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Furnace Falls

History

Town site photo

The remains of a log cabin located near the original settlement.

©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko

Furnace Falls started out as a small town site and siding, built to accommodate the nearby iron mines in Irondale. First settled in 1874, its brief history was tied to the success and subsequent demise of the Irondale mines.

The Snowdon Iron Mine officially got started in 1874. After several sporadic and unsuccessful mining attempts by a variety of individuals, Charles Pusey and his partner, H.S. Howland, partners from the U.S., were finally able to get the project off the ground by the early 1880s.

The success of Irondale mines ultimately depended on railway access. Howland and Pusey received a charter for the Toronto & Nipissing Extension Railway in 1880. Originally they intended to build a 50-mile (80 kilometre) line running east to Kinmount through an area thought to contain vast mineral reserves. However investors and money were not forthcoming and the project languished. In 1884 the project was revived and renamed the Irondale, Bancroft & Ottawa Railway. Construction finally began in the spring of 1886 and the first 10 miles (14 kilometres) running from Howland Junction to Irondale were completed in 1887. From then on construction carried on in intermittent bursts until 1896. The railway was finally halted when the track was three miles short of the Ontario Railway in Bancroft.

Furnace Falls was established as a small siding on the Irondale, Bancroft & Ottawa Railway line. It was located about halfway between Howland and Irondale. In addition to the shed sized flag station and freight siding, it included a store and smelting works. J.C. Parry, who also operated a saw and shingle mill, opened the first post office in 1883. Jeremiah Herlibrey, a carpenter, served as postmaster from 1886 until his death in 1910. In 1912, the Carr family took over the store and post office, which they operated until 1967, when it was permanently closed.

Furnace Falls' unusual name originated from the days when blast furnaces and smelters played a major part in mining operations. Blast furnaces fell out of use following a devastating fire in 1887.

Although the post office remained in operation, the tiny community itself only lasted until around 1900 when the mine shut down and the siding was removed. The population had never grown beyond 50. Nothing remains of the original community but the falls themselves, which were not located on the actual town site, remain a popular tourist attraction.