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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 Station.

Where the Sea Gulls Nested

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 in ashes.

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. Wilson;
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.

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Victoria County


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