Jeff Green | Jun 10, 2010
(Information for the following was gathered from the books “The Oxen and the Axe”, and “Lennox and Addington”, which was written by Orland French, although the sections that were used here were written by Marg Axford)
Photo right: Drive the Mississippi, courtesy The Oxen and the Axe
It takes about 45 minutes to drive the roughly 65 kilometres between Kaladar and Denbigh on Highway 41. Starting with the push up Kaladar Hill, the route meanders through rocky, swampy ground until it passes through Northbrook. It then passes over rolling hills, passes along the shoreline of Mazinaw Lake and then heads over hillier and hillier vistas until it reaches Denbigh Lake.
Highway 41 follows pretty much the same route that was laid out by the Perry brothers (Aylesworth B. and Ebenezer) back in 1854 when they oversaw the building of the Addington (a.k.a. Perry) Road. The new road opened up the “back” country to enhance the logging industry and encourage settlement on lands that were thought to have the makings of good farmland.
In the 19th century, the trip along the old Addington Road from Kaladar to Denbigh took the better part of two days to complete. In the book “Lennox and Addington” (Orland French – 2010) the trip is described in the following way: “It was a tiring and sometimes painful experience, up and down endless hills, over bumpy corduroy and around rocks and massive tree stumps.”
There was an easier route to the west, along a well-established Aboriginal trail that ran near the shoreline of the Skootamatta River as far as Flinton.
The region, which had remained in the same state for thousands of years, had been severely impacted by economic interests long before the Addington Road was built. In the 1830s and '40s, drawn by the abundance of white and red pine, logging companies came to the region and they found they could send logs to markets in several directions.
Mazinaw Lake is a headwater lake for the Mississippi River system, draining into the Ottawa River. Skootamatta Lake is a headwater lake for the Moira River system, which drains into Lake Ontario. Just south of Mazinaw, Story Lake is a headwater lake for the Salmon River, which also drains into Lake Ontario, while to the north at Denbigh the lakes drain into the Madawaska River.
This made for a number of water routes for logs to travel to sawmills at major centres, and the seemingly endless supply of lumber from what are now Addington Highlands and North Frontenac townships was decimated by the early years of the 20th century.
With the development of the Addington Road later on, settlement in the area was encouraged for farming purposes, under the mistaken belief that once the pines were gone the land left behind would be rich farmland. But with the trees went whatever topsoil had built up over the granite rock since the last ice age, leaving several generations of settlers with a hard rock existence, trying to eke out a living from an unforgiving land.
Until the loggers left, struggling farmers were able to sell goods to the logging camps, and pick up seasonal work logging as well, but the 20th century brought hard times to the settlements along the Addington Road/Hwy. 41 corridor, although the return of logging with the building of the Sawyer-Stoll sawmill and company town, which was a major employer between the 1930s and 1960s, provided some economic relief.
With rock comes prospecting, and there have been several attempts to establish mines in the region. The Golden Fleece mine near Flinton was started up in 1881 and remained in operation until 1940, but was never a particularly lucrative property because of low-grade ore. Two smaller gold mines, the Star of the East and Ore Chimney mines, were established in 1903 and 1902 respectively in Barrie Township near Cloyne, but never had much success. Near Denbigh, the Jewell Ruby mine was established. It was the dream-child of J.H. Jewell of Toronto and garnets were the rubies that were being sought, but again the grade of the ore was less than ideal. For a time the low-grade garnets were a viable commodity for use in sandpaper, but eventually even that demand dried up.
Tourism has turned out to be a more viable economic activity in the region, with the same lakes and woodlands that drew the interest of lumbermen a century earlier drawing the attention of canoeists, hunters and fishers, summer cottagers and campers.
The foundation of the tourism industry in the region had an unlikely early boost in the mid-1890s from an Ohio dentist's honeymoon. Although Dr. Weston Price lived and worked in Cleveland, he was originally from Newburgh.
The Prices spent their honeymoon camping in the shadow of Mazinaw Rock on the narrows of Mazinaw Lake, near the Tapping family farm. They became so enamoured with the place that they purchased the land around the narrows and built the Bon Echo Inn by the end of 1899. The Inn attracted wealthy tourists from the United States and Canada and gave the region a profile in major cities throughout the Eastern Seaboard. The Inn was sold to Flora MacDonald in 1910. MacDonald was an ardent spiritualist and admirer of Walt Whitman, and although Whitman never visited Bon Echo, she went so far as to have a memorial to him chiselled on the Mazinaw/Bon Echo Rock on the occasion of his centenary in 1919. After Flora died her son Merrill Denison inherited the hotel, and during the 1920s it became a host to members of the Group of Seven and others.
