The Village of Dundalk

The Road to Dundalk

Some of the events that unfolded in Ireland in the early to mid 1800’s will help us understand the origin of our little village.

Up until 1815 Ireland depended on the potato as its primary source of food and income, but they also produced smaller quantities of other food stuffs, such as wheat. When the demand for agricultural products slowed, so did the Irish economy.

For many years England had been purchasing huge quantities of agricultural produce from Ireland which helped the Irish economy to prosper. This excessive demand for produce created by English war efforts distorted the Irish economy, and when the major European wars came to an end, England drastically reduced its investment in Irish agricultural products.

But, Ireland’s dependence on the potato did help great numbers to survive. Potatoes could be grown on small plots and not detract from any payments that were due to the landlord for cash crops.

England was a valuable trading partner - even if a politically dominant one. With the end of a boom, however, comes a bust and unemployment was the result. It is the backdrop for the potato famine and a foundation for the events and suffering which occurred.

By 1841 two thirds of Ireland depended on agriculture as a source of income. The other third engaged in other industrial and economic pursuits. They were not faring well in a competitive English manufacturing/industrial economy & business was lost.
England was indeed a major economic force, and the failure of the Irish economy to grow outside of agriculture is associated with the ways in which the Irish people adapted to the new industrial economy - the ways in which businesses were established and the inability of local groups and organizations to pool resources to foster economic growth.

Slowed by their cultural tendencies and practices, successful economic strategies needed to produce new products and markets were not being developed.

Dissatisfied with the lack of economic direction and opportunities at home, Irishmen joined the already thousands of European emigrants headed for the new world.

Those who left were farmers and tradesmen who faced declining status and prosperity in an overpopulated agricultural region. By leaving Ireland they hoped to preserve their status and economic well-being that was slipping quickly from their grasp.

In retrospect, emigration may appear to have been the natural solution to the problems the Irish people faced. But, such a major decision required a catalyst. The initial incentive was provided by the British Government’s short-lived L10 deposit plan of “sponsored group emigration.”

Once emigration had begun, the channel remained open as long as reasonably priced farms in Upper Canada existed. After the mid-1830’s immigrants more often came to London than to the Ottawa Valley, as the good land in Ottawa had been granted away. Later arrivals remained for a time in these primary settlements, and after gaining a small capital moved on to secondary settlements in newly opened areas such as Proton Township.

Elias B. Grey of County Louth, Ireland was one emigrant fortunate to survive the Great Potato Famine of 1840-1845. He claimed Crown land in Proton in 1849 and is credited for naming our village 'Dundalk' after his home town in Ireland.

The Village Logo

The background of blue sky and green ground forming a peak, suggests the highest landmass in Ontario at 1735 feet above sea level. The black and white chevronel dividing the landmass and the sky, alludes to the development and location of the Village of Dundalk with the emergence of the railroad. The wheatshef denotes the agricultural nature of the Village. The gold coins represent the prosperity of the area through the original predominately Irish settlers symbolized by the trefoil (shamrock) and industry, symbolized by the cogwheel. The Crest, a crown composed of maple leaves and ears of wheat, signifies a Canadian agricultural community.

 dundalk logo

 MOTTO: Pride in our Past – Faith in our Future

The first survey (the old survey) of Proton Township was conducted in 1840, and the government immediately went to work encouraging settlement in the area. The Toronto-Sydenham Road (now Highway # 10 and originally an Indian trail) was built, and settlers were offered land grants of 50 acres each.

The pioneer families soon began arriving and settled the area surrounding the junction of the Toronto-Sydenham Road and the 230 sideroad (now the Dundalk road). This was the first location of the Village of Dundalk, and it was known as Mays Corner. Mays Hotel was located on the northeast corner, and the area in the immediate northeast (in Melancthon Township) became known as Mayburne. McKees Tavern was located on another of the corners. One of the early pioneer families in the area was John McDowell and Sarah (McCauley). Later, the name of the village became McDowells Corners.

About 1849 some of the pioneer families who claimed Crown Land were the: Carsons, Nobles, Bells, Stinsons, McKees, and Elias B. Grey Sr. In 1850 David Gibson made a new survey of Proton, and settlement began in what is now Dundalk. The area was a land of many swamps and bogs.

The first post office was located between 240 sideroad and Robins Hotel in Melancthon Township. Elias B. Grey Sr. was the first postmaster. It was later moved to James Mays hotel at the "Corners".

The "Dundalk Hotel" located at McDowells Corners was built and conducted by Claudius Ekins. It was later owned by James May, and still later by Patrick Langley. The original tavern was a log building, which burned during Mr. Ekins time. Mr. May built a large frame structure, which had to be taken down in modern times, as it was too close to the road and became a hazard to motorists.

One of the stores started at the "Corners" by Edward Berwick was later run by Henry Graham. He moved the business to the village, and opened the first store in what is now Dundalk. Thomas Hanbury had a boot and shoe store at the "Corners" for many years.

About 1870, the land was survey for the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railroad line. The railway tried to purchase land through the "Corners" from John McDowell. However, his price was too high and they were not prepared to pay it. R. J. Doyle owned a lot of land west of there, and the railway was able to obtain what they needed from him without any cost. In 1873, the railway was completed, and the village moved in closer to the station. At this time, it became known as Dundalk Station. It was named after Dundalk, Ireland, where some of the early settlers emigrated from.

According to the Dundalk Herald of September 14, 1882, "the population of the village was almost 800. There were; three churches; three sawmills; one gristmill; a woolen factory; a tannery; a number of general stores; blacksmith shops; and three storehouses for grain. There were 3,000 yards (more than 1 an a half miles) of sidewalks. Farmers teamed grain, potatoes, wood, etc. to the Dundalk market."

In 1886, a provisional council was named and Dundalk was incorporated as a village. The first elected council for the village was: Reeve Thomas Hanbury; Village Clerk William Rundle; Treasurer E.G. Lucas; Councillors J. W. Morrow, G.R. Phillips, Robert Cornett, and George Nixon.

The first by-law passed in 1887 appointed the municipal officers for that year. The second by-law made "provisions for the protection of public morals". By this time, there were 64 business people in the village, and a population of 850.

The above information is from the book "A History of Dundalk" published by the Corporation of the Village of Dundalk (1987). These books are available at the Township of Southgate Municipal Office at a cost of $20.00


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