Owen Sound mail run took a week

 In Opinion

Today we are thankful for the truck drivers who bring mail to Creemore and for the rural mail deliverers who brave storms, snowbanks and muddy roads to leave mail in our mailboxes. In the early settlement days in the area the story was much different. The History of Simcoe County by Andrew Hunter paints a picture of mail delivery in the early pioneer days of the 1840s and 1850s.

“The weekly mail from Barrie to Owen Sound was conveyed on horseback leaving Barrie Thursday mornings and returning the following Tuesday evening. The mail carrier was John Hunter of Owen Sound, he having succeeded Wm Stephenson of Meaford. This arrangement continued down to the construction of the railway when a new route was adopted…. Hunter was the man who carried the mail from Barrie in the winter months, this furnishing in the winter months the only link with the swampy hamlet of Sydenham (now Owen Sound.) He rode upon an old white horse, which was a familiar object to the people of that day, and the mailbags were fastened behind him on the horse.”

Our story continues with an excerpt from The 1934 Nottawasaga history. This was written by Mrs. F. E. Webster and published in The Creemore Star in 1907.

“In our search for pioneer history we called on Mr. James More, Dunedin, who was born in Pennsylvania 75 years ago and brought to Sunnidale during infancy. The family moved to Nottawasaga a few years later, and in this township he has spent his long life and tells many interesting stories of what he has seen. During the late forties a Mr. Hunter had the contract to carry the mail from Barrie to Owen Sound. Owing to ill health he relet the contract to Mr. More’s father. James was then about 18 years and used to carry the mail for all the country between Barrie and Owen Sound and ride on horseback in the summer. In winter he used a sleigh. He wore thick boots and warm clothes but never an overcoat or overshoes, and never was frozen except the tip of his nose.

“The mail route started at Barrie, where the post office was kept by Mr. Sandford. The next office was at Sunnidale Corners kept by Mr. Gillespie. Where Stayner stands was then a howling wilderness and he followed a rough bush road through what is now the main street directly west to Duntroon, where the office was kept by Mr. McNabb. Collingwood’s only existence then was a big wet swamp with rabbits running through. From Duntroon he continued west over the mountain to the Beaver River where the postmaster was Mr. Rorke, then north to Meaford where Mr. Burchall kept the office. There was then only one general store in Owen Sound. This was the terminus, and to make the trip there and back occupied a week. The trip was made every week. From Barrie to Sunnidale was nearly all forest, the only resident being A. Smith, who kept a public house, Rachel who supplied meals to travellers near NewLowell, O’Connor who kept hotel five miles south of Sunnidale Corners, and Rogers who lived opposite O’Connor’s. Between Sunnidale and Duntroon the only clearing was at the Fourth Line Corners, then called Clegg’s Corners. Duntroon was first settled by Scotch Crofters, to whom the government granted five-acre lots, and these were mostly all cleared east and west along the sideroad.”

To be continued.

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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