Where Did The Name “PETERSON ROAD” Come From?

The Peterson Colonization Road was one of many roads established by the Government in the 1850-1860’s period to encourage immigrants from Ireland, Germany, England and Poland to emigrate to Ontario to help develop the interior of the province and also be a transportation route for the logging companies to reach their timber “limits.” Other colonization roads in eastern Ontario included; Ottawa and Opeongo Road, Hastings Road, Mississippi Road, Snow Road , Carlow Road and the Addington Road. There were other colonization roads in western Ontario.

The east-west Peterson Road should have followed Carlow Township’s northern boundary, because of the physical features of the land and the Conroy Marsh, was gradually angled north from Maynooth until it bisected Bangor’s eastern boundary with Renfrew. This route was advised by Robert Bell, land surveyor, in a letter to Crown Timber Agent A.J. Russel dated June 8, 1857. One of Bell’s principal reasons given was superiority of land in the York River country, seven miles south of his owned surveyed Bell Line.

Joseph S. Peterson was a surveyor, performing his work surveying townships in outline in North Hastings and by 1858 his route was adopted for the new Colonization Road. By February 1864 it had been completed from the Madawaska River to the southwest angle of Wicklow Township and its intersection with the Hastings Road, also from the Hastings Road to the northwest angle of Herschel Twp – 31 miles in all.

By 1865 the Peterson Road had been completed from Muskoka Falls (just south of Bracebridge) to a bridge over the Madawaska in the Township of Radcliffe at Combermere and further east where it connected with the Opeongo Road at Brudenell. It was a summer road of 101 ¼ miles in length and built at a cost to the Dominion Government of $34,133.27. Rockingham Road and highway #62 follow most of its original route through to Maynooth. However, the original section from Harriet’s Corners to Brudenell (Drohan Rd) was later abandoned due to swampy areas and replaced by another new section around Gorman Lake, as it does today.

The Peterson Road then continued west from just outside Maynooth to where the Grenville Martin sawmill and lumberyard was later located. At this point the colonization road went through a section of what became Algonquin Park. At the western boundary in the Muskoka area, there are still sections off highway #118 called Peterson Road.

Approximately in the 1875 time period, the road was so badly overgrown along most of its torturous miles that travel on it was difficult and a series of forest fires consequently burned out many of its bridges. Property owners were supposed to maintain their section of the road but the few owners living on the road didn’t have the time to do so, as it was difficult enough just surviving on this foreboding, rocky landscape.