THE SCUGOG BRIDGE
SCUGOG ISLAND as
we know it today, was not always surrounded by a
large body of water. In fact, for much of the early
part of the 19th century, what is now referred to
as Lake Scugog was little more than a shallow, murky
river, meandering north through thick swamps and
The formation of the Island came
into being as the result of flooding caused by a
man-made dam being erected near Lindsay on the Scugog
River. The resulting floods isolated the high land,
which until then was considered part of both Reach
and Cartwright Townships, creating an entity of
its own ... Scugog Island.
The dam, which became known as
Purdy's Dam, was the creation of William and Hassard
Purdy, brothers who had entered into a contract
with the government of the day to build lumber and
grist mills along the Scugog River.
After constructing their dam,
high water and floods burst and destroyed the dam
during the spring of 1829. Undaunted, the Purdy's
constructed a new ten foot dam in early 1830, which
resulted in the flooding of thousands of acres of
land along the banks of the river all the way south
to the Scugog basin. Along with the flooding of
huge tracts of tamarack bush, hundreds of acres
of land just cleared by new settlers were swallowed
by the rising water.
The settlers, upset by their losses,
repeatedly objected to the dam and petitioned the
government, using every legal means to have it removed,
but failed in every attempt. By 1838 a deadly fever
swept through the area killing a large number of
people, and it was speculated it was due largely
to the increased numbers of insects that infected
the flooded land.
Purdy's Dam remained and Lake
Scugog became a permanent feature of the area as
new settlers arrived and the spread of settlements
on Scugog Island and Reach Township increased over
the next decade. But the newly formed lake, and
the marsh around it, created plenty of traffic problems
for those early settlers.
Boats and barges were operated
during the summer season for travel between the
mainland and the Scugog Island, and in the winter,
travel to and from the Island was often across the
frozen lake. This hazardous method of travel, often
ended in tragedy as horses and wagons broke through
the ice, especially in the early spring.
One such case was reported when
a team of horses crossing the ice on Scugog Lake,
hauling a load of maple lumber to J.B. Lazier's
factory, broke through the ice, and team, load and
driver all went down. The team shot right under
the ice and were both drowned, but the teamster
was pulled from the freezing water by an Indian
who was riding with him on the load.
It wasn't until after the formation
of the County of Ontario in 1852 that talk of constructing
a bridge across the south end of the lake began.
During the January 1855 session of council, Joseph
Reader and J.S. Gamble of Scugog Township, requested
a grant to aid in the erection of a floating bridge
across Lake Scugog between Reach and Scugog Island.
At the time of this request, Reach
and Scugog were governed by one council, so the
inhabitants of the Township of Scugog also requested
to be separated from the Township of Reach, which
the county undertook to do.
With this accomplished, the inhabitants
of Scugog were determined to gain easy access to
Reach Township, so once again petitioned the county
for a bridge to be constructed between the 5th and
6th Concessions of Reach to Scugog Island. The county
fathers agreed, providing a grant of £125 and entering
into a contract with the people of Scugog Township
to build a floating bridge between Reach Township
and Scugog Island and assume ongoing maintenance,
(Bylaw #26 - June 22, 1855). Scugog Township passed
Bylaw #2 on Feb. 25, 1856 authorizing the expenditure
of £1000 for the construction of a bridge.
A contract for construction of
the Scugog Bridge, was awarded to Mr. W.T. Haight
and Mr. Wilson Pitman, but building the bridge proved
to be far more difficult than even the county engineers
had imagined, due to the continual sinking of the
embankment and ice damage each spring. In fact the
bridge proved to be so difficult to build, the contractors
asked to be relieved of their contract because it
was impossible to finish erecting the cribs for
the Scugog Bridge due to the soft nature of the
soil in the lake.
The Roads and Bridges Committee,
after weighing all the facts, agreed to release
the men from the contracts and paid them a sum of
$670 for the work they had accomplished. The work
proceeded under the supervision of the County Engineer
John Shier and in June 1856 Bylaw #31 was passed,
which provided for the assumption of the Scugog
Bridge by the County of Ontario.
Following the completion of the
bridge, services of the Island ferry boat were discontinued.
