On October 6 the Company of Happy Adventurers didn’t exactly find what they were looking for five kilometers west of Barry’s Bay. They found something far more interesting. The newly formed group of outdoor enthusiasts set off to enjoy some fresh air and fall colours while they searched for the mythical Rabbit Station. – the spot where J.R. Booth set up a boxcar to serve as a temporary station for the village during much of 1895. The group was organized by The Station Keepers, a volunteer organization set up to revitalize the old Barry’s Bay Railway Station by focusing attention on the culture and heritage of the area. Above: Maryjka Mychajlowycz (left) and Esther Yantha, two members of the Company of Happy Adventurers, somewhere west of Barry’s Bay as they examine Mychajlowycz’s newly-discovered petrified telegraph pole. (Photo submitted.)
Station Keepers President Joanne Olsen and her husband, John, Esther Yantha, two Conway brothers including Sean, the former Ontario Minister of Education, and Maryjka Mychajlowycz left Barry’s Bay and headed west along the old Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound (OA&PS) Railway roadbed, abandoned by the CN Rail back in the 1980s.
“It was Maryka who surprised us all through her sharp eye and excellent sleuthing,” said Olsen. Mychajlowycz currently lives alongside the old roadbed in a home once built by the Conway’s great grandfather, James Murray, a founding father of Barry’s Bay who settled in the village in 1889, after having moved into the area in 1864.
Mychajlowycz explained her find: “It’s something else to walk up that old roadbed and go hunting for historical artifacts from that era. I was looking through the dense, second growth forest on both sides of the old OA & PS roadbed, looking for a parallel roadbed, at the same level and grade, something about 500 yards long and connected at both ends to the main roadbed that we were on, when I noticed what I first thought was a peculiar tree. It had a very straight trunk. I thought it looked like a telephone pole. It was at an angle leaning against another tree, and then I spotted a cross-piece of wood at the top and I go ‘Oh, my Lord!’ That’s a very old petrified telegraph pole.”
Along the railbed built in 1894, the OA & PS ran a parallel telegraph line from Ottawa to Deport Harbour, a distance of 264 miles and what Mychajlowycz discovered was a rare find indeed. No other such telegraph pole is known to still exist. All steel rails, wooden ties, and telegraph poles with their unique glass insulators were removed in the 1980s.
The group plans a second excursion this coming Monday during the long Thanksgiving weekend when they will explore another section of the OA & PS roadbed near the famous Haggarty Pass east of Wilno. It was there a dynamite explosion claimed the lives of three navvies in the summer of 1894 as the railway was being built. All are welcome to join the Company of Happy Adventurers who will meet at the old Barry’s Bay Railway Station at 1:00 p.m. on Monday, October 14.