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Looking west up Big Bob Channel and the canal, in many ways Bobcaygeon’s appearance is similar to the village six decades ago. Boats still line the canal, while many of the buildings of the main street remain. Juniper Island continues to be largely forested, as are many of the points in the distance. The downtown has many fewer trees gracing its streets today, as has the north shore of Juniper Island. Three bridges still cross the channel, with the dam to the west. Gordon Boat Works (now Gordon Yacht Harbour) no longer makes canoes. Thomas Gordon started out building boats in Lakefield before moving to Bobcaygeon. Since the original photograph was taken, the marina has expanded to include new boat slips.
While the canal was a favourite swimming spot in the mid twentieth century, it is no longer considered safe to enjoy a dip given the boat traffic. Boats have gotten larger over the years, but many of them still congregate below the Bobcaygeon Lock. The old stone retaining wall on Juniper Island (right) has been replaced by a concrete dock. Juniper Island is no longer the open parkland it once was, as it has grown up into more mature trees. On the south shore, the old trees have been removed, while the village now has a stop light at the swing bridge (under construction in 2022).
Though the park is not as densely wooded as it was circa 1955 when this original photograph was taken, the lock station has been rebuilt, safety railings have been added, and there are now black steel benches to watch the boats pass through, the lock chamber itself looks quite similar.
Constructing the Dry Dock
The original picture is a view east along Front Street showing the construction of Bobcaygeon’s dry dock. In 1921, a coffer dam stretched across Big Bob Channel to build a concrete dam with a dry dock. When it was completed the doors would rest against the V-shaped steel beams lying on the river bed. Boats would be brought into the west end, then once the gates were closed, the water could be let out on the lower (east) side. The steam engine on the right provided power, which was used for mixing concrete and pumping water out of the pit during construction. Henderson House appears in the centre-left in the background, since moved to Settlers Village. The new dam was complete by 1923 and the dry dock would measure 170 feet by 35 feet.
Mossom Boyd & Company
What was built in 1889 as Mossom Boyd & Company’s Office is now the Boyd Museum and Bobcaygeon’s Chamber of Commerce. It was conveniently located in front of the lock to also serve the family’s Trent Valley Navigation Company. As the Boyd’s Big House (located across William Street) was ceasing to exist, Dirk Van Oudenaren and Bernie Gehmair relocated an archway to improve the entrance of the original stone walls. Though the roofline and dormers have changed, and the west chimney has been removed, the interior of the old office still retains its Victorian character.
The Big House
When Mossom Boyd married Caroline Dunsford in February 1844, he gave up farming, moved to Bobcaygeon and began to work full time in the lumber and milling business. This enterprise had been founded by Bobcaygeon’s proprietor, Thomas Need, who had since returned to Britain. The newlyweds also took up residence in Need’s small house that overlooked the foot of the canal.
Though it was a small building when they first moved in, Mossom was an ambitious man, soon removed the roof and converted it into a storey-and-a-half building. Operating a lumber mill, there was no shortage of wood—back then lumber was graded at a high standard, so much lumber that might be acceptable today, would be culled. Over the years, many additions to the Boyd home were built of stacked lumber, where culled boards were laid one on top of another to create walls. By the 1890s, it had become ‘the Big House,’ comprising 35 rooms with 17 fireplaces. The Boyds were then among the most prominent business families in Canada, and their estate could host all of their friends and associates who would come to visit.
In this 1888 original photograph, Lillian deGrassi Boyd and Mossom’s son (Mossom Martin AKA Mossie), sit out in front of their home. While most of their children moved away, their youngest daughter Sheila lived in the Big House until 1982. For many years, the Boyd family owned Bobcaygeon, and this home at the heart of the village, surrounded by carefully constructed stone walls, was a conspicuous embodiment of their prominence in the community.
Boyd Estate from the Air
The former Boyd Estate, seen from the air in October 1983 and 2021. After Sheila Boyd passed away in 1982, the Big House sat empty, as her relatives considered working together with the Ontario Heritage Foundation and local politicians who rallied behind restoring the Big House to its former grandeur. But the political support amounted to little tangible assistance and the family instead sold the property. Ann Neilson, of Caledon East, purchased the building, hoping to turn it into a luxury bed and breakfast, but grew frustrated with the retrofits that would be required to open it to the public, and applied to have it demolished, prompting a public campaign to save the Big House. Neilson sold to it Bobcaygeon Vita Care, run by village doctors, who hoped to create seniors’ housing. The building sat empty and was abused by trespassers, even as villagers campaigned to save it. It caught fire on October 2, 1994—suspected arson—and the remains were demolished the next spring. Today, little remains of the former Boyd estate at the site, other than some rubble from the stone walls and some trees. The carriage house was relocated to Settlers Village and one of the arches lives on as an entrance to the Boyd Museum across the street.
