Decade of Discovery: Year Five  – Dennis Carter-Edwards                               16/11/11

The Decade of Discovery was launched in 2008 as part of a broader initiative to reconnect with communities all along the Trent-Severn Waterway, enhance our collective ability to tell the stories associated with this National Historic Site and help realize the many economic benefits the canal brings to Central Ontario. For year FIVE of the Decade, it is proposed to focus on the lock stations at Buckhorn and Burleigh Falls and the dam at Healey Falls. These sites are celebrating important milestones, being the 125th anniversary of the opening of the locks at Buckhorn and Burley and the 100th anniversary of the dam at Healey Falls. Part of the program will consist of upgrading the displays at these lock stations. This report serves as a background study to assist in the preparation of interpretive materials.

It is appropriate to begin the renewal of interpretive displays along the Waterway at these stations as the section of the Trent Canal, from Fenelon to Burleigh Falls, represented a renewed commitment by the federal government in the 1880s to expansion of the interconnecting set of locks, dams and canals that dated back to the original 1833 lock at Bobcaygeon. The background to this decision by the federal government is tangled web of political intrigue, effective lobbying and ultimately engineering skill. In 1878 The Liberal government of Sir Alexander Mackenzie clandestinely transferred the series of locks, dams and timber slides to the Province of Ontario shortly before resigning his government following defeat in the federal election that year. However, the incoming government of Sir John A. Macdonald opposed the move and rescinded the transfer. Instead, he created the Department of Railways and Canals to manage all federal canals.  In 1881 T.S. Rubidge was transferred from his duties on the St. Lawrence Canals to undertake a survey of the Trent Canal and make recommendations as to next steps in developing the system. In his report, Rubidge reviewed prior survey work by engineers such as N.H. Baird and R. Stark and recommended the government add locks at Fenelon Falls, Buckhorn and Burleigh Falls, thereby connecting the Kawartha Lakes and opening up some additional 80 miles of navigation from Lakefield to Coboconck and Port Perry. More detailed surveys were conducted in the spring of 1882 and contracts were advertised later that year for the construction of standard locks 134 feet long, 33 feet wide and 5 feet deep on the mitre sill.


Buckhorn was the first lock let out to tender in September 1882. Alexander Manning submitted the lowest bid and won the contract for building a dam, masonry lock and a 500 foot canal on the north side of the rapids between Deer Bay and Buckhorn Lake,. Buckhorn, or Hall’s Bridge as it was known, was already a busy milling community by the latter part of the nineteenth century. John Hall emigrated from Ireland to the U.S. in 1810, later moving to Peterborough, In 1828 he purchased property on both sides of the rapids on what became Buckhorn Lake in Harvey Township and over the next four years constructed a dam and mill complex. When the Commissioners charged with improvements to the interior navigation of the Upper Canada commenced their work in the 1830s, they included as one of the projects, enlarging the Buckhorn dam. The work was contracted out to George Hall, son of John who incorporated a bridge on the dam to link the two shores.[1] The survey by N.H. Baird in 1835 provides a detailed view of the site. (Figure 1)

The outbreak of the Upper Canadian Rebellion in 1837 and subsequent border raids by American sympathizers severely impacted work on the canal. Funds were redirected to equip and pay the local militia and refurbish border fortifications. As a result, work on the waterway was suspended. Following the creation of the Province of Canada in 1841 and the establishment of a Board of Works to manage the colony’s extensive public works, the Board chair H.H, Killaly toured the Trent works with the engineer in charge, N.H. Baird. In his report delivered in 1842, Killaly recommended that the existing locks be finished but no new canal construction be undertaken. Instead, he preferred to build dams and timber slides to support the growing lumber industry.  A new dam and timber slide were built at Buckhorn as part of this comprehensive transportation plan for the central part of the province.

Documentation on the appearance and activities at Hall’s Mill in the mid century is scarce. A  Perry in her account of Buckhorn  makes reference to the destruction of the mills, dam gates and piers in 1851 by “rampaging lumbermen” but does not indicate a source for this statement. From other accounts, it is know that the lumber trade was hard on the waterway’s physical plant and frequent complaints of damage or disruption of navigation can be found in the records. This may have been the case at Hall’s Bridge. In 1858 the dam was rebuilt and a reconstructed bridge 642 feet long was framed into the structure. In addition, a timber slide, piers and booms were included in the new work. [2] With the expansion of the infrastructure on the waterway, William Hall, the son John Hall who was given ownership of the property by his father, proceeded to have a town plot surveyed.

