An Article of Interest

Golden Valley Area

by E. Kirton, Clerk, Powassan

(From the Burk’s Falls Arrow, September 13, 1962)

The first road to penetrate the northern part of Parry Sound District was the Nipissing Road from Rosseau to what is now Nipissing Village, completed on 1870. Then the Great North Road was cut out from Parry Sound up through Dunchurch to connect with the Nipissing Road at Commanda.

As soon as these roads were built, settlers took up homesteads along them. About 1870 a small community was started at Dunchurch. About 1875 settlers by names of Lorenz, Brunno, Sinclair, Bain, Arthurs, Royal, Willard, Millard, Lawson and Karl Zeikm (who later changed it to the English version of the name, Charles Simms) took up land in Ferrie Township north of the Deep River and named it Glenila. This land was so sandy it was unsuited for agriculture, so they became disatisfied and moved farther north, up the Pickerel Hill Road. (Incidentally this Pickerel Hills Road was well named as far as the hills part applied, but the word road was a misnomer). Many of these people resettled in what is now called Loring. Many newcomers also came, Rogerson, Crosswwllg Boydv Hankint Haggart, Robertson, Kirton, Davis, Kelcey, Sweet, Forsythe, Wylie, Currie and others. The nucleus of the new settlement was at the corners of the four townships of Mills, Hardy, Wilson, and McConkey and for many years was known as McConkey Corners, even after the official name of “Loring” was given to the Post Office started there. Andrew Sinclair was the first Postmaster, carrying the mail an his back to and from Glenila, making a round trip in a day, a distance of 42 miles, giving the new settlers one mail a week. We do not know what his stipend was for these services but when the Post Office was transferred to E.H. Kelcey in 1886, the postmaster’s salary was ten dollars per year.

Colonel W.E. O’Brien of Shanty Bay was the Federal member of Parliament for Parry Sound and Muskoka and about 1882 he married a Miss Loring. When the settlement of McConkey Corners presented him with a petition for a Post Office he asked that the place be called “Loring” and the request was granted.

In 1885, E.H. Kelcey built the first store in Loring, and another was built by John Robertson in 1886 which was later sold to E. Forsythe. William Kirton had the first blacksmith shop and John Paul was the first carpenter. John Haggart and John Robertson built the first pit and skidway for whip-sawing lumber required by the new settlers. In 188O Mr. McWhinney built a small sawmill on Wilson Lake just north of the present Port Loring.

Mrs. Davis and Mrs. Forsythe accompanied by their small children were the first two women to arrive at Loring. Other families Joined their husbands there as soon as the meagre accomodations permitted. So educational and spiritual problems presented themselves. In 1885 a school house of hewn pine logs was built. The first teacher was Miss Tuly. This schoolhouse was also used for a Presbyterian church for some years and the first pastor was Rev. Mr. Steele. He only stayed during the summer, so services were conducted by various laymen of the community during the winter months.

Life was rugged in the pioneer days, hardships were many and amusements few and mostly of their own making. Many of the settlers carried on their backs from Dunchurch what they needed to get start in their new place of habitation. After the store in Loring many times Tom Cain carried a 98 lb. bag of flour up to his home on Sagamesing Lake, a distance of six miles. When Tom would be away cooking in camps Mrs. Cain would make the twelve mile round trip taking her family of six with her, ranging in age from ten years down, and carry back a 60 lb bag of groceries as well as carry the youngest child. This was no mean feat, especially when you consider that most of the road was a knee-deep mudhole that never dried up.

Now, in a lighter vein. In 1885, to celebrate the opening of his new store, E.H. Kelcey gave a Christmas Eve Dance in the partially completed upstairs above the store. The dance was quite a success and everyone enjoyed themselves, but it was so cold up there the fiddler was obliged to put his right arm around the stove pipe which ran from the stove in the store below, and fiddle in that position.

The first wedding was that of Mr. & Mrs. James Bain in the late 1880’s and they had a wedding dance that night. The festivities lasted till break of day. Charles Simms then hustled home, changed his clothes, took a milk pail and stool and went out to milk the COW. A couple of hours later he was found sitting on the stool fast asleep with the pail between his knees and the cow placidly chewing her cud in the shade at the edge of the clearing.

This article first appeared in the April 1988 newsletter, Volume 5 - Number 1