Dr. W.O. Eastwood, of Whitby, was then practicing
at Port Perry and was the first to ride over the
new bridge. Up to that time he had to keep a boat
for visiting his Scugog Island patients
Although the floating bridge proved
to be a considerable benefit to both Reach and Scugog
communities, and a vast improvement from previous
methods, it was very unstable and unreliable. Spring
was a particular hazardous time for the bridge,
as it was often damaged by winds and ice during
the thaw, and ongoing maintenance by the county
began to mount, causing considerable grumbling by
many members of the council. On one occasion, portions
of it went floating down the lake, only to be pulled
back by the steamer Woodman.
In May 1869 the Ontario Observer
reported, "the bridge suffered terribly in the spring
floods and was in deplorable condition; being far
from safe, it would require immediate attention
and considerable outlay to repair." The county earmarked
$100 for repairs, but critics of the on-going high
cost to maintain the bridge insisted that the principal
upon which it had been constructed was a huge blunder
and it had cost 50 times more than it was worth
The costly repairs of 1869 were
the catalyst for a movement by some members of the
County Council to put the responsibility for repairs
back onto Scugog Township. In June 1870, a report
from Mr. Foy, Commissioner for the Scugog Bridge,
stated the time had arrived when the parties immediately
concerned (Scugog and Reach) ought to assume this
work, and the committee recommended that the county
by-law passed in 1854, for the building and maintenance
of the bridge, be repealed. After more than two
days of heated debate, County By-law #207, (returning
maintenance of the Scugog Bridge to Reach and Scugog)
was carried by a majority.
Reach and Scugog were not about
to take this lying down, and warned the county it
would take legal action to quash the new by-law
if necessary. They hired the Hon. M.C. Cameron,
a noted lawyer, who submitted a report to the county
in September, 1870.
Mr. Cameron contended that the
County Council of Ontario, by way of a by-law passed
in 1855, had assumed the work of building a bridge
across an arm of the lake and since being completed
the bridge had remained under the management and
control of the County Council.
He wrote the following opinion:
"I am of the opinion that the
Scugog Bridge is a County work, and that there is
a contract between the County Council and the corporation
of Scugog, and the private contributors which a
Court of Enquiry would enforce, and so in neither
case is it necessary, it appears to me, to take
any legal proceeding to quash the repealing by-law."
There were several attempts to repeal
By-law #207, but it wasn't until January 1872 a
County committee consisting of Warden W.H. Gibbs,
Reeve White of Pickering and Reeve W.S. Sexton of
Scugog, were instructed to look into the matter
of the Scugog Bridge, collect the facts of the case
and submit them to the best legal authority of the
province. The council agreed, in the event his opinion
was that the County is liable for the bridge, then
it would proceed at once to repair it.
Six months later, James Gordon,
Chairman of the Committee of Roads and Bridges,
approved the action of the committee who had obtained
legal advise regarding the responsibility of the
council in the matter of the Scugog Bridge. He recommended
Mr. Joseph Reader be appointed the Commissioner
of the bridge and that a committee consisting of
the Reeves of Reach, Scugog and Port Perry be appointed
to inspect the bridge and if found necessary, to
expend an amount on repairs not exceeding $250.
Maintenance continued to plague
the floating bridge, and on one occasion in 1875,
damage caused by scows tying up to the bridge initiated
an action by the County prohibiting anyone from
fastening any raft or scow, by which the bridge
could be damaged, and for Commissioner Reader to
prosecute anyone who did not comply.
Finally, during the Spring of
1876, work began on the first permanent bridge to
link Scugog Island and Port Perry. In an article
dated March 2, 1876, James Baird wrote the following
The Scugog Bridge after being
damaged by ice in the early 1900s.
"The Reeve of Scugog has introduced
a new departure regarding the Scugog Bridge, which
from its inception has proved expensive, unsatisfactory
and a bone of contention between the County councils
and the minor municipalities concerned.
The old shaky concern has only
hung in its place by the grace of the winds and
floods, which might at any moment have cleaned it
out and cut off all further communication between
Scugog and Reach, except by boat.
To maintain the rickety concern
as it was, caused an annual drain on the exchequer
of the County, which made our County fathers fairly
groan and every now and again seep to repudiate.
But it was of no use, the law held them fast and
they had only to grin and bear it year after year
with the expectation staring them in the face of
being called upon at any moment to build an entire
new structure, the old one having been swept away.
