The Dutch Line
February 5, 2024
Looking West Along Dutch Line Road. Note the bridge over Union Creek is out.
By Guy Scott
The Dutch Line is a side road in Galway Township that runs between the 14th and 15th concessions. The name “Dutch” does not refer to immigrants from the Netherlands or Holland at all. The majority of the earliest settlers were actually German. In the 1850s, the country we now call Germany did not exist, it formed in 1871. It was a series of smaller states or principalities. The English used the term German to describe the ethnic group, but the Germans themselves referred to their ethnicity as “deutsch.” Therefore, when the English speaking census taker asked their nationality, these settlers replied “deutsch,” which was of course anglicized as Dutch.
The original five German families of the Dutch Line came from Mecklenberg: a province in Germany along the Baltic Sea. How they ended up in Canada is unknown, but Mecklenburg is located next to Hanover. The Kings of England came from Hanover, and this German principality was still part of the Kingdom of Hanover. The Kings of England came from Hanover and this German province was still part of the Kingdom of Britain until the 1830s. Perhaps they say an ad for immigration to Canada? Or perhaps they heard stories from across the ocean? Regardless, the five families ended up immigrating to Canada in the 1850s and finding their way up the Bobcaygeon Road to Kinmount, where rumours of free land were rampant. Actually, only lots along the Bobcaygeon Road in Concession A were “free,” and these lots were already taken by the time the Deutsch settlers arrived. They were forced to move inland and pay for their lots. But land was cheap (about 50 cents an acre) and terms generous. You could put about 10% down and make yearly payments. It is doubtful if any of these land purchasers actually paid off the entire mortgage. In 1868 the Government of Ontario made all lots in the area not already occupied free to actual settlers. All you had to do was live there for 5 years, clear 10 acres, and build a house. At this time, it is likely the government forgave all settlement payments from previous deals. The German settlers had neighbours when they arrived in 1859. John Kennedy was settled on lot 1, concession 14 (south of Dutch Line). The Kennedys remained here for several decades before moving to the Crystal Lake Road and on to Dunsford. Lot 2 was claimed by Charles Coben. Lot 3 was settled by John Dettman (Dudman), Lot 4 by Charles Eveline and Lot 5 by Charles Coben Sr. This completed the block of five lots to the Queen’s Line.
John Dettman had been a carriage driver or ostler for a rich landowner back in Mecklenburg. He realized his opportunities were limited so he decided to seek his fortune in Canada. He was married to Amelia Coben and persuaded her brothers Chris and Charles to immigrate with them. Also included in the party were Charles Eberlin and Charles Knechtel.
The census taker had issues with German names and Eberlin became Eveline while Knechtel was anglicized to Kennettle. John Dettman found another Dettman family at Kinmount, and to avoid confusion, changed his name to Dudman. Coben seemed to be ‘English enough’ to remain unaltered! Anglicizing foreign last names was a very common practice during this era, with the Oglestein family having their last name changed to Oglestone.
Amelia Dettman died in Port Hope on her way to Kinmount and left John with four young children. John remarried a widow Jane (Maguire) Harris who was visiting her sister (Mrs. Morgan) who lived on the Galway Road. The blended family then changed nationalities for the next census. John was still listed as a Lutheran German, but all the kids suddenly became English-Anglicans. The rest of the German families also switched their religious affiliation to Presbyterian (Lutherans being rare in the area) and many joined the Orange Lodge. It was assimilation at its height as most immigrants went with the flow or joined the predominant culture of the area. The parents couldn’t speak a word of German. The Dudman family purchased Lot 35, Concession A (corner of Dutch Line & Bobcaygeon Road) and built up the farm holdings until they farmed 500 acres!
North of Dutch Line in the 15th Concession, Lot 1 was purchased by a miner, T.D. Ledyard. There must have been some mineral potential in this area to attract him. In fact, the Dutch Line farms were pock marked by mining ‘holes’ where the miners seemed to be always searching for something. Nothing of significance was found… yet! The lot was later owned by John Kennedy.
Lot 2, north of the road was settled by Dan Reid. The Reid family farmed on this lot for many decades. Their family name is commemorated in the Reid Road, the next side road north. Lot 3 was pioneered by Christopher Coben, while another Charles Coben (Jr) farmed Lot 5. The Coben brothers had large families who stayed in the area for another generation. In the 1911 census, there were seven Coben families in Galway Township, all farmers, with 2,000 acres between them. The Cobens caught Western Fever and moved to Saskatchewan after 1911. In the 1921 census, there is only one Coben family left. Lot 4 north of the Dutch Line was acquired by Owen Clark. His sons Thomas and Peter settled further in the Dutch Line. Thomas’ family also lived in the area and in 1911 there were four Clark homesteads along the Dutch Line and the Reid Road.
Charles Kennettle settled along a branch of the Union Creek on Lot 6, concession 15. When Henry Coben moved from across the road (lot 5), John Kennettle acquired this much superior farm lot. William Devlin lived next door on lot 7 and Thomas Clark on Lot 8. James Gavigan occupied lot 6 south of the Dutch Line for a generation until Pat Gavigan moved to Union Creek.
After Lot 7, the Dutch Line Road began to meander north to avoid a series of big swamps. These swamps made farming impossible for about 2 miles along the 14th and 15th concessions. The Dutch Line eventually merges with Reid Road at Lot 8 in the 16th concession. The only farm along this stretch of the road was Robert Stone on lots 10, 11 & 12. There were no schools or post offices along the Dutch Line. Students walked to Kinmount and mail was acquired in town. Church was also attended in the village as well as shopping. It was only one mile from the corner of the Dutch Line into town.