History of the Township of Reach
by Reverend R. Monteith
written in 1859 and published
in the Ontario Observer
THE TOWNSHIP OF REACH was surveyed by the late Major Samuel Wilmot, of Clarke Township, in the year 1809, and was designated Reach after a Colonel of that name. Several farms were deeded as early as 1811, but up until the year 1821, there was not a single settler in the township, all was unbroken forest. In the month of May that year, Reuben Crandell, senior, had the courage to invade its solitude, and to break it up on its primitive condition.
He came by way of Whitby Township, when that township had no village, and only a very few clearances. The only settlers in the line of Simcoe Street were Joseph Widdifield, who lived on the creek about three miles north of the site of Oshawa, and Joseph Wylie, an Indian trader, who had settled on the 8th concession, a mile or more to the southeast of the site of Raglan.
From the latter of these places there was an Indian trail to Lake Scugog; but that was the only path into Reach. So that when Reuben Crandell came to the township with his two ox-teams, he had to clear out all the way for himself, and was occupied two days in doing so. The distance might be reckoned eight or nine miles. The place where he settled first was a little to the south of Manchester, where he encamped for nearly a week, till he raised and took possession of his shanty.
Finding, however, that he had mistaken the position of the lot assigned him he soon after removed into the lot now occupied by Frederick Graham. There he erected two log houses. One stands on the south side of the public road, a mile to the west of Prince Albert. It was there that the first white girl (Lucy Ann), and afterwards the first white boy (Benjamin) were born in the township. The Crandell family, in their crude log home, lived and toiled in comparatively solitude for more than two years before others began to arrive and set up home.
The Crandells lived not far from the local Indians, but this was no comfort or advantage. The local band was influenced by cruel superstition, and it was always feared they might rise up do them severe bodily harm. As well as the Indians, the family had to be cautious of the beasts of the forest which were exceedingly numerous.
The township had several large swamps and marshes, as it still has, these for a large number of years, were infested with bears, and still more with wolves; and the fury of the latter may be well imagined when we mention the following fact - one evening the sheep pen, immediately in the rear of Mr. Crandell's house, was invaded by a pack of wolves and it was found in the morning that nine sheep were lying dead, with their heads placed across each other, and the blood taken from them at the jugular vein.
But the perils and exclusion thus referred to were accompanied with many other disadvantages. For miles there was no road whatsoever, and the one on the front, which was one of the best in the county, was not more than passable. Store goods were also at a great distance, 18 miles off at least. Flour and saw mills were scarcely nearer. Medical help and mail communications were hardly to be thought of; mechanical or tradesmen's labor was equally unavailable. In short, at the time we are now speaking of, as well as for many years afterwards, the settlers had little communication with any of their species; they were almost entirely dependent upon themselves.
And yet we have it from their own lips that they were far from being unhappy. We believe it, and can easily account for it. Living simply and toiling moderately, they enjoyed a good measure of health; they saw the forest diminishing around them, and valuable crops rising in its stead; with these crops to minister to their appetite, and the wood they cut to give them fuel, they felt that they were little indebted to their neighbors; and the virgin beauties of external nature, together with the incidents, of their wilderness life, conspired, in no small degree, to diffuse among them satisfaction and pleasure.
1823 CLEARING LAND: The next clearance that was made in the township was commenced in the summer of 1823. It was made by John Rae, who had, previously come into Joseph Wylie's place in the Township of Whitby, but being merely a renter there, he cleared a portion of his lot in Reach, and erected on it a log house, intending to take possession of the whole, as soon as his renting period expired. The property, which belonged originally to him is Lot 11, Conc. 2, and lies to the west side of what is now the gravelled road. There were also other clearances commenced the same.
William Wade for example, who came in the fall, settled for a time on the front of the 5th Conc. And near to him, on both sides of the road were persons of the name of Jones, Hughes, and Marvin. But these disappeared in a short time, and fixed their abode beyond the township.
1824 THE PIONEERS: The settlers who appeared next were destined to exert a larger influence. These were Abner Hurd and Daniel Dayton, who came together in the spring of 1824. The former of the two built his original house to the east of Prince Albert, on nearly the same site where the present farm house stands, and in which James McKinley now lives. The other settler pitched his tent where William Boynton's tavern now stands, and thus, though unintentionally, yet actually, laid the foundation of Prince Albert.
It is also natural to state here that as various settlers were now near one another, they were drawn into frequent mutual intercourse; and living as they did on the same concession line, they gradually formed a bit of road, which in after years was extended westward. But as yet there was no road in a more important direction, we mean toward the front.
There was, to be sure, a path in that direction - namely from Rae's to Wylie's place, which was not unfrequently employed by the settlers. But that was a very circuitous route. It was, therefore, resolved the following year to shape out a road in a better direction, and the resolution was acted on.
1825 THE ROADS: The settlers united their energies together and formed a kind of ox-road from Dayton's to Wylie's; and from that there was a rather better road to the front, where all their milling business was required to be done, and from which, also, they obtained their store goods, and their mail communications. In this year, also, the first burial was made in the township. It was the burial of John Rae, who died in Whitby, but whose bones were laid in his own farm lot in Reach.
