Please find the following historical stories:

  • Calladh bogaidh: Marshy Bay by Bill Graham, Former Editor: The Madawaska Highlander
  • Calabogie, in the thirties & forties By Wes Bomhower
  • Tales of Calabogie By Alfred Clarke

By Bill Graham, Former Editor: The Madawaska Highlander

By some accounts, this Gaelic phrase is said to be the derivation of the name of what is now Calabogie. Early documents list the place as Calaboga. In those days it referred to the lake and not the town. During the 1840s, at the time of early settlement in what would be Bagot and Blythfield Townships, Springtown was by far the most important community. It was only with the coming of the Kingstown and Pembroke (K & P) railway in the 1870s that the settlement, now know as Calabogie supplanted Springtown in importance.

According to Alfred Clarke, a long-time resident of the area who wrote "A History of Calabogie" in the mid-1960s, Barryvale was first called Calabogie and the railway station at what is now Calabogie was called Madawaska. However, the Ottawa-Arnprior and Parry Sound Railroad Company (OA and PS), which crossed the upper valley around Barry's Bay, also had a station named Madawaska, so the name of the station at Calabogie Lake was renamed Calabogie.

According to Mr. Clarke the derivation of the name Calabogie was from the Indian name for Sturgeon. The Sturgeon came up the river to spawn. They were not able to go above the high falls, about a mile from the lake, and so they congregated in the lake.


The Madawaska River is fundamental to the history of Calabogie. Without it their whole area would have been settled much later. Some of the earliest commercial lumbering in Ontario took place along the Madawaska between 1860 and 1890. In addition to the demand for lumber by a growing population in Upper Canada, many of the tall white pine of the area became ship's masts in the British navy. The Madawaska River was one of the important water routes to the remotely located stands of timber and a water highway for shipping the felled trees to market.

As early as the 1840s, the government was providing assistance to lumber companies by building slides and booms to facilitate log drives on the river. Dams were also constructed at Highland Chute, Mountain Chute, Calabogie and Arnprior to assist operations. It was the damming of the Madawaska around Calabogie that created Calabogie Lake. The lake became a place where logs from the various drives were separated and stored before being floated down to the Ottawa River.

 One of the first sawmills in Calabogie was built by a man named McFarlane. To quote Alfred Clarke from his history: "It was a water mill and had an upright saw that ran up and down. It was seven feet long, about eight inches wide and one-quarter inch thick. It had a spring pole attachment to help pull it up after the down stroke. Reports said that Mr. McFarlane would start the saw into a log and then harness his horses and plough for a couple of hours then go back and move the log for another board."

In the earliest days, the village developed around the timber men from the sorting camps around the lake. Hotels were opened and a general store. According to Alfred Clarke, the first store was opened by Sam Dempsey and was located at Grassey Bay since all the supplies came up from Perth on a road that probably paralleled the current Highway 511.


The K & P Railway, which was also known as the Kick & Push, reached Calabogie in the 1880s. The line was originally built to give local entrepreneurs access to outside markets.

It also provided access for people.

In 1879 the K & P Railway only went as far as Lavant Township in Lanark County where the contractor who was supposed to bring the K & P to Calabogie had gone broke. A new contractor by the name of M.J. O'Brien, who had little money got bank loan and committed to building what was called the Renfrew Extension. The first section, which would bring the line across the Madawaska to Calabogie, was considered the most difficult part. Part of the challenge was building a causeway over Grassey Bay to accommodate the track. The causeway is still a permanent landmark in the area. In 1883 the K & P arrived in Calabogie and a year later in Renfrew.

Some years later M.J. O'Brien would again contribute to Calabogie by building a dam and powerhouse for a factory he planned to build. The factory never did get built but O'Brien did supply Calabogie and Barryvale with electricity and installed a telephone system. Few places in Renfrew County had such amenities at this early date. With the railroad came lumber and lathe mills, grist mills for grinding local grain, shingle makers, mining, and the service industries to serve a growing work force. There was an iron ore mine in the area, but it soon shut down because of the ore's sulphur content. But then there was graphite from Black Donald Mines that carted to Calabogie and shipped out by rail. The railroad also brought cottagers. In the early 1990s holidaying in the country had become fashionable.

Today it is one of the mainstays of the local economy.

By Wes Bomhower (January 2005 issue of the Madawaska Highlander)

Writer's note:  As told by my good neighbours, Tony Senack, and his wife Thelma (Emon) Senack. Thelma was born on Emon Lane, just a bit south of Calabogie, close to County Road 511, originally known as the Lanark Road. Thelma's grandfather, Andrew Crawford, was section foreman on the K. & P. Railroad in those years and lived in the next house on Mill Street to where Tony and Thelma now reside.

Mill Street, just a gravel trail back then, was called High Falls Road and was the main east-west thoroughfare in Calabogie, long before the bypass, County Road 508, was completed. There was a short stretch of wooden sidewalk running from Most Precious Blood Catholic Church, up past the old Town Hall, a distance of 400 yards or so.

