The Orillia Packet & Times
Oct. 15, 1931
Submitted by Frances Laver
I went over to Rathburn on Thursday to see the North Ontario Ploughman’s Match on Mr. Allan Gelately’s farm. I expected to find only the usual number of entries and a few from the neighbourhood present, but I got a surprise , as there were 43 teams and four tractors in the competition. The entries came as far as 60 miles south and the spectators as far north as Bracebridge.
During my visit which lasted from the middle of the afternoon till ten o’clock, I could not help thinking of the change which had taken place in the community since the first settlers came in. It would fill a book if all the records were written, but how interesting it would be.
Sixty years or so ago heavy timber covered the land and clearings were being made. Thousands and thousands, yes perhaps millions of feet of good logs were hauled to lake and mill. In the winter logs were hauled along the Monck road to Lake Couchiching and dumped in near Fern Cottage, later in the season to be made into rafts and towed through the Narrows to mills on the south shore of Lake Simcoe. A firm named Thomson and Smith did considerable lumbering in the neighbourhood, and Alex. McDonald had a shingle mill at Rathburn.
6:30 in the morning saw the village full of teams. Rathburn was a sort of half way house, and driver and teams stopped going out with logs or wood and returning again in the evening. Timothy Cuddahee owned the hotel and blacksmith shop on the northwest corner. The old building painted yellow just east of the present blacksmith was part of the hotel Many a passerby patronized this hotel. It’s hospitality was will known and it was an oasis in the desert. It was not an uncommon sight in the winter to see horses lined up at 6:30 in the morning waiting their turn to be shod. Men and horses rose early in those days, very probably not long after 4 o’clock.
John Mulvihill, father of D. J. Mulvihill, Township Clerk of Mara, succeeded Timothy Cuddahee in the Post Office and Blacksmith shop when Timothy moved to Toronto.
About 60 years ago John Mulvihill came from Westpoint, near Kingston, and learned the blacksmithing trade in the William Ramsay Carriage shop in Orillia on the southeast corner of Coldwater Road and Smith street.
D. J. Mulvihill says that he has seen a string of teams with sleighs on the road three-quarters of a mile long returning home empty after delivering their loads.
In the late 70’s or early 80’s, the Longford Lumber Co., owned by the late John Thomson, founder of the Company, began lumbering in the Township of Longford, and the logs were dumped in Lake St. John, The road, however, from Longford was up the Monck Road through Rathburn east to Sebright and across to Uphill. All the cadging by the teams was done this way and this added to the heavy winter traffic in the winter tim e on this road. E. T. H. Herring kept a very good hotel at Sebright. He was for years a well known figure in Orillia. He dressed with some distinction and reminded one of an old country squire. His drivers usually had their tails cut short, but not docked.
One year when the water was much higher than usual, George Thomson, son of the owner of the Longford Lumber Co., and now Postmaster at Orillia, was out with Tim Donovan on the tug. They were rounding up boom logs and getting ready for towing logs to the mill. The captain remarked that he believed there were good boom logs in mud lake near Rathburn and he was tempted to try to get through on the little creek, then much swollen with the spring floods. His young companion, looking for excitement and adventure, urged him on. So they headed up the creek and got safety into Mud lake. They had a good look round and found numerous good boom logs belonging to the company. One place they found over a dozen chained together, all ready apparently to be cadged away to make the main timbers in some barn, for there was a common opinion that not a few barn timbers came from this source. After their work was finished, George thought it would be a great idea to pull the whistle and startle the neighbourhood, so he pulled the whistle rope to the limit and the great blasts of the whistle resounded over quite an area. Never before had a steamboat whistle been heard on Mud Lake, and so far as is known no whistle has shrieked forth on those waters since. Needless to say those who heard the whistle go a surprise. Such adventures created more excitement then in those days when there are so many strange and new happenings every day.
When Doctor Gilchrist first entered practice in Orillia he soon became a familiar figure on the Monck Road. He drove a fine team of horses, but it required nerve and the pioneering spirit to reach some of the settlers, especially in the winter and spring. Not infrequently he did not get home the day he started from home. Those who remember those days speak kindly of the days when the doctor served the country way back to Sebright and beyond.
A figure who was known by everyone, especially by those who had to travel by stage, was Robert Young. Robert seldom missed a trip, no matter what the weather was. He was one of a band of men who carried Her Majesty’s mails, and felt the necessity of getting them through. Other communities, had their Robert Youngs also. When people whiz over the Monck road in a car in a few minutes , little do they know of the often long tedious trips made through snow and mud, when horses could not go off a walk very often. But now Rathburn is like a good many other rural villages, a quiet place with a gas pump and a dance hall.