1826 NEAREST MILLS: In reference to the year 1826 we have only one record to make, and we make it because of its bearing on the township, although it does not properly belong to it. Hitherto the nearest mills to our spirited settlers were, Joseph Gould's saw-mill in Uxbridge (which was not easily reached) and Thos. N. Gibb's, south of Oshawa. But now a saw-mill was erected much nearer-namely, Fralick's, to the southwest of Raglan. This was a positive gain for Reach Twp., and made it much more easy for the settlers to secure lumber for building purposes.
1827 MAIL ROUTES: Passing on to 1827, we have matters of a different kind to state. Somewhere in the course of that year letter-carrying was commenced in the township; and not only in Reach, but in several other townships lying to the north. The system originated with Donald Cameron, a settler in Thorah, who proposed to the settlers who lived on the line, that, unless the Postmaster General objected to it, a person might carry letters between the front and the back townships, and obtain adequate pay for his trouble. The idea was endorsed by the settlers, and the Postmaster General gave his consent. Kenneth Campbell commenced his travels, walking to and from the front once a fortnight; and, besides a fixed amount secured by subscription, he received a small payment for the letters or papers which he bore to the settlers. Let us add here, that the nearest post office on the front was kept by John Warren, as was also the nearest store, and was situated a mile and a half to the east of what is now the County Town (Whitby).
There were other signs of advancement the same year. If letter carrying was then initiated, so was the preaching of the gospel. Elder Marsh, a Baptist preacher, was the first preacher in Reach; and beginning, as he did, to break up the ground, he continued his labours for some time afterwards. But another gentleman of the same persuasion undertook work of a similar kind, which calls for a more extended notice. We refer now to Elder Scott, an agent of the American Missionary Society, who desired strongly to improve the condition of the Indians.
We have said already that in the early days of Reach, the settlers were not far off from Indians; nor were they. A considerable number of the Mississauga tribe - the same tribe who once lived on the site of Toronto - had encamped for years on the side of Lake Scugog. And prior to the year 1827, their character was extremely bad. They were among the most degraded and filthy of all the tribes. Men and women were addicted to drunkenness, almost without exception; and so destitute were they of all moral principle, that they were the pests of the country, and the bye-word and scoff, as well as terror of the inhabitants.
But during the autumn of this year, they embraced the Christian religion, and immediately gave the most satisfactory proof of its holy tendency and benign influence. From a condition unspeakably degraded, debauched and vitiated, in almost every sense of the word, they became a serious, moral, and pious community. These were the objects of Elder Scott's philanthropy. Encouraged by the happy change they had sustained, he endeavored to advance them in various respects. He obtained for them from Government a grant of 200 acres, extending along the southwest side of Lake Scugog, where Port Perry is now located. He yoked them partly into agriculture, after they had cleared away the bush.
He also acquired them the means of education. The person he employed for this work was Aaron Hurd, the second, son of Abner Hurd, a lad of only 15 years of age. Although young, Aaron had shown considerable interest in the Indians, and this, in the opinion of Elder Scott, fitted him much for instructing their children.
1828 MORE SCHOOLS: In the course of 1828, after a school-house had been built and placed on the north side of his father' s farm, he commenced his labours. The number of his pupils varied from thirty to fifty, some of whom were more than children, as old indeed as twenty or even thirty years; and he laboured among them, not without gratifying success, for the greater part of two years, when the Indians removed to Mud Lake, and he commenced a similar work in the neighbourhood of Rice Lake. Of this devoted and hopeful young man let us simply add, that he subsequently went to study for the ministry, and in the midst of his efforts toward that object, died at Middletown, Connecticut, U.S.A. in 1836.
The Indian school of which we have spoken was soon followed by another school - the first in the Township for white people. Before the winter of 1828 the settlers had erected a school house for their children. It was made of logs, and stood to the west of Prince Albert, on the knoll. It is The first person who taught in it was a John James Alexander Cameron Cull, although he did not commence his labours until the summer following the date of its erection.
We must also offer to two other facts which took place in the same year. In the month of February that year, the first grave was made in Prince Albert. It was made for Mr. Reuben Dayton, son of the settler formerly named, who died in the front, but was laid in the original burying-ground close to Mr. Ross's store. Several months after that, an important public survey was made. Mr. Smallie of Newmarket laid out the whole of Simcoe Street; and the part of it lying in this Township is not materially different from the ox-track which the settlers had opened out three years before.
1829 NEW SETTLEMENTS: Settlers were now increasing in the Township. A year prior to the last date, John Ensign had laid the foundation of Epsom, by settling on the site of that village. And early in 1829 he acquired for his nearest neighbour, Mr. H. Shaw. The same year Henry Walker settled on the 4th Conc. to the south of Manchester and the following year Thomas Graham and William Ashton settled still further to the south. It was easy indeed to multiply names, such as Harper and Silver, and Dunholm, and Dwyer, and Hinckston, and Barbour, and Buck, and some others who quickly appeared one after another, and fixed their abodes in the same region.
