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September 22, 2023

Norland from the Air

By Sherrie LeMasurier

Originally Published in the Summer Times, June 17, 1986

Norland grew up on the Gull River, an ancient transportation route. In early times, Fenelon Falls was the closest post office point for settlers. Fenelon was also the site of the closest store and grist mill. In 1859 a post office was built in Coboconk, but settlers in Norland had to wait another five or six years before a grist mill was built in Norland.

It wasn’t until 1864-65 that an official road was constructed that connected the entire area around Norland. Mail sent to the residents of Norland travelled in many different ways over the years. At first, after the Coboconk post office was established, the postmaster of Norland would travel to Coboconk on horseback and pick up the mail and deliver any outgoing mail. A post office was finally opened on July 1, 1862. Mr. A.A. McLaughlin was the first postmaster and incidentally, the settlement known as McLauchlin’s Mill up until then (due to his establishment of the first grist mill) has been named after him. At the time of registering, the name he chose Nordland (nord being French for north as the official name because the area was so far north). When the registration certificate was received the D had been left out and from that day on the settlement was known as Norland.

The water power for the Norland area came from Elliott’s Falls. In the earlier days of Norland, after the establishment of the grist mill, came chopping mills, saw mills and shingle mills. Businesses continued to spring up in the early days of the village, sometimes there were two or three stores running at once.

A very important business in the early days was that of a blacksmith shop. The blacksmith was an essential part of the community for shoeing horses and repairing machinery. Mr. Edward Stephens, a blacksmith by trade, set up the first shop on his farm. He was known for his great skill and ability to fix almost anything of a metal composition.

In pioneer days, the district boasted two taverns and the Norland Hotel. The village of Norland combined a tavern with the building of their hotel which occurred in 1864.

A dam was built from a natural rock ledge outcropping across the river. In 1902-03 the Raven Lake Cement Company blasted out this ledge in the hope of sufficiently dropping the water level. This dropped the water level between there and Elliott Falls three feet, which enhanced the potential of the water generating station.

The village of Norland has always supported a number of organizations, given the small number of people in the community. Two visible historical sites remain from the more flourishing days. They include the present Community Hall, being the original Forester’s Hall built in 1904, and the Women’s Institute Hall, which was the second Orange Lodge Hall built about 1886-87.

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