|Adjala-Tosorontio||Bradford-W. Gwill.||Clearview||Essa||Innisfil||New Tecumseth|
Road (Part 1) (Part 2)
|The Schools||The Early Press||The Pioneer Churches||Publications||Simcoe Main|
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Simcoe County CLICK HERE
#1 Town of Collingwood (See Clearview)
#3 Town of Wasaga Beach (See Clearview)
#4 Camp Borden
#6 New Tecumseth
#7 Bradford-West Gwillmbury
#9 City of Barrie (See Vespra)
#13 Town of Orillia (See Severn)
#18 Town of Penetanguishene (See Tiny)
#19 Town of Midland (See Tay)
BOOKS ABOUT ESSA
SETTLERS PRE 1837
A HISTORY OF ESSA WRITTEN A CENTURY AGO
Burns United Presbyterian Con 1, Lot 11 Egbert United Methodist Con 8, Lot 11 Nicholston United Presbyterian Con 4, Lot 1 St Peter's Anglican Con 2, Lot 5 West Essa Methodist Con 1, Lot 6
A CENTURY OF PROGRESS: THE CENTENNIAL REVIEW OF THE TOWNSHIP OF ESSA, 1850-1950. By Essa Township Council, Reprinted by Simcoe County Historical Society, 1999. 141 p. illus, index.
EARLY HISTORY OF IVY, by Essa Historical Society, 1997. 31 p. illus. A good collection of information about the hamlet of Ivy. Many photographs.
SETTLER Con. Lot. AGNEW, John 10 1 AALEN, William 1 11 ANNETT, John 6 2 ARNOLD, James 11 5 ARNOLD, Alexander 11 5 ARNOLD, Thomas 10 3 (E1/2) ASSIP, John 4 4 (W1/2) AYHERST, William 10 11 BATEMAN, John 11 11 BELL, S. 10 11 BELL, Wm. 10 10 BLACKSTOCK, John 11 19 (E1/2) BLACKSTOCK, William 9 18 BLACKSTOCK, Thomas 11 18 (E1/2) BLACKSTOCK, John 11 9 BRICE, John (BRYCE) 1 6 BRICE, Robert (BRYCE) 1 6 BULLOCK, James 1 5 CASSIN, James 10 13 CHAPMAN, Charles 8 7 (E1/2) COLEMAN, William 9 2 COLEMAN, Andrew 9 2 CUNNINGHAM, Wm. 9 5 DINWOODY, George 10 1 DOLEN, Michael 11 18 (W1/2) DUFF, Thomas 9 1 GILROY, Robert 8 3 HALL, William 4 7 (W1/2) HANDY, Charles 4 5 HIGHLAND, Wm. 10 10 JOHNSTON, John 4 7 KINLOR, Robert 6 2 (W1/2) LEWIS, David 11 3 (E1/2) LOWES, Daniel 11 6 MOONEY, Robert 7 8 (S1/2) MOONEY, Henry 7 3 (E1/2) MORRIS, Henry 9 7 MORROW, Hugh 9 2 McCLAIN, John 8 1 McClellan, David 2 7 McKEOWN, James 11 14 NICHOLSON, Thomas 8 6 (W1/2) ROBINSON, James -- -- ROONEY, Henry 8 2 (W1/2) ROSS, William 11 21 RUTHVEN, Alex 1 10 RUTHVEN, Robt. Sr. 1 7 RUTHVEN, Robt. Jr. 1 9 SMITH, James 4 11 SOMERVILLE, Pearce 7 8 SPEERS, James 10 12 SPEERS, Joseph 7 5 STEVENSON, Wm. 1 8 (W1/2) STRONG, John 10 5 (E1/2) STRONG, Wm. 10 5 TODD, Walter 4 3 WHITESIDE, Robt. 8 4 WILKINSON, Thomas 4 3 WILKINSON, Thomas, Jr. 4 3 WILKINSON, Arthur 3 4
SETTLER OCCUPATION ATKINSON, John Blank BALL, George (1833) Blank BRYANT, Adam Blank COLLINS, Charles Blank FULLERTON, John Blank JOHNSON, James Blank LADD..... Innkeeper LANE, Jonathan Blank MANN, William Blank OLIVER, Robert Capt. (see also Oro) SUMMERS, James ( SOMERS) Blank VANDEBURGH, Barnett Blank
The first settlement in Essa was accordingly made in the southeast corner of the township, and the three men, to whom the honour is due of making the first breach in the unbroken forest, west of Cookstown of to-day, were George Dinwoody, Thomas Duff and Samuel McClain. These three pioneers "located" lots number one, in the 10th, 9th and 8th concessions respectively, along the townline between Essa and Tecumseth. They had come from County Monaghan, Irleand, in 1825, to York (Toronto), and were related to each other by blood and marriage. Duff amd NcClain came first to view the land, and while in the forest at the place, they lay over night under a hemlock tree on the Tecumseth side of the townline.
