Bonnechere Museum | Eganville Ontario

Fences and Roads

Horse High, Bull Strong and Skunk Tight

One of the first duties of a rural council was to appoint at least two people to the important position of Fence Viewer. Their function was to determine what was a lawful fence and impose fines as required. A lawful fence had to be HORSE HIGH, BULL STRONG AND SKUNK TIGHT. (Taylor Kennedy, as found on Al Lewis' internet site.) Our area has many kinds of pioneer fences: stump fence, split rail fence – often called a snake fence, round log fence with bunks – sometimes with wired pickets holding bunks in place, stone fence, stone fence bottom and log top for height. Later types were the straight wire fence, the barbed wire fence – often combined with a stone or log fence, and paged wire fence. There are, of course more modern ones such as electric fences and radio collar fences. The older ones still have charm. Many people travel the Opeongo Line just to see the traditional fences. It would be a great historical photo project to assemble a display of the different types labelled with their location. Models of each would be good too. It is a worthy dream to think of owning a property with each type on display for visitors to see.

Good for 1 loaf: A Response

Baptiste Pigeon of Cobden collects tokens. He was able to tell me that the “GOOD FOR 1 LOAF”; token “FROM LISK’S BAKERY, EGANVILLE, ONT” is one of several types, for there were milk tokens and meat tokens as well.  Tokens could be purchased and were left in a box or even a mailbox to tell the deliveryman what produce to leave. Money left in a mailbox for a loaf of bread, or coins in an empty milk bottle, were easy to spot and often disappeared into little pockets. Paying in advance for tokens avoided the disappearing-money problem and indicated how many loaves of bread or quarts of milk were to be left. Tokens for milk were later replaced by paper tickets. However, the milkmen disliked them for they were so hard to remove from a damp bottle. Meat tokens were usually used at the butcher shop by children or a neighbour picking up meat for someone unable to shop that day.

Loggers, Settlers and Roads

Lumber camps needed farmers to supply meat, grain, hay, horses, and a local labour force with tradesmen for the many building and repair tasks. Yet, there was another enticement: “One Hundred acres will be given Free to any settler, 18 years of age, who shall take possession of the Lot within one month from the date of his application, erect on it a house, 18 by 20 feet, put in a state of cultivation at least 12 acres in the course of four years, and live on the Lot during that period.”  (Cf:  Clyde Kennedy)

Many early log dwellings, still in evidence locally, have an 18 x 20 dimension.  To settlers, who found themselves forced from their lands in Europe, the offer of free land was a major attraction to the Ottawa Valley. Because the United States was offering free land in the 1800’s, Canada tried to attract and keep its settlers by surveying and building settlement roads. One of the most famous was the Ottawa and Opeongo Road; a second was the Addington Road; and a third the Hastings Road, among others.  Robert Bell surveyed the line for the Opeongo Road in 1852, although parts of it had been surveyed before. The War of 1812 was a victory for Canada. However, the risk of invasion from the United States made it important to be able to move troops quickly. The Rideau Canal served this military purpose and on over land route to Toronto was another consideration. There was speculation that a trail from the Ottawa River could be upgraded to passable conditions and connect with the Hastings Road, running from the south. Both the Opeongo Road and the Bonnechere Road had traffic before each was surveyed, developed and named. The diaries of Charles Thomas record traffic on the Bonnechere Road as early as 1851 and make reference to the transport of supplies from Fairfield Farm (Eganville) to the surveyors working about six miles above Barry’s Bay (Roddy MacKay). In 1847, James McNaughton surveyed and mapped the course of the Bonnechere River; the river itself was important for transporting people and goods.

How can you put roads in a museum? There are several ways: maps, plaster models, photos, records of land patents. Transfer deeds often make reference to roads. Stories about ancestors who helped to build and maintain roads are interesting heritage items.

"We drink from wells we did not find;
we eat from farmland we did not develop;
we enjoy freedoms we have not earned...
make us grateful for our heritage."

Heritage Maritime Prayer, Anonymous