Huronia Museum – Looking Back 60 Years Ago in North Simcoe – April 8th to 14th, 1959

A reminder that we do not have the original negatives for the month of April 1959, “copy and paste” from the microfilm is the best we can do until May.


I included the photo above because I now live on the property where Brenda and Bonnie grew up with their brothers Bruce, Brian and Brent, the five B’s. Brenda, Bonnie, and Bruce still live in the area, Brent and Brian are deceased.

  • The Midland Free Press headline of April 8, 1959; Two Bayports Set Record for Water-Borne Freight. Port McNicoll and Midland, topped three other lake ports in the Georgian Bay area in the amount of water-borne freight handled in 1958, a report from F. K. McKean, district marine agent, Department of Transport reveals. The report shows that Midland and Port McNicoll combined handled a total of 1,141,000 tons. Port McNicoll topped four lakeports — Owen Sound, Midland, Collingwood, Parry Sound — with a total of 740,000 tons. Mr. McKean pointed out that grain cargoes made up most of the tonnage handled, except at Midland where 300,000 tons of coal were included in the total tonnage, and at Parry Sound where the bulk of freight was oil and oil products. Of the total tonnage at Port McNicoll, Mr. McKean said 112,000 tons was package freight and mill stuffs handled by the “Keewatin” and “Assiniboia.”
  • The County Herald headline of March 10, 1959; Budget Brings Tax Hikes for Most Wage Earners. North Simcoe residents will be paying more for cigarettes, liquor and in a special old-age security tax this year as a result of Finance Minister Donald Fleming’s budget, announced last night in Ottawa. According to statistics, the two percent increase on taxable income in excess of $3,000 will mean no change in the current income tax being paid by a married taxpayer with two children, until the $5,000 bracket is exceeded. The special two percent income and sales tax for old age security which was increased to three percent will, however, mean higher taxes on most incomes. Through this levy, a married taxpayer with two children, who earns $2,800 a year, will pay $2 more per year. The same tax-payer, if he earns $3,500 a year, will pay $9 more per year. Maximum tax payable for old age security was set at $90.
  • There will be a number of new faces on the staff of Midland-Penetang District High School when the 1959-60 term opens in September! Five members of the present staff have resigned. Replacements have already been hired for two of them. In addition, there is one new job open, that of mathematics and science teacher for Grades 9 to 12. Two teachers whose posts have already been filled are Bob Elliott, science, and Tom Cavanagh, English and history. They will be replaced by W. E. S. Denholme, of Saugeen District High School, Port Elgin, and Frank Schmalz, a graduate of OCE this year who comes from the Dunnville area. Mr. Elliott had also taught at Penetang High School and Elmvale District High School prior to coming to MPDHS. He will teach at Peterborough next year. Mr. Cavanagh, also a member of the MPDHS staff for several years, plans to take next year off, this paper learned. Two other teachers with several years of service who are leaving MPDHS for other fields are Mrs. I. Rayner, who is going to Stratford, and James Nopper, who moves to Sarnia. Member of the staff for only one year, Miss Mary Anne Nicholson will teach at Etobicoke next year. – Newspaper Ad – Required for September Male or Female TEACHERS For Primary and Junior Grades, SALARY ‘ Category’ System in effect. Minimum $3,000.00 Special Allowances for Experience Annual Increment $200.00 APPLY in own handwriting, stating age, years of experience and last Inspector to WM. A. HACK, Secretary-Treasurer, MIDLAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS BOARD Box 100,  Midland, Ontario.
  • Chief of Midland fire department for 20 years, Peter Grigg died in St. Andrews Hospital Sunday, he was in his 70th year. Funeral services will be held from Knox Presbyterian Church this afternoon, with temporary interment in the Lakeview Cemetery vault. Mr. Grigg joined the volunteer fire brigade in 1919 and was made chief in 1928. Poor health forced him to retire in March of 1956 after 37 years on the force. He was succeeded by Arnold Tippin who “came up the ladder” under his guidance.
  • Midland won its fourth provincial Little – League Hockey title since 1952 at Welland on the weekend when its AHL team swept through three games to win the Ontario crown. The win gave the Lions Club sponsored Little League organization a title in all three series, operated on a provincial basis. In 1952 Midland won the first NHL title ever decided on a provincial scale and followed up with victories in the junior OHA division in 1956 and 1957. Actually, the 1952 team claimed the All-Canadian title, after defeating Vince Leah’s Winnipeg team in games played here and in Maple Leaf Gardens. Midland secured its AHL title Saturday night by defeating Welland-Crowland Combines 4-2 in the final. They had edged past a strong Huntsville team 2-1 in the opener Friday and had then swamped Trenton 7-0 in the semi-finals.
  • Further dumping of garbage in the area at the 9th Line, Tay Township, and the CPR tracks will no longer be permitted, A. C. Forster, the owner of the property, advised today. The property has been closed, Mr. Forster stated, adding that he had advised Tay Township council some months ago of his decision but did not know if the council had arranged for any other garbage disposal area.
