By Former Reeve Charlotte Clay-Ireland
Settlement of the township began in the late 1700's and on February 14, 1791, the township was officially named after Henry Hamilton, Lieutenant Governor of Quebec. By land and water we flourish is an expression of the Township's history and ongoing character, as well as its motto.
The township has a rural charm and consists of six hamlets Baltimore, Bewdley, Camborne, Cold Springs, Gore's Landing and Harwood. Lake Ontario and the Town of Cobourg bound it to the south and the famous Rice Lake to the north.
The township is surrounded with very interesting historical attractions. For example, there is the Joseph Scriven Monument which recognizes Joseph Scriven who wrote the hymn, What a Friend We have in Jesus; Mount Ararat, the highest point of the Rice Lake plains and home in 1849 to early Canadian writer Catharine Parr Traill; the Cobourg-Peterborough Railroad Causeway that once crossed Rice Lake where partially submerged remains are still visible; Ball's Mill which lets the visitor step back into time to 1842 when the unique structure began as a carding mill and saw mill.
A visit to Hamilton Township offers an incredible diversity of attractions for visitors with Rice Lake being the main attraction appealing to fishermen, nature lovers, water sports enthusiasts, and the many people who simply wish to get away, get some fresh air, sunshine and relax.
Bewdley, located at the northwestern part of the township is an ancient village, using North American dating. It was originally the site of a native settlement, and was thought to be a stopping place of the Mound Builders when they traveled to Ohio via the Ganaraska trail, a portage from Rice Lake to Port Hope.
The first land grant was issued in 1794 to Nellie Grant, the daughter of Alexander Grant, a prominent colonial administrator. The 200-acre grant included most of what is now Bewdley.
Bewdley was first named Black's Landing after the first tavern on the site. William Black had an inn license in 1831. It was also the location of one of the first Rice Lake sawmills. In the mid-1900's, it became Mill Point Lodge. Today, it is the site of Mill Point apartments.
In 1833, William Bancks named the village Bewdley. Bancks named the area for his ancestral home Bewdley, Worcestershire, England when he attempted to found an ill-fated gentlemen's colony and sawmill at Cold Creek.
Bewdley is noted for its memorial to Joseph Scriven, who preached on village streets in the 1860's.
Today, Bewdley caters to the many tourists and fishermen who come to Rice Lake to enjoy the lake's fishing and vacation activities.
As you travel east on County Road 9, north of the junction with County Roads 18 and 9, the next point of interest is the historic village of Gore's Landing nestled around a bay on the south shore of Rice Lake. The area was first called Saxe Town, Sidey's Tavern, and Claverton. The present village was named after its founder, Thomas Sinclair Gore, a civil engineer from Ireland, who built a plank road from Cobourg to his property on Rice Lake during the 1840's.
The village has been home to many famous people over the years Archibald Lampman Jr., one of Canada's noted poets and world-renowned painter of Canadian historical scenes, J. D. Kelly.
For over a hundred years, Gore's Landing was an important canoe and boat-building centre. One of the builders, Daniel Herald, is thought to have built one of the first board canoes in the Kawartha region. His canoe known, as Herald's Patent Cedar Canoe was a double cedar canoe, planked inside and outside. In the late 1800's, this canoe won many medals for Herald at international exhibitions.
Today, Gore's Landing is a port-of-call with its picturesque gazebo and dock for boaters as they travel Rice Lake and the Trent-Severn Waterway. While in Gore's Landing, you will enjoy a splendid view of the western end of Rice Lake.
As you continue east on County Road 18, you will wind your way to the hamlet of Harwood, named for a Montreal merchant, Robert Unwin Harwood. The area was first called Sully, by Cobourg entrepreneur and owner of the steamboat Pemedash, James Grey Bethune, to honour his illustrious ancestor, Maximilien de Bethune, Du de Sully.
The first few settlers in the 1820's were mainly innkeepers and ferry operators. As early as 1827, a ferry reservation near Sully was petitioned for and, in 1833 established a service. In the 1860's, it was a humming town, with two great sawmills turning out 50,000,000 board feet per year.