The Cain Brothers General Store was built in 1874, and operated until 1906 when it became Thomas Edgar's 5, 10, 15, 25 Cent Store.
In 1924, Thomas Edgar's widow opened Locust Lodge. When the Edgar family operated the lodge, it was a vibrant, turquoise and yellow building, with brightly coloured wooden chairs on the shaded lawn out front. The old stone wall still remains, and there are still colourful chairs by the water, but many of the mature trees have been taken down—though it appears that one of the small trees in the original picture may be still standing, exhibiting its distinctive shape in front of the building.
What was once the Hotel Iroquois has been repurposed as the Front and Main apartments. Traces of the Iroquois’ two-storey verandah can still be seen on the brick façade, while the tastefully designed entrance has been superseded by a fire escape. The tree out front has disappeared, while the utility poles have been entirely reconfigured. The Iroquois replaced the Rokeby Hotel (or Royal Hotel), which Jackson Read built on the same site by 1873, after the original building burned on January 12, 1905. On the other side of Front Street, the Bobcaygeon Inn stands at the former site of Edgar’s 5, 10, 15, 25 Cent Store.
Kawartha Dairy milk and ice cream is a big part of what makes the region special. Enjoying it on a summer evening has become as integral to local life as taking in the beautiful weather by the lake. When Jack and Ila Crowe opened a dairy at Bobcaygeon in 1937, it was just a simple three-room building, where the cold storage was refrigerated with blocks of ice from the lake. They picked up milk in galvanized steel cans by wagon, using horses and boats to deliver glass bottles to their customers. In the 1950s they introduced ice cream, and in the 1960s expanded to Minden. Today the dairy has 10 retail outlets and is popular across Ontario.
On the left side in the original picture is Wellington and Clara (Junkin) Johnson’s house, later owned by their son George. Being located so close to the production line, they constantly heard the sounds of the milk cases coming down the rollers. The building still stands behind the façade of the expanded dairy.
Though he was himself an Anglican, in 1879, Mossom Boyd donated the land to build a Catholic Church, just around the corner from his ‘Big House.’ It was said that he made this donation because the French Canadian workers he brought in would not stay unless there was Catholic Church. Architect William Duffus designed the building, and a contractor by the name of Grant framed the chapel, leaving it ready to brick and shingle for $60. They bought 16,000 bricks from Francis Curtin’s Lindsay Brickyard (later S.J. Fox) for $105.60. Jean-Francois Jamot, the first Bishop of Peterborough, officially blessed St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on January 14, 1883, then blessed and erected the Stations of the Cross the following November.
In 1933, J.M. Grant, the grandson of the contractor who originally built the church, added a vestry and a shed at the back. At the same time the altar was placed in the arch, with a new confessional, electric wiring, raised ceiling and a choir gallery. In 1964 the parking lot was built, followed by an addition at the back the following year—as is reflected in the original picture. Since then, a tree has matured in front of the building, with tasteful gardens framing it. Today, the Catholic Church is known as Our Lady Queen of Peace.
Fenelon Falls and Verulam Baptist Churches, reunited today as Trentside Baptist Church, started off together at Blythe Farm on September 30, 1857. The Langton Family, who originally built the farm, were devoted Anglicans, but they had moved on as John Langton pursued a political career that would make him Canada’s first Auditor General. Much as the Langton family had used the farm as a temporary location to help found the Anglican Church, the Grahams who followed, were instrumental in establishing the Baptist Church.
A common minister preached at Fenelon Falls, Bobcaygeon and Scotch Line (south of Sturgeon Lake in Verulam Township) until 1888. After conducting morning service in Fenelon Falls, the minister travelled by horse and buggy or sleigh to the Scotch Line for the afternoon, before preaching at Bobcaygeon in the evening. In Bobcaygeon, services were held at McConnell’s Tavern, Taylor’s Hall, as well as above the Featherstone and Forbert stores, until a Baptist Church was completed in October 1879. In 2014, the Baptist Churches of Fenelon Falls and Bobcaygeon reunited as Trentside Baptist Church.
