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August 25, 2023

Bailieboro from the Air

By Guy Scott

One of the earliest pioneer roads to our area ran from Port Hope north, past Rice Lake, to Peterborough. Once it hit the bottom end of Sturgeon Lake, it stopped. In the 1850s, this road was restarted at Bobcaygeon and built north to Dorset, as it was renamed the Bobcaygeon Road. If you look on a map or on a photo from space, you can see the line of the Bobcaygeon Road running majestically north from Lake Ontario towards North Bay.

Along the southern route (Port Hope to Peterborough), a number of small pioneer crossroads hamlets sprang up at regular intervals along the Road. A crossroads hamlet grew up where a concession side road crossed the main road. The hamlets usually consisted of a hotel to house travellers on the road, a blacksmith to cater to animal welfare and stores, churches and schools as necessity dictated. In its southerly course, the Bobcaygeon Road was the boundary between various townships in Durham County on the west and Peterborough County on the east. Today, this stretch of Road is called Highway #28.

The pioneer road was home to four such crossroads settlements in the Township of Cavan alone. These small communities were partially in Peterborough and partially in Durham Counties. (Cavan Township was part of Durham County until the 1970s, when it transferred to Peterborough County). This line of crossroads hamlets has been jokingly called “Church Row.” There were 5 churches along this stretch of present-day Highway #28. While the Centre Line of Cavan could be called “Mill Row” because it housed a series of mills, the east boundary line contained zero mills, but lots of churches

The southernmost community along the Cavan Township portion of the road is Bailieboro. The main structure was a pioneer inn run by a James Graham. A post office was established at the site as early as 1830. Before the arrival of railways, traffic on the Road was heavy: it being the main (only) route into Peterborough from the south. Originally called “Grahams,” the post office established in 1830 used the name Bloomfield. But there was another village in Prince Edward County by the same name and in 1860 the hamlet was renamed Bailieboro. This was the name of a village (complete with a castle) in County Cavan, Ireland. How appropriate!

Bailieboro prospered during the 1800s. By 1851 it had 100 residents and was home to a dozen businesses including a carriage maker, tannery, cooperage, blacksmith and at least 2 hotels. Oh yes, and 2 churches. As business gravitated to the larger centres and the railway replaced the Peterborough Road, the village faded into a quiet crossroads hamlet. Today it contains a general store and some houses. Even the Methodist Church is closed and used as an antique store.

Two concessions north of Balieboro is the crossroads hamlet of Centreville. Since this name was very, very common throughout Ontario, the name was changed to South Monaghan upon being granted a post office in 1846. The hamlet contained the usual amenities: a hotel, blacksmith, general store, school and its most famous landmark, the Centreville United Church.

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