Amabel Township Land Auction

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


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Shortly after July 18, 1856, a public notice was displayed in Owen Sound and the surrounding area. This auction which would have a large impact on my family. 

The notice, signed by R.T. Pennefather, superintendent general of what was called the Indian Department, announced the forthcoming public auction sale of 144,000 acres of land in the new townships of Amabel in Bruce County and Keppel in Grey County. 

The farm lands were to be auctioned in 100-acre parcels. Unlike other regions which had been put to public auction, there were few restrictions placed on prospective buyers except those who purchased land which fronted on the "line of road laid out from Sydenham (Owen Sound) to Saugeen." They were required to "cut and remove all the timber from the centre of the road to a depth of ninety feet within one year of the purchase. 

The terms of the sale required one-third of the purchase price be paid on the date of sale with the remainder due in six annual equal payments with an interest rate of 6 per cent per year. 

It must have been known that there were people already living in the area on land which they did not own because the notice also stated "the Department reserves to itself the power to attach to any lot, at the time of sale, the obligation on the part of the purchaser to pay for any improvements which may have been made on such lot by squatters." 

At 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 1856, prospective buyers waited impatiently for the land auction to begin. Of particular importance to my family, my great, great uncle David Forsyth was among those waiting to buy land. 

David and his wife Jane had arrived in the area in 1855 and worked the land which they purchased a year later at the auction — Lot 22, Concession "A" in Amabel Township. 

In 1857, Jane gave birth to a daughter, Victoria, who was perhaps the first non-native child born in Amabel Township. 

In 1861, David's brother, my great great grandfather Robert John Forsyth, and his wife Alice arrived in Amabel Township and took up the northeast quarter of Lot 22, Concession A. Seven years later, in 1868, Robert and Alice purchased the north half of Lot 21 Concession A. 

In 1863, Robert and Alice had their second child, a son, Robert Jones Forsyth. Robert Jr. would marry Mary Anne Thompson and together they had nine children including, in 1899, my grandmother Nellie Forsyth Rowe. 

My great grandparents remained on the family homestead until the late 1920s, when they moved to Allenford. 

The Amabel Township land auction in Owen Sound in September 1856, proved to be a turning point in my family's history, as it was for many other families whose ancestors lined up at the land auction that day with my great, great, uncle David Forsyth. 

The information used in this article came from documents in the Bruce County Museum and Archives, Green Meadows and Golden Sands; The History of Amabel Township and from Marion Taylor, the Forsyth family historian.

For more information about the history of the Bruce Peninsula please check out my book Journey the Bruce Peninsula Past & Present a great travel companion as you travel this unique part of Canada's Great Lakes region.

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