Eldon Township History

This township, named after Lord Eldon, an eminent British Jurist, contains somewhat less than 100 square miles of territory, bounded on the south by Mariposa, on the east by Fenelon and Bexley, on the north by Carden, and on the west by Ontario County. The Talbot River passes through the north-western corner of Eldon, having as branches from the township Grass and Butternut Creeks. Other small streams run westward into Ontario County, or eastward into Fenelon. A small body of water, called Goose Lake, lies on the southeast, on the Mariposa boundary. Between the creeks are ridges of low hills, giving the township a rolling aspect; and in some of the valleys are tracts of marshy ground. The land at the south is of excellent quality. At the north the soil is lighter, the limestone rock approaching close to, and frequently appearing at the surface.

The first location of lots in Eldon were in 1827, by Henry Ewing, the surveyor of the township, Louis Winter, whose father lived in Mariposa, two McFaydens, James Cameron, father of the 1881 postamaster at Lorneville, and a Frenchman named Pascal Godefroy, who remained only a short time. Ewing took up land along the townline to the 6th Concession; and the first settlements were made about the 3rd and 4th Concessions, near the present Woodville and Lorneville. The survey continued for a couple of years longer. In 1828 a number of Scotch immigrants from Argyleshire, Scotland were induced to stay a few days in Toronto, for the return from the east of Squire Cameron, who had secured grants of land in Thorah and Eldon. They were promised the pick of the land for $1 per acre. Being assured that they would find plenty of provisions in the townships and at Beaverton, they came without supplies to that place by way of Yonge Street and Lake Simcoe, and there lived for several days on maple-sugar. Neither could they get a roof to cover them, but made a tent with blankets. There the women lived while the men went forward, with Kenneth Campbell as guide, to locate lots and build shanties. In August they moved to the place of Big Peter Cameron, where they got small new potatoes. In the fall they settled on their lots, having received some flour and pork from Newmarket at considerable cost. Those who settled in Eldon were two families of McAlpines, the McIntyres, Campbells, McCorqudales, and one McFayden, originally from Mull, but who had been some years in Glengarry.

At first they endured great privations from scarcity of provisions, their main food being Indian Corn "backed" in from Brock, fifteen miles, from a little mill built by one McFayden, who had been there about nine years. Sometimes they poured lye on corn and wheat to soften it, and take off the hard shell, and the men and women gathered leeks in the woods to make soup. John McAlpine brought in a cow during the first winter, and next season others had cows and milk.

In 1829, a few settlers came in; more in 1830, mostly Scotch. Among them were the Fergusons, Finns, Rosses, and Smiths. In the former year, one Calder put up a mill at Beaverton, which, an early customer says, " cracked corn and squeezed wheat." There was no way of separating the smut which was thick on the wheat grown on the new land, so that the bread made was quite black, but 'sweet as honey.' Then, and for a dozen years after, the only roads were "blazed' trails along the higher ground. It took all day to drive an ox-team to Beaverton, now only eight miles by road from Lorneville. The first trading was done at Cameron's store, Beaverton; but the settlers soon began to prefer Purdy's Mill, in Ops, built in 1828.

In 1831, and during a couple of years following, a great many pensioners took up land in the township, and moved in. Among these were the Ashmans, Bradys, Birminghams, Driscolls, Dunns, Keefes, Lyons, Makins, Malones, McCullas, McDonoughs, McGuires, McIntyres, Pettys, Rileys, Thornburys, Thorntons, and Uncles, and further north the Campbells, McKenzies, McCredies, McCreas, Merrys, and Munros. Old Alex Munro was about the first to settle where is now Kirkfield. Through this part of the township ran the portage trail from Balsam Lake to the Talbot River, still called the Portage Road. Settlement was induced by a project to build a canal, and on each side of the Portage Road lots were laid out 44 rods wide and about a mile and a quarter deep. Not long after the advent of the pensioners, a number of families from Islay, Scotland, who had settled in North Carolina, not liking that place, moved in a body to Canada and settled in Thorah and Eldon. Among those locating in Eldon were the McLaughlins and Angus Rae, who subsequently became the first Township Clerk.

