Township Was Surveyed in the Year 1823-Settled Several YearsLater.
Robert Stewart Was First Man to Secure A Deed for Land.
The following is a paper on “The History of the Township of Belmont” given by Mrs. George Smith at a meeting of the Belmont Women’s institute:
Belmont, the speaker said, was surveyed in 1823, but the first settlers did not enter it for several years after that date. In 1825, the Hon. Peter Robinson paid a visit to England and while there was spoken to by Sir Wilmot Horton as to the advisability of directing a large tide of immigration from Ireland to the wilderness of English-speaking Canada. Mr. Robinson thought favorably of the scheme and was induced to take charge of the whole matter. In the autumn of that year, four hundred and fifteen families availed themselves of the offer of free grants of land and all necessary aid for settlement in Upper Canada. This large and important immigration was the true foundation of the Town of Peterborough and thence the rising prosperity of the surrounding townships.
Remained Only Short Time.
The first actual settler in Belmont was a man named Fiddick, who brought his family into the wild bush, remained there only a short time, removing to the settlement which was growing up around Keeler’s mill, now Norwood. The cause of his removal was the howling of the wolves, which kept up a most unearthly noise all through the night. The first settler who received a patent for land was Robert Stewart, afterwards called the King of Belmont. The first mill in Belmont was built by Jehiel Breckenridge: it was afterwards burned down. Mr. Breckenridge also built a saw and grist mill where the waters of Round lake empty into Belmont lake. After the first mill was burned down another was erected in its place by Peter Pearce, a leading settler who became Warden of the county in the years 1863 and 1864. For years the roads of Belmont had a bad reputation and much difficulty was experienced by the settlers in conveying their supplies into the townships and their grain to and from the mill.
Large Sums Spent On Roads.
After the incorporation of Belmont large sums of money, the income from taxes on non-resident lands, were spent to improve the roads. The land throughout Belmont cannot truthfully be said to be of the best kind for agricultural purposes, as it is to a great extent more or less rocky and stony. But if it is poor as a grain raising district it is rich in minerals. Large deposits of iron ore have been found in Belmont. The Blairton mine on lots 7 and 8 in concession 1. belonged to the Cobourg, Peterborough and Marmora Mining and Railway Company and has produced large quantities of ore, the yield at one time being as much as five hundred tons a day. But either from want of practical knowledge or from some other cause, the mine was found to be unprofitable. In 1867 a new company took over the mine and in 1871, it began to yield a profit. The iron taken out was found to be of excellent character, possessing some special qualities so valuable that great American smel-mix with others, such mixture being found to provide a very superior kind of iron.
Short Railway Built.
In order to convey the ore to its destination. This company built a short railway nine miles in length, starting from the mine on lots 7 and 8 of the first concession, it ran south-west through the small village of Blairton until it met the River Trent at a point near the narrows. After being taken along this line in box cars, the ore was dumped into scows and towed up the Trent through Alice Lake to Harwood, where it was conveyed by the Cobourg and Peter- borough Railway to Cobourg: from Cobourg it was taken in schooners to American lake ports. Unfortunately this industry, which promised such bright results, succumbed to the depression in the iron trade in 1873 a large deposit of magnetic iron ore has been found on lot 19 in the first concession of Belmont. The very best iron ore can contain no more than seventy-two per cent of metallic iron. This metallic iron ore contained 64.26 percent of metallic iron.
The following are some of the early settlers of Belmont:
James Burgess-Born in County Cavan, Ireland, in 1828, and came with his parents to Canada in 1836. A few years later settled in Belmont. He married in 1854 and settled on a hundred acres given to him by his father to which he added another hundred acres. William Burgess-Brother of James Burgess, was also presented with a hundred acres of land by his father to which he added another hundred acres. He was reeve for nine years and collector and assessor in the early history of the township.
Andrew Mathison-Was born in Scotland in 1793. He came to Canada in 1841, settled on lot 9 in concession 10 in Belmont. He bought a hundred acres and afterwards made purchases till he owned seven hundred acres of land. His death occurred in 1877. Alexander Mathison and William Mathison, sons of Andrew Mathison, lived on the old parental estate. William owned a shingle mill which annually turned out about 150,000 feet of lumber and about 200,000 feet of shingles.
James Johnston was born in Ireland came to Canada and settled on lot 7 in concession 10 where he resided till his death in 1866. He was about the third settler in the township. He learned the trade of plasterer and worked at the same in connection with his farming. He owned a hundred acres on lot 5 concession 8.
Phillip J. Garrison, of lot 5, concession 6, was born in Fredericksburg, Lennox County, Ontario in 1819. His grandfather was a U. E. loyalist. Phillip Garrison came to this township in 1851. He may certainly be called a pioneer, there being but two settlements in the east part of the township when he came. He has been assessor, collector and treasurer of Belmont Township.
Ezekiel Nixon of east half of lot 4, concession 6, Belmont, was born in Prince Edward County, Ontario. He married in 1849, Mary Ann Garrison, a sister of Phillip J. Garrison of this township.
Robert Preston-Moved to Belmont in 1854 and it is worthy of note he was first settler in this section. He located on six hundred acres of land and lived on lot 21 in concession 2.
William Edward Young was born in Perth County, Ontario, in 1824. He came to Belmont in 1856, settling on lot 17 in concession 2. He owned at his death about a thousand acres of land. He married in 1851, Maria Campion. Mr. Young was prominent in municipal affairs of the township and was about nine years in the council.
John Anderson and William Anderson, brothers, born in the County of Sligo, Ireland, came to Canada and settled on the west half of lot 4, concession 6, Belmont, in 1860. William Anderson was clerk of the township for about fifteen or eighteen years, assessor for one year, census enumerator, and one year treasurer.
Thomas Taylor of lot 18, concession 5, was born in England in 1838, and came to Canada the following year. Settled in Belmont in 1876. Mr. Taylor has been engaged in saw milling and carpenter work the greater part of his life.
James Wilde was born near Napanee, Ont., in 1833. In his youth Mr. Wilde learned the trade of blacksmith at Norborough, Ontario. From there he went to the village of Roblin and started in business for himself where he remained ten years. He then went to California remaining about ten years, then again took up his residence in Roblin, staying four years. He then settled in Belmont township near Havelock post office, where he owned a farm and carried on a general blacksmithing business. Mr. Wilde served eighteen years as councilor. He died in 1916.
Thomas Sexsmith was born in the Township of Richmont, Ontario, in 1828. Settled in Belmont in 1856 and by energy perseverance and skill succeeded in developing the full agricultural resources of his farm. He was on the school board for a number of years and in those early days the trustees collected the taxes. He died in 1877.
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