HISTORY of VICTORIA COUNTY - PART 7

HOW PIONEERS ALONG SCUGOG DESTROYED PURDY’S MILL IN 1838

The township of Ops is named after the Roman goddess of plenty and fertility. Ops was the wife of Saturn and the patroness of plenty.

The choice of such a name was not inept. The township is made up of a blanket of rich clay loam spread over a bed of comparatively level limestone. In outline it is a rectangle, ten and a half concessions, or about nine miles, from west to east, and twenty-eight and a half lots, or some eleven miles, from south to north. Its area is divided into approximate east and west halves by the Scugog River, which flows from Scugog Lake in the southwest corner of the township into Sturgeon Lake, near the centre of the northern boundary. The town of Lindsay is built beside the river on Lots 19, 20, 21 and 22, Concessions V and VI, or almost in the centre of the north half of Ops. The Scugog has several tributaries. East Cross Creek, which joins it on Lot 9, Concession IV divides into two main branches on Lot 5, Concession V, one arm, East River, pushing southward far into Cartwright Township, Durham County, and the other Stony Creek, stretching east to the 9th of Ops and thence in a general northerly direction past Reaboro into a long swamp that extends even beyond Byrnell Station, near the northeast corner of the township. Just opposite the mouth of the East Cross Creek, Mariposa Brook, or West Cross Creek, debouches into the Scugog. This stream drains most of Mariposa Township, to the west. Smaller auxiliaries to the main river are Sucker Creek, which enters from the east just south of the Lindsay Protestant cemetery, and the Old Distillery Creek (formerly known as Logie’s Creek or Hopkins’ Creek) which drains a swampy area to the northwest of Lindsay. In the early days, nearly all of the streams of Ops were associated with wide tracts of marsh and bog that long proved a stubborn obstacle to farm development.

Pioneers in Southwest Ops

The first grants of land in Ops that can be traced in the provincial archives at Toronto are to Patrick and John Connel, brothers and Irishmen, and were made in December 1825. John Connel settled on Lot 3, Concession I, and Patrick on Lot 7, Concession II. The latter, who was known for the rest of his life as "King Connel", was ultimately buried on his farm, where his grave may still be seen. The Order-in-Council by which the land was given him reads as follows: --"In Council, 23rd December, 1825. Ordered that Patrick Connell, a native of Ireland, now of the town of York, yeoman, who has a wife and six children, shall receive a grant of two hundred acres of land. Regulations, 31st January, 1824, as explained in Council 29th April following. (Sgd.) John Berkie. Comptroller." The document bears the following endorsements: -- "Warrant No. 4957. Patrick Connel. O’C., Dec. 1825. Regl. 31 January 1824. Certified to be located by the Hon. P. Robinson, 27th March, 1826, Lot 7, 2nd Con. Ops, 200 acres." The Connels or O’Connels, as they are now called, apparently came from the south of Ireland with the Robinson immigration of 1825, but instead of going with the main stream to Peterborough and North Emily, they proceeded to York and secured locations in the virgin township of Ops.

The next recorded grant was on March 30, 1826, when a clear patent of 2833 acres for given to one Duncan McDonell, of the village of Greenfield, Glengarry County. McDonnell had conducted the government survey of Ops, and was thus paid in land instead of cash. The allotments which made up his estate were as follows:: Lot 1, Con. I; Lots 14, 16, and 19, Con. III; Lot 13, Con. IV; Lots 13, 19, and 24, Con. V; Lots 8, 17, and 19, Con. VI; Lots 17 and west half 27, Con. VII; Lot 26, Con. VIII; Lot 5, Con. X. These lots were doubtless singled out by him as the choicest morsels in the township, have the following owners at the present day: -- I. Goodhand, Allen Irvine, W. Waldon, Leo. Gunn, John Johnston, Thomas Hickson, Dennis Fitzpatrick, Walter Corneil, William Corneil, P.J. Murphy, Senator George McHugh, E. W. Jennings, W. E. Curtis, Wm. Reeds, James Carlin, D. Twohey, Daniel Murphy, John Brown, Robert Brown, T. Giltenan, W. Wilson, Allen Currins, R.B. Agnew, D.V. Pogue, Eliza Pogue, Fred Dawson, J. Shaw, and L. Shaw. The Duncan McDonell grant also included all that portion of Lindsay which lies south of Durham Street, a full one-quarter of the entire town.

McDonnell himself never settled in Ops, but two of his assistants, Pat Lee and Dan Shanahan, took small grants and remained to work them. Lee settled on Lot 5, Concession II, which lies on both sides of the Scugog. The eastern portion, totalling 107 acres, and now owned by Robert Jordan, he left in bush; while the western fragment, amounting to only 22 acres, he occupied and cleared because neighbors were closer at hand. This latter portion is now part of James O’Reilly’s farm. Shanahan, the other of McDonnell’s men, located on Lot 3, Concession III.

