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Scotia Junction

History

Town site photo

The GTR train yards and station, ca. 1910

©Copyright: National Archives PA-020594

The story of Scotia starts with the beginning of Perry Township. Around 1873 David Gilbrith and William Slorach surveyed the township so the government could extend its colonization program farther north through the Parry Sound district. Slorach became so attached to the township that he came back to homestead in the area. By 1875 Slorach had cleared an acre on the banks of a shallow lake and within a few short years became well established. He successfully petitioned the government for a post office in 1876 to service a number of emerging farms and became its first postmaster. By 1879 a small mill was in operation in Scotia and the area nearly counted a dozen farmsteads.

While Slorach poured his sweat and blood into his acreage, the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) was also surveying a line north to North Bay. By 1885 they had arrived at Slorach's little lake. The surveyors were initially annoyed that the line would have to make an expensive detour to circumvent the lake. Engineers were sent to see if a cheaper solution could be found. Luckily however, the problem was quickly resolved by blasting a small notch in a rock to allow the water to drain through Ragged Rapids. To the surveyors this was a great victory, but to Slorach it was a heart-wrenching experience to watch his lifetime's work literally going down the drain. A dirty swamp had replaced his beloved lake.

The line was finally pushed north and the railway established stations and sections at regular intervals. The GTR established a section, complete with a station and siding in the same area where Slorach had set up his homestead. A small town plot was laid out, and Scotia quickly boomed to the status of a small railway hamlet. By 1890, the community included a general store, inn, blacksmith shop, school, church, and nearly 100 residents. Slorach ran the village's first post office from 1876 - 1880. By the close of the decade much land was cleared in the region and Scotia was now the hub of a small agricultural and timbering area.

In the meantime, John R. Booth saw an opportunity to consolidate his timber holdings by creating the shortest grain route from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic ports. To put his plans in motion, Booth acquired the defunct railway charter of the Parry Sound Colonization Railway and built a line from Ottawa to Depot Harbour closer to Parry Sound. Two rail gangs built from each end and eventually met Scotia in 1899. Scotia Station had grown up to become Scotia Junction and an inevitable boom quickly followed.

By the turn of the twentieth century the village of Scotia was experiencing unparalleled growth and prosperity. By 1905 the settlement had grown by leaps and bounds and contained the Canadian Atlantic (CAR) rail yard, a new turreted station, as well as additional houses for railway employees of the CAR and GTR. The previous year the GTR had purchased the CAR line and now ran the entire network. The settlement also added a number of new shops and enterprises. Three hotels were built to accommodate passenger traffic, the grandest being the Albinion Hotel that was three stories high. By this time the population had grown to nearly 400 residents.

Although Scotia profited from the boom, the GTR had overextended itself by purchasing branch lines, such as CAR. In order to compete with the CPR, the GTR had entered a massive building campaign to create a second transcontinental railway. In 1914 the First Great War began, and rationing of steel, along with labour shortages, were the norm. By the end of the war the cost of building the line left the GTR in serious financial trouble. Finally in 1923, the Canadian National picked up the pieces of the GTR, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, and a number of other bankrupt lines. For Scotia this meant a slow but steady decline.

In 1912 the first pieces had begun to unravel. When the attractive turreted station burnt down, it was replaced with a far more simple structure. By war's end, business had dried up and by 1920 Scotia's main street looked more ghostly than bustling. The little village's commerce had dwindled down to two stores and one hotel. Scotia was already in serious decline when it was hit with one final blow. In 1933 a washout at the Cache Lake severely damaged a bridge. It was not repaired ending rail traffic on the CAR forever. By 1955 the line had been lifted from James Bay Junction all the way to Cache Lake.

Today four original homes are all that remain of the village site. Scotia is now more or less a rural settlement of 60 residents, while the village plot contains no more than a dozen residents.