Kinmount’s Northern Hotel
August 10, 2023
The Northern Hotel, Kinmount
By Guy Scott
The point where the Monck Road (County Road #45, formerly #503) and the Bobcaygeon Road (Main Street, County Road #121) meet was the site of one of Kinmount’s largest hotels: the Northern Hotel. This site was actually the homestead of one of Kinmount’s earliest settlers: Thomas Baker. A 1874 newspaper account relates the old Baker cabin was demolished to make way for the new Victoria Railway line. By 1876, Neil MacKinnon had opened his new hotel on the same lot, just west of the track. It was declared to be the largest building in town for many years and came to symbolize the railway boom of the 1870s.
In 1879 MacKinnon sold the business to Gilbert Scott, who had been a hotel keeper in Cavan near Peterborough. The Scott family expanded the business, building a large horse stable at the rear and opening a carriage/wagon rental business. The Scotts also ran a general store just across Main Street from the hotel. These were boom times for Kinmount village. With the lumber boom, the railway and a lot of traffic in town that made the hotel business profitable. Besides numerous rooms to rent, the Northern Hotel featured a bar room, restaurant, and a sample room in the front. Various travelling salesmen would use the sample room to show off their wares. The sample room also hosted a visiting dentist (Dr Neelands) from Lindsay, who came several times a month to administer the dental health of the local residents. Irene Molyneaux related the story of how at age 6 she attended Dr Neelands in the sample room to have a tooth pulled. The fee was 50 cents, but because she was so brave, the dentist gave her a quarter back. A 6 year old could do a lot of damage in the local stores with such a sum back when!
Searle Scott was a keeper of fine racehorses: a common habit for prosperous businessmen in the 1800s. He was also an avid hunter and sportsman. With his close friend and fellow hotelier the famous Bill Dunbar, he became a member of the Kinmount Rifle Club and participated in local shooting matches. Neighbouring communities would get together for a day of marksmanship (and story-telling) with community pride the end prize. The Kinmount Club won many championships thanks to Bill Dunbar, a crack shot. Searle Scott also loved the deer hunt, and kept prize hunting hounds. One hound was so prized that after the hound died, Searle Scott had the head stuffed and mounted with deer heads in the hotel bar room.
Searle Scott died in 1896 and his brother Jim continued in the Hotel business until 1906 when the Northern Hotel was sold to James Simpson. The Simpson family had barely settled in the hotel business, when in 1908 Somerville Township voted to go dry under local option. Taverns and bar room could no longer sell alcoholic beverages. That was the big money maker in the hotel business, and the three local hotels were hit hard by the dry vote. Business declined and the hotels were forced to look elsewhere for a living. The Simpsons operated a livery service and later a garage. The once magnificent Northern Hotel was a vacant shell when it was consumed by fire in 1941. Archie Williamson purchased the vacant lot and built a home that still stands to this day. All that remains of the Northern Hotel is a stone wall beside the railway track.