  • Births – BOUCHER— To Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Boucher, Brock St., Penetang, at St. Andrews Hospital, Midland, Tuesday, April 7, 1959, a daughter. GUTHRIE — To Mr. and Mrs. Edward Guthrie, 132 Colborne St., Midland, at St. Andrews Hospital, Friday, April 3, 1959, a daughter. JACKSON — to Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Jackson, 342 King St., Midland, at St. Andrews Hospital, Wednesday, April 1, 1959, a daughter. LACROIX — To Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Lacroix, 113 Fourth St., Midland, at St. Andrews, Hospital, Wednesday, April 1, 1959, a daughter. La VIGNE — To Mr. and Mrs. William La Vigne, of Ottawa, Ontario, at the Penetang General Hospital, Monday, March 30, 1959, a son. REYNOLDS — To Mr. and Mrs. Eric Reynolds, Waverley, at St. Andrews Hospital, Midland, Tuesday, April 7, 1959, a daughter. WOODS — To Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Woods, Port Severn, at St. Andrews Hospital, Midland, Saturday, April 4,,1959, a son.
  • Elmvale is proud of its young Lions, who won the OMHA juvenile “D” title this season with two straight wins over Lucknow in the finals. Members of the team are, left to right, front row, Ross French, Bill Marley, Larry Simpson (captain), Andy Copeland, Elvie Frankcom; middle row, Bill Crawford (coach), Gil Hall, Wayne McArthur, Bill Large, Lealand Rowat, Ross Heacock, Harry Rowley (manager); back row, Russell Ritchie, Nelson Jordan, Dave Cooper, Torry Stevens, Bob Greenlaw, David Campbell. (The photo in the newspaper was too dark to reproduce here.)
  • 25 Years Ago This Week – Two Penetang men played the first round of golf for the 1934 season at the Midland Golf and Country Club April 8. In the afternoon, two Midlanders played the course. * * * Flocks of wild geese were seen winging their way north. One large flock was heard passing over Midland about 10:00 p.m. April 9. * * * The federal government reported that tourists visiting Canada spent $117,214,000 in 1933. This was about $100,000,000 less than was spent in 1932. * * * Because of heavy ice conditions on the bay, shipping companies were predicting that navigation in Georgian Bay ports would not open before May 5. It was the latest opening since 1926 when the first ship left Midland May 6. * * * Ontario apple growers feared they would suffer heavy losses in trees because of the long severe winter. It was reported that 40 percent of the apple trees in Ontario were affected by the heavy frosts. * * * M. J. Asselin, reeve of Tiny Township, was elected honorary chairman of the newly-formed Simcoe County branch of the Ontario Swine Producers Association. The organizational meeting was held at Barrie. Robert Ego of Medonte was elected to the executive of the association! * * * Capt. Percy Beatty of Midland, master of the Coalhaven, was the skipper of the first ship into Oshawa harbor in 1934.
  • Assurances have been received by the Georgian Bay Development Association from Hon. Bryan Cathcart, minister of Travel and Publicity, that a permanent tourist information booth on highway 400 will be established. Expected to be located about two miles south of Barrie, the building probably will be started this year but will not be in operation until 1960.
  • Port McNicoll Hotel Limited will make application for four licences at a special meeting of the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario in Barrie council chambers May 8. The hotel firm, whose head office is in Kingston, will seek a lounge licence, a dining lounge licence, a public house licence for a men’s beverage room and a public house licence for a women’s beverage room. The hotel was formerly owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company and was operated as “The Inn.”
  • Movement of CSL freighters from the port of Midland will not start for at least another week, J. G. Hendrickson, CSL manager advised yesterday. While some of the ships’ engineers are here, “none of the captains have reported yet”, Mr. Hendrickson said. (This was in the May 10th 1959 paper. The Baie Comeau is not setting any records for being ice-bound in Midland.)
  • Midland assessor Ian McClung said yesterday the annual town assessment will begin next week. Two Midland men will be taking the census, Mr. McClung stressed that it is important that the census takers be given full information as to the number of persons in a home and their vital statistics such as age, marital status and the number of children. It is on the basis of the total population that the provincial grant of $3.50 per head is based, Mr. McClung stated. The information, which will take six weeks to two months to complete, is also the basis for preparation of the municipal voter’s list.
  • COLDWATER—At this week’s council meeting Councillor Gordon Chamberlain asked what council planned to do about raw sewage being dumped into the Coldwater River from a number of homes and business places on Main Street. Reeve Lawrence Devine said the issue had been raised some years ago and a program outlined at that time under which better sanitation would result. The plans were never completed, however. The Reeve said a comprehensive sewage treatment system had been considered too costly for the village. He would like to see the river “cleaned up” and would be glad to call a special meeting at any time to discuss the matter. Reeve Devine stated. No arrangements were made for a future meeting.

