Tales of Our Early Settlers Part 1
Although we know that the experiences we hear of the early settlers are true they are hard to believe in the twenty-first century. Poverty and the lack of opportunities in the British Isles (very few came from anywhere else), weeks in sailing ships, the endless forests, long treks on blazed trails and lack of money; these were all hardships shared by those who came to this land looking for a better life. The accounts that follow came to life in the early 1900s through interviews, obituaries and stories arising from 50th wedding anniversaries.
A man who experienced the early hardships but was involved in the heady experiences of Creemore’s beginnings was George Webster. He, along with his older brother, Edward, have been named the founders of Creemore. According to George’s obituary, “In 1848 he was induced by his brother, Edward, to make a trip to Creemore which he did by stage from Brockville (the area where he lived), to Kingston, then by taking a boat to Toronto and then by stage to Holland Landing. From there he tramped through the woods following the trail which led him to Alliston where he arrived about noon on the second day. It was here that he heard the first sound of a human voice that day.
“A second incident on his tramp through the woods was the meeting of the late Robert Weatherup, who then a lad of sixteen was driving his team of horses on his way to Holland Landing (or ‘the front’) for supplies. The first clearing George came to was Lot 1, Concession 5 Nottawasaga owned by the late Robert Thompson. Arriving in Creemore late that June evening he found himself still in the wilderness of forest, but with some attempts of farming visible. During his first few years in Creemore he was employed running the combined saw, grist and carding mill owned by his brother, Edward and his brother-in-law, William Nalty. He assisted in building the first St. Luke’s church in 1854-55. About this time he built the fist two taverns, a store and some dwellings in the village. In 1860 he built Bolster’s store and the third tavern in Creemore. Bolster’s store was at the north-west corner of Edward and Mill Streets. It was torn down a few years ago to make way for the brewery.”
George Webster arrived in Creemore in 1848 but settlers had been arriving in the area several years before. Nottawasaga was surveyed in 1832. Matthew Dowling and Ed Duggan arrived on the Fourth Line in the fall of 1833, put up log shanties on each of their farms but did not put roofs on them. They then returned to their families in an already settled area for the winter. At that time the Government Road leading from Toronto and other points south, ended at Lot 1, Concession 4, Nottawasaga and from there all possessions for the settler had to be carried on their shoulder through the dense woods to the place of settlement. In spite of such difficulties the Dowling and Duggan families arrived the following March but found their shanties filled with four feet of snow. They got under a big thick balsam tree, started a firs and put up for the night.
Mrs. Matthew Dowling, the wife of the above-mentioned Matthew Dowling, who died on December 21, 1906, was born in Kilkenny, Ireland in 1814. She was a very strong woman and on occasion carried 100 pounds of flour. It was said that she would pack heavy loads of flour and other supplies from Adjala so as not to interfere with her husband’s clearing the land.
It was she who gave the Mad River its name. The year of 1835, not long after they made their home on the Fourth Line, Mrs. Dowling was returning home, carrying a bag of flour on her back, and not only that, she was carrying in her arms her eldest child. At Glen Huron she forded the river running high from the spring run-off. It was with difficulty that she crossed and on arriving home she spoke repeatedly of “that mad river.”