When some of us think about ghost towns we remember the ones in the old western movies, with deserted buildings and usually items left behind by the former inhabitants.
You are not likely to see this type of ghost town today however, unless you travel to the Western United States, especially Arizona, where there are some locations that have been preserved and turned into tourist attractions.
Today any town that has dwindled in size and lost it businesses and industries is referred to as a ghost town. The decline was often caused by economic problems, rerouting of a main road, lack of rail service or a natural disaster.There are a number of them scattered throughout our area.
As you drive around you can see traces of where thriving towns used to be, there may just be a sign, a church, old schoolhouse or a couple of abandoned buildings that used to be stores or businesses, but they all have their own stories.
Grey Road 7 is a good example, during the 1800’s there were three thriving communities that were settled and began development the same time as Meaford.. Today all that can be seen of Epping is a boarded up church and the location is better known as Epping Lookout Point where you can see beautiful views of the valley, it also boasts a plaque dedicated to John Muir. Griersville used to be a main stop on the Old Mail Road that was the main route from Meaford to Barrie, the sign is still there but the little traveled road only extents from that point to Heathcote. The Post office closed in 1925, and if you travel down The English Church Road in Fairmount you will discover that the church still holds services, and the old schoolhouse has been converted to a vacation home but the store, post office, cobblers’ shop etc. are no longer there.
Another area you will find several ghost towns is in Clearview Township, where you will find names like Whitfield but find only a church and pioneer cemetery, and Lavender where only three buildings remain on an intersection. Both were busy villages in the 1800’s.
Even some villages with the advantage of a highway close by have vanished from our maps. One example is Edenvale, located on Highway 26 near Springwater and along the Nottawasaga River. Disaster first hit the town in 1876 when a fire destroyed a large part of the town. Several mills, businesses, churches and schools were rebuild but in the years that followed several other fires destroyed them and they were never rebuilt. Today Edenvale is just a blue sign on the highway some operating farms and a few buildings in the area, the most prominent one is Edenvale Garage & Motor Sales located where the centre of the village used to be.
Another example would be Balaclava, near Highway 26 west of Meaford. Between 1850 and 1942 it was a growing community. Then the government of Canada purchased 17,500 acres of farmland to establish what has become known as the Meaford Tank Range. The decreased population in the area caused businesses to close, the school children were sent on bussed to nearby communities and the last remaining church and the blacksmith shop closed in 1970. The remains of some buildings still exist but they are all on private property.