Ganton Dobson related this history to Herbert Cranston in 1939 as part of a series that the newspaper carried about the early days in Midland as told by the towns, senior citizens. Many parts of it reappeared in 1946 in another series in the paper. Some of the second article, which was posted in the Facebook groups “Midland Then and Now” and “Midland Area – Portraits of the Past”  in October of 2015, is verbatim but much of it is new.

Next week we will post the third part of the series which focuses on Ganton Dobson’s business career. 

“The first store in Midland was owned and operated by Nelson Courtemanche. His brother Alfred Courtemanche worked with him, and is still living here,” said Ganton Dobson in answer to a query as to the first commercial activities in this locality, “it was, of course, a general store, and it supplied all the needs of the little community. The next was one operated by Joseph Phillips, who built a shop on the site where the town hall now stands. “There was no relief in those days, and many workers would be out of employment after the mills closed down in the fall until they opened again in the spring. Consequently, a great deal of credit had to be given by the storekeepers, and that was a great hardship to them, for there were plenty who had no intention of settling, and when spring came around would depart for pastures new. There was nothing for the Merchant to do but to write the debt off to ‘profit and loss,’ and footnote “Gone but not forgotten.” “The storekeepers had other problems too to worry them. There were not many places to go in the evening’s, and the stores were generally packed with men in the evenings who came not to shop but to gab about the latest town scandal, politics, or grouse about the wages paid in the mills. They would make seats for themselves on the long counters, and if a lady should come in wanting to buy something she had trouble finding a vacant spot where she could speak to the storekeeper over the counter. “Alex Patterson and his brother had a store just about where the old fruit store recently vacated by Mrs. Gianetto now stands. They got a bit fed up with the way their counters were loaded with non-buying customers and decided to put an end to it. So they bored small holes the entire length of the counter, and with the help of a blacksmith rigged up a long wooden strip in which were fastened a number of darning needles just below the holes. Then when a customer appeared and no one offered to move Alex pulled a string, the needles went into action, and in less time than it takes to tell it a whole counter was cleared of its occupants. Alex didn’t say a word. He let the needles speak for themselves. After that, he did not have much trouble. In fact, it became a favorite trick of the mill men to bring in greenhorns and set them on the counter with the hope that Alex would open fire with his artillery. 

