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April 24, 2023

View Northeast towards Lower Buckhorn Lake at Sunset from Buckhorn village in Winter

By Guy Scott

The village of Buckhorn owes its success to Mother Nature. It is located on a narrows where the waterfalls signalled the end of Upper Buckhorn lake and the beginning of Lower Buckhorn Lake. The waterfalls were an obvious and excellent site for a mill. The fact the site was also on the navigational route of the Kawartha Lakes also helped. And the narrows made it a prominent site for a bridge over the lakes. Add these 3 pulses together and you have the birth of Buckhorn village in 1828. The village Is divided by the river: half on the Smith Township side of the water and the other half on the Harvey Township side. The entrepreneur who started the village was John Hall, an Irish immigrant who arrived in the Peterborough area via the United States. He was a sawmill operator who first invested in the Peterborough mills, but soon moved to Buckhorn and began to develop that site. Hall built his own dam on the site in 1830, followed by saw and grist mills in 1932. His original grist stones can be found on the little island where his mill first stood, a memorial to Buckhorn’s beginnings. In 1845, Hall built a bridge over the rapids at his own expense to link both sides of the village. In 1851 a group of lumberjacks ‘on a rampage’ destroyed the bridge and damaged the mill and dam and the village was bridgeless for 6 years. In 1836, the government commissioners of the Trent Valley took over Hall’s dam and the plan for the Trent Canal began to take form. The first lock at Bobcaygeon (1834) allowed for navigation between Buckhorn and ports west to Fenelon Falls and Lindsay. Buckhorn could be reached from Peterborough via Bridgenorth on Chemong Lake with a lock, so there was no real hurry to build a lock at Buckhorn. The first lock here was not built until 1881.

The first post office was established in 1860 with John Hall as postmaster. Hall’s choice for a name was Buckhorn because it was his habit to nail deer antlers or buck horns on the side of his mill (John Hall was an avid hunter and the narrows made a perfect deer hunting spot). But that name was already taken by a post office near Chatham, so the name Hall’s Bridge was adopted. In the early 1900s, the original Buckhorn post office in southern Ontario was discontinued and the residents of Hall’s Bridge eagerly adopted the name Buckhorn.

In the 1860s, John Hall had a townplot surveyed into village lots and, in a generous gesture, gave one town lot to the eldest daughter of each of his employees. Gradually a small village grew up on both sides of the dam with stores, churches, and a school. A cheese factory gathered the local milk from farmers, but the bare rocks of the area made for few farms. Lumbering remained the main industry until tourism replaced it. Numerous lodges were established in the area, catering to a growing clientele who accessed the area by boat. Fishing and hunting drew many tourists as well and many of the locals made a few extra dollars as guides. The growth of boating on the Trent System after 1945 led to a growth in the local economy and cottages began to line the lakes. Buckhorn became a tourism centre and the township of Harvey had its office in the village. Today, Buckhorn boasts a school and a large recreational complex that holds many special events such as the Buckhorn Arts & Wildlife Show. Many of the local cottages have been turned into full-time or retirement homes. The area is still noted for its unspoiled scenery.

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