A very well-meaning and polite lady approached me several
weeks ago and complimented me for my articles in Tackaberry Times, chronicling
the history and characters who formed, melded and through force of belief in both
themselves and their new country transformed a virtual wilderness into the area we now
accept - at times even take for granted - as North Halton and of course, Canada.
"You make it interesting," she offered. "But everyone knows, Canadian
history is boring!"
I begged to differ, but as with her, in a polite way. Suffering in silence, I wondered
that if perhaps instead of watching American brain-candy productions on television and
investing some time in Canadian historical productions she might come to realize that the
birth and growth of Canada need not take a back seat to any country.
Cultural diversity has been a boon to Canada as a whole, and Ontario in particular.
In a word, we are all immigrants, one and all - a mare usqua ad
mare- from sea to shining sea. Yet amazingly, we work well together and survive the
occasional blips and stumbles.
from the same cultural background tend to group together when the unknown looms.
Sociologists and anthropologists have long documented this tendency. And it happened in
Canadas tentative years. It happens today! But eventually, the fear of the cultural
stranger subsides and when the realization sets in that the good of the whole is worth
much more than a certain set of stereotypical cultural parts, true nation building can
begin. Canada is still working towards that goal.
Halton Region and even Halton Hills provides a case in point, peopled mainly by
immigrants of British stock, Scots, English and Irish. The southern area of Halton,
settled mainly by United Empire Loyalists, takes its name from a British army officer,
Major William Mathew Halton. Major Halton reportedly spent little time in Canada, but
somehow gained the position of Provincial Agent for Upper Canada, while based in England.
The northern area was settled by immigrants direct from Britain, many of whom were
recruited by John Galt and the now questionably corrupt, Canada Company. Full municipal
and judicial powers were not granted to Halton until 1855.
A look at culture clusters in Halton Hills shows the predominant influence of those
from Great Britain, in particular, those of Scottish descent.
The Scotch Block (originally termed the Scottish Settlement) is
generally recognized as encompassing Steeles Avenue to 17 Sideroad and from the Town Line
between Nassagaweya and Esquesing to the Centre Line between the 5th and 6th Concession
The vagaries and meanderings of surveyors in the formative years of Canada is legend.
Many received land grants in payment for their services. Then sold off prime real estate
and went happily on their way.
Richard Bristol and Timothy Street are the recorded surveyors of this area and were the
first to receive Crown Deeds. Bristol was given Lot 2, Conc. 4 and Street received Lot 12,
Conc. 7. Neither settled their land.
Bristol has been lost in the mists of history, while Street wandered eastward, built a
gristmill and is recognized as the founder of Streetsville.
The land had been purchased by the British government from an Ojibwa band of native
Canadians, Mississauga to accommodate those termed, United Empire Loyalists,
who had trekked north, disdaining the excited and inciting much ballyhooed
and eventually over-produced American War of Independence, from 1775-1783 and
the Canadian - American skirmishes of the 1812-1814 confrontation.
The ferocious Highland Clearances carried out by Scottish lairds and their
country cousins the English Lords, allowed that sheep were preferable to people in prime
Scottish Highland country. This combined with the suffocating class system in Britain (and
Scotland) which virtually forbade those from the lower and lower middle class from
owning land pried open the valve for the flow of immigrants to North America.
Who settled first in Scotch Block is open to both speculation and naturally, familial
pride. However, according to the History of the Province of Ontario the first
two settlers are recognized as James Hume and Ronald Macdonald, circa 1818.
Other families followed. The Hunters, Cummers, McGowans, Kays, Camerons,
Broadys and Hardys. By 1822, this list included Robertsons, Pattersons, NacNabbs, Fishers,
Laidlaws, Murrays, Hendersons, Chisholms, Darlings, Elliots, Stewarts and Shortreeds. Many
of these names can still be found in the local phone book and on much the same land.
Religious belief also fortified the early settlers against the rigors
and challenges of a new country and the Scotch Block settlers brought their Presbyterian
beliefs with them.
The first recorded church service was held on a Sunday in June of 1820, on
the farm of Andrew Laidlaw, Lot 6, Conc. 4 and presided over by the Rev. William Jenkins,
who traveled from Markham to conduct the service.
