Pioneer Story of a Child in 1846 Owen Sound details life in the last wilderness in Upper Canada in the 1840s.
We can learn a about our past from newspapers and government records, but it is always an exciting discovery when one finds a personal record from an earlier era.
That was situation this week at the Grey County Archives when I came upon an early edition of the Sun Times that contained an article about Mrs. Elizabeth (Blyth) McLean, who arrived in Owen Sound in 1846 when she was only eight-years-old.
Mrs. McLean was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, but when she was two-years-old, she moved with parents to Toronto. In 1844, her father, John Blyth, traveled up the Garafraxa Road from Guelph to investigate opportunities in the Owen Sound area. He returned to Toronto and in 1846, he moved his family to the tiny clearing in the forest that would one day be the port city of Owen Sound.
Perhaps one of the reasons that the Blyth family decided to settle in Owen Sound was due to some influence from one of their friends in Toronto.
It seems that when Charles Rankin, the surveyor who laid out the town site for Owen Sound, stayed in Toronto, his place of residence was across the street from the Blyth home.
In 1846, the Blyth family set out for Owen Sound with thirteen other families. They went by stage to Holland Landing where they changed coaches and headed for Orillia. After a brief sail they took another stage to Coldwater where they met the steamer "Calula", which is considered by many to be the first steamer to serve the port of Owen Sound.
Ten days after leaving Toronto the Blyth family arrived at Boyd's wharf just north of the settlement of Sydenham (Owen Sound).
The new settlers spent their first night in a shed at Boyd's Wharf. The next morning, they were taken up the Sydenham River in a bateau that was powered by men using poles.
Mrs. McLean remembered that "there was no settlement to be seen from the mouth of the river, only swamp extending on either side of the river, and farther up where the river narrowed the cedars overhung the river to such an extent that it was necessary for the passengers to duck their heads to avoid being struck by the branches."
The bateau landed on the east shore of the river near where the city hall and market place now stand. Mrs. McLean recalled that there were two log buildings standing on the present site of the city hall. One of these buildings was a temporary shelter for settlers until their land could be cleared and their own dwelling erected.
She recalled that "the building was divided into compartments like stalls, and the families lived there, many of them for weeks."
When they arrived, there were only twelve families living in the settlement. However, there were many other single men who had come to begin a new life on the last frontier of what would become southern Ontario.
Pioneer Owen Sound must have presented a unique scene for the young girl from Toronto. All of the buildings were made of logs. Homes were scattered along Poulette Street, Union Street, Division Street and Scrope Street. There were two general stores on Poulette Street, one owned by A.M. Stephens and the other owned by John Frost. There was also a tavern.
This was the picture that Elizabeth Blyth McLean painted some 75 years after she arrived as an eight-year-old girl with her parents in the community, which would become her home.
The information used in this article came from documents held in the Grey County Archives.
A version of this story first appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times on October 12, 2001.
12-year-old Walks to Owen Sound in 1851 from the journal of a teenage boy's experience travelling with his brother in the untamed Upper Canadian wilderness.
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1960s Owen Sound marked a period of change and new growth to the commercial and industrial life that would impact the citizens of Owen Sound and change the patterns of doing business.
The Bible was the Law in the 1840s in this region because the region was unrepresented by the government peace and justice were community responsibilities.
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Brooke: A brief history of an important, yet distinctly different, community that became a key element in Owen Sound's development as a important Georgian Bay port city.
Charles Rankin, I Presume: October 7, 1840 marked the meeting of Land Agent John Telfer and surveyor Charles Rankin on the banks of the Sydenham River and the founding of Owen Sound.
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Billy Bishop: Owen Sound Hero earned national and international fame as a World War One Fighter pilot and used his high profile to aid in the World War Two effort.
John Harrison - A Tough Owen Sound Pioneer whose grit and determination created a prosperous life for himself and his family in a new community.
William Harrison, The Source of John Harrison's Grit: details the influence of John's father, William Harrison, on John and his siblings.
John Muir, the legendary naturalist, who promoted the idea of protected nature spaces, spent time in Ontario and I went to help find evidence of his stay in the Owen Sound area.
Black Clawson Kennedy: An Iconic Owen Sound Industry provided income for area residents and economic development for the community for almost 150 years.
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DC Taylor: Owen Sound Entrepreneur was not only progressive businessman, he was also an important contributor to the social and cultural fabric of his community.
Jimmy Grant was a high wire walker who was a fearless athlete who faced all challenges without a worry of the possible fatal consequences of his daredevil actions.
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Owen Sound Businesses: 1920s were owned and operated by families whose deep roots in the community and their efforts had created the backbone of the community and brought success to the port city.
Owen Sound's centennial celebrations in 1957 brought the community together for events such big name entertainers, sports competitions, street dances and much more in honour of the community's past and projecting the city's bright future.
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News of War: The 1940s was supposed to provide the world with a respite after the hardship of the 1930s depression. However World War Two brought more adversity.
Owen Sound 1840 Onward! From a clearing in the Georgian Bay wilderness to a booming port city the 1800s were a time of growth and prosperity.
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Owen Sound's First Town Council was created to develop the necessary infrastructure for a pioneer community to grow and prosper.
Owen Sound Tavern Bylaw (1857) tried to tackle the issue of monitoring taverns in the Upper Canadian pioneer wilderness.
Owen Sound's 1857 Bylaw: Dog Control illustrated how a pioneer town controlled dogs in the community, sometimes even using harsh measures.
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Owen Sound CPR Link began with a bang, suffered a setback, and ended with a whimper.
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Owen Sound 1920 Stories provide an interesting look at the community as it was about to become a city.
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O.S.C.V.I.: the History of an Owen Sound High School details from the very beginning the establishment of a high school in the community.
Pioneer Story of a Child in 1846 Owen Sound details life in the last wilderness in Upper Canada in the 1840s.
Pioneer Story of a Child in 1846 (Part 2) continues the memories of Elizabeth Byth as she encountered life in the Upper Canada wilderness that became Owen Sound.
Pioneer Theatre was a big hit in Owen Sound and across southern Ontario, where Vaudevillians like Perth Ontario's Marx Brothers played to full houses.
U.S. President Taft Visited Owen Sound Ontario, a Georgian Bay port in a momentous winter of events in 1920 as Owen Sound celebrated its incorporation as a city.
Ship arrivals meant full shelves in stores and larders as pioneers and shopkeepers eagerly awaited goods to fill their depleted necessities
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