1830 MILL DAM: At this time an important step was taken which calls for more than passing notice. We refer to the construction of the mill dam at Lindsay, which has ever since affected the waters of Lake Scugog. And as this is a matter connected with our township, we must speak of the former condition of the lake, and the extent to which its waters were now increased.
Mr. Smith, in his valuable work on Canada, says, Lake Scugog, or the larger portion of it, as it at present exists, has been artificially made. The formation of the dam at Lindsay many years ago, raised the water and forced it back over the land, thus flooding a large extent of the country.
From this cause the lake has not been properly delineated on any map; all maps previously published having been copied from the original plans of the surveyors. At the time these Townships were surveyed, the whole of what now constitutes the southern portion of Lake Scugog was dry land. Now, although there is much truth in this, it requires to be taken with some abatement, especially the first, if not also the last, statement of it. One would suppose from these statements that before the construction of the dam referred to, the area of the lake was not one half of what it now is. And to a certain sense it was not, for the larger portion of it was little better than a marsh; hence the propriety of the term "Scugog", which signifies shallow water.
But its breadth was nearly as great as it is at present; and as for its length it extended southward to about the site of the new bridge (Scugog Bridge). In summer, when the springs were materially affected by the heat of the sun, it was somewhat contracted; innumerable reeds or marshy grass shot up above the surface, and the shallow bark canoe of the Indian was not unfrequently brought to a stop, unless it was taken along the main body of water. But at other periods of the year the size of the lake, (or marsh) was somewhat different; it was more navigable; and its area was also considerably enlarged. What was affected by the mill dam at Lindsay was the adding of depth to the waters of the lake, to the extent perhaps of three or four feet, and thereby submerging of those parts of the shoreline where it did not stand much above the waters. Thus much as to Lake Scugog up to the year 1830.
1831 BUILDING ROADS: Passing on to the following year, we have several interesting matters to notice. The Brock Road was then surveyed. And very wisely so. For if settlers on the western side of Whitby were to have connection with those on the western side of Brock, the formation of such a road was all but necessary. And besides, as already shown, two persons had come, into Reach whose settlements lay on the very line referred to, and it was reasonable to expect that other settlers would soon come near them. Though the road however was now marked out, it was not built until years afterwards, and the part of it which passes over the ridges was made at a still more recent date.
The next matter connected with the year was the formation of what was called the "Scotch Settlement". Messrs Donald and Peter Christie, and Messrs Archibald McDermid and Duncan McKercher arrived in Reach in the month of October, and settled down between Manchester and Utica. They came of course by way of Simcoe Street; and in saying that they came in wagons we wish to inform our readers that conveyances were not improving in the township.
Indeed there was more than one of the previous settler who had not got wagons instead of ox-carts. But in most other respects things were still unattractive enough. In summer as well as in winter conveyancing was chiefly done with sleighs. And though horses were not entirely unknown, their number as yet was exceedingly small.
In the month of December the same year a settlement opened up in the north, Solomon Orser who came from Kingston with two steers and a dog, and occupied twelve days with his journey, commenced operations on the place where he still lives, about four miles above Prince Albert, (Honey's Corners).
His earliest days were by no means enviable; we refer especially to his dangers from wild animals; with few visits from white men and equally few from straying Indians, he had often to listen to the cry of bears, and more often still to the howl of wolves, many of which beset him on both sides, but especially towards the extensive swamp on the west of him.
Never-the-less, he was first rate in the use of the gun, and he used it often with much execution. He was also expert in the art of fishing, and he had simple scope for that in the neighboring lake. Indeed so well did he fish and hunt for years that , with masquinonge and venison and other such supplies, his table was probably better provided than the tables of most of the other settlers.
Thus provided from some sources and imperilled from others, he was by and by privileged with new neighbors: and we mention them here, though they came in at successive periods, to inhabit the earlier settlements on the road northward. Eighteen months after Solomon Orser, his neighbor Mr. Mark became a settler. Next in order was Jeremish Orser, then James Moon, to the south of the Nonquon, next to Charles Black on the 14th concession, and lastly Thomas Shaw on the 11th with others at later dates.
And now having come thus far with our narrative we would make a few miscellaneous statements. The township having grown ten years old, had acquired a tolerable population according to the census, 134 souls; and by this time a considerable portion of land had been cleared, while several pieces of road had been formed, and a few wagons had appeared upon them.
Intellectual privileges had also been acquired, in the way of education, but a system of letter carrying, and in virtue of gospel preaching, first by the Baptists and next by the Wesleyan Methodists. Nevertheless there still existed many drawbacks. If the wild beasts were at all diminished, their thirst for blood was as strong as ever. Who can doubt it, when somewhere about this period no fewer than 22 sheep were found by Abner Hurd one morning killed by a pack of wolves, and this but a few rods from his present dwelling house.
It should be noted that groceries were still far off, there was no nearer store as yet than the one which stood on the Kingston road; it is not then to be wondered at that for coffee some of our settlers resorted to dandelion, or burnt bread, that for tea they drew upon the hemlock tree or sweet fern, and that as for sugar they depended wholly on the juice of maple.