The timber slide at Buckhorn provided an important link in the chain of “navigation aids” constructed by the government to assist the lumber industry. Management of the slides was divided between the Public Works, who owned and operated the dam and slide at Buckhorn and a privately organized Slides Committee composed of representatives from the lumber industry who looked after slides at Healey Falls, Middle Falls and Ranney Falls.

In 1867 the creation of the Dominion of Canada through passage of the British North America Act, established two levels of government, with the federal government assuming responsibility for the dams and slides on the Trent navigation route. G.W. Ranney, the Superintendent of the Trent works, reported in 1867 that the “works” at Buckhorn were in good order, although he did note the ongoing conflict between navigation and the lumber industry. He dryly observed, “In seasons of low water, a division of the channel between the steamboat navigation and the lumbermen is a matter of contention.”[3] Just as important from Ranney’s perspective was the critical role the dam at Buckhorn played in controlling water levels in the upper lakes. He reminded his superiors that the dam at Buckhorn set the water levels for Buckhorn, Chemong and Pigeon Lakes.[4] The spring freshet in 1870 was unusually high and did extensive damage to the various slides and dams along the waterway. The impact of the freshet on the facilities at Buckhorn is unknown. However, in 1879 the Superintending Engineer, Thomas D. Belcher reported on the state of the works at Buckhorn, “the works here consist of a dam 387 feet in length 5 feet high, truss frame. A slide 95 feet long and 33 feet wide with guide booms leading thereto” The dam required to be graveled and the side piers of the waste weir repaired along with the guide booms to the slide. He also noted that the want of a grist mill was a hardship for the residents and suggested that the surplus water at the site be offered to someone willing to build a mill.  He concluded by observing the race way leading to the saw mill was in a poor state of repair and leaking badly making control of the water levels back to the lock at Bobcaygeon difficult.[5]

The first clear indication of the mid century appearance of the future lock site was detailed in the survey plans of T.S. Rubidge prepared in the summer of 1881. In his accompanying report, Rubidge recommended constructing locks at Buckhorn, Burleigh Falls and Fenelon Falls to extend navigation through the Kawartha Lakes from Lakefield to Coboconck and Port Perry. He was instructed to carry out more detailed surveys of the proposed stations and draw up specifications for the work. Just prior to the election of 1882, the Department of Railways and Canals posted the tender call for the work. The timing was not coincidental as the government was hoping to use the promise of further canal expansion as a pitch to the local voters for their support. The Conservatives won the election and work proceeded with the awarding of a contract for the Buckhorn project to George Goodwin.

The survey work by Rubidge provides a snapshot of the site in the early 1880s. The community of Hall’s Mill consisted of a complex of mills, shops and a residence situated to the north of the rapids. (Figure 2) The largest component was the saw mill which was situated at the base of the raceway . The timber slide with booms to help direct the logs over the dam was located adjacent to the raceway. To the north was a grist mill, likely a small scale operation to grind the grain from local farms. A blacksmith shop and a work shop were built, likely to service the milling operations. Adjacent to the shops was a dwelling house, although whether this was the home of Hall or a mill manager is not known. Upstream from the complex was a steamboat wharf for vessels sailing to and from Sturgeon and Pigeon Lake to Buckhorn or hauling lumber down to Port Perry.[6]

G. Goodwin, an experienced canal contractor who had successfully completed work on the Grenville and Carillion Canals, was awarded the contract for the Buckhorn lock on 27 September 1882.  The project called for a masonry lock, a 500 foot canal cut and some dredging below the lock entrance. Work commenced in the spring of 1883 and was completed December 1885 only a few months later than called for in the original contract.[7] Part of the delay was caused by the heavy costs incurred by Goodwin in completing the work.  He had grossly underestimated the cost of drilling through the pre-Cambrian granite of the Canadian Shield. Labour was scarce in this remote part of the County and Goodwin found it necessary to import Italian labourers and pay them $1.50 per day, higher than he had anticipated. It is worth noting that the use of “foreign labourers” did not provoke the kind of nativist reaction among the locals, as it did subsequently in Peterborough when Italian day workers were brought in to work on the Lift Lock.  Even the dredging work proved problematic. Fifty years of accumulated sawdust and debris from Hall’s mill had produced a “fluid, formless ooze”, almost 41/2 feet deep and some 425 feet in length below the mill. When the project was completed, Goodwin submitted a claim for extra costs incurred in the project. He had billed the government an additional $59,296 on top of the $67,280 tender price. The matter was referred to an arbitrator who awarded him $26,638.[8]

