Settling Osprey Township

Settling Osprey Township: Parts of Osprey were considered too rugged to settle, but today they are prime real estate because of the great view!


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In 1844, Charles Rankin began the arduous task of surveying a tract of land that was, at that time, considered to be the highest point of land in what is now the province of Ontario. Although the section of land was only 10 miles in length from east to west and 11 miles from north to south it would ultimately require the surveying skills of public land surveyors other than Rankin. The outcome of their combined efforts would be called Osprey Township. 

Settlement in the new township was limited at first. Some felt that perhaps the Blue Mountains acted as a barrier to prospective settlers traveling from the north. Consequently, it was the southern and eastern sections that received settlers first. 

The first settler to arrive in Osprey was John McDonald, who settled on Lot 20, Conc. A. The next person to arrive in the new township was Josiah Sing who settled on Lot 12, Concession A. Later, the community of Singhampton would be named after him. 

In the early years the crops were sparse and in order to sustain themselves many farmers, or their sons, often traveled to the communities on the Georgian Bay shoreline to work either on ships or some other form of maritime occupation. 

In order to take care of the necessities of life in the area several industries were developed. Edward Horton established a sawmill and a flour and oat mill on Conc. 9. In later years that business experienced a change of ownership and became the Osprey Farmers Milling Company. Joseph Hudson, Jonathon Irish and William Heron established other milling operations at various locations in the township. 

It is thought that perhaps the first village in Osprey was Badjeros. It was named for Phillip Badjeros who owned Lots 60 and 61, Concession 2 and 3 South of the Durham Road. He owned the first tavern in the area as well. Badjeros donated the land for a cemetery and ironically, he was the first to be interred there. 

The hamlet of Maxwell was named after Joseph Maxwell who was the first postmaster. He too, owned a large tavern on Lot 10, Concession 6. Prior to the arrival of the railroad line connecting Owen Sound with Toronto, the Durham Road was heavily used by carts carrying grain, hides and wool from locations such as Durham and Markdale to Collingwood for shipment either by rail or water. Maxwell's tavern was reputed to be a popular resting spot for these travellers. 

By 1880 Maxwell boasted a population of more than 200 citizens and several commercial establishments. There were two general stores, two blacksmiths, a carriage maker, a shoemaker and a tailor. 

Feversham was developed by Edward Horton who constructed the first dam for waterpower. This community also proved to be a thriving enterprise. By 1880, it boasted a population of 185 residents. 

The Renewal of Settling
Osprey Township

In 1880 there were 3,033 residents in the township. By 1952 that number had decreased to 1,760. But today Osprey has experienced a population growth, as there are now 2,099 residents. 

Interestingly, the natural barriers of its geography which at first inhibited settlement now stand as a lure to attract residents who wish to live in the natural splendour which Osprey possesses. 

The information used in this article came from sources at the Grey County Archives and from the offices of the new municipality of Grey Highlands, which includes the former township of Osprey.

A version of Settling Osprey Township originally appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times on September 21, 2001.

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