HISTORY OF VICTORIA COUNTY - PART 9
The Township of Eldon
The township of Eldon is named after John Scott, first Earl of Eldon, who was lord high chancellor of England from 1801 to 1827. Eldon, though a consumate judge, was an unprincipled politician, and a remorseless enemy of all reforn. The Scottish settlers had wanted the township called "Caledonia" but were overruled by the officials of the Family Compact.
The township which bears Eldon's name is a rectangle about twelve miles from north to south and nine from east to west. The superficial area is a little less than one hundred square miles. The neighboring townships are Mariposa on the south, Fenelon on the east, Carden on the north, and Thorah, in Ontario County, on the west.
The soil in the south is excellent, approximating to that of Mariposa. As one goes north, however, the soil becomes thinner and lighter, and the underlying limestones often crop out. An old pre-glacial rock escarpment enters the township on Lot 7, Concession XI, northeast of Hartley, and travels west, with many windings and deviations, to leave it on Lot 11, Concession I, west of Argyle. The northwest corner of Eldon is crossed by the Talbot River and its extension, Cranberry Lake. Two tributaries are Butternut Creek, near Bolsover, in the northwest, and Grass River in the northeaast. A concession east of Kirkfield, Grass River expands into Mitchell's Lake, a small body of water which owes much of its present size to the building of the Trent Valley Canal through it. This latter work cuts across westward from West Bay, Balsam Lake, in Bexley, to Mitchell's Lake; thence northwest to descend to the Talbot River level north of Kirkfield by a fifty foot hydraulic lift lock, and there-after twenty-one miles southwest down the Talbot River valley, though not always in its old bed, to Lake Simcoe. In addition to the streams already mentioned, small creeks flow east and west from the center of the township into Balsam Lake and Lake Simcoe respectively.
There are eleven main concessions in Eldon. The concessions are numbered from west to east and the lots from south to north. Concessions IX and XI, for some unknown reason, are of only one-half the usual width. The name "Palestine" is applied locally to the northern two-thirds of Concessions VII to X, and this neighborhood is further subdivided into "Upper" and "Lower" Palestine.
The old Indian trail by which aboriginal travellers had for centuries crossed from Lake Simcoe to Balsam Lake lay in part across North Eldon and was the main route for pioneers here and in Bexley. The early settlers used an old punt to cross the Grass River where it interrupted the portage trail on the 9th Concession. When the boat was at one bank, travellers on the other side had to wait for some one to come from the opposite direction and bring it across to them. There is a tradition that one man waited in this way for two weeks. The story is hard to credit, even though the locality is all beaver meadow, without a single tree from which to make a raft.
Survey and Settlement
Eldon was surveyed by Henry Ewing in the years 1826-1829. As in its sister townships, a dense primeval forest lay everywhere. Hardwoods predominated in the south, but north of the limestone escarpment white pine was supreme.
The first locations were made in 1827 by Ewing, the surveyor, Louis Winter, whose father settled in Mariposa, two McFadyens, James Cameron, and a Frenchman named Pascal Godefroy. Ewing took up a block of land east from Ontario County along the Mariposa-Eldon boundary as far as the modern Grass Hill, at the end of the 6th Concession. The village of Woodville lies partly within this same tract, chiefly on Lot 1, Concession III, and Lot I, Concession II, though much of it had spilt over on the Mariposa side of the boundary. Some of the early settlements were made here, for Ewing sold part of his land while he went ahead with the survey work for two years more.
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