On the waterfront, on Madawaska Street, there was Moran's Hotel, Legree's Hotel, and another hotel, which would later become the Whippletree Shanty. This of course was also a gravel road and was never ploughed in winter until sometime after the Second World War. In the late Thirties and early Forties, Tom Gorrah or maybe George Peddie would use a bulldozer to plough whatever streets or roads needed clearing for a funeral or other important event.

On December 8, 1938, (a day that stands out in Thelma's memory) apparently the roads were still passable by car to Renfrew. On that fateful day, her father, Roy Emon, was badly injured by a flywheel of a circular saw that shattered, breaking his jaw, all his teeth and one of his wrists. This happened on the Stones Lake Road, about three miles south-east of Calabogie. He was rushed, bleeding badly, by team and sleigh to the village. The parish priest, who had one of the first cars in town, drove Mr. Emon into the Renfrew Hospital.

There were five stores operating then, and all did a thriving business, especially on Saturday nights when they stayed open until 9 or ten p.m. Boxes store, located in front of Willard McDermiad's on the waterfront and next to Moran's Hotel, was a general store, as was Braden's, now Sullivan's Apartments across from the old convent. Charbonneau's Store specialized in meat products and was located on the Lanark Road, straight south of the Catholic Church.

Belanger's Store, on the same street, was located where the Village Bistro Restaurant now stands and Scully's Store was right beside the K.& P. Railroad, where Richard and Skippy Hale, the librarian, now reside.

A little footnote here concerning the Scully's who lived in the house, which also contained the store. Moe (Glen) Mathews, who recently passed away, was just a young lad back then and he told us this story.

Apparently, Mr. and Mrs. Scully did not get along well for some years and finally agreed to separate. However, times being what they were, money was scarce, and Mrs. Scully had no other place to live, so she lived in part of the house, her husband in another part. Mr. Scully had never learned to cook and when mealtime came, he would hear a little bell from his wife's part of the house and his dinner would be slid under the door separating them. Sounds rather unique, but we doubt if it would work today.

The building where Sharon Ladouceur lives was a convent for the nuns who taught school and music right up to Grade 13 in St. Joseph's Separate School nearby. The Calabogie Public School, behind Steve Wimble's Village Bistro, had classes up to Grade 8 and some of the children then attended the Separate School rather than having to board in Renfrew. Remember, these were still horse and buggy days and if you went any distance out of the village, it would likely be by train. The old K. & P carried a lot of passengers.

The United Church, on the waterfront, had its own sheds or stable for sheltering the horses, when church functions were on, as did the Catholic Church. Life was a lot slower and certainly much less stressful, but time marches on and there are some wonderful memories of Calabogie in the Thirties and Forties.

By Alfred Clarke

Editor's note:  Alfred Clarke was born in 1880 and first came to Calabogie for school in 1887. He related his history of Calabogie to his nephew Peter Clarke as a centennial project in 1967. Tales of Calabogie draws from this history.

Jas Brouton was buried in Hillcrest Cemetery and later was dug up by a couple of grave robbers. But they had made a mistake in the grave they wanted and so reburied him. They were seen by a young man passing the cemetery and he gave the alarm. There was a midnight train at that time from Renfrew to Kingston and the robbers took it. The police in Kingston were notified and met the train, but the men had left it along the line somewhere and they were not caught.

Another mysterious death was that of a young part Indian girl, Lucy La Grave. Her parents had died, and she came to Calabogie to live with her aunt and uncle. Her aunt and uncle had some family of their own and were not very able to support her, but she helped out by working in the Village, she would do any kind of work she could get outside or in. She had worked as a housemaid for a family for some time and they thought a lot of her. One Sunday night they all went to church together and returned home. They had a light lunch and retired. The man had to be in his office at 7 a.m. He got dressed and called the maid. But when she did not appear he told his wife to go and see. Perhaps the maid was sick. She was worse than that she was dead. They called the Doctor and after he examined her, he said it was partly his fault. She had a sore foot and he had given her a liniment to rub on it and some medicine to take inwardly; she had taken the dose of liniment inwardly.

When the people from the Village gathered at the Cemetery, some of them noticed that there was a white handkerchief tied to the marker at Miss La Grave's grave. With the possibility that grave robbers had marked the grave, the girl's Uncle lifted her body and buried it beside his own house and tied his dog beside it. He broadcast that any prowler that was seen round would be shot without warning.

There were two cases of murder. In one case, an Indian woman who sold liquor to support herself, Mag Constant, was killed by two river men who called there, got drinking and quarreled. One put the other out and the beaten man stood at the door with his club waiting for his chum to come out. But it was Mag who came out and he hit her on the head and killed her.

Another case of murder also involved two river men. They were camped at the head of the lake and held up by head winds. So, a boatload came down to the village for a few drinks: Two of the men had been quarrelling and one of them said they would not both go back alive. The other man went to the store and forced the clerk, a young man, to sell him a revolver and ammunition. He went back to the hotel and shot his enemy. The wounded man lived three days. The case was called self defense. A couple of other cases could have been murder but were just put down as accidents-suspicious to me.

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