J. Smyth Carter.

The story of Dundas, being a history of the County of Dundas from 1784 to 1904 online

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our system of statute labor remains unchanged. In the interests of uniform,
systematic, permanent road-making, it is questionable if our municipal coun-
cils are not making a mistake by continuing the present more or less tempor-
ary, wasteful and unsatisfactory system, dominated to a considerable extent
by incompetent and self interested pathmasters. Proper drainage, uniform-
ity and permanence should be aimed at, and this can best be accomplished by
contract labor, constructed under duly qualified county inspectors, and paid
for out of the general funds.

In many places the supply of gravel is limited, and hence broken stone is
used instead. In Matilda a road grader is used which puts the road in con-
dition to receive a covering of harder material. The use of a stone crusher
in Williatnsburg has effected considerable change and the township takes
pride in adapting means to ends. With both a grader and crusher and a fair
supply of good gravel the prosperous township of Winchester is also forging
ahead. An excellent gravel pit is located at Maple Ridge on the farm of
Isaac Fulton. In concession three, Mountain, along the road between South
Mountain and the station to the north, a gravel pit is found. A road grader
and stone crusher are also owned by Mountain township.

Two railways intersect Dundas. The Grand Trunk Railway, the construc-
tion of which began in 1854, passes through the front of the townships of
Williamsburg and Matilda, with stations at Morrisburg and Iroquois, re-
spectively. Through the townships of Winchester and Mountain a branch of
the Canadian Pacific Railway was constructed in 1884. The Dundas stations
along the line are Chesterville, Winchester, Suffets and Mountain. The open-
ing of this road has done much for the industrial development of the northern
townships and villages.

Leaving the various roads, we now come to river navigation, with which
Dundas county is also favored. The grand old St. Lawrence river marks the
southern boundary of Dundas county; a truly magnificent sheet of fresh
water, 700 miles long, and from one to two miles in width, and navigable for
vessels of fourteen feet draught its entire length. Rafting was an early
means of navigation employed by the early settlers to convey their produce,
principally grain and potash, to Montreal. Batteau and Durham boats were
crafts of a later period. A batteau was a flat-bottomed boat about thirty
feet long, with a sail and movable mast. It was propelled by means of iron-
shod poles used by the members of the crew. It was customary for several
batteaux to go in company and if a very strong current was met with a num-
ber of the men would go ashore and by means of ropes would assist in pulling
the boats along, while the captain of each remained in the stern and by means
of a large paddle piloted the craft. A Durham boat, with rounded bow and
square stern, was larger than a batteau and was steered by a rudder. On each


side of the boat was a gangway from which the men directed operations, as in
the case of the batteau. With one end of a stout pole under his arm and the
other on the river bed, the boatmen walked from stem to stern pushing the
craft along in this laborious fashion. An extensive carrying trade was done
by means of batteaux and Durham boats, as steamboats, railroads and even
good wagon roads did not then exist. A trip up the river from Montreal to
Kingston required several days, and Mr. Pringle, referring to the voyage,
says : "Each night the boat's crew bivouacked on the bank of the river,
cooked and ate their peaauup and pork, and slept in the open air." The run
down the St. Lawrence was both speedy and pleasant, and the happy crews,
chiefly French-Canadian, enlivened the journey with song. A good cargo
was generally aboard, principally of grain and potash. Keen vigilance was
required and some skill in running the rapids, but the river men had become
so schooled in this work that few accidents occurred.

While the transportation of goods was attended with some success, it was
the traveller who suffered most during the river voyage. A trip on a batteau
was not without its dangers, which is borne out by the testimony of travel-
lers. A voyager writing from abroad, after noting the beauty and grandeur
of the great river, remarked : " Tis a sad waste of life to ascend the St. Law-
rence on a batteau." In order to get on board a small boat was run out to
meet the batteau, which received the voyager with his food and blankets, as
none of these conveniences were provided, but otherwise everything possible
was done by the crew to promote the traveller's comfort.