As it turns out, just last week an Arthur Lismer painting called “Bon Echo Rock” sold for $778,750 at a Sotheby's art auction, demonstrating the enduring public fascination with the Group of 7 and Bon Echo.
The depression put an end to a prosperous decade for the hotel, which burned down in 1935. Merrill Denison continued to spend summers at Bon Echo and he was involved in the conversion of his property, and other surrounding lands, into Bon Echo Provincial Park, which to this day remains the singular most popular tourist destination on Highway 41.
KALADAR – Transportation Hub
Photo right: The kaladar Hotel, c1925, courtesy The Oxen and the Axe
The history of the village of Kaladar is connected to the era of motorized transport. Until the Canadian Pacific Railway came through in 1884, there was only sporadic settlement in the area, but with the arrival of the railroad, lumber began to be transported to Kaladar to be loaded onto rail cars. The first post office was established at the start of 1885. For 30 years after that, there were a number of jobs, both manual labour and office jobs, available in Kaladar with the railroad and lumber companies. The CPR shifted its focus to the south in 1915, building a line on Lake Ontario, and with the lumber industry having already fallen, Kaladar suffered. When Highways 7 and 41 were built in the ‘30s, the good times returned, and commercial ventures sprung up at the north end of the village on the highway. There were several garages in Kaladar in the 1950s and the Kaladar Hotel, which had been moved to the edge of Highway 7, thrived. The hotel closed in 2007. The Kaladar Planing Mill, a division of the Sawyer Stoll Company, operated in Kaladar until 1968.
Among the businesses that have come and gone in Kaladar, Bence Motors, founded in 1946, continues to operate as a family-run Ford dealership, garage and service centre. The Kaladar Public School, which was closed in 1971 when North Addington Education Centre in Cloyne was opened, was sold to the Kaladar Community Club. The club, which was founded in 1944, took possession of the Kaladar Community Centre on its 30th anniversary year in 1974. By making judicious use of government grants, the club has been refurbished a couple of times since then, and a youth centre was added in the early 2000s. It is also the headquarters of the Land O'Lakes Tourist Association, which was also founded locally in the 1940s.
Glenda Bence was the president of the association when the centre was established in 1974, and remained in that position until her death in 2007.
To this day, as the population is scattered throughout the countryside, the Kaladar Community Centre is the glue that knits the community together.
Northbrook is a community that owes its existence to the Addington Road. Until the road was built, Glastonbury, located to the east along what is now Glastonbury Road, being located on Beaver Creek, was the site of the local mill, and other commerce built up around it. The two communities were both active until the school in Glastonbury burned down in the 1920s and a new one was built in Northbrook. Some of the businesses that have made Northbrook the commercial and administrative centre of the township of Addington Highlands today, were originally started up by families that are still prominent in the local community. Cas and Lulu Thompson started a grocery store in 1915, a business that was later purchased by Alf and Lulu Northey, who added it to their undertaking business. In the 1950s, John Bolton senior ran the major tourist hotel in Northbrook.
In the 1990s, community members teamed up with Land O'Lakes Community Services to obtain government approval and support to build the Pine Meadow Nursing Home. Today, the nursing home is the largest employer in the town, and is working hard on upgrading its services. This will not only secure Pine Meadow’s existence and provincial funding well into the future, it will also build on the home’s role as a health care centre. The recent announcement that the Northbrook Medical Clinic will become a Family Health Team underpins the role of Northbrook as a centre for medical and social services.
Although it sparked a certain amount of controversy, a stop light was put in by the Ministry of Transportation at the corner of Hwy. 41 and Peterson Road a couple of years ago, right in the middle of Northbrook where the Foodland and Bank of Montreal branches are located. The stoplight was put in to address the needs of seniors who live up the road at the Pineview Seniors apartments, but as the only traffic light on Hwy. 41, it marks the central role that Northbrook has established for itself in the region. Not bad for a town that once was called Dunham and only boasted 25 inhabitants.
Photo right: The Skootamatta River at Flinton
Its location on the Skootamatta River made Flinton a settlement earlier than any other village in what is now Addington Highlands. In fact there is archaeological evidence that it was a seasonal Aboriginal settlement before the coming of European immigrants. Before roads were built and the land grant system was set up in the latter half of the 19th century, squatters made their way along an ancient trail on the route that is now County Road 29 between Flinton and Actinolite.
There is also a possibility that Samuel Champlain spent a winter on the Skootamatta River at Flinton, although he may have been further to the southwest on the Moira.
