Kincardine Township

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Image showing Bruce County Townships (1951)

“This township has a very considerable portion of rough land, broken by creeks that are very injurious, rendering agricultural pursuits difficult, many farms with scarcely a level field upon them. These remarks apply to that portion of the township south of the 6th concession. There is considerable light and sandy land in this township. Two strips cross from north to south and average from one and a half to two miles in width. There is also considerable light and stony land on the Lake Range. In buildings this township has not kept pace with adjoining municipalities, excepting the northern portion, which will compare very favorably with other parts of the county. The rate per acre for Kincardine township is $32.45. The rate per acre of village property in this township is about 34 cents”.

THE survey of Kincardine Township was not made, like that of most of the townships in the county, as a whole and at one time, but in three sections and in different years. As related in Chapter II., in 1847 Alex. Wilkinson, .P.L.S., surveyed the Lake Range lots, and in 1848-49 A. P. Brough, P.L.S., laid out the Durham Road and three concessions to the north and south of it. Then followed, in 1850, the survey of the remaining portion of the township, which included concessions four to twelve. This last survey was made, by J. W. Bridgland, P.L.S., under circumstances mentioned in Chapter V. The lands in Kincardine were among those set apart as school lands, the price of which at first was fixed by the Crown at 12s. 6d., but subsequently reduced to 10s. In Appendix H is given a copy of the advertisement offering the lands in the township for sale,2 which were among the first in the county offered for sale.


For the first ten years of its history Kincardine was the leading township in the county of Bruce. This was brought about by the comparative readiness of access thereto by water, giving it not only the earliest of the pioneer settlers, but also the largest number of them. That it was the senior township in the pioneer days is borne out by the corporate name by which the municipality of the county was then known, namely. “The United Townships of Kincardine and the remaining townships within the county of Bruce.” Leading, therefore, as Kincardine did, in settlement and also in municipal matters, the author has, in the writing of this History, been led to record, in Chapters III., IV. and V., relating to the history of the county at large, many early events especia1ly associated with Kincardine, and the reader of these pages of the township’s history is asked to recall what is written relating to it in the above-mentioned chapters; and as until January 1st, 1858, the village of Penetangore was unincorporated and formed part of the township of Kincardine, the history of the village at first was that of the township, so that the chapter following this, on the town of Kincardine, must also be consulted to obtain a complete historical narrative of the township.

The first settlers to enter the township, as well as the first in the county, were Allan Cameron and Wm. Withers, who in the spring of 1848 settled at the mouth of the Penetangore River, months before the town-plot of Kincardine was surveyed. During the following summer and fall, Donald, Alexander and John McCaskill, James and Alexander Munroe and some others settled on the Lake Range and on the North Line. At the same time the Durham Line received its first settlers in the persons of John C. Digman and Major William Daniel.

There was a steady inflow of settlers into Kincardine in 1849, who squatted on lands not yet offered for sale. Along the lake shore farm lots were taken up by George and Alex. Ross, George and Alex. Murray, James, Duncan, Robert and John Rowan, Malcolm, John and Murdoch McLeod and Archibald Sinclair. About this time also the “free grant” lots received many settlers -- so many, in fact, that only a few names can be here mentioned, such as George Ryckman, Samuel Taylor, William Fanning, Robert Stewart, John Sellery, William Millar, Robert Brown, Thomas Harris, John Hays, Nicol McIntyre, William (Dalhousie) Miller and W. L. Armstrong, all residing on the south side of the Durham Road. On the north side there was Jacob Latschaw, John Mosely, William G. Cuyler, John Hicks, William and Henry Daniel, Patrick and Daniel Kehoe, Frank Bone, Andrew Horne, Samuel McCloskey, Samuel Colwell and Samuel McLellan. The North and South Lines each similarly received a contingent of settlers, among them being Archibald Robinson, John McCullough, John Evans, Andrew Gardiner and Robt., Alex., Donald and Kenneth McKenzie, who settled on concession 2, North Durham Road (N.D.R.), and George and John Morrison, William Withers, S. Clements, Robert, George and Andrew Atcheson, S. Shelton, the Emmersons and Touchbournes who took up land on concession 2, South Durham Road (S.D.R.) As the township from concession 4 north was not surveyed until 1850, settlers did not penetrate into the centre of the township before that date. The first to do so is said to have been Harvey Wilson, who squatted on lot 17, concession 7. After the lands in Kincardine were offered for sale in 1851 its settlement was rapid. A large portion of the settlers who came in then were Highland Scotch, either by birth or descent.