The removal of these settlers (at least the families of Dinwoody and Duff) took place from York (Toronto) to Essa early in the summer of the year 1826. While going to their new homes, they were obliged to make their oxen swim across the Nottawasaga River to the south of the site of Cookstown, or as the morass was called - "The Big Swamp." This swamp continued to be an obstacle to the pioneers for many years, for they had to bring supplies from Holland Landing and Newmarket; and one of their earliest enterprises consisted in cutting a trail through it, though it was still necessary to "back" their supplies across it, as it was impassable for vehicles, and remained so for a long time till a Government crossway was constructed.
These pioneers built a shanty upon the lot of Dinwoody, which they called "home," for a brief period, until further progress could be made, the two familes living together for the first winter or longer. Their nearest neighbours were those in the vicinity of Bond Head, distant fully five miles.
George Dinwoody and Thomas Duff were thus the two first actual settlers in Essa Township.
In course of time George Dinwoody prospered, and in 1843 built a brick house, which was the first brick house in Essa. Robert Dearing, of West Gwillimbury, was the bricklayer who did the work of laying the bricks and mortar of this house. Mr. Dinwoody turned out as a volunteer during the Rebellion of 1837, and was the First Lieutenant of the Essa Company. He was the first elder of the Presbyterian Church in Essa, and served this locality in other ways during his long life. He died February 23rd, 1885, aged 85 years, his wife having died July 2nd, 1884, aged 93 years. They had two sons viz., William and James. William Dinwoody was the first white child born in Essa, and when grown to manhood settled upon lot 3, concession 9, of the township. He died in 1906. James Dinwoody was born here August 29th, 1828, and still lives on the homestead on which he was born more than eighty years ago.
The wife of Thomas Duff was Margaret Dinwoody, a sister of George, the pioneer. Thomas Duff was captain of the Essa Company of volunteers who turned out at the time of the Rebellion of 1837. He was one of the first elders of the Essa Presbyterian Church. He was also the Home District Councillor for Essa in 1842, travelling on foot from his home to the meetings of the council in Toronto, but receiving no pay or travelling allowances, as members get at the present day. He died October 12th, 1875, aged 81 years, his wife having died December 30th, 1869, aged 70 years. In their family there were four sons, John, William, Thomas and George; also five daughters, Mrs. Alex. McKee (who was killed in a railway crossing accident December 8th, 1896, at Lockport, N.Y.), Mrs. Robert Sproul, Mrs. Dr. Norris, Mrs. Jas. McBride, and Mrs. Rachel McKee. His farm of 200 acres passed into the hands of John and George. John Duff died March 4th, 1901, in his 76th year, and his son, Major John A. Duff, of Toronto, died two years later. Another member of his family is the Hon. James S. Duff, M.P.P. for West Simcoe, for which he was first elected in 1898, and became Minister of Agriculture for Ontario, October, 1908. George, one of the original pioneers family, was a member of the Essa and County Councils for some years, and Thomas has been licence inspector for Centre Simcoe since 1905.
Samuel McClain, the third person mentioned in this group, became disabled shortly after his arrival, and retired to York (Toronto), where he was joined by his family from Co. Monaghan, Ireland, in 1827. He died prematurely in 1832. His eldest son, John, became his successor on the Essa lot in November, 1835, and remained its occupant for many years, afterward removing to Barrie, where he resided until his death, April 29th, 1898, in his eighty-first year. Of Samuel McClain's three other sons - Samuel, William and Robert, - William also became a resident of Essa, and was reeve of the township for fifteen years (1853-66, and again in 1868). He then moved to Toronto where he entered the government service.
