The settlement of Red Cloud, (also known as the Dawson Creek Settlement), was first established shortly after the War of 1812. It did not prosper until later in the century when the lumbering trade arrived to remove any trees they could find. This lead to the building of a successful settlement which included a grist mill, two saw mills, a sash factory, shingle mill, cider mill, a school and a cemetery, but no church.
The main man behind much of the entrepreneurship in the area was Robert B. Dawson, who established the grist mill, whose foundations can still be seen near the main intersection. It is said that he also rigged up a generator from the dam to his house on the hill to power the house with electrical lighting, although each night someone would have to go down to the dam and shut off the generator in order to turn off the lights. This was the first hydro-electric power ever used in the area. He later added a switch at the house to turn off the power.
Mr. Dawson and John McKague created the Mt. Pleasant Telephone Company, also a first for the area.
Dawson also created a large pond behind his dam, which he fully stocked with fish. This turned the settlement into a resort area in the 1920's and 30's when people would come from miles around to fish in the stocked pond.
Today, all that remains are the foundations to the grist mill, part of the dam system, Dawson's original house (still active), an abandoned mill of some sort, the foundation for the school and the cemetery.
The area is now known as one of the only places where we can see the original Tall Grass Prairie grasslands that once covered much of southern Ontario and the northeast United States. Most of this grassland met the plows of the early farmers. The stocked pond is now an important wetland for many types of flora and fauna. I saw a young deer nearby on the road during my visit. I was here for almost an hour and no other vehicles passed by.
The cemetery is an amazing place. It dates back to at least the 1850's, perhaps even earlier. The last burial was in 1940. Many of the local pioneer families are buried here. A fancy entrance way with pamphlets and info sits at the entrance to the cemetery, although once you pass through these gates the real story begins. Most of the gravestones have been rescued and stood up, but several are still resting where they fell. Due to the rare prairie grasslands, the area is allowed to grow with no grass cutting at all. thus most of the gravestones appear overgrown and hidden in the tall grasses. If you visit this incredible cemetery, please stay on the stone paths that guide you to each of the markers.
My photos of the grist mill ruins and the school foundations are not very clear due to the extensive growth in mid-summer, but I vow to return later in the year for better shots. I have photos of the last remaining mill and the cemetery. Please come and visit this accessible southern Ontario ghost town, but please also respect the peace of the burial ground and also the historical and cultural remnants of this lost settlement.