Progress on the Buckhorn lock was carefully noted in the superintending engineer’s  annual reports. In 1883, Rubidge stated, “ the works under contract at this station for the extension of navigation are progressing favourably, and will, it is expected be completed next year.” He went on to observe “Previous to their completion and before vessels can make use of the improvements it will be necessary to construct works altogether independent of the present contract for the protection of navigation from the drive.”[9] The following year, Rubidge  noted, “At Buckhorn Rapids . . . a canal about one-fourth of a mile long is being constructed, having one lift-lock. [sic] The masonry work is completed and is of a substantial character.” His final report in 1885 stated that the work was commenced in March 1883 and completed in December 1884, although the contractor had encountered some unexpected difficulties. One such difficulty was a spring freshet that did damage to the works. Rubidge observed, “A small expenditure for maintenance was rendered necessary in consequence of the failure during the spring freshet of the stop logs in the lock and the partial destruction of the temporary road bridge supplied by the contractor”. [10]

Some additional work was required to render the lock useable. In particular, lock gates were needed to make the canal operational. Specifications were prepared by the Department and the contract awarded to Goodwin, possibly as some informal means of compensating him for the additional expense involved in the Buckhorn project.. The work was completed by the end of 1886 and the lock became operational in 1887.[11] Since the main county road along the center of the dam crossed the new lock, the Department added a swing bridge to accommodate traffic. Other changes at the site included modification of the dam to make the water control function safer for the lockmaster in charge. The change was described by Superintendent R.B. Rogers in his annual report for 1886. “A plan of permanent brackets, fastened to the top of the dam, was adopted instead of light stop logs for which the appropriation was made.. These have admirably fulfilled the object for which they are intended . . . The brackets are 20 feet long, 30 inches high and 4 inches thick. They are secured to the cap of the dam by strong hinges and straps and are held in position by means of short chains, fastened to the upper timbers of the dam. When the brackets are not required, they are allowed to fall forward and are there secured till needed. When the water is receding in the spring, these are gradually let up at the proper time and without any danger to those engaged in the work.”  [12] Other changes to the dam included the addition of two new sluice ways for timber at the south end of the dam. (Figures 3 & 4). 

 The lock staff were required to operate the canal seven days a week throughout the navigation season. In 1895 the Department issued a contract for the construction of a lockmaster’s residence adjacent to the lock.[13] The first lockmaster to occupy the building was Robert Theophilus Hill. He remained in charge of the Buckhorn lock until 1920 when his son-in-law, Frank Edwards took over. Frank had married Robert’s daughter, Nell.[14] The strong family connections to the locks is very much a part of the Waterway’s story. At present, little information on the Hill and Edwards family is on file but the day to day running of the lock would be a suitable theme to present. The lockmaster’s residence continued in use until the 1960s when it was demolished. The wooden dam and bridge at Buckhorn was replaced with a new concrete dam and bridge in 1907, although the road continued to cross over the lock.[15] (Figure 5)  Further repairs were undertaken that same year with the addition of a new concrete upper entrance pier to the lock. The following year, four new lock gates installed with what was described as “modern” opening apparatus.[16]

The lumber industry remained an important commercial undertaking at Buckhorn, even after the lock was completed. According to A. Perry’s undocumented account, A. Shearer purchased a saw mill situated on Stoney Lake and moved it to Buckhorn in 1918. The mill was subsequently leased to the Peterborough Lumber Company and burned in 1933. The Hall sawmill that had been a fixture at the site for nearly half a century burned circa 1904. W. Blewett owned and operated a steam sawmill, situated at the head of the canal from 1900 to 1915, producing up to 10,000 feet of planned boards per day. It too burned in a fire. The fate of the small grist mill that operated by the Halls at Buckhorn  is unknown but likely also burned.

