October 14, 2023
Looking West on the Galway Road with the Galway Hall in the Foreground
By Guy Scott
There were 3 sideroads in Galway Township off the Bobcaygeon Road in the 6-mile section between Galena Hill and Kinmount. The first east-west sideroad was the Crystal Lake Road. The second was the Galway Road. The Galway Road has a long and storied history. Unlike other sideroads in Galway Township that were dead ends, the Galway Road eventually crossed the entire township (although not in a straight line!) and joined up with other roads in neighbouring Cavendish Township. You could access other communities such as Gooderham, Irondale, Furnace Falls, Catchacoma and even Buckhorn from the Galway Road. Unlike the other side roads, the Galway Road had two post offices, two school houses and a church along its tortuous rote. It has been stated that the Galway Road was the heart of Galway Township.
Galway Township is named after a county in Ireland—there is a Galloway county in Scotland, but clearly the spelling is different. In the pre 1860 period, there was confusion over the tern Galway. Some early accounts called the Bobcaygeon Colonization Road the Galway Road, likely because the Road led to Galway Township—its earliest destination. But as the Bobcaygeon Road ploughed further north into the Canadian Shield, the term Galway Road was left to the concession allowance between concessions 12 and 13 of Galway Township.
The earliest settlers clustered along the Bobcaygeon Road. The lots fronting on this road (Concession A) were free grants. That meant the 100 acre lots were free to actual settlers who met the settlement duties such as:
Lived on the lot for 5 years
Built a log shanty at least 16’x20’
Cleared at least 5 acres of land for farming.
For land-starved pioneer farmers this was a good deal. But even these easy terms were not always possible. South of Union Creek and north of Kinmount, concession A was so rugged that many lots were never patented under this easy system. But in the stretch of land between Union Creek and Howland Junction, the land was good enough to support pioneer agriculture.
In fact, the land in concessions 12-15 in Galway Township was the best farmland in the entire township. The Crystal Lake Road had its ‘Flats Along the Union Creek,’ but these were heavy soils that often flooded and required draining. Both these issues were scary for pioneer farmers. The land along the Galway Road on the other hand was higher and dryer. This section was part of the Haliburton Re-entrant of the Great Lakes Basin. This ‘suitable for farming’ section of land stretched up to Gelert and provided better soils than most of the rest of our area. Thus most of the earliest settlement was along the Galway Road.
The Somerville (west) side of the Bobcaygeon Road has a slightly different history. It was surveyed earlier (1830s) than Galway Township (1850s). It consisted of 200 acre parcels to Galway’s 100 acre parcels. The Somerville side was put on the market earlier and most of the Somerville lots along the Bobcaygeon Road were purchased by timber speculators. They were logged and put up for sale. But who would buy them when free land was available just across the road? So the Somerville lots were let go for backed taxes and sold to another generation of settlers.
Only the lots along the Bobcaygeon Road in Galway were originally designated free grants. The lots east of concession A were to be sold at $80 per 100-acre parcel. But that didn’t stop a whole flood of prospective farmers from ‘claiming’ these lots. Every 100-acre parcel east of the Bobcaygeon Road (concessions 9-18 only) was ‘claimed’ by ‘someone’ by 1861. Very few of these claimants were actual settlers. Most were simply putting in a claim hoping the government would change their mind and ‘give away’ these properties as free grants. Actually, the government of Ontario did change its mind in 1868. The sales of these back lots were not as brisk as hoped, and in 1868 the Homestead Act for Ontario was passed allowing 200 acres “free grant” if the previous mentioned settlement duties were performed. No speculators allowed. The Homestead Act was a good piece of legislation that placed farm land in the hands of true settlers. Many a land grant in the Kinmount area was a Free Grant under the Homestead Act.
The earliest settlers along the Bobcaygeon Road were in place by the 1861 Census. South of the Galway Road were
Isidore Trudeau lot 28
Alex Ritchie lot 29
John T. Henderson lot 30
North of the Road
James Lyle lot 31
James Ritchie lot 32
John Henderson lot 33.
The land was suitable and all 6 families remained on their lots for at least one generation. This stretch of settlement was still in farm production into the 1930s. The land east along the Galway Road was also suitable for farming, or at least Kinmount style farming. There were a series of gentle ridges that ran north-west or south-east. These ridges were usually sandy soil, but were covered in hardwood trees that left the soil rather fertile. They drained easily into a series of swamps or gullies between the ridges. While the swamps were useless for farming, the ridges did supply some good crop yields. About half of most lots was arable, and if a pioneer farmer could acquire two lots (200 acres), they could coax a passable farm operation out of the sandy soil. Many farmers also acquired swampy or rocky lots as woodlots; where they cut wood products such as cedar posts, sawlogs, shingle bolts, cordwood or tan bark for extra cash. There was always a ready market for these items in Kinmount.
The two John Hendersons were not related, even though both came from Cavan Township near Peterborough. Also from Cavan were the two Ritchie brothers and Sammy Lyle. No doubt they arrived in a block and were part of the Cavan Emigration to the area. Isidore Trudeau was from Lanark and was part of the Lanark Emigration that included many families along the Crystal Lake Road. All were second generation pioneers (born in Canada to previous immigrants) and were quite familiar with the peculiarities of farming in Ontario. Isidore Trudeau sold his lot to Samuel Faulkner, who eventually acquired both the Ritchie lot to the north and the Casey lot to the south. The Alex Ritchie family moved to Blind River in Northern Ontario. James Ritchie also expanded his holdings, buying out the Henderson family (lot 33) and acquired property across the road on the Somerville side, now Walsten Marine, in a tax sale. The James Ritchie family became prosperous farmers with 500 acres of land. Both Henderson families stayed in the area, spilling along the Bobcaygeon Road until by 1911 there were 11 male Hendersons on the census list! Both families have descendants in the Kinmount area until this very day.
