Markdale Ontario:
The Beginning

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.


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Its finally spring! The flowers are coming into bloom, the buds are on the trees and my lawn needs cutting. Despite the exorbitant gas prices many people are out driving the area roads enjoying the weather and the scenery. 

Although there were not many roads in the 1840s, there were still many travellers at this time of year in this area. Though they may have been enjoying the warm weather and the scenery, there was something more pressing on their minds, a plot of land to develop as their own piece of property. 

They came by ox-drawn cart, on horseback, and some simply on foot. In 1849 two men, George Walker and Joseph Price, rode into this area on horseback. Their quest, like so many of their fellow travellers of that era, was to find land. 

They arrived in the Durham area, but they didn't find what they were looking for there. Instead, they ventured east to a recently surveyed tract of land which extended north from Shelburne to Johnstown (now known as Chatsworth). The road that they followed was probably no different from many of the paths of that era, "a twisting, tortuous path, and undulating line canopied by maple, spruce and cedar”. 

The route that Walker and Price followed would become the Toronto Sydenham Road and later Highway 10. As others, who would follow, the path that these two trailblazers travelled would become more passable and hopefully, a less arduous journey. 

As Walker and Price followed the trail that they found an area which was heavily 'forested, but the land seemed very fertile. Within a short time, they had settled on a plot and began to cut down trees and fashion a rough-hewn shelter. Little did they realize that their shanty would be the first building of a community that would spring up around their pioneering efforts. The pioneer settlement would be known as East Glenelg. 

Before long others traveling the rough-hewn paths of Grey County would discover the small clearing where Walker and Price were struggling to carve a life out of the wilderness.  Perhaps, seeking to be close to other settlers, they too, took up land in the area. Their first neighbours' names were Armstrong, the Atkinson, and McDuff. 

By 1852 the population in the vicinity had grown to the extent that the area was given a post office. One of the first settlers, Robert Atkinson, was named as the postmaster. He carried out his duties from his home. The mail was delivered by a postal carrier who travelled twice a week from Shelburne to Johnstown. Because there was very little mail coming into and out of the vicinity Atkinson used a tea caddy as his letter box. 

Unfortunately, Atkinson's term as postmaster was short. A year after his appointment, he was killed by a falling tree. His wife continued as postmaster until she passed the duties on to her brother, Donald Duff, who lived on an adjoining plot of land. Duff changed the name of the pioneering community from East Glenelg to Cornabus, in honour of a community in Scotland. 

The community remained as Cornabus until 1870 when the Grey and Bruce Railway was being built between Owen Sound and Toronto. At that time Mark Armstrong sold a plot of land to the railway for a station. Probably due to pressure from the railway company the name of the community was changed to Markdale. 

The information used in this article came from articles and documents held in the Grey County Archives.

A version of this article first appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times on May 11, 2001.

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