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Byng Inlet was the second largest sawmill operation in Ontario. The name of the town came from that of the English Admiral John Byng. John Byng was court-martialled and executed in 1757 for failing to "do his utmost" during the Battle of Minorca.
Between 1868 and 1906 numerous mill transactions occured in which partnerships were made and broken. Some of these partnerships included Clarke White and Company, Dodge and Company, Merrill, Ring and Company and the Holland & Emery Lumber Company.
The Holland and Graves partnership lasted from August 6, 1900 to December 31, 1906. This dominant partnership would also change over the next twenty-five years until finally ending in the 1930's.
Construction of the main three mill sites was not an easy task, for workers had to be brought in to work the isolated area. Bricks, horses, oxen and other equipment had to be brought in by steamer or barges (Holmes, Fred: The History of Byng Inlet).
At the location of the Anson Mill there was a blacksmith shop, carpenter shop, ice-house, store, two barns, steamboat dock, millman and manager's house and twelve worker's homes.
The cutting capacities for the three mills were 10 to 12 million board feet for the Page mill, 14 million for the Anson mill and 15 million for the Burton mill.
A post office was opened on July 1, 1868.
To accomodate transportation to and from the mills, various ships were used. The Lily Kerr, Minnie Hall, The Resolute, Julien V. O'Brien, Mohegan and a tug named John Junior.
The Minnie Hall showed a determination to stay afloat. It was burned twice until August of 1886 when it caught fire again and had to be sunk. In 1897 it was raised from thirty feet of water and used in Midland.
Workers at the mill received an average of $1.75 per day for ten hours of work. By 1920 the wages were somewhat better, $4 per day and $1 for board.
The work could be dangerous; some workers drowned while logging and in late 1883 Miss. S. Armstrong and her escort Lewis Walter Carter, drowned when they fell through thin ice. Fire also saw the destruction of the Anson mill on June 30, 1891 and the Burton Brothers mill on April 17, 1893.
For entertainment, pool rooms on either side of the inlet were strategically located near the docks. During the winter, two ice rinks provided an opportunity to play hockey. Railway boxcars were used as change and warm-up rooms.
In 1893 the post office closed only to be reopened in 1903 as the Byng Inlet North post office. A fire on Nov. 4, 1899 brought down the Byng Inlet hotel.
In 1900 the Holland & Graves was doing so well that they added electricity, a box factory and added a night-shift.
In 1906 the Holland & Graves company became the Graves & Bigwood Company.
A massive mill fire on May 20th of 1912 saw losses in excess of over 55 million feet of lumber. The Graves & Bigwood Company mill was rebuilt. It contained a mill, lumber yard, planing mill and boilers (thanks to Ron Brown once again).
Approx. 450 people lived in the shanty houses and the 50 or so solid houses in the area. The mill employed some 1250 people, while the town's overall population was 4200.
When the railway was introduced in 1912, the Graves Lumber Company was able to ship out some 20,000 feet of lumber every other day.
In 1927, after the resources dried up and the mill closed, without any other form of industry to keep the population employed, most of the people left. The Graves Bigwood Company store burned down on Christmas Day in 1930.
The town has a small permanent population to this day. It remains a small town with small streets making it worth sight-seeing. The two-room school house (SS No. 1 Wallbridge) has been fixed up and is now a residence. It sits atop a small mountain as you enter the town.
The mill has some excellent ruins and hundreds of pieces of wood still litter the lakeside by the mill as if waiting for someone to cut them.
The cemetery had the last burial around 1915. The markers are old and faded and there are about five scattered graves. Only one wall of fence remains, and it has toppled over and is almost invisible. A tiny trail leads off to the back where a mountain sits. A newer looking marker has a wreath placed on it, belonging to a 30 year old private in the First World War.
Location: Take highway 529 off of Highway 69 about 20 minutes past the Grundy Lake Provincial Park (heading away from Sudbury). It is then a short 2 km drive to highway 645 where you turn right. Note the graveyard is off to your left if you are driving into Byng and is roughly after the first curve.