During the interwar years (1919-1939) there was a concerted effort to promote the tourism potential of the Trent-Severn Waterway. It was clear that the original commercial imperatives that had prompted the government to complete through navigation from Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay were no longer viable. In 1920 representatives from communities all along the Waterway, met in Peterborough and formed the Trent Waterway Development Association to promote tourism. They produced a series of pamphlets, magazine articles, traveling displays for the various boat shows and even produced a black and white video of a trip along the course of the canal. The Association continued to operate into the 1930s when the impact of the Great Depression appears to have contributed to its demise.

In the 1960s the Department of Transport initiated a major upgrade of facilities along the federal canals due in part to the significant increase in recreational boating. The modernization of the Rideau Canal sparked a vocal public outcry against the loss of historic features and prompted the government to transfer the Rideau and Trent Canals to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to be operated as historic canals. Just prior to the transfer in 1972, major renovations to the Buckhorn Lock, converting it to a concrete, mechanized operation, were undertaken. Along with this change, a new high level concrete bridge was built which completely bypassed the lock. Today, the Buckhorn lock remains a busy station for boating traffic and land based visitors alike, although many of its historic features have disappeared. The renewal of this lock station contemplated as part of the Decade celebrations offers a unique opportunity to present this valued history to the public.

Burleigh Falls and Lovesick

The federal government’s commitment to expand the limited system of internal navigation through Central Ontario included construction of locks around the Burleigh rapids and a lock at Lovesick Lake. This area was first surveyed in 1823 by Andrew Miller, followed by a survey prepared by J. Haslett in 1855 and a more detailed survey by Robert Strickland in 1859. All of the survey reports indicated that the rugged landscape and impenetrable granite of the Canadian Shield limited opportunities for settlement and agricultural production. However, the area was suitable for logging and a brisk trade in lumber developed at Burleigh Falls. As with the proposed lock site at Buckhorn, the survey work of  T.S. Rubidge provides a snapshot view of the locale just prior to the commencement of construction work. (Figure 6) Rubidge clearly shows a dam and slide at the western end of the Burleigh River and a dam and slide at the eastern end of the river as it empties into Stoney Lake. There also appears to be some form of  water control (later referred to as a bulk head by Goodwin)  at the head of the Burleigh Chute and a bridge where Rubidge had proposed building two flight locks While the precise origin of these features to support the vast log booms being driven to mills further south is uncertain, it is known that  as early as 1845, the Board of Works had planned on constructing a slide at Burleigh.[17]  James Lyons, superintendent of the navigation works, reported that “the completion of the slides at Buckhorn and Burley [sic] Chute will . . . open a tract of country not surpassed on this continent, affording almost inexhaustible forests . . . the finest lumber tract in the province.”[18] The 1855 survey by J.J. Haslett shows a dam and slide at the eastern end of the Burleigh Falls.[19] (Figure 7)  At the instigation of the Board of Works, the principal lumber firms established a Committee in 1855 to manage the slides and keep them in repair, using a toll to cover these costs. The operation of the committee proved problematic as many firms refused to pay a toll and a new committee was formed in 1859 to supervise the slides. At the time of Confederation (1867) the Department of Public Works prepared a comprehensive inventory of the assets along the navigation route. G.F. Baillairge reported that “2 slides, 4 dams and several booms have been built since 1852 at Burleigh’s Rapids by lumberers.”[20] It may be that the facilities at Burleigh were constructed under the direction of this group representing the lumber interests in the area.

The presence of lumbermen  at Burleigh Falls attracted entrepreneurs. In 1856 John Holmes obtained land at the falls and erected a crude tavern and hotel to serve the lumbermen moving through the area. Soon, others more interested in the fishing, hunting and recreation were attracted to the area and hotel facilities expanded.  There was even some limited settlement. In the 1870s, Peter Windsor purchased one of the islands,(later known as Island 31) above the rapids and built a simple shanty there. He subsequently sold the property to John Telford who built a house on the island and raised sheep and cattle in the area.[21] Thus, when Rubidge commenced his detailed surveys to prepare for construction at Burleigh Falls, there was already an active presence and extensive infrastructure in the form of dams, slides, hotels and at least one residence in the area. The condition of these assets to aid in the movement of timber through the Chute appears to have deteriorated. In  1880 Rubidge reported that while the dam and slide were in “fair repair” the “waste weir in the ‘Big Chute’ required repair and suggested the cost to complete this work could be covered by charging a toll to the lumbermen using the slide.