The appearance of steamboats on the St. Lawrence was gladly hailed, as
it ensured quicker travel, safety, and more comfort. The "Accommodation,'
a small craft built by Hon. George Molson, of Montreal, was possibly the first
steamboat to ply Canadian waters. She plied between Montreal and Quebec.
On the upper St. Lawrence the "Ontario" was among the first ; but as early as
1820 the "Dalhousie" was running between Prescott and Kingston. About
1828 the "Neptune" ran between Cornwall and Coteau, and later the "High-
lander" covered the trip. The first steamer, we understand, doing service
along our local frontier was the "Iroquois," which appealed about 1830. This
boat was strongly built, but was unable to stem the strong currents. At
Rapid du Plat and other points posts were sunken on the bank and as the
"Iroquois" proceeded she was from time to time made fast xmtil enough steam
could be raised to enable her to reach the next post. After a couple of sea-
sons she was replaced by the "Dolphin," a larger boat, constructed by the
Americans, and by them called the "Black Hawk." Speaking of the "Dolphin"
Mr. Croil tells us of her descending the St. Lawrence during the fall of '38,
having OQ board a number of rebel prisoners. Ascending the river the follow-
ing spring she encountered great difficulty in passing the Long Sault, and it


was only after much labor and with the aid of twenty yoke of oxen that the
task was accomplished. The "Jack Downing," with headquarters at Wad-
dington, was another steamer of those days ; but perhaps the most peculiar
craft of all was the "Rapid," constructed about 1835 through the enterprise of
some of the front farmers. The hull of this boat consisted of two hollow
cigar-shaped cylinders, between which a large wheel operated. She was
fitted up with the engines of the "Jack Downing," but she proved a failure,
her first trip down the river being her last. The "Gildersleeve," the "King-
ston" and the * Brock ville," were other early boats which figured prominently.
About the year 1866-7 a boat, named the "Experiment," was constructed at
Weaver's Point by Dr. Casselinan without the aid of a ship carpenter. While
lying at the Point it attracted considerable attention.

Before the construction of the St. Lawrence canals boats had to be towed at
certain points by horses and oxen . At Rapid du Plaufc, Pine Tree Point and
at Point Iroquois the current is particularly strong. Many of the farmers
often earned four dollars or more per day when thus employed. Considerable
rivalry existed in this work, and great haste was often made from the harvest
fields when the boats were observed ascending the river. Favor with the
captain was a condition eagerly courted by those seeking employment.

The present system of St. Lawrence navigation is superb. Beautiful steam-
ers grace our river, possessed of every convenience and comfort, making
travel a luxury. The Richelieu & Ontario Navigation Company's palace
steamers run tri-weekJy between Montreal and Hamilton, from May till Nov-
ember, nailing at intervening ports, including Morrisburg and Iroquois. Other
lines of boats also make regular trips and calls during the season. Some idea
of the gross tonnage and popularity of the St. Lawrence route may be had
from the fact that 1,700 vessels passed through the Long Lock at Iroquois
during the season of 1903, exclusive of many vessels which passed up the river
outside. Millions of dollars have been expended by the Dominion Govern-
ment in canal and other improvements of the St. Lawrence river route, and
millions more could be profitably expended in further dredging, deepening
and widening the canals so that ocean going vessels might load at Port Arthur
and unload at Liverpool without breaking cargo. Until this has been ac-
complished the great problem of Gaadian transportation can never be
properly solved.



A LARGE part of the surface of the county of Dundas is slightly rolling or
undulating. That is it consists of a succession of low hills or ridges with in-
tervening hollows or flats. The general trend of these ridges is from north-
east to southwest, and they are composed of glacial clay boulders, gravel and
sand. The hollows are not so uniform in character, and except in the extreme
western part of the county the clays predominate.

The ridges were the home of the hardwoods, maple, beech and birch, while
basswood, elm, ash, soft maple, cedar and tamarac flourished in the lower
lands ; and hemlock and spruce on the drier sandy soils. Pine and oak were
more catholic in their taste and were to be found on the heavy clay ridges
near the St. Lawrence as well as on the flatter lands in the interior. Oak is
found in greatest perfection on the alluvial deposits near the Nation river.

The first settlers located on these ridges. They were most easily cleared
and fittest for cropping. They made the best building sites and required lit-
tle drainage. Nearly every farm touched low land, swamp or swale at some
point or points and to these the surface water was conveyed. It was not un-
til near the middle of the 19th century when the country had been settled
about fifty years that co-operative draining was found necessary.

