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COLUMN: Did you know there’s a ghost town in Ramara?

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In Council Watch
Jan 4th, 2023
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Fawkham was once a strategic location for the Longford Lumber Company, but not much remains of this settlement near the Severn River
From OrilliaMatters Bob Bowles, Jan 1 2023,Photo Bob Bowles

I first became fascinated by ghost towns in the area in the late 1970s when living in Muskoka.

I started compiling a plant list for the District of Muskoka a few years earlier and was trying to add new species to that list. I had documented most of the common native plants but realized that I could add new species of escaped aliens by visiting the ruins of ghost towns in the area.

Not ghost towns like Uffington, Gemania and Falkenburg that still had residents but abandoned places like Millar Hill, Bear Lake, Hoodstown, and Dee Bank. Two of these towns that gave me the most enjoyment in research were Emberson and Lewisham. I would locate the site then start looking for the old ruins of buildings using plants like common lilac or garden escapes like periwinkle and Bishop’s goutweed to guide me to the right location.

I knew that early settlers liked to plant shrubs and plants around their home that reminded them of their homeland. I found many unusual plants using this method.

Therefore, I was excited a few weeks ago to learn of a ghost town in Ramara called Fawkham. This name was completely new to me and I found it had a rich history, but not much remains of the original post office on the site.

I was very familiar with Coopers Falls and the Black River and had heard of its founder, Thomas Cooper, but did not realize that he had emigrated from Fawkham in Kent, England.

Fawkham was located in a strategic location for the Longford Lumber Company just after the Black River flowing south is joined by the smaller Head River. The Black River flows southwest for a distance then swings sharply north towards Washago where it joins the Severn River. The location where the river turns sharply north on McMillian Sideroad became a strategic location for lumber transport from Longford township in the north.

Large logs were cut in the area north around Coopers Falls and Ragged Rapids and the timber was floated down the Black and Head Rivers to the area where the Black River swings sharply back north again.

The lumber company dredged a channel from this location west to Lake St. John and Longford Mills. The company could then move large numbers of timber down the rivers from Longford Township and west across their channel to their timber mills at Longford Mills.

The property at the bend in the river and the dredged channel was owned by I.S. Wardle, who opened the Fawkham Post Office just north of the site and ran a sawmill on the property. Modern maps show the ghost town of Fawkham at the junction of Switch Road and hHghway 169 where a school, fire hall and several houses exist today.

Some older maps also show this location. But the real location of Fawkham Post Office was on McMillian Sideroad, just north of the bend in the river.

Fawkham Post Office had a postmaster right up until 1911, but with the train arriving earlier in the area to the west of Switch Road and rural delivery taking over from picking up mail at remote post offices, Fawkham’s post office and mill became a ghost town. Nothing remains at the site today on a high granite knoll but the entrance road but no sign of building ruins for this once strategically located ghost town.

I found the drumline swarms or fields in the area but what I could not find with any degree of satisfaction were the kames of Fawkham, a glacial feature that results in a high pyramid deposit of glacial till of sand and gravel that was used for road building when the channel was dredged.

I would be interested if anyone has any information on the Kames of Fawkham. I would also be interested in any other ghost towns of Rama or Mara Townships like Millington on Highway 12, east of Orillia.
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