Thursday, September 17, 2009

Greenock Swamp - important role in area's history

Shannon Wood's dynamic presentation on the Greenock Swamp delighted and informed those who attended the September 16th meeting of the Historical Society in Hanover. Using slides, overheads and a short TVO video, she shared her love of this important geographical and natural feature. Although, it is in Bruce County, the significance of Greenock Swamp reaches beyond its immediate area.

When the early settlers, reached this part of Ontario, they were greeted with large forested areas. As part of their settlement duties, they had to clear land. Although, the wetlands area was much larger when they arrived, it is still very large consisting of about 20,000 Acres, half of which is owned by the Saugeen Conservation Authority. Some of the land near the edges were cleared and became agricultural land.

In 1879, Henry Cargill, purchased land. He became very successful in the lumbering business. The large white pine that grew in the wetlands was sent overseas for ship masts. Because the land was mucky, it was very difficult to get into this large area. The lumbering business provided work for many, some coming from different parts of Canada, the United States and even Europe. It was very hard work to get the logs out of the forest. All the work being done by hand. There were eight mills in the Cargill area. It provided work not only for men but also for women who found employment providing meals and doing laundry.

Henry Cargill died 1 October 1903 in Ottawa while serving as Member of Parliament. [1] His son took over the business but he was not as successful as his father. W. D. had built a railroad track with wood trestles to hull out logs on a small train.

The value of the swamp land is shown in many ways. It is the home of many species of flora and fauna; it acts "a sponge" to help prevent flooding; it purifies water as shown in the clearness of the Tara River.

The above are some of the highlights of this most interesting presentation. (notes mostly written in the dark)

Thank you Shannon for your presentation and your warm hospitality.

Do you have family stories of the Greenock Swamp? Were some of your family employed in the lumbering related work? Have you had a chance to visit this important wetlands? Please share your stories in the comments.

Internet searches about Greenock Swamp yield many sites, including sites with photographs.

For more information on Greenock Swamp and Henry Cargill check the following sites:

Ministry of Natural Resources information

Henry Cargill in Dictionary of Canadian Biography

Greenock Swamp Complex

We were pleased to welcome some visitors to our meeting. Our next meeting is October 21st.

[1] Henry Cargill Ontario death registration #007899 (2 October 1903) digital image; ( : accessed 17 September 2009), citing MS 935 reel 109, Archives of Ontario, Toronto>

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