In a country divided up, as this was, in farms from three quarters to a mile
and a quarter long, and from forty to sixty rods wide, it is obvious that no
considerable drainage could be effected without co-operation in some form.
To provide for this there was embodied in our municipal institutions, which
took their present form in 1850, two statutes which with slight modifications
and extensions are still operative. These were "The Ditches and Water-
courses' Act," and "The Municipal Drainage Act." By the first it was enacted
that when a drain affected more than one farm each owner was to do a part
in proportion to the benefit received, and if the adjoining or adjacent pro-


prietors interested in the drain could not agree among themselves the dispute
was to be settled by three fence-viewers of the municipality. Since 1883 an
officer, called Township Engineer, not necessarily a professional, has taken the
place of the fence-viewers. This was intended only for small drains not af-
fecting more than five or six proprietors.

The second, or Municipal Drainage Act, was designed to cover larger areas,
and to ensure more permanent and costly work. By this a majority of the
owners of lands in any locality that required draining could petition the Coun-
cil of the township, and if the Council approved an engineer or provincial land
surveyor would be instructed to make a survey and report, giving particulars
respecting the character of the land to be drained, the outlet required, the
estimated cost of the drain, and the proportion each separate holding should
bear. The Council could then, after properly advertising the report and re-
vising the assessment, go on, do the work, issue debentures therefor, running
not more than twenty years, and collect equal annual payments sufficient to
cover principal and interest.

In addition to these two Acts what is termed the Ontario Drainage Act was
passed in the session of 1869-70. This ran on lines similar to those governing
the Municipal Drainage Act except that the Government made the prelimin-
ary survey and did the work, and it might be initiated by petition or by ap-
plication from the Council of the municipality chiefly interested.

As intimated in a previous chapter, the height of land or dividing line of
water between the Nation river, which is an affluent of the Ottawa, and the
St. Lawrence, is, on the western side of the county, about two miles from the
latter ; and though, as it goes east, it turns north in sympathy with the trend
of the glacial ridges, there is still left more than four-fifths of the country
which finds its outlet through the Nation. This river rises in the county of
Leeds, traverses the most of that county, the counties of Grenville, Dundas,
Stormont, Russell and Prescott, and joins the Ottawa near Plantagenet. Its
principal tributary until it passes Dundas is the South Branch, which rises on
the west side of Grenville and unites with the Nation about seven miles east
of the western boundary of Dundas, where the river is also joined by another
tributary, the North Branch, the junction of the three streams being called
the Forks,

The incline of the country through which the Nation and South Branch
pass is considerable until the flat alluvial lands in Matilda and Mountain are
reached. These begin on the Branch about four and on the Nation about two
miles above the Forks. From the west side of these to Chesterville, a dis-
tance of from fifteen to eighteen miles, the fall is very slight, in fact the gener-
al level of the country through which the -river passes immediately west of
Chesterville is higher than that of the flat lands; in Matilda, Mountain and


the west side of Winchester and Williamsburg, the river having cut its way
through these higher lands, leaving gravel ridges or shoals in the bottom only
a few feet below the level of much of the land ten or fifteen miles west. From
two miles west of Chesterville to one mile east the incline in the river was
nearly fifteen feet, and in 1827 a dam was built at this point which with its
attendant mills no doubt proved a boon to the surrounding country, and as to
the flat lands along the river to the west not having been settled no objection
was offered. There is little doubt but these flats were always subject to flood-
ing in the spring, partly on account of the inadequate fall in the river and
partly because it runs to the north, thus favoring ice jams. The fertility of
the land, however, has tempted settlers ; the spring freshets though very in-
convenient did little harm, and summer floods sufficiently severe to destroy
the crops did not occur very frequently, and were compensated for by the
superior productiveness of the soil.

It was said of the occupants of these lands that they could lose one crop in
four and then do as well as their neighbors on higher and poorer farms. But
as the country surrounding the sources of the various streams that feed the
river was cleaned and cultivated and the swamps or reservoirs between the
hills or ridges drained the difficulty increased until in many cases farms or
parts of farms were abandoned.

