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INTERPRETATION OF NIPISSING ROAD AIR PHOTOGRAPHS

SEGUIN FALLS AIR PHOTO: The main north-south road is the Old Nipissing Road. The main east-west line is the old Ottawa-Arnprior & Parry Sound Railway constructed by J.R. Booth in the 1890s. The railroad is currently the public-access Seguin Trail. Along the railroad are numerous sheds and siding buildings that no longer exist. On the west side of the Old Nipissing Road just north of the tracks you can pick out the King George Hotel, which still stands as a private residence. The old school house, also still standing, is the next prominent building to the north. On the opposite side of the street one of the cabins in the picture still stands. The Seguin River flows from the lower right corner to the upper left corner of the picture, with the white section two kilometres north of town representing the original falls that the town was named after (the town being relocated in the 1890s so that it would be next to the railroad). For more information you should visit the Ontario Abandoned Places Website.

Seguin Falls as it appeared in an 1879 survey map, some forty years before the air photo was taken.


DUFFERIN BRIDGE AIR PHOTO: The main north-south road is the Old Nipissing Road. The road branching to the west runs roughly along the border between Spence and Monteith townships, with what is likely the old hotel and post office standing on the east side of the Nipissing Road north of the intersection (just south of where the road appears to split). Dufferin Bridge seems to have been a fluid geographic entity, since settlers who supposedly operated stores there owned property halfway to Seguin Falls in the south (The Guelph Lumber Company) and a third of the way to Spence in the north (Sam Plumtree). Even still, there wasn't much left of the town by the late 1920s, and nothing today but two graveyards and some linear lumps of earth where the hotel stood. For a more thorough story of Dufferin Bridge visit the Ontario Abandoned Places Website.

Dufferin Bridge as it appeared in an 1879 survey map, some forty years before the air photo was taken.


MAGNETAWAN AIR PHOTO: The main north-south road crossing the swing bridge at centre is the Old Nipissing Road. The river flowing through town is the Magnetawan River. The old lock can be seen just east of town, still allowing steam boats to navigate all the way to Burk's Falls some 30km away (service finally ceased in the 1930s). The grid of the ambitious town plan (at left) is apparent in the photo, although the village has yet to grow into it. Of note is the fact that the commercial centre of the town has shifted to the north of the river between the plan (1879) and the photograph (late 1920s), possibly because more fertile lands to the north were bringing more business from that direction. The sawmill on the plan that straddles one of the chutes of the river (south of the island to the east of town) was still standing in the 1920s but is gone today. Of all the settlements along the Old Nipissing Road, Magnetawan has been the most successful. It now has a population of roughly 300 people.

The Town Plan of Magnetawan, from an 1879 survey map. The village grew substantially with the establishment of steam navigation to Burk's Falls (on the Grand Trunk Rail line).

RYE AIR PHOTO: The main north-south road is the Old Nipissing Road. At the intersection in the air photo a cluster of buildings can be seen. The remains of these buildings are still melting into the ground, with fifteen foot trees growing out of the rotting and collapsed roofs. The old school house still stands but is quite deteriorated. The old hotel, which stood as an impressive ruin for sometime, can be seen in photographs at the Ontario Abondoned Places Website.

Rye as it was in 1990 according to a topographical map produced by the Canada Centre for Mapping (Department of Energy, Mines and Resources).

COMMANDA AIR PHOTO: The main north-south road is the Old Nipissing Road, which north of town is now called the Alsace Road. The sawmill (next to the mill pond) no longer exists, and the impressive store built up the hill from it in 1885 has been moved half a kilometre to the intersection of the east-west road north of the original town, which is now Provincial Highway 522. A thorough description (including a picture) of 19th century Commanda written by Doug Mackey has been published by Community Voices, a division of the North Bay Nugget.

Commanda as it was in 1990 according to a topographical map produced by the Canada Centre for Mapping (Department of Engergy, Mines and Resources).

COMMANDA TO ALSACE AIR PHOTO: The main north-south road is the Old Nipissing Road (called the Alsace Road now). I believe Alsace proper, with its still standing school house (a private residence), lies to the north of the photographed area. The southern edge of the photo is contiguous with the top end of the Commanda photograph. I like how the picture shows the arable land abrubtly stopping a couple hundred metres from the road, a nasty surprise for the early settlers.

The Alsace Rd. as it was in 1990, according to a topographical map produced by the Canada Centre for Mapping (Deptartment of Energy, Mines and Resources).

CONCLUSIONS: The Old Nipissing Road was certainly more settled in the 1880s than it is now, but the shanty towns and temporary structures errected by the first settlers were mostly gone by the 1920s, a mere forty years on. Where the road crossed a waterway or railroad capable of carrying timber down from the hinterland (and providing water-power or coal to run the sawmills) the settlements seemed to last longer, if not thrive. Only where larger tracts of land were agriculturally viable, north of Magnetawan and north of Commanda, was any townscape sustained. Without resources and efficient transportation, the remainder of the settlements quickly faded away.


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