In the 1850s, a Belleville-based entrepreneur and future member of the Canadian senate, Billa Flint, built a grist and sawmill in what became known as Flints Mills. In 1859 the town was named Flinton and 98 small building lots were laid out in a grid formation along seven streets, forming a core village that remains intact to this day.
Unlike much of the land along the Hwy. 41 corridor, there was some reasonable farmland in the vicinity of Flinton, and a number of families raised sheep, but wolves/coyotes were a constant problem.
When the lumber industry collapsed early in the 20th century it hit Flinton harder than some other communities because Flinton is located several kilometres west of the Addington Road (and later, Hwy. 41). The Stewart Hotel, which was built just outside of the village boundary when Billa Flint was still a force (Flint maintained Flinton as a dry town) burned down in 1989.
No longer a centre for business and commerce, Flinton remains a population and recreation centre thanks to the existence of Flinton Recreation Centre and the fact that the Flinton Recreation Club is alive and kicking. Flinton is the location of a thriving Jamboree on the August long weekend, and as of this week, has also become the regional host village for the Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
Photo right: Wheelers Store, Cloyne, courtesy Cloyne Historical Society
When North Addington Education Centre opened in 1971, it established Cloyne as an education and training centre. The village also is the home of the Pioneer Museum and is the closest centre to Bon Echo Park, which brings a steady flow of people through Cloyne all year round.
In addition to the tourist population, seasonal residents on Mazinaw, Skootamatta, Marble, and Mississagagon lakes spend up to five months a year living in the vicinity. Cloyne is unique among the villages along Hwy. 41 in that it straddles two townships (and two counties as well) and is the hub community for the Barrie ward of North Frontenac Township, as well as being one of the largest population centres in Addington Highlands.
The Irish heritage of many of the early settlers in Cloyne is reflected in its name, which is taken from a Village in County Cork, Ireland.
The first post office in Cloyne was opened in 1859, and the village grew quickly after that. The first hotel, the Wickware Hotel (which burned down in 1963) was built in 1864. The first school was opened in 1868 and a number of other trades and businesses necessary for a self-sufficient village in the 19th century (blacksmith shop, general store, etc.) all followed in due course. Many families that continue to be active in Cloyne today can trace their routes to pioneer days. For example, there are a number of Sniders in Cloyne today, and they can trace their family heritage back to Charles Snider, who built a sawmill and log slide on Marble Lake at the end of what is now Head Road. The business was sold to Peter McLaren (of the McLaren/Caldwell feud that is so prominent in the logging history of Lanark County). Although Charles returned to his home in Ernestown, three of his sons so preferred the rugged life in the 'back' country of the north to the easy life in the 'front' country to the south, that they stayed behind.
Today Cloyne is a centre for the building trade, as seasonal residents continually upgrade their cottages and year-round homes. There are three hardware/building supply stores in the vicinity of the village (Cloyne Home Hardware, Hook’s Rona, and Yourway Lumber) as well as numerous trades-people. Within the village itself, Cloyne Village Foods, Nowell Motors, and Grand’s Store are all going concerns.
DENBIGH - A community that stands alone
Photo right: The Denbigh Grist Mill, courtesy The Oxen and the Axe
In pioneer days the people who settled in Denbigh found that anything they could not make themselves or access locally was basically out of reach, unless they were able to travel for several days over rough terrain to Renfrew, or to the south on the Addington Road.
This led to a spirit of self-sufficiency, and at the turn of the 20th century there were a number of blacksmiths, a very busy grist mill, hotels, two churches and two stores in Denbigh to serve the population. A description of life in Denbigh in 1900 that was reprinted in the Oxen and the Axe illustrates what life and travel were like back then: “They used to gather all the produce that could be spared in the fall and drive to Renfrew to trade. They had butter in 90 pound firkins or in prints, potatoes, grain, beef, pigs, geese and wool in fleece and spun into yarn. The journey took three days down and back They traded their produce for sugar, flour, and meal by the hundred pound bag to do them a year.”
Until 1903, Denbigh had a lot of competition as a centre from the village of Vennachar, which is located only a few kilometres away, but a massive fire decimated Vennachar, and Denbigh has been a larger centre ever since. Not that Denbigh is large; it has 176 year-round households along with many seasonal residences on Denbigh, Ashby, and other smaller lakes. But the community is tightly knit, and community events are often better attended than those in communities ten times as large.
Located as it is at the junction of Highways 41 and 28, at the very top of Lennox and Addington (L&A), Denbigh is also somewhat isolated politically. Denbigh residents are understandably more oriented to Renfrew County, which is on its doorstep, than to L&A County, which has its administrative centre 90 minutes away in Napanee.