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Bruce County Genealogical Society

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Previously printed in the Bruce Bulletin, Volume 14, Issue 3, August 2003
From the Perth Courier, Friday, October 18, 1867


Paisley, 8th October, 1867.

The Counties of Bruce and Huron are well known to the rest of Canada in connection with the agitation heretofore kept up for an increased representation in Parliament, but otherwise not much is known about them throughout the country. The want of railroads and the difficulty of reaching water communication with the outside world, isolates these Counties, and especially Bruce, to a far greater extent than ought to be the case, considering their immense natural resources and the rapid advances being made by them in the march of progress. During a recent visit to Walkerton, the County Town of Bruce, I was much impressed with the apparent superiority of the soil of this part of the country in comparison with the older settlements of Central Canada, and the splendid facilities for the erection of mills and factories in many places to be seen on the numerous streams intersecting the County in several places. The Saugeen is the only river running through Walkerton, and one of the finest mill privileges possible to be imagined, is here secured by Mr. Saylor of Almonte, who is erecting a dam of heavy square timber across the main stream, and has placed a bulwark of stone entirely along the neck of an arm that formerly carried off a portion of the water. An immense raceway – broad and deep – is then dug out, and here Mr. Saylor purposes erecting mills enough to supply timber and flour to a territory equal in extent to half a score of German Kingdoms. This is truly enlightened policy of a good citizen – selfish if you like to call it so, since he makes a fortune by it – but it is a generous selfishness, that will develop the resources of the country and benefit others as well as himself. If Mr. Saylor choose to act the dog-in-the-manger with his property, or locked his money up in mortgaging the industry of his neighbors, as the enlightened (?) capitalists of Perth are in the habit of doing, he would be much more open to censure on this ground than he is at present. There is not a great deal of timber made in this part of the country, agriculture being its main staple of business, although of course a large quantity of boards is produced by the numerous mills erected on its streams. As I had occasion to remark in a previous letter, the soil of Bruce County is of a very superior quality, being generally a heavy clay, which is better adapted to the raising of grain than any other description of land. As a consequence, splendid crops of wheat constantly cheer the heart and encourage the industry of our farmers, even in seasons when scarcity prevails in other parts of the country. Fall wheat is raised in large quantities, many fields being already green with the budding promise of next year’s crop. The snow generally comes on here before the frost, and covers the ground to a considerable depth before the mud is hardened at the bottom, thereby protecting the growing grain from injury. It is quite surprising to a person from the lower part of the county to learn that the rivers are never frozen, and that it is as easy to dig the land in winter as summer. A gentleman in Walkertown told me that, last year he bought a town lot from a person who had it planted with potatoes but never took them out, and that when he went to build there this spring he got four or five bushels of good potatoes which had never been touched by the frost, although remaining in the ground all winter. This remarkable circumstance easily enough accounts for the surprising yield of fall wheat. Although lacking in railroads, Bruce is well supplied with excellent gravel roads, which are about as good a substitute for the pathway of the iron horse as could be adopted. One of these roads runs from Paisley to Guelph – eighty miles in a direct line, and no less than eight large villages and the town of Elora flourish between the two places. About fourteen miles from Paisley, the Durham gravel road strikes the Elora and Guelph road at right angles, and about two miles down this road lies the village of Walkertown, nestling in the valley of the Saugeen between a succession of picturesque hills. The scenery in the immediate vicinity of the village is of a highly interesting character – bold hills of an almost mountainous nature being alternated with valleys of surprising fertility and gentle beauty. At one side of the river on which the village rests, the bank rises suddenly to a great height, whilst on the other, a beautiful piece of table land interspersed with shade trees, spread out to the foot of another hill, affording a romantic retreat for pic-nics and other parties desirous of enjoying the beauties of nature in a social way. The high bank of the river mentioned, is called “clay banks,” and from its summit a fine view of the village and surrounding country is presented. A little farther up the river, another bold hill rises suddenly from the water’s edge and adds an equally interesting feature to the scenery of the locality. Deep in the bowels of the earth, at the foot of this hill, splendid stone quarries afford the Walkertonians an abundance of building material. A good quality of lithograph stone is also found in the vicinity, and exported to Toronto, Montreal and other centres of trade in the new Dominion. On the Durham road leading into the Village, the appearance of the country would delight an agriculturalist. Smooth level fields, devoid of stumps, and well fenced, on every hand give evidence of prosperity and good cultivation, whilst the substantial farm houses by which they are graced, generally surrounded as they are by orchards and extensive out-buildings, denote a degree of comfort far in advance of the age of the settlement. Down from the Village, and running towards Paisley, the Saugeen flows gracefully, frequently breaking into rapids that would drive any quantity of machinery. If people who have money to spare would but come here and invest it in mills and factories on these streams, they would confer far more benefit on the country and realize larger profits for themselves, than by putting it into ten per cent mortgages. There is much more enterprise among the people here than in the older parts of Canada, but capital is needed to develop the natural resources of the country. The country is settled principally by young men who emigrated from other parts of Canada and come here to push their fortune as best they might. Of course they possessed many advantages over European emigrants, in having a better knowledge of the country and a more practiced and intelligent education, and accordingly have impressed their settlements with a superior mark of progress and development. The great lack among them is accumulation of capital sufficient to employ and turn to profitable account the abundance of resources at their command, the consequence of which is, that this County is still far behind the standard of its capabilities. There are especially great facilities for the erection of cloth factories, foundries and machine shops, water power in abundance being every place running to waste, and wool, for instance, being abundant and cheap. At present I hear that it is but twenty cents a pound. If some of those who are anxious to get possession of the water privilege at Perth would but come here, they can have water in abundance, and in a country too as much superior to Perth as Perth is superior to a bog hole in Connaught.

