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Township of Fenelon, Victoria County, Ontario Canada

Fenelon Township reminds us, by its name ,of Francis Fenelon, the famous seventeenth century Archbishop of Cambrai, France. Experts assure us, however, that the township was named after the Archbishop's elder brother, who was a Sulpician missionary and explorer in Canada and founded a mission on the Bay of Quinte in 1668.

The superficial area of the municipality is about 108 square miles, but much of this is made up of the water surfaces of three lakes, Sturgeon, Cameron, and Balsam. Sturgeon Lake is shaped roughly like a bent human arm, with the elbow pointing southwards towards Ops, the long forearm stretching eastward through Verulam to Bobcaygeon, and the shorter upper arm extending north through the eastern concessions of Fenelon towards Fenelon Falls. The Scugog River flows in at the point of the elbow, and is joined near its debouchure by McLaren's Creek, a smaller stream that flows eastward through South Fenelon. Cameron Lake lies a mile north of Sturgeon Lake and twenty-three feet above it. It is shaped somewhat like .a potato, four miles from north to south and two from east to west. It s drained into Sturgeon Lake by the Fenelon River and is reinforced at is northwest end by the united waters of the Balsam and Burnt rivers. he former flows from Balsam Lake a mile to the west and the latter from. far to the north and northeast in Haliburton County. The two rivers mingle their waters just before entering Cameron Lake. Balsam Lake may be compared to a wolf's head, with the long muzzle pointing southward as South Bay, two long ears pricked up into Northwestay and the Gull River estuary, and the neck half represented by West Bay. It is a large lake and only the wolf's snout projects down into Fenelon township.

It is of interest to note that there are three small bodies of water, each known as "Goose Lake," at or near the south, west and north boundaries of Fenelon respectively. The first is near the mouth f McLaren's Creek and about five miles north of Lindsay. This shallow pool was originally marshland but has been made partially navigable by the building of a dam at Bobcaygeon. The second Goose Lake lies two miles north northwest of Cambray village in the deep moraine locked valley of an ancient preglacial river. The third is just north f the mouth of Burnt River, and is a small tract of flooded marsh.
The land surface of Fenelon is more uneven than in Ops and becomes increasingly hilly towards the north. The chief elevations are kames and eskars of morainic sand. The soil is best in the southeast, and the whole southern half of the township is of fair average value. Towards the north, however, steepening hills and swampy depressions are more discouraging to agriculture.

Early Settlements in Fenelon

Fenelon was surveyed about 1822 but general immigration did not commence until more than ten years later.

The earliest settler was Angus McLaren, who, many years before any formal locations were made, squatted just north of the creek which still bears his name. McLaren had a wife and four daughters and ultimately held some 1400 acres in this neighborhood. Much later than McLaren, but still early in the settlement of the southern borders, were the Edwards, Waldons, and Tompkins. The heyday of McLaren's Creek was in 1852, when Squire Kempt, of Lindsay, brought in a contingent of French-Canadian lumbermen and cleared out the stream and its banks so that the largest squared timber could be brought out and floated down the Trent System to the St. Lawrence and Quebec.
Most of the early settlers in Fenelon came in by way of Peterborough, thence six miles by trail to Bridgenorth, on Chemong Lake, and the rest of the way by rowboat or canoe across Chemong, Pigeon and Sturgeon lakes.

About 1833, John Langton settled on the east shore of the north arm of Sturgeon Lake, on the modern Graham farm. Langton was an M. A. of Cambridge University, and a man of exceptional ability. It is therefore not surprising that he became District Councilor for Fenelon in 1842, Warden of Colborne District in 1847, member of parliament for Peterborough County in 1851, and Auditor-General of Canada in 1855.

In the summer of 1834, William Jordan, with his mother, wife, and four children, became Langton's neighbors on Lot 19, Con. XI. Magistrate George A. Jordan of Minden is a grandson of this William Jordan. Other early settlers in this neighborhood were James Cook, E. Palmer and D. S. Willock. Most of the pioneers in the Sturgeon Lake area were Protestant Irish, who had sought Canada after the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Bill in the Old Land.

