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Royston

History

Town site photo

The schoolhouse from around 1971, now used as a seasonal cottage.

After lumbering began around the Magnetewan River in the early 1860's, small frontier settlements quickly sprang up to serve the burgeoning industry. Post offices were opened in small hamlets and villages, such as Magnetewan, Midlothian, Rock Hill, Starrat and Doe Lake. The Nipissing Road was surveyed and settled under the Donaldson Colonization scheme and passed through the older villages of Magnetewan and Spence effectively linking the interior lands. The Magnetewan River developed into an important navigable waterway, which expanded from Ahmic Lake to Burk's Falls, a total of around 51 kilometres (37 Miles).

Royston was nestled between Starrat and Doe Lake and eventually supplanted both communities both in importance and population. Geographically the hamlet was located at the crossroads where the Royston Road (coming from the west), met with the Government Road (running north) and the Doe Lake Road (which ran south). However the community extended as far west as the Dan Mitchell's farm, which was roughly halfway from Starrat. The northern boundary was north of the loop on the Magnetewan River, linked by a chain bridge. The southern boundary was simply set at the schoolhouse.

The first commercial enterprise to open was George Alexander's store. In 1890 Alexander added a post office. This was followed by Orange Lodge #929, which opened its doors near the Starrat border in 1894 and operated for roughly a decade. By the 1890s, the community appeared quite prosperous and many of the institutions and homes were upgraded to frame construction.

The first change was the construction of a new schoolhouse in 1891 named SS#2 Ryerson. This replaced the original schoolhouse, a leaky log shack, originally built in 1881. A new Baptist church was built that same year. The Methodist followed suit in 1897, while the Presbyterians established a third church. The era of prosperity for Royston was short lived however. The sons left for First Great War and did not return, preferring Burk's Falls or other larger centres instead.

The first casualty was the school, which closed around 1918. After that, children were bused to school in Burk's Falls. There were still two general stores open in 1925, one owned by Art Alexander, and the other by George Todd. The post office was situated in Art's store and closed in 1923, replaced with a rural mail route. Presbyterians and Methodists joined hands and formed the United Church, erecting yet another structure in 1925.

During the 1920s, the population gradually began to thin out in search of greener pastures. The hardship of the Great Depression in the 1930s accelerated the trend. The old Presbyterian Church was torn down in 1930. After the United Church closed in 1937, the lumber was auctioned off. The Baptist church was the last to go, finally disbanding in 1943. The structure burnt down around 1952.

During the seventies, the last home to house the post office was still standing while two to three other structures were still used. Near Younger's Landing, some structures, shells and overgrown foundations continue to lurk about. Also remaining are foundations and some lumber from Shea's Mill. The Doe Lake Road was realigned to the left of the hamlet's site, where two to three homes were still occupied.