Nor were some of our settlers materially benefited by the letter carrier; those to the west were several miles from his line of travel, and one of them has told us that on going down to the front post office he found a letter for him which had come out from the old country more than a year before.
It is scarcely necessary to add here that the price of grain was comparatively low, and that money was a very rare article. And yet along with these disadvantages, there were also various sources of enjoyment.
Nature was productive, both in respect of garden and field fruits: poultry and cattle also thrived well; houses and roads and such like matters were gradually improving; the cleared fields were rapidly multiplying; society too was always on the increase; and at almost all seasons there was ample room for healthy exertion. These and other corresponding causes, which cannot well be put on paper, abated the drawbacks connected with the bush, and made the settlers not a little happy.
1832 ROADS NORTH: The next was a very memorable year, though not in connection with this township. It was in 1832 that Canada was first assailed by Cholera, and assailed to a very fatal extent: for many hundreds died in consequence. But it does not appear to have visited Reach: at least we have no record of any case of it, fatal or otherwise. And neither do we know of any other matter which transpired in the township that year.
But in 1833 hopeful operations were effected in the northwest. In the month of August that year Robert Wells travelled up the Brock road, and settled on the rear of the 9th concession, having no neighbor to the north of him in the township, and his nearest neighbor to the south being three miles distant. In that quarter however there were signs of improvement: for not only was there a partial road formed as far as Mr. Wells place, but the road was occasionally passed over all the way into Brock.
And so at this time there was a partial road from Epsom to Uxbridge: we say partial, meaning of course that it was more than blased, that it was even more than a bridle road, that it was somewhat serviceable for ox-carts. It will thus be seen that means of intercourse were gradually multiplying, not only between settlers within the township, but between these settlers and others in neighboring townships.
And as might have been expected, new settlers were attracted into Reach. The following year, for example, Robert and Samuel Baird, and George Patterson commenced work on the front of the 14th, and a Mr. Adams on the rear of the 8th, not to mention various, other persons who became neighbors to these settlers in the years that followed.
1835 UTICA SETTLEMENT: In connection however with 1835 there were various other noticeable improvements. The embryo village of Utica was then formed, for it was in that year that the oldest house it ever had, was raised by Duncan McKercher, hence the name "McKercher's Corners."
And now also was laid the foundation of Port Perry. Like most other village foundations in Canada, it was of a very humble foundation: it was a small log house, and it stood in close proximity to the lake, about the place which is now occupied by the warehouse on the old wharf. There was also another school commenced; though now designated No. 6, it was the second that was formed in the township, the schoolhouse stood on the front of the 4th concession, and the first teacher was William Ashton.
Nor was this year closed before the township was visited by a Presbyterian Minister; we refer to the Rev. R. Thornton of Whitby. He had landed in the country two years before and now from his place on Kingston Road he travelled back into Reach, with a view to baptize a few children and to preach the gospel of eternal life. On this occasion he has travelled as far north as the Nonquon, and he was met by a large party of Indians, who were carrying a bark canoe between Lake Scugog and Lake Ontario. This was a somewhat rare thing for these latitudes, and if witnessed again at the present day, it would probably be noted as a marvel.
After the Indians moved to Mud Lake, the land which had been acquired for their benefit passed successively into other hands. From them it was purchased by Elias Williams, and afterwards by Peter Perry, Esq, of Whitby. Mr. Perry was not deficient in foresight; he looked on the land acquired by him as offering scope for profitable business.
1844 PERRY'S PLAN: Situated on the side of a large body of water, and not far off from the front townships, he viewed it as an excellent site for a village, where mills and stores might be erected, and to which might be easily conveyed the available lumber of the back country.
With these view he commenced operations in 1844; in that year he caused to be erected a dry-goods store, the store which is now kept by Mr. McMichael; it was kept originally by Chester Draper, who has now a place of business in Whitby.
And somewhere about the same time, the first wharf and warehouse were erected at Port Perry, together with a number of temporary houses which were used by Mr. Perry's workmen.
Shortly after the erections now mentioned, a thriving business in lumber was commenced by several parties. In additioin Mr. Perry, the principal parties were Messrs. Welch and Baldwin, Cook and Calvin. These men commenced and extensive business in the production of lumber and barrel staves.
Connected also with 1844 there were other notable movements. In place of the first purchaser of wheat, who now disappeared, George Currie arrived in Prince Albert. He was also the agent of John Warren; and as well as improving the store greatly, he gave an important impetus to the wheat business. Indeed it might almost be said to have commenced with him; and if other were afterward enlisted in it, such as John Laing & Joseph Bigelow, and Thomas Forman, yet still Thomas Courtice had the chief merit of showing that a large amount of business might be done and of stimulating all concerned to the use of our rising villages for that purpose.
The erection of another school-house, the seventh in order in the township was built on the front of the 2nd Conc. It was designated School Section No. 2 and it stands in close proximity to the present gravelled road.
