The very first information that I wrote about the community of Dunblane was in 1970 or so, when the Owen Sound CFOS radio station requested historical items for talks on the radio of about two minutes. As Curator of the Burgoyne Women’s Institute at the time, I offered to do an article on Dunblane, which I did, complete with errors. The story was entitled “Dunblane, a Community of Yesteryear”. In the 1972 Bruce County Historical Society Year Book, this article appeared in print, again with my errors.

Once I learned of the errors, I felt very sorry for having made them and hoped that one day I could make corrections so that those errors would not be repeated for eons to come.

The Dunblane community was where I was nurtured and grew up – along the beautiful Saugeen River. There was my school, the church, caring neighbours, wildlife, fishing, swimming, boating, nature and places where one could dream and relax while reading a book while up in a tree.

After raising my family and becoming more interested in genealogy and local history and having learned much more from researching for our area history for the Burgoyne Women’s Institute Tweedsmuir books, I knew that I wanted to preserve the stories of Dunblane. I began to think about writing it all down. Eventually I was asked to tell something of what I was endeavouring at the Christmas dinner for the Bruce County Historical Society. Already I had started the intense searching for data on all the farms, but I had to put it aside while fulfilling my duties elsewhere. Ten years later, being anxious to get a book out about Dunblane, and not getting any younger, I took up the challenge again in 2015. It is well on the way, but there are many challenges, and occurances that you the reader needs to know that cannot be included in almost every farm story.

Township Papers

There was a time when everyone believed that when the first line on the abstract page in the land registry books in the county office in Walkerton displayed who and when the owner received the Crown deed, that was the first transaction and owner of the farm. WRONG! There is what are called Township Papers that give the story before the Crown deed was issued. A settler was required to first apply to the Crown Lands Department, Quebec or to the local Bruce County Land Commissioner in Southampton, once he was established.

The request read something like this and I have put a few of these documents into the farm accounts:

I am desirous of purchasing Lot 1 Con 15, Township of Wherever and will comply with your regulations‘. Then they signed their name. If they could not write, they signed with an X and had a witness. Some were already living on the property and said so.

I will use 3 original documents from Lot 24 Con 7 Saugeen as an example of what can happen, especially when things don’t go according to the rules.

In the first document, Saugeen Township Paper 970, William Gowanlock requested to occupy Lot 24 Con 7 Saugeen, stating he was already residing on it.

Con 7 Lot 24 - Twp Paper 994 - 1852 - request to occupy
In Township Paper 994, dated 1852, William Gowanlock requested to occupy Lot 24 Con 7 Saugeen Township.

The second document is to purchase the land setting out 6 rules to follow. The down payment will be one tenth of purchase price which was 10 shillings per acre and one tenth annually until paid in full. Here is where William Gowanlock ran into trouble, so his request was turned down as he had not followed up the yearly payments, plus interest, and he owed the Land Office $$382. What was he to do?

William Cameron, a merchant from Port Elgin, then known as Normanton, paid off the debt and obtained the deed to the land, then sold it back to William Gowanlock for a fee, William Scott still had his farm but no doubt the stress was getting to him and he still had a debt / mortgage to pay off.

Con 7 Lot 24 Saugeen Crown patent

I am only using William Gowanlock as an example as to what could and did happen to many, many farms. Often it took many years to get the deed for a farm. What some settlers did was to settle 2 farms, get some land cleared on both and sell off one of them. That usually gave them enough money to ward off losing the property.

It was always my understanding that there were to be no land speculators, but there were many who never actually stayed on a farm, but headed for establishing a business in the nearest town as soon as the land was sold.

Besides trying to clear the lands, plant the crops with few tools or oxen or horses, trying to grow enough food to feed a usually growing family, it was a financial struggle. And on it went with basically no money coming in and even getting what produce they grew to the nearby docks for shipping was not easy. Settlers helped one another, building a cabin or shack, a barn for animals, cutting and burning logs.