Commemorative stone for St. Margaret's Anglican Church©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko
The Hastings Colonization Road stands as a notably stark reminder of the government's failed road colonization program. This ambitious program, first launched in 1854, was developed to increase settlement and encourage agriculture. The government was also under pressure from the lumber industry, who were particularly active in the northern regions, to provide roads and nearby settlements where they could purchase food and other provisions.
In order to encourage settlement, the government devised a scheme that offered free land grants to prospective settlers who were at least 18 years of age. The settlers were required to build a home, at least 20 X 28 ft., of the type that could be erected by five men in four days, reside on the property and cultivate at least 12 acres of land over a four-year period. Once those conditions had been met, the settlers were eligible to apply for title.
Unfortunately the government made a number of major blunders that resulted in an almost complete failure of the program. The most serious of all was their inability to determine whether the land they were offering was actually suitable for farming. Much of soil, especially in the under-populated northern areas, was thin, rocky or swampy. In areas where land conditions were patchy, instead of severing around the arable portions of land, they often sliced straight through, thereby rendering both parcels useless. They also failed to foresee the coming of the railway or anticipate the changes it would bring. Once the railway became firmly entrenched, the colonization roads were effectively obsolete and allowed to fall into disrepair.
Planning for Hastings Road first began in 1851, when Publius V. Elmore, a provincial land surveyor in Belleville, received orders to survey the land starting from the northeast corner of what was then known as the "Lake Township", northwards towards the Ottawa River. It appears there was some awareness of potential difficulties with the land, as Elmore was also instructed to hire two assistants that had knowledge of both agriculture and road making. In addition to that he was also ordered to gather and catalogue rock specimens along the way. The long-term plan was to connect the road to either Madoc or Marmora.
Construction of the road began in 1854 with Robert Bird, from Sidney Township, as the supervisor. George Neilson, a Belleville contractor, was awarded the contract, which he promptly sublet to two Madoc farmers named Cook and St. Charles. In 1856 the government opened an agency in Madoc for the purpose of attracting potential settlers. Since one of the goals of the road colonization program was to increase the population, the government would typically promote the program in the British Isles and other parts of Europe in the hope of attracting new immigrants. For some reason this didn't happen with the Hastings Road and the majority of new settlers were either Ontario-born or originated from other parts of the province.
Between 1856 and 1858, when the road was finally completed, almost 3,000 people settled along the new road. This fell far short of the government's projections. Nevertheless as the settlers became established they began to form small communities such as Glanmire, Murphy's Corner and Mill Bridge.
Glanmire was first settled around 1856. By the end of 1858, James Richardson had established a post office. Glanmire was on the mail stage route and served the important function of sorting and moving the mail on a weekly basis from Millbridge to Thanet and on to York River (later Bancroft). Other early settlers included the Lavender, Breen and Lummis families. A school was built in 1860. St. Margaret's Anglican Church was eventually added in 1887. Colloquially, Glanmire was better known as Beaver Creek, after the creek that ran through the centre of the village. For a while it was also known as Jelly's Rapids, after Andrew Jelly, a prominent pioneer settler and former postmaster.
Andrew Jelly was born in Brockville around 1820. By the mid 1850s he had moved northwest and settled in Glanmire where he and his wife, Charlotte Earl, operated a hotel. Jelly was politically active and served as the first reeve of Tudor Township, following its formation in 1859. He also served as the village's second postmaster from 1862 to 1866, followed by Edward Tapp.
The Hastings Road, to put it mildly, was not a big draw. By the early 1860s, abandonment began to set in and the government was unable to attract new recruits. Poor farming prospects were largely to blame. Another major factor was the defective quality of the Hastings Road. In 1868 a group of 57 settlers sent an impassioned and somewhat embittered plea to the Hastings County Council begging for funds and a competent crew to do the necessary roadwork. In it they referred to bridges being washed out, drainage problems requiring culverts and crossovers, terrain that was too rough for even light wagons and damage caused by the lumber industry. The petition also made reference to ineptitude and waste on the part of government supervisors who had failed to make earlier repairs in a competent fashion. The Hastings Road served as the only mail route between Mill Bridge and Bancroft and the postmasters were finding it next to impossible to traverse the difficult terrain.
Edward Tapp closed the Glanmire Post Office in early 1869. It remained closed until late 1871 when it was reopened by John Roy. The Lummis family took over in 1881 and it stayed in their hands until 1928. Glanmire's population was never large and probably peaked at around 50 but it was enough to keep things going for a while.
By the mid 1920s, the Hastings Road had deteriorated to a pathetic state. C. F. Aylsworth, a land surveyor in Madoc described it quite painfully as follows. "After an examination of the patented lots along this road, I would estimate that there have been nearly 400 entries for Free Grant lots ... and today it is doubtful if there are more than from 50 to 75 of them occupied from the Madoc-Tudor boundary to the Madawaska River. In driving along the Hastings Road ... the mute evidence of it all is empty, dilapidated and abandoned houses and barns, orchards, wells, old broken down stone and wooden fences, root cellars..." Aylesworth went on to make further reference to the abandoned schools, churches, cheese factories and homes. Poor planning, the demise of the lumber industry, sheer incompetence and the railways all played a part in contributing to this broken road of dreams.
Glanmire survived a little longer than many of the earlier Hastings Road settlements that were already in tatters long before Aylesworth's report. The post office lasted until 1939 and the church until the late 1950s. The church was demolished in the early 60s, a victim of ongoing vandalism. All that remains are the steps and commemorative stone. The cemetery is maintained and still sees the occasional burial. The area remains popular with cottage goers and other summer enthusiasts, where it supports a small summer community.