Friday, October 13, 2006

Governor's Road: A History

From: Township of West Flamboro – Province of Ontario
1850 - 1950 Centennial Celebration
page 193

The first road constructed in the Township was the Governor’s Road, in fact this was the first road in the Province of Upper Canada, and was commenced by Governor Simcoe in 1793. It was cleared by the early settlers and built by the soldiers as a military road.

Contributed by Beverley Boyce
. Unique in that it is in the First Person Singular.

I first existed as an Indian trail that led through dense forests and swampy land. Joseph Brant, chief of the Mohawks and the war leader of the Six Nations, used me on his trips to Lake Ontario. I have saved them many miles of travel around by Lake Erie, and the treacherous Niagara River, and Lake Ontario.

In 1793, I felt very honoured to have Sir John Graves Simcoe, one of the greatest men Canada has ever known, select me as the route of the road to eventually join the St. Lawrence, York (Toronto) and London on the Le Trenche River (Thames River). Then I was known as they way of the warrior.

I was officially christened Monday, August 23rd, 1793, by Capt. Smith, who named me Dundas Street, to commemorate Henry Dundas, Secretary of State of the Imperial Government. Capt. Smith accompanied by one hundred men, went to clear the road surveyed by Mr. Augustus Jones, Deputy-Surveyor of Stoney Creek, who lived on the site of what was known as the “Salt Works Farm.”

In order to have the land on both sides of me cleared for the road builders, my father gave grants of land to members of the Queen’s Rangers, King’s Regiment and Butler’s Regiment. They were given the grant on three conditions: (i) they must clear thirty-three feet on their side of the surveyor’s line for the road; (ii) they must clear five acres of land; (iii) they must grow enough food to feed the soldiers, who came to build me and be able to shelter them.

My health in my childhood was not the best by any means. I had many sore spots on my body which took the form of quagmires, not to mention the rough corduroy which gave my travelers many a backache and headache. I will describe the construction of a corduroy road to you.

“Whole trees were sacrificed to form a corrugated causeway on their round trunks laid side by side, over which wagons were slowly dragged or bumped, any attempt at speed being checked by immediate symptoms of approaching dissolution in the vehicles.”

The first steam engine for the Grand Trunk Railway was drawn over me by oxen, to Copetown. The railway was built from Copetown to Dundas instead of being built from Dundas to Copetown. The engine was used to pull the “fill” cars back and forth. The story goes, that an engine is buried in the quicksand in the vicinity of Copetown.

My present surface was given to me in 1940 for which I am very grateful. I have now become the King’s Highway No. 99. Now, I am generally used by followers of the peaceful art of farming, and the present pastime of bicycling or driving.

To commemorate my father, Sir John Graves Simcoe, a cairn has been erected on the site where he is supposed to have camped on one of his journeys along my route. You will find the monument on the left hand side of the road going west from Dundas. It is made of stone with a bronze plaque afixed [sic] to the front giving the details of my founding

To-day I while away my time by giving a number of tourists a restful and scenic drive. From the man in a hurry I receive many a chuckle by presenting my many lovely but irresistable [sic] curves.


Hmmm. "rough corduroy" - something the traffic engineers might want to consider for today's road...L.S.


Dennis Daniels said...

As my family history goes my great great grandfather went down with that engine into the Copetown quicksand. I would like to learn more about it.

Unknown said...

If you find out anything more about the sinking engine, I would like to hear about it too. I believe the railroad in question was however the Great Western, not the Grand Trunk as stated above. What is "the Copetown quicksand"? Thanks. Bill King.