About 1854 or 1855 James aud Thomas McOuat, two young Scotchmen from
near Lachute, in the county of Argenteuil, Quebec, purchased and settled on
a large farm in the 8th concession of Matilda, near the Forks.. For a few
years they did very well, but a series of wet seasons beginning in 1853 so dis-
couraged the younger brother, Thomas, that he abandoned his share and
went to Minnesota. James seemed to be made of sterner stuff. He had a
fair education, considerable facility of expression, was capable of taking a
comprehensive view of any question that engaged his attention, and was gift-
ed with a persistent and untiring energy that refused to recognize defeat. He
studied the river wSth a view to improving the outlet. He knew that he and
his neighbors had the best land in the country if it could be properly drained,
and during forty years he has never flagged in his efforts to effect the desired
purpose. In this he was ably seconded by another Scotchman, Bobt. W.
Weir, who came in a few years later, and bought a farm on the South Branch.
Mr. Weir was shrewd, resourceful, a good judge of character, and an adept in
playing on the weaknesses and foibles of men of mark or influence who were
in a position to further his aims. Prominent among others who promoted
the work were Wm. Bigford, one of the first settlers at the Forks, and Peter
Macintosh, of Cass Bridge, on the Nation, and Henry McQuaig and Bernard
Brown, on the South Branch.
After the war of 1812-14 the British Government desired to open an inland


waterway so the lakes could be reached by vessels without using the upper
stretches of the St. Lawrence which for fifty miles washed United States ter-
ritory. There were two possible routes, the one by the Nation and South
Branch to Prescott and the other by the Rideau to Kingston. The latter
course was chosen, but it was said the work would have been much less di f fi-
cult by the former. Indeed, it was contended that the Nation was lower than
the St. Lawrence, and that it was feasable to let the water from tbe lake at
Prescott into the South Branch and by deepening it and the Nation effectually
drain the low lands in Dundas while creating a series of waterpowers on the
lower rapids of the river that would eventually compensate for the outlay.
In pursuance of this and at the solicitation of Mr. McOuat and his friends, in
the early sixties, the matter was brought under the notice of the Old Parlia-
ment bv J. S. Res?, the then member for the county, and an engineer, T. 8.
Rubidge, was sent on to make a survey, but for some reason never reported.
The friends of the scheme continued to press the matter on the attention of
the Matilda and Mountain Councils but nothing was done until 1872. In that
year a comparatively young man, Adam Harkness, had entered the Matilda
Council. He had been many years Clerk, was familiar with tbe Acts govern-
ing, and inclined to favor the undertaking. On his initiative the Councils of
Matilda and Mountain joined in asking the Ontario Government to make a
survey under the Ontario Drainage Act. The request was granted and the
survey made by Mr. Molesworth, the engineer of Public Works, the following

At the time this was made the dam was temporarily away and it was
thought it would not be rebuilt, and Mr. Molesworth recommended a cutting
through the shoals from Brown's bridge on the South Branch, two miles west
of the junction of that stream with the Nation, to Chesterville, sixty feet
wide and about six feet deep on the highest points of the ridges. The dis-
tance covered was nearly fourteen miles, the average incline or grade was a
little less than one foot to the mile, and the estimated cost something over
$34,000. The survey threw light on the situation but it was not followed by
an appropriation. The Government had practically ceased operating under
the Ontario Drainage Act. Locally we had not gone beyond the Ditches' and
Watercourses' Act, and the large expenditure required had a deterrent effect.
In 1875-8 an attempt was made to proceed under the Municipal Drainage Act,
but it was found impossible to procure the necessary petitions although the
Councils and the parliamentary representatives were continually being urged
to further the contemplated work. In 1882, however, the Dominion Parlia-
ment granted $1,750. Soon alter Mr. Boyd, C. E., was sent from Ottawa to
examine the river. His report recommended the removal of the dam at Ches-
terville which had been rebuilt. In the meantime Messrs. McOuat and Weir
had been at Toronto, prevailed on C. F. Fraser, Ontario Minister of Public


Works, to come down and look the river over, with the result that the Local
Legislature in 1883 granted 87,000 to assist in doing the work in accordance
with the recommendation of Mr Moleswortb, on the condition that the bal-
ance required to complete it be supplied from local or other sources. In the
previous session the Municipal Drainage Act had been amended so it could be
operated through County Councils. An application from one of the town-
ships interested, and the Dominion House by request of Dr. Hickey, the sit-
ting member, and on the report of their engineer, Mr. Boyd, had added $2,000
for the removal of the dam.

