Pioneer Settlement:
Arran Township

Pioneer settlement in Arran Township was encouraged through the offer of inexpensive land for sale, but the offer of free land was another enticement offered elsewhere.


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On July 30, 1852 the Canadian Colonial Government's  announcement had a dramatic effect on this region. This proclamation stated that uncleared land in Bruce County would be sold to prospective settlers for a mere 10 shillings an acre. 

The majority of this available land was located in the area which would become Arran Township. The survey for pioneer settlement in Arran had only been completed the previous year, 1851. It seems that even the survey crew had been impressed, not only by the cheap cost of the land, but also by the potential of the area. Two members of the survey team, George Gould and Richard Berford, both took up plots of land in the area. 

Berford, and his partner, John Hamilton, Sr., settled on plots where the village of Tara is now located. Meanwhile, Gould and J.W. Linton, cleared property on the current site of Invermay. 

The 1852 proclamation setting the price of land at 10 shillings an acre led to an influx of settlers almost immediately. They were not the first to arrive in Arran Township. The previous year, soon after the region had been surveyed, there had been others who joined Berford, Gould, Linton and Hamilton in settling the area. 

Archibald Roy had settled in the area where Burgoyne now stands. Others to precede the proclamation included Francis Griffith, Mathew McAuley and W. D. Marmion whose son would be the first non-native child born in the township. 

Besides the cheap cost of land there was another factor which helped increase the numbers of pioneer settlers in Arran Township. 

In 1852 the Owen Sound to Saugeen Road was completed. This new thoroughfare as well as the Elora Road meant that most of the township was easily accessible by "good" roads. 

Evidence of the rapid growth of pioneer settlement in Arran Township can be seen from the first levy of taxes in the new township in 1853. The taxes totaled 55 pounds, 6 shillings, 9d. The new township was joined with Elderslie and the first reeve was Richard Berford.

The 1861 census revealed that there were 2,551 residents in Arran Township. Ten years later, the 1871 census illustrated that the population had reached 3,780. 

George Gould was named the first postmaster in Arran Township in 1853. 

One of the first churches to be built in the area was a Presbyterian Church on Concession 8. Unfortunately, this place of worship, a frame structure built by Adam Hogg, was destroyed by high winds in its first year of operation. 

Arran Township experienced great growth during its first few decades. Unfortunately, after 1871 its population growth experienced stagnation and then decline. Perhaps one of the reasons for the decline in population was the same as what had enticed settlers to this Bruce County township, free, or inexpensive, land. 

Around 1900 western Canada was being opened to settlement. The lure was free, or cheap land. Because of this attraction countless Grey/Bruce residents pulled up stakes and headed west to homestead on the Canadian prairies. 

The information used in this article came from many sources. However, early editions of the Owen Sound Sun Times were of primary importance. 

A version of this article first appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times.

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