The Growth of Minden (1871-1893)
According to the Peterborough County Directory, the approximate populations in 1871 for the following townships were: Minden 850, Dysart 500, Anson 340, Lutterworth 280, Guilford 15.
The Anglican Diocese of Toronto appropriated 10 acres from the north end of Reverend Burt’s farm in 1873, and opened the Minden Cemetery for the use of all residents of the village. Before that time, people had been buried in small family plots on their own properties.
Minden’s one-room log school was replaced with a three-room, wood-framed schoolhouse. It was built on the site where the present elementary school now stands. In 1884, a small addition was made for a Model School, which operated for twenty-three years and provided four-month programs for its students to earn teaching certificates.
Like the towns of the old west, a series of hitching posts lined both sides of Minden’s Main Street to accommodate shoppers who travelled to town by horse. When the earliest recorded flood in Minden happened in the spring of 1874, Main Street was covered with so much water that people arrived in canoes, which they tied to the hitching posts. Later that year, The Minden News published its first issue on July 23. (The News replaced The Minden Herald, the town’s first newspaper of which nothing is known but its name.) Two years later, The Minden News was printing four pages per issue with a circulation of about 600.
In 1874, Peterborough County refused to pay a bonus to the Victoria Railway so that it would build and operate a rail line from Lindsay to Haliburton village. As a result, the townships of Lutterworth, Anson, and Hindon (from Victoria County) joined with 20 of Peterborough’s northern townships (including Minden) to form the Provisional County of Haliburton.
As a county, the unified townships now had the authority to pay the necessary bonus to Victoria Railway. In June, as compensation for being bypassed by the new rail line, Minden was chosen to be the county seat. A four-day bash was held to celebrate. In July, the new county borrowed $55,000 (it took almost 60 years to repay the loan) and granted it to the Railway. After four years of construction, the line was finished and the first train reached Haliburton village on November 23, 1948.
Bob Lake School, S.S. #7 was opened in the mid-1870’s on the south side of River Road, across from where Bob Lake Road begins today. The one-room school, which operated until 1939, was built on a hillside with a clear view of Little Bob Lake. The building is now a private house on Learner’s Lane and completely surrounded by forest.
The first of Minden’s three major fires destroyed most of the downtown core on March 17, 1879. It is believed that the fire started in Pearce’s General Store, then spread down the west side of Main Street before jumping to the other side of the street. Since there was no fire department, the wooden buildings burned fiercely and quickly. There were no injuries reported in the fire, but two days later Dr. Curry’s wife died of what was probably smoke inhalation.
In December, the County of Haliburton annexed five additional townships into the municipality of Dysart et al.
By 1883, Minden Township had 244 ratepayers, Anson had 72 and Lutterworth had 138.
The dirt wagon roads used by local farmers heading north from Moore’s Falls (on the west side of the Gull River and Lake) and south from the village of Minden were joined in 1884 to form Haliburton County Road 2. The southern section was called Lutterworth Road, the northern section in Minden village was known as Orde Street, and the connecting section was called Gull River Road (or River Road). As the number of number of cars and trucks increased during the next twenty-five years, the wagon road become a gravel bush road.
In December of 1885, black diphtheria raged through Haliburton and almost half of the children in the county died during the winter months that followed. John Welch, one of Minden’s blacksmiths, was also a carpenter. He made so many coffins during the plague that he became the town’s first undertaker. His shop was located on the site where Monk’s Funeral Home is seen today.
Minden’s downtown was completely rebuilt following the 1879 fire. Early in the morning of July 29, 1890, the second of Minden’s major fires struck. It is believed to have started in a pile of old oil rags in the back of the Curry pharmacy building. Since there was still no fire department, residents used buckets of water to douse the buildings on the east side of Main Street and were able to contain the fire to the west of the road. The doctor’s office, pharmacy and town library (all of which were located in the same building), Noice’s General Store, Dominion House, the post office, John H. Delamere Private Bank, and the Echo newspaper and printing office were all destroyed. There was only one injury, which occurred when Dr. Curry jumped from his roof to escape the flames.
Following the fire, James Thompson, the new owner of Dominion House, built the structure that still stands today. He renamed it Dominion Hotel and Tavern. Not only is it the oldest building in downtown Minden, it is also one of the oldest hotels still operating in Ontario.
In 1893, Thomas Ranson was hired to construct a large, wood-framed building at the corner of Newcastle Street and Bobcaygeon Road. Fifteen years later, he bought the building and officially opened the Ranson House Hotel. It was later renamed Valley View Inn and then Rockcliffe Hotel.