In the center of the township, however, a different nationality was taking possession. About 1840, Isaac G. Moynes and Thos. Moynes struck east from the Scotch settlements in Eldon into the dense swamps and woods of Fenelon. Here, near Lot 20, Concession V, they built their log cabin. Many Scotchmen, the McNabs, Browns, Gilchrists, Murchisons, McNevins, and others, soon followed, and the central and western parts of Fenelon are dominated by Scotch Presbyterians to this day.

Later than Scotch and Irish, and much more numerous than either, came an immigration of English Nonconformists, who located chiefly in the neighborhood of Fenelon Falls.

The census for 1911 gives the following analysis of the township:
English, 1077
Irish, 592
Scotch, 528
Dutch and German, 55
all others, 52

The religious groupings were:
Methodists, 1,185
Presbyterians, 533
Anglicans, 214
Baptists, 106
Roman Catholics, 74
Mormons, 71
all others, 121. The census did not state whether the seventy-one Mormons constituted a single household.

Land around Cameron Lake was granted in early times to Duncan Cameron, a Toronto banker and Family Compact politician. From this circumstance the lake derives its present name. The actual pioneers, however, to whom the credit is due for the clearing and settlement of this locality were John Bellsford, John McIntyre, Hamilton and Samuel Boyce. James Humphrey, and Robert Dennistoun, who became County Judge of Peterborough in 1868.

The Village at the Falls

At the southwest corner of Cameron Lake its waters issued in a considerable river, thundered down twenty-three feet over a limestone cliff, and then boiled and spurned through a rocky gorge to Sturgeon Lake, half a mile distant. The conditions of the day made the banks of this cataract an inevitable mill site and ultimately a village site, known first as "Cameron's Falls," and later as "Fenelon Falls."
According to the Ontario Domesday Book, Lot 23 in Concession X, which includes the falls itself and the heart of the modern village, was patented to the Hon. Duncan Cameron. Lots 28, 29, and 30, Con. XI (northeast of the village) were granted to the Earl of Mountcashel; and Lots 21, 22, and 24, Con. X, Lots 22 and 23, Con. IX, and Lots 21, 24, and 25, Con. XI (all adjacent to and partly included in the present village) were deeded to James Wallis and Robert Jameson.

In 1841, Wallis and Jameson added Cameron's lot to their holdings and built a grist mill on the left bank of the falls almost at the modern road bridge. The stones for this mill were brought all the way from Toronto on sleighs in the wintertime.

In 1851, this first establishment was demolished and separate grist and sawmills were built on the same site. In 1851 the first steamboat of the Kawartha lakes, the "Woodman," of Port Perry, arrived in Fenelon Falls on her maiden trip. The following year, James Wallis had the "Ogemah" built at Fenelon Falls, in order to carry his lumber to Port Perry, whence it was teamed to Port Whitby. At the launching of the "Ogemah" a great celebration was held and a free banquet furnished at Wallis's expense to the population of the immediate neighborhood.

This feast was perhaps a minor undertaking, yet a real village was beginning to take form on the east bank of the river. The growth of the gristing and lumbering business called for more hands. The first blacksmith, Jeremiah Twomey, who was later a prominent citizen and a considerable landlord, arrived about 1850. In that year James Wallis opened up a store and a. man named Comstock built a log tavern on the site of the later McArthur House near the modern locks. There was also a post office, in charge of William Powles, and an Anglican church and parsonage.