The contract for the Burleigh Falls work was advertised at the same time as the Buckhorn project. The Specifications ran to some 16 legal size fullscaps with details on every aspect of the proposed work at Burleigh and Lovesick.[22] George Goodwin’s firm submitted the lowest tender for this work as well and was awarded the contract. Goodwin may have delayed commencement of the work at Burleigh until he was well along with the work at Buckhorn. However, by the spring of 1884, it appeared the work was well in hand. A report in the Peterborough Daily Evening Review described the scene at the construction site., “Your correspondent took a flying trip to Burleigh the other day and found around Holman’s hotel and vicinity quite a change from days gone by. Several wooden shanties are erected, also two large boarding houses, and more to go up. A great many men are now employed at the quarry getting out stone for the locks, and when the canal is to go through over two hundred men will find constant employment. It must certainly do this section a great deal of good owing to the large amount of money paid out for wages, etc.”[23]

However, appearances were deceiving. Goodwin was having serious second thoughts about the project and was delaying work in hopes the government would reconsider his bid and revise the money allowed him. The principal issue concerned the dewatering of the site. Goodwin outlined the problem in a lengthy note to the departmental secretary in August 1884.He wrote, “. . . it has been found impracticable to unwater the works in the manner proposed by the specifications, ie. By caulking the stoplogs in the bulkhead erected many years ago at the entrance to the particular channel of the River known as ’Burleigh Chute’ in which it is now proposed to build the locks. . . . The old bulklhead alluded to has been so much damaged by passing drives of timber that it is impossible to replace stoplogs in the cheeks, and even if it could be done the leakage under the platform on which the sill rests – as also under the crib forming the bulkhead piers adjoining – would be so great as to render the mode of doing the work useless. . . it will be seen that to provide for unwatering the works where a head of say 25 feet of water must be provided against will require substantial coffer dams in order to insure a satisfactory solution of the difficulty. . . . all these matters considered fully justifies me in asking that the price for this item of unwatering be fixed at at least $50,000. I trust that in consideration of the many difficulties I have had to contend with, that the price named will not be considered unreasonably.” He concluded his letter with a veiled threat that unless his offer was accepted, no further work would take place. “I may add that I am ready to begin the building of the cofferdam and need to take advantage of low water and waiting for the matter to be adjusted before it can be begun.”[24] Goodwin was hoping his delaying tactics would force the government’s hand to accede to his request

Certainly, the local politicians were getting nervous at the delay. G. Hilliard, the Conservative sitting member, bristled at opposition criticism that the delay was indicative of the government’s lukewarm commitment to the Waterway. With an election coming he wanted to see the work vigorously pursued and wrote the department asking for a report on the project. Chief Engineer J. Page replied that the contract called for the work to be finished by July 1885 and suggested, “ it might be well to write Mr. Goodwin calling upon him to take the necessary steps to proceed  energetically with the works.” [25]  Page’s “suggestion” was readily agreed to. In May Page wrote Goodwin, “you are required to put an end to such default and delay and if such default and delay continue for six days after the giving of this notice, Her Majesty will pursuant to the fourteenth clause of the contract, take the work out of your hands and employ such means as She may see fit to complete the same.” [26] Immediately upon receiving this missive, Goodwin replied setting out the difficulties he had encountered in executing the work. He concluded his letter with the suggestion that the lock chamber be relocated from the Burleigh Chute to Perry’s Creek arguing it would cost less and could be finished in less time. It would also minimize inconveniences to the lumbermen who were concerned over the potential extra costs they would face in moving their logs to Stoney Lake once the lock was finished.      

