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Roads and Railroads, Victoria County, Ontario Canada

The earliest roads were blazed trails and wagon tracks that wriggled towards their destination along the higher ground. It took a whole day to drive with an ox-cart from Lorneville to Beaverton, where today a railway train covers the intervening eight miles in a few minutes. At first supplies were secured from Cameron's store in Beaverton, but preferences soon turned to Purdy's Mills, now Lindsay, which began to develop about 1830. The main route lay east to Cambray and then south to the old Fenelon Road. The village of Cambray sprang into existence chiefly through its being an eligible, though diminutive, millsite on the main highway from Eldon to Lindsay.

The first railway in Eldon came in 1871, when the line from Port Hope, already completed to Lindsay in 1857, was carried through to Beaverton. This road cut across the southwest corner of Eldon, passing about two miles north of Woodville. In the following year another line, the Toronto and Nipissing, running from Toronto to Coboconk, in Bexley, passed through Eldon, entering just west of Woodville, passing north through the limestone escarpment by way of an old river valley opening at Argyle, and leaving the township at the northeast corner. Eldon gave this latter railway a bonus of $44,000. The gift was beyond municipal means, yet the development brought about by the new facilities for transportation ultimately justified the gratuity .A third railway, the Canadian Pacific grain line from Port McNicholl, on Georgian Bay, to Bethany Junction, in Durham County, was built through Eldon in 1912. Entering from the west on Lot 17, Concession I, it parallels the great escarpment as far east as Balsam Lake Station, then slips south through another valley gap in the cliff, and passes out into Mariposa southwest of Hartley.
Record of Municipal Institutions.

In the early days Mariposa and Eldon were linked together as a single magisterial and militia division, but each held separate township meetings. In Eldon, these meetings were called once a year by Henry Ewing, who had been made a magistrate. The first taxes were collected by John McAlpine, and amounted to thirty dollars. The first assessors were Colin Campbell and Donald Gunn. Alexander Campbell represented Eldon on the first council of the Colborne District, which gathered in Peterboro in 1842.

Municipal institutions as we now know them were set up in 1850. The first township council included the following:
Reeve, Israel Ferguson
Councillors, Archibald McFadyen, James McPherson, William McCredie, and Neil Smith.

The officials appointed were as follows:
Clerk, Angus Ray
Treasurer, Donald Smith
Assessor, Duncan McEachern
Collector, John McLaughlin
Superintendent of Schools, Rev. John McMurchy
Auditors, F. W. Stevenson and James McLaughlin

It is said that in signing his declaration every pathmaster, fence viewer and pound keeper down to the humblest subscribed his own signature in full, an uncommon record in these pioneer times.

At first the council meetings were itinerant. For several years the home of James McPherson was a favorite rendezvous. In 1854 business was transacted in the schoolhouse of Section Number One; and in the following year a room was rented for One Pound at the home of Archibald Currie, Lot 5, Concession II. In 1856 the earlier nomadic system was resumed. After 1858, Woodville became the council's regular headquarters.

The population was 641 in 1838 and 951 in 1842. By 1886 the township, including Woodville, totalled 3482, and by 1920 had decreased to 2485, a shrinkage similar to that in the sister townships In 1880, the assessment was $22,943.60 and the taxes, for all purposes, $2633.16. The assessment of Eldon .and Woodville was $1,096,667 in 1886 and $2,063,607 in 1920.

The Early Kirk in Eldon

Long before any churches were built, the early settlers held religious meetings in their houses. The first to organize these conventicles was Archibald Sinclair. A man named Gunn, who came from Thorah, also took an active part in these early meetings.

After a few years independent missionaries began to come in. One of these was a Rev. Mr. McPhail, of Sunderland. The first regular minister was the Rev. John McMurchy of the Established Church of Scotland. For some time he had to preach in houses and barns, until a church was built on a lot of two hundred acres near Lorneville, which was donated by Squire Cameron. McMurchy soon married and his parishioners then built a manse. He died twenty years later. By the eighties, his old church stood empty, a bone of bitter contention between the Established Church and the Canada Presbyterian Church.
Village Centers of the Township.

Eldon has a number of small villages, but here as in Mariposa the elements of growth 'have been lacking. Woodville, Lorneville, Argyle, and Kirkfield are all on the railroad but all are entirely without water power, or even sufficient water for ordinary urban needs Bolsover, which once secured limited waterk power from the Talbot River, is four miles from the nearest railway station. Glenarm and Bartley have neither rivers nor contiguous railways. It is through no accident that the village crop has been meager.