Knox Presbyterian Church
Bobcaygeon’s first Presbyterian Church was built in 1867, at the present site of the post office—before then members of the local congregation met in the buildings that were available at the time, and travelled to Peterborough for weddings and baptisms. The original frame building included a porch, driving shed and a fence—back then animals were pastured at large, and needed to be fenced out, lest they desecrate the property with their droppings. Ten years later services were enlivened with hymn books and an organ—which was controversial as John Calvin (a French Protestant whose teachings inspired many early Presbyterians) had advocated against musical instruments in divine service—it was to be serious religious reflection, not entertainment.
The original church burned in 1899, forcing the congregation to meet at the Baptist Church. Two Presbyterians, Alexander Orr (who operated a Temperance Hotel) and Irvine Junkin were leaders in the Temperance Movement. Irvine had an 8-room house, that included a general store, where he also served as postmaster. The same year, his home and store were ignited one night, and his family barely escaped with their lives. The congregation decided to rebuild on the Junkins’ lot. The following year, work began on Knox Presbyterian Church, located beside the Market Square, which opened on March 17, 1901. Peter Grant received $3500 for the construction. In 1938, his grandson John was hired to extend the building by 13 feet to the west, at a cost of $1203.13. Bobcaygeon formed a two-point charge with Rosedale. A church hall was added in 2000, which included a kitchen, minister’s office, study and elevator. Though a fence is no longer needed around the church, the church hall has replaced the stables at the back, it no longer has a prominent gable on its southern roof, the back chimney no longer exists and shade trees have been planted in the yard, Knox Presbyterian Church is still quite recognizable more than a century after it was built.
John Anderson Furniture
John Anderson sold furniture, and in later years the building was converted to a movie theatre, then Beckers, then the Bobcaygeon Promoter, and today is Rokeby Cannabis. The Full Cup Café and Diner is located next door. The Beck family lived in the home behind the neatly groomed hedge in the original picture, from 1927 to 1968.
Town Hall - Fire Hall
The Bobcaygeon Town Hall, built in 1874 at a cost of $1,200, was repurposed as a fire hall in the mid twentieth century, when Council moved to their new location. At that time the Women’s Institute met at the back of the first floor. The WI room was used by the driver’s examiner, who came to town one day per week. In the 1950s, the hall located on the second story hosted many public performances, complete with a stage.
Town Hall - Lions Hall
Though the front of the building was significantly modified when it served as a fire hall, it has been restored to resemble its former appearance, and is now home to the Bobcaygeon Lions Club. Though the chimney is gone, the belfry is still there. In the original image, there is a ladder on the roof to ease fighting fires (in the days of cedar shingles, fires often spread as sparks ignited the roof, and a stable beside it. Today, the road is higher than in the original picture, and a single set of stairs stands in place of the original double staircase.
J.J. Devitt & Sons
J.J. Devitt started the business in 1928 as a taxi station and by the time the original photograph was taken it was also a Massey Harris farm implement dealer, and BA service station. Ken took over from Harold in 1968, expanding the Bolton Street location to include his school bus business. He subsequently moved to King Street, then Highway 36 south of Bobcaygeon. The Devitt family lived in the house behind and there was also a horse stable behind the shop. The gas was pumped over from the train station, which was near the corner of Park Street. As at many service stations, the job of looking after customers often seemed like it would never end, and as they lived on site, visits were friends were often interrupted when a car pulled in. When guests came to Devitt’s they might hear that whoever is sitting closest to the door goes out to pump the gas.
Thurston's Service Station
In the early days of automobiles, service stations truly did live up to their name—cars were not reliable and service stations did provide repairs. At Noxon (Knocky) Thurston’s, not only could they help get you back on the road, they also delivered babies. The family lived in the house that is visible in the background and Irene (Irwin) was the villages’ nurse. Many Bobcaygeon residents were born in the Thurston’s kitchen in the mid 20th century. Later on, it was owned by Don Beckford, and then became Ken Devitt’s Garage. Reincarnated as Mike’s Mart, today King’s Mini Mart is an Ultramar Station.
Since the days when Thurston’s operated their service station, the adjacent lot has been cleared to create a parking lot, while the south school still stands across King Street.
