The Growth of Minden and Area (1930-1946)
During the late 1920s, cottaging to the south of Haliburton was growing and local logging was ending. The Department of Northern Development decided to make Haliburton a county of reservoir lakes to maintain more consistent water levels for southern cottagers and boaters. This required the construction of dams on numerous Haliburton lakes. The dams would raise water levels in the spring, and then allow the lakes to slowly drain to near original levels by October.
In the fall of 1930, a concrete dam by Rackety Falls on Little Bob Lake was constructed by the Trent Water System to replace the wooden logger’s dam previously built around 1890. On property adjacent to the dam, Rackety Ranch resort opened with a lodge building and a number of camp sites. This resort would continue to operate until the mid-1960s.
The concrete dam on Big Bob Lake, constructed in the spring of 1931, probably replaced the wooden logger’s dam previously used by the Gull River Lumber Company. Big Bob Lake became an official reservoir lake for the Trent canal system. The new dam had a significant effect on the lake’s water level, increasing both the high and low water marks. Along the shore, stumps can still be seen in areas where trees were submerged as a result of the higher water level.
In 1931, Iola Otto-Tennison bought a farm on the south side of River Road in Lutterworth Township. The logging trail, which began on the River Road in the northeastern corner of her farm, is now the cottage road that was named by the township in her honour (although spelled incorrectly). Iola’s newly renovated farmhouse is still standing at 1021 Tennyson Road. Back in the 1930s, River Road passed through the area where mailboxes are currently located, between the farmhouse and the bottom of the large hill. Her original farm included land all the way to Gull River, some of which would later become the Mistivale Road housing development. Around 1970, the county straightened the River Road by moving a section of it to the area below her house where Iola had her apple orchard.
Stinson’s mills on the Gull River were demolished in 1933 and Orillia Water, Light and Power Corporation began construction of a hydro dam. The dammed-up water just above the construction site flooded low-lying land along the Gull River to form Minden Lake. In December 1935, the hydro dam was finished. Minden began receiving electricity and the gas lanternes along Main Street were replaced with electric fixtures. Since most residents could not afford the new electricity, they continued to use their old gas lanterns for many years. Minden received electric power from the dam until 1946, when Ontario Hydro brought in a line from Bancroft and took over the supply of electricity. The dam still supplies power to Orillia.
In August 1934, Minden Hotel reopened. Located across Main Street from the Dominion Hotel, the hotel had been closed since 1919 and the building was used by various retailers. The hotel closed for the last time in 1937 and its main floor was remodelled into Easton’s Meat Market and Brintnell’s Bakery. The bakery quickly grew in popularity. Its ovens operated 24 hours a day to supply bread and baked goods to most of the lodges and stores in southern Haliburton County.
The welcome sign in this chapter’s masthead was erected in 1935 when Cameron Road was renamed Highway 35. It marked the southern boundary of the Highlands and was about one kilometer north of Miners Bay along Highway 35. The sign welcomed visitors to Haliburton until about 1970 when Highway 35 was straightened with the large, present day rock cut leading north out of Miners Bay.
In the spring of 1938, William and Erna Wunker became the owners of the Bay View Hotel. They moved their family from Ohio, renamed the hotel the Miners Bay Lodge, and slowly modernized and expanded the facilities. The lodge is still going strong today. The bird’s eye view of the lodge was taken by the famous Canadian aerial photographer Harry Oakman. Its main hall and dining room is behind the trees in the centre.
In 1939, the Valley View Inn was bought by Thomas Campbell for $5,200 and renamed the Rockcliffe Hotel and Tavern. It would later claim world-wide notoriety in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s as the main party pub in Haliburton. Younger adults, tourists and cottagers frequented the Rockcliffe, with older adults and Minden locals going to the Dominion.
Beside her office on Main Street, Dr. Jamieson opened the Minden Drug Store, the village’s first full-service pharmacy, in 1939. After a number of different owners, the store was moved to its current location in 1976 and was renamed Minden IDA. Today the store operates as Minden Pharmasave.
In 1940, Frank Welch, Minden’s funeral director, purchased the first modern Cadillac funeral coach to be used in Haliburton County.
Double-wing de Havilland Tiger Moth planes were plentiful in the skies over Minden by 1941. During World War II, the Federal Government ran a pilot-training program out of Orillia Airport. Most of the trainees were Norwegian, so the airport also became known as Little Norway. Some of the farmers on Gull Lake reported that on clear nights they could see the flashing of a revolving light on the airport’s control tower.
Both the Minden Elementary and Continuation schools were torn down in 1941 and replaced with a two-story stone building with indoor plumbing. The Continuation School used two classrooms on the top floor and the rest of the rooms were used by the Elementary School.
At three o’clock in the morning on May 15, 1942, Minden’s third major fire destroyed all of the east side of Main Street except for Smith’s Barber and Gift Shop and the telegraph office at the south end. The fire started in Brintnell’s Bakery just after its two delivery trucks had left for their morning runs. It burned down the bakery, Easton’s Meat Market, Hartle’s General Store, the Echo newspaper and printing building (losing its complete collection of back issues of the various town newspapers), the library, Taylor’s Central Garage and Gas Station, Lott’s Restaurant, the post office and the McKelvey residence. Since Minden still had no fire equipment, a bucket line from the river and a power water pump rushed in from a lodge on Boshkung Lake were used throughout the night to save the west side of the street. About 7:00 a.m., trucks from the Lindsay Fire Department arrived to put out the blaze.
Following the fire, Harry and Amy Easton rebuilt their store and added grocery items. In 1952, they changed the name of their business to Easton’s Red and White and became a full grocery store with their stepson, Bill Coneybeare, as the butcher. Their new delivery truck doubled as the town’s ambulance.
Throughout its history, the Gull River has flooded many times. Minden’s worst recorded flood happened in the spring of 1943. Minden Golf Course was heavily damaged and the downtown streets were flooded with water that rose all the way up Main Street to the steps of the Rockcliffe Hotel.
On the shores of St. Nora’s Lake at the site of an old ranger fire-tower base camp, the Ministry of Lands and Forests opened the Ontario Forest Ranger School in 1945. Situated on 912 acres, the school grew to over 30 buildings and a full-time staff of 35. (In the spring of 1970, I took a week-long orientation course there to prepare for a summer job on the Fishery Resources Inventory project.) The ranger school was closed in 1974. Renamed the Leslie M. Frost Natural Resources Centre, the complex was reopened in 1975 as an education and training centre. Closed again in 2004, the school now sits abandoned on the side of Highway 35. It was purchased by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union in 2021, and the organization intends to ‘breathe new life and purpose into the property” to serve its members and the broader community.
After serving in the Second World War, Pete and Joe Dollo began working with their older sister, Phyllis, in Haliburton village at her fruit and vegetable store. The brothers moved to Minden in 1946 and started a produce-delivery service to the lodges and cottages in the Minden area. Their business operated from a tiny store on the east side of Main Street.