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History of Grey Bruce

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

history of grey bruce counties

The history of Grey Bruce is a tapestry of indigenous heritage, European settlement, and modern development. Notable figures have shaped the region, contributing to its unique identity.

History of Grey County

Grey County, located in the Canadian province of Ontario, has a rich and varied history that dates back to the early 19th century. The county was named after the British Colonial Secretary's father, Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1830-1834.

Early Settlement and Development

The first European settlement in Grey County was in the vicinity of Collingwood or Meaford. Exploring parties arrived from York in 1825 by travelling from Holland Landing and down the Holland River into Lake Simcoe and Shanty Bay. From there, they travelled by land to the Nottawasaga River into Georgian Bay and along the thickly wooded shore.

In 1837, the village of Sydenham was surveyed by Charles Rankin. In 1856, it was incorporated as the Town of Owen Sound with an estimated population of 2,000.

Formation of Grey County

In 1840, the area became part of the new District of Wellington, and its territory formed the County of Waterloo for electoral purposes. In 1849, Wellington District was abolished, and Waterloo County remained for municipal and judicial purposes.

In January 1852, Waterloo County became the United Counties of Wellington, Waterloo and Grey. Grey County's territory was declared to consist of several townships, together with part of the Indian Reserve on the Bruce Peninsula.

A Provisional Municipal Council was organized for the County in April 1852, with the Town of Sydenham named as the county town. In January 1854, the United Counties was dissolved, and Wellington and Grey were separate counties for all purposes.

Infrastructure Development

In 1861-1862, the first gravel roads were constructed into Owen Sound at a cost of $300,000. The four colonization roads were the Garafraxa Road running from Fergus to Owen Sound (now Highway 6); the Durham Road leading east and west from the village of Durham (formerly part of Highway 4, and now County Road 4); the Lake Shore Road from Collingwood to Owen Sound (now Highway 26); and the Toronto-Sydenham Road leading from Shelburne to Owen Sound (now Highway 10). Prior to the road building, it often took two days to walk up to Owen Sound.

Modern Grey County

On January 1, 2001, Grey County underwent a major restructuring, resulting in the reduction in the number of local municipalities. The new municipalities included the City of Owen Sound, the Town of Hanover, the Town of The Blue Mountains, the Township of Chatsworth, the Township of Georgian Bluffs, the Municipality of Grey Highlands, the Municipality of Meaford, the Township of Southgate, and the Municipality of West Grey.

History of Bruce County

Bruce County, located in Southwestern Ontario, Canada, is named after James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin and 12th Earl of Kincardine, the sixth Governor General of the Province of Canada. The county, with a population of 66,491 as of 2016, is divided into three distinct areas: the Bruce Peninsula, the Lakeshore, and the Interior Region.

Early History and Land Cessions

The territory of Bruce County was formed from various surrenders of First Nations lands. The bulk of the land came from the Queen's Bush, as a result of the 1836 Saugeen Tract Agreement. This was followed by the cession of the Indian Strip in 1851 for a road between Owen Sound and Southampton that was never constructed.

Municipal History

Bruce County was part of the Huron District in 1845, and later became part of the United Counties of Huron, Perth, and Bruce. The county was divided into several townships, including Huron, Kinloss, Curloss, Carrick, Kincardine, Greenock, Brant, Bruce, Saugeen, Elderslie, and Arran. In 1857, a Provisional Municipal Council was established for Bruce County, with Walkerton being proclaimed as the county seat.

Indigenous Lands and Disputes

Two First Nations, the Saugeen First Nation and the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation, are included within the Bruce census division. Their lands are separate from the county administration. There have been disputes relating to cottage owners leasing properties on First Nations lands in the County. These disputes have led to lawsuits and ongoing litigation.

Modern Bruce County

Today, Bruce County comprises eight municipalities: Saugeen Shores, Kincardine, Brockton, South Bruce Peninsula, Huron-Kinloss, Arran-Elderslie, South Bruce, and Northern Bruce Peninsula. The county is governed by a council consisting of a warden and mayors of the area municipalities.


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