The Beginning of Haliburton’s Villages (1848-1860)
In 1848, a survey line crossed the Gull River and a few rough cabins owned by fur traders gave the new Gull River village its start. Five years later, on the site of a summer camp originally used by First Nations people, the Dickson Lumber Company built a one-room outpost from hand-hewn white pine logs and began scouting the area for timber.
In 1857 Francis Kent became the first farmer to settle in Gull River. His land was located northeast of the village on the present site of the Minden fairgrounds. His wife Catherine joined him the following year as additional settlers began arriving. John Noice drove teams of oxen to haul two wagons filled with his family and goods to his land located on the north side of the river, west of the survey line and close to present-day Highway 118. Since there was no bridge, a ferry boat was used at that time to cross the river with a system of ropes and pulleys.
Four fur trappers and three farmers left Gull River in 1858. They paddled their canoes to the lake at the top of the Kashagawigamog chain now known as Head Lake. There they built log cabins and began clearing the land. During the next two years, the farmers brought their families to join them. Although the settlement had no recorded name at the time, this was the start of Haliburton village.
That same year, Provincial Land Surveyor James W. Fitzgerald left Fenelon Falls with a party of 12 men. After two weeks and 11 portages, they reached a base camp close to Moore’s Falls. Before starting the survey, he recorded a number of observations. “There are several valuable mill sites on this River (Gull), the land along its west shore as well as along Moore’s Lake is all nearly occupied by squatters…The land about the shores of Gull Lake although very rough is being fast taken up by squatters…The whole west front and part of the East of Gull River from the head of this lake to the long portage probably five miles is either occupied by actual squatters or claimed by persons not yet on the land…” 1.
From July through September, lands that would become Lutterworth, Anson and Minden townships were surveyed into concessions and 100-acre county lots by Fitzgerald’s party. (Each lot was 20 chains wide by 50 chains deep—a chain is 66 feet—or 1320 feet wide by 3380 feet deep.)
Lutterworth Township was named after an English market town in Leicestershire. Anson was named to honour a famous British admiral. Minden was named by the British Commissioner of Crown Lands to commemorate the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Battle of Minden, which took place in 1769 near a town on the Weese River in Germany. During the fierce battle, British forces defeated a much larger French army.
In the spring of 1859, the villagers of Gull River were granted permission to change their settlement’s name to Minden. On June 3 that year, the Kents’ first daughter was born. Mary was the first of the settlers’ babies to be born in the village, and her portrait can be seen today on the front wall of the Minden post office.
The Bobcaygeon Colonization Road reached Minden that summer and lots on both sides of the Gull River officially went on sale. This caused a surge of homesteaders and rapid growth. A crude wooden bridge was built across the Gull River. Bobcaygeon Road became the village’s Main Street, with the east side in Minden Township and the west side in Anson.
The first business to open was a general store operated by Thomas Young. The second business was Buck’s Hotel, a tavern and hotel opened by Daniel Buck in a shanty (a crudely built log shack) to service the Bobcaygeon Road construction workers. Since beer was too difficult to handle due to volume and lack of refrigeration, the tavern sold hard liquor by the glass with no ice or mix. In those days, whiskey cost about 20 cents a gallon. A post office was set up in the hotel and Daniel became Minden’s first postmaster. Hugh Workman, the village’s original mail courier, arrived on horseback every Friday from Bobcaygeon.
In September, a shanty on the west side of Bobcaygeon Road on the southern bank of the Gull River was used as a temporary schoolhouse for children living within a four-mile radius or School Section (S.S.). Classed as a union school, it was designated S.S. #6 Minden and S.S. #1 Anson. The children attended from homes within a four-mile radius. The school was located beside Buck’s Hotel and Daniel Buck was one of its first trustees. Daniel was not only well-known in the village; he also played a major role in its early development. His portrait can also be seen today on the front wall of Minden post office.
In the fall of 1859, construction began on the Cameron Colonization Road heading north from Fenelon Falls. The road went through Coboconk and Norland, and by 1872 it had reached the small village of Moore’s Falls where a sturdy, wooden bridge was constructed to cross over the Gull River. Cameron Road continued on through Miner’s Bay and ended at Bobcaygeon Road about a kilometer and a half south of Minden. In 1937, it became part of Highway 35.
In 1860, a block of 10 townships northeast of Minden was surveyed to extend the northern border of Peterborough County. The block (which became the future Dysart et al) was sold the following year to the British-owned Canadian Land and Emigration Company for $192,000. The company intended to lease most of the land to logging companies and sell any suitable farmland to settlers. Thomas Chandler Haliburton (a judge, politician, and international best-selling author from Nova Scotia who moved to London, England and became a member of Parliament) was the company chairman. The block of land and small village by Head Lake were named after him.
- Muskoka and Haliburton, 1615-1875, A Collection of Documents by Florence B. Murray.