FIRST QUEEN’S HOTEL “I see by the paper that the old Queen’s Hotel may possibly be pulled down.” observed Mr. Dobson. “That reminds me that my father furnished the money for a man named Gleason to build the first Queen’s Hotel. It was a wooden affair, which was afterward burned down. Gleason could not make a success of it and meet the payments on his mortgage, so the hotel fell back into dad’s hands. He wanted to take the hotel over and run it, but mother would not hear of it. She wouldn’t take her children into the atmosphere of a hotel. Before a great while father was able to sell his equity in the hotel to James Duncan, father of Tom Duncan, chairman of the Park Commission, and Bill Duncan. “That recalls a good turn that James Duncan once did me and a chum of mine. There were not many shows or amusements of any kind which we youngsters could attend, and so when a traveling company came to the old skating rink and put on ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ we were, of course, anxious to see it. I had read the book, which made me all the more keen to see it. The rink at that time was owned by William Chew. We had no money, so resolved to steal in. We found a trap door near the stage which did not fit very snugly, and we tried to peep in through the cracks, but that was not at all satisfactory. Mr. Duncan was sitting inside with his back to the wall. We called to him but were afraid to make too much noise. Finally, we got his attention by tickling his ear with a long stalk of timothy hay. He reached down, turned the button, and let us in free, and we had a close-up of Little Eva, Topsy, the bloodhounds, Uncle Tom, Simon Legree and all the rest, and all for nothing. “That chum of mine is one of the stockholders of the Arena Gardens, but I am afraid he has forgotten the night that James Duncan let him into Uncle Tom’s Cabin, for he has not arranged any trap door at the Arena where penniless boys can obtain free admission.”

FIRST SAWMILL – The chief industry in the new Midland City was the sawing and finishing of timber. The first mill was that operated by the late H. H. Cook on the land where the Midland Shipbuilding Company buildings now stand. “I can remember going down through the swamp one Sunday morning to see the Cook mill burn down completely,” said Mr. Dobson. “It was rebuilt the following winter, and then Samuel Chew came along and erected a mill on the waterfront just opposite the late Mr. James Playfair’s residence. The railway came in 1879 and the trains were pulled by old fashioned wood burning locomotives. All along the tracks between here and Orillia were piled thousands of cords of wood. The cutting of the wood for the railway and for I. Burns of Toronto provided work for great gangs of men. Several other mills were established after the railway came. The British Canadian Lumber Company put up a large mill where the Letherby mill now stands. My second job was in Sam Chew’s mill. I pushed the lumber on the rollers in the yard. I got fifty cents a day but only worked there a month. The mills furnished plenty of employment for hundreds of men. Wages were small, and the hours were long, from six in the morning till six at night. There was a stop at 9 a.m. for oiling, another at noon for lunch, and another for oiling at three o’clock. The British Canadian mills installed the first electric lights to be put in anywhere in Canada, and people came from long distances to see them. There were even some excursions for that purpose. The lights were, of course, the old carbon lamps, but they gave enough illumination for work to be carried on at night during the rush season.

TOWN’S WORST TIMES – “Midland’s thriving lumber business suffered almost complete collapse when a change in the export regulations was made, and it was possible for American lumber companies to cut their logs in Canada and tow them to Sheboygan, Bay City and Saginaw for manufacture into timber. Talk about hard times in Midland. They have never been as bad since as they were then. The mills in the States were running night and day, while most of ours were shut down. Several deputations went to Ottawa to make complaints, and finally, an export duty was put on all unfinished timber in 1896. Then the lumber business boomed. I had bought some dressing lumber for $13 per thousand. Three months later I sold it for $30 per thousand. Laths jumped from $3.50 per thousand in June to $7.50 in November. There were altogether some eight mills cutting logs in Midland, three at Victoria Harbor, three at Waubaushene, four at Fesserton, two at Port Severn, two at Coldwater, and three on the Muskosh River. It was a great timber country. For sixteen years we had wonderful prosperity. The mills were busy all the time, some running day and night, and fair wages were paid. Then as the timber limits in the neighborhood became gradually exhausted it became less and less profitable to bring logs to Midland for cutting, and the sawmills were one after the other picked up and moved nearer the forests until now we have only one which operates only intermittently.