Over the years, the south school has been repurposed many times over—Cornerstone Furniture, Dr. Fagan’s Office, Pat Warren’s Radiology Clinic, a Buy and Sell and an Art Gallery to name a few. But for all the changes, the building looks much the same, though the belfry and the front chimney have disappeared.
Hill Croft Preparatory School
Designed by architect William Langton and built in 1908-9 by contactor William Grant, Hill Croft Preparatory School’s original headmaster was Walter T. Comber. His daughter, Dorothe, maintained a collection of historic village photographs for many years. It was reincarnated as a hospital, then was significantly expanded to become Hillcroft Haven nursing home, which cared for many local seniors in the 1980s and 1990s. In recent years, the long-term care addition has been stripped away to reveal the original façade with a few alterations. All of the chimneys that Langton had so tastefully planned are now gone.
Alexander Orr Temperance House
In the nineteenth century, travel was often slow and arduous. Trips that might take a few hours today, were often multi-day journeys back then. Every community needed at least one hotel, and since much of the traffic to the north country on the Bobcaygeon Road stopped in the village, it could support multiple hotels. Alexander Orr’s Temperance House was in operation by 1865. For many establishments, alcohol generated much of the profit, but many people had strong anti-drinking sentiments and Alexander catered to this clientele. The hotel had a reputation for serving high quality meals. Many visitors came for the fishing, and he took an interest when one guest caught a seven-pound bass and another party reeled in 87 fish in a single morning. Scotsman Alexander Orr was an avid gardener, who often showed his vegetables at the Bobcaygeon Fair. It is said that he had Scottish masons build the hotel with limestone from Canal excavation.
By the turn of the century, Mrs. Phillippo was operating the structure as the Kenosha Inn—a business that lasted until at least the 1930s. It could accommodate 80 guests for $1 to $1.50 per day. Afterwards it has been repurposed many times. Clarence Poole and Bill Nichols were two of the locals who lived there. It was also a restaurant and toy factory, then a library in 1952. A blacksmith shop was set up around back. The Masonic Lodge bought the building in the 1940s. Since then many retail establishments have used the first floor of the old hotel.
King Street Elm
In the early twentieth century, Bobcaygeon had a unique natural landmark, the King Street Elm. At the time practically everyone in town would recognize the towering specimen, and it was so popular that postcards were made of it. Today, nothing remains of the great tree, as the road has been paved and widened.
For generations, Sherwood Street has been a neighbourhood of beautiful old houses with trees lining both sides. In the early twentieth century, it was one of the local sites featured on postcards. Dr. Harry Boyd lived at the end of the street, on Little Bob Channel.
Walking along Canal Street towards Bolton Street, beside the locks, Dan Cain's Store was once a very prominent sight. Today it is part of Bigley's expansive cluster of stores.
Nothing remains of from this early twentieth century view of the front Cain's Store...
Bolton Street West Side
The northwest end of Bolton Street was once home to the original Bigley's shoe store, Wollard's drug store, the Bank of British North America and Dan Cain's Store. After the block burned in 1913, the Bank of British North America rebuilt on the corner. Five years later, it merged with the Bank of Montreal.
Burritt and Hansom Kerr
For decades, Burritt and Mildred Kerr loved to be part of the Bobcaygeon Fair Parade—and people never knew what surprise they had in store. Burritt dreamed up his first float when he was 14, taking the dump cart from his family’s aggregate business and their ox, Hansom Kerr. Later on, Burritt had modified a cutter so that it was self-propelled using a lawn-mower, inventing a system of brakes, so it could be steered like a skid-steer. He cut out wooden reindeer that were suspended in front. Another parade featured the 1948 Ford “Black Beauty,” with dummies sitting (“the kids”) in the back seat. Bobcaygeon residents will long remember the sight of Mildred driving a dump truck in the parade at the age of 80.
Mildred and Burritt Kerr
Bruce Hobley snapped this photograph of Mildred and Burritt Kerr in a parade on June 7, 2008 in front of Purdy's Jewellery.
Bobcaygeon Locks in Spring
The original image, circa 1900, was taken during the spring freshet, with a water level high enough to overflow the locks. In the distance, the steamer Esturion is at the upper wharf. The Esturion was originally named the Victoria, but after an 1884 fire, the Trent Valley Navigation Company decided that the ship's charred timbers were an improvement. They rebuilt the boat with its new name and it proved to be one of their longest-serving vessels. It ran passenger and freight service from Lindsay to Bobcaygeon, stopping at Sturgeon Point.
