The Township of Biddulph

[ Prominent Citizens of Lucan ,  , Alfred Smart, University of Western Ontario Archives RC415 ]THE Township of Biddulph is situated in the northerly part of the County of Middlesex, having the Townships of Usborne and Blanshard on the north, the Township of McGillivray on the west, and the Townships of London and West Nissouri on the south, and lies about sixteen miles north of the City of London. It contains about 39,300 acres, exclusive of the village of Lucan, and formed a part of what was known as the "Huron tract," which extended from the County of Waterloo to the shores of Lake Huron, and which had come into the possession of the Canada Company for purposes of colonization. This Company had been originally promoted by John Galt to settle the Clergy Reserves, but meeting difficulties with these, it secured one million acres, exclusive of swamp lands, in the Huron tract, 1s. 6d. per acre. In 1828, John Galt blazed a trail from Guelph to Goderich. One of the directors of this Company was John Biddulph, Esq., and from him the township secured its name.

Separation from the County of Huron

From its first organization, to the year 1865, the Township of Biddulph formed a part of the United Counties of Huron, Bruce and Perth. In the year 1865, when the late Robert H. O'Neil was Reeve, the townships of Biddulph and McGillivray separated from the county of Huron and were annexed to the County of Middlesex. Mr. James S. Smith was then member of Parliament for North Middlesex, and assisted in securing the necessary legislation.

[...] Fertility of the Soil

The Township of Biddulph is purely an agricultural township. The quality of the soil is unsurpassed in the Dominion of Canada for either grain or mixed farming, being a rich clay loam, well adapted for almost any kind of crop. The system of farming has of late undergone what might be styled as revolution. From the earliest days down to recent years farmers raised little else than grain, particularly wheat. This they have largely abandoned, having been educated in the science of successful farming. While they still grow large quantities of grain, the coarser kinds are now fed on the farm, to hogs, cattle, and horses. The acreage of root crops and silo corn has greatly increased, and taking it all together our system of farming has much improved.

[...] Pioneer Days and Early Settlement

The settlement of Biddulph dates back to about the year 1830, when one Fredrick Stover, a Quaker from Norwich, Connecticut, U. S., started what was known as the "Wilberforce" or Colored Settlement," situated where the Village of Lucan now stands, and a little to the North-west of it. He bought from the Canada Company, which owned the whole Huron tract, 800 acres of land, at $1.50 per acre, and settled thereon a colony of colored people composed largely of refugee slaves, who had broken away from their cruel taskmasters in the United States, and crossed the lines and for the first time in their lives breathed the pure air of Freedom, and thus Biddulph became to them "the Home of the Free." In 1834 the friends in Connecticut ceased to support the colony and school that they had established, and threw the colony on its own resources. Mrs. Bell, who settled on the London and Goderich road in 1832, died a centenarian in November, 1878. She was the last survivor of the Wilberforce colony. There are a few descendants of this colony now in either Biddulph or the Village of Lucan.

The pioneer settlers of the Township, outside of the Frederick Stover colored settlement, were principally emigrants from Ireland, with a small mixture of Scotch and English. The Irish settlers were chiefly from the County Tipperary, and in religion were for the most part Church of England and Roman Catholic. In a short time the tide of immigration flowed in, and concessions six, seven, eight, nine, ten and eleven were settled by Irish. The rest of the Township east of the eleventh concession was peopled by mixture of Irish from the County of Cork, and English and Scotch.

[...] In the early history of the Township there were fifteen places where intoxicating liquors were sold. To-day this is all changed, and through the many christianizing influences that surround our homes this traffic is now well-nigh abolished. [...]

Source: W.D. Stanley, "The Township of Biddulph: Short Sketch of Municipal History and the Official Life, With Some of the Most Important Municipal Events From the Pioneer Days of 1830 to 1912" (Ontario: Township of Biddulph, ca. 1912). Notes: Township of Biddulph Diffusion Material, Public Archives of Ontario, GS 63.

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