The Raven Lake Cement Company
March 13, 2023
Raven Lake Portland Cement Company, 1911, Near Victoria Road (Shedden Historical Society)
By Guy Scott
Midway between Victoria Road and Corson’s Siding lies Raven Lake. The bottom of this small lakes contained a small bed of marl; fine limestone used to make cement. The arrival of the Toronto-Nipissing Railway meant this deposit could be easily accessed for the production of cement. In 1902, the Raven Lake Portland Cement Company was formed. A large kiln was built at Raven Lake to process the marl. Clay was brought in by rail from Beaverton. In order to process the cement, a large supply of electricity was necessary. Hence the company constructed its own hydro-electric plant at Elliott’s Falls on the Gull River north of Norland. A fall of 21 feet on the Gull River allowed for a steady supply of electricity that was brought to Raven Lake by transmission line. Initial tests of the marl deposit were disappointing (it had too high a lime content), but after further exploration, more suitable material was discovered in an adjoining swamp and the operation took off. At its peak, the plant produced 700 barrels of cement per day. Four 100 foot kilns were used round the clock and thirty men were employed. The cement was setn to Toronto to feed the growing city with concrete.
The Raven Lake plant was not without its tragedies. Two men were electrocuted in its power station within a year. The first worker accidentally touched a high voltage transformer during a night shift. The next morning, all that remained was a pile of ashes on the floor and a hand print burned into the concrete floor.
But alas, all good things must come to an end. In 1914, a free trade deal with the USA allowed cheap American cement to undercut the Raven Lake brand, and the plant closed. Time slowly destroyed the traces of this plant, with the last vestige, the steel roof beams, being sold to Haliburton for the erection of a rink in the 1930s. The Elliott Falls power plant was kept operating for a few years, selling hydro to Kirkfield and surrounding towns—Norland the closest centre had its own power plant. In 1928 Ontario Hydro purchased the plant and literally mothballed it. In the 1990s, the Elliott Falls plant was reopened and now provides hydro once again. In an era of increasing power demands, Ontario Hydro is once again examining the ‘small sites’ that served power generation in the past. Today, every little bit helps.