We have spoken repeatedly of the gravelled road. All must allow that a good line of connection between Whitby and Reach was exceedingly desirable. This might be shown by various arguments we would simply refer to the advantages of Whitby harbour. - the claims of the villages immediately concerned, especially Whitby, Brooklin, Prince Albert and Port Perry, and the interest of the township lying behind.
If these are worthy of consideration, and were entitled to weight, the formation of the road now existing was all but unavoidable - and so the members of Government thought, as well as leading local parties.
1845 PLANK ROAD: In the year 1845 the Whitby to Port Perry road was constructed and opened to the public. It was originally a plank road the entire distance, and continued so until recently when the planks deteriorated to such an extent that a gravel road was laid down. The road was constructed with Government money, but was later bought by a private company who obtained it for little more than half the original cost.
While this movement was going on, new educational movements were also advancing. Three additional schoolhouses were no erected - one of them a little to the south of Mr. Orser's; another scarcely a mile to the north of Epsom, and another in the rear of the township, between the 13th and 14th concession. These schoolhouses were much needed and the mental supplies which they furnished to the young prepared them for the subsequent duties of life, beside yielding them immediate entertainment.
1846 IMPROVED ROADS: Of course the next year, 1846, evidence was afforded that the township was progressing quickly. The mail, instead of going weekly, as had been the case for the last six years, commenced on the first of April to be carried twice a week into and from Reach Township.
And now also, for the first time, a medical gentleman settled in Reach. We refer to Dr. Jonathan Foote, who had earlier lived on Kingston Rd., but now took up his residence in Prince Albert.
The arrival of a doctor was a great gain to the township, for although the area was generally healthy at this time, it had not been that way for a number of years. It was greatly liable to ague and lake fever, and everyone who knows of those evils knows that they usually huger long and cause great bodily weakness, if they are not the means of causing death. It was therefore advantageous in a high degree that a medial practicioner was now on the spot, such as Dr. Foote.
But leaving this matter we pass to matters of a very different kind.
To this point there has been little information regarding the settling of the centre of the township, and for the best of all reasons, because until this point, no settlers in it.
But now a change came. James Burnett, one of our late councillors, undismayed by the drawbacks of the bush, introduced himself to the front of the 10th concession, and there commenced farming operations. He was soon followed by other settlers.
Edward Asling, example whether then or the next year fixed himself on the rear of the 9th conc., and Mr. Smith who was the first settler on the rear of the 10th conc., and laid the foundation of Smithtown village, or as some oddly call it Gimlet town.
We have mentioned Mr. Asling and in connection with his name, that the first grist-mill in the township was raised by him,, if not in 1846 it was certainly in 1847; and the steam engine which he used in it was probably the earliest steam-engine which came into the township.
But speedily after the mentioned mill, there was also raised a new saw-mill; we refer to the original of William Sexton's mill at Scugog Village; it was raised by Samuel Hill, now in Whitby. It then employed only one saw, and yet it did considerable execution, and courted the employment of more like agencies for cutting the immense logs of these quarters, and thus increasing the growth of Port Perry.
1847 SAW MILLS: The very next year, 1847, another saw mill was started at the Port, by Danial Way and Thomas Paxton. We give it a place in our order of events, because this business has risen to high importance in the community.
The same year a school house was erected in that neighborhood; we refer to the original school-house at Borelia, no used by the Millerites as their place of worship; and the fact of such an erection then will indicated how the neighborhood was growing.
Indeed, not only was the Port (Scugog Village) pushing ahead, but Borelia was was coming into shape. The former, though only three years old, having a store and two saw-mills situated in a hopeful locality, drew to it rapidly a number of people; and as for the latter, being situated at the cutting of two important roads, it had even already been endowed with a number of dwelling-houses.
There were also a few settlers, a little to the west; so that altogether there was room for a new school-house more conveniently situated, and separate from the one at Prince Albert.
1848 MAIL STAGE: We come now to 1848, when various important changes were effected - all of them for the better and very decided evidence was given that the township was thriving much.
Useful as the Post Office had proved, it required the addition of the Mail Stage. Many there were who had no horses; and even of those who could boast of horses, there were not a few who, in travelling to or from the front, now and then were indisposed to use them.
Was it not exceedingly desirable then that such a persons as these should have regular means of travel on Simcoe St., while the mail was being conveyed as well?
The carrier of the mail saw this; and now that the road was materially improved, and wagons were gradually multiplying on it, he commenced his Mail-stage into Reach. The people on the road were gladdened by the sight of it, and the moment it arrived in Prince Albert, accompanied by the sound of the driver's horn, numbers burst forth into shouts of welcome.
Leaving Simcoe St., we pass on to Brock Road and notice what was affected there. Our readers will scarcely expect to be told that the first churches that were raised in Reach were raised on the line of the Brock Road, and yet they were. We refer to the Presbyterian Church and Primitive Methodist Church, the former on the 12th conc., and the latter on the front of the 11th conc.
We were quite aware of another place of worship which was raised four years before, namley the one which is used by the Baptists on the front of the 2nd conc. But as stated in a previous paragraph, that was originally intended for a school, and was to used for some time.