Among the many fine types of settlers and citizens of this stock who helped in the making of Kincardine Township, the author would prominently place the Rev. William Fraser. Active in municipal matters, he was elected to fill the office of reeve on three occasions; he was also local superintendent, of public schools for the western district of the county for six years. His enterprising spirit led him to erect the first mills in the township outside of the village. Mr. Fraser’s influence and example was wholesome and tended to setting high the standard of citizenship. Mrs. John Reekie, of Margaret, Man., has supplied the author with some facts regarding the Rev. William Fraser, which he is pleased to insert here. They are as follows:

“In the summer of 1850 the Rev. W. Fraser, Baptist minister, resigned his charge at Breadalhane, Glengarry, being desirous of procuring land for his boys. With this end in view he traveled through a good part of the Western States, as well as sections of Canada, but finally located at Kincardine, as in his estimation it was the most promising of all places he had seen. He first settled on a farm adjoining the town, but afterwards moved, to what is now known as Lorne, where he built both a saw and a grist mill, the former in 1851 and the latter in 1854. ‘In those early days religious privileges were very few, so Mr. Fraser opened his own house for church service, preaching every Sunday two sermons, one in Gaelic and one in English; the service usually lasted three hours. These services were held first in his own home at Kincardine, afterwards at Mr. Rowan’s at Stoney Island, then at his own house at Lorne, at Mr. John Patterson’s near Tiverton, at the first school house at Tiverton, and finally in the church built in that village. Mr. Fraser walked five miles and a half to Tiverton every Sunday, preached three hours and then walked back again. This he did for years, all without fee or reward save the blessing of the Master, whose he was and whom he served. Mr. Fraser was for some time the only one nearer than Goderich that was authorized to perform the marriage ceremony.3 Sometimes he had to travel several miles on foot for this purpose, and considered himself amply recompensed when a couple of dollars were pressed into his hand by the happy, bridegroom. Good old man, he rests from his labors and has his reward. He sleeps in Tiverton cemetery with many of his flock about him. His chief monument is the congregation he was so instrumental in gathering together.”4


While referring to the Highland Scotch settlers, so numerous and influential in Kincardine, the memory of the author reverts back to a long list of prominent men who had the prefix “Mac” to their surname: McLeod, McDonald, McKenzie, McKay, McKinnon, McLean, McLennan and others, and he feels at a loss whom to particularize. There was Murdoch (Elder) McLennan and Donald his namesake on the same concession; J. P. McIntyre, for seven years reeve; Murdoch McLeod, also a reeve, and later township treasurer for years. There are the McDougald brothers on “the tenth” - Malcolm, Allan, John, Donald, Charles and Neil, sons of Donald McDougald. The McEwens on “the boundary,” who have sent several of their song into the ministry; and many others, as well as those mentioned who were not “Macs,” the Campbells, Mathesons, Frasers and Rowans, men who have done their part faithfully. Besides the Highland Scotch, the township had among its original settlers many fine men of Lowland Scotch, English, and North of Ireland origin. Of Lowland Scotch lineage there was William Millar, who gave his name to a post-office on the Durham Road, and who was reeve or deputy reeve of the township for over a dozen years; his namesake also at Bervie, the owner of one of the finest farms in the township; William and John Reekie, the founders of Armow, and Forbes Robertson. While as representative of those of English birth there might be mentioned William and George Daniel, William Withers, Samuel Avery and John Sellery, men who did yeoman service in the development of the township. It is in the vicinity of Bervie that we find the largest number of North of Ireland men, and the fine farms they hewed out of the bush speak volumes as to their worth as settlers.

Township of Kincardine pg 428 map.jpg


As in all backwoods settlements, the roads, so-called, in pioneer days followed a blaze made by an axe on the trees. Settlers landing at Kincardine and seeking to reach the Durham line left the town-plot by way of Russell Street. Major William Daniel relates the following recollections in regard to this entrance to the township:

“I remember when Frank Bone moved in; he had a sleigh-load of furniture, provisions, a stove, besides various boxes and bags. The blaze led down the hill past the English church. There were no roads or bridges; it was a case of climb mounds and slide down hollows. Mr. Bone found it so rough that he was afraid to drive his horses down the hill, so after unhitching them he let the sleigh go down alone. Before reaching the bottom it capsized and scattered the load broadcast.”

Of his own experience Major Daniel says:

“The first load I hauled in was by sleigh in winter time. I had to drive the horses through the rivers, as the ice was not strong enough to bear them. It was late in the day when we reached my shanty, and wet as the horses were I had to picket them to the trees all night without anything to eat.”

Of a slightly later date the Major says:

“At Lot 19 on the Durham Road there is a hill; at the foot of it the road was crossed by a small stream. The oxen, by constantly slipping down, had at this point cut the road into a slough that was about three feet deep and thirty feet in length. Coming down this hill ox-sleighs would shoot out of sight in the mud and water. Sometimes the drivers would be unfortunate enough to tumble into the mud, and on passing my place, some rods farther on, presented a sorry sight.”

The Durham Road

The promise of the Government to open up the Durham Road was carried out, as far as Kincardine was concerned, in the summer of 1851, George Jackson, the Crown land agent, reporting under date of July 12th of that year that the Durham line was opened, cleared and causewayed.5 The reader of today should not be carried away with the thought that the work reported as finished furnished easy access to the back country, or enabled travel to be made with comfort. Grading was not called for in the road contracts6 nor even were the larger stumps of trees removed, and the path twisted and turned about these stumps. The black mould of the woods, that formed the surface of the road, retained moisture and was readily transformed into mud.

