The post officeSource: Private Collector
Pickerel was a small lumbering community that got its start during the heady days of the Georgian Bay lumber industry. The area served as a strategic booming point, for saw logs that were floated down to the Georgian Bay and onward to Southern Ontario's busy mills.
Prior to the arrival of rails, Bob Mowers built a house and operated a store that serviced the local jobbers, log drivers and later railway men. In 1908, the Canadian Northern Ontario Railway (later CN) finally reached the site. The station was completed and operational by 1910. Later on a second store run by A.S. McConnell was opened.
In the early 20's the Ministry of Natural Resources built a fire tower, along with a warden's office and home. A post office was established on June 1st 1926. John Warren opened a third store nearby the Pickerel River. It would house the post office from 1930 until the store's closure in 1969. Warren's store had a dock, small boathouse and boat. The boat was used to bring in supplies from the outside. This boathouse also served as a church where monthly mass was conducted by Father Ryan. In the early 40's, CN employees organized the "CNR Rod and Gun Club" and built approximately 14 cabins on the west side of the rail bridge.
During the summertime, social activities were concentrated in a large building known as "the hall." The hall became a popular place for regular dances and get-togethers. Beside the club stood Manford York's lodge and store, named "Yorkie." York also ran a water taxi service during the summer. A Mr. Smith operated a small sawmill from the 1920's to the late 1940's. Later on, he opened a restaurant and a string of homes quickly lined the half-mile road.
As a result of all the new growth and activity, a schoolhouse was added. Teachers such as Amelia Rutledge, Lulu Weatherland, and Mr. Taylor taught from grades one to eight. Forty pupils were enrolled by 1940. When the Key Junction school closed in 1948, those children were transferred to this location. A mere two years later the schoolhouse burnt down and classes wandered about in different buildings, until a new one was erected in 1960. Ironically it was shut down approximately six months later.
Surprisingly even after the mill was silenced, the station closed, and the fire tower dismantled in 1956, many residents remained. In 1956 there were still 77 permanent residents and 66 still remained five years later. The population eventually dropped to nothing.
Today Pickerel functions mainly as a summer hideaway for cottagers. John Warren's descendants still own property in the area. The former Rod and Gun Club has been renovated and is now a private club known as the Pickerel River Lodge. Many of the summer dwellers are people who grew up in the area and still maintain deep ties to the community.