Ruins of a home©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko
All that's left of Pakesley is a tiny group of ramshackle houses, huddled along the railway track, some still partially in use. It's a far cry from the days when the lumber industry was king and Pakesley served as the major junction point for lumber arriving from the Key Valley Railway (KVR) in Lost Channel.
Pakesley started out as a sleepy little whistle stop after the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) strung it its line from Toronto to Sudbury in 1912. The CPR established as a small section village and freight station for disembarking lumbermen and goods. Following the completion of the KVR from Lost Channel to Pakesley in 1919, the Schroeder Lumber Company established a large lumber yard. Pakesley grew to become an important satellite village for the lumber operations situated at Lost Channels.
As early as 1917 when construction commenced on the KVR, a store opened which included a post office, manned by James Ludgate. After the railway's completion the lumber yard was finished and included several miles of track. Terminal facilities were also established for the five Shay locomotives which included a water tank, coal chute, wye, and an engine shed. The site contained three boarding houses, a cookery, two office buildings, stables, warehouse, and an ice house. At its height no less than two daily train runs brought the sawed lumber to be stored and dried. The yards could contain well over 50 million board feet of lumber. The KVR even instituted a 12-place Jitney to shuttle small freight consignments and passengers.
A number of workers built their homes near the railway station and brought their families. In no time small school and two-storey hotel were erected. Amedee Dupuis opened her popular and well patronized restaurant called Middy's. The Department of Lands and Forests even established a watch tower, and ranger station. In 1924 Pakesley had reached its zenith containing about 150 residents and nearly 30 structures. To reflect this new prosperity, the CPR added a larger seven-room station that same year.
Unfortunately Pakesleys days of glory were short lived. In 1935 the mill at Lost Channel, which by then was owned by James Playfair and the Pakesley Lumber Company, had declined considerably because of the depression and finally closed. By 1936 Pakesley's yards contained 40 million board feet of unsold lumber which was eventually liquidated at a fraction of its cost. The KVR also closed and removed its tracks. Most residents left except for a few souls, and gradually the settlement dwindled.
The hotel was the first to close, followed by the post office in 1950, and then the store. Although the post office reopened in 1954 it finally closed for good two years later. By 1958 the watch tower was closed, replaced by aerial surveillance, and the CPR section removed. In 1971 the CPR station was torn down. No one remained to salute its departure. Today three original homes, now cottages, a shell and foundations, are all that remains of a once prosperous community.