The first white child born in Eldon was Henry Ewing, who later moved to Grafton, Ontario. In the early days, though Eldon and Mariposa were united as a magisterial and militia division, they held separate township meetings. These were held once a year for the appointment of local officers, &c. They were called by H. Ewing, a magistrate, who also received the taxes, and after deducting the collector's fees out of it, sent the balance to Cobourg, the chief town of Newcastle District. The first tax levied was collected by John McAlpine, for his father, who had been appointed to the work. It amounted to $30; there were two assessors, Colin Campbell and Duncan Gunn. Neil McFarlane, District Councillor, first laid out school sections. Among the first teachers were Angus Ray, in a house on the Thorah side of the town line; Lachlan Campbell, on the third line; and one Grogan, on the Sixth Concession. At first the settlers held religious meetings in their houses on Sundays. The first to begin these conventicles was Archibald Sinclair; and a man named Gunn, from Thorah, took an active part in the meetings for some years. Then independent missionary preachers began to hold services, one being a Mr.McPhail from Brock. The first regular gospel minister was Mr.McMurchy, of the Established Kirk of Scotland, who held services in houses and barns, till a church was built on a lot of 200 acres, given by Squire Cameron to the Kirk. Mr. McMurchy married soon after his arrival, and a manse was also built. He preached in Eldon for about twenty years, till his death. The church, near Lorneville, is still called McMurchy's church, and it and the lot on which it stood, were part of the dispute between the Canada Presbyterian Church, and those who clung to the Kirk, and claimed the Temporalities. The first post-office, kept by Duncan Cameron, and called Eldon, was about a mile east of Woodville, then known as Irish's Corners. The first store at the " Corners " was started by John Campbell, and the first blacksmith was Alex Stewart, whose shop was on the Mariposa side of the town line.

In 1838, Eldon's whole population was only 641; it had increased to 951 in 1842, when the Colborne District was formed. On the organization of municipal institutions in 1850, Israel Ferguson, who had been District Councillor, was elected the first Reeve, which position he held about a dozen years. The other members of the first council were, Archibald McFayden, Jas. McPherson, Wm. McCreadie, and Neil Smith. Angus Ray was appointed Clerk, an office he held till 1866; Donald Smith, Treasurer; Duncan McEachern, Assessor; Jno. McLaughlin, Collector, and Rev. Jno. McMurchy, Superintendent of Schools. The auditors appointed were F.W. Stevenson, by the Reeve, and James McLaughlin, by the Council. The signatures to the declarations of all the officers, including path-masters, fence-viewers, and pound-keepers, do not show a single 'his mark.' The attention of the Council from the first was principally drawn to roads and schools. The earl meetings were itinerant , the favorite place for the first few years being the house of Jas. McPherson; in 1854 the schoolhouse in section No. 1 was used; and in 1855 a chamber was rented for 1 Pound, in the house of Archibald Currie, Lot 5, Con.2. The following year the intinerant system was resumed, and a meeting in September is recorded as being held at Scottsville, now Argyle. The earliest mention of a meeting at 'Woodville', by that name is in April, 1858, from which date the meetings were held there, and at Argyle for a year or more, after which Woodville became the principal rendezvous, though meetings were occasionally held at other points. About this time, the Township of Carden was opened, and in September, 1859, a bylaw was passed forming Eldon and Carden into rural wards. In 1860 the assessment valuation of Eldon was $202,943.60; that of Carden but $17,041. The following year Carden was no longer associated with Eldon, the collections for which were: non-resident, $461.54; resident, $1830.51; trustee rates, $341.11. In this year Victoria became an independent County, bringing a new era to the townships composing it. A few years later the railway from Port Hope to Lindsay, was extended to Beaverton, passing through the south-western part of Eldon. A station was established near Woodville in 1871. During the following year the Toronto and Nippissing, to which Eldon granted $44,000, was built through the township; entering at the south-west, passing northward, and then turning and leaving at the extreme north-east corner; crossing the other railway line at Woodville, and having several stations within the township. Since then the progress of Eldon and the townships to the north has been more rapid than formerly.

