Most ghost town hunters seem to know the popular Muskoka ghost towns like: Germania, Uffington, Falkenburg, Cooper's Falls and to a lesser extent: Monsell and Lewisham. They all have write-ups under "Muskoka". But there are others. Thanks to the book by Hind and DaSilva, "Ghost Towns of Muskoka", these hamlets have been brought back to memory. Here are some short bios on each..To order his book go to this link : http://www.amazon.ca/Ghost-Towns-Muskoka-Andrew-Hind/dp/1550027964 or click the direct link below.
(Cooper's Falls is under Ramara)
Rosseau Falls- Founded on the north shore of Lake Rosseau by Peter Mutchenbacker, a pioneer from Germany, in 1877. At the mouth of the Rosseau River he built a saw and shingle mill by harnessing the power of the falls. Later he had a steam-operated outfit, which meant for a longer cutting season. There were cabins built for the families and the mill workers. Peter's home was first made of logs, but his second home was the centerepiece of the hamlet where he opened a post office and store in 1880. There were no roads and communication was done by a mail ship. The trees were depleted by 1928 and the community went into decline. There are remnants in the bay to this day of the mill. Take Hwy 141 to Rosseau Rd 3 and drive south to the falls. For a photo of the lower falls go here: http://gowaterfalling.com/waterfalls/rosseaulower.shtml
Dee Bank- Another short-lived pioneer crossroads mill town. John Shannon bought land here in 1868 where the Dee River rushes into Three Mile Lake. Here he built a grist mill. Due to its strategic location the community grew to include 2 hotels alongside the bush farms. It was the largest village in Watt Township. The store and post office was run by John Barber; there was a tannery, blacksmith, church, school and pop. of 75. It was hit by two major blows- because it was inland the new steamships to Windermere past it by and the railway bypassed it. Only the school remains. Take Hwy 141 to Deebank Rd. and head south to the Dee River. Here is info on the Dee Bank Falls: http://www.start.ca/users/mharris/waterfalls/dee-bank-falls.html. Here is a pioneer map of Watt Township: http://www.ontariogenealogy.com/muskokamaps/watt.jpg
According to friend and fellow Ontario history buff, Gary Long, "Dee Bank was just a small mill village with a few residences, a school, a store, and of course the mills. I found a bit of the gristmill foundation on the south side of the river at the bottom of the falls, and on the north side, the barely discernible route of the road that formerly crossed a bridge at the top of the falls and angled up the hillside. The authors of the book might have found additional foundations, etc. I'm sure if you looked around hard enough in the woods near the falls, you'd find other remains, though not necessarily dating back as far as the original village.
Locations of towns weren't always logical in terms of terrain. Look at Bracebridge and Huntsville, the original sections piled on hills when there was plenty of flat land nearby. Usually the early growth took place closest to the feature that resulted in the settlement being there. In the case of Bracebridge and Dee Bank, that was the falls with its mills, and it's usually rocky and hilly close to falls."
Millar Hill- Considered the high north country when nobody lived this far north along the Sinclair/Franklin Township border of Muskoka. Here David Millar decided to give bush farming a whirl in 1878. As the trees were removed others joined the settlement on the hardest terrain imaginable. (I have tried in vain to find the foundations of Millar's farmhouse and barn--can someone contact me if they know the exact location please? my email is firstname.lastname@example.org).
Joseph Langmeade founded a school, church and the only post office in the hamlet. It was run out of his home from 1912-1928. After the community went bust mail was handled out of the Hillside post office to the west. Fred Quinn built a sawmill on the Boyne R. which brought a boost to the growing community, but later the sawmill moved to Dwight and Millar Hill went into dire straits. Take Hwy. 60 to Millar Hill Rd. and drive to the end. Foundations can be found on the observatory road before u get up to the summit where the radio towers are.
* (Henry) Harry Lasseter was the actually the 1st settler to Millar Hill. You can see his property at lot 13 conc. 13 of Franklin Township at this link: http://www.ontariogenealogy.com/muskokamaps/franklin.jpg.... He later took lots 11 and 12 as well.