The first Anglican incumbent, the Rev. Mr. Fidler, met a tragic death. He used to hold occasional services at Willock's Settlement, now Dunsford, south of Sturgeon Lake, and would be rowed thither, a distance of ten miles, by two of his parishioners. One Sunday the little party had returned from such an expedition and had portaged above the falls on the south side, preparatory to crossing over to the parsonage, which stood on the north shore a little farther up. The rowboat was set in the water and the rector and one of his oarsmen climbed into it. The current here, just above the falls, was very swift, but could be negotiated with care and hard rowing. While the rector was getting to his seat, his companion held the boat fast to shore by seizing some juniper branches. But, either through thoughtlessness or a misunderstanding of orders, he let go too soon, and the boat swung out into the current. Its occupants were confused and could not adjust the oars in the rowlocks before it was too late. With cries that could be faintly heard above the roar of tumbling waters, they were swept over the dam. and then over the falls, where their boat was shattered into kindling wood. Their bodies were found next day in the pool just below the falls.

As late as 1851 there was only a narrow trail through the woods down the modern main street, but Wallis now had it cut out to full road width, floored it with slabs from his lumber mill, and covered the slabs over with gravel. He and Jamieson also had the left bank of the river surveyed and plotted into village lots. In 1854 Wm. Martin opened the Clifton House, now the Kawartha Hotel. James Fitzgerald opened a store on Colborne Street and the village grew steadily by the arrival of tradesmen and mechanics until 1859, when the mill burned down.

The mill property was then bought by one Sutherland Stayner and lay idle for a long time, to the great detriment of the village. Then it was leased, and later bought, by R. C. Smith, of Port Hope and a Mr. Waddell, of Cobourg. The new mill built by Smith and Waddell brought immediate prosperity to Fenelon Falls. A growing trade in lumber centred here. In 1872 there were three large mills, those of J. D. Smith and Company, of Hilliard and Mowry, and of Green and Ellis ,whose annual cut of pine alone totalled nine, four, and five million feet respectively.

In 1872 the Victoria Railway began to build north from Lindsay and its advent was a further stimulus to the growth of Fenelon Falls. In 1873 the late Mr. E. D. Hand, who had founded the "Lindsay Advocate" in 1855 and the "Bobcaygeon Independent" fifteen years later, now launched the "Fenelon Falls Gazette," a weekly newspaper of Liberal propensities. The "Gazette," after forty-eight years of existence, still carries on. Its present publishers are the Robson brothers, formerly of Lindsay.

Incorporation as a village came to Fenelon Falls in 1875. The first Village Council was composed of the following:
Reeve, J. D. Smith
Councillors, J. W. Fitzgerald, Joseph McArthur, William Jordan, and Richard Jackson.

Fenelon Falls had long been the upper terminus for navigation on the Kawartha Lakes, but in 1882 the Federal Government at last agreed to build locks and a short stretch of canal by which to reader the upper lakes accessible. The engineers did not attempt to lead the canal up the natural watercourse, but cut out their channel through the steep limestone bank to the north of the falls. Mr. A. P. McDonald, an American, made the lowest tender for construction and was awarded the contract. The first blow was struck on October 17, 1882, and the first rock blasted nine days later. Valor, rather than discretion, marked these operations and large masses of rock crashed into dwellings hundreds of yards away The locks were to be two in number, thirty-three feet wide and three hundred feet in total length. The cut for the lower lock was to be thirty-six feet deep and for the upper lock twenty-two feet deep. The canal from the upper lock to Cameron Lake was to be sixty feet wide and twelve feet deep. This new public work was opened for navigation in the summer of 1886.

That same year saw Fenelon Falls reach the peak of her prosperity. Her population was then 1312, and has since decreased steadily until in 1920 only 837 inhabitants remained. The wane of lumbering in the country to the north has meant the decline of Fenelon Falls, for it was chiefly on lumbering that she had grown. The completion of the Trent Canal has made her only a way port instead of a teriminus for lake trade. Electricity has been developed here, but most of it is transmitted elsewhere, on the Hydro-Electric Commission's Central Ontario 44,000 volt circuit, instead of being utilized industrially In the immediate neighborhood. A recent directory credits the municipality with two flour mills, two sawmills, a wood turning mill, a woollen mill, four hotels, six churches, and about twenty stores. The future of the village would now seem to be dependent on summer tourist traffic and, far more vitally, on the economic services that it may render to the country districts near by.