Patrick Dunn was a very early settler, who is supposed to have squatted on the north half of lot 12, concession V long before the township was opened. John Ferris, an immigrant from Antrim, Ireland, bought this property from him in 1830. John Brady visited the township in 1822, but left again and did not return to settle permanently until 1827. In the following year, three brothers, Philip, Patrick and James Murray, settled side by side on Lots 9 and north one-half 8, Concession V. About the same time a number of families from a single neighborhood in South Ulster entered in a body. Amongst these were Michael Brady, Terence Brady, Edward Murphy, Patrick Hoey, and Bryan Hoey. About 1829, John Maloney, Dennis Twohey and John Jones settled on Lots 17, 18 and 19, Concession IV. Other early pioneers in the southwestern part of the township were Michael Lenchan, Oliver Bourke, John Pyne, Thomas Pyne, Michael O’Brien, Patrick Hannavan, the Hazeltons, Hydes, Millers, and others. Roger McHugh, grandfather of Senator George McHugh, settled on Lot 14, Concession V in July 1832. He was a discharged Irish sergeant from the 3rd Garrison Battalion and this 200 acres was a free pensionary grant, even stationery being charged to the Crown, as stated in the Order-in-Council. Warrant No. T 57.

The Eastern Concessions

Most of the earliest settlers in Southwest Ops came by way of Bowmanville or Whitby or Port Perry. Meanwhile, however, another area of settlement was developing along the eastern concessions, and by the eighteen-thirties the general route into Ops was from Emily and not from the south or southwest.

The first permanent settler on the eastern boundary was Abner Cunningham, a Robinson immigrant, who came in early 1826. Cunningham had four sons, Joseph, Joshua, John and Abner. Near neighbors were the Sutherlands, Nugents, Powers, O’Donells, Scullys, and Corneils. David and Charles Corneil, though at this time transplanted from Limerick County, Ireland, were really descendants of Palatine refugees who had been granted an asylum there in the reign of Queen Anne. James Macdonald and John Blaylock were old Peninsular War veterans who settled hereabouts. The former lived to be an active man at 108 years of age.

Thomas Rea was a man of prominence in this neighborhood. Rea was a native of Fermanagh, Ireland, and had mastered the crafts of carpenter, cooper, smith, and weaver. He came to Canada in 1820, but sojourned temporarily in York and in Mulmar Township, Dufferin County, before settling finally in Ops, on Lot 7, Con. X. Here he secured a government contract to build a road extending from Lot 5 on the Emily boundary up as far as John Walker’s farm, Lot 15, Concession VII, and passing diagonally through the modern hamlet of Reaboro, so named in his honor. A few years later this same locality was noted for a stone house, built and occupied by one Francis Kelly, who handled the stage route west from Peterborough over this road. Among the early settlers west of Reaboro were the Connollys, Walkers and McDonoughs, who came from Fermanagh.

South and Centre

William Reynolds and his brother Robert were pioneers in the Mt. Horeb neighborhood. They were natives of Tipperary, Ireland. Duncan Fisher settled near the southern boundary in 1828. His sons were Peter and Donald. The former died in 1915 in his ninetieth year, and the latter in 1920 in his ninety-fourth year. The Skuces and Pogues also located early in the southern part of the township.

The original reservation for the site of Lindsay was a 400-acre tract comprising Lots 20 and 21, Concession V. Prominent among the land owners near at hand were Capt. John Logie, a naval officer, who held 700 acres, namely Lot 18, Concession VI, on which he himself lived in a frame house near the river bank, Lot 24 and the north half of Lot 23, Concession IV, which later passed into the hands of the Hopkins family, and Lot 20, Concession VII, now occupied by two of his grandsons, Messrs. Henry and Robert Logie. A man named Moe owned 400 acres immediately adjoining the townsite on the north and Duncan McDonell of Glengarry held an equal reservation just south of the site.

Some Annals of the Scugog

The history of the growth of Lindsay will be given later in a separate chapter.

The story of Scugog River may, however, be appropriately included in the present sketch, and in its telling we shall now come to a man whose name is also written on the first page of Lindsay’s annals. This is William Purdy, who, in 1830, built a mill on the river within the modern limits of Lindsay.

The Scugog, before this time, had been a very small and shallow stream. The early settlers in Patrick Connel’s time used to drive through it with oxen and a jumper loaded with sacks of grain on their way to "Gray’s Mill" their nearest gristing-place, which lay far to the south near Orono. On Lot 21, Concession VI, the banks became high and steep, and there were rapids by which the river descended three feet. At the head of these rapids, where J. Perrin’s boat works now stand, Purdy and his sons Jesse and Hasard built a mill and a dam with a head of ten feet.

He was then authorized by the government to grist for the neighborhood for a toll of one-twelfth. On the 9th of May, 1834, the following Order-in-Council was also granted in his favor: --"Ordered that a Deed issue to William Purdy of the Township of Ops in the District of Newcastle, miller, for Lots numbers 20 and 21 in the 6th Concession of the said Township of Ops, and that the Surveyor General do make such a reservation in the Deeds that hereafter issue for the Lots now overflowed by the mill dam as will secure him in the rights of keeping the water at its present height without subjecting him to an action of damages. (Sgd.) John Birkie, Clerk of the Executive Council."

Purdy was thus given 400 acres of land and the promise of freedom from legal action from the scores of settlers who were already located upstream and whose land would be extensively inundated by the building of the dam. But all was not well. Not only Scugog River, but East and West Cross Creeks and Scugog Lake as well, were heaped far back over their customary banks. All trees on this drowned land died. The stagnant waters grew miasmic and a plague of fever and ague killed off scores of settlers on the farms near by. Then grief found vent in action and the whole bereaved countryside from as far south as Port Perry rose up one summer day in 1838, seized flintlocks, axes, and pitchforks, and marched to Purdy’s mill. An attempt was made to call out the militia, but in vain. However, no personal hurt was done but the dam was soon hacked away and swept downstream on the unpent waters.


Next - History of the County of Victoria Part 8


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