The area around Harwood, which is located on the south shore of Rice Lake, was first settled in the early 1820's. Patents for lots three and four, concession nine, Hamilton Township (the present
site of Harwood) were taken out by Major Hater of Niagara Township. These lots were sold to Edward McBride, a resident of the Town of Niagara, on 13 December, 1824, for the sum of £100. On 16 February, 1828, McBride, having mortgaged the property the previous year, sold lots three and four to Robert Unwin Harwood, a merchant from Montreal.

The first settlement in the area, called Sully, was located on lot six, concession nine at the northern terminus of a road from Cobourg and about a half a mile from the centre of the present site of Harwood. As early as 1827 a ferry reservation near Sully was petitioned for and, by 1833 a service was established. An advertisement in the 'Coburg Star' of 31 July, 1833, proclaimed that the "Steamboat Pemedash, Captain Cleghorn, plies daily between the town of Peterborough and Sully on Rice Lake ... " Coaches and wagons were employed to provide regular, daily, communication with Cobourg, thirteen miles away.

An indication of the importance of the young community is the fact that elections for the Newcastle District were held at Sully in 1834.

Even in the early 1830's businessmen in Cobourg were projecting the concept of a railroad to Rice Lake. Frederick Rubidge, a Cobourg surveyor, planned the route to Sully. The Rebellion of 1837 and subsequent difficulties spelled an end to the hoped for Cobourg and Rice Lake Railroad Company which was chartered on 6 March, 1834, with a capitalization of £40,000. A plank road was eventually constructed in its stead (1847-48).

The Cobourg and Peterborough Railway was chartered in 1852. Using funds largely obtained from prominent citizens of Cobourg, a line to Rice Lake and thence, via a bridge to the north shore, to Peterborough. The railway brought great prosperity to the area. Land values rose from three to four hundred dollars an acre. The terminus on the south side of Rice Lake was located to the east of Sully and the name of Harwood, after the Montreal merchant who had owned the land, was adopted in 1855 when the site was laid out. At this time a post office was opened.

Railway equipment such as station, turn-table, storehouses, wharves and a water tank were erected in the settlement. The railroad however did not long prosper. Two significant reasons can be cited. The crib-bridge from Harwood across Rice Lake was structurally unsound. (There is some evidence of sabotage from competitors but, more importantly, the bridge was cheaply constructed .. ) Unable to withstand the pressure of ice and storms, it was all but totally destroyed by 1862. Secondly, competition from the new Port Hope, Lindsay and Beaverton Railway to Peterborough (opened August, 1858) proved devastating to the Cobourg-Harwood-Peterborough line.

The fifteen mile stretch from Harwood to Cobourg continued in use mainly as a route for the transportation of timber and iron ore. An attempt to rescue the railway in 1867 by amalgamation with the Marmora Iron Company proved a financial failure. The Grand Trunk acquired the road in the 1880's. That Company closed the line on 31 December,1895.

Today a fill causeway, following the route of the old bridge extends north to Tic Island some three quarters of a mile from Harwood.

Toward the end of the last century, Harwood, with a population of four hundred, had a church, school, post office, and two hotels. Although a lumbering centre for some time, the two large mills, McDougall and Ludgate and Ullgott, Sadler and Co., had been removed by the turn of the century. A nearby grist mill remained.

Today Harwood is primarily a summer sports and cottage resort.

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