Smith was elated with his new property in Nottawasaga

 In Community

In last month’s Creemore Echo we read of George and Mary Ann Smith who left Yorkshire in 1832 with plans to settle on some land in what is now Canada.

After the trip across the Atlantic and a stay in Montreal they were ready to move on.

They had heard of a newly surveyed township called Nottawasaga and had chosen land at the corner of lot 16 and the sixth concession. We left them at Barrie in 1834, which then consisted of only a few huts.

They found they had to make a nine-mile portage to the Nottawasaga River where in a hired boat they moved upstream to a dock called Kippon, today the site of the big bridge on Highway 90.

Tired and weary they reached a small settlement called Brentwood, where they found a small vacant log shanty. Here they stayed over the winter. No one seemed to know anything about Nottawasaga so they decided to await developments.

They had with them some precious seeds and planted a garden but a frost in August wiped the garden out. Fortunately there was plenty of fish and game to be caught.

At that time roads into the wilds of Ontario were called Government or Colonization roads. One of these roads in Sunnidale Township ran north-west, a well defined trail. Originally it was a runway for deer and later a trail for Aboriginal people.

The route had many crooks and bends but when widened made a suitable road for the early settlers.

George found a job chopping trees on this road, called then, and still called, the Sunnidale Road.

While at work he met a couple of land surveyors who answered his questions about Nottawasaga Township. He was told the land he was seeking was about 10 miles to the west. Excited about the information, a few days later, he followed the directions. On reaching the fourth concession he found a few settlers building their log cabins and getting established. They were all Irish Roman Catholics. Their names were Dowling, Birtle and Duggan.

When he told them where he was going to locate they were generous with their hospitality. A mile further west he found a surveyor’s marker, which read Lot 16, Con. 6. He was elated, and was more so when he walked over his farm and was especially pleased that the land was rolling.

He realized it would drain easily and not be like the flat land in Sunnidale. He also discovered it was heavily timbered and this indicated good soil. He found some good springs and a small stream on the farm.

After spending the night with the Birtles he hurried back to Brentwood to share the good news with Mary Ann.

In the spring of 1836 he took all the tools he could carry as well as a food supply and walked through the forest to commence the building of a log cabin of his own.

The families on the Fourth Line told him when he had the logs prepared they would assist him to lift them in place. The cabin developed slowly because various complications interfered.

He realized a stone fireplace was a necessity and started to build one but, even though he knew how to burn lime, he discovered no limestone on his farm or nearby.

He explored the area and found plenty of limestone in the flats a good half mile to the west.

There was nothing he could do but carry the stones this distance and this laborious chore he carried out. The site he chose for the cabin was about 150 metres from the Sixth Line.

The summer was well advanced when the cabin was finished. He had realized for some time that moving his family to the property could not be considered until the following spring. In the meantime he did some scouting to find a road over which to transport his wife, their then four children, and their possessions to their new home.

This tale is from the writings of C.B. (Bert) Smith in a document called The Smiths of Nottawasaga and edited by James David Smith, 2003.

The next installment will tell of life in their new home, about a snake in the bed and George Smith’s death.

Helen Blackburn is a retired teacher, avid gardener and a long-time contributor to The Creemore Echo. She writes about local history.

Photo: A model of a log shanty showing what the first homes in Nottawasaga might look like. This float appeared in the parade at Duntroon in a celebration that marked the centennial of Nottawasaga, 1834-1934. The shanties would be bigger than this one but for the purpose of the parade it is small. In the photo are Herb Grose and Jim Falls.  

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