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|Walsingham | Villages | Settlement|
Walsingham was first settled about the year 1791. The south eastern part of the township was first taken up. There was no settler west of Big Creek until Elias and Mary Foster settled with their family in 1803 in what is now known as the Foster Settlement. But previous to that time a number of families had settled near Big Creek and Charlotteville. These settlers were (as far as can be learned): Dr. Troyer (1793), Luke Dedrick (1794), Edward McMichael (1795, the Browns (1797}, Daniel Hazen, at the Hazen settlement (1797), the Browns, Copes, Col. John Backhouse and Wm. Hutchison (1798, Chrystal Rohrer (1803), Stephen Burgar, Chris. John Fick, George Fick, John Fick, Peter Fick and Fred'K Fick (1805), Cornwall Ellis and the Schumackers (1807), Wm. Louth and Fred'k Bowers (1810), Jacob Becker (1815), Jas. DeWitt (1818), John Franklin (1812).
The Killmasters (John) and Procurnies came in about 1806. Edward Foster (from whom the writer obtained the above list) is still living. He was a boy 10 years old when his father Elias settled west of Big Creek. He is now in his 85th year, in excellent health. He is, as far as can be learned, the only one living of those early pioneers who took up their abode in the wilds of Walsingham prior to 1804. He bodily activity is astonishing, his power of memory and his mental acuteness still more so. He spends most of his leisure now in working with a foot-lathe, manufacturing ornamental churns, pails, jars, &c., for his friends. Although his hearing is defective he is quick at collecting the meaning of what is said, and his keen enjoyment of what is humorous show a youthfulness of feeling and a warmth of heart very rare in one so old.
Edward Foster (like old Mr. Cornelius Dedrick) have been a great trapper and hunter. The district west of Big Creek used to be a celebrated preserve for wild animals. Bears in vast numbers had their homes in the pine forests west of what is now Walsingham Centre, and used to make incursion upon the settlements on the front of the township. Mr. Foster says he has killed over 100 bears, and wild cats without number. His terrific combats with these animals, and the aid rendered him at very critical point by his faithful dog "Gunner," would form the subject for a volume. Settlers who are now greyheaded will recollect how Mr. Foster killed a white bear -- totally white -- when they were boys. This is supposed to have been not, a grizzly white bear, nut an Albino bruin -- a freak of nature. Mr. Foster has caught 1,700 muskrats in one year.
Elias Foster died in 1833. Donald, his son, died in 1870. Edward's children are three girls and six boys, and his grandchildren are 55 in number. His wife is still living, aged 75.
The first grist mill in Walsingham was built in 1807 by John Backhouse, where J. H. Backhouse now lives. Abraham Countryman built the next. Prior to the year 1807 the settlers were obliged to take their grist to Port Ryerse.
The returns made to the government show that in 1817 there were in Walsingham 50 houses and 337 inhabitants. For many years the population received but few additions from immigration, the back parts being mainly in the hands of lumbermen. In 1849 the population had increased to 2,427, there being then two grist mills and 18 saw mills. The crop of 1849 yielded 21,000 bushels of wheat, 11,000 bushels of corn, 22,000 lbs. of maple sugar, 10,800 lbs. of cheese, 10,900 lbs. butter.
It appears that the central and
northern parts of Walsingham were not settled until between 1840 and 1850.
From that time until the present there has been a steady in-pouring of
farmers. It is impossible here to give the names of all who have during
that time contended with the forest, and have hewn out for themselves and
their families comfortable homes in what at first appeared to be a dreary
wilderness. Their names will be seen upon the map. [Transcriber's note:
the map is not yet online.] Hundreds of these early settlers have
endured hardships which nothing but the strictest temperance, self-denial
and economy could surmount and not a few are still battling away with the
same rugged obstacles. For backwoods life is still quite common in some
parts of the township. The forest is still king over many hundreds of
acres, and families are still settling upon them, chopping, logging, and burning
the "foller," and gathering in the first crop from the
virgin soil, as did the first settlers of the township only 6 or 8 miles
away over 80 years ago. This anomaly is mainly due to the fact that for
many years these lands were owned by persons who had bought them for the
sake of the valuable timber that was upon them, and not for agricultural
From pages 58-59 of the Mika re-print of
1877 Illustrated Historical Atlas of Norfolk County