Bruce Township throws a party in 2006

By by Lynda Janzen in the January 2006 edition of Marketplace (with permission from the editor)

Proudly bracketing the old #12 School House Bell Cairn at Port Bruce Cemetery are 
150th Anniversary Committee members Ken Howe, Herb Henkenhaf, Cordon Brown and Donna Doern

If you're in a party mood this year, Bruce Township is the place to be. The year 2006 marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of Bruce Township within Bruce County and the Township is marking the milestone with a party weekend in June jam-packed with events and activities for all ages.

Chair of the 150th Anniversary and Homecoming Committee, Herb Henkenhaf says the event was the brainchild of the Bruce Township Historical Society. "Don Ribey lit the match, then asked other interested parties, generating a lot of excitement," says Herb.

Community Centre Board Chair Ken Howe says the Municipality of Kincardine is being very supportive of the festivities and is helping where and when possible, making the Committee feel a little less stressed about all the work yet to be done.

Festivities begin Friday evening, June 9th, 2006 at the Community Centre in Underwood with a Variety program, chaired by Eleanor Thompson, and featuring local, amateur entertainment. ... You will gain admission to this event by bringing something for the Food Bank.

Saturday the 10th, will open with a Pancake Breakfast which will begin early in the morning and last as long as there are people showing up to eat pancakes. In the afternoon, from 12:30 to 4:30, there will be a beer tent and entertainment, including Debbie Morris, Boys from the Bruce, Siddons & Friends and a few solo entertainers. Your emcee for the afternoon will be Cordon Ribey.

At 5pm a grand beef barbecue, put on by Jeff Cardiff of Brussels, will be held. Herb says they wanted everyone in Bruce Township to relax and enjoy the day and therefore are bringing caterers in from outside the area. "No one from Bruce Township should have to work that day," says Herb.

Saturday evening, a licensed Heritage Dance will run from 9pm to lam, featuring Flash Back from Paisley. Chair of the Entertainment Committee, Marlene Campbell says, though dress is optional, people are invited to dress in period costume, with the best dressed couple winning a prize. A light lunch will be served, as well.

Throughout the weekend, there will be children's programs, including old fashioned games like novelty races: bag, spoon and egg, three-legged, and so on. Watch for clowns, face painting, art contests and much, much more. Herb says the emphasis is on family participation. "It's a family oriented party."

The Municipality's Annual Decoration Day happens to fall on Sunday the 11th. Karen Ribey is planning an ecumenical church service and program for that day, including a decoration ceremony to take place at the Port Bruce Cemetery at 2 pin.

Food and souvenir stalls will be open throughout the festivities. Cordon Brown, speaking for Promotions Chair Don Ribey, says they'll be selling mugs, t-shirts, golf shirts, hats, playing cards and Christmas decorations, all featuring the 150th Anniversary and Homecoming logo.

Secretary of the Committee, Donna Doern, says they are currently looking for volunteers to help out in virtually every area, including parking, food catering, and for just about every other committee. The Committee is hoping that local youth groups will want to get involved, as their contribution of time can count toward the number of hours of community service needed for the high school diploma.

While all this planning is going on, interest is sure to be piqued about Bruce Township's past. Actually, the founding of the township reads like an adventure novel.

In 1847-8, the shoreline was first surveyed, although the complete survey of Bruce Township wasn't finished until into the 1850s. In 1851, a census showed 100 souls were living mostly in the southwest part of the township, around Inverhuron. The big land sale or Crown Deed began in September of 1854 and within a year, four-fifths of the lots in Bruce Township had been bought up. Early settlers from the British Isles moved to the newly opened area and established the first farms, followed by other European families, mostly from Germany.

Timothy Allen and the McManemy brothers were the first to take up land. Other early families include McKinnons, Kelsos, McLeans, Kissacks, Mathesons, MacArthurs and MacFadyens. Many descendants of these families are still living in the area.

With all the new people moving into the area, there was a tremendous building boom and the first sawmill was opened at Sinclair's Comers, located a mile and a quarter north of Tiverton.

