The Kilsyth Subdivision

Main corner in the small village of Kilsyth, Georgian Bluffs, Grey County.
Kilsyth, Grey County, ON – Corner of Grey Road 5 and Concession Rd 7. Photo by Gwen Harris 2016

A new subdivision of 33 lots may be in the future for the sleepy town of Kilsyth west of Owen Sound in the Township of Georgian Bluffs (previously  Derby Township). The proposed subdivision of 33 residential lots on  17.09 hectares takes up most of  Lot 9, Concession 7 and some adjacent town lots at the south west corner where Grey Road 5 intersects Concession 7 (known as Mill Road).   This is just “down the road” from several farms the Fleming families once held.

MAP - Airphoto of the area of the proposed Kilsyth subdivision. Source: Grey County Committee Report 8 Nov 2018 regarding Kilsyth Plan of Subdivision (Barry’s Construction) 42T-2018-11
MAP – Airphoto of the area of the proposed Kilsyth subdivision. Source: Grey County Committee Report 8 Nov 2018 regarding Kilsyth Plan of Subdivision (Barry’s Construction) 42T-2018-11

The Proposed Plan for the Kilsyth Subdivision (2018) has much to tell us about the nature of the land the Flemings farmed, the current archaeological interest, the history of Kilsyth, along with enumerating the many compliance requirements concerning water resources, land use, ecology, habitat, and cultural heritage.  It is available from – look for Kilsyth on the page.

The “Fisher Archaeological Report” contains the background study and assessment that is of greatest interest for its examination of the history, soil conditions, and archaeology of the area and includes several maps of the area and photos of farmstead and artifacts that were unearthed. Two of these area maps are shown in this blog posting.

The Flemings had farms immediately to the east on Grey Road 5 in Concession 6, Lots 9 and 10, and  also south and further west in Concession 7 (Lot 8), Concession 8 (parts of Lot 9), and Concession 9 (Lots 8 and 6).

Extract of schematic showing where the Fleming families owned land in relation to the proposed subdivision in Kilsyth, ON. To be published in forthcoming book, The Flemings of  Derby Township: A Family History

The area for development as a subdivision is currently farm land on which there is an unoccupied farmhouse and barn. The north half of Lot 9, Concession 7 was first owned Joseph Glenn in 1849 and the south half by David Hilts 1851. The north half was later purchased by Thomas Sloan, the town innkeeper, and he began subdividing into town lots along the Main Road. The report traces through several transactions related to the Study Area that included the Town Hall, the Agricultural Society, and Sinclair’s Pottery all the while making very good use of Census records, Tax Assessment Rolls, and the Land Registry Abstract Index. (Section 1.3.4, pages 9 to 12).

Parts of the report that are especially relevant to the Fleming story are highlighted below.

About streams

The closest sources of water are three creeks and a seasonal tributary. One creek is within 200 metres to the west of the Study Area, and another within 300 metres to the east, on the other side of Concession 7. The third creek runs through the eastern portion of the Study Area, at the bottom of a slope that rises from a low point within the Study Area to the aforementioned Concession 7 road. The seasonal tributary follows the western edge of the Study Area and is within a permanently wet area. All of these  watercourses are tributaries of the Pottawatomi River (sometimes spelled “Potawatomi” or “Pottawatomie”), north of the Study Area (p 3)

The stream mentioned to the east would have been the source of the pond on Springfield Farm, Concession 6, Lot 10 and the reason  Alexander Fleming  and his sons selected that site in 1848.

About soils and bedrock

Generally speaking the soil in the area had good drainage, although we see from this analysis and map that it was not evenly distributed.

The Study Area is situated on Middle and Lower Silurian Guelph Formation Bedrock. The natural soils in the surrounding area are part of the Brown Forest Grey-Brown Podzolic Intergrade and the Dark Grey Gleisolic Great Groups (Gillespie and Richards 1954: North Map). The Study Area is situated in a region that is medium to moderately sloping. The soil within the Study Area itself (see Figure 4) is Harkaway Loam on the east and Brookston Clay Loam on the west. Harkaway Loam is a medium textured soil derived from dolomitic, limestone till. The soil itself features good drainage and is only moderately stoney. (p. 3)

Figure 4 that was referred to is below. The purple rectangle outlines the area where the first Fleming farms were located. We see a mix of Vsc = Vincent Silty Clay Loam;  BC = Brookstone Clay Loam ; Hal = Harkaway Loam; and CSC = Chesley Silty Clay Loam.  The Flemings must have had some challenges with their lands judging from the Grey County Soil Summary Sheet: BC and CSC are poor for drainage and are at higher erosion risk;  Hal and Vsc are good for drainage and have lower risk. (Source: Grey County Soil Summary Sheet –

Soils of Kilsyth ON and Area prepared for Proposed Subdivision at Kilsyth 2017 modified to show approximate where Alexander Fleming and three sons settled.
Soils of Kilsyth ON and Area prepared for Proposed Subdivision at Kilsyth 2017 and modified with a purple rectangle to show area held by Alexander Fleming and three of his sons – approximately 1850-1900.