It remained for Mr. Graham, the
active Reeve of Scugog to suggest and bring about
a new departure as to the future of this bridge
and with a view to this object the County Council
at its late session granted him a Committee to investigate
the matter and advise accordingly.
About the close of last week,
the Warden of the county, the first Deputy Reeve
of Brock and the Reeve of Scugog met at Port Perry,
went and examined the Bridge and determined on an
entire change of structure, to replace the present
tottering, expensive, unreliable concern with a
permanent structure at as early a day as possible.
The result was that a committee
consisting of Messrs. James Graham and Joseph Bigelow
was appointed to secure the proper brushing and
covering of a length of 600 feet on the west end
of the bridge, which proved a long step in the way
of a permanent, inexpensive structure."
Messrs. Graham and Bigelow advertised
for sealed tenders to be left at the Post Office,
Port Perry, until noon Saturday, March 4, 1876 for
brushing 600 feet long, 25 feet wide and 5 feet
deep for the west end of Scugog Bridge, and also
for covering same with earth or sawdust 18 feet
wide and 2 feet deep.
Three tenders were received for
the work on the bridge: Mr. J.V. Thompson, $2,350;
Mr. Hulbert, $1,925; and Mr. N.S. Dyer $1,750. The
contract was given to Mr. Dyer, being the lowest
tender and he being considered a thoroughly competent
Mr. Dyer's crew began construction
of the first section of a permanent bridge between
Port Perry and Scugog Island immediately after the
ice left the Lake Scugog that spring. Wooden slabs
were packed tightly side by side, laid crossways
to a thickness of two feet, and then covered with
earth. Work continued throughout the summer on the
600 foot stretch of permanent road and in Sept.
1876, the following progress report was published
in the Ontario Observer:
"The new bridge over the Scugog
now goes bravely on, Mr. Dyer is within forty feet
of the limit of his contract with the laying of
logs and slabs and the work of earthing is now progressing
favorably. There can be no comparison between the
new bridge and the old; the new bridge will be a
permanent roadway, which once finished may be maintained
in good repair at the smallest trifle of cost.
The pine logs and slabs being
under water will be permanent while the surface
being covered with two feet of earth and nine inches
of gravel over that will constitute a first class
permanent roadway which compared with the old floating
concern which it is replacing will form a striking
The old floating bridge was unreliable,
unsatisfactory and expensive. Every spring it was
threatened with destruction and it took a world
of expense to keep it in order. The new Scugog Bridge
will be a permanent monument to the intelligence
and enterprise of the County Council of Ontario
for 1876. The county will find that this has been
a profitable investment; it is true that the present
outlay may be considered a little steep but the
little expense now will save ten times more in future.
When the Scugog Bridge is completed the new 23 foot
wide roadway will be maintained at a nominal expense
in place of an old rickety apology for a bridge
about 12 feet wide."
The Scugog Bridge after being
made into a permanent roadway.
Following the completion of this section,
the Scugog Bridge came up for discussion again in
January 1877 when James Graham petitioned for an
additional 600 feet of bridge to be constructed
the coming season, but Chairman Rowland of the Road
and Bridges Committee refused to recommend any further
extension of the work for that year, stating a large
amount of money had been spent on the first section
and they were still not sure if it would stand up.
He said the committee hoped to proceed with the
work, but warned ... should the construction prove
to be a failure, it would be a great cost to the
Mr. Graham argued that he had
not the slightest misgiving about the durability
of the work. He said that the bridge as it was now,
was of little service, being impassible the greater
part of the year, as accumulations of snow and ice,
load the bridge in winter and sink it.
He argued that it would be better
to complete the work for a permanent roadway and
suggested if the county didn't want to pay for it
all at once, they could debenture the work over
"Since 1854 the old structure
has cost between fifteen and twenty thousand dollars
in repairs. If the work is not proceeded with this
year, the remaining portion of the floating bridge
may require new planks, which would cost a good
portion of the expense of another 600 feet," he
said, but the arguments fell on deaf ears.
A year later the Roads and Bridges
Committee had a change of heart and recommended
that $4,000 be debentured to complete the remaining
1,300 feet of the Scugog Bridge and for it to be
constructed on the same principal as the first 600
But the idea did not sit well
with many members of County Council, who argued
that it had cost almost $3,000 to build the first
600 feet in shallow water and comparatively little
mud, so they could not be expected to build 1,300
feet in deeper water with up to 15 feet of mud.
