The plank road, started in 1839, and the first bridge brought many men to this area looking for work in their selected field. David, born Jan. 18, 1809, and Charles Hager, born June 10, 1816, of Palermo in Halton County, came for this reason.
Bridge construction in 1842 required carpenters and ironworkers. The piers using manpower and horsepower were built first.
In 1843, David Hager, an ironmonger and a blacksmith, took the contract for the ironwork. He employed John Mutchmore, George Higgins, Jesse Higgins and his brother, George Hager. Charles Hager, a carpenter, had the woodwork of the bridge in his charge.
A swing bridge was built into this first bridge, a must for the boats passing up and down the river via the Grand River Navigation System. There were steel plates to reinforce the wood structure of six spans, one of which was the swing section, one chain (66 feet) wide; a standard measurement for a bridge in those days.
Once his work on the bridge was completed, David Hager, in 1845, moved his family from Palermo to a log shanty and a new blacksmith shop on the northwest corner of the Plank Road and the Indian Line (King St. Hagersville). A roadhouse (hotel) named the Hamilton and Port Dover was built for him by his brother Charles.
It was Joseph Seymour, a carriage maker, who during the opening of the new building suggested the new settlement be called Hagersville. The hotel would also house the post office.
David's son, George, born in 1832, who later went to Grand Marias, Michigan, wrote ‘Early Days of Hagersville,’ in which he is quoted as saying, "I remember seeing the Plank Road from Mud Street and Boston Creek completely blocked with very large oak, pine and hickory timber." He bought 300 acres from the government; they were "found in possession of squatters' rights to whom my father paid $1.00 an acre to quit claim. These squatters were James and Hector Ball who moved to what became Ballsville."
The Ballsville Cemetery midway between Caledonia and Hagersville on the east side is the only link today to this once small hamlet of years ago.
When the new plank road was completed, a four-horse stage was running from Hamilton to Port Dover every day. David Hager made a business of driving various settlers who came on stage coach to build their new homes in Walpole Township.
David Hager brought a yoke of oxen, two cows and a team of French ponies to his new settlement.
These French ponies were able to do the trip to Hamilton over the plank road in two hours when Mr. Hager held the lines.
One historic document, which was "almost certainly written by Fred Hager. Date unknown" revealed the following fact: "The late John Brennan who wasn't a man to be easily scared has related to the writer that he was so frightened when Hager gave him a ride behind those ponies that his heart stopped beating and his hair actually stood straight up…”
David Hager sold his hotel and farm to David and Uriah Almas and moved his family in 1854 to Vittoria in Norfolk's Charlotteville township. He died there on January 28, 1869, just three days before his father died at Palermo.
Charles Hager married Jane Howard in 1850, built a barn first then a white frame house on Howard Street. He also built a store, which for many years was known as the Hager Store. His brother-in-law, Samuel Harrison, was taken into partnership. Charles' eldest son, John Howard Hager, later replaced Samuel Harrison, and opened The Right House. Charles was the first Hagersville postmaster who continued in that role until a short time before his death April 11, 1888.
The Caledonia bridge, seriously damaged and repaired in 1860 and again in 1861, finally went out with the ice on January 23, 1874. A new iron bridge was built in 1875.
For what it's worth, Calvin Hager of Salts Spring Church Road in Brant township continues to update his family history.