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Livestock Shipping in North Verulam and Other Memories from Bury’s Green

March 29, 2024

Murray Walker leading a bull at his family's farm, 1964

By Murray Walker

Murray Walker (1932-2008) was a North Verulam farmer, living near Bury’s Green. He was always interested in the history of his community, and had a great memory for the local stories and genealogy.

Livestock shipping in significant quantities from North Verulam began around 1900 when most farmers on the concessions shipped cattle, sheep and pigs to Fenelon Falls’ C.N.R station, where they were loaded on the train to the Toronto Stock Yards. Farmers would drive or lead animals to Fenelon Falls to ship on the train. Hogs and sheep were loaded on sleighs or wagons in season and drawn by teams of horses. The train connected Lindsay via Cameron to Haliburton and Kinmount once or twice a week. Having gone from Lindsay to Haliburton in the morning, it returned to Lindsay in the afternoon. There was a coach for passenger travel, plus flat cars for lumber, pulp wood, firewood, railway ties, fence posts, etc.

There was a cheese factory at Fairbairn where local farmers shipped whole milk in spring, summer and fall. There was also a cheese factory at Red Rock, near Sturgeon Lake. In the early days of the township, the waterway was the main route for travel, which was from Trenton through the Kawartha Lakes to Lake Simcoe, including Lake Scugog and the Scugog River; also to the north, a route to Coboconk.

In the early days of Verulam Township, the Langtons, Dunsfords and Junkins were among the pioneers. Also Mossom Boyd who had an extensive lumber business and shipped pine trees for ship’s masts, 75+ feet tall to England down the Trent River from Sturgeon Lake through Bobcaygeon and Pigeon Lake to Buckhorn, then Peterboro and Rice Lake to Trenton via the Trent Valley Waterway. There are still a few pine stumps in fence rows with extensive roots approximately 8 feet in diameter or larger on the farms in North Verulam.

It is reported that the good brick houses and hip roofed barns were paid for partially by revenue from selling milk to cheese factories. Charles Junkin and James Southam reported that local buildings would compare favourably to any rural area in the world. It was also reported that all parts of North Verulam Township were served by businesses in Fenelon Falls and Bobcaygeon that had egg wagons picking up eggs in the summer by single, commercial horses. For example, W.M. Brandon of Fenelon Falls drove a horse and wagon, picking up crates of fresh eggs from farms before he opened his hardware store in Fenelon Falls at 9 am in 1915.

There was a post office, store and blacksmith shop at Bury’s Green in the late 1800s. Mail service was through small local post offices, e.g. Bury’s Green, Bobcaygeon, Sturgeon Point and Fenelon Falls. There were several churches in North Verulam including Bury’s Green, Fairbairn, Eden, St. Albans, Bethel, St. Peter’s, Sturgeon Point, as well as Bobcaygeon and Fenelon Falls. It Is reported the first church in Fenelon Falls was the Old Anglican Church and cemetery on the hill behind the present Anglican Church where John Langton, James Wallis and others started church services.

In the early 1920s, Charles Walker was a shipper for the United Farmers of Ontario, shipping livestock to the Toronto Stock Yards on the C.N.R. from Fenelon Falls. His son James said his father had a 1929 Chev truck with single wheels on the back and with a rack that was approximately 8 feet. He had racks built for his truck in the early 1930s. Later Charles had a new 1935 Ford V8 truck, next a new 1936 Fargo and then a new 1938 Fargo International Truck with dual wheels. He trucked cattle in spring, summer and fall. The roads were not snow ploughed in the winter. The township started labour to maintain the gravel roads. Horses were used to pull road drags, wheel graders and wooden snow ploughs.

John Tiers was a pioneer trucker in the area with a Model A Ford Truck, 4 cylinder, with single rear wheels that broke five pistons in approximately one year. Mr. Tiers also had a Truck that he used to pick up milk cans for the Fairbairn Cheese Factory. He had two trucks on the road for a few years, including taking passengers to the Haliburton Loyal Orange Lodge Parade on July 12th.

The following was a proposed route for a County Road in the 1920: Across Cedar Tree Road, North East of Fenelon Falls to Martin’s Road, Concession 5 of Verulam, then North to the Boundary of Somerville Township, across Bury’s Green Road to Ledge Hill Road, then north to Burnt River Village. Instead, Highway 121 was later made the main road heading north east from Fenelon Falls along the west section of Verulam Township. Running east of Cameron Lake past Fell’s Railway Station, near the future site of Superior Propane, then east of the Burnt River to a bridge near the village. In the early days there was a railway station called Rettie’s Station, near Burnt River, towards Four Mile Lake. There was also a lime kiln near Rettie’s and Burnt River hamlet.

In the years following World War I, there was a saw mill on Cedar Tree Road and Walker’s Road, where lumber was sawed and shipped on the C.N.R. from Fell’s Station to Toronto. Cheese was made at the Fairbairn Cheese Factory in the early 1930s, then later cream separators were used to separate cream from the whole milk, cream to make butter, skim milk was fed to pigs, calves, poultry, etc.

Most farms had apple orchards, plums, wild and tame strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb and excellent vegetable gardens. Potatoes, turnips, mangolds, fall wheat for flour, oats for rolled oats, also milled for coarse or fine chopped feed for all the animals. Sweet corn had been grown by First Nations. Mrs. William Flett told her grandson, David Flett, that she could remember natives asking to use her cleared land to cook a snake on the bonfire for food on their route from Rosedale to Sturgeon Lake. At that moment, her husband was away to Lindsay, carrying a bag of whole local grown wheat for milling into flour.  It is reported that William and Isabelle Flett’s oldest child, John, was the first child born in the Bury’s Green settlement.

William Flett and neighbour James Armstrong worked in Lindsay in the early days, walking to the town through Fenelon Falls on Sunday afternoon to work there on Monday. They then walked back home late Friday afternoon to work on their farm on Saturday.  The Flett family had the original deed to the farm that is the east and west half of Lot 32, Concession 4, Verulam in 1857. Many of the farms were secured by speculators in the 1830s to 1850s, some being held by James Wallis, one of the founders of Fenelon Falls, which delayed settlement until the 1860s and 1870s. It is reported that James Wallis’ land ventures were not profitable, so some lots were sold to pay the mortgage. James Wallis’ home, Maryboro Lodge, is now the Fenelon Falls Museum.

James Walker states that his father Charles sold softwood to the Fenelon Falls Creamery for ONE DOLLAR per cord in the depression years, early in the 1930s. James also said that he accompanied his father in a horse and cutter to buy a cow and sheep from a local family west of Fenelon to settle an estate. Charles bought a cow for $25 and James (in his early teens) bought 16 good ewes in the early 1930s for $3.00 each ($48). Then they drove back home, got a team and sleigh, and went back to load the sheep on the sleigh with stock racks. They led the cow behind all the way home—seven miles. The cow was trained to lead when they got home!

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