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Fall of 1816 Route
BACKGROUND

We don't have an exact chronology for when the direct road route via Rideau Ferry was created, other than it was completed sometime in early fall of 1816. We know that on October 13, 1816 it was referred to as "a road recently cut through the woods" (see Colonel Meyers quote below). It may be that the northern portion of the route (Rideau Ferry to Perth) was completed earlier allowing the scow to land on the northern shore at Rideau Ferry and allow settlers and supplies to travel by road to Perth.

Section from Jebb's 1816 map showing Koyles Bridge crossing Marshalls Creek (shown as Irish Creek on map)
(click on map for full size version)


There was a good existing road to Marshalls Creek (which flows into Irish Lake). The new road that had to be cut started from a point north of Koyles bridge, near today's Toledo. It went north to First Narrows on Rideau Lake, today's Rideau Ferry.

John Burrows, a surveyor for the Rideau Canal stated in 1827 "This is called the first narrows. Six and a half chains wide [430 feet]. The water is sixteen feet deep." John MacTaggart, another surveyor in that same year described it as "Rideau Lake at this place, is 464 feet wide and 35 deep and rises in spring 3 1/2 feet." (Watson, pg. 37)

From the north shore of First Rapids, the road headed north, ending in Perth.

It is variously described:

John Kilborn, who led the first group of settlers to Perth stated in Leavitt, "The following autumn [1816], a road was cut by Peter Howard, M. P., from the present site of Toledo to Oliver's Ferry and Perth, nearly on the line now [1878] traveled" (Leavitt, pg. 71).

Deputy Quarter Master General, Colonel Meyers reported on October 13, 1816 that,
"it is distant from Brockville by 42 miles, 21 of which is an old fashioned and good road, the remainder is a road recently cut through the woods and is good for the passage of waggons. Much praise is due to Captain Fowler for his exertions in opening this communication, by which a great savings in transportation has taken place" (Smith, pg. 240).

John Kilborn also said he was in charge of supplying Perth for its first two years:
"The two succeeding years after the beginning of the Perth settlement, I had the contract for the transport of all the stores and supplies made by the government to the settlement ; some five or six hundred loads. The first season the getting the settlers, their baggage, seed, etc., transported from Brockville to the settlement, cost the government three dollars and a quarter per hundred ; the next two winters the direct road being opened, it was done for from one-half to three-quarters of a dollar per hundred." (Leavitt p.72).

The first season would have been spring/summer of 1816, so his reference to the next two winters would have been the winter of 1816/17 and that of 1817/18. A reasonable assumption is that the more expensive costs were for the Rideau Lake scow route, used the spring and summer of 1816.

The new road was pretty rough. We are fortunate to have William Bell's first hand description of the road when he walked it in June 1817. Bell writes
"On the evening of that day [Sunday, June 22, 1817], a Mr. Kilborne [sic] took me with him to his house, 12 miles on the road to Perth. Next morning he furnished me with a horse to carry me forward on my journey. I still had 30 miles to travel, mostly through forest, but there was not much danger of losing the road, for there was only one way" (Bell/Allen, kp.1767).
That places the first night of William Bell's journey in Unionville, the location of John Kilborn's house. On his journey the next day Bell stopped at a "Yankee Inn" where he was less than impressed with the food, service and prices.
"Had I known of another tavern on the road, I would have proceeded ; but as there was no other for many miles I concluded it was best to walk into the log cabin and rest myself until my saucy mistress had leisure to attend to me." (Skelton, p.111).

Bell noted that the Inn was twenty-two miles from Perth and that,
"The road for the first seven or eight miles was nothing more than an avenue cut through the extensive forest where the traveller had to pass over rocks, and wade through swamps and to surmount all the inequalities of the ground in its natural condition." (Skelton, p.111).

It wasn't only the road that caused problems for Bell:
The day being hot I was attacked by swarms of mosquitoes which stung me so unmercifully that in a short time my hands and face were covered with hard swellings. My cranium was so covered with bumps that a phrenologist would have been at no loss to discover the bump of anything you please. (Skelton, p.112). Bell noted that the other side of the wood was "a place called the Beaver Meadow."

The Beaver Meadow shows up on period maps (i.e. Walpole 1828) and represents a portion of the road now abandoned. Bell continued his travels, ending up at Oliver's Ferry.
At the ferry house, Mr. and Mrs. Oliver showed me every attention and sent their son with me to the house of Andrew Donaldson, Esq., where I remained all night. But I could not sleep from the heat and the pain I suffered. During the walk in the wood I had been so dreadfully bitten by mosquitoes that my face and hands were greatly swelled and very uneasy. (Skelton, p.112).

The Donaldsons were neighbours of the Olivers. The next morning Andrew Donaldson's son Thomas paddled Bell across Rideau Lake in a canoe and accompanied him on his journey to Perth. They arrived at the new town of Perth at noon on June 24, 1817.

Bell describes Perth at that time as having two big log houses, thirty small log shanties, and many scattered groups of huts and tents. One of the big houses was the King's Store, the Depot built in March 1816 to hold supplies for the settlers. The other was the residence for the Superintendent, Captain Fowler. A sawmill was under construction but wouldn't cut its first board until late July 1817.

The road, as noted, was pretty rough. Bell says that "The legislature, two years afterwards [1818 or 19], voted the sum of £500 to improve the same road, and clear it to the full width of sixty feet. But this grant, liberal as it was, made but little appearance when laid out upon a road covered with heavy timber, and crossed by numerous creeks" (Bell, Letter XXIV).



Fall 1816 - Brockville to Rideau Ferry




Spring 1816 - Old Landing to Perth Top Fall 1816 - Brockville to Rideau Ferry
Perth, the Capital of the District of Dalhousie; from the N-East bank of the River Tay - painting by Thomas Burrowes, 1828, Archives of Ontario, I0002141

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