Bobcaygeon Fair Parade
The parade to the Bobcaygeon Fall Fair (September 27-28, 1906), turns onto the swing bridge, headed for the market square. The team of black horses belonged to the Ventress family from Nogies Creek. Since then, the locks have moved west of the swing bridge, and the lockmaster’s house and grist mill have disappeared. At the turn of the century, many visitors would come to the fair by steamship. However, this mode of transportation was starting to wane with the development of gasoline launches. The following year, the Boyd family began to wind up the Trent Valley Navigation Company.
In this early view of the grist mill, farmers have arrived to pick up Massey Harris farm implements. Often farm families made their machinery purchases in late winter to be ready for spring. Today both the lockmaster’s house and the grist mill have been replaced with greenspace along the canal. On the far bank, Juniper Island the forests on Juniper Island have matured and filled in.
Dr. Bonnell's House
The original picture of Dr. Bonnell’s house was taken early in 1919, looking north from the swing bridge. It has since been incorporated into the Buckeye Centre, though the trees out front have disappeared. The building on the left in the original picture is the Bobcaygeon Independent office.
Looking east down Main Street on Bobcaygeon’s Juniper Island in 1919, the fire hall appears on the left, with the Cosh House (centre) and the Bobcaygeon Independent office (right). William Cosh and his son (Hedley Vicars) built this house together. In the third generation Amy Cosh (1902-1967) lived there, who was Bobcaygeon’s beloved librarian for 34 years. Other families residing there over the years included Kittles and Baggs. Today it is Riverwalk.
In the early 1990s, the old Cosh house was demolished and rebuilt at Riverwalk by Paul Pankhurst and W.G. Jackett and Sons.
Fire Hall and Post Office
Bobcaygeon’s Fire Hall was torn down in 1934 to make room for the Post Office. At the time, the lower part of the building was salvaged and moved Gypsy Point, near Nogies Creek. Since then, the Post Office moved to the south end of Bolton Street, which allowed the building to pass to the Senior Citizens Club, which has in turn moved to Head Street.
George and Suzie Lee standing in front of the Bobcaygeon Creamery. Originally constructed by Charles Elliott, the Lees purchased the business in 1937, operating it with their son Lloyd. At one point, Bobcaygeon had multiple milk and cream processing facilities—Crowe’s (Kawartha Dairy), Murphy’s, Lee’s, plus many cheese factories in the region. In the second half of the twentieth century, the industry consolidated, and today Bobcaygeon is unusual in still having a local dairy in town. Don Whyte bought the former Bobcaygeon Creamery to operate an automotive body and paint shop. It was demolished in 1979 to make way for the new post office.
Bolton Street, circa 1940
Looking north up Bolton Street, circa 1940, Bobcaygeon’s downtown had many more mature trees than it does today. On the right is Pogue’s Garage, across the road from Devitt’s Service Station and Henry Devitt’s restaurant—at the time there was a BA station opposite to another BA station. In the original image there was a street light suspended over the centre of the main street, while today there is a crosswalk located a little closer to the canal.
Bolton Street, circa 1965
T.G. (Gordon) Devitt and his wife May operated a 5 & dime on the west side of Bolton Street. She was well remembered as a member of the curling club. Robert Douglass’ Coffee Bar next door was a popular ice cream shop, and later became Keith Gordon’s Insurance Office. Brothers Wilson and Ted Shea purchased Read’s Grocery store and rebuilt it as a IGA Supermarket in 1956. In its early days, the supermarket also sold housewares like woollens and china. After many years as an IGA, the grocery store switched to Foodland.
Bolton Street, circa 1970
This image of Bolton Street, circa 1970, includes many of the buildings that still stand to this day. After the second Rockland House burned a few years earlier, the corner block on the east side was rebuilt into shops, Doll House Ladies Shop & Beauty Salon and the El Toro Steak House. Further down, Mason’s Hardware stood on one side (later the Golden Kettle Restaurant) with Crest Hardware opposite. The latter subsequently burned. Since then, the vacant lot beside El Toro has been developed, and the exterior appearance of many shops has changed significantly.
