"Half Mile-Strip" Treaty

"Half Mile-Strip" Treaty made it possible for a relatively smooth overland connection to be built between Owen Sound and the Lake Huron shoreline.

In previous columns, I have described the early years in many areas of the Grey-Bruce region. In the beginning, travel in this area was difficult at best. Coastal communities such as Owen Sound, Wiarton and Southampton relied heavily upon water transportation for the conveyance of people and produce. However, when the winter freeze-up occurred, overland transit became more important. 

In the 1840s, travellers from the Georgian Bay side of the peninsula often relied upon the portage route from Colpoy's Bay to Sauble Falls, rather than the longer, often more treacherous route around the tip of the peninsula at Tobermory. During the winter, both routes were impassable to shipping traffic. Consequently, travel across the peninsula meant trekking by foot or sleigh along virtually uncut trails. 

Today, there are many excellent roads and highways which connect the Georgian Bay and Lake Huron shorelines and the communities in between. One such highway is the route between Owen Sound and Southampton. 

On previous occasions, I have detailed how shipping disasters had occurred off the shore at Southampton and the news was carried here by messengers who walked overland to Owen Sound. 

The road which became Highway 21 has an interesting origin. In 1836, the Governor of Upper Canada, Sir Frances Bond Head, negotiated a treaty with the natives of the area. The treaty included all the lands south of a line drawn between the mouth of the Saugeen River at Southampton to the mouth of the Sydenham River in Owen Sound. 

Sir Francis Bond HeadSir Francis Bond Head

The "Half-Mile" Strip

In Bruce County, this land became Arran Township. However, the natives maintained a concession of Arran called the "Half-Mile Strip". Because all the land north of this line remained native land, the Bruce Peninsula was originally called the Indian Peninsula. 

To mark the boundary between the native and non-native lands, the Public Land Surveyor, Charles Rankin was commissioned in 1846 to survey the line between the mouth of the Saugeen and the mouth of the Sydenham. In 1851, another treaty was signed with the Saugeen Indians. In this pact, the natives ceded the Half-Mile Strip. 

What does this have to do with the road between Southampton and Owen Sound? In return for the Half-Mile Strip, the government of Upper Canada agreed to build a road between the native village of Newash, north of Owen Sound, to the native village near the mouth of the Saugeen. It was not until 1865 that construction on the road started. In that year, the government allocated funds not only for the road, but also for the building of Denny’s Bridge. 

There is much speculation as to the reason why it took 14 years for the government to act on this much-needed transportation artery. The most likely reason was because the Owen Sound Post Road, which linked Owen Sound to Lake Huron shore, was built in 1852. The Post Road passed through Kilsyth, Tara, Arkwright and Burgoyne. 

By 1865, James Allan's community at Driftwood Crossing (now known as Allenford) and the settlement at Elsinore were growing, and the surrounding lands were populated with farms. In order for the farmers in these new communities to ship their produce to Owen Sound or Southampton, a transportation route was needed, The older descendants of Amabel and Arran townships recall stories of their parents and grandparents getting up early in the morning and walking with their produce in sacks on their backs to either Owen Sound or Southampton and returning late that night with supplies. 

So, the next time you are driving along Highway 21 and there is an eerie fog, look off into the mist and you may see the figure of James Allan or one of the other early pioneers trudging along with a heavy pack on their back!

Discover More About the Bruce Peninsula

Getting to the Bruce Peninsula is a relatively easy driving trip. Here are driving directions from three regions to the peninsula.

Barrow Bay Ontario a Picturesque Georgian Bay Community owes its origin to the once-thriving Bruce Peninsula lumbering industry. Today it is a quiet summer get-away!

Bruce Peninsula Lumber History details the impact of the forest products industry on the development of the region.

Bruce Peninsula Lumbering provided the stimulus to develop and grow the pioneer economy on the newly settled Bruce Peninsula. 

Bruce Peninsula Municipal Politics: No matter what the venue, or the issue, seldom is a popular decision made that suits everyone. 

Bruce Peninsula Travel Routes were often a matter of debate because in the early years, land travel was virtually unattainable for settlers and lumbermen alike.

Aboriginal History: Bruce Peninsula has a long indigenous heritage not just for the native nation living there today, but for other native groups as well.

Aboriginal History: the 1836 Treaty made promises to the native peoples of the Bruce Peninsula which did not last long before everything changed again.

