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A Phantom Village,
Victoria County, Ontario Canada
The first village in Bexley never became a village.
At the time of the government survey Block C, on the west shore of
West Bay, where the Trent Canal now leaves Balsam Lake, was reserved
as a town site. The name "St. Mary's" was given it on the official
plans. It turned out, however, that the surveyors had chosen a tract
of flat rock with about two inches of soil. No ditches or cellars
could be dug and the site was abandoned. It was long known as "the
government reserve," but now forms part of the Laidlaw estate.
Just adjacent to this tract but on the north side of the terminus of
the Portage Road there was once a post office named Aros, serving
the Highland Scotch settlers along the Northwest Bay. The office was
in the right hand front room of the old Vansittart log mansion. The
postmaster was a Charles McInnis, who had succeeded in having the
little post office named after his Scottish birthplace. The mail was
brought in from Kirkfield once or twice a week. This service was
only discontinued in 1872, when the Toronto and Nipissing Railway
was built and a post office was established at Victoria Road
Where the Sea Gulls
The village of Coboconk dates from 1851, when the
first saw mill north of Cameron Lake was built here. The name is a
contraction of the Indian "Quash-qua-be-conk," meaning "where the
gulls nest." It is interesting to note that the "Gull River" flows
through the village and that its largest expansion, twenty miles
farther north, is known as "Gull Lake." The common herring gulls are
still quite plentiful near this lake.
Coboconk developed in an era of lumbering. In the fifties, sixties
and seventies, enormous quantities of pine were taken out. The
prevailing occupation around Balsam Lake was the preparation of
squared timber for the Quebec trade. At first, large square punts,
rowed with sweeps, were used for "kedging" timber rafts across the
lakes; later alligator tugs came into general use.
Game fish were remarkably abundant. In the spring of 1886 over five
thousand maskalunge were speared at Coboconk during the running
season. One man alone disposed of fifty on the 24th of May. This
wanton wholesale killing has left a much scantier harvest for the
conscientious sportsman of today.
Modern Coboconk is a village of about four hundred inhabitants. It
is the terminus of a railway division which was formerly the narrow
guage Toronto and Nipissing Railway, completed in 1872.
For many years Coboconk was known as "The University City," for an
itinerant humorist named Thompson (otherwise Jimuel Briggs, D.B.)
used to tell of a fictionary college which he himself had founded
there. The site of the "Jimuel Briggs University" was long a matter
of dispute, but certain of the villagers came to identify the
institution with an old shingle mill, which, so the story ran, small
boys set on fire while Jimuel lay within, deep in an alcoholic nap.
A really serious fire visited Coboconk on May 16, 1877. The blaze
began in the rear of Key's hotel and did not die out until half the
village (all of the section on Main Street north of the bridge) lay
At the present day Coboconk's chief industries are the Gull River
Lumber Company, managed by James Peel, and the lime plants of the
Canada Lime Company and the Toronto Brick Company. The village has
also a grist mill, one hotel (The Jackson House), three churches,
and five stores.
"The City of Peace."
Victoria Road is a village which has sprung up
around a station established in 1872 by the T. and N. Railway at the
point where it crossed the Victoria Colonization Road. It was long
known as "The Road" and as "The City of Peace." The village is not
incorporated, and as it lies partly in Eldon, partly in Carden, and
partly in Bexley, each of these townships levies taxes on those
villagers who live within its borders.
In 1879, seven years after founding, Victoria. Road comprised the
following business establishments:
The general stores of Staples and Shields and of H.
Alfred Taylor's grocery store;
Heaphy's grocery store, which included the post office;
William Boden's smithy and wagon shop;
G. L. Callis's smithy; Fee's livery;
Midgeley's tin shop;
William Taylor's tailor shop.
The chief industries were Thomas Thompson's three-storey grist mill,
built in 1876, and contaning three run of stones, and a. sawmill
owned by Dr. McTaggart There were three hotels, the Commercial Hotel
,run by Patrick Fox, the Victoria Hotel, run by a Mr. Wismer, and a
temperance house, managed by Mr. Shields.
Two red brick churches housed Roman Ca tholic and Presbyterian
congregations respectively. The former were under the care of Father
Fitzpatrick and the latter led by the Rev. H D. McLennan.
At the present day the population of Victoria Road is about two
hundred. It has no outstanding industries, but serves the
surrounding country with its general stores, bakery, butcher shop,
hotel, doctor, undertaker and clergyman. Peat fuel has in times past
been pre pared commercially in bogs not far from the village.