A Rich History Waiting to be Discovered in Ghost Towns

Almost all of our present communities were scattered along the IB&O Railway line and acted as flagstops for the railway. Harcourt, originally Mumford Station, Wilberforce, Highland Grove, Tory Hill, Gooderham and Irondale were a-buzz with regular train service, schools, churches, general stores, lumber mills, hotels and cheese factories as well as the hardy pioneers that made it all happen.


Other communities in our history, mostly those first settled and the ones the railway did not come through quickly became ghost towns during those early railway days.


Other communities of yester-year were mere stops on the IB&O Railway: Maxwells, a flagstop on the IB&O between Irondale and Gooderham; Ironsides, between Wilberforce and Harcourt; Deer Lake Village between Highland Grove & Highway 118; Hadlington, 10 km down Hadlington Rd off Hwy. 118 west of Wilberforce. Many communities started and ended with a mining operation or a sawmill.


Gooderham, ON 1897


Cheddar Rd off Hwy 118 west of Cardiff

Settled in 1871 as Wood’s Corners on the colonization road, New Burleigh Road. The settlement had two general stores, a post office, hotel, blacksmith shop, sawmills, two churches, and a school. In 1890 the name changed to Cheddar. Uranium was discovered in the area and in 1932 the Cheddar Mine opened 1 km south of the settlement. By 1942 the mine closed and in the 1950s new roads were built which bypassed this once well placed community. It faded quickly thereafter. Today, it is a fantastic walk on the old road through the forest that reclaimed Cheddar. Catching a glimpse of the almost swallowed stone fences, you can imagine the work that went into clearing the stones from these fields. Along the way you will  see remnants of structures and pieces of a community long ago, now swallowed by the forest. One of the original buildings, the old boarding house remains and has been restored as a private seasonal residence. For more history ontarioabandonedplaces.com



County Rd 4 (Essonville Line) between

Wilberforce & Hwy 118

A small farming community settled in the 1870s featured a store, hotel, post office, school and church. The log Sunday School Hall was home to the Loyal Orange Hall Lodge #1114 Essonville until the early 1900s, when it was relocated to Wilberforce. Settlers of Essonville either farmed or worked in the nearby logging camps. There was little in the way of commercial activity. The post office and school remained until the late 1960s.

The church continues to be well maintained and has been designated as a historic site. Directly across from the church is the Pioneer Cemetery, which remains in use.



North on County Rd 10 (Elephant Lake Rd) to Fishtail Lake Rd

Starting out as a  farming community north of Harcourt, the settlement began in the 1860s and was abandoned in the 1930s.  Kennaway had a schoolhouse, grist mill, livery stable, post office and a hotel. The stagecoach ran through Kennaway on route from Haliburton to Maynooth in the late 1800s. Elephant Lake Rd./Peterson Rd. to Maynooth was rebuilt and improved by G.W. Martin Lumber Ltd.  Their mill was on the York River on Elephant Lake Road. The old schoolhouse still stands, now being maintained as a hunting camp. As you drive or walk along the road, look closely you will see remnants of old structures and cleared fields long overgrown and swallowed by vegetation.


South Wilberforce

Saunders Rd/South Wilberforce Rd off County Rd. 648

Once a thriving community,  home to a  mill, general store, post office, school and church. You can still view the United Church, originally built in 1855 in Cardiff and moved beside the school house. In 1904, the United Church log building was replaced. In the 1920s the post office and general store were converted into a dairy. Today it is a blacksmith studio (1306 South Wilberforce Rd) Remnants of the old mill’s rock configuration can still be seen in the river at the concrete bridge.



Bryans Road just off County Rd 503

just west of Tory Hill

Founded in 1871, Hotspur was located on the colonization Monck Road which ran from Lake Simcoe to the Hastings Boundary. The still-standing frame school house in Hotspur was built circa 1900. There was also a post office and large hotel beside the Burnt River.  Lumbering was a mainstay for residents.





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