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A Narrative of Discovery
Ken W. Watson


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On April 18 1816, the first settlers to the Perth area were led out to take possession of their new properties. Surrounding townships had only recently been surveyed and the townsite of Perth had been laid out only a few weeks prior to this. There were no roads leading to the settlement, those first settlers came from Brockville via Rideau Lake. In the fall of 1816, a new road was cut through the forest to First Narrows, today's Rideau Ferry, which allowed for road travel from Brockville.

The map on this page shows these two routes. This is the first time these routes have been mapped. This article explains in detail how these routes were mapped in 2015, almost 200 years after the fact.

The article is broken out into sections discussion each part of the routes. Several period maps, dating from 1816 to 1870 are shown to help show some of the decisions that were made in determining the exact routes.

You can use the menu system or the forward and back buttons at the bottom of every page to navigate the different sections of this article.

A summary of this article can be found below. The main discussion about how the routes were determined starts on the next page.


In April of 1816, about 40 immigrant families, led by twenty-one year old John Kilborn, left Brockville and travelled north along an existing road, today's County Road 29. The only inland community in the region was Stone Mills, today's Delta. Other communities such as Athens, Portland and Toledo did not exist at that time. Near today's Forthton, they travelled west along what is today County Road 42. They continued along this road to Delta.

From Delta they headed northwest along today's Country Road 42 to Hartgravel Road (then the main road) to today's Philipville, then along County Road 8 to Harlem Road and north on Harlem road to Fairview Road. From here they headed north to Rideau Lake. No road from this point to their destination, a landing in the Deep Bay of Rideau Lake, near today's Portland, existed at that time. They had to cut about 5 kilometres of new road which went around the east side of Trotters Lake and creek, a road that does not exist today (abandoned sometime between 1841 and 1861). They arrived at Rideau Lake at a spot later known as Old Landing. That landing is now underwater, just south of the eastern end of Sheep Island, due to the flooding caused by the completion of the Poonamalie dam in 1831.

Here they boarded a "large scow" operated by a young man, a Mr. Lindsay. It is likely that Lindsay, who lived on Murphys Bay of Big Rideau Lake, overwintered his scow in this spot. The group arrived with the lake still frozen over and left on the scow the day the ice broke on Big Rideau Lake, either April 16 or 17, 1816.

The scow sailed 22 kilometres down the lake and delivered them to a landing at the head of Beveridge Bay, a spot now underwater. From that landing they went overland through the woods, their belonging on sleds pulled by oxen, to a spot on the Tay River above the lower sets of rapids (near today's canal dam). From there they were taken by another scow up the Tay River to the new settlement of Perth, likely arriving there on April 17, 1816.

At some point, likely in the summer of 1816, a new road from Perth to Rideau Ferry was completed, allowing the landing of the scow at this location and travel by road from there to Perth.

Sometime prior to the fall of 1816, the Brockville Road (Country Road 29) was extended north from Forthton to meet an existing section of road near Koyles Bridge (south of Toledo). In the fall of 1816, a new road from near Toledo north to First Narrows (Rideau Ferry) was cut through the forest.

Those roads (Toledo to Rideau Ferry & Rideau Ferry to Perth), today's County Road 1, follow fairly close to today's road alignment except for four sections (see map above). Between the Elizabethtown-Kitley township line and Frankville, the original road ran a few hundred metres east of the present day road. The re-alignment to the present day route was done sometime between 1847 and 1851. North of Toledo, the original road south of Motts Mills went west, whereas today the road goes north through Motts Mills. That re-alignment was done sometime in the late 1800s. In the area south of Lombardy, the road was a forced road across two lots and was re-aligned along lot lines prior to 1872.

In the section from Rideau Ferry to Perth, the original road crossed Jebbs Creek near the outlet of Otty Lake. A re-alignment that crossed Jebbs Creek in today's location was done sometiome prior to 1880. South of that, in the area of Elm Grove Road, the old road was re-aligned in the 20th century.

John Oliver, who settled on the south shore at First Narrows (Rideau Ferry) in the spring or summer of 1816, set up a ferry service in that location. The new roads and the ferry (and lake ice in the winter) now provided a direct connection from Brockville to Perth.

By the late fall of 1816, the population of Perth and district was reported to be 1,505 people. Many of those would have travelled via Rideau Lake but some also arrived using overland routes, following trails that pre-dated some of the roads.

That's the summary, for the details, including many period (1816 to 1880) maps, start with the


  Top Introduction
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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