements to the Garafraxa Road. The local residents did not receive this request well, feeling perhaps, that they should devote their attention to their own road system. To ensure that the township roads were passable, the township passed a bylaw allowing for payment to local residents to clear the right-of-ways which fronted their property. 

In 1857, it was proposed that a new county should be created between Grey and Wellington. The new municipality, tentatively known as Palmerston County, would include the Wellington County townships of Luther, Arthur, and Minto as well as Normanby, Proton, and Egremont from Grey County. Due to strong opposition from the Grey County council, this plan never left the drawing board. 

In 1864, Egremont council faced a potentially contentious issue. In 1862, the treasurer had mailed $400 to Grey County from the Mount Forest post office. Unfortunately, the money never arrived. Neither the county, nor the post office, would take responsibility for the funds, and at the urging of a petition signed by about 90 residents from Egremont, the township sent another $400 to the county. 

Like most of the municipalities in this region, the idea of a railway providing a link to the rest of the province was a popular topic. Beginning in 1866, Egremont council meetings were largely concerned with ensuring some sort of rail service to that municipality.

That year, council issued $30,000 worth of debentures to purchase stock in a railroad company which would build a line connecting Guelph, Mount Forest, Durham and Owen Sound, with a branch running east to Proton Station.

The following year, 1867, council was encouraged to borrow $22,000 to purchase stock in the Grey and Simcoe Railroad. However, at a public meeting in Holstein, it was decided that Egremont should support another company, the Wellington, Grey and Bruce Railroad. 

The meeting promoted the idea that the company should be given $50,000 if its line was to "touch at or near Mount Forest." 

The dream of a railroad through the township prompted the ratepayers to recommend that council offer the company an additional $50,000 if it ran its line through the township "not more than one mile (to) the east of the village of Holstein. 

A version of "Egremont Township: An Early History, Contentious At Times" originally appeared in my Local History column in the March 10, 2000 edition of the Owen Sound Sun Times.

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