From Issue No. 79 Spring 2022 Newsletter of the Haliburton Scout Reserve Alumni Tunderbird
Driving eastward on the Kennaway Road, many first time visitors to HSR are surprised to encounter a clearing after kilo meters of forest shortly after passing through the camp boundary gate. During the history of the camp, this clearing has been referred to as “the Mill Site” as a saw mill was in operation at this location when the first section of land for the camp was purchased. But that name really only applies to relatively recent history.
Construction of the Kennaway Road commenced in the 1860’s. It was built by hand labour and primitive equipment and was completed a decade later. It was named after Sir John Kennaway, the High Sheriff of Devonshire and a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Land and Emigration Company. The road ran from Haliburton east through the village of Kennaway to Maynooth and was serviced by a stage coach in the late 1880’s. The original alignment of the Kennaway Road through HSR is shown in red on the map. The Pikes Peak Trail uses the old roadbed from behind the Maintenance area to the Mill Site. The road between the maintenance area and past the Hub is also the original roadbed.
The portion of the re-aligned Kennaway Road north of Kennabi Lake was put in by the Martin Lumber Company in the winter of 1967 to harvest timber north and east of the camp property. A decade later, the municipality assumed responsibility for the road, made significant improvements and maintains the road for three seasons each year.
The Original Settlers
There are three pioneer homesteads dating from the early 1880’s identified along the original Kennaway road within HSR boundaries. The Nellis/Pollard homestead (1) is located on both sides of the Kennaway Road where the trail leads to the Drag River Gorge and Pike’s Peak. The Speers homestead (2) is at the Mill site and the Hadley homestead (3) is further east along the original Kennaway road. All three have been marked with Kiosks as a part of the Alumni Historical Hike Project. The history of these pioneers appeared in an earlier edition of this newsletter.
The clearing at the Mill site would have been the homestead field or pasture. Evidence of the work of the early pioneers can be found in the piles of rocks on the west side of the field that were moved to create arable land. Until 2012, the structure of the original Speers barn was visible on the north side of the road but was removed as part of site reparation for a Venturer event in 2012.
The Mill Valley Lumber Company
There have been several waves of logging with HSR. White Pines were harvested between 1870 and 1890 for their value in shipbuilding. As logging became more mechanised in the early 1900’s, companies like the Laking Lumber company could harvest hardwoods and softwoods. Laking Lumber’s Depot camp was at the Mill Site. In the period 1906— 1928. The log chute at the gorge on the drag river is a remnant of the early 1900’s log drives, using the waterways to transport timber to mills further downstream, in this case, Haliburton.
The Mill Valley Lumber Company became active on the property in about 1940. Muriel Moore, in an interview with Rod Ioi and Warner Clarke in 1989, recalled the following about the Mill Valley Lumber Company which was on the property in 1946 when she and JC first visited with a thought to purchase.
“Mill Valley was always run as a temporary, get in, take the choice, the best, and then move on to someplace else. They’d do reason ably large wood lots for farmers, go in and cut up all the timber, pay them for what they took and move on. Everything was very portable. They had two more years on their contract with this land to cut, it was a very large tract, but they said after that, they were through with it and they were leaving, getting out.”
- Speers stable/barn (removed 2012)
- Sheardown house
- Ken Webster Cabin
- Large Garage
- Cooky Cabin (moved to camp c 1949/50)
- Dining Hall
- Mill Valley Cabin (moved to camp c 1949/50)
- Kennaway Cabin (moved to camp c 1949/50)
- Blacksmith’s shop
- Hot Pond
- Water Wagon (on steel runners)
- Fly Wheel
- Log Piles
In the HSRSA archives, there is a hand drawn map of the Mill Valley Lumber Company layout which was used to create the diagram presented above. In my own early history as a camper in the early 1960’s, the “water wagon” was still identifiable. At this point, only the steel runners remain. As the company wound down its operations, J.C. Moore and early staff “harvested” what they could from the Mill Site. Three cabins, Cooky, Mill Valley and Kennaway, were moved down to the lake to be used for camp staff. Lumber was salvaged from some of the other Mill Valley build ings to add rooms onto Kennabi Lodge and to construct other cabins, specifically; Bunky, Hurst and Guest.
From archival pictures provided by the Moore Family, we can see that the Mill Valley lumber company arranged their camp along the original Kennaway Road and utilized some of the old Speers pasture for storing logs. This picture is looking south from the log piles across the mill pond to many of their structures including the bunk house and dining hall.
Although it is hard to imagine all these structures being there, be mindful that there has been 70 years of forest regeneration since the picture was taken. In the spring one can find evidence of the mill pond before the undergrowth hides it for the sum mer. It can be located just off the right side of the camp road past the Mill site as you are going into the camp.
Mill Valley Lumber Company at the Mill site c 1947/48
Muriel Moore talked about the first years at the camp with Mill Valley still operating.
“So the Mill was still working, they had another two years. And they decided they better clear out all around Kennabi, all around the shore. they had several piles of logs and they were working there. And they would bring them in where our docks are now, where the staff docks were. They had one great big flat bottomed boat with a big workhorse 8 motor on it that towed the logs down the lake. It took them two days to get from the top of the islands out there down to the bay where we were. And then they have these cranes that loaded them and the trucks backed out in the water there and they loaded them. They had started to use the private road, (road built by Ernie fee to access his cabin) other than that, they would have to wait and take them out in the winter across the lake by snow, and come out somewhere else, I think. Of course, everybody was fascinated watching them take these logs out. We spent a lot of time standing around watching the thing. They had the awfullest old army vehicle that hauled the logs from the water up onto the truck. Was the worst contraption you ever saw. And Jim made a deal with Ken Webster, that if he could keep this old machine going, would Ken take his bulldozer and clear some spots for us? He was working for the Mill, he was the son of the manager of the Mill. So as long as Jim could keep this old army thing going, Ken would bulldoze. That’s how we got around the storage building and all that cleared, and the second road in there. He did a lot. He worked as long as they could keep this old artillery tractor going….”
With the closure of the Mill, The camp “inherited” a number of buildings and building materials, as well as the company’s work boat. Many of the surviving buildings at the west end of the camp were fully or partially assembled using recycled Mill Valley building materials.
For many decades, the camp used the area past the Mill Valley building locations along the original Kennaway road as a dump site until that practice was no longer accepted. The old dump is partially buried but some elements, bed frames, old ice boxes, Dale War burton’s car etc. are still visible.
Camp Kennaway, Camp Kennabi & Haliburton Scout Reserve:
In 1959, Scouts decided to operate a composite camp at the Mill site. Under the leadership of Ken Drope, they devised a “Knights of the Round Table” themed camp and referred to the troop as the Knight Owl Troop. This adventure was fully described by Ken in Issue 43 of the Thunderbird (2004), and was a one year anomaly as far as the Composite Camp program. Over the years, the structure of the Speers Barn/Stable continued to offer opportunities for creative expression until it was demolished in 2012.
But, Tally-ho! The Mill site would became in the1980’s, the location of an annual cricket match which, for most years would be an exciting endeavour between current staff and alumni. A number of lost cricket balls are no doubt plugging ground hog holes or are hidden in plain site on the verges of the field along with the piles of stones extracted by the settlers of the late 1800’s.
And now, the Alumni Association is maintaining a historical kiosk towards the south end of the clearing which provides a chronology of this unique part of HSR. The Kiosk is the 4th stop on a planned historical hike that the association initiated as a 75th anniversary project for the camp. We are all hopeful that the site will soon be welcoming hikers, players and people who are interested in the history of this unique location within the camp.