HISTORY of VICTORIA COUNTY - Part 8

The grievances of the settlers were so genuine that the government made no attempt to punish this act of violence.

The sequel may be found in an old document recording an agreement made on December 18, 1843, between Purdy and the Board of Works of the Province of Canada, a government department which had been established the year before by an Act of Parliament. By this agreement, the Board of Works built a dam and locks farther down the river, on the exact site of the corresponding structure of today, and granted Purdy the use of all surplus water that would not be needed for navigation. Purdy was to provide all his own flumes and flume-heads and to keep the dam in repair. The Board of Works was to receive half an acre of land bounded by the river and the present Lindsay and King streets, and extending five chains to the east, as a premises for the house and garden of a lock-tender. Purdy, moreover, was to relinquish all claims for damages for the destruction in 1838 of his first mill-dam, and in settlement for this and all other concessions in the contract he received from the government four hundred pounds in cash.

The government dam had been begun in 1838 and was completed in 1844. It raised the level of the river by seven feet, or three feet less than the earlier maximum. This level was acceptable to the countryside, though complaints were rife several years later, when Hiram Bigelow, Purdy's successor, raised the water an extra foot by placing a flash-board along the top of the dam.

River navigation received an impulse by the building of the lock in 1844. This structure was 131 feet long, and 32 feet, six inches wide, and had an eight foot lift. At first the chief craft were horse-boats, small barges worked by a treadmill with side paddle-wheels attached to its major drum. A sturdy nag would be placed on the battens at Caesarea with his nose towards that village, and his steady tramping would bring the one-horse-power vessel slowly down through Lindsay to Fenelon Falls or Bobcaygeon. The "Woodsman" of Port Perry was the first to be launched and the "Ogemah" of Fenelon Falls followed shortly after.

In 1855 the government found the canals and locks on the Trent system so heavy a financial loss that it turned all such works over to a corporation known as the "Trent Slide Committee." This corporation abolished the lock at Lindsay and substituted a timber slide. A toll was then exacted on all timber floated.

At the time of this change all the steamboats were on the waters below Lindsay. The township therefore undertook to build a flat wooden bridge, placed on shanties, across the Scugog on the line between Lots 15 and 16, Concession V, west from Pottery Corners. This new crossing was known as "Ambrose's Bridge," but it was constructed by Charles McCarty. After some years, another steamboat, the "Lady Ida," was built at Port Perry, and it became necessary to force a passage through the bridge. This was accomplished by sawing it in two across the centre and shifting the two halves by means of "cats" or windlasses. The arrangement put too much strain on the bridge, however, and it soon collapsed. Years later, enterprising citizens of Lindsay came out and took away all its timbers for firewood. Today not the smallest trace of "Ambrose's Bridge" can be discovered.

The timber slide on the Scugog gave place to a lock again in 1870. This was installed by Thomas Walters on the same sills as the 1844 lock. The present lock and dam, which are also on the same location, were built in 1908.

FORGOTTEN HIGHWAYS OF LONG AGO

The early roads by which men came to Purdy's mill, or departed to north, south, east or west have almost vanished. The present highways tend to follow the correct concession lines but the first bush roads to be slashed through cut deliberately across country towards their objective, though with many a bend and swerve by which to keep on high, dry ground.

A traveller leaving Lindsay for the south would drive out Queen Street, in the East Ward, as far as "Kerry's Corners," and then turn south on what is now Logie Street. On approaching the concession line on the west side of Lot 17, Concession VI, the old South Trail swerved east about half a lot in order to cross Sucker Creek on a more favourable level, then returned to the concession line and after following the present road for half a mile, struck off towards the river. Thereafter it skirted the Scugog very closely, though keeping to high ground, as far south as Clabo, whence it ran straight south to Janetville, Orono, and Newcastle.

Should our traveller's destination have been Reaboro, Omemee, or Peterborough, he would have taken the same route as far as Kerry's Corners. he would then push on straight east out Queen Street, but on swerving southeast at the present town boundary, he would continue in that direction as far as the line between the 7th and 8th concessions, cutting across the Logie and Ball farms. On one pasture-field here, the old road, closed some decades ago, is still quite distinct. The route next ran down the concession line as far as Lot 14, Concession VIII, and thence diagonally across country through Reaboro and out into Emily at Lot 5, Concession XI. this last section of the old road is still open.

The first road to Fenelon Falls ran northwest from about the present Presbyterian church, across Brewery Creek, a swampy stream now masked by the Suxxex Street Drain, and up over the Court House hill. The section that lay along Brewery Creek was known as "The Long Sault" because of its hazardous wetness. Leaving the town on the same northwest run, it crossed the next creek on Lot 24, Concession IV, west of the present Fenelon Road. This lot was occupied by Alex. Logie, a son of Captain John Logie, who ran a sawmill on the creek. The road then passed over the Murphy and James farms, ultimately to run north to the boundary on the line between the 2nd and 3rd Concessions. Here, to the east of the road, on Robert Tompkins' farm, about half a mile north of School Section Number 3, was long the chief cemetery for South Fenelon and Northwest Ops. The graveyard may still be seen, though fallen upon days of profound neglect. The old fenelon Road, after crossing the boundary, and slipping down the great limestone escarpment (here very much diminished), struck northeast over Widow Tompkins farm, crossed McLaren's Creek by a stone bridge which still remains, midway between the two concession lines, and then ran slantwise towards Cameron. Many decades passed before anyone undertook to chisel a road down the cliff on the line where the main road now descends to McLaren's Creek.

The earliest road to Oakwood went straight west from Lindsay, crossing over a swamp on the 3rd and 4th concessions by means of corduroy.

Still another pioneer road ran southwest from the head of Kent Street West across country to Port Perry. Fifty years ago its course was still very evident, although it was then fenced in. Even at that time pedestrians made use of it for convenience' sake.

OFFICIALS and FIGURES

The municipal history of Ops has followed a course similar to that in other townships. In 1842, Francis Kelly represented Ops on the first District Council held in Peterborough. The first Township Council comprised the following: Reeve, William mcDonnell; Councillors, John Gibb, Patrick McHugh, Thomas Rea and Thomas Keenan. The Clerk was Dr. William Bird. Patrick McHugh was the first reeve of Ops after the separation and incorporation of Lindsay in 1857. In more recent times, John Kennedy and his son Peter have served successively as Township Treasurer for over fifty years.

The racial and religious elements are manifested by the decennial census returns of 1911. The races represented are:- Irish, 1690; English, 626; Scotch, 172. The church adherences are:- Methodists, 844; Roman Catholics, 834; Presbyterians, 436; Anglicans, 376; Baptists, 125.

The population of Ops in 1886 was 3101. In 1920, thirty-four years later, it had dropped to 1981. The township assessment had increased during that same period, from $1,529,729 to $2,726,766, a valuation greater than that of any other township except Mariposa. A just reservation must always be made for the enhancement of land values by proximity to Lindsay, but urban conditions are not found any distance beyond the town limits, and the most conscientious allowance will still leave Ops a very rich municipality.


Next - History of the County of Victoria Part 9


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