January 9, 2024
Carnarvon from the Air with Mirror Lake in the Foreground and Twelve Mile Lake on the Opposite Side of Highway 35 and 118
By Guy Scott
Carnarvon is a crossroads community where the modern Highway #35 meets the Vankoughnet Road (Highway #118). Its busy intersection is a bustling centre for the local tourist trade. It was not always thus. The first settlement in the area was Peterson’s Corners, at the place where the Peterson Colonization Road met the Bobcaygeon Colonization Road, approximately 4 miles west of present day Carnarvon. The Peterson Road was abandoned by the 1880s and the stretch of the Bobcaygeon Road north to Dorset was abandoned after Highway #35 was built in the 1930s. Peterson’s Corners became a ghost town, and the centre for the area moved to Carnarvon.
Carnarvon is a famous castle in Wales. The castle was built by King Edward I to pacify the newly conquered Welsh. According to legend, after many rebellions, the frustrated King called the Welsh together at Carnarvon and demanded what they wanted to stop the rebellions. They replied a ruler of their own. Edward offered to appoint a ruler who had never lived a day in England and who could not speak a word of English. The grumbling Welsh agreed to accept such as ruler as their prince. Thereupon, the clever King produced his newborn son and made him the Prince of Wales. Since that day at Carnarvon Castle, each first-born son of the King (or Queen) of England bears the title Prince of Wales.
The southern Stanhope Township area looked to Carnarvon as its shopping centre. A lot of traffic, both human and timber, passed down the Gull River system through Carnarvon. In the early days, it was easier to boat to Minden than take the roads. For instance, a prominent local settler named Thomas Mason promised his wife a new cupboard for Christmas. The nearest source was Fenelon Falls: 63 miles by water from Boshkung Lake. Mason went by punt to Fenelon Falls (Sideboards didn’t fit well in a canoe!) and carried his cargo over 18 portages back up the Gull River! Now that’s dedication!
Carnarvon quickly grew into a local shopping centre and lumbering town. It featured the prerequisite school, churches, a few stores, an inn, blacksmith and of course a small sawmill. The arrival of Highway 35 boosted the local economy and made the village a tourist destination.