Church meetings were held in various venues, but a permanent structure was obviously
required. Land was purchased from Andrew Laidlaw in 1824 (on the west end of Lot 7, Conc.
4) and although the rough structure wasnt completed until 1835, the Boston Church
serves as a historical landmark in Halton history.
The Presbyterian belief spread to Georgetown, where congregations regularly met in the
Town Hall or the Congregational and Wesleyan Churches. The first Presbyterian Church in
Georgetown was built in 1867.
Politics or certain political beliefs as well as religion, was also
curdling through the Scotch Block.
The Family Compact, a collusion of basically corrupt and money hungry politicians and
businessmen, was sucking the lifeblood out of the new-country. The new ideas conscious
immigrants wanted nothing more than a piece of property, to work, plow, hew and call their
The Canadian 1837 Rebellion, led by William Lyon Mackenzie against the, at
the time Canadian Establishment ended in disaster for most of the
participants. But it did lead to more proper and civil governance in Canada.
John Stewart, who settled in 1819, on Lot 9, Conc. 3 in Esquesing, in the Scotch Block
area, was very much apart of the Rebellion and a supporter of Mackenzie.
It is reported that Mackenzie arrived at Stewarts farm in Scotch Block (now
Craiglea Guest Home) in 1837 and roused the people to join his Reform Party
(chuckle-chuckle) to protest against the intolerance and subjugation of the new people of
a new nation.
Stewart raised a militia of roughly 60 men to journey to Little York (now Toronto) to
join Mackenzies uprising. By the time the group arrived at what we now recognize as
Chinguacousy, only five were still in the game.
Stewart and countless others involved in this uprising were arrested and imprisoned.
Some were executed. But the indomitable Stewart, and 13 others, escaped from Fort Henry in
Kingston and fled to the United States.
Stewart was eventually allowed to return to Canada, only to find his property a
virtually neglected wasteland due to his wastrel son, also named John. He sold his
property to Thomas Hagyard and returned to Paisley, Scotland, now a suburb of Glasgow,
where he died in 1899.
The Scotch Block, although not designated graphically or even demographically, still
exists in Halton Hills.
once threatened visage of impenetrable forest has given way to a montage of forest,
farmland and people friendly come-as-you-are, pick-as-you-will open arms back to earth
Development has been in a word, discouraged. John Stewart must be smiling.
Journeying through the Scotch Block area you are able to idle past Williams Apple
Orchard, Barrows Apple Orchard, Merrybrook Farm and McPhail Farm as well as
Humes Farm Auction, on the 4th Line.
Sure to be a highlight on your journey would be a visit to Andrews Scenic Acres.
Bert and his wife Lauraine purchased a 100-acre farm in the Scotch Block area in 1980.
This pick-your-own basically berry farm has since grown in leaps and bounds.
From a run down farm, as described by Bert, the property has developed into
an enterprise that not only encourages visits from schools but is also recognized as an
important and enlightening educational tool in broadening the perspective of the oft too
computerized frizzed out youth of today.
But lets leap back a wee bit, as the Scots would say.
Gordon Hume, 82 still living in Scotch Block can perhaps guide us.
James Hume was recognized as one of the earlier settlers of the Scotch Block, there was
another Hume, George, who also settled there. According to Gordon, "Nobody could
figure out if they were brothers or cousins". Regardless, the Humes were one of
the earliest settlers in the area.
And why, according to Gordon, "As I was told, it was because of the sheep! You
couldnt own any land in Scotland, you could only be tenant farmers!"
born in 1918 in a house on 10th Sideroad, in Scotch Block. He met his wife Doreen, at a
Junior Farmers dance in Huttonville. His wife Doreen, recently passed away but Gordon
still shares his subdivided property with his daughter Marleen and son George.
Times are changing and Mr. Hume is very aware of what is happening. "Yes" he
says, there is still Scottish influence in the Block area. "But like the rest of
Canada, things are changing and you are getting a diversity of life and culture. Yet
having said that, Ive enjoyed very much so, the best neighbors in the world."
Scots wa hae! Canadian history is not boring.