Trout Creek

Water power and lumber gave Trout Creek its start

Trout Creek evolved as a small community at the south end of South Himsworth Township, in much the same way as Powassan did in the north end of the Township; When South Himsworth was surveyed and the railroad went through in the mid-1880s, settlers were attracted throughout the area. The circumstances that created Trout Creek include the presence of the Trout Creek, a tributary of the South River, which passes through the west side of the Township and where squared timber had been extensively cut. The railway chose to put a station, water tower and related buildings where the railway crossed the creek, as was the case in Powassan, sensing the potential for growth through the tapping of water for power.

Several families, including the Weilers and the Hummels and many others whose names remain today, began to centre on this small community by the rail line. The first of a number of hotels, stores and homes were built. Some kind of lumber operation was required to provide work and commerce; this was done when Bill and Milton Carr came from Commanda on the Colonization Road on a new trail to the railway in the mid-1880s. Bill found a reservoir and waterfall on Trout Creek and set up a sawmill. Mill workers were employed in the mill and logs were cut and hauled from the farmers fields, giving them work and cash for their logs. A devastating fire swept the area in 1892 and put an end to the Carr operation. Milton established a hotel and later became a member of parliament. George Trussler, a successful sawyer from the Waterloo area, visited the South River flats with a group to hunt and fish on a regular basis, and was ambitious for his sons. He encouraged his sons James, Gilbert and Tom to go to Trout Creek, buy the old Carr operation and set up a sawmill. Tom was the carpenter and made extensive renovations; state-of-the-art equipment was added and the power supply improved. The Trussler brothers were quick to adapt to the needs of the lumber business; they made shingles when necessary, and wagon hubs when they were in demand. They also developed a chemical plant which made charcoal and various other distillates for the general market.

Dominion Wood Started

Later, the Trussler brothers joined with two other local lumber operations to form the Dominion Wood Company, which operated for over twenty years. This company then formed a subsidiary operation called the Trout Creek Logging Railway which travelled 24 km east into Algonquin Park and brought out the logs necessary to maintain production in the sawmills. The story of this railway is a fascinating one that will be profiled here later with reference to James Trussler’s son Hartley, who worked as a young man on the railway and kept a diary of his experiences. Hartley went on to become one of the best known local historians in the area who wrote extensively on Trout Creek and left a remarkable legacy of written and photographic material.

By the turn of the century, there were several businesses serving the area. The best known was the Trussler General Store which acted as a sort of bank, giving credit, and developed a kind of money that could be exchanged for goods. Their wholesale business was wide-ranging, and delivery teams were constantly on the run throughout the area. Harry Pedder eventually became the manager of the store and one of Trout Creek’s better known citizens at the time. The store changed hands several times before it burned down in the 1940s.

There were many other sawmill operations and wholesalers in the area over the years, but the Trout Creek Lumber Company should especially be noted because of its durability. Founded in 1898 by Fred Baechler Sr., it was later taken over by his son who added a planing mill. They also had a sawmill in Nipissing Township and a yard in Powassan. The company was sold in 1970 to Read Brothers, Toronto and continues today, providing work for mill workers and loggers throughout the area.

Trout Creek incorporated in 1912 as an autonomous municipality. Harry Pedder, mentioned above, was the first mayor and the town barber Cal Elliot served as mayor for 23 years. A couple of other well-know people from those early days are Father Kelly, the priest for over 30 years whose picnics became a tradition, and James Corkery who became a famous long distance runner who won, among other things, the Boston Marathon. Space does not allow for a full listing of well-known names over the years, but it is remarkable how many of these names from the past appear in the current phone book, providing a real sense of continuity.

Trout Creek Plan

In terms of people who have helped record the history of the town, I want to mention two other Trusslers. A few years ago I heard about and tracked down a remarkable plan of Trout Creek as it looked in the 1890s. It resides in the Trout Creek Senior Friendship Club (for further information contact Vernon Lamb, President, at 723-5547). The plan identifies and locates close to a hundred places from 1890. The drawing was done in 1975 by Charles Trussler (son of Tom) at the age of 85. Also while researching the Trout Creek Logging Railway several years ago, I contacted Don Trussler (grandson of James) in Oshawa because he had reproduced the town of Trout Creek as an HO model railway in his basement. Thousands of hours of work were put into this display and it was shown in several railway shows. Don passed away just before Christmas, 1999. Lastly I would like to thank Rose Carr and her daughter Eileen who have a remarkable collection of archival material on Trout Creek. Rose, now in the Lady Isabelle nursing home, recently completed a beautiful quilt containing historical photos of Trout Creek.

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