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June 18, 2024

An aerial view of Blackwater, looking Southwest

By Guy Scott

Blackwater was a crossroads hamlet two miles south of Sunderland at the spot where the road (now Highway #12) crosses the Beaver River. The Beaver River is a small, sluggish stream, lacking any waterfall for a mill site. Any mills established in the hamlet were steam driven. The name Blackwater referred to the colour of the Beaver River. The community was a sleepy little hamlet until the Toronto-Nipissing Railway bridged the river on its way to Sunderland in 1871. In 1883 a spur line of the Midland Railway was built from Blackstock to Manilla Junction. This line linked the major railway centre of Lindsay with points south including Toronto.

Blackwater Junction became a thriving hamlet thanks to the railway traffic. At the zenith of railway traffic, as many as 14 trains a day passed through Blackwater Junction: 8 passenger trains and 6 freight trains! A huge station was built to accommodate the traffic. Since many passengers transferred trains, a 50-foot lunch counter was built to serve meals. Donuts sold 2 for 5 cents, sandwiches were a dime and coffee or tea 5 cents a cup! The site even included a croquet course for passengers to pass the time between trains! Siding and stock yards loaded lumber, livestock and grain produced locally.

Blackwater became famous as a grain depot. Another farm crop that made Blackwater famous was turnips. Local farmers grew large crops of turnips for both human and animal consumption. One problem was how to preserve the turnips so they did not spoil. A local entrepreneur came up with the idea of waxing the roots, and set up a large factory at Blackwater to perform this task. Thus, turnips became an export crop for many decades. Besides the turnip factory, there were several saw mills, grain silos, at least one blacksmith, several general stores and the usual amenities of hamlets such as a school, churches, a post office, a shoemaker, hardware store and a tannery. Blackwater Junction never attained the size or influence of Sunderland, which remained the township of Brock centre, but while the railways operated at full throttle, it was a bustling hamlet. But on the other hand, when the railways declined, so did Blackwater Junction. Today the railways are gone and the hamlet has become a few houses and a dot on the map.

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