At the turn of the century, with the increase in dairy farming in the region, Stanley Southworth founded a creamery at Harwood. After passing through several hands, the business became one of the first co-operative businesses in the area called the Farmers Co-operative Creamery Company. Until the autumn of 1978, when it ceased production, it was a model butter factory, using cooling water from five springs, which maintained a constant natural temperature of 45 degrees, winter and summer. Today, to the north of the original creamery building, which has been demolished, is the Harwood Fish Culture Station. The site consists of 350 acres of land on the north and south sides of County Road 18. The site was chosen for its close proximity to stocking sites; large volume of high quality, spring-fed water of fairly constant temperature, ideal for cold water fish culture and suitable topography to design a gravity-flow station, not requiring pumps, or generators to distribute water. The $5.6 million Harwood Fish Culture station, completed in the fall of 1986 stocks lake trout and brown trout yearlings.
Today, in Harwood, only a few signs are visible of a once bustling industry but you can still see evidence of the Cobourg-Peterborough Railroad causeway that once crossed Rice Lake, carrying settlers effects into the hinterland and produce to Cobourg. The last train crossed the causeway in 1860. Some partially submerged remains of the old causeway from Harwood to Tic Island can still be seen. South of the village on County Road 15 is a historical plaque marking the burial place of German workers who died of cholera in 1854, during the construction of the railroad.
Today, Harwood is a quiet village of summer fishing and vacation resorts with the surrounding Northumberland hills providing views over the lake.
Retracing your steps back to County Road 18, head south towards Plainville. The next hamlet of note is Cold Springs, described in 1832 by Catharine Parr Traill. She wrote: "About halfway between Cobourg and the Rice Lake, there is a pretty valley between two steep hills. Here there is a good deal of cleared land and a tavern: the place is called the "Cold Springs". Who knows but some century of two hence, this spot may become a fashionable place of resort to drink the waters. A Canadian Bath or Cheltenham may spring up where now nature revels in her wilderness of forest trees."
To date, there is no spa or resort in the hamlet; however, the McIntosh General Store, operated by descendants of the founders of the area, is worth a visit. It offers an excellent photo opportunity for old country store buffs. The former Township of Hamilton Municipal office is located here.
Continuing south, the hamlet of Camborne lies ahead. Framed by eternal hills and snuggled down in its broad dale, Camborne was originally settled by people from Cornwall, England, hence its name. In 1878, it was a busy, thriving community with blacksmith shop, carriage shop, gristmill, sawmill and wooden pail factory but Camborne lives on as a residential area. As you leave Camborne, south of Majestic Hills Road on the east side of County Road 18 is the newly constructed Hamilton Township Municipal Civic Centre. A beautiful architecturally designed building, it reflects the heritage aspects of the township.
Travelling south on County Road 18 to the Dale Road (or County Road 74) intersection. Go east until you reach County Road 45 where you will arrive at Baltimore which is considered to be the earliest settled village in the township. At various times, the village was called Fisher's Mill, Valley Mills and McDougall Mill. The Baltimore Creek, running through the village, once supported flourmills, sawmills, carding and woolen mills and a tannery.
According to the township Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee, the name Baltimore was probably given by the first settler, John McCarty. McCarty was a prominent Methodist, recorded in the area as early as 1805. It is thought he named the area for his family's ancestral home in Baltimore, County Cork, Ireland.
Today, this picturesque valley village is a residential community. It offers the traveller a respite at the Ball's Mill Conservation Area, located on the Harwood Road on the East Side of the Baltimore Creek. The park, controlled by the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority, is located on land once part of the Balls Mill complex. Balls Mill is an outstanding landmark once vital to the area's economy. The building has been restored under the "Preserving Ontario's Architecture" program and has been designated an historic site by the L.A.C.A.C. of the Township and Province of Ontario. Lambert Stevens first built the mill constructed in the classical revival style, as a carding mill in 1842. It became a flourmill under the ownership of William McDougall. It was later operated and enlarged with several additions by three generations of the Ball family. The flours milled here, known as "The Belle of Baltimore" and "Shurflake" were considered to be among Ontario's finest flours.