First Rockland House
The original Rockland House was the first thing that many visitors to Bobcaygeon would notice—by design being a perfectly situated accommodation. Overlooking the lock, right in front of the wharf, and on the corner of the main street, when travellers came to town on a steamboat, the beautiful limestone hotel was the local landmark. Commissioned by Joseph Goulais, it opened in 1882, but its owner died the next year. His widow carried on the business for a few years, then leased and eventually sold the property to Harvey Thompson. The first Rockland House was remembered for serving fine meals. On the night of April 12, 1904, the Rockland House lit up the sky of Bobcaygeon, and the best that local firefighters could do was save the rest of the town. By morning, the limestone walls stood empty….
Second Rockland House
Within a year of the fire, work began on the Second Rockland House, which was initially just a smaller wooden hotel along the canal. It was subsequently expanded around the corner, like its predecessor, but was much more modern in design, compared with the original, grand Victorian hotel. Like its predecessor, it too burned on November 18, 1966. Al Ingram remembered that he was walking home that evening and was commandeered to join the fire department. Many new recruits helped keep the roofs of other buildings wet, so the fire would not engulf more of the downtown. That night, the flames could be seen from County Road 8 at the edge of town. A third and smaller Rockland Motel was built on Canal Street. For many years, the corner block has been a restaurant, Doll House, El Toro and today it operates as graz.
J.H. Moore Waggon Shop
J.H. Moore Waggon Shop was a prominent Bobcaygeon business, and many farmers needed a solid waggon (to use the contemporary British spelling) to transport all their crops around the farm. Families also aspired to have a carriage for their journeys, though few had the time to travel much further than a neighbouring town. In later years, it built some of the area’s first automobiles, by fitting carriages with a single cylinder engine.
After the original J.H. Moore Waggon Shop burned, Clarence Poole (left) erected a masonry building, that he operated as the Kawarthe Garage. His daughter Evelyn (Mrs. Don Rosenburg) stands in the doorway in this photograph, taken circa 1940. Clarence and Jessie operated the business with their son, Ross, who carried on after they retired. At the time, the Bobcaygeon Bypass had yet to be constructed, so through traffic would go up Bolton Street, hence the directional signs on the utility pole, advising motorists to turn right to visit nearby villages, like Fenelon Falls, Buckhorn, Kinmount, and Haliburton.
The double clear vision gas pumps shown in the picture were hand crank pumps, with a lever on each side that the operator used to fill the cylinder at the top. Gasoline was not filtered back then, and many customers would be conscious that impurities could damage their engine, so the clear cylinder allowed them to see the clarity of the gasoline they were purchasing. The side of the cylinder was marked, to measure the quality of fuel dispensed. The lights on top, helped advertise the business, as motorists might be desperate to find a service station in the evening.
At the time this picture was taken, cars were not as reliable as they are today, especially tires. The first radial tires for cars had yet to be introduced (Michelin 1946, they were nearly universal by the mid 1970s) and motorists commonly had to replace a tire, especially on a long journey. Often when motorists stopped for gas, they would also need repairs, so many service stations were full service garages, and tires were one of the most commonly needed parts—Poole’s Kawarthe Garage was also a Dominion Tire Depot. Like most villages at the time, there were many service stations on Bobcaygeon’s Main Street, and they would be busy keeping their customers on the road. In those days, a pit stop often took several hours.
Just down the road was Pogue’s Garage, who sold Dunlop tires. There was plenty of work to keep multiple garages busy on the main street of Bobcaygeon. In the 1947 photograph, Garnet Shouldice, William Robinson, Dick Telford and Cecil W. Pogue stand in front of the garage.
In the early twentieth century, Bobcaygeon’s canal park contained many ornamental plantings, behind the community’s fire hall. Creating such a beautiful waterfront required a lot of foresight in the late Victorian era—a time when many families were just beginning to be able to afford a few luxuries. Then as now, it was a beautiful place to watch the boats in the canal. The original image dates from the period when steamships were in decline, as more people had gasoline launches. By the 1960s, the post office had replaced the fire hall, and the park hosted many lawn bowling games. Though there are not as many ornamental plantings today as there were a century ago, and the locks and lock station have now moved to the opposite side of the swing bridge, the space retains much the same feel—just today the railings and benches are no longer made of wood.
The railway came to Bobcaygeon late. Whereas many Lindsay had a rail connection in 1857, and many local villages to the north were linked in the 1870s, the iron horse did not come to Bobcaygeon until 1904—despite the fact that it was home to one Canada’s most successful sawmills, owned by Mossom Boyd. For a generation, when neighbouring communities benefitted from the ease of rail transportation, Bobcaygeon got by transhipping many goods at the Lindsay wharf, and restacking all the lumber exported by the village. Ironically, the railway was built just as its utility was declining—Mossom M. Boyd was moving the lumber business to British Columbia. It would not be long before the first automobiles appeared.
