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May 11, 2024

Rathburn from the Air, 2023

By Guy Scott

The community of Rathburn grew up in eastern Rama Township along the Monck Road. The area was blessed with good farmland, but the key to its prosperity was the lumber trade. Only a few miles to the west was the shore of Lake Couchiching and the massive mills at Longford Mills. These mills provided a ready market for both logs and supplies for the lumbermen. The Monck Road, which ran from Orillia to Bancroft (and through Kinmount), passed through the area and literally founded Rathburn. The lumber companies operating throughout Dalton, Carden and Longford Townships supplied their shanties via the Monck Road and thus huge numbers of teams cadging supplies passed along the Monck Road through Rathburn. To service this traffic, a hotel and blacksmith shop were set up and became the hamlet of Rathburn. The hamlet was called an “oasis in the midst of the desert.” The reader is left to wonder what the desert consisted of: trees, snows, etc.? The nearest hotels were Atherley to the west and Sebright to the east. One old timer recalled seeing cadging teams lined up for ¾ of a mile along the Monck Road waiting for the Blacksmith or to get stabled in the hotel.

In 1872 a post office was granted to the community and the name Rathburn was selected. The name belonged to the Rathburn Lumber Company, which was active in the area. This company was actually based in Deseronto, a long way away on Lake Ontario and in a totally different watershed. But the company did have a few timber limits in the area and lent its name to the Rama hamlet. The actual family name was ‘Rathbun,’ but somehow an ‘r’ added to the title made the name more palatable to the tongue. The demise of the lumber trade killed traffic along the Monck Road and the community fell back on its agricultural roots. In 1959, the old general store and post office were consumed by fire. The post office closed in 1967.

The Canadian National Railway ran through the area, but a station was not set up until 1907, other stations being used to this point. In this year, a meeting of local residents was set up to inquire about having a local station, named Monck Road Station, at Rathburn. The CNR offered to build a station house and stock pens, while the grain dealers Proctor & Dobson from Beaverton would set up a grain elevator. A group of local farmers formed a share company to set up a scales for weighing livestock and produce. The deal was sealed and Rathburn had itself a railway station! Residents from as far away as Sebright could now use the railway. The Rathburn community had several small satellite communities. Fairvalley was just west of Rathburn and had a United Church, which was destroyed by fire in 1933. O’Connells was a school section also to the west. Today there are no businesses in the hamlet, just a sign among the farms.

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