European Settlement

With the completion of the Rideau Canal in 1832, some Scots and Irish canal workmen migrated from Westport to settle south of Bobs Lake as farmers and loggers. Over the next three decades they were joined by immigrants from the direction of Kingston, Westport and Perth until every Bedford Township lot had at least one owner who farmed or logged or both. These industries led to the formation of some small communities around the lakes. Milling at Tom’s Rapids, later called Bolingbroke began in 1848 with farming around Burridge in the 1830s and farming and milling at Fish Creek by the 1840s. Milling at Crow Lake Mills began about 1840 and farming and logging led to a settlement at Crow Lake village in 1862.

European farmers, miners and loggers took over most township lots in Bedford, clearing farm land and removing the large trees, particularly tall white pines which were exported as masts for British ships. The timber trade then shifted to hand-squared logs that were used to build settler’s homes and were exported in great numbers by ship to Britain. As mills developed, trees were sold as sawlogs for lumber and various wood products. Finally, lower-quality wood was sold in cords for fuel. By the 1880s, the wealth of the forests was greatly depleted and most loggers moved away.

People who remained depended upon subsistence farming on the thin soil. In the 1860s, the Homestead Act encouraged settlement by offering 200 acres to a farmer at no cost if a log home was built and some land was cleared. Making a living on a farm depended on working all the small fields; making only a few purchases, bartering; relying on neighbors for mutual assistance; and subsidizing income as work opportunities arose. Many farmers depended on the harvest of trees for income, but by 1900 the forests were almost depleted. Farming gradually declined until at present, there are few farms left.