Topic: Bruce Road, Toko (TDN 13/02/2021)

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Bruce Road, Toko 

Government dislike of land speculators is no new political fashion. The early development of the Toko Block, east of Stratford, was hindered for a long time because of this very reason.

Unlike many inland areas, from the 1880s land around Toko was being bought and sold by private owners. They considered it to be ideal sheep country. However, they wanted better road access. Streams and swamps in the area reduced the dirt roads to impassible, muddy messes in bad weather.

The Liberal Party formed a Government in early 1891 that was to be transformational. Along with improvements to social conditions it was spending a lot of money on roads, to open up the inland country. However it was reluctant to improve East Road. It didn’t want to be seen to benefit what it considered ‘speculators’ in land.

But many owners were farmers who didn’t sell their land. One of the first settlers was Robert Bruce who had purchased land in the early 1880s. In 1898 he commissioned the survey that would lay out the road named after him in the small township. He also donated the land on Bruce Road where the first Toko church was built.

By then, despite the poor access Toko was growing in size. It boasted a saw mill and diary factory, a store and a hotel. A small school had also opened. Soon there was a regular horse-drawn coach service to Stratford. In keeping with the promising outlook, Bruce Road was initially planned to be longer than it is today.

Robert Bruce died in October 1907. Many years after his death he was described by another long-time settler in the area as a “kindly, generous and honest man.”

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Bruce Road, Toko (TDN 13/02/2021)