On the corner of George Dinwoody's land, a log Orange Hall was built at an early date, and in pioneer years this was also used for preaching by the Presbyterians, for township meetings, and for the purposes of a schoolhouse. Among the early teachers in this pioneer schoolhouse (in the thirties) were Andrew Coleman, a Mr. Bird, and James Johnston, all of whom are referred to at greater length in our chapter on the first schools.
Hugh Dinwoody, a brother of George, settled at first on the Tecumseth side, in this vicinity, and was also one of the pioneers. His family came from Ireland to the settlement in 1834, he himself having arrived here a year or two earlier. For a number of years, in the forties, and later, he kept a store at Clover Hill on the Essa side, this being the pioneer store at the place, at which a lively trade was carried on at one time.
David Lewis had been a soldier and came from Toronto early in 1825 to the vicinity of Cookstown to seek a 200 acre farm, being entitled to 100 acres as a soldier, and 100 as an intending settler. Before he started from Toronto on this trip, one of the men who had surveyed Essa, had directed him to a surveyor's shanty left standing on Buckley's Hill, a mile south of Cookstown, where he could obtain shelter. He had with him two men, and a little favourite dog. By following the "blaze" along the townline from the settlements near Bond Head, they reached the shanty in time to stay in it the first night. They found another surveyor's shanty beside the small creek passing across the townline of Tecumesth and Essa, by which he was able to know the place which had been described to him, and he chose a lot here at that time. When returning to the settlements they went astray and were lost in the woods for two or three days without food or shelter. The two men with him wanted, in this dilemma, to kill the little dog for food, to which Mr. Lewis would reluctantly consent if they should fail to reach a settler's before noon next day. Just before noon they came upon two men chopping in the woods, and by these men the lost travellers were taken in to dinner, and the life of the little dog was spared. When Mr. Lewis came again to the locality the next season, Dinwoody and Duff had arrived with their familes, and Mr. Blackstock had settled on a lot up the east townline, so Mr. Lewis now chose No. 3, in the 11th concession, facing the townline, and built a house upon it the same year (1826). He brought his family from Hogg's Hollow to the Essa lot in March, 1829.
Those pioneers were not long the sole disturbers of the woodland peace, for in the same year, 1826, (and partly during the next), they were joined by another company, all of whom located in the neighborhood. Amongst the new arrivals were: - John Blackstock, lot 9, con. 11, Charles Chapman, lot 7, con. 8, Robert Gilroy, lot 3, con. 8, William Strong, lot 5, con. 10, John Strong, lot 5, con. 10, Henry Morris, (1828), lot 7, con. 11.
These settlers were chiefly from the North of Ireland. John Blackstock had settled with his family almost as early as any of those who have been mentioned in the former part of this chapter. The Blackstock family were natives of the Co. Cavan, Ireland. He did not live many years in the Essa forest, but died in the forties. Of his family, John Blackstock, jr., died January 4th, 1884, in his 77th year, and George Blackstock survived till June 16, 1903, aged 84 years.
Charles Chapman, the second pioneer in the above list, died June 20, 1867, aged 84 years.
Robert Gilroy, the third early settler mentioned in this list, was a young man and may be classed with the group of Monaghan settlers (Duff, Dinwoody, and McClain), as he was a relative of Mr. Duff and family. He met with an accident with horses and waggon, went to Toronto for cure and had an operation, but died from the effects (March 11, 1843), aged 31 years.
William Strong was Township Clerk of Essa for a time. After living on the lot mentioned (lot 5, con. 10), he removed to Cookstown, where he died, January 28, 1852, aged 43 years. John, his brother, went west to the "Queen's Bush" with the movement in that direction. James Strong, their younger brother, also went to the "Queen's Bush" and prospered there.
Henry Morris, the last mentioned, was the Simcoe District Councillor for Essa in 1843-4-5, and again in 1849; and he was the first reeve of the township in 1850.
