The Dittman cabin, demolished in 2007©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko
Murphy Corners was an early pioneer settlement located on the failed Hastings Road. It was named after James and Pat Murphy, who settled on the southeast corner of the crossroads. The small settlement served a brief but important function as a mill town.
The Hastings Road was first opened in 1854 as part of the government's road colonization program. The program was designed to attract settlement in the under populated areas further north, and to encourage agriculture. The government was also under pressure from the lumbering industry, to provide roads and settlements where they could obtain food and provisions and set up sawmills for the newly harvested timber.
Once the lumbering companies began moving in, A. L. Purdy jumped on the opportunity and opened a sawmill. Situated a few kilometres north of Thanet, Murphy Corners was in an ideal location to serve the milling needs of the surrounding communities. By 1860, the tiny community had grown to include a school. A church was added in 1870. Prior to 1870, Roman Catholic services were held in Martin Murphy's home.
The Hasting Road was one of the most notable failures of the road colonization program. Plagued by poor construction and lack of maintenance, the road had fallen into a serious state of disrepair by the late 1860s. Once the woods were cleared, and the lumber barons gone, the settlers discovered that farming the rocky swamps of upper Hastings was a near impossibility. In the early 1870s, the government opened the rich farmlands of the Canadian prairies and many of the farmers headed out west. The arrival of the Central Ontario Railway in 1883 rendered the Hastings Road obsolete. One-by-one the small communities began to fail as settlers abandoned their lands in search of better opportunities. Murphy Corners faded along with them.
Unlike most of the failed communities along the Hastings Road, Murphy Corners still has a few relics left to show. The original Murphy home still stands along with an old gas station, that was closed at least 30 years ago. A log cabin, once owned by H. Dittman, stood until 2007. All that remains of Murphy Corners' sister community Thanet, five kilometres north, is the cemetery.