The Village of Walkerton proper contains about seven hundred inhabitants, and a sufficient number of houses, hotels, stores, churches and the inevitable blacksmith shops, to afford them shelter and supply their material and spiritual wants. An agency of the Commercial Bank has been recently established in the place, under the management of Mr. Donald Fraser, son of William Fraser, Esq., Treasurer of Lanark, which is likely to do a good business, as the need of such an institution was much felt in the County; and under Mr. Fraser’s management it can scarcely fail to be as convenient to the public as profitable to the managers. A local “institution” of great prominence is the “Waterson House,” which is one of the finest hotels possible to be found in any town in Canada. It is an immense three storey stone building, with a cupola on the top and a verandah supported by pillars running along the front. It is heated throughout with hot air, and is furnished and maintained in a style that would do infinite credit to some of the first-class houses that flourish in far more pretentious places. Four other hotels assist in supplying the spiritual wants of the Village. The County buildings of course add much to the appearance of Walkerton, and there are also some excellent private residences, stores, churches, and a fine school house in the place. It boasts of no less than ten general stores, including the inevitable “Glasgow House,” which seems to be an open sesame to commercial prosperity wherever “the sons of the Gael” do congregate. The Walkerton “Glasgow House” appears to be no exception to the rule so well established by its namesake in Perth. Two drug stores and three medical men supply “pills and potions, drugs and lotions” to the ills and ailments of afflicted humanity in the village and neighborhood. Six lawyers, including Mr. Alex. Shaw, a brother of the Local Member for South Lanark, rescue the property of the people from their enemies and keep it themselves, together with doing sundry other things in the line of justice and law. There is an Episcopal Church in the place, a Free Church, a Wesleyan Methodist and a New Connexion Methodist, together with occasional service in the school house by Father Kelly of Riversdale, a Priest who is deservedly popular with all classes in the community. The usual number of tradesmen, carpenters, blacksmiths, cabinet-makers, tailors, tinsmiths, harness makers, &c., find abundant and profitable employment in the Village and add their share to its material prosperity. A flourishing newspaper, called the Bruce Herald, spreads the news of the day among the people, and lets the outside world know what is doing in the County of Bruce and vicinity. As every place of note has its “oldest inhabitant” and “prominent citizens,” even to the “City of Eden,” immortalized by the genius of Dickens, so the Walkertonians are proud to point to Father Walker, or “Old Joe,” as some of the young scamps of the rising generation irreverently style the venerable old gentleman, as the pioneer and godfather of their place of residence. Mr. Walker, like every veteran who has served his country faithfully and well, is naturally proud of his achievements in cutting his way through a primeval forest to the comforts and prosperity of a well-settled community, and well he may, for the feat of which he boasts is more honorable to his name than the laurels that deck the brow of the successful soldier.


Bruce County's Townships (before  1998 amalgamations)

Albemarle Township
Colpoy's Bay United Church, Colpoy's Bay, Albemarle Township, Bruce County

Amabel Township
Wiarton, Amabel Township, Bruce County

Arran Township
Christ Church Anglican Cemetery Record, Tara, Arran Township, Bruce County

Brant Township
Walkerton town clock, Walkerton, Brant Township, Bruce County

Bruce Township
Underwood United Church, Underwood, Bruce Township, Bruce County

Carrick Township
Mildmay church, Mildmay, Carrick Township, Bruce County

Culross Township
Salem United Church, Culross Township, Bruce County

Eastnor Township
Barrow Bay, Eastnor Township, Bruce County

Elderslie Township
Memorial plaque, hamlet of Williscroft, Elderslie Township, Bruce County

Greenock Township
Plaque, village of Pinkerton, Greenock Township, Bruce County

Huron Township
Huron Township Hall, Ripley, Huron Township, Bruce County

Kincardine Township
Mural, village of Tiverton, Kincardine Township, Bruce County

Kinloss Township

Lindsay Township
War Memorial, Lindsay Township, Bruce County

Saugeen Township
Dunblane Presbyterian Church, Saugeen Township, Bruce County

St. Edmunds Township

Lighthouse, Tobermory, St. Edmunds Township, Bruce County
Bruce County Genealogical Society
PO Box 1083, Port Elgin, Ontario, Canada N0H 2C0
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