One account states, (and it is probably correct), that the Perry family came next after Dinwoody and Duff to this neighborhood (in 1826), but they really belong to Innisfil, and have been already mentioned in our sketch of the settlers in that township. William Perry built the first tavern in Cookstown on the Innisfil corner, and this gave it the name of Perry's Corners. Before the village got the name of Cookstown, there was a contest over how the place should be named, and the strife waxed warm for a time. Hugh Dinwoody wanted it called Newtown Newbliss, after a place in Ireland; but Ferguson wanted it called Redhill after another place in Ireland. Mr. Cooke, solved the question in a way that suited himself, as he was the first person that sold lots in it and registered the plan that way, so the proposers of other names had to fall in line with this one.
Furhter north than the settlers already mentioned, and at a slighter later period, there settled John Henry, the pioneer at Thornton of to-day. He took an active interest in the early education of the children of his neighborhood, taught school in the forties, and Henry's schoolhouse was the name by which the locality was first known. He was also a magistrate. He died September 11, 1866, in his 75th year. His two sons, James and Thomas, may also be classed amongst the pioneers of the locality.
Alex. Arnold settled on lot 5, concession 11, Essa, in 1832, and his son, James, came to Essa in 1834.
Near the same part of the township as the last mentioned, others settled about the same time. James Speers came from Ireland in 1832, married in 1838 and settled upon lot 12, concession 10, which he had bought at an earlier date. His younger brother, Hugh, may also be classed among the pioneers. At the time of the Rebellion of 1837, the Essa company of volunteers mustered at the house of the kinsmen, Jas. Speers in Tecumseth, before starting for Toronto.
Henry Rooney, a Waterloo veteran, of the west half lot 2, concession 8, belongs to this early period, and William Cunningham, of the same neighborhood, as well as his brothers.
Among the later arrivals near Cookstown was Lieut.-Col. R.T. Banting, who came in 1845 to ths locality. In 1851 he was appointed Township Clerk of Essa and held the position for a great number of years. He became superintendent of schools for Essa and served fourteen years in this capacity, as long as township superintendents continued to be appointed, 1858-71. He was appointed County Clerk of Simcoe in 1860 and held the position till his death, April 1, 1902.
Of the McBride family who settled near Braden's side road at a later time, Margaret was unfortunately lost in the wreck of the Asia on the Georgian Bay, September 14, 1882, aged 37 years. The Indians found her body have it had been was washed ashore beyound Owen Sound.
Near Ivy, several settlers arrived about the year 1847. These included George Davis, John T. Fletcher, John and James Lennox, James McQuay, Thomas Parker and Hugh Speers. Of these, George Davis, J.P., became deputy-reeve of the township in 1861 and held the position until he was elected reeve in 1867. He was chosen warden of the county in 1872, and died at the close of his year of wardenship.
The village of Angus was laid out at the time the Northen Railway was constructed in 1854, by Jonas Tar Bush, a real estate agent, who had acquired part of lot 30 on which it is situated between the Nottawasaga and Pine Rivers, and nearest the latter. John B. Smith had one of the early sawmills near this place, and a post office was established here in 1856, bearing the Christian name of Angus Morrison, then M.P. for North Simcoe.
Among the first in the western settlement of Essa were James Robinson, James Bullock, John Bryce, Alexander and Robert Ruthven, senior, William Stevenson, William Allan, William Hall. These men with their familes had emigrated from Scotland during the "radical times" in Glasgow, preferring to face the forests of Upper Canada rather than endure the political and social oppresion of the Mother country. They first settled in the County of Lanark, in the Ottawa River district, but finding that region somewhat unpromising, they soon removed to Essa. They were, indeed, part of the same Scotch migration which settled in the southeast of Innisfil. Soon they became comfortably located, and they have left a large line of descendants in that beautiful farming district.
Alex. Ruthven, a weaver from the vicinity of Glasgow, with his sons and brothers, Robert, William, George and James, were amongst the best known settlers in this Scottish group. William went to Elderslie Township, Bruce County, in the early years. The brothers, Robert and George Ruthven, settled on lot 9, concession 1, Essa, in the spring of 1832, and thus became pioneers in that settlement. George was an assistant to Charles Rankin, surveyor, in the survey of Collingwood Township in the summer of 1833. This was the first township in the present County of Grey to be surveyed, being then included in Simcoe County. George Ruthven, while thus engaged, located a farm in that township at the time, viz., lot 31, concession 12, and afterward settled upon it, becoming a pioneer of Collingwood Township. On their way to make the survey of Collingwood Township in 1833, they went from West Essa through the woods near to Angus of the present time, an got their provisions over the Nine Mile Portage from Barrie, then just newly established.