Armed with these grants Messrs. McOuat and Weir came to the Matilda
Council just before the June session of that year with a very numerously
t-igned petition asking that body to take such action as might be necessary
to afford relief. The Council that year consisted of Adam Harkness, Reeve ;
Kichard Hanes and Thomas Brinston, Deputy Reeves, and Richard Anderson
and Robt. Bouck, Councillors. To lessen the cost which still seemed large,
Mr.McOuat suggested that the cut be made two feet four inches shallower and
thirty feet wider, thus giving a width of ninety feet and a depth at the highest
point of three feet eight inches. This would reduce the area of the outlet
from 360 to 339 feet, but it would pass entirely over some of the low shoals
and so shorten the cuttings on the others that it was believed the whole work
of excavation could be done for $20,000. This was assented to and the Coun-
ties' Council petitioned accordingly. The petition came up at the June ses-
sion of that year and on motion was referred to a committee of the Reeves
and Deputy Reeves of the four interested townships. These were : Adam
Harkness, Richard Hanes and Thomas Brinston, of Matilda ; James Dickey, J.
Colquhoun and Geo. E. Merkley, of Williamsburg ; Reuben Shayer and Geo.
Walker, af Mountain; and John McKercher, M. F. Beach and Thos. Hamilton,
of Winchester ; in each case the first named being the Reeve. The committee
reported favorably and the report was adopted, only three members of Council,
Hamilton, of Winchester; Colquhoun, of Williamsburg, and Alex Stuart, of
Kenyon, voting against the adoption of the report.

The committee was then authorized by the council to select the engineer,
procure an examination and survey of the river and locality as provided by
the Municipal Drainage Act, and take such further action as might be neces-
sary to enable the council at its Octoberjsession to pass the requisite by-laws.

The Ontario Government was then asked by the committee to make plans
based on the Molesworth survey, modified as suggested by Mr. McOuat, with
the addition of a cut in the centre twenty-four feet wide on the top, twelve on
the bottom, and as deep as the original proposed cut, and to send an engineer
to take charge of the work. R. McCallum, the engineer of Public Works of
Ontario, came down, looked over the ground's and prepared the plans and


estimates requested. The estimated cost was $19,000 for the upper, and $6,000
for the narrow centre cut. The ^committee adopted the former, but modified
the latter by starting it the full depth at Brown's bridge, the.upper end of the
works, and gradually diminishing it until it ran out at the lower end of Gray's
rapids in Winchester. As the Dominion Government had in the meantime
agreed to remove the dam and shoal at Chesterville, this was also left out,
bringing the estimated cost to something over $21,000, or about two dollars

for the ratepayers to one for the Ontario Government.


As no work of this kind had yet been done in Eastern Ontario it was thought
best to get an experienced engineer, and on recommendation of R. McCallum,
engineer of Public Works, W. G. McGeorge, of Chatham, was selected to
make the assessment. This was necessarily confined to this county, because
of a clause in the Act governing, which provided that where more than one
county was included any ten ratepayers effected might demand that the
matter be submitted to a vote of the parties assessed. At that time the
obligation to contribute for outlet only was not generally recognized, and it
was thought better to forego the assessment on Leeds and Grenvilie than to
risk submission to popular vote.

Mr. McGeorge reported at the October session. He had found 105,000 acres
within the county liable to assessment. About 20,000 of this was subject to
flooding and was assessed at thirty cents per acre or $6,000; 70,000 acres was high
land assessed for outlet only, at eight cents an acre, or $5,600. This left about
$3,000 to be provided for, making an average of twenty cents or thereabouts
per acre on the intervening 15,000. The committee refused to recommend the
adoption of this report because they regarded the high land assessment ex-
cessive, and as Mr, McGeorge would not modify it to meet their views, Francis

Online LibraryJ. Smyth CarterThe story of Dundas, being a history of the County of Dundas from 1784 to 1904 → online text (page 7 of 40)