To all intents and purposes the two churches mentioned were the first that were built in Reach Township. And it is interesting to note, they were not raised in the neighbourhood of the earliest settlements, nor in places were villages were forming, but in extremely rural areas were people did not settle for more than 12 years after the front concessions were settled.
Crossing eastward on the 11th conc. until we come again to Simcoe St., we find there a small school house, which was also erected the same year. It is often called the Nonquon School, because of its nearness to the creek of that name. Another school house was also erected, the one which is situated near Cartwright, on the front of the 2nd conc.. So that up to this time there are 12 schools at work in the Township.
Before we leave 1848 we must note the population figures, for a census was taken that year. The number of people then residing in the township was 2,475. This was 1,541 more than in 1841, only seven years before.
This surely was a gratifying increase, an average increase of more than 200 every year.. It also gave unequivocal proof that the claims of Reach were telling on the public and it warranted the hope at some time that the township would flourish more and more.
In connection with 1848 there were three events of which deserve notice.
Up to that year the mail-carrier had travelled no farther than Prince Albert; but now he extended his labours to Colthart's Corners (Manilla). The road was far from being good, and of course he carried the mail on horseback..
Indeed so bad was the road about that time, that one of our settlers in Prince Albert was occupied the greater part of nine hours in travelling a distance of about the same number of miles.
The same year another church was erected in the township, namely, the Presbyterian Church in the neighbourhood of Utica. It was not completed for eight years afterward, but it was dedicated at that time, and regularly thereafter used.
Before the fall of that year another school-house was ready to provide educational service. It was erected in the region of which we have to this point said nothing - nearly due north of the village of Uxbridge and about sixteen miles distance from Prince Albert.
The distance to be sure, has been latterly shortened; across the extensive swamp in the north-west, an excellent bridge and an embankment were constructed two years ago; but until then, there was no possibility of reached the school-house, or the region in which it stands, without intruding on Uxbridge, or Brock townships
Notwithstanding the utility of Simcoe Street, a feeling had obtained for some time that a preferable road was not necessary.
The street was not only in bad condition, but both in the upper part of Whitby and in the front concessions of Reach it went over very hilly ground.
1849 RAPID GROWTH: Palpable proof was arising too that, as Oshawa had become an important place, and Port Perry was rapidly growing, extensive traffic was likely to ensue, not only between these two places but from Oshawa harbour up to the northern parts of Reach.
The anticipation new referred to rested on various grounds. The constant increase of agricultural produce; the accumulation of valuable sawn lumber; and the extent of wheat purchases that were being made in Prince Albert; all of them disposable for use in the front, and from the front to distant regions.
Influential parties saw this; a company was formed for the construction of a new road; and in 1850 the road which they caused to be made, sometimes called the Nonquon Road or the New Road, was thrown open to the use of the public.
We need not describe the course which it takes, unless we say generally that it leaves Simcoe St. a miles and a half north of Oshawa. Then for a short distance it pursues a north-easterly direction before turning due north untl it terminates at Port Perry. From there is a common road of two miles due north to Simcoe St.
We regret to add that in the neighourhood of the lake, the road is sadly disfigured by deep pitch-holes, which make it in the summer almost impassable. But during the sleighing season, it is easier for horse and better sheltered from the wind than Simcoe St. What it actually cost we cannot say, but we know that the estimated cost was £5,700.
While this road was reaching completion, an important building rising in the township. We refer to the Town Hall at Manchester. It's name is explanatory of the object of it; it was not designed to be used as a Court House, though courts are regularly held in it now; like all other buildings of the same kind, it was raised for the general business of the township, for holding meetings of the taxpayers, for conducting matters of election, for enabling the Council to deliberate and pass laws, etc.
And as to the place in which it was built we may say a few words in passing, especially as we have said nothing hitherto.
When the village of Manchester originated we can not absolutely assure ourselves, although we know that the oldest house remaining in it was built in 1846. It stands at the cutting of the gravel and concessions roads.
The next oldest house is that of Mr. A.W. Ewers; and the third oldest the one which is now occupied by James Truax; both of these buildings standing on the side of the gravelled road.
Of later years, the tavern was raised and occupied by Mr. H. Fitchett; and hence until the modern name was give it, the place was generally designated Fitchett's Corners."
But after the place acquired a bank; and gave decided indications in a village, it threw off its primitive name and claimed the imposing title of Manchester.
But we have other matters to record of this year and one of them merits particular mention.
1850 TORNADO STRIKES: On the afternoon of the forth of July, 1850 a storm assailed the township of Reach which was so dreadful and so rapid that describing it is near impossible.
The air of course was exceedingly warm and even in the forenoon, most people were beginning to image that something serious was brewing.
But after midday these prehensions were greatly increased, the sultry nature of the atmosphere and the ominous clouds in the north-west making it next to certain that a hurricane was hastening on.
At length the crises came; flashed of lighting and peals of thunder, succeeded as quickly by rain and tempest, all arrested the eye and the ear with a force and a wildness which cannot be imagined.