The motion to construct the remainder
of the bridge was defeated, but Scugog Reeve James
Graham was not about to give up.
Six months later, in June 1878
the matter was tabled again at County Council by
the caretaker of the Scugog Bridge, who recommended
that $4,000 be granted for the purpose of constructing
the bridge and the money be raised by the issue
Mr. Bickell, one of the strongest
opponents suggested the bridge was not in a bad
state of repair and $200 would put it into a safe
and comfortable condition. But Reeve Graham argued
that repairs to the bridge would cost nearer $1,000
as the timbers were rotting and the floating portion
was in need of replanking.
In an effort to salvage something
for the Scugog Bridge, Port Perry Reeve Joshua Wright
cleverly manipulated the County to approve having
the east end of the bridge filled up in a similar
manner to that on the west, and made into a permanent
A report in the North Ontario
Observer, detailed the events of that session of
County Council as follows:
"The Scugog Bridge came in for
its annual airing and the Reeve of Scugog (Graham)
fought like a very hero to secure a fat grant for
that important work. The Reeve of Port Perry (Wright)
and the whole Road and Bridge committee stood at
his back, but it was no go. He was beaten back and
finally compelled to surrender, and in place of
his magnificent grant of $4,000 as he expected,
he was sent away with $150.
But here the diplomacy of the
Reeve of Port Perry fairly outgenerated the majority
and led them into a grant even larger than the one
they had just refused. Waiting 'till the members
returned from dinner, pliable as wax, Mr. Wright
innocently moved the report back to the committee
to strike out the magnificent $150 and insert the
words that 600 feet be filled in on the east end
of the bridge. The good natured council blandly
complied and the amended report was adopted.
These will be the most difficult
600 feet and it may take four or five thousand dollars
to accomplish the work so that all concerned are
indebted to the diplomacy of Mr. Wright for the
grant at this time."
An old car making its way across
the muddy causeway about 1912.
An advertisement seeking
tenders to construct the 600 feet of permanent roadway
was placed in the Ontario Observer following the
meeting by bridge commissioners Joshua Wright, George
Wheler and James Graham. Four bids were opened at
the Town Hall, Port Perry, on July 2, 1878. Bids
included N.S. Dyer at $4,300., W.E. Yarnold at $2,500
and Jessie Ireland at $2,350., and an undisclosed
name at $3,700. Mr. W.E. Yarnold was awarded the
contract for the east end of the bridge.
A year later, in June 1879 a special
committee of the County Council made an official
inspection of the now famous Scugog Bridge, to determine
its present condition and immediate requirements.
A report from Mr. Rowland, chairman of the special
committee, recommended the completion of the work
and the appointment of Reeve Wright of Port Perry,
and Messrs. John Adams and Mark Currie to oversee
the work. When asked if he had any idea as to what
it would cost to complete the work, the chairman
replied, "I have not the slightest idea."
Tenders for the building of an
Earthway connecting the two sections of the Scugog
Bridge already built, were advertised and 19 proposals,
ranging from $6,849 to $11,200 were received for
the work. The committee accepted the tender of Wm.
Trennam, of Peterborough, and entered into a contract
with him to complete the work by October 1, 1880.
The contract was further bound to assure a safe
means of crossing for people on foot, and that the
bridge could not be closed down for any longer than
ten days for the passage of wagons or other vehicles.
Reeve Wright came under fire at
the County for his methods in tendering the work
for the Scugog Bridge and for not accepting the
lowest tender ($6,849) submitted by Mr. N.S. Dyer,
the contractor who had constructed the first 600
feet in 1876.
Reeve Wright contended he had
accepted the $7,300 tender of the Peterborough contractor
because it was the lowest tender that was any good.
He said the job Mr. Dyer had already done was bungled,
filled in with rotten wood which was now sinking,
and would cost an additional $1,700 to have repaired.
Six months later, June 1880, Mr. Wright was redeemed
for his actions when the commissioners reported
the work on the Scugog Bridge had been completed
in a very satisfactory manner.
At the same time as work was underway
to complete the bridge, a company named the Scugog
Marsh Reclaiming Co. were given permission to begin
construction of an embankment from Reach Twp. on
the west shore of Lake Scugog, to Scugog Island.
