Once Upon a Time: “Down the Saugeen – Part Two”


  Bob Johnston

Last month’s welcome reopening of the Mill Creek bridge in Port Elgin offered a reminder of the importance of bridges and waterways in Bruce County’s history. In this second part of his 1983 article, John Reynolds describes the lives of some early homesteaders who settled near its banks.

You cannot live very long near the Saugeen River without feeling its influence. The river played a crucial role in the lives of the pioneers of this region. By the time the surveyors arrived, many homesteaders had already preceded them by way of the river.

David and William Kennedy were two of the earliest pioneers to settle in Saugeen Township. They arrived in 1851 and built a small shanty, 13 feet square, near a pure, spring-fed creek. One of many annoyances the settlers had to live with was the over-abundance of mice. These rodents would chew at their shoes while they ate at the table and at night, pulled hair out of their heads while they slept. Mice used this hair for their nests.

William lived here for over thirty years and served as an elder in the Presbyterian Church in Burgoyne for twenty-five of those years. He eventually settled in Tara.

Courtesy of Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre, AX2011.406.001

David Brown Milne was born in 1882 in a small frame house on Concession 10 in Saugeen Township. David was the youngest of ten children born to William and Mary (Doverty). After arriving with his family from Fyvie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, William hired himself out as a farm labourer. Their rented house was situated near the Saugeen River and surrounded by a forest of hard maples. This offered the boy an idyllic place to explore the countryside and discover the beauty of nature. 

When David was about eight years old the family moved to Paisley where the boy finished public school and then graduated from Walkerton High School. He taught for several years in Elderslie and Saugeen Townships, earning money to repay his debts before returning to art, his first love. At twenty-one, the young artist set off for New York and eventual fame. His paintings are found in major galleries across Canada.



This article was first written for the Bruce County Historical Society’s 1983 Yearbook
and adapted by Bob Johnston