The road to the west was already in place as was the Bobcaygeon Rd to the east past Millar Hill into Haliburton County. It is my belief that Millar and the rest would have come via the road that Lasseter would have built into his lone property along the Sinclair/Franklin border. The road went all the way to the Boyne River and by 1883 neighbors formed work crews to help finish the rest of the road easterly.
Seldom Seen- Founded in the 1870s in an isolated corner of Macaulay Township, south of Fawn Lake, it didn't live long. It got its name as a joke, meaning they were so far from civilization and the outside world. William Dennis was the councillor whose farm was at the NW side of Gilleach Lake. Alfred Lee was a farmer, teacher and assessor at the SW side of Fawn Lake and Scott Rds. There was a store, small sawmill and school. In 1886 the township moved the school miles away and the villagers were very upset. They rebuilt another in its place at lot 26, conc. 12 to the dismay of the township. The school closed in 1912 as the villagers could no longer handle the conditions of their land. Here is the pioneer map of Macaulay Township: http://www.ontariogenealogy.com/muskokamaps/macaulay.jpg
"According to Gary Denniss' book "Macaulay Township in days gone by", there was never a town or even a village at this location, just a group of homes. On page 15 he says: "Seldom Seen" was a nomen that applied very well to the area it represented. The settlers south of Fawn Lake named their corner of the township this, because of the isolation in which they lived. The only public building ever erected at Seldom Seen was a school house near Gibb Lake on J. Gibb's farm. Most of the settlers obtained their mail at Port Sydney, several miles away. All signs of yesteryear are gone from this area, but a small cottage development exists at Gilleach Lake which, at one time, included a summer confectionery stand. Other farms belonged to Jones, Macintosh, Galleitch (the proper spelling) and Sherwood.
Beatty's Siding- 3 km. west of Swords in Parry Sound District on the famed Booth railway was its location. Here, 20 plus trains per day passed by. The railway housed rail workers here and a village formed with both farmers and loggers in 1894. The Ludgate Lumber Co. was the main outfit. The children went to school in Swords. Ludgate Co. moved out in 1910 and train traffic dwindled, as did the town.
Jerusalem- A true ghost town as it is hard to find even in the history books. As the land was painstakingly cleared for crops, 8 buildings were erected; but it is not known if they were part of a village or of a homestead or two. The site was likely located on the furthest west lot owned by Thomas Peacock in Macaulay Twp. Peacock owned 2 other lots near today's Springdale Park. He founded the community. The spot is north of High Falls and just west of Hwy 11..Read this new article http://gravenhurstmuskoka.blogspot.ca/2015/10/through-muskoka-bush-to-jerusalem.html and here is their homestead http://familia.evemor.com/photo-1000398_189142092_189142092/peacock-homestead-jerusalem-1904
Bear Lake- Norwegians came to Canada by the 1000's. Some came to Parry Sound District and settled at Bear Lake in the 1880's. They were offered free land if they cleared it and worked at the lumber mills. They called their settlement Jarlsberg, and it had a mill, school, store, post office, church and blacksmith. By 1893 the name was changed to Bear Lake. Only their St. Olaf's Church, pillars and 2 old buildings remain to this day. Take Hwy. 518 to Bear Lake, east of the Nipissing Colonization Rd.
Hoodstown- On the north shore of Lake Vernon a village formed that was meant to be a major hub for Muskoka. Railways were being built throughout the rugged terrain. Charles and Janet Hood had a vision and bought a lot of land as a speculation that 2 major railway lines would one day meet up at this spot where a small river joined Lake Vernon and Fox Lake. They came from Toronto as they had heard of the boom in Muskoka. Things looked promising in 1877, and by 1889 the Hoods had made a town-plan with 276 lots on 9 streets. There were 3 stores, 3 churches, a post office, a sawmill, a hotel, a blacksmith and homes. But their speculation never paid off as the railways bypassed the area. The post office shut down in 1892 and the townsfolk moved to Hunstville. To see a photo of Hood Rapids go here: http://www.start.ca/users/mharris/waterfalls/hood-rapids.html. The hotel was located on the east side of the rapids as you get close to lake Vernon. To see a pioneer map of Stisted Township go here: http://www.ontariogenealogy.com/muskokamaps/stisted.jpg I have never seen as much raod aligment change from the 1800's to present as I have in the Hoodstown vicinity.