SMELTER A BOON – “The coming in 1900 of the Canada Iron Corporation Co., popularly known as the smelter was a great boon to Midland. It was located where the Midland Simcoe elevator now stands. The furnace had a capacity of 500 tons daily, and the rail and water shipments totaled over 400,000 tons annually. From 300 to 350 men were employed. George D. Drummond was the manager and superintendent of the Midland plant. “Before the coming of the railway,” continued Mr. Dobson, “we received our mail by stagecoach. The stage ran between Barrie and Penetanguishene, and the mail was dropped at Firth’s Corners, whence it was brought by horseback to the village. Then came the telegraph. It was installed in the post office, which was a small building at the rear of the McCartney block, where the barbershop owned by Arthur Macksey now stands. The first postmaster was Thomas Gladstane. He was succeeded by his son Walter, who held the post until his death not so many years ago. The first baker was H. S. Ruby, who arrived by team from Barrie. His business is now carried on by his son Albert W. The first elevator was the Midland House. It was built about 1881, and the grain trade boomed. The carriers were sailing ships which carried both grain and lumber and it was a great sight to see the harbor filled with these ships waiting at anchor for their turn to unload their cargoes.

REGATTA EVERY YEAR – In those days Midland had a regatta every year. I remember one in which the late James Playfair was very much interested, also the late Ed. Hanlan, champion sculler of the world. There were fishing boats from Collingwood and other places by the score, and they carried every inch of canvas possible. It was exciting to see those sailing vessels racing for first position at the elevator. I remember watching two coming round the point, the Emily B. Maxwell and Azoff in the lead with a beam wind. After coming, round a bit farther the captain of the Maxwell tacked off to the east, apparently taking the longest way. Getting his ship, a smart little craft into a better position, he soon overhauled and passed the other ship and sailed close up to the dock, so close we were sure he would strike. Then we heard him roar “Come hard over” and his ship answered at once and finished the winner by about 100 yards.

“At the time my parents first settled here there were no churches or places of worship. Missionaries of several denominations visited the settlement from time to time, coming from Penetanguishene where they had their headquarters. The first I can remember was Rev. Dr. McGilroy, who many years after was pastor of the Presbyterian Church which was located at the corner of Bathurst and College Streets, Toronto. He often conducted services at our home which were attended by the neighbors. There we committed to memory the Shorter Catechism, the Ten Commandments, and many verses of Scripture. We, youngsters, thought it was pretty irksome discipline at the time, but after years proved the worth of the training to us.  There was a Rev. Mr. Flood who came for the Anglicans. I was baptized by him. Another I recall was Rev. Mr. Anderson. Father Laboreau came to minister to the Catholics. There were many others whose names I have forgotten. Rev. Mr. Lambert was the first Baptist missionary. He built the first brick church on Manley Street for that denomination, just north of the school. A Union Sunday school was held in this church for some years with children of all denominations attending. The Presbyterians built a church a little farther north on Manley Street, the Anglicans on the corner of Queen and Elizabeth Street, and the Methodists at the corner of Midland Ave. and Elizabeth. The Baptists are now in possession of the first Methodist church. The Christian Brethren held services in the old Baptist church. “The Salvation Army arrived here just 54 years ago on March 25th. Their uniforms, their music and their strange form of service attracted a great deal of attention. There were a number of misunderstandings with the police, resulting in some of the members being hauled to the police-court several times. No one was imprisoned, however. The magistrate, J. B. Horrell, was a fine man and had a keen sense of justice. The first officer was Captain J. Langtry, now Mrs. Col. L. D. Southall.

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