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 muddy bogs.
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 in repairs.
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 report:
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 man.
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 contrast.
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 County.
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 several years.
"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 feet.
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 of debentures.
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 roadway.
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 Bridge.
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 of 1960.
Another incident 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 ago.
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 Roadway.
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 dropped.
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.