Carriers delivered mail on footpaths not fit for a horse

 In Opinion

In this area we are very fortunate to have the Bruce Trail not very far away. Many local people enjoy these trails regularly. But none, I suspect, would be interested in walking from Barrie to Meaford and then back again. And after a while repeat the walk.

In the early settlement days in this area which began in the 1830s, a man walked from Barrie to Meaford to bring letters and occasionally small newspapers to the isolated settlement post offices. We can imagine that the trail the man walked on was much like the Bruce Trail, a narrow path winding its way through the forest.

I would like to tell you stories of this man encountering bears and wolves, perhaps climbing a tree for safety. At one time I know I have read such stories and once, how one of the mailmen made his way through a burning forest fire. I have looked through my old history books but can’t find the source of such tales. If you like, you can imagine them.

One wonderful source of local history is the book published by Nottawasaga Township council in 1934. It marked the township’s centennial. The book is called Nottawasaga The Outburst of the Iroquois. It was reprinted in 1987 and called Let’s Reminisce.

In the book DD Jardine writes about his memories of the early days in the Duntroon area. Here is a quote. “We had no post office nearer than Barrie in those days; not a doctor, nor minister, no magistrate, and the road to Barrie was poor. The postage on a letter from Scotland was 14 pence. (Note by HB: At that time the postage was paid by the person receiving the letter.) Andrew Jardine and Angus Campbell took the first paper, The British Colonist, a weekly paper, $4 a year.

“The first mail carrier or the first that had the contract was a Mr. Stephens from Meaford. He carried the mail from Barrie to Vail’s Point, west of Meaford. (There was no Owen Sound in those days.) The mailbag was about the size and style of our Assessor’s bag. He carried the mail on foot for the roads were not fit for a horse yet. Angus Campbell was the first postmaster at Bowmore (now Duntroon.)”

From Bowmore the trail crossed over to the present day Craigleith and along the shore to Vail’s Point.

“When the country got settled north west of Bowmore… there was opened a road west of Bowmore over the mountain and into Osprey and across Collingwood Township to Meaford.”

Today when driving through Duntroon you will see a road sign that says Sydenham Trail. At one time the sign said Old Mail Road. Sydenham Trail was the official name at that time but always referred to by Old Mail Road. If you look westward on that road you can imagine a man plodding along with the mailbag. The road no longer goes very far, just up the hill.

If you are wondering where Creemore fits into the picture, keep watching for more of these stories.

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

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