Severn Bridge, Ontario is a small community in the Town of Gravenhurst, Ontario of the District of Muskoka in the province of Ontario, Canada. It is located around 100 kilometres north of Toronto, on the Severn River, roughly halfway between Orillia and Gravenhurst. Its population is around 300. It was founded in the nineteenth century. The village is served by important road, rail, water links and its postal services and rural route are handled in Washago, Ontario.
Severn Bridge came into existence in the year 1858, when the Muskoka Road was surveyed and constructed from the head of navigation on Lake Couchiching at Washago Mills, to a crossing of the Severn River. The supervisor of the bridge's building was David Gibson, the Inspector of Crown Lands Agencies and Superintendent of Colonization Roads. By the end of that year, provincial land surveyor Charles Rankin was issued instructions to continue the road northward from the "Bridge" constructed across the River Severn. Work on the road resumed the following Spring. The settlement was officially given its name in 1861, when a post office was opened there. James H Jackson was the first postmaster and the first settler north of the river, having arrived there in 1858.
In the 1873, the Toronto, Simcoe and Muskoka Junction Railway reached Severn Bridge, however, as a result of the panic of 1873, further construction was stalled. Two years later, this road was acquired by Northern Extensions Railway and upon completion of the line to Gravenhurst in 1875, was absorbed by the Northern Railway of Canada. The line was extended to make a connection with Canadian Pacific Railway near Lake Nipissing in 1886, by the Northern and Pacific Junction Railway, a subsidiary of the Northern. The entire route from Toronto to North Bay was subsequently purchased by the Grand Trunk Railway, (which in turn became part of Canadian National Railways).
In September 1906, many of the homes and businesses of Severn Bridge were destroyed by fire.
Between 1925 and 1927, the provincial government under the leadership of Howard Ferguson, created a road, known as the Ferguson Highway, beginning at Severn Bridge and extending to the Clay Belt of "New Ontario," it is now part of Highway 11.
The primary source for basic documents (vital statistics, land records, wills) for people who lived in the Province of Ontario is the Archives of Ontario, 134 Ian Macdonald Blvd, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M7A 2C5.
Civil registration did not begin in the province until 1869. Before then there may be church records of baptisms and burials. For the most part these are still held by the denomination who recorded them. Copies of marriage records made pre-1869 had to be sent by individual clergymen to the registrar of the county in which the marriage took place. These marriage records are available through Ontario Archives, on micorfilm through LDS libraries, and on paid and unpaid websites, but because they were copied at the registrars' offices, they cannot be considered a primary source.
Vital Records after 1869
Birth, marriage and death registrations are not open to the public until a specific number of years after the event occurred. Births to 1914 are now available [October 2012]; dates for marriages and deaths are later. Birth and death registration was not universally carried out in the early years after its adoption. Deaths were more apt to be reported than births for several years. The more rural the area, the less likely it would be that these happenings were reported to the authorities.
Land Records and Wills
Information on how to access land records and wills is best sought on the Archives of Ontario website. An ancestor's land holding might be found on Canadian County Atlas Digital Project if he was in occupancy circa 1878.
Association for the Preservation of Ontario Land Registry Office Documents (APOLROD). A list of Land Registry Offices for all Counties of Ontario.
The original censuses are in the hands of Library and Archives Canada. All of the original census (1851-1911) images are online with the exception of that for 1861. Not all of them are indexed. Later censuses are not yet available. Census divisions were redrawn as the population increased and more land was inhabited.
E-books and Books