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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.

Survey and Settlement

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 Glengarry.

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 clerk.

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 following figures:
Scotch, 1360
English, 613
Irish, 517

Their denominational groupings were as follows:
Presbyterians, 1629; Methodists, 645
Roman Catholics, 270
Anglicans, 108

Southern Townships

Victoria County

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