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Thomas Cooper was a deliveryman for his father, the local butcher. Coming from a "lower class" family, Thomas knew better than to associate with Emma, the daughter of a wealthy upper class family - at least associate publically.
Emma would sneak out to the garden where she would meet Thomas on his delivery runs. Eventually the two lovebirds married on March 24th, 1859, both aged twenty-two. Emma's family did not take kindly to this marriage and disowned her. The couple had their first child within a year followed by a second child two years later.
Emma's family were so infuriated by the couple's marrying that they would cross to the other side of the street if they saw Emma. Thomas would frequently see posters advertising Canada as the place to begin a new life. Taking into consideration their current home-life situation, the couple decided that a move to Canada was just what they needed.
On March 20th, 1864, while on a ship in the St. Lawrence River, the couple had their third child Albert Lawrence. They arrived from the train in Barrie where they proceeded to make their way by boat to Washago. There they set off into the bush to find a location to build their home.
The first few nights were less than luxurious as Thomas had to tend the fire in order to keep away the wolves. It took Thomas and Emma four days to build a simple wood cabin, with windows high enough to prevent the wolves from jumping inside.
As for the couple, Thomas and Emma ended up having nine children, one of whom died upon birth and was buried on their property.
Approximately twice a year, Thomas ventured to Orillia to trade animal hides for supplies.
A log schoolhouse was built nearby in 1874.
In 1876 the Coopers built a house and general store on a lot one-half mile away near a waterfall in the Black River. Much of their business came from nearby lumber camps. Their location would become the site of Cooper's Falls.
Two years later, in 1878, the first post office opened with the name Cooper’s Falls. Thomas also built a sawmill on the falls the same year. Cooper's Falls also contained a cheese factory and blacksmith shop. A Methodist church was built in 1894 and an Anglican church was built approximately 1884. The churches were located side-by-side at a location 1 kilometre west of Cooper's Falls.
Thomas Cooper wanted his area residents to live good, clean lives. One could only imagine his disapproval as men from the nearby lumber camps showed up drunk. He ended up involved in the temperance movement and travelled to lecture about the evils of alcohol.
By the 1880's there were railway stations in Washago and Severn Bridge and both accessable by road. Telephones were installed in most Cooper's Falls homes in 1911, and electricity was brought to the community in 1941.
Thomas' son, William, had a steam-powered sawmill in 1921, also on the river. Logs were delivered by water. Some of these may have come from nearby Ragged Rapids. This mill prospered until 1925 when tragedy struck. William had a horrific accident on the machines and had to be transported to Washago via a boat and then taken to the hospital via the train. He died and left 9 children behind. Cooper's Falls went into decline thereafter as the mill was shut down. The lumber supply was slowly depleted by that point. The lumber camps closed and business in Cooper's Falls began to dwindle as well.
The residents owned and took care of an outdoor hockey arena on the Cooper property through-out the mid-1900's...It was the most popular winter sport and they had a team to represent the village..They played larger centre teams such as Gravenhurst, Orillia, Longford and Washago..Before the arena was built they played on the river..
Thomas Cooper's grandson, and William Cooper's son, Frank Cooper, closed his store and post office in 1968.
Today Cooper's Falls population is said to be 14 residents, considerably smaller in comparison to the days when it was a lumber and sawmill town. The Methodist church is closed but St. George's Anglican church still sees the occasional service.
For new photos go to "Coopers Falls (ghost town) 2". To see photos in the village's heyday go here: http://www.ourroots.ca/e/page.aspx?id=1037942
Take highway 11 south to Severn Bridge. You should exit off Highway 11 just south of Severn Bridge on Cooper’s Falls Rd. route number 52 and stay on Coopers Falls Rd. until you reach the village. Thanks to Ross B. for the correction.