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Gooderham

April 29, 2023

Gooderham from the Air, Fall 2022

By Guy Scott

Gooderham village sprang up at the point where the waters from Pine Lake joined the Irondale branch of the Burnt River. The arrival of the Monck Military Road (1871) and the Buckhorn Colonization Road made the village a major transportation hub for the area. The waterfalls was an obvious spot for a mill site. The road network and river access, plus the later arrival of the IB&O Railway cemented Gooderham’s fate as a lumber town. Pioneer farmers accessed the area mostly via the Monck Road from Kinmount. The Buckhorn Road, which ran from Buckhorn to Haliburton, followed a tortuous, rocky path and was never popular as a thoroughfare from the south. Few travellers used the entire route and by the 1920s, the road was often closed due to brush, grass and weeds blocking vehicles. If bridges, culverts or causeways washed out, nobody noticed and it often took years to repair them.

The first post office was established in 1873 and was called Pine Lake. There were two stories about how the name Gooderham was acquired. Local legend has it a smooth talking liquor salesman from the Gooderham & Worts Distillery Co in Toronto breezed into town with a ‘sample keg’ of his finest spirits to persuade the 3 local hotel keepers to feature his products. The ‘sampling’ made such a lasting impression on the locals, that Pine Lake was promptly changed to Gooderham Post Office. Now that’s salesmanship! The other story maintains the same Gooderham family gave a grant of money to build a Methodist Church in the village.

The first businesses in Gooderham were hotels (with bars!) Thirsty lumbermen led to the establishment of 3 hotels in town by 1880: owned by Way, Whittaker and Scott. Needless to say, Gooderham had a reputation as a rough and rugged town. In the 1890s, the Howry Lumber Company had extensive operations in the area. One camp was run by an American foreman from Michigan who earned a reputation as a bully. He would parade into town with his posse; pick a fight with a local man and the entire mob would severely beat the outnumbered local resident. So bad did the reign of terror become that the locals decided to set a trap for the bully.

One day, the American bully entered Scott’s Hotel and proclaimed loudly: “I’m looking for some SOB with enough guts to fight me!” Hotel owner Jimmy Scott (from Kinmount) replied “You’ve found him!” and the battle was joined. Jimmy Scott was an amateur boxer of local renown and soon gained an advantage on the bully. When the American’s posse attempted to intervene, the back door of the dining room flew open and out issued a similar posse of vengeful local lads who soon evened the brawl. When the titanic struggle was over, the dining room looked like it had been bombed, but the American was carried home in a stretcher. No more did he play the bully in Gooderham.

The arrival of the Irondale, Bancroft and Ottawa railway in 1891 led to a boom in the local sawmill industry. Several mills sprang up in and around the village, the most famous being the Hunter Mill. John Hunter had previously lived near Kinmount, but recognizing an opportunity, moved to Gooderham in 1875 and built a sawmill and later a gristmill on the falls coming from Pine Lake. So important was the gristmill to the local area, the Glamorgan Council exempted the business from taxes for 5 years. In a twist of fate, the gristmill was actually built, but it never operated. It sat idle for decades before it was destroyed by fire and the local farmers had to take their grain down the road to Kinmount.

More than one hundred years later, the Hunter Lumber mill is still in full operation; long after the demise of the IB&O. Glamorgan Township (and indeed almost all of Haliburton County) was never noted for its first-class farmland. A few stubborn pioneers tilled pockets of land more or less successfully, but lumber made the economy turn in Gooderham. However, the village did contain a creamery (butter making) and was the home of the Glamorgan Agricultural Society and Fair until the Fair was discontinued in the 1940s. By 1900, the village had reached its zenith under the forest industry. A business directory stated the village (population 150) contained the following businesses:

Peter Barr – General Store

J.J. Hunter – Sawmill

Davis & White – Stave Mill

John McColl – Shoemaker

J.W. Gould – General Store

R. Hadley – Blacksmith

Donald McFadden – Shingle Mill

James Scott – Hotel

The village contained 3 Churches (Methodist, Anglican and Pentecostal) and of course an Orange Lodge. In 1924, the Glamorgan ratepayers decided to consolidate 7 rural one-room schools into a large consolidated school in Gooderham. The resulting large structure was a marvel of its time, containing 3 class rooms and a community hall. To bring the students to the new structure, bussing was necessary. The buses were horse drawn vans, essentially boxes mounted on wagon beds. The larger buses carried 20-25 students. In the nice weather, the driver sat outside, but in winter he was inside with reins running through holes in the front. The bus was heated by a small oil-drum stove in one corner. It was hoped it didn’t tip over! In winter there were no snow plows until the 1930s, so travel was often a challenge.

Another sign of a prosperous village was the formation of a telephone company. The Glamorgan Telephone Company was formed in 1921 to service the area. It lasted until 1970 when it was absorbed by the Dysart Telephone System and then Bell Canada.

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