January 1st, 1856 is the official birthday of Bruce Township, the date it became a municipality. The inaugural election was held at the home of James Kippen on Lot 6, Concession 3, Peter Sinclair being the returning officer. The elected included Archibald Sinclair, Alexander McKinnon, Nathaniel Burwash, Richard McGregor and George Butchart. Archibald Sinclair was appointed Reeve and Peter Sinclair was named to the office of Clerk-Tresurer. Alexander McLean was the tax collector.

The original Bruce Township building.

Taxes on parcels of a 100 acres were approximately $12 a year, or about the equivalent of $265 in today's dollars. In other words, taxes were very reasonable, one of the few good things about the so-called good old days.

As the population increased, merchants began to move in to serve the needs of the fanning community. This expansion called for town plots to be laid out. Because shipping was the main mode of transportation for goods and people, these towns grew up along the lakeshore. The year 1856 saw the rise of three such towns, Inverhuron, Port Bruce and Malta. Then, as the needs of farmers kept growing, new centres began to spring up inland. Underwood and Tiverton were founded in 1873 and Lovat in 1877.

In those days, families were very large by today's standards; a family of 10 children was not unheard of. By the year 1863 12 one-room school houses were operating in Bruce Township, home to some 357 students.

The first church in Bruce Township was founded in 1855 in Tiverton by a core group of 24. And the first Post Office opened in 1860. Many other of little hamlets in the Township sprang up as a result of Post Offices locating centrally to the population. These include Cluny, Eskdale, Glammis, Gresham, Lovat and Willow Creek.

As people settled in, a way of life became established in the area. Bruce Township was and continues to be a farming community. It's difficult to appreciate today the amount of work required to make a success of farming in the 1800's. There was no automation whatever back then. Everything was required to be done by hand or horse, including plowing, seeding and harvesting. Huge meals were required for farm crews, given the amount of energy exerted during a typical day on the farm. The women, as well as the men, worked dawn to sun down, six days a week. Most took Sundays off to recoup and regroup and to honour the Lord's Day.

It was that kind of lifestyle that set the tone for cooperation among the farmers and their families. Often, several families would come together at harvest time and 'bee' the work needed to be done, on the premise that `many hands make light work:

This spirit of co-operation became evident in the business community, as well. In 1911 the Bruce Municipal Telephone System was established as a cooperative to bring the newfangled communications system to the area. The switchboard was located in Underwood and later moved to Tiverton. Today, of course, Bruce Telecom is located on Highway 21 just north of Tiverton and is considered a leading edge player in the industry.

Life pretty much percolated away through the early part of the 20th century. The First World War disrupted the lives and livelihoods of many families in Bruce. Some never came back. Through the 1920s and 30s, life plodded on without a lot of change. Then World War II intervened once more. It was the 1950s and 1960s that saw real change for Bruce Township, when the powers-that-be began talking about building a nuclear plant in the area.

Ontario Hydro purchased land at Douglas Point in 1959 and began construction on a 200 Megawatt Candu reactor. Seven years later, on November 15, 1966, the Douglas Point reactor went into service and by January 7, 1967 it was delivering electricity to the Ontario Hydro grid.

Construction on the Douglas Point project brought an influx of people to the area not seen before. Although many located in Kincardine and Port Elgin, the increase in traffic and demand for housing, goods and services brought a new prosperity to Bruce Township and great hope for the future.

The prosperity and hope continue to this day. Bruce Township, now part of the amalgamated Municipality of Kincardine, still shines as a separate entity in its own right. The community still pulls together for the betterment of all, as is evidenced in the joy and enthusiasm toward celebrating 150 years of community.

With the enthusiasm demonstrated by committee members there is no doubt this is going to be one of the best parties ever thrown, anywhere, any time.

If you're looking to be involved in a fun project this year, volunteer for one of the many committees. You'll have a great time and will, no doubt, be rewarded with the knowledge you helped to make history.

So, put the date on your calendar ... June 9th through the 11th ... then come out to Underwood and have the time of your life at the 150th Bruce Township Anniversary and Homecoming.

For more information or to volunteer, please call Donna Doern at 368-7477 or Herb Henkenhaf at 368-7458.


By by Lynda Janzen in the January 2006 edition of Marketplace (with permission from the editor)