The scene was as terrible as a tropical tornado; every mind was agitated by it; every heart quailed before it. It did not continue long, scarcely as long as ten minutes; and it did not set on a large extent, little more that a quarter of a mile in breadth.
But in the line which it took, from north- west to south-west its effects sufficiently appalling, standing trees and lying logs, houses and mills and farm offices, cattle and flocks and human beings, all being forced to own it supremacy.
On the farm of John and Margaret Ianson, in the 10 conc., it wrought fearful mischief; there it overturned innumerable trees, and beside overthrowing the dwelling house, it killed the Ianson's son 12-year-old John, and sister-in-law Mrs. Hunter.
The the south side of Lake Scugog it was nearly as mischevious; a man by the name of McLeod was killed by it, and it greatly thinned the surrounding forest.
In other quarters it took up boys and men from the ground, whirled them like tops in the open air, and then at some rods distance set them down on the ground again.
Fortunately enough it scarcely touched Borelia or Prince Albert as it passed as it were between them; but it left traces of its fury in the neighbourhood. Abnur Hurd's sawmill yielded before it and so did a host of trees immediately adjoining the property.
And one of the most amusing things, close to Borelia on the side of the 6th conc. there stood a little cottage, with an open space between it and the ground. The owner of it was away and his wife, as the storm was approaching its worst, naturally enough betook herself to the house of a neighbour. She had scarcely reached the neighbours, when her own house was blown away and tumbled down on the other side of the public road.
We could tell of other effects of the storm, but enough has been said already to give and idea of its power; the like of it was never seen before, nor since, at least in this township. And we should add that although it was felt in other townships, as in Brock and Scott and Cartwright and Darlington, it appears to have reserved its worst for Reach.
Passing on to other matters, let us now say, that before this year had reached a close the last of the school-houses now standing was raised midway between Epsom and Uxbridge.
Our readers of course will infer from this, that the section lying in that quarter was later in being settled than most others; and probably so, although we have not certain information. The idea however, receives countenance from the character of the fields and the style of the dwelling-houses, the former of which are pretty stumpy, while the latter are generally small and unpretending. But the erection of the school-house was a great gain, and augered will for the future of the inhabitants.
Before we leave 1850 let us simply notice another matter. It was somewhere in the course of that year that the village of Borelia was so named; the name, was given by a stranger and given as a kind of compliment to the people, just as the phrase Aurora Borealis is used in reference to the Northern Lights . But whether that is the right explanation we do not know for sure. Indeed we are are somewhat skeptical about it.
Certain we are on the other hand, that the names of the rest of the villages in our township (several of which were given at this time) were taken from persons or places connected with terra firma, not from any celestial phenomenon. Leaving the matter of names, however, we proceed to something more substantial.
1851 IMPROVED MAIL: In the month of January 1851, mail delivery under went a new change. After having run for nearly five years, twice a week, it now commenced running three times a week.
This of course was a great gain; and there was ample reason for it. Not only had the population grown into thousands, but the Post Office in Prince Albert was as yet the only office in the township.
It was therefore judicious in a high degree - it was more, it was necessary - to increase the amount of mail service, that the many hundreds who depended on it might enjoy something like adequate opportunity of dispatching and receiving their several communications.
Little has been said to this point about sailing on Lake Scugog. Up to the year 1830 Lake Scugog had scarcely an existence; as already shown it was nothing more than an immense marsh, with a strong creek (augmented by others) flowing through it; and therefore except with an Indian bark canoe sailing was quite impossible.
In reference to the next twenty years, the case was otherwise; as the lake invited sailing craft, so sailing craft was frequently on it, sometimes in the shape of pleasure, sometimes in the shape of social transit, and sometimes in the shape of business.
But more particularly we ought to mention that, owing to the rapid growth of Lindsay and the rising character of Port Perry and Prince Albert, there was carried on between these places for a number of years, a regular system of goods and personal conveyance. The vessels to be sure were not large; they were merely scows, but still they served their purpose for the time, and opened the way for something better.
It was very easy to see however that scows must now be set aside. The country on all sides of the lake was filling with population, and therefore with business; north of the lake were other similar bodies of water, still more capable of navigation; and the Fenelon Falls worthy of a visit from the lovers of the romantic; and then between Lake Scugog and Lake Sturgeon was the populous town of Lindsay.
These and other considerations had brought on the conclusion that a small steamer must be put upon our lake. And now the well-known Woodman, built at the Port and fitted with an engine from the factory of Messrs Gartshore & Co., Dundas, was launched away on the peaceful waters. After being fully equipped for her mission, she set out on her tri-weekly trips, and received in so doing the applause of many on the shore.
Contemporaneous with this achievement, was the erection of another place of worship; namely the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Prince Albert. It had long been needed, for as may be inferred from our previous statements, the Wesleyan Methodists in this locality had for years before presented a considerable bulk, having had the benefit of preached from 1830.
