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Franklin

History

Town site photo

Franklin's main road

©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko

Franklin, a once promising village, was located in Durham County near township line of Cavan. It had its beginnings in the early 1850s after Francis Lynn set up a sawmill on top what is now the Bethany Ski Hills. Within a short period of time, families began to congregate around the mill and the small community was born.

The first log schoolhouse was built at the top of Devil's Elbow, the highest hill near the boundary of the two townships. The location was terrible but presumably it was chosen for the convenience of the families who worked at the mill. The school was typical of most schools from that period - in short, very primitive. The students sat side by side on long planks with a slightly higher plank in front for their slates. In that respect the school was a little better most in that students actually had a place to write, rather than using the back of the student in front of them.

The first teacher was William Morrow, whose teaching style involved parading around the room, snapping a hickory stick with military precision. Corporal punishment reigned supreme and anyone who stepped slightly out of line could expect a good, hard whack. In later years Morrow upped the ante by exchanging the hickory stick for a whip. Since the school didn't have a bell, noon hour was announced to the tune of three whip strokes on the door.

As more settlers arrived in the area, it didn't take long for the school to become severely overcrowded. Moreover the settlers also began to realize that the school was situated in a bad location. Since the same could be said for the sawmill, it was decided to relocate both to the foot of the hill, where people would not have to endure the steep climb up the hill or be exposed to winds and other unpleasant elements at the higher altitude.

The new school, completed in 1864, was built on the 11th concession on land purchased from James Fallis. It was a small red brick building with three windows on each side. Attendance topped 90 pupils during the winter months. The change in venue however did not result in a change of teaching methods and the hickory stick continued to set the standard for classroom behaviour.

In later years music and singing were introduced by one of the teachers, James McMullen, who later became a Methodist minister. Musical training focused on volume, rather than melody or tone. Students were duly praised for singing loud, rather than well. Christmas concerts were held every year and proved to be a seasonal highlight for the parents.

Franklin's first church was a small log building, located near the first schoolhouse. This 'church' was more of a non-denominational meeting-house, where people could hold services in groups or worship on their own. In later years Franklin boasted two churches, Wesleyan Methodist and Bible Christian.

There was a fierce rivalry between the Methodists and Bible Christians. One particularly memorable event involved a group of young men from the Bible Christians cutting all the sills beneath the Methodist church. Fuelled by several rounds of alcoholic refreshments at the nearby tavern, one of the young men became rather loose lipped and blurted out the rather tawdry details of this little piece of vandalism. Fortunately repairs were made before any serious damage took place.

Franklin got a big boost following the construction of the Midland Railway (later GTR) in 1856-57. A small station was built just north of the new schoolhouse. By the mid 1860s, the community was booming. Industries included the sawmill, now run by Russell and Argue, a flour and grist mill, run by Mr. Farr, and a shingle mill, owned by William Armstrong and Elias Brook, and later Morrow and Graham. Franklin's population surged to 100.

In 1863 William Maguire opened a post office in his busy general store. Maguire was a "Jack of All Trades." He sold life insurance for London and Lancaster Life, served as a justice of peace, and was also listed as the town coroner. Other trades included two boot and shoemakers, John Hall and Thomas Raecroft, four carpenters, a cabinet maker, James Fowler, a weaver, J. Reid, and two taverns owned by Ellinor Mulligan and Henry Woods. James Heaslip was the town blacksmith. In 1871 Thomas Staples opened a wagon shop. By 1875 James Lytle took over the hotel/tavern, known as the Franklin House.

By the 1880s the mills had closed and Franklin shifted over to an agricultural centre, with Robert Touchburn as the local grain dealer. Joseph Hadden took over the general store and post office and Joseph Britton opened a new general store alongside his blacksmith shop. Carpenters included William Ball and Wesley Jones. Telegraph service arrived at the GTR station. Of particular interest were John McCory and his stumping machine. This mechanized stump removal equipment was the first of its kind in the area and residents were thrilled to watch how quickly McCrory removed about 30 large tree stumps that were scattered throughout the schoolyard. Livery service was added to the hotel around 1895.

In 1900 Henry Tripp took over the general store and post office. In later years, Tripp's grandson wrote about the thrill he had as a young child when he was finally allowed to carry mail bags back and forth from the train. He had many fond memories of his grandfather's store which included a room large enough for square dances and an outdoor skating rink, often used for winter skating parties and carnivals. The rink would be decked out with Chinese lanterns for the skaters, who arrived in brightly coloured costumes all ready for the night's festivities.

Telephone arrived in Franklin in 1911. Dr. T.B. Brereton, an enterprising innovator, set up a line in nearby Fleetwood that ran through his Franklin to his office in Bethany. He was followed later that year by Dr. J.J. Hamilton who began setting up a rural telephone system in Manvers and Cavan townships. The timing was fortunate. Tragically Dr, Brereton lost his life in a fire that destroyed both his home and office in December 1911. Once the system was in place, demand for service skyrocketed. This led to the formation of The Mutual Telephone System in 1915. In 1921 all the independent telephone lines were amalgamated as the Manvers Municipal Telephone System, which was absorbed by Bell Canada in 1969.

Fleetwood had been badly hampered in its growth after the railway was established in Franklin. By the early teens, the tables had turned. Around 1913 the CPR built a small flag station about halfway between Fleetwood and Franklin. Although this line was used primarily for shipping produce, it was busy and profitable for many years.

The GTR in the meantime was in serious financial trouble after its failure to successfully expand into western Canada. By 1923 the company was heavily indebted to the Canadian government and nationalized under the newly formed Canadian National Railway (CN). CN, which was comprised of a number of other lines besides the GTR, immediately began the task of consolidating its holdings and closing down many of the smaller lines that were not profitable. The axe fell on Franklin in 1928. From that point on Franklin fell into a steep decline from which it was never able to recover.

Today there is virtually nothing left of the original town site. The Bible Christian church was closed and demolished at an early unknown date. The Methodist church was closed in 1931 and the building later demolished. The post office closed in 1932 due to limited usefulness. The school lasted until December 31, 1969, when it finally closed, due to declining attendance. The building was torn down some time after that. The original log schoolhouse on top of the hill was purchased by the Devil's Elbow Ski Club and converted to a chalet. Other than empty lots and a few rural homes, there are no reminders left of this once vibrant community.