February 27, 2023
An H.R. Aerial View of Rosedale with its Swing Bridge, circa 1960
By Guy Scott
At the far south-west corner of Somerville Township lays the hamlet of Rosedale. The hamlet is split between Somerville & Fenelon Townships at the point where a short river channel connects Balsam and Cameron Lakes. In the era before the Trent Canal altered the water levels, this river was a shallow creek and rapids that was not navigable. The Burnt River empties into Cameron Lake on the east side of Rosedale, while the Gull River meets Balsam Lake on the west side. Balsam Lake is the highest point of the Trent Canal. By building a dam at Rosedale, water flowed in both directions from Balsam Lake: east to Fenelon Falls and west to Kirkfield. A dam & locks was in operation at Rosedale by 1873.
The Cameron Road was the earliest colonization road to cross the Kawartha Lakes at Rosedale. With the coming of the Trent Canal, a swing bridge was installed. It was policy to leave the bridge closed to allow road traffic to Coboconk & Minden to pass. Any ship that needed the swing bridge open blew their steam whistle as it approached the bridge and the bridge master, Mr. Brokenshire, walked the distance from his house to the swing bridge. In later years, a high bridge replaced the swing bridge.
Rosedale is situated in a valley or dale. It is hard for today’s travellers to imagine the valley as they pass through on the high bridge. But in pioneer days, it was a very quiet little dale. In the 1850s, the Cameron Family from Fenelon Falls acquired the property in the dale and John Cameron named the spot “Rosa’s Dale” after his wife. The name Rosedale gradually replaced the original term.
It was thought the site would be a mill down, much the same as Fenelon Falls or Bobcaygeon. But Rosedale gravitated to a tourist town instead. Several summer homes and lodges spring up along the valley. A post office was opened in 1866 and a townsite was surveyed around the same time. Rosedale serviced both a local farming community, the river drivers of the logging era and a growing number of tourists. A popular excursion by steamboat involved a trip from Fenelon Falls or Bobcaygeon to Rosedale for a summer outing. Steamers regularly passed through on their way to Coboconk.
The village at one time supported congregations of the Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist Churches. It also hosted a Temperance Lodge (to ban alcohol) and a branch of the Grangers, a farmers’ political organization. During the height of the logging industry, steamboats and saw logs often competed for space in the Rosedale River. Many times, the steam boats were forced to cut their journey short because the river was filled with logs! In 1895, it was decided to improve the locks at Rosedale. Twelve thousand holes were drilled (by hand) in the rocky bed of the river, but only 3,000 were blasted before a general lection led to a change of government. Work was suspended for 3 months until a different crew were in place to continue the work. The difference? The old crew were Tories while the new gang were exclusively Grits or Liberals. To the victor go the spoils!
Today the Hamlet of Rosedale still feeds upon its image as a vacation site on the Trent Canal. Most traffic on Highway #35 passes over the hamlet, but for those who get off the beaten path, the hamlet still has some charms.