HISTORY of VICTORIA COUNTY - PART 14
(BY WATSON KIRKCONNELL, M.A.)
A lock at Bobcaygeon was undertaken as early at 1834 by Messrs. Pearse, Dumble and Hoad, contractors for the prospective remuneration of 1600 Pounds. The unsettled state of the country and the outbreak of 1837 kept the work in check but, it was ultimately completed by 1840. The limestone for the lock was quarried out at the village, as was also the material for the first lock at Lindsay in 1843. Thomas Need was at this time one of five "Commissioners for superintending the improvement of the navigation of the Newcastle District." His successor, Mossom Boyd, also took an active interest in the canalization of Trent system and when, after decades of apathy, the government began in the seventies to consider further extensions, he had a voluminous report prepared at his own expense. The Bobcaygeon lock has been rebuilt since 1840 but is still in essential respects unaltered.
The first divine service at Bobcaygeon was a conventicle held in McConnell's tavern by the Rev. Mr. Edwards, a Baptist minister from Peterborough. Sunday school was carried on in Forrest's log cabin on the island. The first Quarterly Board of the Methodist church met in May 15, 1858, and consisted of George Bick, Thomas Taylor, James Rayley, and James Thurston. The efforts of this Board and of the Rev. John Dowler, then Pastor, succeeded in erecting a frame church, which was opened in 8162. The seats were plank benches and the means of illumination tallow candles. This church has since been extensively remodelled in 1869, 1879, and in 1918.
The Methodists are the strongest denomination in Bobcaygeon, but the Anglicans and Presbyterians do not lag far behind. The religious section of the 1911 census gave the following figures:---Methodists, 338; Anglicans,310; Presbyterians, 230; Roman Catholics, 55; Baptists, 38.
Bobcaygeon Since Incorporation.
Bobcaygeon became an incorporated village on January 1, 1877. The following citizens constituted the first Council:--Reeve, W.B. Reid; Councillors, Charles Readfield, J.L. Reid, E. Bottum and John Kennedy. J. G. Edwards was Clerk and Treasurer. A Village Hall of red brick was erected at the cost of $3000.
The population at this time has been estimated at about one thousand. Local industries were flourishing. There were sawmills, a shingle mill, a carding mill, a grist mill, and a tannery. Lime was prepared on an extensive scale, one kiln turning out one hundred barrels of lime daily. There were also quarries of lithographic stone about three miles from the village. Petroleum deposits had been located in 1866 but a company formed locally for its development was unsuccessful.
A weekly paper, the "Independent," had been begun in 1870 by E.D. Hand, who had founded the "Advocate" in Lindsay in 1855. In 1873, Hand removed to Fenelon Falls and there established the "Gazette." The "Independent" was thereupon taken over by C. E. Stewart, who, aided by his daughter, edited the paper for many years. Mr. A. Warren has been a more recent publisher.