Page visited Burleigh the following month and met with Goodwin and Rubidge and went over the whole project and the alternative suggested by Goodwin. After carefully considering all the factors, he concluded “the change of line [recommended by Goodwin] would involve an outlay of at least fifty per cent more than the scheme contemplated by the present Contract, besides interfering with the natural water levels of the river to a greater extent that would otherwise be the case. . . . I cannot therefore consistently advise any interference with the line covered by the present contract.” However, he was not unsympathetic to Goodwin’s plight. He acknowledged the difficulties Goodwin was facing. “Nevertheless, it may be stated that prices are so very low that a person who has seen the locality can scarcely be surprised at the contractor’s desire for a change of some kind, especially one of such a nature as would be likely to shield him from loss.”[27]

Failing to get a change in the location of the lock, Goodwin wrote to the Department, offering to surrender his contract with certain conditions. He wrote, “I make offer to surrender the contract on the condition of receiving fair and equitable terms. Otherwise I wish it to be clearly understood I reserve the right to proceed with the work. I am willing to accept of any fair and reasonable adjustment of the matters in dispute.”[28] Not receiving a favourable reply, the contractor resolved to push forward the work despite the economic loss he was facing. His letter to the department is worth quoting at length.

Having recently visited my works on the Burleigh Canal, and in view of the fact that I have expended a large sum of money in procuring Plant and material for the same, most of which I would probably loose [sic] or be obliged to dispose of at a great loss, if I gave up the contract. Together with the loss I would thus sustain it would be damaging to my reputation as a Contractor to have it placed on record, that I failed to finish the work – notwithstanding the circumstances surrounding the case . . . I am of the opinion that by finishing the work, the loss will not be very much greater than the one I would sustain, were I to surrender the Contract now. . . . after due consideration I have arrived at the conclusion to proceed with the vigerous [sic] prosecution of the work, having already taken steps to increase the force so that operations will be conducted with satisfactory dispatch.[29] 

The long delay in proceeding with the work and the frequent complaints by Goodwin directly to the Department appear to have soured working relations between the contractor and site supervisors. Goodwin cited examples of their “interference” and obstruction in a letter to Bradley. The masonry inspector for the department, Ramsey, refused to accept some stones for the swing bridge abutment because they were not according to specifications. When Goodwin protested that the flaws were of such a minor character that they should be allowed., Ramsay shot back  – according to Goodwin – “You quit work here and what the Hell business have to you to come back again”.  Ramsey’s sharp reply indicates the level to which working relations had deteriorated between government staff and the contractor. In another instance, he complained that he was prohibited from using explosives to prepare the foundation for the Lovesick lock, even though it had been accepted for building the Buckhorn lock. Without the use of explosives, additional time and cost would result. Citing another example of unreasonable demands, he mentioned that a portion of rock was retained at the lower end of the Lovesick lock as a temporary dam to keep water out of the lockpit then under construction. Rubidge demanded it be removed and a dam put in place for fear the rock “might” [as in original] damage the lock. Goodwin added that he had seen rock blasted at Buckhorn and other places without damaging the lock in any way. He concluded his lengthy catalogue of issues with a request. “that the Chief Engineer may be pleased to visit the work at the earliest possible date, as in my opinion his personal observation is essential to the proper adjustment of the difficulties to which I have alluded .”[30]

It is difficult, after more than 125 years, to judge who was primarily responsible for the poisoned atmosphere at the work site. It is understandable that Goodwin, after his failure to get the terms of his contracted adjusted more in line with the actual cost of the work, would try to cut corners and save expenses wherever he could. Similarly, Rubidge as the supervising engineer responsible for the quality of the work, took every step to insure full compliance with the terms of the contract. While his engineering qualifications were impeccable, Rubidge was a difficult person to work with as witnessed by conflicts with his own staff at the administrative offices in Peterborough.  The chief engineer and no doubt the minister of the department were well aware of the situation and everyone was likely waiting for the job to get done and the books closed on this difficult project..