Aboriginal land history continues the story of aboriginal land issues on the Bruce Peninsula. How it happened is a point for discussion by everyone.

Settler Impact on Bruce Peninsula Natives was not only from the imposition of treaties, but also from British military plans.

"Half Mile-Strip" Treaty made it possible for a relatively smooth overland connection to be built between Owen Sound and the Lake Huron shoreline.

Catherine Sutton: aka Nahneebahweequay was a hero, fighting for her Indigenous rights and those of her family.

Allenford United Church history details not only some important information about that community's church, but also about one of the founders of this Ontario community.

Colpoys Bay Vista - Awesome! A short drive from either Wiarton or Owen Sound is one of the most magnificent views to be found in the province of Ontario!

Dyer's Bay Ontario: Began as a Lumbering Settlement and today it is a wonderful vacation retreat.

Elsinore Ontario is the southern-most point on the Bruce Peninsula, located about half-way between Owen Sound and the Lake Huron shoreline.

Forest Products on the Bruce Peninsula contributed greatly to the growth and development of that region of the province of Ontario.

Gillies Lake: aka Ghost Lake has a mysterious past as its original name, Ghost Lake, implies.

Great Grey Owls on the Bruce Peninsula was a surprise discovery for ornithologists and others. Sadly, the story of their visit had an unfortunate conclusion.

Pioneer Campers: Hope Bay mostly considered the peninsula untamed wilderness and some of the locals were not about to disappoint them!

A Pioneer Community: Driftwood Crossing, at the southern-most part of the Saugeen/Bruce Peninsula was at the midpoint between the Georgian Bay and Lake Huron coasts.

Pioneer Missionary James Atkey arrived on Colpoys Bay to minister to the native community near Oxenden until a treaty uprooted his parishioners.

Pioneer tourists first visited the Bruce Peninsula in the 1800s and the region continues as a great recreational and tourism destination today!

Pioneer Vacations on the Bruce Peninsula got an eerie start in the Hope Bay region of the peninsula.

Lighthouses  Lighthouses were vital to Georgian Bay Sailing.

Sauble Beach Ontario has seen it all. A fishing outport; a sawmilling centre; and an internationally acclaimed tourist resort area!

Sauble Beach  This popular beach is known as Canada's Daytona Beach.

Lion's Head  Sailors often sought refuge from the stormy Georgian Bay waters in its well-protected harbour.

Park Head  Grand Trunk Railway in Park Head Ontario was an important railway depot on the Bruce Peninsula when in 1894 the first train chugged through Park Head.

Stokes Bay  Welcomed fishermen as their first non-native visitors. Today, if you are a fisherman, you will also probably want to try your luck landing a walleye, lake trout or any of the other game fish that live in the coastal waters of Lake Huron.

Tobermory Ontario has a rich history and, is the northern- most destination point for travellers visiting the world famous Bruce Peninsula.

Tobermory Ontario Tourism is focused on shipwreck diving which has become so popular that tourism has become an important part of that community's economy. 

Tobermory pioneers experienced a life in a community that was anything but the tourism hive of activity that it is today.

A Flowerpot Island cruise is not only entertaining, but it is also very educational as you will see things that you have never viewed before!

Wiarton Ontario  This historic community was a great place to live in the early settlement days and still is a busy tourist stop on your way up the Bruce Peninsula.

Wiarton  had ambitions to Succeed but while success brought them a railroad and other ventures did not have a sweet ending for many in the town.

Wiarton Ontario’s First Newspaper  A catalyst in supporting road construction and bringing the railway to Wiarton in hopes of making the town the economic leader of the area. But disappointment looms...

Wiarton news: 1890s, as seen in the pages of the local newspaper revealed problems typical of today's communities 

Wiarton Beet Industry was to be a great boost to the town's economy. Instead, it left most people with a bad taste in their mouths.

Travel the Bruce: Owen Sound to Wiarton  A wonderful journey from Owen Sound to Wiarton.

Travel the Bruce: Wiarton to Tobermory  Relaxing and historic journey.

Bruce Peninsula  The Bruce Peninsula is a compelling place, with a rich history, to visit. Once you have traveled there, we guarantee that you will return, again and again!

  1. History Articles
  2. Aboriginal History
  3. Half-Mile Strip Treaty