Balaclava – Ghosts and Skeletons of Ontario’s First Green Community

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Balaclava is one of my faves. The sawmill still stands and holds it’s integrity….you can almost here it at work as it did in 1861. Although we knew we shouldn’t have, we stepped inside the mill to get a glimps of what was. When I looked down my legs became weak. I could see through the floor boards at the rocks and rushing water beneath me. Needless to say….we didn’t push our luck and go any further. I was very happy to take pictures where I was standing and use my zoom.

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Balaclava is a near ghost town today with only a handful of residents still living there.
In its prime it had two hotels, blacksmith shop, dam and sawmill. The mill was built
in 1861 by Duncan Ferguson and Donald Cameron.

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The two hotels and General Store were operated by Joseph Lagree. The land in the area was abundant with coniferous trees…..spruce, hemlock and white pine……perfect for the lumber boom of the time.
The prosperity of Balaclava attracted other businessmen like William Hunter who built a gristmill two
kilometers downstream from the Dam and sawmill.

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In 1868 the sawmill was sold to William Richards whose family would operate it for the next 89 years.

In 1911 William Hunter filed a lawsuit against the owners of the sawmill as they had been dumping sawdust
into the river which was negatively affecting his gristmill operations. The significance of this lawsuit was
that it was the first environmental case ever filed in Ontario. Hunter won the lawsuit and Richards
was ordered to pay $200.00 and refrain from depositing sawdust into the river.

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In an ironic “Twist of Cain”……..Richards mill burnt down in 1915. The mill was rebuilt in 1936 and sold
to David Dick in 1957. By this time the age of timber prosperity had dwindled to production of only a few
thousand boards a year…….compared to one million a week at the mill’s peak. In 1959 the mill was shut down,
the store closed and all that exists today is the skeleton of Balaclava.

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Arthur Dick, the son of David Dick was the last owner and local family member to reside in Balaclava. Arthur Dick passed away in 2002 and his house and store still stand filled with items never retrieved . As a monument to the Dicks legacy and remembrance of Balaclava’s greatness….there stands a plaque and donated community boat launch for guests to enjoy forever more. It’s a ghost town in its purest form………families gone with their homes and belongings left to tell their story.

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