Despite these difficulties, Goodwin did vigorously proceed with the work. By December 1886, he had submitted bills for work at the contract rates totaling $154,115.65.[31]  Rubidge confirmed in his annual report, prepared in November 1886 that significant progress had been made. “Since my last report [submitted in 1885] extraordinarily rapid progress had been made, in view of the difficult character of the work, more particularly at Burleigh Chute, at which place the Lower Lock and entrance thereto have been completed, as well as the massive and complicated foundation walls of the Upper Lock, where also, considerable progress has been made in the ordinary masonry of the lock walls. The piers for the swing bridge are also completed and the dams are all in such a forward state as will enable the work thereon to be continued during the coming winter. At Lovesick, the progress of the work has been equally rapid and satisfactory, the lock walls being fully half finished and the dams and other works here, in a similar condition to those at Burleigh Chute, thus leaving no room to question the ability of the contractor to complete his contract next season..”[32] A photograph held by the national archives, provides a dramatic image of the scale of the work  involved in clearing a channel for the lock at the Burleigh Chute. (Figure 8)

Despite the progress on the contract, Goodwin still encountered problems with departmental staff. In late December he complained that high water levels at Buckhorn had threatened his works and he requested Rubidge to divert the water until he could finish off work on the Burleigh and Lovesick dams. Rubidge gave the requisite orders but his staff at Buckhorn apparently did not follow directions and allowed the surplus water to escape. Goodwin observed that he would have to wait until the water level was lowered which would involve “munch unnecessary delay and probably necessitate discharging the men before being finished with them.”[33]

As if the dealings with the contractor were not enough to complicate a difficult engineering undertaking, the Department of Railways and Canals also had to deal with the influential lumbermen whose interests at Burleigh Falls were closely tied to the new lock construction. The Crown had expropriated their slides and dams in anticipation of the construction of the Burleigh Falls lock. In June 1886, after enduring two years of disruption to their lumber operations at Burleigh because of the lock construction, they were looking for some relief and met with Rubidge to present their case. The deputation consisted of many of the leading players in the local lumber industry, including Hilliard, Ullyott, Strickland, Hazlitt and J. Irwin, the secretary for the Lumbermen’s Association.  According to an account in the Peterborough Daily Review, the lumbermen had strongly supported the expansion of the canal system and muted their criticism of the disadvantages they experienced with the closing of the Burleigh Chute. The meeting with Rubidge was very amiable..According to the paper, “They are now satisfied that the government have not lost sight of the disinterested part that they have taken in the matter and . . . it is believe the proposed improvements which they hope will be constructed at an early date, will obviate the difficulties they have felt themselves laboring under.”  [34] The “improvements” under discussion included a new dam and slide at the east end of the Burleigh River. Rubidge had indicated the existence of these structures prior to construction of the lock. In his annual report for 1886 on the state of the new work at Burleigh, he noted, “The consequences of the channel of the chute having been selected as the site for the combined locks that, at Burleigh Falls, is now the only available means of running timber and logs, and since the existing dam and slide at this station are in a ruinous condition, it is now proposed to reconstruct both works on a different site from that now occupied by them, for which purpose a survey has been made and the necessary plans prepared.” [35]

By early 1887 Goodwin was finishing up work on the contract. As set out in the supplementary contract he obtained, he installed the lock gates at Buckhorn, Burleigh and Lovesick and the swing bridge at Buckhorn. Despite the many engineering and administrative problems he encountered the work was finished in a satisfactory manner.. On 26 October 1887 the first steamer, which J. Angus suggested was likely the Fairy from Young’s Point , was passed through the new locks.[36]  Goodwin had kept a record of his additional expenses for the Burleigh Falls and Lovesick project and submitted a request for an adjustment of the contract rates. In all he requested an additional $107,124. (Appendix 1) to cover the additional expenses he incurred.

As with the other lock stations, accommodation was required for lock staff. A lockmaster’s residence was built adjacent to the site.  The job had some attractions working outside along the waterway but remained highly dangerous. In the fall of 1906 at the close of navigation, Lockmaster Charles T. Fuller who had been stationed at Burleigh for some years, fell into the lock and was drowned.[37] By 1933 the dwelling was found to be not worth repairing and was replaced with a new residence. It was removed as part of the “modernization” of lock operations in the 1960s.

