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Bridges of Kinmount

February 28, 2023

Reflection of Kinmount Bridge, June 19, 2022

By Guy Scott

Throughout its history, the village of Kinmount has hosted four bridges over the mighty Burnt River. The Bobcaygeon Road was surveyed north from Bobcaygeon in 1856 with North Bay as its (possible) terminus. It was designed to follow the old survey line that formed the boundary between Victoria and Peterborough Counties to their northern limits. This course led to the Road crossing the Burnt River at the future village of Kinmount. The actual course of the Road was moved west from the county line in the actual village because the topography of the true boundary line would have had to cross the River several times in a mile. Besides an excellent crossing site was found right at the present bridge site. All bridges in town have been on the same site.

The first bridge was build during the spring and summer of 1858. The Bobcaygeon Road had not yet reached the River, but the bridge was began early since it was so major a project. The work camp was built on the site of the present Legion and the bridge was completed by September 1858. A government official described the first bridge: “Burnt River is here spanned by a wooden bridge standing firm at the present time. Queen posts and straining beams support the roadway. There are log end abutments and two intermediate piers with their cutwaters sidelong to the current.” [A Queen Truss is a simple framework, where a diagonal beam would extend from one end of the bridge, up to a wooden post, then horizontal to a second wooden post, before descending diagonally to the opposite end of the bridge.]

Traffic was heavy on the first bridge; all the traffic from the well-travelled Bobcaygeon Road passed over its timbers as well as traffic from the later Monck Road. By 1878, the original pioneer bridge was ‘worn-out’ and it was time for a new bridge. Thereupon hangs a tale. The Bobcaygeon Road, bridges included was a shared county road with Peterborough and Victoria County sharing costs. Peterborough refused to share the costs of a new bridge. Victoria County took them to court. Peterborough argued the bridge was wholly within Victoria County and was therefore its responsibility. Victoria argued the bridge was a necessary deviation from the actual boundary due to topographical problems. Peterborough returned it was practical to run the Road along the actual county line. Victoria countered Little Lake Upstream made this impractical. But Peterborough claimed Little Lake was caused by the dam at Kinmount and hence it was Victoria County’s decision. Since the bridge was on the Victoria side out of choice rather than necessity, Peterborough should not contribute. Anyone familiar with the local geography will see the foolishness of the Peterborough argument, but believe it or not, the judge ruled in Peterborough’s favour, leaving Victoria with the entire cost. Regardless of the legal technicalities, Kinmount got a new bridge.

The second bridge lasted until 1905. By this date the wooden structure had again decayed to dangerous status. The end came rather dramatically. Fred Dettman Jr., a local cattle buyer, was driving a herd of cattle across the structure to the railway yards on their way to market. So many excited beasts crowded on the old structure that it collapsed under the weight and spilled the herd into the River. The animals landed on top of the ever-present log boom underneath the bridge, trapping the cattle among the logs. The boom was cut releasing both logs and beasts. Most of the cattle were rescued unharmed, but several had to be put down. Regardless of the cattle round up, Kinmount was suddenly a divided village. A new bridge was (quickly?) built to join the halves of the town back together. This third structure was made of iron; no more rotting wood please!

The more durable iron bridge lasted until 1949. By this time, it was once again time for a new bridge over the Burnt. Suffice to say, the fourth bridge still stands today. It has been repaired on several occasions, but still serves its purpose. And as any resident can tell you, it is still heavily used.

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