The embankment was to be built no more than six
rods south of the existing bridge.
To avoid duplication of work,
the reclaiming company approached the contractor,
Mr. Trennam, with the intention of relieving him
of his contract for the building of a permanent
section of the Scugog Bridge. This arrangement never
came to be.
Repairs continued to plague the
County, as almost every year the bridge required
repairs. Following heavy damage in the spring of
1884 the County treasurer was instructed to repair
that portion of the Scugog Bridge, at a cost not
to exceed $300.
With both the west and east sections
of the permanent bridge now completed, only 600
feet of floating bridge was left stretched precariously
between Port Perry and Scugog Island. A section
that would not be completed until four years later,
after the entire business sector of Port Perry was
destroyed by a devastating fire in July 1884.
In an effort to assist the business
community rebuild the town, a special meeting of
County Council was held in the Port Perry Town Hall
on October 14, 1884 to discuss the granting of aid
relating to the fires, and also to view and discuss
the Scugog Bridge.
Following an inspection tour of
the town and the Scugog Bridge councillors began
their session. Council considered tenders which
had been submitted for repairs to the Scugog Bridge,
but none were accepted. Instead, they decided to
expend a total of $3,000 by private contract for
the construction for the final 600 feet of the Scugog
The work took place during the
summer of 1885 when logs were lined along the sides
of the floating bridge and then the centre was filled
with gravel and sand until the bridge sank, forming
the foundation and completing the first solid, permanent
roadway connecting Scugog Island to Port Perry.
Although spring damage was a common
occurrence over the next couple of decades most
repairs were of a minor nature until April 1908,
when the bridge received one of its most severe
pounding by ice since becoming a permanent roadway.
Railings and telephone poles were snapped by heavy
ice flows being pushed up over the roadway during
the spring breakup.
When County Council met in July,
Reeve Parrish of Port Perry and Scugog's Reeve were
instructed to proceed with repairs. Piles were driven
close to the outer edge of the bridge to help retain
the timbers forming the wall on the outside of the
bridge. Part of the bridge was raised by two feet
and steel stringers were used, which were covered
with cedar timbers and iron rods to keep them in
position. When completed, repairs to the Scugog
Bridge" had cost the county a total of $1,640, but
were described as "one of the best pieces of road
building in the area."
Construction of a bridge along
the causeway took place in 1928.
The next major
undertaking to improve the Scugog Bridge came in
1925, when work commenced on widening the bridge
to accommodate the use of motor vehicles. A piece
of land was purchased by the County from Mr. T.
Collins and earth was hauled from the property.
These cars, which moved along a light track, were
used to spread the fill along the stretch of highway.
Three years later, in March 1928,
the James Mitchell Co. of Toronto was contracted
to build a concrete bridge to replace part of the
old wooden structure. The section, which spanned
only 20 ft., was 28 ft. wide and required 2,500
ft. of piles, 200 yards of gravel, 200 yards of
stone and some 700 bags of cement. The piles were
driven 32 feet into the bottom of the lake, through
several feet of mud, two layers of clay, and finally
imbedded into quicksand. The biggest hurdle was
finding places to drive the piles where neither
logs or large stones interfered.
During the six weeks of construction,
a temporary floating bridge detour was built to
accommodate the traffic.
The 1928 reconstruction of the
Scugog Bridge accommodated the needs of the people
of the area for the next three decades, undergoing
minor repairs from water and ice damage each spring.
A car inches its way along the
wooden floating detour during construction.
Following a disastrous
flooding in the spring of 1960, there were renewed
calls for rebuilding and raising the level of the
Scugog Bridge, which by this time was beginning
to be referred to as The Causeway.
During April of that year, water
in Lake Scugog rose dramatically, with up to 30
inches of water covering sections of both the Port
Perry and Cartwright Causeways. On a number of occasions,
the causeway had to be closed down to traffic as
washouts and ice flows created a hazard for anyone
attempting to cross the open stretch. But some residents
drove through in spite of the warnings, and one
man was reported to be barreling through, and ended
up sitting on the roof of the car for a couple of
hours waiting for help.
