Jolting Along the Gravel Road

Back when it took four hours to travel 30km from Erin to Guelph by stagecoach, a bumpy ride was a guarantee.

June 14, 2024 | | Back Story

When this photo was snapped at Ospringe in about 1908, stagecoaches were already becoming relics of the past. Though motorized vehicles hadn’t yet completely taken over the roads of Headwaters, this was soon to change.

The change was almost certainly welcomed by the passengers who endured being bounced about and covered in dust during the 4½ hours it took the Guelph-Erin stagecoach to negotiate the 30 kilometres or so from Erin village to Guelph along the “Gravel Road,” as the Erin section of Wellington Road 124 was known at the time.

Weary stagecoach travellers take a break at a local hotel. Photo courtesy the Wellington County Museum and Archives, PH50772.

Fortunately, stops along the way, such as the one at the Anglo-American hotel in Ospringe, shown in the photo, gave passengers a chance to nurse their bruises and stretch their legs while mail and goods were loaded and unloaded. The stops also provided a break for the hardworking horses, who could enjoy a cool drink of water from the trough in front of the hotel.

Despite its flaws, the Gravel Road was considered an improvement over the previous version of the route to Guelph. Labelling that earlier road “villainous,” one account said that it consisted of  “almost impassable hills, a long piece of corduroy crossing several cedar swamps, and two or three extensive tamarack swamps.”

The growing popularity of automobiles spelled the end of stagecoaches and the decline of many businesses that had supported them: livery stables, feed suppliers and so on. But the Gravel Road remained just that until the early 1950s, when it was finally paved — and the name gradually fell out of use.

About the Author More by Dyanne Rivers

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