Pioneer Church on a Colonization Trail

Posted on: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 15:15 By: Mike

Outside view of the log church.

One of many interesting aspects of Ontario's history is its so-called colonization roads. Surveys began in 1847 for the creation of roads that would open up lands between the Ottawa River Valley, and Georgian Bay for new settlement. The Public Lands Act, passed in 1853 granted free title to land provided you met the following criteria:

  1. You were 18 years of age or older.
  2. You cleared at least 12 acres of the land to which you claimed title within four years.
  3. You built a house on that land within one year.
  4. You resided on that land for at least five years.

Wood stove in the church.

This presented a unique opportunity for settlers who quickly set out along 1,200 km of colonization roads to access this new, free, land. Soon afterward, small towns began to pop up as well, and places of worship like the one we found here. Located near the Nipissing Colonization Road, this church was constructed in 1880 on a lot donated by John Foreman. It served as a multi-denominational church and a union meeting hall until taken over by the Anglican Church.

Front of the church.

As the town grew, a school was built across the street. Presbyterians began making use of the church as well and by 1901, they outnumbered the Anglicans. Over time, as disillusioned farmers retreated from the land in defeat, these towns shrank and disappeared. Most left nothing behind, but some few reminders like this church still remain in some places to tell the tale of shattered dreams, and the expansion of the province.