The chief racial constituents of the population in 1911 were:
English, 422
Irish, 346
Scotch, 195
French, 45

The religious denominations at that time were made up thus:
Methodists, 435
Presbyterians, 204
Anglicans, 198
Baptists, 101
Roman Catholics, 69

Farm Villages and Summer Villages

There are few other villages in Fenelon. Cambray, built chiefly on Lots 5 and 6, Concession I, on the main road from East Eldon to Lindsay, was so named because of the mistaken idea that the township had been named after Francis Fenelon, the Archbishop of Cambrai, France. Its population is largely made up of retired farmers, among whom Scotch Presbyterians perhaps predominate. A small millstream, which runs through the village, was probably the deciding factor in the choice of its site, but its industries have never developed greatly and its population has seldom exceeded two hundred and fifty. In February 1866 oil was struck near here at a depth of 350 feet, but its development never prospered. In recent years business and occupation, have been carried on locally by three general stores, a mill run by A. E. and W. B. Feir, four masons, three carpenters, three blacksmiths, one cheese maker, one thresher, one harness maker, and one doctor.

Cameron, four miles east by north from Cambray, is a much smaller village, with a station on the Haliburton Division of the Grand Trunk Railway. Like Cameron Lake, it is named after Duncan Cameron, an early Toronto banker. The neighborhood is chiefly noted for its recurrent epidemics of heterodoxy, under various forms, during the past eighty years.

Sturgeon Point and Pleasant Point are summer villages. The former is incorporated, with a tax roll of 141 and an assessment of $87,373. In summer, these cottage communities on the opposite shores of Sturgeon Lake are thronged with urban residents; in winter, all is deserted. From the earliest times the hardwood groves at Sturgeon Point were a favorite rendezvous for picnics and excursions. The first regatta here was held in 1841, eighty years ago. All pleasure on that occasion was marred by the drowning of a Mr. Wetherup, who upset from his canoe while in the act of taking off his coat. He was a powerful swimmer, but with his arms thus pinioned behind him he was lost at once. Thirty-five years later, Captain George Crandell, of Lindsay, the chief promoter of navigation on local waters, realized the possibilities of Sturgeon Point as a summer village and spent some $25,000 in developing it towards that end. In 1876 he built a large summer hotel, the management of which was undertaken by W. H. Simpson. Crandell also purchased an extensive tract adjacent to the hotel and plotted out lots for summer cottages. These were quickly bought up and built upon; and thus began the summer colony at the Point. The first regatta under the auspices of cottagers was held on September 18, 1878. The event. of the day was a double canoe race in which two Rama Reserve Ojibwas named Yellowhead won by a narrow margin from Whetong and Toboco, two Mississagas from the Chemong Reserve. The winners paddled a birch bark canoe at seventy strokes to the minute. There were several white entrants in this open race, but all were left hopelessly behind by the two Indian crews. About this time a black bear was found roaming about near the hotel and was disposed of by excited huntsmen. The hotel was destroyed by fire in 1898, but the village about it has continued to flourish. Pleasant Point or Hay's Point is a more recent summer village on the lake front of the John Hay farm. Its ratepayers are even now seeking incorporation.

It is a somewhat effete existence that these large community summer resorts offer to anyone possessed of youth and vigor; but they are a true paradise for little children and a healthful weekend refuge for urban workers who have no vacation in which to sally by canoe into the magnificent wildernesses of North Victoria and Haliburton.

Population and Assessment

Fenelon township attained its maximum population in the eighties and has since declined rapidly. In 1886 the township, including Fenelon Falls, totalled 3969 inhabitants. In 1920 the county records showed a total of 2648, a decrease of over thirty-three per cent. The nominal assessed value of all property in the township and its villages was $1,059,894 in 1886, and in 1920, $2,213,460, or a little more than twice the earlier estimate. However, Dun's price indexes for 1886 and 1920 are in the ratio of 96 to 250, so that, on this basis the present assessment amounts to only $849,973 in terms of 1886 values.

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