The Lindsay, Bobcaygeon and Pontypool Railway was operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway, and providing a competing link to Lindsay, which was previously served by the Grand Trunk Railway. Initially two trains a day came to Bobcaygeon, and in the 1940s, a traveller could leave Toronto at 8 am and arrive in the village by 3 pm. As traffic declined, the train only made one run per day, and the last train left Bobcaygeon in 1957. The line was abandoned four years later. Bob Thompson moved the rail station to his aggregate business, subsequently sold to Fred Reynolds to develop Victoria Place. Since the time that the station was first built, a lot of fill has been added between the railway and the river.
Tip of Bobcaygeon Island
Before the railway was built, the western tip of Bobcaygeon Island was a beautiful spot to enjoy the river and look out towards Sturgeon Lake. It was one of many beautiful spots that tourists were encouraged to visit in the newly named ‘Kawartha Lakes.’ Today, the railway has come and gone, and the right of way has been repurposed as a road, as automobiles proved more convenient than trains.
Front Street Flooding, 1913
Parts of Bobcaygeon, like Front Street, would naturally flood in the spring, then water levels would drop in the summer. While Big Bob tended to retain some water year round, Little Bob was once intermittent. By the late nineteenth century, aided by the dams that were initially constructed to facilitate floating logs out of the northern woods, the Trent Severn Waterway was beginning to be able to manage water levels to facilitate navigation. While occasional floods occurred along the main course of the waterway into the twentieth century, today precise water management has become the norm, and many houses are built in locations that would flood, were it not for Parks Canada managing the hydrology of the Trent Watershed. 1913 was a difficult year for the village, with a flood and a large fire on Bolton Street. Note Henderson House (right in the background), now a wonderful community space at Settlers Village and the Hotel Iroquois (rebuilt after the 1904 fire) to its left.
In the early twentieth century, the east end of Juniper Island was open parkland, with not nearly as many trees as at present. Being located right beside the Canal, it was a very popular place to look out across at the beauty of the Big Bob Channel. When this original, colourized image was captured, the water levels were much lower than at present, exposing parts of the river bed. On the far shore, the Stonyhurst Inn, operated by Margaret Falls, overlooked the rapids, with “ice cream, fruit pies & cakes always ready,” and it still welcomes guests today.
From the Lower Wharf
In the mid twentieth century, there was an Esso station located at the foot of the lower wharf, where the canal rejoined Big Bob Channel. Compete with a diner, fishing guides often met customers at the site. For visitors looking to enjoy summer on the waterway, it offered everything they needed in one convenient stop—a boat, gas, lunch and knowledge of the best place to go fishing. The Esso Station burned down, and more recently Water’s Edge Restaurant operated beside the park. Gordon Boat Works (Gordon Yacht Harbour) is visible in the background.
Gordon Boat Works
Dr. S.H. (Stephen) Thorne set up a medical practice in Bobcaygeon in 1888 as a young, 25-year-old doctor. He loved boating, and built a dock in near his residence on Helen Street. In 1894, he converted his boathouse into a workshop and recruited brothers Gilbert and Charles Gordon who had previously made canoes in Lakefield. In 1909, Gilbert took over the business, passing it to his Charles in 1926—who named it Gordon Boat Works. Earl Gordon bought the venture, and subsequently passed it to Bill and Mary Jane. They renamed it Gordon Yacht Harbour to reflect the changing times. Colin Fernall purchased the business in 1975, and began a major reconstruction project in 1990, that was completed by its next owner, Charles Pitcher in 1999. From above, many striking changes are apparent. Covered slips now line the water, the former parking lot has been converted into lawn, while the neighbourhood has significantly developed.
From the Canal to Pigeon Lake
This image of downtown Bobcaygeon from the west was taken in the early 1960s, shortly before the second Rockland House burned, and also before the construction of the bypass. Since then, the trees on Juniper Island have been thinned. The forest in the foreground has given way to Riverwalk, as well as Regency Point and Sherwood Gardens, located across the canal on the main Bobcaygeon Island. Bobcaygeon is a much larger community than it was in the 1960s, with the addition of Port 32 on the former Boyd Sawmill property on the east end of Bobcaygeon Island and many other homes near water’s edge.