By 1881 Eldon Township had a population of 3,294, and an area of 62,382 acres, with an assessment valuation of $815,164. The Council for 1881 consisted of William McKenzie, Reeve; E.D. McEachern, Deputy-Reeve; P.R. McEachern, D.A. McIntyre, and William McKee. Clerk, Andrew Morrison; Treasurer, J.A. Jackson. The township had, by 1881, ten schoolhouses, eight within it, and two in unions with Mariposa township.

Woodville, in the south-west part of Eldon, and on the town-line with Mariposa, is also partially within the latter township. It was called Irish's Corners till the establishment of Woodville Postoffice, with John Morrison as Postmaster. This gentleman resigned in 1867 to run for Parliament, and the election gave him the title of M.P. Mr.Gilchrist then took over as postmaster. The first store was that of John Campbell, who being a believer in the 'total immersion' doctrine, was called John the Baptist. The store was subsequently rented to two Morrison brothers, who also carried on the manufacture of potash on an extensive scale; and the Eldon potash was adjudged, by the Inspector at Montreal, the best in the market. The village soon became the centre of a considerable country trade, and a location for artizans, other merchants, and the inevitable tavern-keeper. In 1871 a station of the Port Hope, Lindsay, and Beaverton Railway (Midland) was established two miles to the north of the village, and in the following year a station of the Toronto and Nippissing Railway came close by. In 1878 Woodville was made a police village. In 1881 the village had a population of about 500, Town Hall, lock-up, grist-mill, two foundries, cheese factory, planing mill and sash and door factory, a number of good stores, mechanics' shops, three hotels, and a goodly array of comfortable residences. There was also a fine brick school-house, with two teachers; and two churches, Presbyterian and Methodist. Woodville also boasted a daily mail, money-order office, a Division Court office, and a newspaper, The Advocate, published weekly.

Lorneville grew up around the junction of the railways, two miles north of Woodville, where a good deal of grain was bought. The population was composed mostly of railway men and their families, but the surrounding country was well settled. By 1881 there was a school with two teachers, railway station and buildings, two hotels, shops, and the postoffice.

Argyle was on the Grand Trunk Railway, about two miles north of Lorneville, and by 1881 had about 50 people, a Presbyterian Church, tavern, store, trade-shops, and a Post-office, established in 1857.

Victoria Road, a village of about 150 souls, on the Corners of Eldon, Carden, and Bexley, has grist and saw-mills, a station of the Toronto and Nippissing Railway, brick Presbyterian church, brick school-house, post-office, four stores, two taverns, and a temperance boarding house; also the office of the 7th Division Court. The village is built along and takes its name from Victoria Road, built in the mid-1870's by the government.

Hartley, is located on the 9th Concession, with a population of about 50 in 1881, had a Methodist church, school, Orange hall, and the usual hamlet features.

Kirkfield in 1881 had a population of about 300, and was advantageously situated on the Portage Road, near the crossing of the Toronto and Nippissing Railway. By 1881 it had a grist mill, two tanneries, a shingle-mill, school, Presbyterian church and manse, Post and telegraph offices. It formed two scattered rows of houses along Portage road.

Bolsover, a small post village on the Talbot River, was started by D. McCrae, M.P., who built mills there in the late 1850's. By 1881 it had grist, saw, and shingle mills; Presbyterian church and manse; a schoolhouse; and the usual tavern, stores, and shops.

Glenarm, or "Hardscrabble" another small post village is located halfway up the Fenelon boundary, and in 1881 had a hotel, along with the shops of a few tradesmen.

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