Text taken from the historic plaque:
"The village of Hoodstown, first named Port Vernon, had its beginnings in the early 1870s or even before then. Captain Charles Hood moved here from Toronto in 1869, investing in lands, building houses and a sawmill on the rapids. At that time is was expected that the railway, then being built from Toronto, would pass through the community. The village was located on the east side of the rapids and Lake Vernon and comprised of two churches, a post office, three goods stores, a dozen houses and approximately 300 lots. In 1886, the railway was routed not through the Village but through Huntsville and subsequently the Village started to decline and became a ghost town by the turn of the century."
Emberson- Was the most obscure ghost town of Muskoka during its brief life. Even written accounts seem to be rumored memories. But it did exist. In 1876 on one of Brunel Township's windy, swampy, rocky, tree-infested roads a community was formed. Henry Jarvis opened the post office the same year. The children had to travel a distance to school in the next township over , supposedly at South Portage School SS2 Franklin Twp. This school operated from 1892-1956. But I am in doubt about this since the school on Browns Rd at Lot 19 Concession 12 (built 1874) in Brunel Twp was much closer. This school was even moved a bit further east in 1877 to be more central to the school section. It closed in 1953.
There was a Gospel Hall of some kind in Emberson (perhaps in someone's home?). It was a denomination called The Brethren. Evangelists like Fred Watson, David Scott, JJ Rouse and John Sylvester made trips here to preach. These fellows also traversed to Deer Lake and Antioch's Gospel Halls..
By 1900 there were 60 brave souls within its confines. The bush farms and logging camps lasted until 1910 and its post office until 1924. Stone foundations exist, though the area has long since been swallowed up by the forest. According to Hinds and Brown it lies 2 km. north of Muskoka Rd. 11 and 2 km. east of Muskoka Rd. 7. But these directions make no sense logically. I found an old map that shows Emberson (below photos) and it was located north of Britannia Rd (Cty Rd 10) and west of South Portage Rd. (Cty Rd 9), which is now a huge forest. According to Gary Long, "It was located south of Peninsula Lake and west of South Portage (Ron Brown really has the location screwed up in his Ghost Towns of Ontario Volume 2, A Field Guide). It was on the original Brunel Road (built in the 1870s) that ran from Utterson to Cain's Corners (near Dwight). It got its post office in 1874. Emberson wasn't really even a village, just a rural post office serving the farm families in that section. Never had a school or any businesses other than farms. The section of road that went through Emberson hasn't been open for many years, though you can still walk it or mountain bike it (at least you could ten years ago)." * I drove it with my Saturn--clunk!
Here is the pioneer map of Brunel Township: http://www.ontariogenealogy.com/muskokamaps/brunel.jpg The pioneer families names here were: Hall, Young, Ripper, Cappe, Farnsworth, Jarvis, Lester, Ware, Tinegate, William, Slater and Hidchins.
Candytown- Here is an in-depth write-up of this ghost town for those with cottages in the Port Sydney area. http://www.ghosttownscanada.ca/members/showgallery.php?cat=662
South Portage- Is a semi-ghost town mentioned in one of Ron Brown's books. Located on the north shore of Lake of Bays it once was home to the shortest commercial railway line in the world, called the Portage Railway. Its train, called "The Portage Flyer", ran less than 2 kms, and ferried passengers between North Portage on Peninsula Lake and South Portage in the early 1900's. It lasted until 1958. A photo is shown in the gallery below.
Darling- has its own write-up under "Muskoka".
Malta- was located just north of Kahshe River on the old Muskoka Colonization Rd (now Hwy 11) where Camp Hillbilly is located. The school still stands. Check this pioneer map of Morrison Township which shows where its post office sat: http://www.ontariogenealogy.com/muskokamaps/morrison.jpg
* Also of note, there were quite a few murder stories involved in some of Muskoka's ghost towns. To learn more check out: Monsell, Uffington, Barkway, Germania and Lewisham. Check out Falkenburg for the decapitation story.