The Klondike Hills

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We live at the north end of a rugged, mostly forested, hilly area, known locally as “The Klondike”. These hills were formed into a series of drumlins (A long narrow hill of glacial deposit, the tapered end of which points to the direction of glacial retreat that can be up to 100 to 5,000 meters long and up to 200 meters high.) and are part of the “Gibraltar Moraine (material left by the glaciers). The bedrock is Guelph Dolomite which is similar to limestone but harder and heaver, the hills contain gravel, stones and boulders, some of which were moved by the Glaciers from many miles away and are called “erratics”.

 

It is said that the Klondike was named for its rich diversity of wildlife whilst others say it was because of the rough terrain, certainly both assumptions have merit. The forested areas consisting of mainly Maple, Ash and Butternut contain a very varied selection of plant life including some relatively hard to find ferns and orchids and hundreds of  other woodland flowers. We regularly see Red Fox, Deer, Rabbit, Coon, Porcupine and Hairy, Downy, Red Headed, Red Bellied Woodpeckers and many more birds and animals. 

 

This part of Grey & Bruce Townships was given up by the Saugeen Indians to the Government of the day in 1836 who opened up to settlers in the early 1840s. At that time the entire area was dense bush or swamp and no roads or marked trails existed. The first formal survey was by Charles Rankin in 1837 who surveyed a road from Garafraxa Township to what is now Owen Sound. The final location of this road, which was brushed out in 1842 as the first settlers arrived in the area, was some 2 or 3 miles to the east of the original line. If one travels down the concessions just to the west of the present road one can see the probable reason for it being moved, even today the roads detour around lakes and swamps and cross many small creeks or rivers. In 1840/41  lots were surveyed either side of the road in what is now (in part) Sullivan Township, within the next few years the rest of the township to the west was surveyed and by the late 1800s most of the township was settled.

 

The Klondike was (and still is) far from ideal farming land and was therefore one of the last areas to be taken up. One of the conditions of getting a deed from the crown was to clear and put under crop a portion of the land, this was difficult on the heavily forested but level areas but must have been all but impossible on the stony, boulder strewn hills in the Klondike. In fact much of this area remains uncleared except for the removal of trees for lumber, much of which was used to supply local furniture factories in the early 1900s. Extensive stone windrows on our property reveal just how much clearing had to be done when first occupied, some boulders being quite large. The rocks reveal the variety of debris that the glaciers brought to the area and some of the dolomite ones have a number of small fossilized shellfish etc embedded in them.

 

Built into the side of a hill on the west side of this property is what is perhaps one of the reason for someone taking up this lot. Lime Kilns were usually built into a hill so that they could be loaded from the top with rocks and the resultant lime unloaded from the bottom. The lime that was used to make cement or mortar took several days to make, the kiln being loaded with logs and the stones being piled on top and the whole thing fired for 2 or 3 days, there was certainly no shortage of rocks in this area! The remains of this stone kiln reveal that is was 6’ or 7’ wide and about 15 to 20’ high. A stone foundation of a sizable barn near the bottom of the kiln was probably used to house the teams required to haul the 30 or so loads of stone required to fill it and to haul away the finished product. Not to far from the top of the kiln is the stone foundation and root cellar of what we presume to be a small house. That much of the stone work is still in place after more than 100 years (at least 50 of which standing in total neglect, as revealed by the trees growing within the structure) says much about the pioneers skill at stone masonry.

 

To the west of the old house remains are a number of old apple trees, an upper branch that recently broke off one of them was found to be over 100 years old by ring count. This then is the remains of an orchard planted by the early occupiers of this property, believed to be a family by the name of Bleich who seem to have settled this property in the 1870s. It is probable that the many lilac bushes that have in some cases grown into small trees were also planted in front of their home by the Bleich family in the late 1800s. There are also a number of scrub cherry trees that may have self seeded from older, now long gone trees. A very large pear tree may well be of the same vintage, this healthy tree that bears an abundance of fruit some years, is approximately 30’ across and about the same high.

 

Don Rawls  January 2005

 

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