Robert Ruthven, senior, a brothr of Alexander, was also a pioneer in West Essa. He was born in Glasgow and died November 21, 1879, in his 77th year.
It is one of the traditions of the West Essa setlement that one of the sons in the Ruthven family was the first white child to cross the Nottawasaga River in the westward movement of settlement.
William Ruthven, of this settlement, was an early school teacher in the fifties near Cookstown.
About this time also, Charles Handy came out of Tosorontio, where he had been living out of reach of neighbours, and settled upon the west half lot 5, concession 4. The Turnbull family and Mr. Brewster also belong to this early period.
James Robinson, settled in 1831 on lot 4, concession 1, Essa, and after living a while here, moved to Tecumseth, and later to Vespra, where he died.
John Bryce, of lot 6, concession 1, settled in 1831, also. He, like the other people in this group, went to the settlement by way of Bradford and Perry's Corners (Cookstown).
Thomas Bruce, another pioneer, had come first to the Township of Tyendinaga in Hastings County, and afterward removed to West Essa. His Grandson, Geo. W. Bruce, of Collingwood, was warden of the county in 1904, and is Lieut.-Col. of the 35th Battalion, Simcoe Foresters.
A true story, written by Ernest Bruce, of West Essa, entitled "The Barn Raising," gained the prize for the County of Simcoe in 1890, in the Montreal Witness competition. It appeared in that newspaper, and related the story of how a barn was once raised in pioneer days of West Essa without whiskey, - an event that rarely ever happened in that period, or locality.
The Mormon movement in the early forties took some hold in West Essa. A Mr. Lake was the Mormon missionary, and held services from house to house in the settlement, the meetings being attended by crowds, as preaching from higher ideals was then scarce. At these meetings, William Ritchey also did some preaching in an unknown tongue. They baptized in Hall's Creek, having made a number of proselytes. Before long these left their lands, several familes in number, and like a swarm of bees they went off all at one time in covered waggons, or prairie schooners, going to swell the Mormon settlement in Illinois or Missouri, and later at Salt Lake City. At a later time some adherents of the Mormons built a chuch or meeting house of that denomination in Alliston, but it is now obsolete.
The tract known as the "Essa Flats" had good pasture lands, and although they were not taken up quite so early as the higher lands, yet settlers came upon them at a comparitively early time.
Walter Todd, a native of Yorkshire, Eng., settled upon lot 3, concession 4, early in the thirties. He was District Councillor for Essa in the years, 1846-7-8.
John Assip, a native of Ireland, was another early settler about the same time, and took up the west half of lot 4, concession 4. He was a retired soldier, and a shoemaker by trade, his knowledge of St. Crispin's craft being very useful in the backwoods in the early days.
William Fletcher, a native of Yorkshire, Eng., had settled about the year 1825, upon lot 3, concession 14, Tecumseth, in the vicinity of the present town of Alliston. As his sons were growing up to manhood, he acquired at an early time, a farm at the creek or river in Essa, where Alliston now stands, and it is stated that he removed to this land in 1847. The mill privileges of the stream had attracted him thither, and in the following year, in conjunction with his sons, John and George, he erected a sawmill there, and a gristmill in 1853. A village soon grew up at these mills, William Turnbull being one of the first storekeepers.
In June, 1874, the question of incorporating the place as a village came up, and the County Council appointed as census enumerator, John Gilbert, whose census return showed that it contained more than the requisite number of inhabitants necessary for incorporation, so they passed a by-law to incorporate it as a village.
A bad fire in the winter of 1877-8 destroyed much of the business part of the place, after which it was rebuilt in a more substantial manner. The village, in 1884, granted a bonus to Knight & Wilson, agricultural implement makers, for rebuilding the Vulcan Foundry, and thereby secured for the place an industrial establishment.
Another severe fire visited Alliston in the early part of 1891, and in the following year, the place, which by this time had been made a town, raised $16,750 by debentures to construct a system of waterworks for better fire protection as well as domestic use.