And it scarcely required to be mentioned here that before they obtained a chapel for themselves, they met in the common school-house. This however was not to be adhered to. And both for their own sakes and for the sakes of others, it was well that they erected their place of worship and formally took possession of it.
Somewhere also about this time, an important Society was constructed again, which for several years had grown default. We refer to the Bible Society of Reach. Owing to a number of causes, the township Society had lost ground and ceased to exist. Now it was called into life again, with much larger numbers to give it support.
1852 MORE MILLS: A steam flouring and saw mill was built by John Cameron, of Toronto, and carried on for some years before it burned down. The mill stood were the railway station was located, which is now Palmer Park.
It was during this year the 'New Road' was built by the Oshawa Road and Harbor Company to compete with the plank road. The contract for building was taken by Patrick Terley. Two miles of the road running through Port Perry were sublet to William White, who built that much for $2 per rod. At this time you could hire men for 50¢ per day.
In 1852 post offices were established at Port Perry, Manchester and Epsom. Mr. Joseph Bigelow was the first postmaster at Port Perry.
1853 DAILY STAGE: In 1853 another daily stage line between Port Perry and Whitby was started by C.S. Jewell, the two lines connecting with the steamer Woodman, and both lines doing a large passenger business. So keen at one time was the competition between the stage lines, that passengers were carried between Port Perry and Whitby for 25 cents.
This year John Cameron, who represented the Port Perry Land Co., put up a fine big saw mill and grist mill along the lakefront. The grist mill was operated for a season or two by the Paxtons, and later by a man named Johnston. The mill was destroyed by fire in 1856.
As the town continued to grow, Stephen Doty built a new mill at the west end of the Scugog Bridge. It was run for some years, but was not very successful as the machinery was of a poor type. It was later bought by Joseph Bigelow who refitted it with machinery and made it a going concern. One piece of work done by this mill was to cut the lumber for the fence along the railway from Port Perry to Whitby. This mill was also laster destroyed by fire.
1854 NAVIGATION COMPANY: The Nonquon River Navigation Improvement Company was incorporated in June 1854 with plans to constructing a dam six feet high, above high water mark, across the Nonquon River or Creek, in the 13th concession of the Township of Reach, for the transmission of timber down the river. The company, although incorporated never did begin the project.
1855 CENTRE ROAD: Centre Road was surveyed in 1855 by John Shiers. It was a very difficult road to build as it passed through considerable swamp. The route was so bad that many declared that it would be impossible to build a road there and the Councils at first refused to make any grants for that purpose; but the settlers along the proposed route were not to be put off that way, and managed to drive a yoke of oxen over the track, thus proving the feasibility of the road.
Jacob and W.D. Bowerman started a woolen factory and planing mill along Water St., near the lake and operated it successfully for a while. It was later sold to Joseph Bigelow, who added the manufacture of flour barrel staves. When the property was expropriated for railway purposes the mill was torn down and removed to near the foundry of Madison Williams, on Perry St.
1856 SCUGOG BRIDGE: The next milestone in Port Perry's progress was the building of the Scugog Bridge by the County of Ontario in 1856, connecting Port Perry with Scugog Island. Previous to this a ferry had to be operated during the open season between Port Perry and the Island to transort people and supplies. Building the bridge was a big undertaking, due to a half-mile stretch of water from shore to shore. Officials felt building a permanent structure was considered too big an undertaking at that time so a compromise was made and a floating bridge was constructed by John Bowers. Afterwards the bridge was filled in, making a solid permanent roadway.
1857 FIRST NEWSPAPER: This was the year that first issue of the Ontario Observer was published with an apology from the publisher after being delayed two days due to the late arrival of material for the areas first newspaper. The paper finally came off the press on Dec. 12, 1857.
The village of Prince Albert had grown to a population of about 600 and a large commercial section situated around the corners of King and Simcoe St.
Talk about building a railway into the community became a hot topic, a meeting was held at the Town Hall in Manchester regarding the Port Whitby & Lake Huron Railway. During this meeting Prince Albert residents voting 340 in favor of the railway and 158 against.
1858 NEW ROAD PROPOSAL: In 1858 John Simpson of Bowmanville made a proposal for a road from Bowmanville to Caesarea, and to be continued with a bridge across to Scugog Island He further proposed the road be continued north through the centre of the Island where another bridge would be constructed across the north end of Lake Scugog to Port Hoover. He spent much time and money promoting his idea but it failed to gain much support and was eventually dropped.
In September, 1858, The North Ontario Agricultural Society held its first exhibition at Prince Albert.
In December, another railway meeting was held at Neil Sinclair's Hotel, Borelia, with one of the largest attendances ever. Abnur Hurd was elected chairman and R.H. Tomlinson, secretary. The proposed line would be laid down between the Manvers Station, through Prince Albert and Uxbridge to Marchell's Corner on the Northern Railroad.
1859 GRAIN CENTRE: By 1859 Prince Albert had become an extremely busy grain centre, with immense quantities of wheat being brought into the village processing by one a large number grain buyers operating in the commuity. buyers of wheat. It was at this time, 1859, that Prince Albert was heralded as the second largest grain handling centre in Canada!