Station foundations©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko
Hiram and George Cook were both looking for a suitable site to establish a sawmill. They finally found a small site in 1882 which they named Cook's Mills. By 1896 Cook's Mills was a self-sufficient town of 350 residents, complete with a small company store, a dozen or so homes and large bunkhouses. The first post office opened in 1885 and was known as Serpent River until 1889 when it took the village's name.
The Waldie Brothers, Fred, Robert, and William, purchased the entire operation in 1895. The following year they renamed the village Spragge, after the township. Around 1904 the brothers decided to close the mill at the Spragge site and employed men to cut and float timber down stream to converge in Spragge. The timber was then amassed in massive booms and towed out across the Georgian Bay to Victoria Harbour.
The McFadden and Malloy Co. purchased and reorganized the mill in 1913. As a tax dodge, they created a crude pipe system to heat the entire town using the mills' boilers. By 1926 the population stood at 300. The town consisted of two dozen or so workers' cabins, a store, combination poolroom/ice cream parlour, school, hotel, bunkhouse, company buildings and a railway station. Although McFadden maintained a principal residence at the mill site, he chose to summer in a 20-room summer residence he had built up in the hills.
Unfortunately the mill closed in 1932, a victim of the depression. In September of the same year the lumberyard caught on fire and a western wind began to fan it towards the town. Since there was no firefighting equipment on hand, residents were left to scuttle about whatever belongings they could into a CPR boxcar that promptly left town. By the afternoon around 75 per cent of the towns' structures lay in ashes spelling immediate death for the town. The mill ironically survived. Many individuals, already on relief following the mills' closure, were now hit with the double whammy of finding themselves both unemployed and homeless. They simply left town.
The McFaddens helped move some of the company buildings to Nestorville where many of Spragge's residents relocated. However some folks remained in Spragge and built new cabins in the hope the mill would reopen and better times would return. It was to no avail. The following year, the mill also fell victim to fire, gutting the structure thoroughly and dashing the hopes of all who remained.
In order to collect on its insurance claim, McFadden ended up rebuilding the mill. However since the job was only done for insurance purposes, there were no restrictions on how it was rebuilt. The job was done both hurriedly and poorly and the mill never did reopen. Gradually the houses were moved, or torn down.
Eventually the mill was dismantled and sold off. Today no more than a dozen houses lie between the two signs announcing Spragge. None of these are original, nor do they stand on the original old Spragge town site. The post office remains in operation.