Causeway floods during the spring
was reported as follows:
"During the noon hour on Monday,
Mr. Lorne Hunt, a resident of Scugog Island, attempted
to drive his Volkswagen to Port Perry. While crossing
the causeway the car was pushed off the road by
floating ice driven by a wind. Someone saw the car
leave the road and phoned the police, and Pargeter's
Garage was also called. Chief R.J. Cameron and Pargeter's
tow truck were soon at the scene. Don Wallace, driver
of the tow truck and Robert Duff were able to rescue
Mr. Hunt who had succeeded in getting out of his
car and was found clinging to a pole in the icy
waters. He had been marooned about 25 minutes and
suffered from severe shock and exposure, and was
rushed to Community Memorial Hospital."
Water was so deep over the causeway
a boat could travel from north to south.
The causeway was
still partially submerged when a severe rainstorm
hit the area, causing the level of the lake to rise
even further and increasing the depth of the water
along the causeway.
More than eight weeks after the
flooding began along the causeway, many spots were
still not entirely free of water. During the high
water, Port Perry Reeve J.J. Gibson put his pontoon
boat, equipped with an outboard motor, into service
as a ferry transporting residents across the causeway,
and the Department of Highways also provided a shuttle
service with large trucks.
In June 1960, after more than
a decade trying to get the causeway raised, Dr.
M.B. Dymond, who was also a Member of Provincial
Parliament, announced the government was going to
reconstruct 7A Hwy. from Port Perry to Caesarea.
Construction was scheduled to get underway in September
and be completed by the late summer of 1962 at an
estimated cost of $1.5 million. The new roadbed
would be 42' wide with 22' of pavement.
Work on the Causeway highway project
progressed quickly, with the large hill at the east
end of the causeway being cut down and back, decreasing
the slope. In some cases it was necessary for crews
to dig as deep as 25' in order to insure a proper
foundation for the permanent roadway.
Work on 7A Hwy. from Port Perry
to the Caesarea cut-off, including the causeway,
was completed on schedule in 1962, and the highway
has changed little since that time. It took more
than 140 years for the Scugog Bridge to evolve from
a rickety old floating bridge, to the modern provincial
causeway it is today. But this short section of
7A Hwy, which spans Lake Scugog between Port Perry,
Scugog Island and into Cartwright Township continues
to serve the needs of the travelling public today,
just as it did in its infancy more than a century
Construction during the summer of 1960 to
widen and raise the causeway.
When the first permanent
roadway across Lake Scugog linking Reach with Scugog
Township was completed in 1885, local businessmen
were pleased to see business increase dramatically.
The Scugog Bridge now a solid roadway, made access
to Port Perry from Scugog so much easier, local
businesses began to flourish.
One of Port Perry's leading businessmen,
Joseph Bigelow, now looked east for other markets
to improve trade with the village. A visionary,
he had recognized years earlier that east of Scugog
Island lay Cartwright Township, a large and prosperous
area. He believed that if a more direct route to
Port Perry could be provided, local business would
benefit immensely. The long, tiring trip from Williamsburg
(Blackstock) and other areas of Cartwright, around
the south end of Lake Scugog and then back north
to the village provided little incentive for residents
to use Port Perry as their main centre of trade.
Bigelow's dream was to construct
a road connecting Scugog Island with the westerly
boundaries of Cartwright, but in order to accomplish
this feat he had to overcome a major obstacle, more
than 2.5 miles of swamp and wetland.
Although a causeway through the
marshland didn't become a reality for almost two
decades, as early as 1872 Charles Paxton and Joseph
Bigelow began to petition Ont. County Council regarding
the erection of a bridge from Scugog to Cartwright.
The County refused to take any action at that time,
but agreed to set up a committee consisting of Mr.
Holman, Scugog Reeve W.S. Sexton and Port Perry
Reeve J. Bigelow to confer with the councils of
Darlington and Cartwright Townships regarding the
construction of the bridge.
Over the next few years, many
attempts were made to get the Cartwright Causeway
constructed. One of the best chances came when the
Lake Scugog Marsh Lands Drainage Co, agreed to build
the roadway if they received some financial support
from the municipalities. A vote by the residents
of Port Perry, in Dec. 1882, defeated a by-law intended
to assist the Company, thus ending any chance of
the roadway being completed at that time.