Within a few years of the lock’s completion, there were serious plans under review to replace the two locks with a single lock. The proposal was part of a major upgrade of facilities at this location. Part of the incentive to make these changes came as a result of the poor state of the wooden dam. There was also an interest in developing hydro electric facilities at this site in conjunction with the new dam. Although several surveys were completed and plans prepared for a new lock, only the dam was replaced. In December 1909 the firm of Bishop and Buchannan won the contract to build a new concrete dam at Burleigh Falls. The work was completed by 1912.  The extensive nature of the dam may have resulted from some consideration by the Department of Railways and Canals to raise the water level high enough to drown out Lovesick Lake, though whether this was with the intent of eliminating the lock at Lovesick is not known. [38]

In keeping with the major renovations to the Trent-Severn Waterway in the 1960s and early 1970s, the two masonry locks at Burleigh Falls were replaced with a single concrete lock with steel gates and mechanized operation. The various control dams on Perry’s Creek with also upgraded with the timber dams being replaced by concrete dams. The lock at Lovesick was periodically renovated and mechanized in 1974.

The bridges over the Burleigh River kept pace with the various changes at the site, beginning with the original wooden bridge, later a metal truss bridge and the present high level concrete road bridge. Today, there are only a few isolated bolts and submerged resources remaining at the entrance of Burleigh Falls to Stoney Lake from the heyday of lumber and resort activities at this lock site. Nor is there any visible evidence of the active presence of the site’s lockmaster who lived and worked here for nearly three quarters of a century.


[1]  A. Perry, “Buckhorn” in  Harvey Township A Illustrated History; W. Cameron & M. McDougall, “Essays and Research Papers on the History of the Trent-Severn Waterway Phase I,” manuscript on file at the TSW, p./89.

[2]  J. Angus, A Respectable Ditch, A History of the Trent-Severn Waterway 1833-1920, (Queens-McGill Press: Montreal, 1998),p.171.

[3]  Sessional Papers, Department of Public Works (1867), Appendix #41, p.28.

[4]  Ibid.

[5] Annual Report of the Department of Railways and Canals [hereafter AR], 1880, p.167.

[6]  Ibid,, p.171.

[7]  AR, 1885, p.141.

[8]  Angus, op.cit., p.172-173.

[9] AR, 1883, p.123

[10] AR, 1885.

[11] AR, 1886,p.138.

[12] AR, 1886, p.134.

[13] Trent-Severn Waterway Archives, Contract #3 Building a Lockmaster’s Residence.

[14]  A. Perry op.cit.

[15] Trent-Severn Waterway Archives, contract #56 Concrete Dam and Bridge at Buckhorn, 1907.

[16] AR, 1908, p.174.

[17]  W. Cameron & M. Maude et al, Essays and Research Papers on the History of the Trent-Severn Waterway Vol.1, Waterway, Microfiche Report Series #434 (1987), p.149.

[18] H. Pamett,” A Survey of Kawartha Lumbering (1815-1965),” unpublished manuscript, pp.8-9, Trent University Archives.

[19] E. Alkenbrack, “Burleigh Fall: A Land Use Study,” manuscript on file, Trent-Severn Waterway Archives,, quoting from the Haslett survey on file at Trent-Severn Waterway Archives, T-22-409.26

[20]  Sessional Papers, Public Works Department, 1867, Appendix 15, p.122

[21]  Research notes compiled and held by the Historical Research  Section of the Ontario Service Centre, Parks Canada.

[22]  Specifications for the Burleigh Canal, prepared by Tom S. Rubidge, 18 August 1882.

[23]  The Daily Evening Review, Peterborough, 7 May 1884.

[24]  Library and Archives Canada (LAC), RG43, vol.1061, folio #106,860 Goodwin to Bradley, 24 August 1884.

[25]  Ibid., Page to Secretary Bradley, 18 March 1885.

[26] Ibid. Page to Goodwin, 2 May 1885.

[27]  Ibid, Page to Secretary Bradley, 23 July 1885.

[28] Ibid,. Goodwin to Secretary Bradley, 12 August 1885.

[29]  Ibid., Goodwin to Secretary Bradley, 24 August 1885.

[30]  Ibid., Goodwin unaddressed, 3 May 1886.

[31]  Ibid., Progress Estimate #21, 16 December 1886.

[32] AR, 1886, p.138.

[33] Ibid., Goodwin to Secretary Bradley, 29 December 1886.

[34]  The Daily Review, Peterborough 18 June 1886.

[35]  AR, 1886, p.138.

[36]  J. Angus, op.cit., p.180.

[37]  AR, 1907, p.175.

[38]  Research notes at the OSC Box 37 file #23,  Butler to Grant July 1909.