Figure 1: Coldwater Road. Early 1900’s
In the years 1869-1872, Anson G. Phelps Dodge, an American entrepreneur, arrived to buy and expand nine lumber mills around Georgian Bay. The Dodge mills were incorporated in three companies, including the Georgian Bay Lumber Company, with the headquarters and the largest of the mills located in Waubaushene.
Workers flowed in from Ontario, Quebec and the U.S. Mill workers made approximately twenty five to thirty five dollars per month; many of those hired where French-Canadians with experience as bush workers or in operating saws and steam vessels. In its heyday, Waubaushene numbered over 2,000 people.
The Company built boarding houses for single employees and semi-detached houses to accommodate families. Married personnel lived rent free in the company houses, but they were required to keep the places in good order, under penalty of ejection in case of negligence. Married workers whose services were not required in winter were expected to work in the lumber camps as a condition of occupying a rent-free house. Strict rules of temperance were maintained. No one could bring liquor into the village or lumber camps.
Each house was surrounded by a whitewashed picket fence, all the fences of uniform height. Behind the fences lay trim lawns and attractive flower and vegetable gardens. The windows were covered with mosquito netting in the summer. The Company provided whitewash for the yearly painting of houses and picket fences, thus the nickname “White Town”.
Figure 2: Waubaushene. Looking West. c1890
The “salt-box” design house at 127 Coldwater Road is typical of Company homes built in the 1880’s for married mill-workers. The home was originally constructed of white pine planks. There are three other houses (#’s 119, 131, 135 Coldwater Road) in close proximity to this one with the same sort of construction Figure 3 Salt-box Houses 2015
Another example may be found at 235 Cherry Street. This 2-storey millworker house was built by the Georgian Bay Lumber Company c1878 and still has the original pine exterior. It was originally semi-detached in construction with two front doors and a partition down the middle.
Figure 4: 235 Cherry Street 2015
Other similar Company–built former mill-worker houses include seven other houses between 209 and 316 Cherry Street, and 6 houses between 214 and 325 Palmer Street.
The Company ceased operations and sold its properties by 1925; many were purchased by its former employees and some remain in the hands of their descendants.
For more detail on Tay heritage sites visit https://taytownshipheritage.wordpress.com
Angus, James T. A Deo Victoria: The Story of the Georgian Bay Lumber Company 1871-1942 by Severn Publications Ltd. Orillia, 1994. 320 pages. ISBN0-9694197-0-8
Tay Township Heritage Blog: https://taytownshipheritage.wordpress.com/
Tay Township Heritage Committee http://www.tay.ca/en/your-municipality/tay-heritage-committee.asp
Tay Township Heritage Register and Inventory