Despite the setback, the dream
of connecting Scugog to Cartwright with a good roadway
flourished, and due to the perseverance of Joseph
Bigelow, work finally got underway in 1889 on the
connecting causeway. The project plodded along slowly
until May 1890 when a special meeting of Port Perry
Council was held for the purpose of considering
the advisability of the corporation of Port Perry
in assuming the work of construction of what had
by then become known as the Port Perry-Scugog-Cartwright
Reeve Bigelow proposed that the
corporation finish the uncompleted work, finance
the construction, collect the uncollected stock
and bonuses and pay off all liabilities contending
there would be a surplus left for the community.
But the plan met with strenuous
opposition from Councillor Boxall, who said he was
a "strong advocate and supporter of the construction
of the Roadway and would assist to the utmost of
his power in the prosecution and early construction
of the work by every legitimate means. But, he requested
the corporation solicitor, Mr. N.F. Paterson, to
give council his opinion as to the power of council
assuming such undertakings."
Mr. Paterson advised, should council
enter into the proposed contract it would certainly
exceed its legislative powers, so the matter was
Undeterred by the lack of additional
support from the corporation, Mr. Bigelow and his
advocates proceeded with the job of construction,
using money secured by grants and by way of public
subscription. Grants towards the construction were
received as follows: Port Perry - $4,000, the Grand
Trunk Railway - $1,500, Ontario Government - $1,500,
County of Ontario - $500 and the Counties of Northumberland
and Durham - $500. He also raised more than $2,300
by way of public subscription from the residents
of the three neighbouring communities.
A section of the Cartwright causeway
lined with trees the early part of the 1900s.
With enough money to proceed,
construction began and by September 1890, the Port
Perry-Scugog-Cartwright Roadway was well on its
way to completion and the editor of the North Ontario
Observer described its progress as follows:
"We had the pleasure of a drive
over the new roadway from Scugog to Cartwright on
Saturday, last, and was surprised to find it so
far advanced towards completion.
Mr. Bigelow, the instigator and
promoter of the scheme, has taken every precaution
so that when the roadway is completed it will be
a permanent one and a credit in every respect to
his perseverance and indomitable pluck, for had
he not taken hold of the scheme we question whether
it would have had an existence today. He was not
only the instigator and promoter but he has most
successfully financed for the undertaking throughout,
and although at times when managing this most important
part - the financing - the prospects were anything
but bright, he never faltered but pressed onward
until his efforts were crowned with victory, and
shortly he will have the pleasure of declaring this
important highway open to public travel."
With construction now nearing
completion, Messrs. J. Bigelow and J.H. Brown appeared
before Scugog Township council urging them to grant
$100 to fill in a large hollow in the road by the
5th concession to make that portion of the road
the same level as the new roadway. The grant was
approved and Reeve W.R. Ham, Mr. Turner and Mr.
Dunn were appointed commissioners to oversee the
work on behalf of the corporation.
By December 1890 the Port Perry-Scugog-Cartwright
Roadway was nearing completion and Mr. Bigelow and
the directors of the company issued the following
report in the North Ontario Observer.
The following is a statement of
the particulars in connection with the building
of the roadway between the Township of Scugog and
the Township of Cartwright over the water and marsh
land separating these two townships, the former
of which has always been known as Scugog Island.
In the spring of the year there
is from one to three feet of water over the marsh
permitting small boats to pass over it. During the
summer the water subsides to about a level with
the marsh. Formerly more or less timber grew on
this marsh but the building of locks at Lindsay
for the improvement of the navigation of Lake Scugog
and river is the cause of this overflow which rendered
the construction of the new roadway much more expensive
than it otherwise would have been.
This roadway has been talked of
as a most desirable object to be accomplished for
the past twenty years, the completion of which would
accommodate a large section of country and the best
evidence of its necessity is the liberal subscriptions
which have been given in aid of the work.
The bridge or roadway from Scugog
Island to Port Perry, thoroughly about half the
length of the proposed roadway, and built by the
County of Ontario, is said to have cost about $25,000.
These facts embark in the work, or the promoters
of the proposed undertaking, who however, came to
the conclusion if it was not commenced it would
never be finished.
