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November 4, 2023

Uphill from the Air, September 2023

By Guy Scott

The name of this hamlet really needs no explanation. In the 1870s, a small crossroads hamlet sprang up on the boundary between Dalton & Digby Townships at the point where the Monck Road met the Victoria Colonization Road. The Monck Road was a major east-west artery that ran from Orillia to Bancroft and became Highway #503. The Victoria Road ran from Oakwood and petered out in the rough highlands of Digby and Longford. Only a handful of settlers (and no hamlets) actually lived north of Uphill. The area to the north was the realm of the lumbermen, especially the Longford Lumber Company which had a huge depot in Uphill. When the Longford Lumber Company folded in the late 1890s, the hamlet of Uphill barely survived its demise. Uphill was like many crossroads hamlets: church, school, blacksmith, sundry general stores, and of course, a hotel. The lumberjacks were notorious patrons of any licenced establishment and Uphill was no exception with its infamous North Star Hotel. Liquor establishments were carefully monitored in the late 1800s, and the inspectors were always ‘monitoring’ the North Star. The various owners, managers, drunks-in-charge of the North Star Hotel were constantly running afoul of the inspectors. On several occasions, the owner was caught “drunk on duty” and his licence suspended. The cat and mouse game continued until the Hotel ‘officially closed’ in 1904. Whiskey was the preferred poison, and could be purchased in Orillia for $65 a barrel. Upon arrival, the liquor was watered down 50%, thankfully! The collapse of the lumber industry ruined the liquor trade, but the North Star remained in business until the 1940s, when the building was torn down. The rest of the businesses closed and the hamlet of Uphill became almost a ghost town. Gone are the post office, school, church and all that remains are several homes. Oh yes, and a historical plaque to the North Star Hotel.

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