by Ariel White
The region which we now call Haliburton County has a long and rich history filled with fascinating tales of life long ago. Natives and settlers carved a way of life in the rock and the trees of the area and created a community that exists even today.
The history of Haliburton County begins long before permanent settlers inhabited the area. Native Canadians left their mark on the land with artifacts and rock etchings. As early as 1590, Jesuit priests travelling to Huronia, told of Iroquois war parties searching for Huron indians along the Trent water system in what are now Peterborough, Victoria and Haliburton Counties. The Mississauga and Ojibwa hunted extensively in and around Algonquin Park in the amalgamated Townships of Sherborne et al. Native artifacts have been discovered around Grass, Boshkung and Kashagawigamog lakes, and burial grounds have been unearthed in the Ingoldsby and Maple Lake areas. Copper objects were discovered in 1951 in Harcourt at Farquar Lake that are estimated to be at least two thousand years old.
In 1615, Samuel de Champlain amassed information on the area on a return journey from Iroquois country. In 1653 a map was created from the information given by Champlain that marks the Haliburton area as an excellent area for hunting stag.
Over the course of time, various treks were made up the Gull River in search of a trade route from Georgian Bay to Ottawa. Several expeditions were made in search of an easily travelled highway in 1819, 1825 and 1827. It was determined that this route would be of use only after great expense and effort. Despite the lack of the simple route, other visionary settlers realized the logging, trapping and settlement potential of the area. The Peter Robinson settlement of the Peterborough area did reach as far as what is now Haliburton County. Eventually surveyors were commissioned to begin mapping the land for settlement.
The first to arrive was John Huston. In 1826, Huston studied the areas north of Harvey and Verulam townships in search of useable land, but a number of events led Huston to report that the area was unsuitable for sustainable settlement. In 1836, David Thompson, one of the greatest British surveyors travelled the areas of Sherborne and McClintock where his party caught many speckled trout and admired the stands of hardwood.
By the 1840's the need for land had become great. Scottish and Irish immigrants were arriving in Upper Canada in larger numbers. Also interested in settlement were Canadians who were the children of immigrants who had settled around the great lakes. In the 1850's land was being divided and sold for settlement and timber. In 1854, Michael Deane created the guide line that eventually became the Bobcaygeon Road, opened up the townships of Lutterworth, Snowdon, Anson, Hindon, Minden and Stanhope. This line opened the path for settlers to find their fortune in Haliburton. In 1854 the Canadian Land and Emigration Company purchased nine townships in Haliburton. The name Haliburton came from Thomas Chandler Haliburton, the first chairman of the Land and Emigration company from 1861 to 1865. The historian and author who hailed from Nova Scotia, never once visited the provisional county with his namesake and eventually moved to London England where he became a member of Parliament and a Supreme court Judge. By 1859 there were 25 families settled along the Stanhope and Minden township border and other groups were beginning to spread out around the area. The townships of Lutterworth, Anson and Hindon were annexed to Victoria in 1858, while Snowdon, Minden, Stanhope, Guilford, Dysart, Glamorgan, Monmouth, Dudley, Harburn, Bruton, Harcourt and Cardiff became townships of Peterborough County. This was the first of many separations and amalgamations between townships in Haliburton, Peterborough and Victoria Counties.
Through many hardships times of strife, the small settlements in the Haliburton area began to grow and evolve into communities, with a post office, stores and established government. Minutes from the Provisional County of Haliburton date back to 1874, as do many of the County's townships.
As the years passed, new settlers travelled to the area and more land was opened up for colonization. The Village of Haliburton and the Township of Dysart et al grew quickly and established various merchants, a blacksmith and hotels. In 1866, the municipality had 276 residents. By 1869 that number had risen to over three hundred.
The Village of Minden, despite fire, flood and pestilence of near biblical proportion survived and blossomed over the course of time. Fires razed large portions of the village in 1879,1890 and 1942, but time and again, the community was renewed. In 1888 diphtheria fell on Haliburton County. Many children succumbed to the plague during that winter.
The rivalry between Haliburton and Minden, which for some still exists, began during the struggle to decide which village would hold the county seat. Three townships from Victoria county and twenty from northern Peterborough county joined together to form the Provisional County of Haliburton. Although both Haliburton and Minden fought and solicited to become the county town, the Ontario provincial government awarded the honour on Minden in 1874. On June 18 of that year, the county council met for the first time, with reeves representing Dysart et al, Minden, Lutterworth, Anson and Hindon, Glamorgan, Monmouth and Cardiff, Snowdon, and Stanhope and Sherborne. The first warden of the county was Alexander Niven of Dysart et al, and the first by-law passed by the new council was a tax increase to raise $55,000 to aid with the construction of the Victoria railway line.
Haliburton remained a provisional county for many years, due to its relatively small population. On December 16, 1982, the Haliburton County Act passed provincial legislation to instate Haliburton as a full fledged county. On January 19, 1983 the Haliburton County Council held its inaugural meeting.
Today, the county remains small in population but large in community spirit. From Minden to Haliburton, Ox Narrows to Wilberforce the residents of Haliburton County have carved their own identity into the land and the rock as the natives of the area did centuries before.