Last year in the fall I approached Muriel Newman regarding her books “The River Flows on Forever.”
I was very fortunate that day as she had only one copy left of the first book (that I now have) and I have found these two books to be a very precious recording of historical tidbits by people in our community.
As we now move into 2016 and another “Homecoming Year” – I would like to share with you the words that Muriel wrote in her Introduction of the first book:
It’s hard for us to imagine that this area of cultivated farmland with lovely homes and sturdy barns, a little more than a century ago, was a vast forest broken only by rivers and creeks. The trees were huge and close together. Many places a horse with sleigh could not even walk between them.
It was in 1837 that the government of Upper Canada commissioned Charles Rankin to blaze a trail through the dense bushland from Arthur to Owen Sound. To blaze meant to chip or notch trees with an axe, so that a road might be laid through the Queen’s Bush as it was then called. This trail became known as the Garafraxa road as it had its beginning in Garafraxa township. Now it is known as Highway #6 (although of that I am unsure at this time, since all of the highways and county roads were renamed with municipal shake-up.)
To encourage settlement, the government offered free grants of 50 acres of land along this road. By 1855 thousands of immigrants flooded into Southern Ontario. They came from Germany, England, Ireland and Scotland to escape civil wars, the potato famine, greedy landlords, scarcity of land and other deplorable conditions. Normanby soon had many small hamlets as settlers established themselves, clearing the land and attempting to produce crops and wrestle a living from the virgin soil. Places like Alsfeldt, Moltke, Varney, Orchardville, Lauderbach, Hampden, Bieman’s Corner, Calderwood, Gleneden, Nenagh, Egremont, Neustadt and Ayton had sawmills, gristmills, stores and other businesses. Most of these have disappeared and Neustadt and Ayton are the largest towns left in Normanby. It seems as if Normanby has also lost its name and will soon be known as the Township of West Grey (now true) which includes a larger envelope of six townships.
People come and people go but the river flows on forever……….