In order to carry on the work
a company was formed under the General Road Companies'
Act to obtain a legal standing, with the following
gentlemen as directors and officers:
Aaron Ross, President
N.F. Paterson, Director
Joseph Bigelow, Director
Thos. Courtice, Director
Jas Graham, Director
W.E. Yarnold, Engineer
J.H. Brown, Treasurer
At the first meeting
of the directors, Mr. Bigelow was appointed secretary
with general powers to proceed with the work, who
with Mr. Yarnold, the company's engineer, conjointly
with the president and directors have completed
the undertaking to the satisfaction of the public
and all concerned, including the Ontario Government
and Grand Trunk Railway Company's engineers, who
after examination report the work as satisfactory
and much better than they expected to find it.
The whole length of the road over
the marsh is 2.6 miles, of which 1.2 miles is formed
of brush and timber from three to five feet deep,
24 feet wide, the cedar posts, 12 feet long, for
the fencing of the roadway being first driven, cutting
holes through the ice to do so, giving a twenty
foot roadway. The timber and brush work being built
around them on the ice during the winter, in the
construction of the 1,485 yds., 27 acres of heavy
cedar and tamarack swamp has been used, or an average
of one acre of timber to every ten rods the average
drawing of the timber being one and a quarter miles.
Almost 500 yards of the marsh
was built by throwing up the marsh, and earth drawn
on, the whole roadway was then covered with earth
from three to four feet deep in the centre and twelve
to fifteen inches at the sides with ten inches of
gravel in the centre to finish.
The length of the approach at
the Scugog end of the roadway is about 1.25 miles
making the whole roadway upon which work has been
performed 7-1/2 miles in length, along which 18,000
feet of lumber was used for fencing.
The Township of Cartwright has,
in addition to the private subscriptions of its
people, built the eastern approach, some 160 rods
in length (1/2 mile), over low marshy, partly timbered
land, at a cost of between $1,200 and $1,500 forming
a direct connection with the graveled road from
Bowmanville to Caesarea, one mile north of Blackstock.
Grants: Port Perry $4,000; Grand
Trunk Railway $1,500; Ontario Government $1,500;
County of Ontario $500; Counties of Northumberland
and Durham $500.
Over $2,300 was raised by public
subscriptions in Port Perry, Cartwright and Scugog
Island. Total expenditure on the roadway to date
- Dec. 1890 - $6,585.
In February 1891, the North Ontario
Observer editor once again set out across the new
road and made this final report:
"A recent trip along the Scugog-Cartwright
Roadway convinced us more than ever before of the
importance and future usefulness of that road as
a viable channel of trade between Port Perry and
the townships to the east of it.
The very fine, extensive farms
of choice land, well-appointed and magnificently
stocked, offered a legitimate inducement to the
people of Port Perry to seek a shorter and more
direct channel of trade between the Port and the
prosperous farmers to the east.
At the same time the sum paid
by the Township of Cartwright to secure the road
will be found to be a profitable investment in-as-much
as it gives them access to a first-class market
for all they wish to buy or sell. The road when
properly completed may be kept in order at a small
cost. Of course it will require an expenditure of
five or six hundred dollars to complete the job.
There is a cut near the Scugog
end of the road from which a couple of hundred tons
of earth will have to be removed, otherwise it will
remove itself before the month is out.
As far as the fencing goes it
is simply a burlesque and if meant for any use,
most of it will have to be done over again. The
roadway is fairly well built, and all may be completed
for six hundred dollars, then the people concerned
will have a road of which they will feel proud,
and which after a year or two of travel will be
thoroughly consolidated and can be maintained as
a first-class road at very little expense.
This road will prove a lasting
monument to the unflinching energy and indomitable
perseverance of Mr. Bigelow. Many years hence when
that gentleman shall have passed away the Scugog-Cartwright
road will remain a lasting monument of his indefatigable
energy and good judgment."
Paddling a canoe along the Cartwright
causeway, spring of 1960.
The Cartwright roadway
proved to be an invaluable link between the residents
and businesses of Cartwright and Reach Township,
providing adequate passage for many years.
But as the years passed, traffic
on the roadway became increasingly busy, and it
was suggest that the narrow roadway, which had become
flanked by brush and full grown trees, was in need
of widening. An article in The Port Perry Star in
April 1925 suggested the road was alright in the
old days when people had time to wait at a "turning-out-place"
for rigs to pass, but in these days of hurry and
autos there was not time to stop and chat with folks.
The road eventually became a provincial
highway and was widened and rebuilt to its present
state during 1960.
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