by Gail Stupka
The glowing accounts which painted Muskoka as an agricultural paradise were largely responsible for the settlement, in the 1870s, of yet another township: McMurrich, which, with Perry and Armour townships, formed the East Parry Sound Agency--opened up about the year 1869.
McMurrich contains some 38,787 acres of land and 3,324 acres of water. Most lots suitable for settlement had been taken up when Mr. Hamilton wrote his Guide Book in 1879. According to the report of Mr. C.F. Miles, P.L.S., the greater portion of the township was composed of open, rolling hardwood land, with a certain portion of tamarack, spruce and cedar swamps--very wet in places. The soil was said to be a good sandy loam in the uplands and a rich black loam in the lowlands. So much for the official reports. By bitter experience, it was found to be far more suitable for timber lots than agriculture.
McMurrich had a number of settlements. The earliest was Beggsborough, located just north of the present day Sprucedale. Other communities in the township were Whitehall, Bourdeau, Banbury, McMurrich and Haldane Hill. With the exception of Sprucedale, all of these communities have, in practical terms, disappeared.
Lumbering was a very big business in those early days. Huge log booms were driven down the rivers to far-off mills to be cut into timber. Some of the names associated with the lumbering in McMurrich were: Dollar, Lawrence, Deans, Gayman, Fritz, Farrel, Demberline, Reid, Crawford, Shirk, Howell and many others.
About the year 1879, approximately ten years after the first settlers moved into McMurrich, Mr. Boothe, a wealthy lumberman from Ottawa, considered the advisability of building a railway from Ottawa to Depot Harbour on Georgian Bay. It provided work for the young men of the villages.
The township was organized in 1891 with the first council meeting in the Orange Hall on the 8th Concession, on 23 February 1891. Mr. M. Deans was the first reeve and the council consisted of J.C. Marshall, Thomas Cudmore, Asa McKague and D.H. Lawrence with Joseph Malkin as treasurer and Thomas Upton as the clerk.
This article first appeared in the April 1986 newsletter, Volume 2 - Number 1
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