There were no side ditches to drain off the water, so it remained until by the absorption of the soil and the evaporation caused by the heat of the sun the mud dried up, as it sometimes did, about the middle of the summer. The author has not the data giving the year of the opening of the “base line,” but is of the opinion that it was not opened until 1853-54, under the supervision of David Gibson Superintendent of Colonization Roads, as mentioned in Chapter V.

Lake Shore Road

The traffic to the north from Kincardine village was by the old lake shore road. This pursued a sinuous way along the beach as far as McCaskills Bay, where it mounted the high bank and continued north along it as far as Stoney Island, where it came down to the beach. After passing the few houses there it entered the small timber, through which, at a short distance from the lake, the roadway was cut, continuing therein until Inverhuron was reached, the only clearing passed being John McRae's, This was a pleasant road to travel over on a bright sunny summer day. The smell of the woods, the cool, fresh air of the lake, the dry, soft soil, made walking enjoyable, while the song of birds and the murmur of the waves lapping on the pebbly beach near-by combined to give one, during a walk along this part of the road, the consciousness that it was happiness to live and enjoy these charms of nature. The present Lake Shore Road, a continuation of the main street of the town of Kincardine, was opened about the year 1858 by consent of the owners of the various farms through which it is laid out. Prior to that, a foot-path along the fences existed, which was used by pedestrians. Some delay occurred in obtaining from all the proprietors a gift of the right-of-way, but, as far as the author recollects, no compensation was allowed to any of them for the land surrendered.

Municipal Life

The municipal life of each local municipality has received some notice in this History. To do the same in respect to Kincardine Township means that some of the facts given in Chapter IV, and elsewhere must be repeated, but to do Justice to the history of the township the narrative of its municipal life must be related, even if some repetitions occur. The occasion for such repetitions is the unique position Kincardine occupied as the mother municipality of the county as it was originally constituted. From it, by a process similar to that to be witnessed in an apiary, the several townships swarmed off from the parent hive to exist in future as separate municipalities, Kincardine, as the name of a municipality, dates back to January 1st, 1852. As stated elsewhere, the full title of the municipality was, “The United Townships of Kincardine and the Remaining Townships in the County of Bruce.” This union of eleven townships existed during 1852 and 1853.7. On January 1st, 1854, a general shake-up of the municipal units within the county took place; the townships of Bruce and Kinloss alone remaining united for municipal purposes with Kincardine. After the lapse of one year Kinloss retired from this union, while Bruce remained united to Kincardine until January 1st, 1856, since which date Kincardine has existed as a separate municipality. Nevertheless the township has lost in territory since then, through the incorporation of Kincardine village (January 1st, 1858), and of Tiverton village in 1879. In a footnote8 are to be found the names of the various reeves who presided over the Council Board from 1852 to 1906.

1 “Kincardine” is one of the titles of the Governor-General of Canada in office at the time the survey of the “Queen’s Bush” was made, viz., the Earl of Elgin and Kincardine. In the outline map of the proposed townships in the “Queen’s Bush” referred to in Chapter II. the name first written as that of this township was “Lambert,” while the name “Kincardine” appears on that now known as “Wallace,” in the county of Perth. These two names there show as being crossed out and the present names written in with lead-pencil.

2 The entries in the books of the Crown Land Department show that the first sale was made on August 19th, 1951, to Sam Splan, of lot 26, concession 3, S.D.R.

3 James Millar, who had charge of Mr. Sutton’s mill from 1854-‘56, says that one day a young man and woman came in with a small grist. Leaving it to be ground, they started afoot and walked the four miles of rough road to the Rev. Mr. Fraser’s, were married, came back for the grist, and then off to their shanty in the bush. A marked contrast to the extended honeymoon trips of the present day.

4 The Rev. Wm. Fraser ws a native of Invernesshire, where he was born in 1800. His death occurred August 30th, 1883.

5The cost of this work, extending a little over nine miles, was £215.

6 See a footnote in Chapter V. for requirements of contracts for opening up the Durham Road. The names of the contractors are to be found in a second footnote in the same chapter.

7 The names of the members of the Township Council and of its officers, amount of taxes levied, etc., are recorded in Chapter IV.

8 Names of the reeves of the township of Kincardine : William Rastall, 1852, '54, part of 1857; Rev. Wm, Fraser, 1853, part of 1858, part of 1859; Malcolm McPherson, 1855; David McKendrick, 1856, part of 1857; Archibald Leitch, part of 1858; Wm. Millar, part of 1859, 1860 to 1870; Thomas Blair, 1871, '72; John Corbett, 1873 to 1880, and 1886; M. McKinnon, 1881, '82; Wm, Reekie, 1883, '84, '85; Thomas Bradley, M.D., 1887, '89, '90, ‘91, '92; L.T. Bland, 1888, '93, ’94, ’95, '96; Leonard Shewfelt, 1897, '98; Robert Johnston, 1899, 1900; F. Colwell, 1901, '02, '03, '04; John Evans, 1905, '06.

Select Kincardine for details about the town.

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