Settlers also quickly spilled east along the Galway Road into the 12th Concession (south of the road) and the 13th concession (north of the road). In the 12th concession, Maurice Hartnett settled on lot 1 and George Scarlett on lot 2. Lots 3 and 4 were rather swampy, being on a swamp along the Union Creek and did not attract early settlers. Lot 3 was acquired by the Hunter family who lived on the Crystal Lake Road as a ‘back lot.’ Lot 4 was owned by the Scarlett family for the same purpose. North of the Galway Road in the 13th Concession, William Scarlett was the earliest settler. The farm is still called ‘Billy Scarlett’s Place.’ The next lot became part of the Ritchie family holdings. Lot 3 was settled by William Harding. Lots 4 and 5 were part of the farm of James Buckley. The Scarlett family were among the earliest settlers and are still represented in the area today. The family had a run of bad luck, and several of the family heads died young. The Hartnett family lived in the area for several generations.
The first field in from the Bobcaygeon Road on the south side was the local baseball diamond. After the crop was off, the younger members of the area gathered to play baseball, which was the summer sport. The second hill in from the Bobcaygeon Road was called the Picnic Hill. The term needs no further description for community picnic grounds were a feature of most settlements. Sunday picnics in the summertime were a common method of socialization, visiting, etc. in a hard-working society that worked six days a week and held the Sabbath sacred.
After the Galway Road leaves the swampy flats along the Union Creek, it travels straight east across a series ridges of which were good farm lots for pioneer farmers. The ground was higher and much of the area was covered by hardwood ridges: prime farm land. The 10 lots between the Church Lot (5) and the Back Bay Road turn were the heart of the community called Mount Irwin. The whole community along the Galway Road and even settlers along the Crystal Lake Road, drew their mail from the Mount Irwin post office. The first post office was on Lot 13, Concession 12 (South of the road) started in 1871. The post master was Christopher Irwin and his shanty stood on a slight hill, hence the name Mount Irwin. The Irwin family soon moved to Lakehurst (where they still reside) and the post office moved across the road to the Peacock farm where it remained until 1918. (The name didn’t change!) After the Peacock family surrendered the position, the Mount Irwin post office migrated south of the road again to the David Curtain Jr. home where it resided until 1940, when it officially closed. It was replaced by Rural Route #1 Kinmount. Each 100-acre lot sprouted a pioneer farmstead in the 1860s and 1870s.
David Hickey occupied lot 6 in the 12th concession, beside Immaculate Conception Church. The Hickey family lived on the lot for several generations. The Hickey barn was blown down in a windstorm in the 1980s, the last the family farmed on the lot. The next lot (7) was eventually acquired by James Allen. Lot 8 south of the road was pioneered by Isidore Trudeau, who was from Lanark and was related to the Molyneaux family. His neighbour on lot 9 was Edward Allen Sr., followed by Edward Allen Jr. Lot 10 on the west side of Allen’s Alley was the home of Maurice D. Hickey (Yes, there was another Maurice Hickey). John Allen occupied lot 11, while Robert Conway settled on lot 13 and left his name on Conway’s Hill. Lot 14 was another Allen Farm (Edward), but by 1905 was the home of David Curtain and the site of the Mount Irwin Post Office. Lot 15 in the 12th concession was the homestead of the other Maurice Hickey and has remained in the Hickey Family to this very day. The Swamp Lake School was just across the Gully Road from this Hickey farm and the school teachers often boarded at the Hickeys. James Buckley lived on lot 5, concession 13, north of the Galway Road and directly across from the Church. It was Mrs. Buckley who successfully defended the church lot on the field of battle and in the courts. Lot 6 was occupied by the McGee family: John and later Martin. This lot is currently Fireman’s Park. Next door on Lot 7 settled Adam Craig from Lanark, another Molyneaux relative. The Craig family is still in the area. Thomas McNamara was the neighbour on lot 8. Lot 9 was patented by John Ogglestone, a relative of the Ogglestones in Somerville and Snowdon townships. J.J. Allen acquired the lot in 1891. Lot 10 was yet another Hickey farm, originally patented by David Hickey.
The next 3 lots on the north side of the Galway Road (concession 13) were settled by the three Thomases: Thomas Morgan – lot 11, Thomas White – lot 12 and Thomas Peacock – lot 13. All 3 families remained on their farms for at least one generation. Lots 14 and 15 were acquired by Ed Allen, and then inherited by sons William Allen (lot 14, 1895) and Robert Allen (lot 15, 1894).
At Lot 15, the Galway Road did a sharp turn to the north and zig zagged north 2 concessions until turning east on the line between concessions 14 and 15. From now on, the Galway Road would follow a more crooked course. All these lots were farmed for several generations. If a settler moved out, a neighbour bought up the lot and added to his farm. Arial photographs reveal these lots to be largely cleared and fenced with the field lines clearly visible in the 1960s. Many of the farm families remained on the land for several generations, and some even live in the community today.