Former cabin©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko
The Opeongo Road was probably the most well know failure of the government's infamous road colonization plan. This cunningly crafted scheme was devised to lure new immigrants into the province, in order to clear the inhospitable and rocky lands for the lumber industry. The program was an easy sell, particularly in countries like Ireland, which had already been devastated by the great potato famine.
The requirements seemed simple enough. The settlers were promised 100 acres of land in exchange for building a house, 18 X 20 feet in size, and cultivating at least 12 acres of land over a four year period. What was not mentioned were the true conditions of the soil, which were thin, rocky, acidic and completely unsuitable for any form of sustainable agriculture.
Although most of the early settlements were built right along the road, the road planners also included a means to access the backlands on each side of the road. Every 10 lots or so, they would open a road into the mountains and hills. It was on one of these sideroads where the tiny settlement of Newfoundout got its start.
Newfoundout was never an actual village or community. The road was located opposite a settlement known as Davidson's Corners, where the Davidson family had first established their farm in 1849. Between 1860 and 1890, 13 families braved their way up approximately 6 kilometres of twisting, winding road and attempted to eke out a meagre living by farming. There were no schools or churches. In order to attend school, children had to navigate the rocky mountain trail on foot. There were no stores however the farmers were able to help one another out with light sawmilling and blacksmithing services. A post office, known as Donohue, was opened in 1914.
Despite their most valiant efforts, the soil was completely infertile and by the mid 1940s, most of the families had given up the struggle. In 1948, Newfoundout was officially declared abandoned. The lands remain privately owned and continue to be used in the summer for cattle grazing.