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Falkenburg

History

Town site photo

Derelict sawmill

©Copyright: Susan Foster

Falkenburg was located on the Muskoka Road which was yet another branch of the Ontario Road Colonization Program first launched in 1854. The goal of the program was to encourage settlement and agriculture in the underdeveloped northern regions as well as providing roads and supply centres to the lumber industry which was heavily active in the area. Settlers were eligible to apply for title to the land after they had resided on the property for five years, had at least 12 acres under cultivation and had built a house at least 10 X 18 feet

Construction of the Muskoka Road began with great fanfare in 1859. The Muskoka Road was by far the most ambitious undertaking of the entire program. The road took 16 years to complete and when opened stretched 210 kilometres from Severn Bridge to the city of North Bay. However government officials were slow to react to changes brought about by the arrival of the railways and when finished, the road was largely useless.

Falkenburg was one of the first communities along the Muskoka Road to begin attracting residents. During those early days when railways were nothing more than a dream, Falkenburg, located on the southern and more accessible portion of the route, quickly emerged as an up and coming community. The first settlers arrived in 1862 and included Edwin Griffin, Sidney Tibbs and Samuel Holditch. In 1863, twenty-six year old William Holditch had opened the first post office. Matthias Moore, another newcomer from England, sensed a potential lumber boom in the area and quickly built a saw and shingle mill. In 1872, Moore took over as postmaster, a position he held until his death in 1893.

In the early 1870s, Falkenburg was being described as community with "almost unlimited manufacturing potential." This was due to its proximity to the Muskoka River which offered a great source of waterpower potential. Although the majority of Falkenburg's residents listed their occupation as farming, the village also included a carpenter, Robert Miller, a shoemaker, David Galloway, a plasterer, William Brown and a blacksmith, John Jackson. A Methodist Church, Orange Hall and a school, S.S. No 3 Macaulay, were added around 1870.

By the mid 1880s, Falkenburg was a small but busy community with a population of about 60. The village included two hotels, one owned by Stephen Fisk and the other by Mrs. Mary Moffat. In addition to the hotels, Edward Hay had opened a store, and a new Anglican church had been added. Moore's sawmill was buzzing away, producing lumber, bark, cordwood and railway ties. Stages ran daily between Bracebridge and Parry Sound. The original schoolhouse, a small wooden structure located on Lot 4, Concession 11, was replaced with a new frame structure in 1887.

Unfortunately Falkenburg's days of success were severly numbered. The Muskoka Road, which only a few years earlier had brought growth and prosperity to the region, was quickly supplanted in importance by arrival of the GTR in the early 1890s. Rather than locating in the original village, the railway chose to build a satellite village a few kilometres south, which they named Falkenburg Station. The railway was an immediate success and businesses quickly began to gravitate southward to be closer to both the station and the shipping facilities. By 1892, Falkenburg Station already boasted two sawmills and a general store. As the Muskoka Road gradually fell into disuse, the writing was on the wall for Falkenburg, the parent community. The station village boomed and the older village died.

Falkenburg's post office was closed in 1894 following the death of long time postmaster, Matthias Moore. The school lasted until 1938. Today, very little remains of the original town site. The ruins of a sawmill, of later vintage than Matthias Moore's, lie on the west side of the town site. With the addition of a few newer homes, the village continues to support a few residents and survives as a rural backwater. The old Muskoka Road later found new life as Highway 11.