Woodville, on the Mariposa boundary and partially within that township, is an incorporated village with a population of 400 in 1920, according to the assessment rolls. In early days the locality was known as Irish's Corners. The first store here was kept by John Campbell, who was known, from his religious persuasion, as "John the Baptist." The first blacksmith was Alexander Stewart, who lived on the Mariposa side of the boundary. Campbell's store was later rented by two Morrison brothers, who added the manufacture of potash to their activities. Artisans, other stores, and the inevitable tavern grew up around the "Corners." At first the nearest Post Office, known as Eldon," was located a mile to the east, but in the fifties it was moved west to Irish's Corners. The name of the latter hamlet was now changed to "Woodville." John Morrison became the first postmaster in the village proper, and retained the office until his election in. 1867 to the first Dominion parliament as Liberal member for North Victoria.
in 1878 Woodville was made a police village, administered by elective commissioners. The commissioners in 1881 were Peter McSweyn, William White, and Roderick Campbell. Its chief industries at this time were a grist mill, two foundries, a cheese factory, a planing mill, and a sash and door factory. Steam was the sole motive power. The village had also a Town Hail, a lockup, three hotels, and a number of stores and mechanics shops. A weekly paper, the Woodville "Advocate," which is now defunct,' was established in August úS77 by Messrs. Henderson and Cave. There were also two churches, a .,frame Methodist church, accommodating 250, and a brick Presbyterian church, built for $12,000 in 1877, with a seating capacity of one thousand. Woodville reached its peak of population at 556 in 1886, and has since declined. Great excitement prevailed in 1877, when it was proposed to change the village's name to "Otago." A Plebiscite gave a majority of one vote for the new title, but no further action was taken.

Lorneville is a village of 100 persons at the junction of the old Midland and Toronto and Nipissing railways, two miles north of t Woodville. It owes its existence to the railroad and some of its population consists of railway men and their families. As there have been no other stimuli to growth, the village has remained static for half a century. A recent directory lists a general store, an hotel, two masons, and a buttermaker. The name is doubtless a compliment to the Marquis of Lorne, son of the 8th duke of Argyll, who was governor-general of Canada from 1878 to 1883.

Argyle is on the Grand Trunk railway about two miles north of Lorneville. Its name commemorates the Scottish shire from which, more than from any other, the pioneers of Eldon came. An earlier apellation was "Scotsville." The present population is somewhat less than fifty. The business roster comprises a general store, a blacksmith and two carpenters.

Bolsover is a hamlet of about one hundred inhabitants situated on the Talbot River some four miles west of the railway. The village was founded by D. McRae, M. P., who built mills here in the fifties. In 1881, it had a grist mill, a sawmill, a carding mill and a shingle mill, as well as several taverns, (including the famous hostel of "Biddy Young"), stores, and a Presbyterian church. The decline of lumbering and the aloofness of the railway have, however, brought about its speedy decline, and its former industries have passed into oblivion.

Kirkfield has a population of about three hundred. It lies in a valley, at the intersection of the Portage Road with the main road from Palestine to Carden. A station on the Coboconk division of the G.T.R. is situated a little further to the north. Alexander Munro was the first settler on the village site but it is to John McKenzie and his sons, William, Alexander, Ewen, Duncan and John, that chief credit for material progress is due. A generation ago the McKenzies operated flour mills, woollen mills, and a sash, door, and planing mill. All these plants were dependent on steam power. The McKenzie brothers were also large grain buyers and dealers in telegraph poles, posts, and railroad ties. William McKenzie, later Sir William of Canadian Northern fame, was one of these brothers, and served his apprenticeship in railroad contracting on the local construction work on the Toronto and Nipissing Railway.

Other businesses in the eighties were the general stores of A. C. Mackenzie, M. Perry, J. W. Shields, and M. O'Neill, the waggon shops of Alex. Munro and Wm. King, the tinshop of N. Emsuier and W. A. McCrae, the harness shop of Albert Hadfield and R. G. Wright, the butcher shop of Robert Boynton, the smithy of Alexander Fraser and the hotels of A. Gusty and Hector Campbell.

The disappearance of the northern forests and the consequent lack of cheap fuel made steam power mills impracticable and these industries in Kirkfield faded away. A business directory of recent date gives the following analysis of the village as it now remains: Two stone crushers, five carpenters, three merchants, two butchers, two bankers, one tailor, one harnessmaker, one blacksmith, one painter, one barber, one grain buyer, one veterinary surgeon, one doctor, and one druggist.

Hartley is an Irish Methodist hamlet in the southeast corner of Eldon, and Glenarm, or "Hardscrabble," a Scotch Presbyterian village half way up the Fenelon boundary. Neither has ever exceeded fifty in population.

Eldon township has thus no fewer than seven villages, but in every case factors necessary for expansion have been lacking. The advent of Hydro-Electric power to centres like Woodville will doubtless suggest possibilities, but the cost of power transmission, the freightage to markets beyond a limited neighborhood, the competition of immense urban corporations, and our unfavorable banking system, will all render problematical any great industrial development. Whether such growth is always desirable, is a matter for debate. It is sufficient here to note that the development of human communities depends far less on chance or local enthusiasm, than on definite scientific laws.

Southern Townships

Victoria County


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