Early History of Dummer Township

COPYRIGHT (c) 2018 Michael Stephenson

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The subject taken up at the Woman’s Institute on Thursday afternoon was “The History of Dummer”. Extracts from two histories of Peterborough have been well studied by several ladies. Dummer, it appears, was surveyed in 1823, but not until1831 did any regular settlers come. These settlers, most of whom were either commuted pensioners, or paid their own way out, were given grants of land, for which by the end of eight years they could pay about $80 for each 100 acres. This $80 was not always fully demanded by the government, nor was the time limit strictly adhered to. The settlers were allowed between $150 and $400 to help build their log shacks. The roofs of these buildings were made of bass-wood logs split and hollowed so as to form troughs; a row of these troughs were laid side by side, trough up, and another row of inverted troughs laid over the edges. The front of the dwellings was a little higher than their back. This roof was absolutely waterproof.

Food Rations

These people were not given implements, seeds, nor cows, as were the 1825 settlers of Douro. Even their food ration was slightly smaller, each man being allowed half a pound of flour and half a pound of pork a day and each woman and child over five years one pound of flour a day. But this was suddenly cut off for a time causing great suffering.

Hard Labour

Wheat had to be carried by the men (or women) to Peterborough or Norwood to be ground, though some did contrive a sort of mill, with a hallowed hardwood stump and a stone attached to a sapling. This course flour was simply mixed with water, kneaded and baked. However, with all the difficulties, these early settlers as a whole made good and their descendents are now quite comfortable. Unfortunately, some of the land was almost worthless when cleared and people after toiling for a few years found they never could wrest a living from bare stones and they either deserted their holdings or sold them for a mere song. These lands are now used as cattle ranches.

First Minister

The first regular minister was Rev. Archibald Colquhoun, who held services in Mr. J. MacDonnell’s house near what was then Colquehoun’s Corners (now Cotessloe). Later the Presbyterian Church was built there. Two Methodists churches were built in the township in 1850 and 1852. Rev. Blackstock was the first Methodist minister and in the village of Warsaw, the first church built was the Anglican. In 1835 the Presbyterian Church was built; later the Methodist and quite recently the Baptist.

Site of Warsaw

History says there are no small lakes in Dummer; there are several. The present village of Warsaw was originally known as “Dummer Mills”. It was situated on the Squaknegossippe (now known as Indian) river. This Indian name means “Sweet water”. The Rice Lake Indians used to come up the river in the spring and make maple sugar. A Mr. Hartwell started building mills there but he died and Mr. Choate carried on his work. In his time there were flour and gristmills, lumber mills, furniture factory and woollen mills here but now none of them are left excepting the flour and gristmill. Indeed only grist is ground.

Selkirk’s Lumber Mill

About 12 years ago Mr. John Selkirk built a lumber mill a little above the village. In early times, Mr. Allan Payne’s grandfather built a lumber mill, where Mr. Allan Payne’s now is.

Early Settlers

Among the early settlers there were five distinct families of Paynes, and descendents of all of them are still in the township.

First Schoolhouse

The first schoolhouse in the township was on John Kidd’s farm, near where Cotessloe School now stands. The teacher was Mr. Charles Murphy.

Mr. Wm. Darling, father of Reeve Darling, taught school for over 25 years and holidays were rare days. He taught one six months in a little schoolhouse near the gate into Mr. Robert Payne’s farm. The flat stone, which was the step, is still there. The other six months he taught at Hall’s Glen.

One of the Oldest

Mr. G.W. Reid, who when a very young boy, came to Dummer from the States is one of the oldest if not the oldest resident of Dummer. Mr. Reid kept store in Warsaw 55 years. Mr. Matthews, who died recently in Peterborough, was another old resident. His granddaughter, Mrs. Wm. Gray, had a history of his life in Dummer, which was read. Messrs. Hugh McFee and Hugh Dodds came to the township together when about 17 years of age. Mr. McFee died a few years ago, and not many of his family are left. Mr. Dodds is living in Smith with a son. Before coming to this country, he had quite a good education and thus was able to do business for several of his neighbours.

Made the Canal

In 1838, Mr. Choate made the canal which connects White and Stoney Lakes. As he had to use a lot of gunpowder (there was just a ridge of rock dividing the lakes) and the MacKenzie rebellion was not settled, Mr. Choate just escaped prison.

First Warden

Capt. Hill, who lived north of Bethel Church, was the first warden of Peterborough and the first council was sworn in in Mr. Choate’s house, recently burned down. Regulations required that the council be sworn in by a certain date. Council were in Peterborough but no warden the men came out to Warsaw. Mr. Choate brought Capt. Hill and the official swearing in took place.

First Post Office

The first post office in the township was opened in 1841. Mr. Choate being appointed postmaster. At the time of his death, he was about the oldest postmaster in Ontario. It was he who suggested the name of “Warsaw”.

Hon. Zaccheaus Burnham had a great deal to do with the early settling of Dummer. also Capt. Rubidge. In the history of Dummer there are several names the deserve mention.

The ladies present told many an incident, some sad, others gay and they were reminded that these stories should be told to their children and kept as priceless heirlooms.

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