About agriculture

 The prime agricultural uses in Derby and surrounding townships in Grey County have been as pasture for livestock, with a small amount of food crop cultivation (ibid:129). Grey County is “the number one producer for hay, apples, sheep and lambs and the number two producer of cattle in all of Ontario” (Grey County Agriculture, 2015). (p. 2)

This was true of farming through the Fleming periods. John Fleming in Concession 6 Lot 10 grew wheat and had cattle, his nephew Alexander III  specialized in Shorthorn cattle, his brother Charles had sheep, as did Donald across the road. Another nephew (son of Alexander II), Ernest Fleming took pride in showing Shropshire sheep. James, Alexander’s son, on the south side of the road, opposite to Charles in Concession 6, cultivated many fruit trees. In fact all Fleming farms had orchards.

About vegetation

The Study Area is within the Carolinian-Canadian Transition Zone. The transition zone is a blend of the boreal forest (spruce, balsam, et cetera) with cedar, white and red pine, alder, yellow birch, beech, elm, hemlock, aspen, basswood and sugar maple (Mason 1981:59). The region was a prime ecological area of woods and swamps (Chapman & Putnam 1984:128). The 1865 Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Grey indicates the Derby township’s vegetation consisted of maple, beech, elm, and ash, unlikely to be any oak, but abundant pine in several of the cedar swamps (Smith 1865: 66). Birch, butternut, ironwood, poplar, a few red elms and cherry trees have also been observed naturally in the township of Derby (Marsh 1931: 116).

We know from family accounts that John Fleming used the pine trees on his lot in building his brick house, Ivy Hill, on north half of Concession 6 Lot 9. Family records also state that he had a stand of “35 or 40 fine white oak trees” in the early years. These were cut and sold through the 1860s for a good price.

About the native peoples

The land was “surrendered” by the Saugeen Nation to Sir Francis Bond Head in 1836 – an area in Grey Bruce of approximately two million acres. Derby Township, it was noted, had many “Indian trails” going through to Newash (near Owen Sound today) and Southampton. (p 6).  The  early Fleming settlers must have used some of these trails, but they left no stories of having dealings with the indigenous people.

About Kilsyth

The short history of Kilsyth in the report draws heavily on the gazetteer written by William Wye Smith in 1865 and the Belden Illustrated Atlas of the County of Grey, 1880.

Kilsyth, near the middle of the township and on the Owen Sound and Saugeen stage road, was also an “early village of importance in Derby” (Marsh 1931: 124) and in 1861 was the only “village” in the township (Smith 1865). What is now Grey Road 5 was one of the initial colonization roads, and Sloan’s Hotel, at the cross roads of Kilysth, was considered in the early years “the most noted point on the road” (Smith 1865: 61). One of the first schools was built in Kilsyth on the Fleming farm (east of Concession Road 7), with Jessie Fleming as the first schoolteacher (H Beldon and Co 1880: 9). Kilsyth is considered by Smith (1865: 143) to be the first village in the Derby township, with a school and post office, as well as a tavern (Sloan’s Hotel), smithy, general store, tailor and pottery. The pottery was the first in Grey County, according to Newlands (1979:89).

That Fleming farm mentioned was named Springfield and was owned by Alexander Fleming who settled with his family in 1850. It was located on the south half of Concession 6, Lot 10. Alexander Fleming’s daughter Jessie (married James Agnew) was the first school teacher in Derby Township. However, the first school was built on Hugh Coulter’s property at Lot 9, Concession 4, in 1850 – locally referred to as Mennonite Corner. [Source: History of Derby Township 1839-1972, (Owen Sound:1972)  p. 63]. For firsts it should be noted that Alexander opened the first post office in his home in 1856 and held that for four years until Thomas Sloan took over. Alexander also provided the land for the Disciples of Christ Church.

But these are niggly points. By and large the authors of the report have provided concise accounts of the village amenities in the late 1800s, years when the Flemings had their farms and were engaged in local affairs.

By 1887, Kilsyth boasted two general stores, a saw mill, two blacksmiths, two carriage makers, a potter (Alexander Sinclair), a hotel (Paul Wardell, proprietor), a post office and a branch of the Canada Life Assurance Company (Union Publishing Co 1887: A63). The population of Kilsyth and its immediate vicinity tripled between 1869 and 1898, from 50 to 150, and the community boasted a daily stage to both Owen Sound, the county seat, and Tara in Bruce County (OP&A 1898). (p. 9)

To Conclude

The study done by  Fisher Archaeological Consulting  for Barry’s Construction in 2017  is a very rich and informative document about Kilsyth  – well worth the read by anyone with a connection to the region today or through their ancestry.


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