It's known as Southgate today but once, a little more than a decade ago, Proton Township was a proud part of Grey County. Let's pay a visit there this week with our first stop being in Hopeville, a hamlet whose first settlers came from Port Hope filled with high hopes for the future. Hopeville, about five kilometres from the Egremont-Proton Townline, was heavily forested in the 1850s. Maple, elm, beech and birch, hemlock, cedar and tamarack were plentiful but a challenge. lt was hard work to clear five acres in a single year. Farming around Hopeville was at first difficult. Crops were sown by hand among the stumps and the seeds were covered with a harrow made of brush. The crops, when ripe, were cradled and bound by hand and then flailed to thresh the grain. Hay was mowed and raked, piled in coils to dry and then pitched on and off wagons to be stored in lofts or stacks. The early years were harsh. 1864 was known as the "starvation year" in Proton. Wheat did not grow that year and even game birds and deer were scarce. Getting provisions to see the family through the winter was a challenge. Men walked with a bag of what grain they could grow slung over their shoulder, all the way to the nearest grist mill - sometimes in Durham, more often in Mt. Forest. There was little in the way of cash those first decades in Proton. ln order to pay land taxes, settlers earned money by working on the township roads. Digging ditches was worth 90 cents a rod. ln spite of the hardships, progress was made in Hopeville. By 1854, a log school had been built. A post office and church came next and then mills, stores and shops made Hopeville a busy place.