|In the spring of 1816, twenty-one year old John Kilborn, a veteran of the War of 1812, led the first group of Perth settlers from Brockville, through Delta and on to Big Rideau Lake at Portland. There they boarded a scow which took them to Beveridge Bay of Lower Rideau Lake. From a landing at the head of the bay they went overland through the forest, transporting their belongings on ox-drawn sledges to the Tay River, then called the Pike River, to a spot above the lower sets of rapids. There they boarded a barge and went up the Tay River to the new community of Perth.
In the fall of 1816, a new road, starting from a spot near present day Toledo, was cut to Rideau Ferry (then known as First Narrows and later as Oliver's Ferry) on the south bank of Rideau Lake. A road, from the north bank of Rideau Lake at this location to Perth, may have been cut earlier that year. It was certainly in place by the time the southern section was completed.
Where exactly did these routes go? What roads today represent those original trails and roads? These questions are a bit challenging. We have little documentation of the route. Roads on maps prior to the 1840s are representational and no map prior to about 1860 is in any way close to scale. All those maps contain errors. As one surveyor commented when lost in the Drowned Lands (Whitefish Lake) in 1827, "by studying the two plans [maps] in our possession the differences between them was more calculated to mislead than direct" (John Burrows, 1827).
There is of course no one alive today who would have had first hand experience with the routes, in fact no one alive today who would have even heard a first hand account of the original 1816 routes. Written documentation, even material written near the period, is often contradictory. On the other hand, we are fortunate to have some high quality research on some the regions traversed by these early routes, done by historians such as Glenn J Lockwood, James R. Kennedy and Larry Turner. While they don't specifically deal with roads and travel routes, the information they provided, based on primary research, has been invaluable.
The challenge to map these old routes was put to the author by Barrie Crampton in 2015 with the seemingly simple request to produce a map from Brockville to Perth that would show the original routes travelled by the early settlers of Perth and region. That map has now been produced and this article will document the decisions made that resulted in the mapping of the 1816 routes.
THANKS to Barrie Crampton, David Taylor and Karen Hunt for their help and insightful input into this little project.
This project relied heavily on early maps which are shown in the Bibliography. They will be referenced in this article using the author's name and date (i.e. Walpole 1828).