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September 22, 2011

Fossmill Community Remembered

My first book The Fossmill Story (1999) profiled the lumber community of Fossmill in Chisholm Township from 1922 to 1936. The book had 50 interviews and some 500 photos.  When the mill burned during the depression in 1934 some people hung on and some dispersed. Many went to Kiosk, east down the CNR in Algonquin Park and had long careers. 

The remains of the Mill site after the fire in 1934 from the Fossmill Story by D. Mackey

The village slowly disappeared and the remaining buildings, and workers homes were torn down. By 1950 nothing remained. Many have returned to visit the site over the years. The lines from Oliver Goldsmith’s poem The Deserted Village capture the nostalgia.  

Here as I take my solitary rounds

Amidst thy tangling walks and ruined grounds

And many a year elapsed, return to view

Where once the cottage stood, the hawthorn grew.

On September 11 the Chisholm United Church asked me to be involved in a 2 hour tour of the site open to the public. I worked with Gerry Rose who now owns the property and has a camp there on the Wasi River where the old mill and hot pond stood. Some 60 interested men, women and children joined us and we had a lot of fun reminiscing. 

Visitors to former village of Fossmill that burned 77 years ago. 

D. Mackey photo.

I showed my movie Logging by Rail in Algonquin Park and showed some enlarged photos from the book. One showed the previous United Church with a large group in front augmented by many Fossmill members. Of special interest was a photo of the mill, trains, tramways, etc. after the fire. Several people saw a strong similarity to the photos of 9/11 in New York in 2001 

The church provided refreshments and everyone hung in in spite of the long walk. Thanks to Gerry Rose for his work uncovering artifacts, preserving the log pond and narrating the long walk through the ruins by the old church, school, train station, houses etc. Vestiges of the mill manager and the woods superintendent’s homes on the other side of the railway (now a railbed) were still there. Special thanks to Peter Loy who owns that property and cut a trail and pegged the site for the visitors to easily see the old site. Numerous bales of Peters hay provided seats for the visitors while the movie was viewed. 

Powassan Legion Museum 

An interesting project has developed at the Powassan Legion (Branch 453) where an artefact museum is being prepared. Various memorabilia have been in storage and used on November 11 but there has been no permanent display. 

Member Dan Taylor had some of his father and grandfather’s medals and other material and wanted to donate it. He became the lead on an effort to acquire display cases and other artefacts to set up a permanent area in the legion. Anyone with artefacts or interested in making a financial donation can call Dan Taylor, Curator, at 724-1276. 

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