For many years Bobcaygeon's greatest handicap was isolation from the outer world. The village was eighteen miles from Lindsay by road and still more remote from Peterborough. Railroads were late in coming: and sister villages like Fenelon Falls and Coboconk had train service thirty-five years before the first locomotive entered Bobcaygeon. In summer, traffic used to come by steamer from Lindsay or Bridgenorth but in winter the village was sealed away by the frozen Lakes. There had, indeed, been attempts at railway building. In 1874 the Cobourg, Peterborough, and Marmora Railway planned to extend their line to Bobcaygeon and Fenelon Falls; but the corporation was already bankrupt and the proposal came to nothing. Then in December 1889 twelve Victoria County men, Messrs. M.M. Boyd, John Petro, John L. Reid, George Bick, and Wm. Needler, (all of Bobcaygeon), and Messrs. J. B. Knowlson, W. McDonnell, J. D. Flavelle, D. J. McIntyre, John Dobson, John Kennedy and John McDonald, (all of Lindsay), applied to the government at Ottawa for a charter for a Bobcaygeon, Lindsay, and Pontypool Railway. This charter was granted the 26th of March, 1890, and a subsidy of $51,200 voted two months later. A further grant of $88,800 at the next session of parliament was in prospect, but the deaths of Adam Hudspeth, the member for South Victoria, and of Sir John A. Macdonald, who had been acting Minister of Railways, and had transacted all business with the new Company, disappointed the directors. Then the town ship of Ops proceeded to reject a bonus by-law, and the reilway project ultimately succumbed to dry rot. A more ambitious enterprise was launched in Peterborough in 1891, when a number of citizens, headed by John Burnham, Q.C. sought to promote a Peterborough and Sault Ste.Marie Railway, which was to pass through Bobcaygeon on its long run northwestward. However, the company could not secure even a charter from the Abbot administration and the whole scheme evaporated. It was not until 1904, when the Canadian Pacific Railway completed a branch line from Burketon through Lindsay to Bobcaygeon, that the Verulam village was linked up with Ontario's rail transport system. The advent of the railway was too late to establish prosperity in the face of depleted forest resources and an adverse banking system. The population, which long was stable at over one thousand, had dropped by 1920 to a scant eight hundred and forty-four. Summer tourists, however, may now enter freely, and will doubtless increase in numbers and enthusiasm as the natural advantages of the village become more widely known.
Slow Development of Verulam.
The township proper developed very slowly because of the number of land speculators and absentee land-owners. In 1842, ten years after settlement began, there were only 68 householders in the combined area of Verulam and Harvey. Even 1860 found less than twenty miles of waggon road in all Verulam. The land speculator was the curse of the township, as , for that matter, of all other townships in Victoria.
On the introduction of municipal institutions in 1850, Verulam was associated with Fenelon and Bexley for administrative purposes. The first Council comprised the following: ---Reeve, John Langton; Councillors, James W. Dunsford, William Studdaby, Samuel Brock, and Jabez Thurston. The Clerk was William Powles, the postmaster at Fenelon Falls. The racial constituents of Verulam in 1911 were as follows:---Irish, 1079; English, 628; Scotch, 272; all others, 43. As for churches, the Methodists were in the ascendent, the figures being as follows:--Methodists, 994; anglicans, 434: Presbyterians, 370; Baptists, 180: Roman Catholics, 35. The peak of population was 2230, reached in 1881. The assessment rolls of 1920 show a recession to 1630. The present valuation of the township is $1,560,844 or almost equal to that of Fenelon.
Some Verulam Hamlets
Verulam has no other villages at all comparable to Bobcaygeon in size. Dunsford on the C.P>R. on and adjacent to Lot 5, Concession III, has a population of about forty. The locality was once known as "Sheriff's Corners"-and also as "Willock's Settlement," but was later renamed in honor of the Dunsford family. The first Methodist church here was built in 1860. This was replaced in 1886, during the pastorate of the Rev.W.M. Pattyson, by a new sanctuary of red brick. A recent directory credits the village with two stores, two smithies, and a cheese factory. An Adventist hermit lives deep in the penetralia of a huge swamp two miles east of Dunsford.
Fairbairn, Red Rock, Sandy Point, and Thurstonia are rural post offices. Fairbairn is situated on Lot 25, Concession VI, in the northeat of the twonship, and is named after Charles W. Fairbairn, a Verulam farmer who represented South Victoria in the House of Commons from 1890 to 1896. Red Rock post office, on Lot 18, Concession V, a mile north of Sturgeon Lake, derives its name from a massive and striking monadnock of red granite which pushes up through the prevailing limestone strata on Lot 19, Concession IV, a little to westward. Sandy Point is east of Sturgeon Point on the north shore of the lake. Thurstonia is a summer resort on the south shore and is called after the Thurstons, who have been numerous and prominent in this part of the township.
Ancona Point is a stations on the C.P.R. half way between Dunsford and Bobcaygeon. It was built to serve ,'Scotch Line" and was to have borne that name, but one or two local men held stubbornly by conceptions of their own and the C.P.R. finally settled the dispute by adopting the present Italian title, which is utterly without relevance to any aspect of any part of the township.
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