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Whether you are a visitor to our community, are researching your family roots, need background on an historic building or are just interested in local history, this website is your one-stop source of information on our heritage. 

The site offers you a glimpse of the history of Dufferin Municipality from the pre-settlement era to the post–1870 influx of homesteading families, and from the arrival of the railways to the rise and decline of the small towns and communities along its path.

You will also discover the wealth of historic buildings, cairns, plaques and other heritage resources that our communities have to offer.

Let us know of any omissions or errors. If you have information or photos you’d like to share, please contact us. Check out this site each month for our Special Features, including vintage photos from the area.

Please visit our Acknowledgements page, which recognizes the many people who contributed towards making the website possible, including the backbone of any endeavour—the volunteers who contributed material, researched, edited or proofread content, and gave in so many ways of their time and talents.

News and Events, November, 2023

History repeats itself. Warmest congratulations to our stalwart committee member, Edwin Pritchard, who has just received the Community Builder Award from the local Chamber of Commerce (The Carman-Dufferin Standard, 2023-11-16). Edwin's contributions include a wide range of activities - leadership with the Boy Scouts, active involvement with the BRK, C/D MHAC and the Museum, collecting supplies for new Ukrainian immigrants –wherever help is needed in the community. Those of you who read our November 2022 News and Events know that Edwin's great-grandfather, S. J. Staples is one of our Notable People – an earlier community builder who served the Town as a businessman, Councilor, Mayor of Carman, prominent church leader and advocate for beautification of the community. It's people and families like this who are the foundation of a healthy, thriving community.

Low water levels and dams. Speaking of Edwin's many interests, one fascinating bit of history that he brought to our attention recently was the evidence he found of earlier dams along the course of the Boyne River. Thanks to the low water level this summer, Edwin spotted the remains of pilings from the old Clendenning dam at the west end of town and remnants of a dam east of the Main Street bridge. An even more intriguing find was evidence of timbers in the riverbed near the old Midland Railway trestle boat launch. This was a puzzler for our committee until someone pulled up an old postcard image of the trestle from the DHM files.

Midland Trestle Bridge

Midland trestle bridge and dam Photo: DHM

Sure enough, there is a dam, with what appears to be someone sitting on the west abutment. Now we are trying to determine whether this might have been the location of the Midland Railway water tank, since dams were vital for providing water to refuel early steam engines. Or was it part of efforts to regulate the Town water supply?

The river has always been the lifeblood of communities that grew up along its course. It's also meant that floods, drought, bridges, and dams have been an important part of our heritage. As we noted in our history of the Boyne River (News and Events, May 2022), the Town of Carman experienced major floods in 1893, 1923, 1970, 1974, and 1979, resulting in millions of dollars of property damage and loss of important historical records. In 1991, a diversion was built to redirect flood water from west of the town through a six-mile ditch into the Norquay Channel northeast of Carman.

What we sometimes miss is that drought could be as threatening to the area as floods. Consider, for example, the drought conditions the 1920s and'30s. The solution at that time was to build dams. The Dufferin Leader (1920-10-18) reported that:

Owing to the very low state of the river – being at present lower than ever known before – retarding the town's water supply. A dam has been bult under the new concrete bridge for the purpose of holding what little water there is, available. It is thought that the cause of the present low state of the river through the town is caused by a number of dams which have been built along the river west of town.

The following month, the newspaper was able to report that "the river has risen considerably, and all anxiety as to the winter's supply of water is now over." (Dufferin Leader, 1920-11-04). The reporter also hoped "that the water rise is high enough to obliterate some of the superfluous junk lying on the river bank." By 1923, fears of drought were forgotten with the arrival of Spring floods:

The first time since 1902 Carman was again inundated with water, resulting from the overflow of the Boyne. Beautiful Venice, as some described the south end of the town; but if Venice has some of the cold water and mud was floating through Carman over the week end the glamour of romance would be washed out. (Dufferin Leader, 1923-04-26).

The article goes on to describe the damage to property, of which "The chief sufferers were the Ryall Hotel and the Memorial Hall, the flooring of the dance rooms being hopelessly impaired." What is not mentioned, but of even more interest from a heritage perspective, is the loss of the pre-1924 municipal records that were stored in the basement.

A decade later, heavy rainfall and a burst ice dam took out bridges and sections of railway track, disrupting railway service (Dufferin Leader, 1933-05-25).

Railway Track Washyou 1933 Carman
Railway track washout 1933 flood Photo: I. Bramadat

By the following year, however, a headline was once more reporting that "Low Water in Boyne River Creates Serious Situation". The river was said to be "at it's lowest level ever, with barely four feet of water at the town's pumping plant intake." (Dufferin Leader, 1934-11-01). A beaver dam on the North Boyne was opened to release enough water to raise the level of water at the dam in Carman by several inches. It was hoped that "there will be enough come down before freeze-up to give the town pumping station a supply sufficient for the town's requirements through the winter."

Experts warned that it would likely be two or three years before the weather cycle brought enough rain to ease the shortage. Council discussed the feasibility of building a dam just above the Swimming Hole, or, perhaps, two or three small dams along the river. A committee began looking at dam sites, and a decision was made to build a small dam at the site of the Clendenning property. (Dufferin Leader, 1934-12-06).

Was this the final solution to periods of drought? Unfortunately, not quite. Four years later, the local newspaper announced that that water service had been cut off in Carman:

Dufferin Leader, 1938-12-22

In 1963, Stephenfield dam was constructed, giving promise of an end to these recurring cycles of drought and a more reliable source of water for both the Town and the R.M. of Dufferin. And, in 1991, a diversion was built to redirect flood water from west of the town through a six-mile ditch into the Norquay Channel northeast of Carman. Had the recurring cycles of flood and drought finally been tamed?

Recent newsworthy items – farmers' concerns over drought conditions, the need for repairs to the dam that supplies water to the local golf course - suggest that the challenge of supplying water will continue to be very much part of our future history. Which reminds us - our C/D MHAC files are still being stored in the Memorial Hall basement.


Recent History

Earlier news items are stored on a separate "Recent History" page.