The way the small settlement of Balaclava is portrayed in Ron Brown’s Ghost Town Heritage of Ontario, you’d think it was going to be some overly romanticized settlement long abandoned like you’d find in the American west or old mining communities in the mountains and high arctic. While to my surprise as I rolled in after a good four hours or so on the road, I was met with a wintry silence and the sweet smell of wood smoke. Wait…wood smoke?
Yep, despite being officially a ghost town there are people who still live in the former lumber town located pretty much in the middle of nowhere, the two major towns both being just over an hour away. Founded in 1859 and named for the Battle of Balaklava (part of the Siege of Sevastopol 1854-55 during the Crimean War), the town’s sawmill was one of thousands that sprung up through Upper Canada in the mid-19th century. The town quickly grew into a vibrant community with stores, hotels, homes, and a grist mill.
Being in the middle of nowhere you might think that nothing interesting ever happened in this tiny settlement. It was however the subject of one of the first pollution related lawsuits in 1911 and the site of the oldest operating water powered saw mill in the province of Ontario. When the mill shut down in 1959, the town followed.
The store, blacksmith, and mill are all considered historic properties as good examples of 19th century industry, but being in the sticks there isn’t anything in the way of preservation and all have been left to rot, under the watchful eyes of the few residents of the once bustling town.
Sony a6000 – Sony E PZ 16-50mm 1:3.5-5.6 OSS