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Lost Channel

History

Town site photo

Shell of a building

©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko

Lost Channel still exists, mainly as a summer lodge. The former Lost Channel bunkhouse now offers fishing, hunting, boating and the enticing opportunity to choose your own native, baby Massasauga rattler, from the rattlesnake enclosure displayed prominently at the entranceway.

Lost Channel's unusual name came about when "Black Jack" Kennedy accidentally boomed timber in a little bay which he named Lost Channel. A small dock, a steamboat named Douglas, and warehouse, owned by Captain Edgar Walter, serviced the area for all travellers, jobbers, and log drivers.

Things began to pick up in 1914, when the Lauder, Spears and Howland Company built a small sawmill near the water site. Transportation through the bush trail to the nearest railway siding was difficult and hazardous, to say the least. The only way to move the lumber was to haul it along a rough tote road to the siding at Mowat, located 20 kilometres south. In order to remain competitive, the company decided to build a small rail line that would connect with the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) mainline at the Pakesley Siding, located 16 kilometres west. Plans were drawn up for the Key Valley Railway and construction began in 1914.

Unfortunately the Howland Company ran out of money before the rail line was completed. In 1917, they were finally forced to sell the mill and all the timber limits to the Schroeder Mills and Timber Company, an American firm based in Wisconsin. The head of Canadian operations was James Ludgate, who went on to establish his own mill in a nearby community that went on to bear his name.

Schroeder Mills continued the expansion efforts and went on to complete the Key Valley Railway. They built an entirely new worker's village that included new bunkhouses, a dozen cabins for workers with families, a school, a small hospital, cookery and a general store. Another 35 homes were added later. However time was running out. By 1927 the timber limits were seriously depleted and it was no longer economical to operate the mill. Schroeder sold out to James Playfair who changed the company name to the Pakesley Lumber Company and switched operations to concentrate mainly on hemlock, spruce and jack pine.

Playfair was able to make a go of things for a while and was shipping over 150,000 board feet per day from September to December. Unfortunately tragedy struck on November 1, 1930 when a fire broke out in the rail shop and quickly spread to the mill, destroying it. Playfair managed to rebuild the mill before the new timber season however by 1933, he decided the operation was no longer viable and shut it down. The golden age of lumbering in the Georgian Bay had finally come to a close.

The mill was later dismantled and sold for scrap. By 1940, the village was completely abandoned. Today the remains of the village lie hidden on the north side of the cove and rail bed, gradually being overtaken by a new forest.