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Township of Eldon,
Victoria County, Ontario Canada
The township of Eldon is named after John Scott,
first Earl of Eldon, who was lord high chancellor of England from
1801 to 1827. Eldon, though a consummate judge, was an unprincipled
politician, and a remorseless enemy of all reform. It should temper
Canadian bitterness' against the Family Compact to remember that in
England itself such a reactionary tyrant was virtual ruler for
fifteen years, during the Liverpool administration.
The township which bears his name is a rectangle about twelve miles
from north to south and nine from east to west. The superficial area
is a little less than one hundred square miles. The neighboring
townships are Mariposa on the south, Fenelon on the east, Carden on
the north, and Thorah, in Ontario County, on the west.
The soil in the south is excellent, approximating to that of
Mariposa. As one goes north, however, the soil becomes thinner and
lighter and the underlying limestone often crop out. An old
preglacial rock escarpment enters the township on Lot 7, Concession
XI, northeast of Hartley, and travels west, with many windings and
deviations, to leave it on Lot 11, Concession I, west of Argyle. The
northwest corner of Eldon is crossed by the Talbot River and its
extension, Cranberry Lake. Two tributaries are Butternut Creek, near
Bolsover, in the northwest, and Grass River in the northeast. A
concession east of Kirkfield,
Grass River expands into Mitchell's Lake, a small body of water
which owes much of its present size to the building of the Trent
Valley Canal through it. This latter work cuts across westward from
West Bay, Balsam Lake, in Bexley, to Mitchell's Lake; thence
northwest to descend to the Talbot River level north of Kirkfield by
a fifty foot hykdraulic lift lock, and thereafter twenty-one miles
southwest down the Talbot River valley, though not always in its old
bed, to Lake Simcoe. In addition to the streams already mentioned,
small creeks flow east and west from the center of the township into
Balsam Lake and Lake Simcoe respectively. The sources of nearly all
streams and rivers lie in wide tracts of swamp, which are a total
loss to agriculture.
There are eleven main concessions in Eldon. The concessions are
numbered from west to east and the lots from south to north.
Concessions IX and XI, for some unknown reason, are of only one-half
the usual width. The name "Palestine" is applied locally to the
northern two-thirds of Concessions VII to X, and this neighborhood
is further subdivided into "Upper" and "Lower" Palestine.
The old Indian trail by which aboriginal travelers had for centuries
crossed from Lake Simcoe to Balsam Lake lay in part across North
Eldon and was the main route for pioneers here and in Bexley. The
early settlers used an old punt to cross the Grass River where it
interrupted the portage trail on the 9th Concession. When the boat
was at one bank, travelers on the other side had to wait for some
one to come from the opposite direction and bring it across to them.
There is a tradition that one man waited in this way for two weeks.
The story is hard to credit, even though the locality is all beaver
meadow, without a single tree from which to make a raft.
In the early forties the government built a colonization road, still
known as the "Portage Road," along the line of the old trail. To the
north and south of this road, lots were laid out forty-four rods
wide and a mile and a quarter deep.
Eldon was surveyed by Henry Ewing in the years
1826-29. As in its sister townships, a dense primeval forest lay
everywhere. Hardwoods predominated in the south, but north of the
limestone escarpment white pine was supreme.
The first locations were made in 1827 by Ewing, the surveyor, Louis
Winter, whose father settled in Mariposa, two McFadyens, James
Cameron, and a Frenchman named Pascal Godefroy. Ewing took up a
block of land east from Ontario County along the Mariposa Eldon
boundary as far as the modern Grass Hill, at the end of the 6th
Concession. The village of Woodville lies partly within this same
tract, chiefly on Lot 1, Concession III, and. Lot 1, Concession II,
though much of it had spilt over on the Mariposa side of the
boundary. Some of the early settlements were made here, for Ewing
sold part of his land while he went ahead with the survey work for
two years more.
in 1828, a party of immigrants from Argyleshire, Scotland, arrived
in Toronto and were offered land at a dollar an acre by "Squire"
James Cameron, who had already secured grants in Eldon. They were
assured that they would find plenty of provisions at Beaverton, and
set out without supplies for that place by way of Yonge Street and
Lake Simcoe. Beaverton they found almost destitute of stores, .and
here they had to live for several days on maple sugar. Shelter was
equally lacking, and the women and children had to live in flimsy
tents, made of blankets, while the men, under the guidance of
Kenneth Campbell, went deeper into the forest to locate their lots
and build log shacks. In August, the families were transferred; to
"Big Peter" Cameron's settlement, where they found some small new
potatoes. Finally, in early autumn, flour and pork were brought in
from Newmarket at considerable expense, and the new settlers moved
in upon their respective holdings. The members of this contingent
were two families of McAlpines, the McIntyres, Campbells, and
McCorqudales, and one McFadyen, who had come from Mull by way of
At first they suffered great privations from the scarcity of food.
Their flour had to be carried on a man's back from Sunderland,
fifteen miles away, where a settler named McFadyen had a small mill.
Sometimes they poured lye on their corn and wheat to soften it and
take off the hard shell. Fathers and mothers would chew grain into a
pulp and then give it, like parent robins, to their children. John
McAlpine brought in the first cow during the winter, and others
followed next year. In the spring, leeks were gathered in the woods
and used in soup.
In 1829 a man named Calder put up a mill at Beaverton, which,
according to one early customer, "cracked corn and squeezed wheat."
There was no way of cleaning the wheat of the smut which grew thick
upon it on these new farms ,and the bread made was quite black,
though not unpalatable.
In 1829 and 1830 a few more settlers entered Eldon. These were the
Fergusons, Finns, McEacherns, Rosses, Smiths, and others. Then in
1831-33 a great many pensioners took up land in the township and
moved in. Amongst those in the south were the Ashmans, Bradys,
Birminghams, Driscolls, Dunns, Keefes, Lyons, Makins, Malones,
McCullas, McDonoughs, McGuires, McIntyres, Pettys, Rileys,
Thornburys, Thorntons and Uncles. Further north were the Campbells,
McKenzies, McCredies, McReas, Merrys, and Munros. Alexander Munro
was the first settler on the site of Kirkfield.
A little later, several families who had migrated from the island of
Islay, Scotland, to North Carolina, removed in a body to Canada and
settled in Thorah and Eldon. Among those locating in Eldon were the
McLaughlins and Angus Ray, who later became the first township
The early settlers, as we have seen, were
predominantly Scotch. Later immigrations of English and Irish have
tended to disrupt that homogeneity, yet the Scotch have still a
clear plurality over all others. The census of 1911 gave the
Their denominational groupings were as follows:
Presbyterians, 1629; Methodists, 645
Roman Catholics, 270